Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011!

Another year gone. My kids are taller, we are older, hopefully, a year wiser. 2010 was not the perfect year, but then, I could not name a single year that was perfect. 2010 was the year our baby turned 1 year old. It was the year our oldests turned 20. It was a year of medical miracles, and of such great sadness as we watched our Nain just deteriorate due to a brain bleed. It was a year when I had to adjust to the idea that my parents are not 30 years old, and have some medical issues, and that my grandmother, whom I never realized how much I loved, is never going to be that same grandmother again. Those were hard lessons, most gave some precious insight, and thankfully, some wonderful outcomes.

2010 brought a lot of political angst, as a liberal administration rammed as much through Congress and by executive order as possible. It also held a light at the end of the tunnel for those of us who prefer things to be run in a more Conservative, constitutionalist way.

2010 also brought some marvelous successes for my husband  - he works so hard at his job and this year brought some recognition of that, and for that we are so grateful.

This little blog turned a year old this year, in October, and while I have not been able to keep up with it as I would like, it has given me a place to vent, brag, and wax poetic on whatever happened to be on my mind. Happily, more than a few people from all over the world read this little blog, and that tickles me more than a little, so I am grateful for that, too.

2010 had it's joys, like the births of two nephews, our little burrito, Petey, and Spencerific. And two little great-nieces, Bella and Brooklyn, to boot. Such beautiful babies, and though I love babies so much, when I visited their mamas in the hospital, I did NOT have an overwhelming desire to tuck them into my coat and make off with them, which is a sign, I think, that my time of having babies is done, and we are ready to move on to the next phase in life. I think I'll always be wistful over newborns, but more often than not this year, I have been grateful when I hear a baby cry, that it was not my job to do something about it. 

2010 was such a good year, in so many ways, we caught our stride with school, finally, in November and I think the decision to use an online school was the right one for us. My husband and I have been married for 15 years this year, and together for 16. We seem to have hit a new stride, too. Renewed love and gratitude for each other, as we have sadly watched a marriage or two fall apart. It's almost like a second, or third wind, and it's been lovely being in love with someone for so long. I look forward to 2011, and the 40 years or so after that, God willing.

I pray that 2011 with be as kind, and as joyful. I will never pray that trials pass us over, but that feel safe in the knowledge that God will never give us what we cannot handle. So, thank you, 2010, for your joys, and yes, even your sorrows, as the sorrows have taught me so well. Welcome, 2011, I look forward to the lessons you have in store for me.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Card Guilt

We have been receiving beautiful Christmas cards for weeks now. I have a thing about Christmas cards. I love doing them. I always have a photo taken of the kiddos just for this purpose. I get religious cards, and even buy the Madonna and Child stamps,  and get a really good pen, so that everything is "just so". I wait until the kids are in bed, and then I turn on one of the silly Lifetime Christmas movies and write out my cards. It's a ritual. It takes a few hours, and more than a few dollars, but I love staying in touch with people, even if it's only once a year.

I didn't do them this year. Between lack of time, money, and availability of children for a photo, it just wasn't going to happen. I feel guilt. Tremendous guilt. My husband didn't even blink, he thought it was just fine to not send out cards. I can't even bring myself to hang the ones we have gotten because I feel like I don't deserve them when I didn't send any out. I know that is pretty silly, since they are here and all, but the whole not sending cards thing is not sitting well with me. I don't know why I feel so much guilt over it, or the fact that I am not baking a lot this year, or that we have trimmed everything back so far that I feel like a big, fat GRINCH. The cards were simply the first thing to go, but they are such a big part of the season. I love sending them almost as much as I love getting them. So, if you sent me a card, and I didn't send you one back, please forgive me. I still love you and your family! I don't want to be rude,  and it was necessary, but still...I FEEL  SO RUDE. Ugh. Just another version of the feminine guilt we all tote around with us I suppose.

So, did you send cards out this year? If you chose not to, are you feeling the guilt I am feeling, or did you make the cut without batting an eye?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Helping Littles Understand the True Meaning of Christmas

Because we have always home schooled these little kids, I think I have assumed that they just absorb what I have actively taught my older children. This is especially true when it comes to matters of faith. Prayers that we have always said, tend to get passed from one child to the next with very little active planning on my part. They are part of our day, so they are taught repeatedly, without my ever sitting down with a child to have them memorize the prayer. This year I wanted to really impart to them what Christmas is all about. I want them to experience not just the wonder that comes from Santa and the commercial Christmas season, but the hope, expectation, delight and love that comes from the real Christmas story. I wanted them to think of angels and stars, and of the Savior born in Bethlehem. I want them to think of the little drummer boy, who had no gift to give, and so he played his drum for Him.

So this year we have started a new tradition. For each "little" goodness or kind act the children perform, they will get a bright star to hang, with the goodness written on it. These stars will be displayed all through Advent, and will be their gift to the Savior on His birthday.

My sister started this with her kids this year, and my Kolbe loved it so much that he wanted to do it, too. So far, he has offered the most stars for Jesus' birthday. Even my wee small Benji has taken to doing small jobs or sharing his toys with Yeb to be able to hang another star. I'm not sure he understands it all, but he does understand that you have to do a goodness to get a star. He'll even tell you that all the stars are for Jesus' birthday.

My sweet Jenna, always one to offer to help, or do  a job without being told, should have far more stars up there. I need to watch her for a few days, and surprise her with the stars, even when she doesn't ask for them to be displayed. She knows that God knows what is in her heart, so I think she doesn't need to see them up there, but will be pleased that I noticed how much she really does for others.

