The Most Riveting, Long-winded Christmas Recap You’ll Never Finish Reading.

First of all: am I just insane or is anyone else having problems with their iPhone insistent on autocorrecting Christmas to “chrostmas”? Cause 50/50 times, Carolyn’s DumbPhone is determined that’s what I really mean. yaw. ____________________________________ We hosted Christmas Eve … Continue reading

7 (kinda)Quick Takes Friday post 2 (for me)

Here we go again! I skipped last week’s 7 Takes, so I packed both weeks together this time: 7 Quick Takes is hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler at conversiondiary. After reading my takes, go check out the many other peep’s takes all linked-up on her blog. Many of the writers are downright hilarious. I just read Jennifer’s from last week, and laughed out loud the whole time. She listed 6 recipes and one Advent tip that is VITAL for those who use the storage space in their attic, if available.

Here go my 7 (We’ll go backwards this time, like conversiondiary):

7) After 3.5 years, I have achieved the status of NINJA MOM.

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I received my black belt on (last) Monday night at about 1am. I’d watched a late movie because I unwisely drank a late coffee as an effort to open up my nasal passages from this madness they call “a cold”. Boy #2 was heard from his crib throughout the duration of the movie, being a little turd, flopping around on his bed and jabbering away.

Movie finished, #2 finally sleeping, I entered the room to cover him up with his blanket and was immediately confronted by a fragrant odor.
My poor boy was not BEING a little turd, he simply HAD a little turd.
So, with my highly refined mom-skills, I was able to change his diaper without waking him up. I walked out of the room wearing my imaginary Mommy Ninja Black Belt (given to me by a mom-trainer who looks like Pai Mei), and noted that I can check-off “Change poopy diaper in the middle of the night without waking child” from my bucket list.

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PAI MEI APPROVES.
(http://killbill.wikia.com/wiki/Pai_Mei)

6) I am not one for pomp and circumstance

I may be artsy fartsy, but I’m not really crafty …schmafty(?). And by crafty schmafty, I mean I don’t do a bunch of refrigerator “art”, or save toilet paper rolls, popsicle sticks or keep a stash of cotton balls and glitter: cute little crafts for every season, reason, or holiday.  I don’t even do Christmas cards, for goodness sakes.  I get as far as taking a few photos of my children, and if I upload the photo from my camera onto the computer, I count that as an accomplishment.

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^This is as crafty as it gets. And I wouldn’t even qualify it as crafty. It’s artsy fartsy. My oldest boy loves watercolor, and I think this is beautiful.

Nearly every time I find myself trying to micromanage, I end up stressed out and frustrated.
Thursday afternoon, it was rainy and windy and yucky out. So I connected our TV to YouTube and thought we’d listen and dance to Christmas music! Note that this is me REALLY stretching on the pomp&circumstance here.
So I turn on Frosty the Snowman and my oldest two seemed to enjoy the music—- and the power goes out.

FOR FOUR HOURS.

Enter screams of terror mixed with blind running and jumping of excitement about candles being lit, blended with tripping and falling over each other, doused with me in agony over stepping on legos, blocks, and die-cast cars and airplanes. I felt like the bad buy from Home Alone as he broke-in through the window:

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Only with two toddlers by my side and an infant in my arms.

We packed up, by candle light, and drove to my parent’s house for the rest of the evening. That’s an extreme example, but a vibrant one, nonetheless.

5) Instead, we went on “The Polar Bear Express”

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We packed up the boys in their pajamas, I threw on my bathrobe (thanks Grandma Cook!), made coffees, warm milks (which I forgot in the microwave), bagged some cookies, and we drove around town in our car, momentarily renamed “The Polar Bear Express”, listening to the Christmas music we were cut off from a few days previously, and enjoying the beautifully decorated & lit houses.
And that, folks, is the most pomp&circumstance this mom’s ever been. It was lovely -anything involving coffee and cookies always is, right?- cozy, and my boys loved it. Baby C slept the entire time. Easy. This was also on our second boy’s birthday. I would love this to become a tradition we do for his birthday every year.

4) We began praying the Rosary daily.

I get anxiety about how I believe my children will react to my plans. 9 times out of 10, my belief is incorrect.

I had desired to teach my boys the Rosary. My oldest is 3.5 years and definitely old enough to know the prayers. He knows his ABC’s and all the other toddler learning songs, the complete lyrics to Justin Bieber’s song, “Baby” (“it’s cool on the playground, butIREALLYWANNASEEHERONDAWEEKEND”), and play him any one of his favorite Disney movies and he’ll watch the movie while reciting the lines and singing along exactly. For me, all of that’s sweet and funny, but it ain’t doing nothin’ for his eternal soul. It’s like feeding him a bunch of candy.

Where’s the wholesome stuff?
Where’s the REAL stuff?
Santa, Lightning McQueen, and the “Guardians” don’t exist.
The Father, Son & Holy Spirit, and all His Angels and Saints do.
My job, as a Christian parent, is to get my children to heaven. Why would I delay teaching my babies about Jesus? I feel like instilling Christian values, morals, prayer, and of course the Sacraments first and foremost is imperative for how they grow into adults in this society. I don’t want my children growing up, and thinking it’s okay to set-aside their Christianity for a later time, for when “they’re ready”. If I parent them that way, they will live their adult life that way… and they may never “feel ready”.  

