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Catholic Family Vignettes

A collage of literary snapshots from the life of a large traditional Catholic family

Month

December 2008

Eight hours…

Eight hours in the ER with a very sick hubby.

Not exactly the way we wanted to start the New Year…thank heavens for antibiotics and pain medication!

The children, while worried that Daddy was so sick, spent a nice evening with Clementine and Arthur in command. Movie night for the boys and “an evening at the spa” for the little girls. To quote Charlotte: “We went to the spa! Clementine gave us our bath and then rubbed this stuff on our feet and hands to make them cleaner and softer, and then we put on this really good smelling lotion to make our skin nicer. She put stuff on our nails to help them grow, too! If I stop biting mine, she’s going to paint them! I’m going to try really hard…”

What a comfort to mom and dad, when the older children take the lead!

Please pray for my dear husband. He’s in a tremendous amount of pain with an abscessed sinus, not to mention extremely high blood pressure…only partially in response to the pain.  He only narrowly escaped hospitalization.  The ER looked like a field hospital trauma unit.  Every chair filled, some people on IV, some on oxygen, some using nebulizers…apparently the flu is here, and every available hospital bed is filled.  It seems to be the same all over Columbus.  Looks like  I’ll be taking lots of Echinacea to ward of the “bugs” I may have been exposed to last night.  May God keep us all well!

This evening, Daddy will stay home and rest, while mom and the children will attend a “pizza and pie potluck” party at the home of a friend. Lots of children, and lots of fun…though we sure wish Daddy were up to it, I think the noise would be a bit much for one who’s suffering.  We’ll return home well before midnight, to ring in the New Year together as a family.

May God bless you all! May the coming year bring every bit of peace, love and joy that God has to offer…

Blessings,

The Giver of gifts…

Cold and sleepy, the children snuggled against one another as we journeyed towards home, following Midnight Mass.   The Mass was exquisite; parents and children alike rushing to the creche to welcome Baby Jesus, greeting one another with “Merry Christmas!”  Hand shaking and hugs all around, and then the stern admonition from not a few friends, warning the children to get to bed, lest they miss out on all the toys and goodies that most certainly would not be delivered to children who were still awake!  Of course there were the naysayers…”there’s no such thing as Santa, you know…”  Yes, Hilaire…I’m talking about you!

We pulled into the driveway.  Clementine hurried out of the van, while Mom gave a few instructions to the sleepy children regarding putting away coats, shoes, putting on pjs, etc.

Screams of excitement from Clementine!!  “Come quickly, come quickly…it happened!  Wait till you see it…you won’t believe it!!  Hurry, hurry, hurry!!!!”

Instantly awake, exiting the vehicle more quickly than I’ve ever witnessed, the children were many steps ahead when I heard their delighted squeals.  I pushed open the kitchen door and was greeted with a trail of chocolates…red, green and gold bells…leading into the dining room, up the stairs, into the livingroom.   Bits of wrapping paper here and there…and then the most wondrous sight…

The children, all talking at once, exclaiming over this wonder and that…

The stockings, previously empty were filled to overflowing.  Chocolates were strewn everywhere, candy hung from every branch of the Christmas tree, toys were hanging from the seriously disarranged curtains.  Fluffy stuffed animals, wearing flashing t-shirts greeted Emily and Charlotte with goofy smiles.  Beautifully wrapped packages were spilling out from under the tree in such profusion…

I wept.

You see…I’d spent a good deal of the Advent season preparing the children for the possibility of a Christmas with no gifts.  We spent time crafting as we could but finances were tighter than ever.  We’d been without heat for months and were struggling tremendously just to put food on the table, and some days weren’t quite meeting that goal.  I can’t begin to describe how painful it was for my husband and I when we realized that this Christmas, for the first time in our married lives, we wouldn’t be able to giveTo provide.  It wasn’t simply a matter of the children having gifts…it was the realization that the very joy that is gained by giving, was denied us this time by our poverty.  For the first time, I understood in a new way, just what is meant by “it is far better to give than to receive…”

Somehow in the midst of my angst, I’d once again missed an important lesson.  I’m not the Giver.  Neither is my husband.  We’re merely instruments through which our Lord pours forth His grace and every good gift.  I’ve always been quick to see how the people and situations in my life have been used by the Lord to bless us, but I still struggle tremendously with this desire to maintain some level of control.  How beautifully the Lord emptied us this time!  How completely weak He made us and was then able to fill us with every good thing, with a level of generosity that is simply astounding.  We were weak and He was strong…and He showered us so lavishly, so completely…I only wish I’d had more confidence and trust!

So, how did He do it?

Our good God did this by using a very special Christmas Elf.  Or maybe a brigade…though I’m pretty sure there’s just one who’s in charge.  I know his name.

