We celebrated Thanksgiving at Nana and Pop’s this year and on the way, I set my phone’s timer for five minutes and asked the kids to blurt out anything and everything they were thankful for and I then listed them in the exact order they were shouted out and also did not edit their contributions (e.g., Mary Elizabeth’s blessing of “roasted beef” was jotted down just as she said it). Here’s what they came up with:
1. apple pie
4. family and friends
6. our house
11. the sun
12. the moon
13. roasted beef
14. ice cream
16. cozy boots
18. our health
23. Layla (our dog)
25. Clue (the game)
32. my mind
35. the world
36. a warm bed
37. the way Thomas says, “Oh,” when you tell him something
39. new beginnings
44. our bodies
50. Knuffle Bunny (Rachel’s lovey)
51. Raja (Madeline’s tiger stuffed animal lovey)
53. Cubbie (my parents’ puppy)
54. Christmas trees
55. Nana (my grandma who passed away)
56. Nana and Pop
57. Gaba and Papa
58. Ivy (my parents’ dog who recently died)
59. Uncle Rich (my uncle/my mom’s brother who died of pancreatic cancer last February)
60. Michelle (my cousin who died recently as well from cystic fibrosis and lissencephaly complications)
61. Mr. Thomas (our neighbor who also passed away; yes, there’s a theme here)
62. Katelyn (our babysitter who is alive and well)
63. Marlo (our babysitter’s dog)
66. Waffle House
67. The Grit (my contribution)
68. wine (obviously another one of my contributions)
69. lattes (me again)
70. Aerolatte Milk Frother (me again, although Thomas likes to use this gadget to torture her sisters. I’ve caught him twice now turning it on and putting it in their hair.)
73. police dogs
74. fire dogs
78. Smoothie King
80. Baby Jane’s
Once at Nana and Pop’s we were not only treated to the feast of feasts, but Madeline had written a Thanksgiving play and the kids performed it for us. The red wagon is the Mayflower. Madeline is Squanto. Thomas and Mary Elizabeth are pilgrims, and Rachel served as the narrator.
Now it’s time to start thinking about Advent. I have a speech at a parish not too far from my home on Sunday where I’ll talk a bit about cultivating a peaceful, joyful heart during a season that can easily become a path to burnout for a multitasking control freak like myself. Your life this Advent and always should be full, not just busy. Just because our culture hypes jam-packed schedules as the norm doesn’t mean we have to subscribe to it. My running injury (still not anywhere close to running again) has forced me to slow down not just on the pavement and treadmill but in life as well. I’m getting more sleep these days and really focused on embracing simplicity. At its heart, simplicity really means less of us and more of Him. It can also mean staying in your PJs all day (I’m typing this in my pajamas; no Black Friday madness for me.)
We don’t need to over-schedule our kids now or ever. Madeline really wanted to try basketball this winter, but we have a brief respite from soccer and I didn’t want to fill it with more practices. If she’s meant to be in the WNBA someday, she’ll discover that talent soon enough. For now, I am drawing my family near, pulling out our favorite Advent books, and trying to decide what Advent traditions we will embrace this year. I’ve included a few links from the archives that include all sorts of ideas for bringing this season alive for little ones. BONUS: You’ll get to see the kids when they were wee ones. Happy clicking!
An Advent Tea
Preparing Our Hearts and Homes (Advent Traditions)
Advent crafts (shell angels, felt napkin holders, poinsettia princesses, etc.)
Recipe for Baby Jesus Birthday Cake (more for the Christmas season obviously)
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe traditions
Christmas card placemats
Tips for hosting a cookie swap
Cookie Swap recipes
Feast of St. Nicholas traditions
Explaining the symbolism of the Advent wreath to children
I love St. Valentine’s Day. I love having an excuse to lavish my family with love. I don’t mind them doing it in return for me either. I was the grateful recipient of roses and handmade cards.
