Been too busy to post much lately, especially on Friday. So instead of 7 Quick Takes, we have simply a random jumble...
St. Lucy's Day!
Last Monday (already!) was St. Lucy's Day. Our kids LOVE our St. Lucy's Day traditions of making special buns and having the kids serve it to us (and eat it with us!) in our bedroom early on the morning of December 13th. We usually use the recipe from the Kirsten American Girl cookbook, which is quite good! Unfortunately we've lost the cookbook for the moment and decided to make a compromise. Terri baked Karen's St. Lucia Bread which seemed to work out quite well (I didn't eat any because of my gluten problem). Though it was on a Monday, John had to go into work late because of a meeting, so we enjoyed a very leisurely breakfast (the kids make sausages and hot cocoa to go along with the bread/cake). Unfortunately the camera battery was dead, so we don't have any pictures. We spread a vinyl Christmas-decorated tablecloth on our bed and gathered all around it. It's a lovely tradition!
Keeping it Clean
We got a new washing machine this week. A number of my friends have been extremely happy with a simple model (the one with the agitator) from Fisher Paykel, so we decided to give it a try. It's a top-loading high efficiency and the price was quite reasonable. It wrings the water out so well that the dryer (a basic GE model we bought a few years ago) is actually keeping up with the washer. The nicest part about this, aside from the fact that we might actually be able to keep up on the laundry, is that it looks like I'll get a chance to reduce our overall quantity of clothing as well. When you get behind on laundry, you end up needing more stuff and it easily becomes a vicious cycle.
Concerning Very Tall Trees
A few years ago we switched over to an artificial Christmas tree because of allergies. There were some tears from some of the kids, though, both because it wasn't a real tree (and there's nothing quite like a real tree!) and because the artificial tree was really small. Only five feet tall, but also pathetically skinny... we've been making do. This week because our parish is switching from having two Masses on Christmas Eve at the same time (one in the Church and one in the gym) to adding an extra Mass in Church, they were getting rid of some old, enormous, artificial Christmas trees that were no longer needed for the gym. We decided to give one a try - somewhat hesitant because they looked just awful, though it did have a nice sturdy-looking stand. We found a corner of the sunroom that was tall enough and got to work. It was a real mess - there were severed branches, branches extremely tangled with each other and a mess of lights tangled with the whole thing - partly from previous usage and partly to simply the hold the thing together. After quite a few man-hours, we got the mess untangled, reattached the severed branches, reshaped all of the branches (it was clearly a very nice tree once upon a time), added 1400 white lights (and it's still not quite full!), 100 unbreakable red bulbs and all of our odd collection of ornaments that we could find. It looks spectacular! Once I get around to recharging my camera battery, I'll try to post a picture. The kids are ecstatic about the new tree! :)
Books in Progress
As usual, I'm in the middle of reading quite a handful of books (none of them kids books at the moment, by any means, but all by Catholic authors). I started Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain and got distracted with Ron Hansen's Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which is quite fascinating and extremely well-written. I saw the movie first (which is quite good, but very psychologically intense, just so you know!), but it has so many missing pieces compared to the book - lots of exploration of the background and environment that created the legend. He's not at all "moralistic" about these topics, but just starkly brings them to light.
Advent stuff is going pretty well. We sit down to dinner *at the table* and light the advent wreath most nights. Jesse Tree usage has dropped off considerably this week and the kids catch up on the Advent DVD in chunks every week or so. One thing that's been going extremely well, is a new idea (we've been using it for two weeks, I think. We were getting into a slump school-wise and really needed to move in a different direction for awhile) that I'm calling "Advent School". We dropped our regular school schedule and I made a new list of things for the kids to do each day... (They have to check with me about how much of something qualifies).
- Read something fun and something religious each day for Advent/Christmas
- Art for Advent/Christmas
- Making Christmas Presents
- Clean House
- Decorate House
- Work on Christmas Music
- Work on Memorizing a Christmas Poem
- Earn 5 pieces of Straw Each Day (for a good deed or a helpful job)
When someone joins me for Daily Mass, they automatically get two items on the list taken care of - prayer and 5 pieces of straw. Whatever it takes to motivate! Also, the Christmas Music has been a big part of our lives lately. Seven of us (everyone in the family but Frank) are in choirs that are working on Christmas Music (three of them are in two choirs!) and so it's been sounding a lot like Christmas around here for quite a few weeks already!