Paolo Prada, Lieutenant Commander, Chief Elf – Central Ohio District 4, Eighth Ward and writer of an extremely long and detailed missive, written in no less than seven different languages.  Past offenses and infractions by the children were revealed as well as encouragement regarding good behaviour.  The children were astonished at how much this Paola Prada seemed to know about them…

What an outlandish name for an elf!  I believe he was last year’s supervisor, in charge of Pierre, Seamus and Giovanni, the naughty little elves that made such a mess of things, but brought such fun to our home!

This year, Paolo brought so much more…and I’m not referring to the “things,” though the gifts were quite amazing in every way!  While we are reeling over the remote control helicopters, pellet guns, stuffed animals, books, Yamaha keyboard, night vision goggles, Dyson Ball vacuum, Verilux Knitting Lamp, Edenpure heater, innumerable movies, candy, popcorn, socks and underwear, and yes, even those adorable footed blanket jammies for the big boys, we are touched to the heart to be lavished with such loving generosity…a generosity that supercedes the gifts and illuminates the heart of the giver.  Our elf is such a perfect tool in the hands of a very Good God.

As the children gazed in wonder at all the gifts and candy spilling out of their stockings, Galahad couldn’t help but spy our dear Hilaire’s stocking hanging rather limply from the mantle.  Tucked inside, was a small bag of coal.  With such sadness, Galahad informed Hilaire that he had received this bag of coal in response to his doubt the night prior.  No harshness, or smugness from Galahad.  Just true remorse that his friend had been rebuked by an elf!  The rest of the children were quick to fill Hilaire’s stocking with candy and goodies, not wanting anyone to be left out with so much largesse…

There’s so much more I’d like to say, so much that’s been on my mind and in my heart.  It’s been a real journey, this Advent.  My Shepherd led me down a really difficult path, but I’m so pleased that He showed me something new, something I needed to see.  I pray I don’t forget the lesson, that He gives me the grace to use it to my sanctification and His greater glory…

So…Mr. Christmas Elf…thank you so much for your loving generosity!  May God bless you and reward you one hundred fold for your faithful service to Him!

**UPDATE**What a goose I am! As requested, here a few photos in slideshow format…most of them are still on Clem’s camera. Enjoy!

Blessings,

Happy Birthday Fifteen Year Old!

My guy…

So serious, and yet the funniest guy you’ll ever meet…

A real outdoorsman…

So full of mischief and fun, yet amazingly mature…

Master of Ceremonies and great lover of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass…

My first son. What joy, when we discovered we’d soon have a little boy. At 18 weeks gestation, our OBGYN noted a problem with the left kidney. A trip to the perinatologist confirmed it. 26 ultrasounds. Weeks of watching his kidney grow larger and larger, crowding the other organs. Then amniotic fluid levels began to decrease rapidly. Mom is ushered in for daily steroid injections to ready the little guy for early delivery. Pediatric urologist and neonatologist on standby.

The Feast of the Holy Innocents. He’s here! One quick look, and he’s whisked away for an ultrasound to check the status of his kidneys. One month later, we’re in Louisville, Kentucky where we’re told our little fella has the most severe form (grade 5) of vesicoureteral reflux and would require surgery to correct the problem. In the meantime, prophylactic antibiotics to stave off infection.

At 10 months of age, I took my boy to our parish priest to receive the Anointing of the Sick…many people in our parish prayed for him and over him…

He was healed. Period. No reflux, no surgery, just a perfect kidney and a perfectly healthy little boy.  As a matter of fact, he is by far the healthiest of all the children!

Fifteen years.  My introduction to the “joy of boys!”  A joy I thank God for everyday…

Happy Birthday, big guy!  Life is a miracle…I’m glad God placed you in mine and may we continue to celebrate many more birthdays to come…

Love,

Mom

Just before midnight…

Excited, and a bit sleepy, the children pose for the requisite Christmas snapshot in front of the mantle:

Fr. Thomas Longua, F.S.S.P., prepares to offer Midnight Mass at Sacred Heart in Columbus. The four boys assist.

11:45…does Emily look a little tired?

10 minutes later…she’s out!

The trip home and the revelation that a few elves had been at work, was more than enough to awaken everyone…more on that later!  The entire family was stunned…

It has been a Christmas of tremendous surprises, blessings and as ever, a beautiful reminder of our Loving Father’s generosity and providential care…May God bless you all as you continue your Christmas journey…

A Blessed and Merry Christmas To You!

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

A very Merry Christmas, from our family to yours!!

Blessings,

The Simple Woman’s Daybook…evening edition!

Visit Peggy at The Simple Woman for more Daybook entries!

FOR TODAY – December 22, 2008

Outside my Window…sub-zero windchills and a blue sky, deceptively lovely…this sunny day hides well the deadly cold of last evening…

I am thinking…God, Father…have mercy upon the homeless and those without shelter during this bitterly cold weather…

I am thankful for…a roof over my head, food in the fridge and freezer, and for the generous gift of propane which will be delivered tomorrow by an anonymous donor…may God bless you!!

From the kitchen….something simple this evening.  Hamburgers, I think.  Hubby has to work the late shift, so the kiddies and I will dine together, watch Christmas movies and eat fudge…

In our school room…school’s out!  The children passed “Christmas 101” with flying colors…

I am creating…knitting, baking, sewing…need I say more?

