the twenty-second of december

Today there was present making. There was felt cutting and scrapping and sewing. Pillowcases were made for the boys. Mulling spices were packaged and wrapped. Glitter made an appearance.

I found the time and space to just sit for a few minutes and read Sarah Arthur’s Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. It has been the Advent guide that I’ve been the most consistent with (in a perfectly inconsistent way). It is a mixture of scripture, literature, and poetry. It fits me at this stage in my life. And Susanna Childress’ poem Bethlehem, Indiana is worth the price of the book.

Yet even in the midst of carols and fabric and cookies and presents real life showed up. The oven rose up against us and decided to go on strike. The dishwasher went on strike last week, and it got fired. We think the oven just needs to be negotiated with.

But I still found tears coming to my eyes. When one of the boys walked into the kitchen and heard what had happened, a dramatic monologue took place about how awful this week has been and how bad things are. Broken dishwasher! Broken oven! Their passion about the situation highlighted how ridiculous it all was. Is.

And so I did what I knew I was supposed to do, even if I wasn’t feeling it and would have rather high-fived and agreed with him. I told him how blessed we were. How this is just life. Full of beautiful things and full of broken things.

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a week in advent

And then a full week of Advent flashed before my eyes.

The highlights were a beautiful wedding by a lake (complete with coffee on tap), a stay at my aunt and uncle’s (also by a beautiful lake), a visit to a new brewery in Deland, a trip back south, an unexpected purchase of a new dishwasher (Did you know they sell them according to decibel levels now?! Too funny. Ours is 51, if you’re curious.), painting the front of our house (Those with four children and small budgets paint in long, drawn-out stages. For now we request that any visitors only look at the house once they are directly in front of it.), and finally, gingerbread houses with the kiddos. It was the first year that I didn’t have to help them at all with the decorating. I got to stay out of the way for most of it, and they got to sneak an ungodly amount of candy as a result. Win-win.

the twelfth of december

Twelve and a half years ago Omar and I went on our first date in Winter Park. First dates are always kind of awkward, and this one was no different. We dressed up and went to a restaurant out of our price range. I remember exactly three things about that first date: it took only 15 minutes for a bad seminary/bible joke to be made, Omar and I had to switch seats so the TV wouldn’t be a distraction, and as we were walking around after dinner I looked down at what I was wearing and realized I had let my mom buy me a dress that was so un-me (unbeknownst to her, at the time I was just so thankful she bought me a dress) and I wore it and felt strange the whole night. There you have it.

Fast forward two years. We were back in Winter Park walking around. Omar suggested we have a seat on a bench. And the next thing I knew we were engaged.

Jump ahead 10+ years. We found ourselves in Winter Park on our way to a wedding. But this time there were no uncomfortable dresses, nervous first date laughter, or nerve-wracking proposals. This time it was two people completely comfortable with each other, with their fourth kiddo along for the ride.

We topped the night off with a dinner at Cask & Larder (which I swear got their name from this site), and Asa now knows about rock shrimp, fancy hams, pork burgers, and beer-fried donuts.

the eleventh of december

Advent activities have been kept to a minimum this year.

But I did promise the boys I would make them Christmas pillowcases. Lenna’s was made last year, and after a bit of discussion, I convinced the older three that Asa does not need one this year.

Yesterday we walked into Joann’s. Now I realize Joann’s is not always the best place for up-to-date fabrics, but they have come a long way in the past few years and I got Lenna some great Christmas fabric last year. So we are standing in front of the Christmas section, and in the blink of an eye, my two boys’ bodies become overtaken by 60 year old women and these are the fabrics that they look at and fall in love with.

What?

I stood there having an internal debate as to whether or not I should practice my manipulation skills and decided against it. Please praise me. I didn’t try (much) to change their minds. They stuck to their guns.

I’m still laughing.

the sixth of december

Today I learned that there is such a thing as cannoli cake. I love cannoli. I adore good cannoli. I bet I could love cannoli cake. Now I just need a reason to head back and brave the crowds at Costco to buy one.

A few weeks ago I learned that there is such a thing as eggnog pie. I love eggnog. I love the good stuff that is thick but not too sweet with tons of freshly grated nutmeg on top. And bourbon doesn’t hurt it, either. I picked up the Four & Twenty Blackbirds cookbook from the library and quickly decided the egg ‘n’ grogg pie would be the first to try. Holy smokes it is good. It has a gingersnap crust, just enough spice, a smooth and creamy texture, and just enough bourbon to make it pleasantly boozy.

Last week I learned that there is such a thing as cranberry pie with thick pecan crumble. I live in a home of cranberry sauce lovers, so I think this one will be a hit. I actually prefer when only one or two out of the four kids like a dessert I make because then it lasts longer. If none of them go for it, I end up eating too much of it. If all of the kids like it (and remember Asa is now at the eat-anything stage), it lasts for all of five minutes and I don’t get “enough” of it. It’s all about finding the balance.

the fourth of december

Today’s compost bowl made it look like I’d thrown away Thanksgiving along with a little bit of Christmas.