Ready or not, for the sake of their eternal souls, I’m stamping this knowledge into their hearts, so they will always have it. Just like teaching our kids to read, or to eat healthy foods, we know it’s good for their mind and body. We don’t let them choose to learn to read or eat their veggies “when they’re ready”. I know this is good for each one’s soul. 
“let the children come to me, do not prevent them”

One Sunday, many months ago during Mass, I noticed my oldest boy speaking along to priest’s words  during the Consecration, and I realized, “He should know the Rosary”.  November came and I finally let go of my anxiety of outbursts of temper tantrums over doing something other than watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the morning.

About a month ago, I gave my boys their breakfast, opened Youtube, and found a link for Children’s Rosary (lots of photos). They were excited, interested, and quiet. I let them wander about the room and quietly play with toys as the video played and I prayed along, out loud. To my surprise, my younger boy sat through the whole 20 minutes, and I noticed my oldest crouching over a tower of legos mumbling along to the Hail Mary.
I chalked it up as a success in my eyes!
We try to do this every morning. No pomp, no circumstance. Just relaxed, prayer.  Sometimes my oldest asks to pray it, and my heart swoons.  Other days, he says, “I VERY DON’T LIKE THE ROSARYYYYY!” and I bribe him with chocolate milk. Either way, the Rosary, gets prayed.
 

3) I drew a “Rosary Board”.

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I found myself getting frustrated trying to show my oldest how to hold his Rosary. Nearly every time he gets ahold of his little, blue, hand-knotted Rosary, it becomes the propeller of a helicopter. So I drew the Rosary on a large sheet of paper, utilizing my drawing board from college, for the boys to be able to follow along with their fingers.

I numbered the decades so that at minimum, they’d know generally where we were.

2) This year, we only did stockings on Christmas Day.


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Commence gasps and feelings of sorrow for my little boys.
Guess what?
They didn’t notice a difference.

We woke up, emptied their stockings (I filled them with a few small toys, a movie, crayons, fruit snacks, new toothbrushes, a couple “squeezy yogurts”, and a sketch pad for Lexington), got ready for Mass, and celebrated the birth of Jesus. 

My children were as joyful, and perhaps even more so, as the rest of the little boys and girls throughout the world who have full bellies, a roof over their head, and both Mommy & Daddy present on Christmas day.

My boys received presents from their grandparents, great grandmas and aunts and uncles. They experienced the excitement of opening a present. This obviously is not what my husband and I originally planned to do as far as presents this year, but we had to be flexible.  I am so, so, so thankful that I’ve given the whole “presents vs. Presence” extra thought, because this year I was truly put to the test.  And my reaction was that of peace and happiness.  This, so far, has been a most beautiful Christmas.

1) Enough with my words! Gobble gobble gobble! Here’s one more (fuzzy) photo of our youngest boy and I on Christmas day.

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Merry Christmas!

Dare I talk Christmas? …and other magical holidays…

Well, as a parent, it’s time to think about Christmas.
Ugh, but who wants to when the weather is so beautiful and warm?

Well, if you’re a planning parent- which I am finding myself increasingly becoming- one must think about the dollazzz.

Some parents who, in my mind, are extraordinarily wise (my sister is one), start putting the dollars away as soon as January and then begin gift-hunting as soon as summer hits.

I like this idea because I have found myself in the opposite position:

Using latest paycheck to divide among my gift-receivers and scrambling to find gifts for all within the month of December. This is what I did before I had kids. …I didn’t give many gifts, and I still got stressed out!

When we had our first child, my husband and I decided we’d follow a gift rule for all of our subsequent children:

Three gifts each. With a set max spending limit per child.

Here’s our reasoning:

First of all, financially speaking, it can only help maintain a conscious level of spending. I grew up with beautiful Christmases. My sister, brother and I never got a new puppy or a pony, but we never felt left wanting. In fact, my favorite part of the gift opening was the stocking stuffers- it still is!
I know that some parents actually open a credit card to pay for their gifts. “…spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need…” says the Dave Ramsey inside my head.

So if we know before the month of December what we are willing and able to spend, that’s a plus in the long run, and monetary stress off of our shoulders.

But why just three???

This idea I obtained from my cousins who follow it with their children:

-Because baby Jesus received three gifts. (gold, frankincense & myrrh)

-Because I want our children to have a Christ-centered Christmas.

-Because, as a child, being given gifts with no limits can inflict emotions of greed, selfishness, jealousy & envy and negate the spirit of giving and love that’s supposed to resound in our hearts when we say “Merry Christmas!”

We also don’t do Santa.

“OHHH MY GOSHHHH— YOU’RE NOT DOING SANTA!?!? YOU’RE TAKING THE MAGIC OUT OF CHRISTMAS AND THE MAGIC OUT OF BEING A CHILD!!!!!!!”

