Filed under: Advent, Birth, Children, Christmas, Easter, Motherhood, Thanksgiving | Tags: 2011, Benjamin, end of the year, Lucy, reflections
I think Daniel and I both agree that 2011 was our best year to date. Here’s some highlights (which turned out to become a monstrously long post with mostly pregnancy pics, oh well).
Daniel got a new job and we hoped to get pregnant again. Benjamin continued to amaze us with the joy he brought to our world.
In February we celebrated Benjamin’s 2nd Birthday (A Farm Birthday Party) and two days later found out I was pregnant.
Our garden produced some great food and Benjamin loved “helping” Daddy tend to it. I was really, really, sick for the whole month with 24-hour morning sickness. Daniel and my mom picked up all the slack for me. Don’t know what I would do without them. Look how tired I look, holy cow:
Our first Easter back in Tallahassee and the anniversary of our Confirmation. Benjamin made a little best friend named Ulee from library storytime. His mom, Zemi, and I hit it off and the boys enjoyed playing at the Jr.Museum (Tallahassee Museum) together.
I started looking really pregnant and the nausea started to get a little bit better, although I was exhausted from growing Ms. Lucy.
A busy month of leading company rehearsals for the Spring ballet and getting my little students ready for their recital dances. Benjamin and I started doing summery things like going to the pool and Daniel and I celebrated our 5th anniversary by a weekend away at the Animal Kingdom Lodge where we spent our honeymoon. Why we didn’t take one picture…I don’t know.
We took Benjamin blueberry picking and we fell into a wonderful routine of morning outings for the summer: park, pool, jr. museum, pool, brogan museum. Such a happy time! And I got bigger:
At the end of June we had the best family vacation ever: a trip to North Carolina for my wonderful friend Jane’s wedding and then a week split between resting and reading at my grandparents mountain home and visiting my wonderful cousins, aunt, and uncle, in SC.
We returned from vacation just before the 4th of July and I was suddenly hugely pregnant. My good friend, Beca, was in town for the summer and kept me company. We also said farewell to the Harry Potter film series with a party and a midnight movie. That wouldn’t be a major milestone of most people’s year, but…well, you know how we feel about Harry Potter.
August was pretty miserably hot, although nothing near the infernal summer they had in Texas this year. I was getting SO BIG and so excited about our baby girl. Our dear friends, Brian and Lois, moved into our third bedroom while raising support for their mission work in Nepal. We also started to get really plugged in at our parish and starting making some wonderful Catholic friends, something we’d never had before, including my friend Colleen who has been such an encouragement to me this year.
I turned 26 this month and started to have Braxton-Hicks contractions all the time. My due date was October 13th but we were sure she wouldn’t wait so long to come since I was already dilated…we ended up waiting, waiting, and waiting some more. I did some pretty nutty nesting to get ready for our sweet girl and we rearranged the house to prepare for her arrival. My friend Erin was visiting for a couple of weeks and kept me distracted with Downton Abbey.
We had a scare when Benjamin caught Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease (a mild illness for toddler but dangerous for newborn if the mother has been exposed). He had to be quarantined away from me at Marmee’s house for over a week. Thankfully, I didn’t catch it and neither did Lucy when she FINALLY arrived almost two weeks past her due date and met her incredibly proud big brother:
I love this picture so much, despite the fact that I’m still so puffy from late pregnancy and labor. I think Benjamin’s expression is precious and he’s been just as sweet and gentle with his sister each day since.
And SHE. Well…we’re so in love her. From day one she has been the most precious and sweet of babies. She’s so easy, so adorable. So happy and smiley and SLEEPY. Praise God.
We started learning how to live life as a four-person family. Sleep-deprived and full of joy, we celebrated Lucy’s baptism and the anniversary of Benjamin’s baptism.
We hosted Thanksgiving at our house with Daniel’s folks, my folks and brother, and some dear friends.
In late November and December we were all pretty miserably ill with colds and sinus/throat/ear/eye infections. Even sweet Lucygirl. But it’s still been a wonderful Advent and Christmas. Having two precious babes is a gift I am thankful for every minute.
Can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store…Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Filed under: Advent, Children, Christmas | Tags: advent, Benjamin, Christmas, christmas tree, Ero Cras, Lucy
ERO CRAS: I will be there tomorrow.
I love a good old timey Latin Advent acrostic!
We are having a relaxing Christmas Eve day before going to my folks house for Christmas Eve dinner.
