Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas, the orderly disorder

There are many things I love about my husband. One of them is how serious he is about Christmas. If you were to tell me Santa is for real and you've seen him, I would argue that he lives at my house, and I am married to him. Anyway, I am perfectly content to sit back and let him run the show before and after Christmas because as my grandmother used to say when she was trying to get you to do something for her "you are just so GOOD at it!". But, he really is. Look at these happy faces!

So what I greatly admire about him, is he makes a valiant effort to establish order throughout the Christmas present opening frenzy. I even contributed by making sure the kids presents were color coded, one pattern for each kid. As OCD as this sounds, strangely, I loved the idea. These types of thing give me comfort when there is utter chaos everywhere else. Like when my entire house looks like a tornado hit, but my toenails are painted, somehow all seems right with the world. Ok, I digress. Anyway, we arranged each kids piles in separate corners of the room. My husband, the master of ceremonies, began the process.

This is before we put all the gifts in the room, but see how preeeetty? Ok, well, the kids are in another room while we took this picture, and really, what's Christmas without the chaos of children? Enter kiddos.
We had them take turns opening gifts. Really, everyone pretty much followed the plan.....
Nothing but robotic pets around here. The latest to The Queen's collection. Poor child, she will probably be a vet when she grows up. 
After a while though, The Little Guy couldn't stand the wait, and started tearing into it.
Angel Boy gets into it too, and starts tearing into it like his brother. He's a pretty fast learner.
The Little Guy tells on his baby brother, like any good big brother would.
This is my favorite pic of the day. "sup, mama!"
Angel Boy is now using his present to reach some of those ornaments on the tree he's been eying all week.
The Little Guy somehow got it into his head that if he would pose for a picture he could open another present, so he kept coming up to me and saying "CHEEEESE!!" whether I had a camera or not.
Sweet pic after The Eldest gave his sister his present to her.
Princess got a babydoll and Angel Boy got babydoll envy, at first he was subtle about it...

Now he's getting a little more aggressive...
He's not messin' around at this point, he WANTS that baby.
Lucky for him he's got a sweet sister who loves to make him happy.
Angel Boy Coup
Dragon in the box
a present from his big sister. Don't be fooled by that smile folks. He doesn't get knicknamed "el destructo" for nothin'. He is pretty cute though.
and finally, a tribute to "some assembly required", for the last 3 days this has been daddy's lot. I have a new found respect for his ability to understand instructions, follow them, and execute. I tried one time and got totally stumped on step 2.

Well, that's all folks! Hope your Christmas is as wonderfully chaotic as ours. I may not be able to get through my living room, but I wouldn't trade my life for anything. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas night, a special gift

So I plan to share a little of our crazy present time with pictures soon, but I had to write about this first. A beautiful Christmas day with my family ended with a night at my mom and dad's, great food, better company, and a little, ok alot more chaos than my parents are used to, but they are pretty good about it. Angel Boy is a particularly busy baby right now and into everything. As we were leaving, he was pulling out some books of grandmommmy's and a card flew out and landed on the floor out of nowhere. My dad picked it up and began to read it. His expression became somewhat thoughtful and he said "hmm, history of Grandma Neff, in the middle of the kitchen floor.." Grandma Neff was on my mom's side. My mom said incredulously, "What?!" and she took it. "I have never seen this before,...this is in grandaddy's handwriting," (her father, deceased). As it turns out, Grandma Neff was whom I was named after. I took the card and read it....

It said "She was a woman of small stature, no more than 5'2". She and her husband John had 4 children which they raised in the Catholic Faith. Grandma and Grandpa Neff were devout catholics who for many years walked seven blocks in all kinds of weather to attend daily mass. She was a good cook-expert pie maker, and a fine homekeeper. She was French Canandian. Her mother used to talk to her grandchildren in French and insist they respond in French...."

Nothing profound, to anyone else it's a simple description about a simple lady who lived a long time ago. So why did it make me cry the whole way home?

Life has been a little more difficult than usual for me this past year, I have had a physical ailment that has been hard to cope with and this past week was particularly rough. It was like this note fell out of heaven, like a little Christmas card from my namesake saying "Hey! We, your family, are all up here routing for you! We've been where you are and we are with you all the way. It may be tough some times, but it's all worth it in the end. We will be here when you get to the other side, ready to welcome you!"

 It was the best Christmas gift of the day.

...and up there is a very savvy french lady I can't wait to meet.

Hope everyone had a very blessed day, Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Preparations for the soul

So, as I may have said before, Advent is a time of preparation. The most important part of this preparation is of the heart. As Catholics we are supposed to do good works of some kind. While I have always hoped and intended to, most times I become distracted by the more superficial preparations and the most we do is put together some bags of toys to give away. This year a mom in our homeschool group arranged for a group to take Christmas cards to a nursing home and we were able to participate. This was a first for my kids.

