Bake much?

Yesterday’s purchases at the grocery store:

20 lb of flour
4 lb of confectioner’s sugar
4 lb of brown sugar
4 bags of mini chocolate chips
1 bag of white chocolate chips
1 package chocolate mint sandwich candies
1 package of unsweetened chocolate baking squares
1 bag of pecans
4 jars of mollasses
36 eggs
7 lb of butter

and 8 gallons of milk

The stockings were hung by the front door with care

My dearest Fritz, Billy, Katie, Jenny, Peter & Mary,

Advent is a special time of year: the preparation for the celebration of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. With less than 20 days before that wonderful day, you have much to do. But I know that you are getting ready for something else: the return of your father. Keep up the prayers as your voices join those of the saints. I know it is hard but you need to keep faith in the Lord that all will be well. This has been a difficult year with many changes ahead for next, but with prayer you will be ready for them. Continue to be kind and generous and always share, particularly when it is most difficult. Decorate your house nicely to remind yourself of the coming of the Light of the Lord and live every moment filled with God’s love. I have left you a few items as tokens to help you prepare for Christmas. They are reminders of the gifts our Lord gives us every day. May the Lord bless you all the days of your lives, and may you grow in love and kindness.


St. Nicholas

Food for Thought

Our pastor began his homily yesterday with an anecdote from the life of St. Dominic Savio (a good saint for boys). While playing soccer as a boy, he and the other boys discussed what they would do if “The End” were rapidly approaching. One boy said he would hurry to find a priest and confess his sins. Another said he would run home and apologize to his mother for his misdeeds. St. Dominic said he would continue to play soccer.

His point was that he was doing what God wanted him to do all the time. Not only did he not have sins to confess or wrongs for which to atone, his life was in balance. At every minute of every day, he was doing what he ought to be doing.

Advent is a time when the readings from the Bible seem apocalyptic. Do not be caught unaware, we are warned. For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. We need to be watchful – not praying and fretting every minute. God does not expect us to spend all day on our knees. He does expect us to do our jobs and to follow the inspiration of His Spirit all the time. Our watchfulness is to be directed, not at outward signs seeing the Second Coming behind every earthquake or natural disaster, but rather at our own actions.

Are we doing what we ought to be doing all the time?

If I feel that I would need to rush off to confession if I knew I would die today, then I’m either sinning too much, or not going to confession often enough. If I feel that I would want to make things right with someone else before I died, then I need to do it now, and stop holding grudges or stop withholding my apologies. If I feel that I would need to get on my knees and pray, then I have not made a proper habit of regular prayer time and my thoughts in between those of formal prayer are not directed enough Heavenward.

I think I have much room for improvement.

First Sunday of Advent

I totally respect businesses that remain closed on Sundays. And I really would be scandalized if a religious goods store were open on Sundays. But…I do wish they should make an exception on the First Sunday of Advent. It would be nice if they’d open for a little bit – perhaps one hour. One well-publicized hour.

I never ever begin the First Sunday of Advent with candles.

And yes, when I go to the store tomorrow, I will buy two sets so I won’t be in this bind next year (of course, Murphy’s Law reminds me that the sole object lost in our upcoming move next year will be the Advent candles).

On another note, this first Sunday of the new Church year has already provided me with a challenge. Today in Mass I sat in front of two women – active members – who chatted with themselves and their children throughout the entire Mass, including the Consecration. I almost lost it when one tried to engage me in conversation during the post-Communion hymn. I am hardly the most pious person in the pews, and my own children’s behavior ensures that transcendent meditation will never be accomplished by anyone within 20 feet of our group, but I don’t need other adults thwarting my own feeble attempts to pray.

I’m not a confrontational person. I won’t be pulling them aside and telling them how disrespectful they were – they know better anyway. Instead, like St. Therese of Lisieux, it is for me to just deal with it, patiently, lovingly.

Decluttering for the holidays

Among my Advent tasks is a scaled down version of my spring cleaning. I’m not so worried about having yeast in my pantry as I am focused on the clutter in the closets. I am a very orderly and organized person (the mess on my desk notwithstanding). But I live in a home with five little people who have no understanding of just how bothersome it is (to me) to have My Little Pony accessories mixed in with the tea set.