Our sweet boy has been dying to put the ornaments on the tree for weeks and will be so excited for the chance to decorate it tonight. Tomorrow we will eat cinnamon rolls, light the Christ Candle in the center of our Advent wreath, go to Christmas Mass, and then spend the afternoon with food and presents at Daniel’s parents house. I’m so grateful we’re not traveling one bit!
I’m so excited for Lucy’s first Christmas! She is the happiest and sweetest of babies and I can’t get enough of her precious baby scent and amazingly goofy smiles. I cover her little face with kisses all day and night.
She’s getting nice and chubby!
“Every baby is the sweetest and the best.” Name that quote.
Filed under: Advent
I wrote this reflection last year during Advent, but never posted it. Here ’tis.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel has always been my favorite carol. I love the ancient chant-like melody and the images it conjures: monks singing by candlelight and waiting to celebrate the coming of the Light of the World while a cold, dark winter lingers on. It has many beautiful verses but the first and most familiar is:
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel
It is, of course, a particularly fitting verse for Advent when we prepare for the coming of Our Lord. This Advent I have come to understand better what it means because it’s been a dark Advent. In November dear friends lost a child at birth. Their incomprehensible grief and the loss we have all experienced as we miss their daughter we will never have the opportunity to know, made the uncertainty of this life more present. We are not guaranteed lives free of pain, in fact, quite the opposite. We wait in exile. And in exile there is grief. So I have struggled with the darkness of our exile. How do we live in a world of grief, pain, and uncertainty? How do we love those around us knowing that we might lose them? What does it mean to wait for Jesus?
St. Bernard of Clairvaux writes of three advents. One is in the past: Christ was born to the Blessed Virgin Mary when God Incarnate came to rescue the world. One is in the present: now is the time to prepare our hearts for Christ’s dwelling. And one is in the future: Christ will come again in glory. During the Advent season I usually only consider the past Advent, Christ’s Nativity. After all, it’s complete and all that I need to do is remember what has happened and celebrate on Christmas morning what Our Lord has done. The other two advents require more of me. How do I prepare my heart for the Son of God to enter it? And perhaps even more difficult: How can I bear waiting for Christ’s return in exile, amidst grief, pain, and uncertainty?
In the advent carol the first step is to long for Christ. O come, O come, Emmanuel, God with us. We long for Him because we have come to understand the difficult reality of our situation. Until we realize that placing our security in anything of this life is fruitless, we will not be able to long for Christ as we ought. We are captives in this exile and we must understand our helplessness and need of a Savior. I remember Zechariah who was struck dumb during the miraculous pregnancy of his aging and previously barren wife, Elizabeth. Waiting. Yearning for new life as he anticipated the birth of his son, John the Baptist. And ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here… Our exile. It seems very dark. But we have been given a gift, a promise that our exile will not last forever. We have been given hope. And our hope is a Living Hope for it is Christ himself. What makes the darkness and the waiting and the pain bearable is that it will come to an end. Zechariah will speak at the end of nine months. A woman in labor will not be in pain forever. Until the Son of God appear… In the darkness of our exile we wait in joyful hope because He is coming. He HAS come. And He IS here. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. The redemption of the world has happened in the Incarnation, it is happening in us and in the world, it will be fulfilled and completed.
How can we bear our exile? I think I am learning that the answer is hope. With hope we can say with Lady Julian of Norwich, even through our grief…And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.
Hail, Holy Queen, mother of mercy:
Hail, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us;
and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Since Benjamin was born I’ve tried to collect books and music that are special for Advent and Christmas. My mom was always very intentional about Advent even though my parents are Protestant and we always listened to special music and had an Advent wreath. Here are some of our favorites:
Handel’s Messiah: This is the music that I remember listening to the most during Advent and Christmas as a child. I think we even had a record of it before the digital age. Since I was 8 years old, my mom and I would always attend try to the Tallahassee Messiah Sing, a December tradition at a local church where the attendees are the impromptu chorus (we’re always in the Alto section). I’m 26 now so that’s a lot of Messiah Sing-Alongs. I missed a few years but…still…we can Hallelujah Chorus with the best of ’em. This is really a MUST HAVE Advent and Christmas album. The music is simply incredible and the biblical readings used as the lyrics are so beautifully woven together. I also love that it includes songs about the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Advent is, after all, a little Lent. And the Incarnation and the Crucifixion/Resurrection are parts of one story.
