Monday, December 31, 2007

Fa-la-la-ha-ha (Updated with Answers in the Post Below)

Are you looking for something fun before the Christmas season ends? Well, look no further. Thanks to Katie, here is a clever little riddle testing your knowledge of traditional Christmas carols.

How many can you identify? I'll post the answers tomorrow! Good Luck! And, of course, cyber-bragging rights to the person who can identify the most!

Name the carols described in each riddle

1. Oh, member of the round table with missing areas

2. Boulder of the tinkling metal spheres

3. Vehicular homicide was committed on Dad's mom by a precipitous darling

4. Wanted in December: top forward incisors

5. The apartment of two psychiatrists

6. The lad is a diminutive percussionist

7. Sir Lancelot with laryngitis

8. Decorate the entryways

9. Cup-shaped instruments fashioned of a whitish metallic element

10. Oh small Israel urban center

11. Far off in a haybin

12. We are Kong, Lear, and Nat Cole

13. Duodecimal enumeration of the passage of the yuletide season

14. Leave and broadcast from an elevation

15. Our fervent hope is that you thoroughly enjoy your yuletide season

16. Listen, the winged heavenly messengers are proclaiming tunefully

17. As the guardians of the woolly animals protected their charges in
the dark hours

18. I beheld a trio of nautical vessels moving in this direction

19. Jubilation to the entire terrestrial globe

20. Do you perceive the same vibrations which stimulate my auditory sense

21. A joyful song of reverence relative to hollow metallic vessels which
vibrate and bring forth a ringing sound when struck

22. Parent was observed osculating a red-coated unshaven teamster

23. May the Deity bestow an absence of fatigue to mild male humans

24. Rose-colored uncouth dolf is aware of the nature of precipitation,

Sunday, December 30, 2007

And the answers are...

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1. Oh, member of the round table with missing areas = Oh Holy Night

2. Boulder of the tinkling metal spheres = Jingle Bell Rock

3. Vehicular homicide was committed on Dad's mom by a precipitous darling =
Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer

4. Wanted in December: top forward incisors = All I Want For Christmas Is My
Two Front Teeth

5. The apartment of two psychiatrists = The Nutcracker Suite

6. The lad is a diminutive percussionist = Little Drummer Boy

7. Sir Lancelot with laryngitis = Silent Night

8. Decorate the entryways = Deck the Halls

9. Cup-shaped instruments fashioned of a whitish metallic element = Silver

10. Oh small Israel urban center = Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

11. Far off in a haybin = Away in a Manger

12. We are Kong, Lear, and Nat Cole = We Three Kings

13. Duodecimal enumeration of the passage of the yuletide season = The Twelve
Days of Christmas

14. Leave and broadcast from an elevation = Go Tell It on the Mountain

15. Our fervent hope is that you thoroughly enjoy your yuletide season =
We Wish You a Merry Christmas

16. Listen, the winged heavenly messengers are proclaiming tunefully = Hark
the Herald Angels Sing

17. As the guardians of the woolly animals protected their charges in the
dark hours = Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night

18. I beheld a trio of nautical vessels moving in this direction = I Saw
Three Ships

19. Jubilation to the entire terrestrial globe = Joy to the World

20. Do you perceive the same vibrations which stimulate my auditory sense
organ? = Do You Hear What I Hear?

21. A joyful song of reverence relative to hollow metallic vessels which
vibrate and bring forth a ringing sound when struck = Carol of the Bells

22. Parent was observed osculating a red-coated unshaven teamster = I Saw
Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

23. May the Deity bestow an absence of fatigue to mild male humans = God Rest
Ye Merry Gentlemen

24. Rose-colored uncouth dolf is aware of the nature of precipitation, darling =
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

So, how'd you do? (I mean BEFORE you googled the quiz) I was only able to identify about half of them. Anybody else?

Friday, December 28, 2007


Ducky and his proud new owner, little N, age 3

Asleep at the wheel

Swallowing one's pride is the first step in becoming a 3-year-old girl's kitten.

A wiser, more experienced cat, like Big Dan (seen above) knows when to head for the safety of the sweater closet.

And he also knows when it's time to find a new hiding spot.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

You know me too well

So, here's the scoop. Our TWO newest family members arrived home on December 13th and December 27th. The oldest is named Dan. He is about 4 years old. The baby is named Ducky. He is about 4 months old. They are not siblings by birth. And, yes, as CC guessed---they are BOTH of the feline variety.