And I can handle My Little Pony. But where I fail entirely is in the Lego and Playmobile arena. I dumped the Lego container yesterday afternoon and told the boys that only Legos were to go back inside it. And we began. Of course, the boys then proceeded to say things like, “Billy, look! You were looking for this piece!” And their sorting and cleaning was distracted by their search for other similar “jewels” for Billy’s “invention.” It was a team effort, but they were playing a different game than I.

A fly on the wall would have heard ten minutes of:

“Is this a Lego?” Affirmative grunt.

“How about this one?” Affirmative grunt.

“Legos?” Affirmative grunt.

“These?” “Oh, that’s Playmobile.”

“How about these?” “Legos.” “Really?” “Yes, Mom, they go to the Millenium Falcon.”

I am way out of my league here. I even contemplated for a few minutes that the entire endeavor to put pieces in the proper containers was really just over-the-top in organization. But then I recovered my senses and finished the job.

After an hour of cleaning the bedrooms, I released the kids to watch some TV. This gave me a chance to stealthily remove from their room all the things that I’ve decided they no longer get to keep. Some of the items were toys they rarely play with and will find a new home with another family via the post thrift store. Other things were broken toys that the kids insist are repairable by Magic Dad with the Gorilla Glue or were accessories to toys long gone.

When the kids came up a bit later, Billy remarked that he could see his dresser. Yes, it’s amazing how one can see the furniture when one puts toys, clothes, books and art projects where they belong. There are still two containers left – a bin of Army guys and a bin of cars. I need to make sure that GI Joe isn’t hanging out at the motor pool, and then the boys’ room is done. In the girls’ room, we need to re-build the Playmobile Palace destroyed by the huns, and then I have some sorting to do in Pete’s closet.

My inner soul will be at clutter-free peace for a week or so. Then comes the onslaught of New Stuff. At least there is room in the closet.

The Feast of St. Lucy

This morning I asked Bill why our daughters hadn’t delivered us some sweet bread in bed. Apparently, one needs to teach their daughters this behavior. Go figure.

I checked my copy of this book, but both recipes for St. Lucy’s sweet bread use saffron, which I don’t happen to stock. Maybe I’ll scour the internet and come up with something to make for dessert tonight or for a mid-morning snack.

Yesterday I made 20 dozen Crinkled Molasses Cookies. On Friday I’m going to a cookie exchange, and half that amount will be given away. Everyone was permitted ONE single lonely cookie. I was most unpopular, and at least one person managed to sneak one when I wasn’t looking.

At some point today, I’ll have to gather the children and bless their eyesight:

Relying upon thy goodness, O God, we humbly ask Thee, by the
intercession of Thy servant, St. Lucy, that Thou wouldst give perfect vision to our eyes, that they may serve for Thy greater glory, and for the salvation of our souls in this world, that we may come to the enjoyment of the unfailing light of the Lamb of God in paradise. St. Lucy, virgin and martyr, pray for us.

Jesse Tree

Advent is coming faster than you can blink. I almost always scramble every first Sunday of Advent getting the Advent wreath out and trying to find candles. Today, I am going to make sure that I have everything I need to avoid the unholy scene that will unfold without proper planning.

Yesterday we received another Leaflet Missal catalog. I love this company, but don’t know why they have to send us another catalog every 3 weeks, especially when I don’t often have a chance to sit down and peruse it! I literally dropped my jaw when I saw this Jesse Tree project. YEARS ago I made my own very very similar Jesse Tree. So similar in fact that I am highly suspicious of which friend may have told which person about it and turned it into this project. My Jesse Tree is a banner with a green felt Christmas tree on a dark blue starry background. But my symbols were photocopied from a book, colored by my little kids, and mounted on felt. These symbols are beautiful! I really think I’m going to ditch my homemade one for this one, at least to replace the symbols (seriously, a few of the symbols were colored by the 3 and under crowd – you can hardly see the symbol under the scribble!).

If you’ve never done a Jesse Tree, I highly recommend it, and this kit is good for those who don’t have the space for a three-dimensional tree (often a bare tree branch is used to hang ornaments). I truly believe that we each, every day, have chances to say “Yes!” to God, to offer Him our own Fiat. The Jesse Tree uses symbols to represent people who also offered their Fiat to God: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Ruth, Daniel, and, of course, the perfect Fiat of Mary. I like to use the Jesse Tree as another countdown to Christmas, adding one more symbol every day. It gives us a chance to read some great stories from the Old Testament and to ponder anew the magnificent Divine plan for our salvation.