Bach’s Christmas Oratorio: I just discovered this one this year when Daniel and I took Lucy to see this performed a few weeks ago when we needed to get out of the house after some new baby cabin fever. Sweet girl slept through the whole thing and we loved it. It’s made of six cantatas that were performed beginning on Christmas Day up to Epiphany. It’s really great. I do love me some Bach.
Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas: A compilation of EPs of Christmas songs Sufjan recorded as Christmas presents for his friends. I first heard one of these amazing tunes in 2003(?) and then listened to them nonstop when they were released five or six years ago. There are some beautiful versions of some of my favorites: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” as well as some of Sufjan’s original Christmas songs (some of which are amazing and some are…eh.) I start listening to this album as soon as it’s Advent because I can’t make myself wait until Christmas and rationalize it because there are a couple of Advent songs.
The Friendly Beasts by Tomie dePaola: I love Tomie dePaola and I love this Old English Christmas carol. Daniel’s mom got us this for Christmas two years ago and it’s still one of Benjamin’s very favorite books. The illustrations are gorgeous and now we’ve all memorized the song which Benjamin frequently requests at bedtime.
George Balanchine’s The Nutracker: I love the beautiful photographs and Benjamin is a little bit obsessed with Drosselmeier. “Isn’t Drosselmeier WEIRD?!” he’ll ask/tell me.
The Nutcracker Doll by Mary Newell DePalma: Daniel and Benjamin brought this one home from the library the other day and I think it’s absolutely precious. It’s about a little girl’s first year in a ballet company and her first Nutcracker
A Little House Christmas by Laura Ingalls Wilder: A collection of Christmas stories from the Little House books. Benjamin isn’t quite ready for this one yet but I can’t wait til he is. Because I love Laura Ingalls Wilder.
The Donkey’s Dream by Barbara Helen Berger: I don’t own this one yet but I need to add it to my wishlist. My friend Marianna showed this one to me when I was pregnant with Benjamin and I’ve meant to find a copy ever since. It’s about the donkey that carries the Blessed Virgin Mary to Bethlehem. It’s so lovely.
Jingle, the Christmas Clown by Tomie dePaola: Another Tomie dePaola. This one’s about a little clown in an Italian circus. It’s precious and there’s a recipe for special Christmas cookies in the back that I plan on making this year with Benjamin.
The Mitten by Jan Brett: I love Jan Brett’s illustrations so much. This one isn’t really about Christmas, just winter. We actually need to buy a new copy of this one because when Benjamin was a baby he drooled over this one so much that it completely fell apart.
Trouble with Trolls by Jan Brett: Same story with this one. Not a Christmas tale but lots of snow.
Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson: This was Benjamin’s favorite favorite book for the longest time. And I still like it after reading it a million billion gazillion times. Like the Brett books I mentioned, it’s just a winter book.
Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson: A new one that some sweet friends gave Benjamin at Thanksgiving. I really like it and so does he.
What is your favorite music for Advent? For Christmas? What books do you like to read? Which ones do you read to your kids? We want to know!
Filed under: Advent, Motherhood, Our Lady, Pregnancy | Tags: advent, Blessed Virgin, expectation, pregnancy, preparation
This is a repost from last year of a piece I wrote for our beloved Landing Literary Society in Waco about what pregnancy taught me about Advent and I’m thinking of sweet friends who are expecting this year during the Advent season (hi, Jen, Jeni, and Emily!)
I was huge. Not just big—gigantic. Even before I entered my third trimester, well-intentioned old ladies would pat my shoulder and say, “Any day now!” encouragingly as I waddled my way through the grocery store. Considering the raging pregnancy hormones running through my system, I’m impressed that I didn’t slap any of the kind-hearted dears. I was huge.
As it neared the end of November, I started wearing flip-flops exclusively because my swollen feet wouldn’t fit into anything else. I think I gave up on other footwear after one particularly bad day when my husband had to help me get my boots off as I helplessly yelled inchoate phrases about being the only woman who would be pregnant forever. My maternity coat didn’t fit anymore by the time it was cold enough to wear it which enraged me further. When I wasn’t at work, I was lying on the couch or in the bath tub trying to remember what it felt like to be able to see my toes. Then I would see a tiny limb change position—reminding me that my massive tummy housed a moving, living child.
As December neared and Advent began I considered this season for perhaps the first time. I had lighted Advent candles as a little girl and been excited about Christmas coming but had never considered the season as anything except a Pre-Christmas countdown. I came to realize that this is as incomplete an understanding of Advent as a definition of pregnancy as simply the nine months preceding a birth.