Sorry about the teaser. I didn't think about the propensity for adoption confusion until I started reading the comments! I promise when we get news of a referral (of the genus and species homo sapiens) there will be no mistaking it.

I do have pictures and funny stories about how these two marmalade cats captured our hearts, but I also have a new digital camera (from the Captain for Christmas); from which I don't yet know how to upload photos onto the computer. In the meanwhile, you can come up with the witty retorts I am used to from you all regarding the need for the Ark to add not one but TWO cats at a time...

And for CC, who clearly knows me better than I know myself, for your insightfulness pertaining to my cryptic announcement, I'm sending you a bag of those Holiday Swirled morsels so you can bake up some St. Jude's cookies at your house!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

An Ethiopian Christmas Celebration

The EACSA is again sponsoring an Ethiopian Christmas meal. The details are below. Please feel free to share with anyone who might be interested!

Early Ethiopian Christmas greetings and Happy New Year!

We wanted to invite anyone who will be in the Chicago area to meet for an Ethiopian meal at the Ras Dashen restaurant on Sunday afternoon, January 6th, at 2:00 pm. We will have the "party room" in the back again. The costs below include a variety of Ethiopian dishes, a can of soda, tax, and tip. Everyone will simply pay the restaurant that day. Here is the age and estimated pricing per person.

Ages 13+/Adult: Approx $17-18

Age 8-12: Approx $9-10

Age 4-7: Approx $7

Age 0-3: Free

Please let Tim Lenning know ASAP via email( tlenning at csgdelivers dot com) if you can join us. Also, please provide the number of adults and kids for each of the age ranges above.

The restaurant is located at (and there is parking available on the street):

Ras Dashen

5846 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60660

(773) 506-9601

Similar to last year, we thought it would be fun to celebrate Ethiopian culture by having story time - older kids could share a favorite memory or experience from Ethiopian Christmas, adults could read a story related to Ethiopian culture (for example, Jane Kurtz has some great children's books) or share an experience from when they traveled to Ethiopia, etc. Please give this some thought and encourage your kids to consider sharing a story.

Again, please let me know how many by age range so we can let the restaurant know how much food to plan for.

Amesege’nallo (Thanks)!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

"Before" Christmas

is over...but my darling husband took tomorrow off. Look for me to return sometime tomorrow night or Thursday morning (for all two of you who care to know that detail) with pictures and details about our newest family member!

Wishing you and yours a very joyful, most blessed Christmas Day!

Your friends on the Ark!

Friday, December 21, 2007

O-ver and Out

Not to be o-ver come by the distractions of these last few days before Christmas. The Ark is going offline. Here are the last three days of Antiphons:


O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice; come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

We ask this "Sun of Justice" to come and shine on those who are dwelling "in darkness and in the shadow of death" (Lk 1:79). These dwellers in darkness are both those who do not know Christ and those who do-for even in the latter there is much darkness.


O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart, O Keystone of the mighty arch of humanity, come and save the creatures you fashioned from the dust.

We ask Christ the Keystone to come and save the creatures that he fashioned (Gen 2:7). Without Christ, there is no hope for salvation. May his coming now in mystery lead to the salvation of all that yearn for him, whether they know it or not.


O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of all nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.

We ask Emmanuel to come and set us free from sin and death, for he is our Lord and our God. (Jn 20: 28)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

St. Jude's Cookies

Last year, I found these very festive Nestle Holiday Swirled Morsels at our local grocery store. Having been a total impulse buy, (the marketing experts at Nestle will be happy to know at least one consumer totally fell for the scheme of Christmas colored white chocolate morsels) I was uncertain what I would make with them and they sat on my baking shelf for a few weeks.

As Christmas neared, enchanted with their merry colors, I pulled them down again and noticed that on the back of the package there was a recipe for traditional Snowball cookies with one special addition-the Holiday Morsels. I was game. The cookies were easy to make and with the coating of powdered sugar over the warm cookie filled with melted white chocolate bits, they were a hit with everyone-but especially my husband.

So this year, purposefully looking for these seasonal treats, with intent to bake, I couldn't find them anywhere. No grocery, no corner store, not even the granddaddy of them all--W*l-Mart had them. I was growing discouraged. Not to mention the children, who were growing weary and somewhat resentful of my quest. I was almost ready to give up the fight when we passed by one last mega-mart. As I cajoled the children to offer up their blistering feet once more for the sweet cookie mission, they scowled at me and hobbled into the store.

