Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa Tracker

Wondering where Santa's sleigh and reindeer are right now?  Grab your kiddos and check out this nifty site from NORAD (yes, the air defense people) and see how much longer until Jolly Old St. Nick is in your neck of the woods!

"For more than 50 years, NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa’s Christmas Eve flight.
The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief's operations "hotline." The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born."

And if there's a skeptic in your midst, have he or she check out Virgina's famous letter to the Chicago Sun-Times from over a century ago.  It still rings true today, doesn't it? 
If there is one thing true about Christmas it is that it was, is and continues to be a time for miracles--beginning with the birth of our Savior.  Wishing you all the joy of the miracle of Christmas--today and always!

What to do with the Egg-stra Eggnog

There's an extra half-gallon of egg nog in my fridge since the night of the adult Christmas party.  I'm thinking that making these muffins might be a wise use of my surplus, but Candace had another plan.

Me:  What am I going to do with all this eggnog?

Candace:  Daddy loves eggnog.  Let's give it to him.

Me:  But Daddy is the ONLY person in our house who will drink it and there is a lot left.

Candace:  (grinning the wild grin of a child on Christmas Eve) No, mommy.  Daddy and Santa like eggnog.  They can share.

How can I argue with that sweet logic?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Next Stop Bethlehem

Subtitled: Will I even stop re-running this when she's a teenager?

Next Stop--Bethlehem

Not only does this time of year leave me feeling a bit nostalgic and melancholy for warm family memories, it also leaves me reminiscing around my previous years' Christmas posts, which leaves you, dear friends, the bearers of my jolly finds.

From the Christmas ark-ives...

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.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Fun and Make Ahead Breakfast Dishes

We've been up to our ears in Christmas fun these past few days.
We had a family photo session and actually have a family photo with everyone in it for Christmas this year! 

 (This one's for you Becky...although you'll get one in the mail soon!)
We hosted a grown-ups only Christmas party on Friday night, which was a blast. Clearly we all don't get out too much because the overwhelming response was, "We shouldn't wait until Christmas to do this again!" Maybe over the summer?
We also hosted a Christmas Tea Party for Beulah and Hannah's friends this afternoon. Such fun. We played the Left-Right Christmas Nativity Story Game and Christmas Carol charades. We also found some great games here--although we only used the Candy Cane Pass. Then, while we listened to the Nativity soundtrack, each girl recounted her favorite Christmas memory. What a joy it was to hear all of their special remembrances! I even shared a favorite Christmas memory from when I was their age. After each person shared their memory, they lit a little tea light, which they then took home with them to remember this Christmas memory.
Tomorrow morning, we are gathering with several other families for the culmination of a special sort of "secret Santa".  Throughout the Advent season, families were given the name of another participating family to pray for and tomorrow we are all meeting for a potluck-style brunch and the big "reveal" to meet our secret "Advent Family".  Each family will present the family they prayed for with an ornament.  We can't wait--although I was just informed that The Boy has wrestling practice smack dab through the whole thing.  Sigh.
We're also preparing our menus for Christmas.  We traditionally don't cook on Christmas Eve, but eat only an assortment of appetizers and other fun finger foods.  Christmas morning we always do a brunch after presents are opened and I like the ease of make ahead breakfast dishes.  Our two favorites are Paula Deen's Baked French Toast (although we omit the nuts in the topping) and my mother-in-law's Cheese and Egg Bake (commonly referred to as 'the egg dish').
Paula Deen's recipe (and all its sinful, rich, fattening goodness) can be found here and the egg dish recipe follows:
Cheese and Egg Bake
1 1/2 lbs sausage (either links or ground--but you'll have to brown the ground kind ahead of time)
9 eggs
3 c. milk
1 t. salt
6 slices bread, cubed
1 1/2 t. dry mustard
1 1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese
Mix egg, milk, mustard and salt in a large bowl.  Stir in bread cubes, cheese and sausage.  Pour into a sprayed 13 x 9 inch pan.  Cover.  Refrigerate overnight.
On Christmas morning, uncover and bake for 1 hour at 350F. 

Hope you are all enjoying these last few days of Advent!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fourth Sunday in Advent Reflection

rom the ark-ives

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 16, 2009

Clear The Roads

And make sure your insurance is up to date. I've just signed The Boy--who I was quite sure was just in Kindergarten!--up for this.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Third Sunday in Advent Reflection

from the ark-ives

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

Friday, December 11, 2009

What a Show for Gaudete Sunday!

Make hot cocoa. Bundle up. Tell your friends. The best meteor shower of 2009 is about to fall over North America on a long, cold December night.(Read more here...)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Advent Plan--Part III

Join me and grab a steaming hot mug of peppermint mocha coffee to learn more about the O Antiphons and a clever, old idea for an O Antiphon House.

Not so much interested in that, set the timer and give yourself a few minutes to peruse the wealth of information collected at O Night Divine.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Second Sunday in Advent Reflection

From the ark-ives:

If there was ever an Advent when hope was first on my wish list, this one would be it. Hoping for a miracle end to Baby Girl's sickness, hoping for a doctor hand chosen by God to greet us tomorrow at the doctor's office, and all the while holding myself up on the hope that God will provide and see us through this.

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.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

What's the Big Deal With Cohabitation?

"Cohabitation is bad for men, worse for women, and horrible for children. It is a deadly toxin to marriage, family, and culture..."(read more)

An interesting article discussed by Fr. Rocky on his wonderful show--Go Ask Your Father!