Every Advent for the past few years has found me in throw-away and cleaning mode.

For some people Spring Cleaning is a thing. For me it’s Pre-Christmas Cleaning. Cleaning and purging before we bring yet more stuff into this house.

One Christmas we’ll declare it an all and only Family Experiences Christmas!! Science museum passes, zoo passes, movie tickets, you name it! It will have the double blessing of giving my kids good times and yet there will be no accumulation of stuff. It will be beautiful.

the second of december

This morning the tree lights came on, a boy came out to read beside the tree, and James Boice’s words looked back at me saying, “If the babe of Christmas is God (‘God with us’), then Christmas takes us back to Christ’s pre-existence as the second Person of the Godhead, from all eternity, and forward to His work of salvation on the cross, His resurrection, and beyond.  A theme like that is inexhaustible.”

Well, if you put it that way. A theme like that should make me pull myself out of any kind of funk I’ve been wallowing in and see this season for what it is: something just beautiful. For all of eternity, let alone my mere 34 years, I should not be able to say I’ve exhausted the joy, the excitement, the anticipation, the gift, the goodness that is Christmas.

So my holiday spirits are rising.

And just in case you’d like a little something extra to raise your spirits, just think on a certain boy who’s new found love of Home Alone led him to call out to our other pastor in Sunday school, “Get the hell outta here…”(not positive if he included the “filthy animal” part). You’re welcome.

advent days to christmas

Omar and I gifted each other a trip to Charleston to see friends for the second weekend in advent. Savannah has become a required stop for any trip north of Florida, and this trip just confirmed its status as number 1 pit stop. I came across Fabrika and Omar found Back in the Day Bakery. And Charleston? It’s a blur of good friends, lots of conversation, and lots of restaurants all packed into a mere 36 hours. It should become an advent tradition.

Back home Lenna got to attend her first ladies’ Christmas party. She was thrilled that she got to dress up and stay out late and then stay up even later with her papi telling him all about it.

Christmas pjs might become an advent sewing tradition. Or maybe just the pillowcase.

I think Elisha’s favorite advent activity was a campout by the tree. The boys lasted the whole night. Lenna? Not quite.

And as for Christmas Day? Elisha’s easel dreams came true. Asher is now the proud owner of Ed the betta, and Lenna’s baby swing is beloved.

Advent is now over and today marks the second day of Christmas. Omar went back to work, and for the first time in forever, I was itching to take all the Christmas stuff down. I’m usually a big proponent of celebrating Christmas through Epiphany, but this year? Not feeling it. Getting day-to-day things done is starting to take more effort, and it feels like big trees and decorations are getting in my way. I’ve caught glimpses of my profile (heck, even my shadow) recently and been taken aback a bit. I’m just ready for this little guy to be here, and perhaps cleaning this season’s things away and checking off to-do lists makes me feel like it will happen just a little sooner. What? You didn’t spend the week before Christmas cleaning out closets, getting rid of all unneeded baby clothes, and organizing all your tax documents? I drew the line at removing doors and sanding and painting. Lord willing there will be a squishy 9 month old around next Christmas, and that will definitely distract me from the to-do lists and push me back into a celebratory mood.

november twenty seventh – advent ideas

i’ve been spending the past few days trying to figure out what we are going to do for advent. the garland that has been loved for the past three years is still around, but i’m wondering if there needs to be a little change-up this year. but i’m still trying to figure out what that change is going to be.

it doesn’t help that every time i see a magazine or a blog or listen to or watch the news, everyone is telling me ways i can get back to eating better and lose that holiday weight. what? it’s still november! where is the party spirit? i’m still trying to figure out our christmas schedules and gifts and parties and most importantly, how to eat more holiday treats (like tonight’s apple, pear, ginger crisp smothered in whipped cream) in the next five weeks. we are so focused on the next thing that we can’t seem to even enjoy what’s right before us. omar and i try so hard to communicate to the kids that this is indeed a time of celebration and partying. it’s such a great time to explain to them who this jesus is and why he needed to be born.

here are a few resources we are using and/or would like to check out:
What’s In the Bible? Everyday Emmanuel – we’re fans of buck denver and the gang (they’re like muppets meet sunday school), and i was very excited to see this.

Handel’s Messiah Family Advent Reader – if only i could find this for less than $40. i’m on the hunt…

Sally Shim’s Pinterest board – this is a christmas board of a blogger i follow. she finds the greatest things and ideas. i love her style, and that chalkboard christmas tree? love. love. love.

2012 Advent Guide – this is the guide that we’ve used for about the past 8 advents. we do it as a family, and it’s not too long for even the littlest ones. if you’ve never tried following an advent guide, it’s a great way to open the scriptures to your kids (and yourself!) and teach them classic christmas songs. if you’d like a free copy, click here and scroll down to the bottom.