Right inside, on the Christmas baking display, I spotted an entire section of boxes covered with the familiar yellow Nestle logo. Hopefully, I walked toward it and scanned the selection: semi-sweet, dark chocolate, white chocolate---even butterscotch, but NO Holiday swirls. Discouraged (and not wanting to turn and face the angry mob that had accompanied me in for another round of defeat), I stood up, as something caught my eye on the top of the display. Right on top of the display was a small holy card. (I have no idea where it came from as this secular big-box doesn't carry such things.) Standing a little taller, I stretched out my hand to read the card.

"St. Jude: Patron saint of hopeless cases"

was written across the top and a simple medal was attached below. I was re-energized. "Okay, St. Jude," I thought to myself, "If those morsels are here. You're going to have to show me." As I set the card back down on the display, just off in the distance, on an end of aisle display I caught sight of the same Nestle-logo laden boxes. I turned to the children and said, "You don't even have to follow me. I'll be right back," and quickly made my way through the oncoming shoppers. I looked back only once to see my children hurriedly racing to catch up with me and shooting each other looks like, "Has she finally lost it?" Just as they arrived, out-of-breath next to me, with a smile on my face and a quick "thanks" to St. Jude, I held up several bags of the Holiday morsels and made my way to the check-out.

Nestle may call them Swirled Holiday Snowball cookies, but from now on in my house, they'll be known as St. Jude's Cookies.
O Key of David

O Key of David, O royal power of Israel, controlling at your will the gate of heaven: come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and lead your captive people into freedom.

In this extended petition, we ask that Christ may use his key to unlock the prison of sin ("darkness and death") to which all human beings are subject. More specifically, we ask that he may free us from the prison of selfish attachments to which all of us are prone.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

O Flower of Jesse's Stem

O Flower of Jesse's stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples, kings stand silent in your presence, the nations bow down before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

However, we know that Christ is not yet fully ruler of all hearts-beginning with our own. We ask that he come to be the sign, not only for the world but for our own souls.
The Uh-Oh Antiphons

My intentions were really good, really. But yesterday was spent far from my keyboard. Early yesterday morning (early by most mom's standards), our parish Mom's Group brunch was held at my home. It was a beautiful, relaxing morning filled with friends and food (especially this delicious Baked French Toast Casserole) and fun. The children (and there were easily 20 of them) played like angels, seriously. Even the hosting children--amazing. I was again reminded how blessed I am to be surrounded by a group of faith-filled women, who encourage and support one another as together we juggle the roles of wife, mother and woman of God.

Basketball practice, the big girls' Christmas program, (The Mystery of Simon Shepherd, which I would highly recommend for any grade school performance), and wrapping and packing all the out-of-towner's Christmas gifts for shipment today left me to fall asleep on the couch fading in and out of consciousness as Paula Deen baked the Rockettes and danced with a crescent-roll encrusted ham--or was that the other way around? Like I said, it was late.

Needless to say, I did not get around to much computing yesterday. I still have to email our caseworker back...but most importantly, I don't want to forget the beautiful O Antiphon from yesterday as well as the one for today. So, here they are:

O Sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

As Lord, Christ has the power to free his people as he did at the time of exodus. We ask that he come and stretch out his arm to set us free from evil, sin, and death.

Stina, of Lord, Guard and Guide
, tagged me for this meme:

Seven Facts You Don't Already Know about Me

*Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
*Share 7 facts about yourself that you think most people don't know.
*Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
*Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

I know you have all painfully endured the "8 Random Things About Me" meme, as well as the "Re-Mix of said 8 Random Things", but this one says SEVEN, which clearly makes it different from the EIGHT things meme. So, I'm going out on a limb here. Do you think YOU can come up with at least one of the 7 things for me? (I'm just not that interesting. Heck, coming up with 16 was a stretch...) Drop your ideas in the comments section and let me know what you don't already know about me. Because that makes perfect sense, right? I thought so.

And just because I'm feeling saucy today, here's the first one--

1. I (with the advent of DVR) have become addicted to (in a healthy, addict sort-of way) the TV program Monk.

There you have it. Only 6 more to go...
Emmanuel Award

Michelle, at Dei Gratia, honored me (a little while ago and I am just now getting around to sharing it!) with the Emmanuel Award created by Marie and Ginny from A View from the Pews. The award is described below. As for passing it on, I loved the idea that Therese had to share it with everyone on her blogroll. Therese, I'm *borrowing* your idea. Everyone on my blogroll gets the award!