I am going…to make sure those boys aren’t out riding that mini-bike for too much longer!!  A generous gift from our beloved Hilaire, they took it for the first test drive yesterday and its hardly been idle since…except for the brief period this morning when the windchill was -25.  It just didn’t seem like a good idea to let them ride it…

I am wearing…tan micro-suede slacks, pink turtleneck and pink sweatshirt, fuzzy lambswool socks…it’s freezing in here!  It was 45 degrees in my bedroom this morning…that’s cccccooooollllld!

I am reading…lots of Christmas books and stories to the children…that’s about it!

I am hoping…that this bitter cold passes soon…

I am hearing…the distant whirr of the mini-bike engine, the delighted whoops and hollars from the boys, laughter from the little girls…

Around the house…oh, it’s festive!  The Christmas tree was just decorated this morning…it’s lovely.  The mantle has a fresh layer of greenery and everything smells so piney and fresh.  You just can’t beat a live tree!

One of my favorite things…watching my children decorate the Christmas tree.  You can’t imagine how many times one ornament is placed and re-placed until it’s put in just the right spot…

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week…celebrate Christmas!!  The coming of our Saviour!!  We’ll attend the midnight Mass, this year offered by an FSSP priest at Sacred Heart Church.  My four boys will be serving…it’s sweet to see the four cassocks and surplices hanging together in my closet.  Will attend either the 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. Mass on Christmas Day and spend the rest of the day relaxing…feasting…enjoying one another’s company…

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you

This morning’s decorating party:

Have a blessed week!

Update on prayer request…

May God bless you and return to you one hundredfold the blessings that our dear carpenter friend, Larry, has received because of your prayers!

Larry had surgery on Wednesday and, praise God, the tumor was completely removed and appears to be benign.  The doctors were also able to save the eye!!

This lovely man is so humbled by the outpouring of prayer and sacrifices that have been made on his behalf and that of his family.  Please continue to pray for him as he still has a fairly lengthy recovery, though not nearly as lengthy as originally feared.

May God be praised for His infinite mercy.  And for the way He brings so many to their knees in prayer for a stranger…

Blessings!

Down to the wire…

minic

hristmas Day is fast approaching and the pace has quickened for all the gift makers. Baking, crafting and decorating are filling our days.  I’ll be suspending blogging for a wee bit as we continue to focus on the coming of our dear Savior.   If you’re one of my many friends awaiting response to an email, forgive me!!  Once we’ve managed our home affairs a little better, I’ll answer…promise!

Until then, rejoice!  May you continue your Advent journey with a spirit of peace and joy…

Everything’s coming up…gingerbread!

Glancing out the window at the occasionally swirling snow, I can’t help but think there couldn’t possibly be a better day to bake gingerbread…

Surrounded by children, listening to Beethoven (happy birthday, Mr. Beethoven!) on NPR, and slowly but surely hand-cutting each gingerbread man, the entire process has been enjoyable in every way…

I assembled the ingredients this morning, happy to finally have ginger, and then quickly came to the realization that I don’t own a gingerbread man cookie cutter…no…the Christmas Rhino simply won’t do when you want to bite the head off a nice, crispy gingerbread man!

So I made a couple of cardstock templates.  Though a bit time consuming, the hand cutting process renders a cookie of infinite charm.  Not to mention the children think I’m extremely resourceful and have been cutting out their own templates ever since!  We  now have hearts, trees, angels, etc.   Not one rhinoceros…thank heavens!

The recipe is quite good, as well.  One batch made six gingerbread giants (6 inch cookie men!), fifteen gingerbread men (3 inches, give or take), eight gingerbread hearts and assorted other cutouts according to the fancy of that particular child.

Here’s the recipe, adapted to suit us from allrecipes.com:

Gingerbread Men

INGREDIENTS:
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup shortening, melted and
cooled slightly
3/4 cup molasses
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:
1.Sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon; set aside.
2.In a medium bowl, mix together the shortening, molasses, brown sugar, water, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, until they are completely absorbed. Divide dough into 3 pieces, pat down to 1 1/2 inch thickness, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
3.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 inch apart onto parchment of wax paper covered cookie sheet.
4.Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. When the cookies are done, they will look dry, but still be soft to the touch. Remove from the baking sheet to cool on wire racks. When cool, the cookies can be frosted with the icing of your choice.

Yummy…just about the best I’ve ever tasted.  And the dough is very pliable and forgiving.  Extremely important if you’re hand cutting the shapes.

Not feeling up to baking and decorating the real thing?  Try your hand at these:

Virtual Gingerbread Cookie

Or maybe the kiddies would rather decorate a gingerbread house.  This is too, too sweet:

Home Sweet Home

Of course, you could just let them color

Gingerbread Man

Gingerbread People

Gingerbread Gift Tags

And be sure to read them the traditional tale of the Gingerbread Man!

Blessings,

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