On the Second Day of Christmas

On the second day of Christmas grandma and grandpa came to visit. I was a lame photographer because the company was so good. But I did manage to take a few photos of our cookie decorating operation. I knew I would not be up to making gingerbread this year so I bought a gingerbread and snowman cookie kit at Costco on clearance (a week before Christmas!). They might not have been as good as homemade, but they seemed to please the palletes that mattered.  

Grandma brought everyone handmade jewelry.  Mr. Trucks was thrilled to have his own manly bracelet.  We also exchanged gifts. The boys got the coolest toy called twister tracks. It has been a big hit around the house with everyone.   

The girls got very creative with the snowman cookie and made Charlie Brown characters. This is Lucy. 

 After Grandma and Grandpa left Papa played monopoly with the older girls. It was a loooooooong game. But they had fun. Our little philosopher in pink took the win and obliterated everyone.

Gaudete Sunday

We are half way through! I have a lot of the shopping done but still need to get a few gifts and this week we need to make some cookies!!! I also have a few sewing projects to do as well--want to make some gifts for friends.

The song above is one of our favorite Christmas carols. We changed the words to fit for Advent because naturally we think of it when it is Gaudete Sunday! The words of the original chorus of this medieval Christmas carol are:

Gaudete! Gaudete! Christus est natus ex Maria virgine. Gaudete!
Rejoice! Rejoice! Christ is born of the Virgin Mary. Rejoice!

For advent we changed them to:

Gaudete! Gaudete! Christus naturus ex Maria virgine. Gaudete!
Rejoice! Rejoice! Christ will be born of the Virgin Mary. Rejoice!

How We Celebrate the Feast of St. Lucy

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Lucy. It is a big deal in many countries and I have always admired the various traditions surrounding this beautiful day.  My children particularly love the story of St. Lucy's bravery and how she endured such tortures as losing her eyes all for the love of God. I still have not gotten any of them to have fake eyeballs on a plate for Halloween though. I think it is really important to tell the stories of the martyrs even though they are gruesome. Some might shy away from tales of saints dying horrible deaths but I really believe it helps them understand the depth of the love we should have for God (and the depth of the love he had for us!). It also encourages bravery in the face of the many little trials they encounter in life.  And if God sees fit, it will inspire them in the face of any great trials they encounter.

The most famous celebrations on St. Lucy's day come from Sweden. Most people are familiar with the image of a young girl dressed in white with a wreath of candles on her head. There is something so magical and whimsical about it! Someday perhaps, when I decide to buy an authentic Swedish wreath, I will start such a tradition. For now I feel too far removed from the customs of Sweden to start this at my house. There are so many celebrations at this time of year that I need to keep things simple. I would not dream of leaving out her feast day though so we have our own little way of celebrating.

St. Lucy's name means light and that theme is an integral part of the celebration of her feast all over the world. So for us it seems the perfect time to go out and look at Christmas lights! It is convenient because most people take their Christmas lights down immediately after Christmas day (when...ahem...they should just be getting started with festivities) and we never feel like we fully get to enjoy them. By celebrating the feast of St. Lucy we are able to enjoy them with purpose even though we are right in the middle of Advent. This year we will go see the Light Parade in town which happens to fall on St. Lucy's day. I am packing cookies and hot chocolate and plenty of coats and blankets. Before heading out to the parade we will read the story of St. Lucy. I might, just might, wake the children to a candlelit breakfast and read the story then.

If you have not planned anything for the feast of St. Lucy why not read the story of her life and go to a light parade? Or zoolights? Or if you don't have a light parade tomorrow, hop in the car with travel mugs of hot cocoa and drive through the best neighborhood Christmas lights you can find!

Happy Feast of St. Lucy!

A Day in Which We Enjoy 2 Whole Hours of Sunshine!