Emmanuel Award

"God With Us"

In a consumer society it is a blessing to read blogs where the writer's main focus is God. Where they express their love for their faith so visibly and joyfully.

In a cynical world it is refreshing to see so many blogs which are generous, giving, who care about others and demonstrate what being a Christian is about, loving God and loving our neighbor.

Through their faith, lives and spirituality, they bring God to us, they in essence make God visible, 'God with us.'

This Award goes to all the faith filled blogs who make evident 'Emmanuel'- God with us, with Joy in their hearts.

Please share this Award with Christian blogs that focus on the real meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Savior.

Peace, JOY & Merry Christmas

Monday, December 17, 2007

Grandfather's Solitude
A Christmas Reflection

I have always directed my Christmas column toward families who are caught up in a tinsel marathon of tree trimming, stocking stuffing, music making, dog barking and children squealing.

They're so busy that sometimes I get only a glance before the garbage is wrapped in me. Occasionally, someone puts me on the back porch to catch the slush from boots. If I'm lucky I escape the licking flames when I get thrown in the fireplace with discarded wrappings and warranties.

So I've decided to write to all of you today who have the time to read me: those who have just moved to an area and haven't made new friends...those who are alone because they can't afford the trip home...those families who have been splintered by distance or disinterest. And you are alone.

Let me tell you about my grandfather. He lived by himself in a little trailer in southwest Ohio until he died a few years ago. I always felt sorry for him when I visited at Christmas because he only had about five cards on top of the TV set, two or three packages at the most to open, and a pitiful artificial tree with a single strand of lights that bubbled like they were going to boil over.

You would have thought those pathetic trappings were straight out of the Sistine Chapel.

He'd pick up each card, trace the scene with his fingers and marvel, "This is pretty enough to be put in a frame." Then he'd recite the message inside, which he had memorized.

The boxes were another delight. He'd shake them and make a guess as to what they held and place them gently under the tree. Then he'd prime you for that big moment when he said, "I'm going to light the tree for you!" My sewing machine had a bigger light.

The year before he died, when he spent Christmas in the hospital, he raved the entire visiting period over a favor on his dinner tray: a Styrofoam Santa Claus with a red gumdrop hat held on by a toothpick.

Every Christmas since then, I have had to ask myself: Can I quote a single line from the stack of cards I receive? Can I visit without keeping an eye on my watch? Can I become childlike with excitement over a box that obviously holds a handkerchief? Can I live with my solitude without self-pity?

God help me. I think my grandfather felt sorry for me.

by Erma Bombeck
December 25, 1979

The O Antiphons

During the Advent season, the closer the feast of Christmas approaches, the more the liturgy accentuates the call to the Savior to "Come!" (Veni) The seven O Antiphons of Advent summarize the hopes of the people in the Old Testament who waited for the coming of the Messiah:

  • O Wisdom
  • O Lord of Might
  • O Flower of Jesse's Stem
  • O Key of David
  • O Dayspring
  • O Desire of Nations
  • O Emmanuel (God with-us)
Today's O Antiphon:

O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.

As Wisdom, Christ is the teacher of the way to salvation for all Christians. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (Jn 14:6) We exhort him to come and teach us that way.

From The Essential Advent and Christmas Handbook

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Advent and Hope

On the first Sunday in Advent, my husband and I were treated to an impromptu nativity play, performed by the Ark's own junior thespians. At showtime, we were escorted to a quiet corner of the playroom, where two seats had been reserved specifically for us. We sat front and center while the narrator/director/producer cranked up the Christmas Cat Chat CD kicking off a rousing rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

CB dressed as an all-purpose angel took her stage direction well. Suffice to say that N and Baby T performing the roles of Mary and Joseph might have benefited from an additional dress rehearsal or two. As the music morphed into an uptempo version of Gloria In Excelsis Deo, we-in the audience-noticed that Mary had taken off her serene covering revealing (big surprise here) her much worn cheerleading dress. Joseph, meanwhile, was alternately trying to turn a bright blue bowling pin into a Louisville slugger and getting down with his bad self to the new song. The angel persevered, but it wasn't enough to keep the play's creator from having an artistic "moment" before calling the troupe back together for a retake.