While I tried to remember what my feet looked like, I remembered the Blessed Virgin Mary. I confess that I had never thought much about her before. I had never felt that we had anything in common until now. But as my belly got rounder and rounder and my back got achier and achier, I remembered her. She has done this, I thought. She has felt her child move in her womb, perhaps even responding to the sound of her voice or her song. She experienced this miracle of life taking place within her.
In our modern disenchanted age we have not completely lost our fascination with the miracle of new life. Whenever I dragged my sleepy pregnant body to public places my experience was different than ever before. Little children looked at my belly, fascinated, sometimes even trying to give my belly a pat or lift up my shirt to discover if there was really a baby inside. Other mothers smiled at me and grandmothers reassured me. My ordinary child, this new ordinary life, elicited such a response of amazement. How much more miraculous is the coming of our Lord?, I began to wonder.
For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given.
I was expecting my son during the season of expectation. The word comes fromexpectare—to wait, to hope, to look for. I did all this things. At first there was a contentment in the waiting and the hoping but eventually the groaning, miserable discomfort led to a readiness to be delivered of the tiny tyrant reigning over me from my womb. A week before my due date I was so exhausted and so tired of bumping the counters with my colossal tummy and getting up 10 times a night because the little angel had given my bladder yet another energetic punch, that I began to lose it a bit. I couldn’t go to work one more day. I couldn’t fit behind my desk. I couldn’t sleep. Until the discomfort crossed a certain threshold and I was struck with a desperate desire to be pregnant not a day longer, the pain of delivery was alarming to me and I remained unprepared. Now it did not frighten me. Anything but this. I started to understand that it is not until we are exhausted, ill with our condition, miserable, that we are ready for Christ—when we can really desire to be delivered.
I kept thinking about the Blessed Virgin Mary. Was she as desperate to give birth as I was? I considered with wonder how when her baby boy was delivered, he would in turn deliver her, deliver me, deliver my own unborn son.
As I waited in joyous, miserable, anxious expectation, I started to understand an inkling of what it must have felt like to wait for the Messiah, Mary’s son. I begin to understand the Joy born to the world on Christmas and present with us now as I heard the sound of the first beautiful and strong cry of my newborn son. I realized in a new way how to wait with groaning and expectation for our Lord’s return in glory. It was my first Advent.
This morning we continued the family tradition of going to the Bavarian Christmas Tree Farm in Monticello to cut down a Christmas Tree with Daniel’s parents and sister. Benjamin was been asking to go cut down a tree since last Christmas when he looked like this:
My, he’s precious in that photo! I think he’s gotten much sneakier and sillier over the past year as you can see:
Sweet girl slept through the whole expedition:
I love my family. I love this tradition.
When do you get your Christmas tree? Do you wait til after Advent? Do you wait to decorate until Christmas Eve? I want to know.
P.S. The candle giveaway winner has been announced on the original post!
“The liturgical year is not an idle discipline, not a sentimentalist definition of piety, not an historical anachronism. It is Jesus with us, for us, and in us as we strive to make His life our own. It is goad and guide to the kind of personal spirituality that is worthy of the Jesus whose commitment to the Word of God led Him all the way to the cross and beyond it—to Resurrection.”
(Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year)
Our entire extended family has been a bit out of commission with a pretty miserable cold for the past week so this post is coming a little late. We’re a little bit behind on everything but we’ve been getting ready for Advent. My mom ordered an Advent Candle Making Kit from Toadily Handmade, the only company we could find that offers 100% beeswax advent candles. Benjamin had a BALL making the candles. He thought it was simply grand. They were so easy to make and look so pretty.
He also made a wreath at Marmee’s house last weekend. I’ll post pictures of it when I have a minute.
I’ve found several really helpful Advent-related posts:
Ideas for Celebrating Advent:
Karen Edmisten’s A No Panic Advent: The Monstrously Long Post
In the Heart of My Home’s Planning Ahead for Advent and Christmas (which I totally failed to do)
My post from last year: Various Things Related to Advent
Advent Book Lists:
Passionate Homemaking’s Our Simple Advent Calendar
Simple Mom’s An Easy, No Frills Advent Calendar
SlowMama’s Hello, Advent
My Mom’s blog, Margo’s Corner also has several Advent related posts
And when our household is completely better from the cold that’s been plaguing us (I think it’s just Daniel now that feels crummy), we plan on doing some sort of Jesse Tree. Any great ideas for that?
And don’t forget that tomorrow is that last day to enter my giveaway for beeswax candles from local Full Moon Apiary. Win some candles!