It began with mass production of cards...

  Here are some of my favorites.

Translation: Santa on the left, girl sleeping on the right smiling, the card reads: Merry Christmas, shhhh.
Ironically, we don't do "Santa" at our house. What I mean is, we tell the true story of St. Nicholas and we have gone to see "St. Nicholas" but try to ultimately focus on the birth of Christ.

Santa flying over houses, ho ho ho.
So after the first 10 cards or so had reindeer and elves on them, I asked casually if they remembered what Christmas was really about. After that I got this...

The Eldest starts making "Find this..." cards. A little mental exercise for the elderly. Hope they are up for it. This says "find the sheep (you know, Shepherds, sheep? ok we are getting closer...) bonus points for finding the wolf that is stealing the sheep." Well, ok, getting warmer.

So on Sunday afternoon, we bundled up and ventured out into the FREEZING cold all the while I am saying to myself  "for the eldery and for Jesus, f..f..ff..for the elderly, and f..f..ffor J..J...J..esus" It's f..f..ffreezing.

So, it was all worth it though. The elderly loved it. We passed out cards....

sang Christmas carols...

 concentrating a little too hard on "Jingle Bells", in retrospect. That's the anal-retentive musician for you.

We saw some old friends too.

I just thought this next picture was hilarious. What I was thinking about is how nice it was for this dad to come all the way out here on a Sunday, dress up in this suit and make some little kids really happy, really. What it looks like is how I feel about Santa in general. 

The Queen, on the side felt the same way. She kept huddling up to me saying, "I am NOT going over there to talk to Santa!" Anyway, a lot of other little kids were made to be very happy.

And I am so grateful for the experience, it was priceless. something that is hard to find around Christmas time.

God bless the rest of your Advent season. May it be full of joyful anticipation for the coming of Christ.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dragon Warriors

Hope all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, I count myself bountifully blessed in so many ways.

So, the kids have been watching "Kung Fu Panda" over the past couple of days on the DVR. We have all seen it before but it is totally worthy of repeats if you have never seen it, you have to.

I am sitting at the kitchen table this morning reading the mass scripture readings for the day while (embarrassed clearing of throat) watching "Kung Fu Panda" in the background and a somewhat profound revelation came to me. No pun intended, because the first reading was from the Book of Revelation. As I read " I, John, saw an angel come down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a heavy chain. He seized the dragon, the ancient serpent, which is the Devil or Satan, and tied it up for a thousand years and threw it into the abyss..." (At this point as I am reading the wise Kung Fu master turtle, forgot his name, is about to pick out the "Dragon Warrior") hmm, I thought, coincidence? I think not!

I read on "I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and who had not worshiped the beast or its image nor had  accepted its mark on their foreheads or hands. They came to life and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years." (the panda gets chosen at this point, by fate, to be the "dragon warrior", he is fat, clumsy, apparently not talented, and a big disappointment to all the Kung Fu masters present. None of them believe he is the true "dragon warrior" because he is so...not dragon warrior material. The enemy he is supposed to fight, interestingly enough was a good student at first, but pride got in the way and turned him away from the good principles he first learned. Sounds alot like Lucifer himself, eh? The angel of light? Who fell from heaven due to his own pride and thinking he was hot stuff?  So these analogies just keep flowing in my mind (could this be construed as some sort of meditative prayer time? it could be a stretch...)

So here's the rest. We are like Po, the panda. God has called us all to a noble purpose. To do something great for Him, seriously, all of us are called to greatness in God, he has had the plan since the beginning, and we have only to discover it. But stuff gets in the way. Other people in our lives, unfortunately, don't believe it is true, and discourage us. In the movie, even the master who trains Po, the panda, doesn't believe in him at first, fortunately, our Master does! We ourselves don't believe it, or get so caught up in our own faults, mistakes, and idiosyncrasies, that we fail to see who we are in God, who he made us to be, "dragon warriors" all of us. It really doesn't matter if we are fat, clumsy, inexperienced or stupid, to put it bluntly. God has made saints and great people of all of the above. What matters is that you believe God can be great in you, and you let go and start to believe, and the dragon scroll takes affect. In the movie, there is this "dragon scroll" that all the Kung Fu masters see as a great source of power, Po gets it as he is the "dragon warrior" and is disappointed at first when he opens it and there is nothing there. Then he realizes that it's magic is in believing in yourself. Now, I have to say I have never been a big fan of the old "Believe in yourself!" motto in and of itself. I mean, I can't do much of anything apart from God, and if I try I am seriously disappointed. But with God living in me, I have seen a great deal of good take place when I let go and let God, so to speak.