We didn’t do anything extravagant. Dave and I were able to sneak away for a quick dinner. We came home, and I sipped some crisp and sweet Riesling that was easy on the wallet. (Thank you for the recommendation, A.P.!)
The girls and I made Daddy Chubby Hubby Bars. He likes to have a few unhealthy snacks on hand for his late-night snacking. His mutant metabolism allows him to eat like every day is Valentine’s Day. For the rest of us, it’s a big treat to nosh on so many sugary delights. We all had a Chubby Hubby Bar for dessert. Oh my goodness. These ooey-gooey slabs of deliciousness made me swoon, especially when I dipped them in my coffee. Yes, I ate them for breakfast yesterday, too. It was a holiday – a delicious one at that.
I read Saint Valentine by Robert Sabuda to the girls, and we discussed the mosaic artwork. Then the girls made their own simple mosaics using foam squares I’d cut up for them.
For lunch there were heart-shaped fried eggs in whole wheat bread slices.
We shared the Valentine’s Day sugar cookies we made with our elderly, sweet-loving neighbor.
And this love bug with her big-girl haircut made me laugh.
It was a LOVE-ly, sweet day.
I received my December issue of Cooking Light, and there was a great article about eating mindfully. Like I discussed in this anti-dieting post, the article encouraged readers to think in terms of choosing to do something or choosing not to do something rather than telling yourself, “I should eat this,” or “I shouldn’t eat that.”
The article also included a great quote that I’m going to type up, print out, and put in a prominent spot as I enter what can easily become the holiday-binge-fest-I-feel-rounder-than-Jolly-Old-Saint-Nick-right-about-now-season.
“Never eat anything you don’t enjoy and truly enjoy everything you eat.”
The message here is beautifully simple: Don’t swear off gastronomy during the holidays – or ever. And don’t rush through the ritual of eating. I’ll add these tips as well: Don’t mindlessly nosh on Doritos at the holiday potluck. (You can have chips any old time.) Instead, make your taste buds happy. Dive into the chocolate fondue. Eat foods that are special during this special time of year. And if you overindulge, try to keep the focus on the present. Put the fork down, think about how delicious your treat was, and then start choosing healthy bites (not boring ones) that you still will enjoy. When we overeat, it’s so tempting to tell ourselves we’ll start anew tomorrow, so we eat another sleeve of Oreos since we’ve already screwed up instead of trying to eat more mindfully right at the very moment we realize we might have caved in to gluttony.
But enough about food. I have other things on my mind like Advent.
I meant to get my act together and compile a post of Advent activities, but ever since our fourth baby arrived I’m finding it increasingly difficult to devote all that much time to this blog. Taking care of my family and myself is a full time job. (That simple statement is fodder for an entire post or column – one I plan to piece together one of these days, but don’t hold me to it.) Since there will be no official “how we do Advent” post, I’ll share a past link that includes some of our family’s own traditions as well as links to other folks’ Advent-themed posts: Preparing Our Hearts and Homes.
One new tradition I’ll share is our Giving Tree. I recently read Shell Silverstein’s The Giving Tree to the girls, and we discussed it together talking about things like how the tree could symbolize our all-loving God. Since we’re going to be preoccupied with Turkey Day business this week, we went ahead and made our Giving Tree and hung it up on the kitchen even though I’m intending for it to be an Advent activity. We all worked on coloring the trunk together. Madeline was in charge of drawing the leaves. I cut them out, and Rachel glued them onto the branches. All the girls colored a few apples, and Madeline and I cut them out.
I told the girls that during the Advent season they could earn “apples” by making sacrifices or by doing something above and beyond their normal calls of duties. Madeline, for instance, wanted to get an apple for making her bed, but I told her that’s something she’s expected to do daily. However, when she voluntarily offered to let her sister pick what to watch during their special screen time, she earned an apple. The wonderful Catholic Mosaic: Living the Liturgical Year With Children actually recommends something similar during the month of Lent, but we always make Lenten mice and tie knots in their tails for sacrifices, so I wanted something different for Advent.