After a few false starts, Mary re-cloaked. Joseph stopped dancing. And the narrator was able to lead the audience through the final words of St. Luke's version of the first Christmas to the ebullient shouts of the whole cast as Joy to the World played on. At that very moment, watching my children dance and sing around the tiny baby in the makeshift manger, under the computer desk serving as a stable, I smiled.

For with all its flaws and errors, with all its imperfections and miscues, the show went on and the Savior arrived. It was the essence of the Incarnation played out in my basement. Regardless of our sins, despite our weaknesses, our failings and foibles; He came anyway.

Hallelujah! Today we can rejoice---He comes anyway.
Santa must have me confused with one of the other reindeer

You Are Comet

A total daredevil, you're the reindeer with an edge!

Why You're Naughty: You almost gave Santa a heart attack when you took him sky diving

Why You're Nice: You always make sure the sleigh is going warp speed
Which of Santa's Reindeer Are You?

Of all of the things I would call myself, Comet, the daredevil reindeer is not one of them. Go figure.

H/T Kathy

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Meme

You can thank Katie later, for asking me to share my Christmas faves and flops...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both, but if I'm doing bags I simply MUST have tissue paper!

2. REAL OR FAKE TREE? Two fake ones after many years (and allergies) of real ones. However, I'm not sure the dust on the fake ones helps the dust allergies either!

3. When do you put up the tree? Third Sunday in Advent (tomorrow!)

4. When do you take the tree down? weekend after Epiphany

5. Do you like eggnog? Is "blecch" an answer?

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Red velvet Sassoon pants when I was 8 years old. My dad drove all over the place trying to find a pair of "designer jeans" that were all the rage; so while these weren't jeans, they were a special gift because of the thought behind them.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? We have a Fontannini set started by my mom on our first married Christmas, which Santa adds a piece to each year AND the *infamous* Little People Nativity set.

8. Hardest person to buy for? Kids' teachers

9. Easiest person to buy for? All the kids

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I honestly can't think of one...

11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? White Christmas, Christmas Vacation, The Muppet's Christmas Carol, Christmas Eve on Sesame Street and A Charlie Brown Christmas (Okay, by definition I realize that selecting more than one negates the title favorite, but I really like them all!)

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? late Summer/early Fall

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No, but I have shared with my family

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Buckeye cookies and Roast Beef with Yankee Magazine's "Freddie's Famous Roast Potatoes" (to which I also add baby carrots) and Yorkshire Pudding.

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear on the inside trees, colored outside

17. Favorite Christmas song? Alan Jackson's Let it Be Christmas Sesame Street's Keep Christmas With You

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Stay home in the morning, visit relatives in the afternoon

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Grumpy, Doc...

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? After Christmas Eve Mass, we come home and relive my husband's tradition of delicious appetizers (in place of a sit-down meal) and everyone opens one gift that night.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? When the secular world ends Christmas on December 25th at midnight.

23. What do you love most about Christmas? There isn't a thing I don't like about Christmas. I'd be like Elmo who wanted to have Christmas everyday. Yeah, yeah, I know how well that turned out for him.

If any of you are feeling jolly, leave a link letting us know you're playing, too...otherwise, if you're feeling a little scrooge-ish, you can always come back and play later, after a cup (or two) of egg nog.
Adoptive parents speak out: Before curiosity gets the best of you - take a breath and think about what you're saying.

(Los Angeles – December 14, 2007) - International adoption has gotten a lot of attention recently with Brad and Angelina regularly expanding their family, and Madonna getting the government go-ahead this week to adopt her son David from Malawi. An article in this week's Newsweek sheds light on the difficulties, sadness, and potential devastation behind international adoption. But the challenges outlined in the article aren't the norm for most adoptive parents. Sometimes, the biggest obstacle is not the adoption itself, but the comments and questions tossed out at parents while they're in the grocery store, at the dry cleaner, or in line at Starbucks. As it takes a village to raise a child, it's the (perhaps unwitting) village idiot who feels compelled to ask stupid questions, not even considering the damage their words can do to an innocent child.

One of our own Mom•Logic Moms is in the process of adopting a baby girl and has already endured the "You're so nice to adopt a kid who's unwanted" and "That's much easier than giving birth" comments. She's now preparing herself for some of the outrageous questions that fellow adoptive parents have been asked by "curious" onlookers. Click here to view the entire story.

H/T Jen of Mom Logic

Friday, December 14, 2007

With help like this...who needs rescuing?