We're just getting started with this new tradition, but I already see that it has changed how the kids look at Christmas. Kolbe asked me today how many more days there were until Christmas. A typical question. I saw him counting the days on the calendar, and heard him tell Luke that he thinks he can get a bunch more stars for Jesus with the time left. He is so excited! Jonah wants to try and beat him, because it has to be a competition, you know. Until he finds his DSi. Ah, they are all so different, and so dear, in their own ways. My baby is just old enough to rip the stars down, and the ornaments off the trees, but he is precious in God's eyes, and in mine. I can't wait to see what he makes of Christmas morning!

It's Christmastime...

We wrote and mailed our Santa letters, and my small ones were so thrilled when Santa wrote back, himself, on special Santa stationery, postmarked at the North Pole. This delighted our 8 year old, Kolbe, who being homeschooled, still believes, but, being 8, has started to question. These lovely letters and a special video from the Portable North Pole TV really lit up his imagination and the twinkle in his eyes, and that special belief is still alive in his heart. Even our 10 year old, Jenna still believes so fully that she sent her Santa letter without even telling me what was in it. Thankfully, a helpful elf alerted me to what she had asked for, and so she will not be disappointed Christmas morning.

But, it's Christmas, and with it comes the flurry of activity that  makes every day tasks seem burdensome. All I want to do is bake and make candy and ornaments and paint stuff with my kids. I don't want to do school, or work, or anything I am supposed to do, and I imagine most other people are feeling the same way. I want to stop and savor the wonder. I want to watch my little Luke get up and look for snow every morning and clap and jump up and down when he spots a few flakes fluttering to the ground.

I want to watch Jonah and Kolbe drag out all the snow gear and help their brothers layer it all on so they can go outside and roll around in the 6 or so inches of snow that are out there, just because it is so darn exciting that it's that time of year again. My kids are snow babies, rather than water babies. They will be outside everyday, playing in whatever form of precipitation God offers them from now until it hits 75 degrees again. Then they will tell me it's too hot to go outside.

I want to shop and wrap and plan the perfect gifts. It'll soon be time when I have to do those things, but for now, we have to buckle down, do school, get our work done, keep the house straight, and wait anxiously for the two delicious weeks when we don't have to do a lick of school, and my husband and I will both be off work for a little while. We can bake with the cousins and chat with old friends. Revel in the joy of time well spent doing nothing whatsoever.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Ordinary Days...

It's been a while since I've posted. I'm not really sure why. Life gets busy, I guess, and I have not really had time to let my usually overly flowery thoughts roll through my brain. School has been overwhelming, been doing some other things that take up my time. And for some reason, I just don't seem to be in a writing mode. Even regular writing that I do for work, or whatever is taking me more time - I don't really know why. Writer's block? I don't know that I write often enough to develop writer's block, but I just don't seem to be able to generate any interesting or new thoughts on anything.

So, since it has been so long, I'll just fill you in on what's been happening around here instead. I am not really one who wants to write a whole blog post about the daily happenings, I tend to think that is what Facebook and Twitter are for, and I generally use those outlets pretty regularly. We've been doing school (religiously - which is new for us), getting our Kolbe ready to make his First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion,  Mackenzie is studying and preparing to be Confirmed in the Spring.

All the Jeffery Girl Cousins
We hosted Thanksgiving this year for Doug's side of the family. Thanksgiving was truly a lovely day, so much family gathered around, happy and healthy and so, so blessed. There are many children on both sides of our family, and I feel so thankful that our families truly embrace the gift of children and cherish each and every one. We have great-nieces now, five of them, to be exact. I remember when the nieces were just young girls themselves. Now they are grown, beautiful wives and mothers.

We also had dinner at my parents' house later, surrounded by the 18 children, 2 teenagers. We had lots of food, fun, and the company of my brother and sisters and their spouses just makes everything perfect. I am lucky that my siblings all married wonderful people. You always hear how so many families don't get along and have a hard time over the holidays. I am so thankful that we are blessed with a mostly harmonious family. Everyone squabbles from time to time, but we all truly love each other. It's always fun to be together - and our kids are growing up feeling like extra-special siblings rather that cousins who don't get to see much of each other. Another thing to be thankful for!

My sister's new baby, Spencer, was baptized on Saturday, so we went to Mass and then a big dinner for little Spencer right afterward, with most of the cousins switching houses and spending the night with cousins. So much fun! We finished the weekend off by making homemade pizza and decorating our tree and getting the rest of the house ready for Christmas. The girls were home, and I was grateful for one more year when we had all of the kids under one roof for this ritual. I have to admit that I hate the thought that they won't always be here to help us decorate the tree, so, in an effort to make sure we always have this special day, we have told them that we will always put up the tree the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and when they are married, that will be OUR Thanksgiving. We'll do the turkey, and put up the tree. That way they don't have to feel pressured to be ONE MORE place on Thanksgiving, and we are creating our own tradition. With nine children, I think we are going to have to create some of our own holidays in order to have all of our children in the same place at the same time. We can't expect nine families to do that on the regular holidays. I hope this takes the pressure off them and makes them want to come celebrate with us. We plan to do the same thing with Christmas. I hope one of them will let us come watch their babies open presents Christmas morning!

So, that is my update, I hope to have something interesting to offer soon, I feel so scattered, I can't collect my thoughts into a cohesive post! I hope you are all having a Blessed Advent season!