Advent had a messy beginning around here. We arrived home from an out-of-state Thanksgiving trip on the first Sunday of Advent - exhausted and a little fluish. Though we weren't constantly sick for the next two weeks, we had our share of it (particularly last Sunday night when five people in our house - plus the dog! - got sick - only two of us were able to make it to Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception - me and Frank!) on and off along with plenty of tiredness in between. Oh yeah, and because we've been working on insulating the attic, we started Advent with all of our Christmas stuff strewn all over "the another room". There wasn't much time for anything beyond setting up an advent wreath (which didn't get lit nearly every night).
We did manage somehow to get through our basic advent "projects" that we try to get to each year - the library tree, adopting a family from our Church's giving tree for a big food donation and delivering car seats, playpens, snowsuits, etc. from the same holiday tree to a pregnancy help center in Milwaukee. We enjoyed celebrating St. Nicholas Day of course (which, as you may remember, is celebrated by a large portion of the population in the Milwaukee area). But that was about it for almost two weeks.
Yesterday I was finally at a point where I could start catching up on our Advent. We've been getting the place cleaned up after all our chaos and now the dining room table isn't so smothered that it would be unsafe to light the advent candles! Terri managed to find our Jesse Tree ornaments (which are cut out of a book - can't remember the name right now) and which we've never managed to put up in their entirety. (We only started using them last year, though I think we owned them the previous year). Yesterday we hung up most of the ornaments for the days we missed (we hang them on our two rose bushes - which seems pretty appropriate, especially given the song "Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming").
Part of the reason that the Jesse Tree never got completed last year was that I never got around to punching holes in the ornaments and putting little ribbon hangers on them. Such is life around here sometimes! Today I finally picked up some ribbon and we have way more ornaments on the rose bushes now than we've ever had before. We may actually finish the entire thing for once. :)
I also picked up an interesting Advent Calendar DVD at the Holy Hill Gift Shop. It's not very Adventish in the "traditional" sense, but it offers a nice little way of preparing for Christmas by sharing interesting and sometimes touching little stories of Christmas related things - like the story of the writing of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the World War I Christmas Truce, the origins of candy canes and other tidbits. The imagery is a little *loud* (fast paced and over-busy) but overall I really liked it and I think it would be particularly enjoyable for families who are just beginning to bring some more "rootedness" to their Christmas traditions.
This morning we enjoyed a very memorable little St. Lucy's Day celebration. We do usually bake St. Lucy's Day buns (from the Kirsten American Girl cookbook) but we just weren't moving enough for that yesterday. At 9 pm, when Terri reminded me about the buns, we decided that baking just wasn't going to work! (On top of everything else, John was out at a work-obligation until really late and Ria was at a lit class until late). So we made a quick run to the store for some nice pastry-cake things and decided to throw an extra treat into our morning celebration - sausages! The fun party this year was that because John was out, he didn't really hear about any of the plans and a surprise was definitely in the making. :)
At 6:45 (so nice that it was a Saturday this year - weekdays they have to get started a lot earlier!) all the kids except Frank got up and started their preparations (and pulled off the entire thing all on their own). Ria cooked sausages, Terri made hot cocoa (she's the expert in the family - we make it with yummy Ghiradelli cocoa powder), Bernie whipped together a paper wreath with paper candles (it was basically her turn to be the official presenter this year) and I'm not exactly sure what Gus and Kate did, but I know that they were all required to pull off the lovely little feast that we enjoyed about an hour later in our bed. Despite some spilled hot cocoa on the comforter (whoops!) and some crankiness from Frank (who wasn't quite ready to wake up) it was a lovely little party.