Found in my basement after a family get-together
Advent and Giving

Mrs. Testosterhome has a beautiful post
about her work with the Poorest of the Poor alongside Blessed Teresa of Calcutta's Missionaries of Charity. Her blog is worth reading anytime, but today, it's a must.

Her story reminded me of our Women's Scripture Study last month. We'd been discussing the virtue of Justice, which wound around to the topic of charity and the beatitudes; of following Jesus' command to care for those in need. As Advent was nearing, we discussed how many of us choose this time of the year to "clean house" and donate toys, clothes or other *stuff* to local shelters. Someone offered to be a drop-off location for donations as the St. Vincent DePaul truck was scheduled to pick-up donations at her house the following week.

I shared with the group how my own love of donating to charity was a bit jaded by the guilt I feel when said charity pulls up in my own driveway and (sometimes) even loads my boxes and bags of excess onto their truck for me, leaving me to simply stand aside and accept the tax-deductible receipt for the following April.

As we moved on to the final portion of the study, to read the story of "The Widow's Mite", suddenly a great spiritual fog lifted for me. Jesus commended the Widow for her giving because it came not from her excess, but from her need. Of course, my giving was charitable, but it was also a little selfish, if I was being honest with myself. True charity, real generosity, as illustrated from Mrs. Testosterhome's powdered donut story, must come from giving fully of ourselves--even to people whom we decide "don't deserve" it, just as God gives freely to us.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

This conversation may be monitored for quality assurance

Perhaps T*rget has a new training program or perhaps the young man, who rang up N and CB's Christmas shopping bounty really meant it when he shyly said, "Gee, ma'am, you just don't look old enough to have a 13 year old." As I smiled politely at his observation, he sincerely added, "No, really, I would have thought that these two were your oldest."

In other news, T*rget team members are now accepting tips during the Christmas season.

C'mon, he really meant it, don't you think? The fact that I even considered whether a tip was appropriate or not couldn't possibly have influenced his comments.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gratitude Campaign

As a former Army wife, I can say with certainty, that there is nothing like a "Thank You" from a stranger to cushion the blow of the great sacrifices that accompany service in the military.

Visit The Gratitude Campaign to learn more about spreading the gratitude.

H/T Rhonda for the link
Gifts of Our Lady

I was sent two beautiful gifts for my car from a dear friend with a deep devotion to Our Lady of Guadeloupe, whose feast we celebrate today.

We're planning a Mexican feast for dinner. There is a lovely menu available here. Those of you who are in my neck of the woods might consider a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadeloupe or just a virtual stop-over. We're also planning to read Tomie De Paola's book, The Lady of Guadeloupe. It is an excellent retelling of the account of her meetings with the peasant Juan Diego.

But, I'm interrupting myself, back to the gifts. One was a brightly colored car air-freshener displaying the image of Our Lady, which is, for the record, the perfect perfumy-ness. The other was a car magnet, which both supports the pro-life movement and gives an opportunity to witness to others just what we really believe about Mary. I have to admit these are just about the nicest feast day gifts anyone has ever given to me, but the best gift of all regarding Our Lady is her tireless effort in bringing all her children back to the Father.

There are numerous stories, too many to include here (perhaps a topic for another post...) of people who found their way back to Jesus through His Blessed Mother. Today, as I taxi around town, the slightest scent of roses filling the air, and the beautiful images from Juan Diego's tilma in view; I will remember those people whom Mary helped guide on their journey home. Especially the ones near and dear to me. And I will be grateful for her for her constant intercession. And from one mother to another, I will humbly thank her for never giving up on one of her children.

"Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything."
— Our Lady to Juan Diego

Monday, December 10, 2007

Advice to myself in 1993

Congratulations! You just married the man of your dreams. While you're busy staring off all starry-eyed at him and wondering how could you have possibly been so blessed to marry him, let me just give you a glimpse of how much better it will get as time goes by...

Fifteen years, or so, from now, you'll be standing in your kitchen surrounded by a gaggle of children waiting (mostly) patiently for you to finish mixing the icing for their gingerbread house. You'll be alternately mixing and sipping hot tea because for the past twenty-four hours you'll have been nursing a nasty chest cold combined with a mother's worst nightmare---no voice! Your beloved will have sweetly suggested that you postpone the gingerbread festivities, but you in your stubbornness (some things never change) will push forward because you promised your crew of candy house builders that you would.