Ok, so anyway, when Po finally believes he is the "dragon warrior" he starts doing all these amazing things without even knowing what he is doing, eventually defeating the enemy. Did you know there are saints who could bilocate? They could be in 2 places at once, ministering to people on different parts of the world? There were saints that could communicate with animals, heal people, bring people back to life, multiply food, levitate (aka, flying during prayer). I'd say these suspiciously look alot like Kung Fu powers to me. Could we do such things? I dare to say yes. Jesus said we would do the things he did and greater. So, buck up dragon warriors. Live up to your potential. I am going to go put my 3 year old down for a nap myself. You have to start small you know. 

For some other great blog posts visit Katie@NFP and Me for her "100 Followers Link-Up".


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fall Baking

I love my girls. I was doubly blessed with two, very different but totally lovable. They both like to do crafty girly things though and luckily so do I. Yesterday the 2 oldest kids were at someone's house, so I thought it would be a great time for Princess and me to bond. She is such a little mother already though that she could not resist stopping in the middle and creating a "baby daycare" for her 2 baby brothers to be entertained.

 "Baby daycare" actually turned into a disco party after this so, we got so far as making the cookie dough and saved the rest for when big sis got home.

 We made colored sprinkles with all natural dyes. I would love to show you that pic but it is upside down and I am technically impaired.

So, here was my idea, fall leaves and items with varying fall themed colors of gold, orange, and red, a perfect baking plan, right? Well, we all know how perfect plans turn out. Here's what I had in mind.....

Here's what we turned out.

What is up with the direction of these pictures? I am pretty sure Alton Brown has an episode with tips on how to make perfect cookie cutter sugar cookies. We didn't use these tips. Anyway, some other holidays snuck in there too... there's the gingerbread man for Christmas, the Valentine's heart, and oh yea, don't forget the dinosaur, he is totally decked out for fall. Ok, here's the photo op-

The final product got finished in time for dinner and was an excellent motivation for The Little Guy eating his peas. Score.

Here's the cookie recipe:,1910,140165-224201,00.html

Happy Fall everyone.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Reggae Power

So, The Little Guy was playing in the garage with his sister, and found this....

He would not sit still long enough for a good shot, and honestly folks, no picture will do justice to this hat. None.  I will try though. 

My husband made this hat sometime in junior high. 

With loads of puffy paint, his name and the words, "Reggae Power" are engraved on it. 

The Little Guy would NOT part with it, even taking it to naptime with him.

Reggae Power for breakfast. 

He was calling it his "work hat". 

Can you believe I once considered throwing this precious gem away?

So, don't worry, about a thing, cuz every little thing's gonna be alright.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

It's that time of year...

  So the commercial world is ready for Christmas, crazy, right? I found myself singing along to "Frosty the Snowman" the other day and then thought to myself "If I am singing about Frosty now, I am going to want to punch him by Dec. 25th." 

  And the toy catalogs are coming in by the droves. The children become preoccupied with them. And of course, any good mother would rip these away and say "This is not what it's all about!" or "Don't you know it is better to give than to receive?" or "Christmas is not about presents!". But, see how it brings a family together?


Even The Little Guy who is never occupied easily, is found "reading" quietly in the morning.

 And look with what concentration The Eldest reads the catalog below, If only the same passion were poured into his math lessons.

Even daddy gets roped in. Actually, my oldest is one smart cookie, he KNOWS who St. Nick is in this house.

But all jokes aside, come Advent, we sort of go against the flow over here. We actually celebrate Advent first, then we celebrate Christmas. I know, bizarre. The way we explain it to the kids is, would you celebrate your birthday a month before the big event? and eat cake every day and  say "Happy Birthday!" before it is time? It would get pretty old by your birthday right? (come on work with me people,...maybe I shouldn't have used the "cake every day" analogy). Anyway, we get ready by doing good works, preparing our hearts, that sort of thing, but we don't pull out the Christmas videos or music until Christmas Eve. We hide baby Jesus until Christmas, when he is born...and you know what? It makes it soooo much more exciting to celebrate something when you have waited. And instead of putting it all up the next day, (I mean, if I am going to work my tail off to put up a tree and lights, can't we revel in it a bit?) we celebrate for 12 days! You know that song about the 12 days of Christmas? Yep, it's real. We celebrate it. We're such rebels. So, I am sorry to disappoint, but I will not be donning my reindeer antlers just yet (ok, actually never) and honestly can we at least talk about the pilgrims and eat turkey and dressing first before singing "Jingle Bells" ? I'm just sayin'.

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