This is what I hear from the peeps who don’t understand our decision.

(This Christmas photo is pretty magical to me)

My answer: no I’m not.

A.) Magic is not an important part of the kind of life I want our children to depend upon.
Imagination, creativity, freedom to dream, explore, experiment and dance silly are integral parts of childhood and are encouraged by myself. But magic? No.

B.) To be encouraged that characters with supernatural God-like powers exist: that they are GOOD (the Good Witch of the East/Wicked Witch of the West, anyone?) and that these characters will grant us material, earthly possessions if we are “nice” is not in-step with my ideal of Christian teaching to our children.
The only “magical powers” I want my children to trust in and rely on are the ones that derive from God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

So one may safely assume that we don’t do Easter Bunny, tooth fairy, Halloween or any of that other hallmark, gift-y materialistic-y nonsense.

I realize I use those words harshly, but I’m trying to stick a point.

I grew up believing and trusting in a Santa and an Easter Bunny… But I also never understood the real meaning of why we celebrated these holidays. I never experienced real joy in celebration of these holidays in my heart until college, shamefully. I am a late spiritual bloomer and a bad listener, I suppose. My parents really did try to tell me. But my dad did not convert to Christianity until my early high school days. The foundation was not as firm with me as it is my little brother who’s 6 years younger. I can’t blame my parents, they were on their spiritual journey! As am I.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable or harmful to teach our children the real reasons we celebrate Christmas or Easter. If I’m concerned about the ultimate attainment of getting my children to Heaven, can I start centering their focus on Christ too soon? I think not.

Happily, Catholics do celebrate a Saint Nicholas. And this is the “Santa” our children will grow up knowing.

(Our happy Christmas boy, last year)

I’ve written once before about how we don’t celebrate Halloween in the way society celebrates it. Glorifying the spooky, the gruesome, the witches and vampires is, again, not in step with how I want my children to be reared along with Christianity.

Mostly, because I acknowledge there is evil present. Real evil. If glory isn’t given completely to God, who, is it then given to? Again, as Catholics, we happily celebrate the real lives of saints who, as human as you and I, lived their flawed human life, in struggles & turmoil, triumphs and blessings but always turned to Christ to lead their steps, always giving all glory to God.

 I remember, after being told that Easter Bunny and Santa did not exist, my young mind trying to work out the confusion of who exactly that magic came from, whether magic is real, and who should I trust or look to for miracles?

The answer is obvious to me now. But I feel that as a parent, if I keep it very simple until they’re old enough to understand, I will continue to teach that God alone provides true and worthy miracles. That if my children are finding themselves wondering if “magic” is coming from anyone other than God, they need to stay away from it. It’s why we don’t encourage zodiac/astrology reading, fortune telling, palm reading, ouija board or anything involving a spiritual realm that has no full foundation in Christ. I wrote about that a few months ago, here.

(Oddly enough, I played the Wicked Witch of the West in our high school musical, The Wizard of Oz…. goodness, it was a blast!)

I don’t think this will take the excitement out of Christmas morning. I still get excited and I’m on the opposite side of our kids now!
I think, however, it will add a sense of true gratitude and love.

I never knew, growing up, in my Christmas present high, to look at my parents and say, “You gave me these things? You did this for me? Thank you. Thank God for you, Momma and Dadda.”
It was always “yeah, yeah, baby Jesus was born, but CHECK OUT MY NEW IPOD!” …of course iPods n’éxistais pas 20 years ago… But you know what I mean.

No, I don’t have some high expectation of overly reverent, saintly children who open their toys and run them down to the homeless shelter and then run back to church to sing praises to God.

I mean, I’d be thunderstruck if one of my little boys did that. I’d be proud to tears. But I know they are kids. I know. I was one. 

I’m hoping I can lead them to be better human beings, though, than I AM.

The way I place importance upon material possession in times when those materials honestly have nothing to do with the reason for celebrating, can help them become better human beings, I believe. And teaching them to trust in the miracles and powers of God alone will aid in leading them to Heaven, I hope.

This is the way we would like to raise our children.

But I’m not writing in blood.
And I’m certainly not writing this to point judgmental fingers at parents who wish to raise their children differently.

I know friends who grew up with little to nothing and now take great joy in giving to their own children what they could not be given in their own childhood. Many parents take Christmas -in a true Christmas spirit of joy- as an opportunity to give to their children and to others.

I write this not to justify my thinking, but for others. For others who, like me, need the idea. I genuinely appreciate a different idea. Sometimes a simpler idea. Sometimes an idea that makes me uncomfortable about my own decisions, makes me think a little deeper.  And if the idea is backed with good, God-centered reasons, I feel relieved to convert from the societal norm. Parents are placed with great pressure to keep up with what our neighbors or other family members do or have. Whether we want to admit it or not, I’m sure we’ve felt it from time to time. So there’s my idea. With my reasons for it. Until I find a better one :)

Care to share yours?   

Also, the stocking?  I count that as “bonus” :)