As you're finishing the last minute of mixing, you'll notice that your hand mixer is exhibiting some strange tension and not gliding through the white icing as you would have expected. This will prompt you to inspect the mixer, only to find that its beaters seem bent and the motor sounds *funny*. Suddenly, you'll feel sad. Your very first hand-mixer, a wedding shower gift some 15 plus years ago, has seen its last gingerbread house. As you turn around, you'll find yourself face-to-face with your husband, who will listen carefully to you as you sniff, "I think our first mixer is broken." He'll hug you and say that it was just a mixer, while you whine back, "But it was our first one!" Tenderly, he'll whisper to you, that the mixer had served its time and that a new one would be even stronger and better than before--just like your marriage has changed and grown.

Then, you'll find yourself wondering anew, as you did some fifteen years ago, how could you have ever been so blessed to marry such a man.

Merry Tossmas

If you haven't seen this before, click on over now and check it out. What a humorous way of making a serious point.

And while you're there, check out What's Your Roe IQ? and then take the test.

H/T Amy for the link

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Advent and Perseverance

Another mile on the bumpy back of a barnyard donkey.

Another knock on the door of an occupied inn, followed by further rejection.

Another cry into the darkness--My Lord, my God, where are you? This can't be Your plan--or can it?

How different would the story of salvation be if the Holy Family decided to pack it up 10 miles shy of their holy destiny? Faced with obstacles, uncertainties and disappointments could you honestly blame them? Certainly not by today's standards, which say--Don't wait...Have it all...Hey, why not have two...right now.

Fear and doubt may be the Devil's two best known tools, but he's got another trick up his sleeve that requires less perspiration on his part and gets the job done just as well. The Devil's not stupid. Why do something to us that we could ultimately do ourselves? Using our human tendency to need instant gratification, he has but only sit back and wait for us to give up and throw in the towel admitting defeat. Saves him time and effort and the end result is the same--a change in God's holy will for us.

This week in Advent, take a moment to think about those things that aren't going as smoothly as possible, that might be taking a little longer than previously planned or that might be requiring some extra effort. Then, think about what the implications might be if you abandon it because it isn't happening just as you had thought. It may be something small or it, like the actions of the Holy Family on their journey to Bethlehem, may have eternal consequences far beyond your wildest dreams. We need only to look to the example of the Holy Family's journey to help us stay the course.

Bonum certamen certavi, cursum consummavi, fidem servavi.
I have fought the good fight. I have completed the course. I have preserved the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

Saturday, December 08, 2007


It's A Soup-Tacular!

is hosting a "Soup-tacular". You can visit her for all sorts of warm and wonderful soup recipes shared by her readers. With a freezing-rain advisory for tonight, on top of the 8 or so inches of snow we already have, soup's sounding like a good bet around here this weekend.

Here's an easy favorite on the Ark that can be done in the crock-pot and serves up nicely with cornbread.

Mexican Soup
2 cans black beans, drained
1 jar salsa, 15 oz.
1-10 oz. pkg. frozen corn
1-15 oz. can chicken broth

Put all ingredients in crock-pot. Heat. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese. I usually double for our crowd. Enjoy!
Early Learner

CB after observing Baby T eating a donut hole: "Baby T sure is smart. He already knows how to wipe his hands on his pants when they get messy."

Betcha didn't know the caliber of whiz kids I was raising.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception

The Magnificat
Luke 1: 46-55 (Douay translation)
My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
Because he hath regarded the humility of
his handmaid; for behold from henceforth
all generations shall call me blessed.
Because he that is mighty hath done great
things to me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is from generation unto
generations, to them that fear him.
He hath shewed might with his arm; he
hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their
seat, and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good
things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel his servant, being
mindful of his mercy:
As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham
and to his seed for ever.

Visit Catholic Culture for some activity and recipe suggestions.

And a beautiful story about the icons of Mary, more numerous than any other, in the Russian Orthodox church.

Finally, for a connection between Pearl Harbor Day and the Immaculate Conception--read this!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Note to self

I've said it before and I'm saying it again because sometimes I need to be hit by a lightning bolt a gentle reminder:

If as with Herod,

We fill our lives with things,

And again with things;

If we consider ourselves so important

That we must fill every moment of our lives with action;

When will we have the time

To make the long, slow journey

Across the burning desert

As did the Magi?

Or sit and watch the stars

As did the Shepherds?

Or brood over the coming of the child

As did Mary?

For each of us

There is a desert to travel,

A star to discover,

And a being within ourselves

To bring to life.

-Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Next Stop--Bethlehem

The vacant nativity scene should have been my first clue...

But sometimes, you just have to see things to believe them...

Could it be? Rather than the traditional long-eared donkey, Joseph high-tailed it into town driving Mary, the animals and the three kings on--dare I say--a big yellow school bus?

And how did the mother from the Fisher-Price family doll house get on board?

Look out, Oliver Stone. You've got nothing on a three-year old left to her imagination.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus

Danielle Bean
offers up her Your Turn discussion today to allow readers to share their take on the Santa v. no Santa debate. It is actually a very charitable, rational discussion. If you've ever pondered how others handle this topic, you might want to stop by and see what people are saying.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share a little about what has evolved on the Ark as our *answer* to this persnickety question.

Back a decade ago, when we first had young children in our home, my husband shared his family tradition of celebrating St. Nicholas' feast day by leaving a shoe outside the bedroom door to be filled with candies or small gifts. It was a wonderful way to begin blending our shared Christmas season traditions and, for me, an opportunity to add another celebration of the liturgical year to our domestic church calendar. As I continued teaching at our parish school, I was privy to some excellent resources about the good Bishop of Myra, including this excellent animated video for children about his life. (Incidentally, this video led us to add others from their series to our collection---all of which have been fabulous tools for learning about the saints). Each December 6th, we sit down after dinner to share this movie together as a family.

We've always hung Christmas stockings and Santa has always filled them. Santa's only as big of a deal as we make of him and relative to the birth of Christ, he just can't compete. Then, a few years back, I was introduced to the book The Saint Who Became Santa. It is a wonderful story of the life of the *real* St. Nicholas and shows how the stories of his generous life evolved into the tradition we now know as Santa Claus.

There are many stories about the miracles attributed to St. Nicholas both during and after his lifetime:
The title "Wonderworker" was bestowed on Nicholas because of the numerous miracles that he performed by the power of God; some while he was still alive, and some after his passage into the presence of God. Among these, he saved mariners from a storm; prevented the execution of three innocent men; restored to life a young boy tragically murdered; and helped preserve Myra from famine by miraculously appearing to the captain of a ship laden with grain and bidding him to come to Myra.
-From St. Nicholas the Wonderworker
For many, the selfless spirit of St. Nicholas lives on during the Christmas season through Santa Claus and in those who believe in the possibilities of Christmas miracles attributed to St. Nicholas, even today.

So, how about it? How do you (or don't you) include Santa/St. Nicholas in your family's Christmas traditions?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Advent and Waiting


#1--Wait in a frenzied fashion for the birth of our Lord.

That's not quite what I had in mind, but somehow that's what it seems to wind up feeling like. Advent is not the peaceful, quiet preparation for the illumination of the world with the Greatest Light ever known, but rather a litany of baking, parties, shopping and visiting.

Don't get me wrong, those are all fun parts of my pre-Christmas calendar; but they are the side dishes, if I can keep my focus clear, not the main course. Last year, exactly one year ago today, we welcomed home our two Ethiopian born children, which put an end to a waiting that was so tangible it sometimes hurt. This year, we are all beginning our anticipation of Christmas together, but I can't help but miss (just a little bit, mind you) the visceral feelings that last year's waiting offered. It was a small, but effective glimpse into the reality of what years of expectation of the King, trust in the darkness, must have felt like for the Israelites.

Especially, it seems, this is true of those who still wait. And I know they're out there. I remember them when I see the face of an orphaned 10 year old girl, who is brushing away tears as her "segment" on the Waiting Kids video begins, while the voice in English says, "She's just a little emotional. She's done this several times before." It's in the voices of parents with referrals whose children, whether 10 or 10,000 miles away, cracking when they wonder, "Will they be home this Christmas?" In the parent whose child is alone, estranged, detached who longs for reconciliation, and for the child who feels the same. The mothers who wait expectantly, quite literally, to welcome the new soul they carry, and for their children waiting for them in heaven, whom they never *met* in this life.

And yet, in their suffering, they are blessed. Their waiting allows for a most precious, intimate chance to unite with Christ, turn their sorrow to Him and be ready--truly ready--this Christmas to accept the gift in the manger. And God-willing, I will remember, if only vicariously, what it means to truly wait for that which matters most.

Matthew 5:5. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Beati qui lugent quoniam ipsi consolabuntur
Advent Begins!

Check out the most excellent graphic from the Curt Jester in my sidebar. You can add this animated Advent wreath to your site as well by clicking here.