Today was sunny!!!!!! We had about 2 hours of sunshine today after what seems like days and days of grey. I knew coming back to Oregon that I would miss the sunshine. In Mexico we missed the seasons and now I am whining about how grey the world is here in the Pacific Northwest. As soon as I realized it was sunny we were out the door.  It was warm and beautiful all the way to our destination.
We went to a shop called PanezaNellie Breadstick Shop. It is funny to have such a specialized place in such a tiny town. But we were pleasantly surprised to find delicious pizza, breadsticks, salads, and other yummy things to eat. And most importantly they have coffee! It is a great place to pop in for a quick lunch or a latte. They have pastries and a little candy shop too. I splurged and got the children each a hot cocoa (only $1 each) and we shared some delicious cheese breadsticks. As we entered the shop the clouds rolled in so we did not stop at the park on the way home as we planned. The wind was blowing hard and we had an invigorating walk home. 
The clouds are back and it is dark and grey outside. But we had an outing and that little shot of vitamin D is going to get me through the rest of the day. If it were Wednesday I would wish you a happy Windsday à la Winnie the Pooh, but it is Thursday, so happy Windy Thursday! 

A Birthday Boy Turns Four and Zoolight Adventures

Our big boy turned four! We celebrated three days early on the feast of St. Nicholas. He was completely surprised to find out that not only would he be opening a stocking, but it was also his birthday. At first he was angry and told everyone, "Stop saying that because you are making me sad!" After pressing him for why he was upset he replied "I don't have a truck in my stocking!" Once I informed him that his birthday would surely involve trucks or some kind of vehicle he was excited and ready to party. I did not fail him. His cake was a construction cake complete with dump truck and tractor and I am pretty sure he really liked it.
Dinner was lasagna which seems to be creeping up the charts as most requested birthday dinner. The cake was chocolate and vanilla (one layer each) accompanied by vanilla and/or chocolate chip mint ice cream.

Getting a four year old boy who has recently seen the present frenzy enjoyed by his sisters on their birthdays, to slow down and enjoy each gift was tough. It took some work getting him to look at the presents. He did get to a point where he admired each gift and said thank you to the giver. But there was still a wild look in his eye as he moved quickly to the next gift. I am sure next year will be easier. He gave up all his toys in Mexico when we sold everything to move back to the states so I was okay with the number of gifts he received. Now he can stop trying to take apart the furniture and tinker with his own toys!

His oldest sister decided to try a little prank this year and wrapped a Barbie up for him. He did not find it funny. "Why would I want a Barbie?" he asked, "That's girl stuff!" He pouted until we explained it was supposed to be a joke like on AFV. Then he thought it was kind of funny.

After presents and cake we went to the Zoo to see the Zoolights. The idea was to ride the train but with a 2 1/2 hour wait we decided just to walk around. Highlights included the bats and the elephants (the only animals awake). I could not get the children to give up on seeing animals. They did enjoy the lights despite being upset all the animals were sleeping. It was a lot of fun! The best part is that Nana bought us a family pass so we can go back whenever we want to see the animals or the zoolights again! 

The Birthday Boy:

This boy has a great sense of humor. He is always saying something funny. He is very very affectionate and also very very stubborn. He goes from "Your not my mom, ever!" to "Mama I love you so so much!" within a few seconds. He is obsessed with vehicles of all kinds (trains, planes, cars, trucks, boats, tractors, etc.). In fact if I had to perform a word association test and my son's name came up I would instantly say "TRUCKS!." His ability to engineer things is impressive. This last summer he made his own garbage truck out of a plant stand, a tricycle, and a cooler and proceeded to bring garbage out of Nana's house so he could fill his truck and deliver it to the big trash bin. One morning I was awoken by a knock on the front door only to find a police officer there asking if the little boy down the street was my son. I rushed out and saw him talking to another police officer about the squad car's capabilities. He sneaked out early in the morning to line up every single matchbox car he owned in front of the neighbor boy's house so he could be ready to play. Of course he got in very big trouble and we revised the lock system on the house. He reminds me of the stories I used to hear about my dad when he was a little boy. In Mexico I used to have to lock up the fridge at night because he would wake up very early and make himself breakfast without getting me up. Anyone becomes a pal for this boy and even more so if there is some kind of machinery involved. I look forward to seeing him grow up. He has brought so much joy to my life. I cannot imagine not having this funny character banging on my door every morning like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, 

Him: BANG BANG BANG "Mama!"... 
         BANG BANG BANG "Mama! ...
         BANG BANG BANG "Mama!"...
Me: (Groggily because it is the crrraaack of dawn) "Yes son?!"...
Him: "Ummm, it's a good morning time!" (followed by the pattering of his feet as he runs off to play). 

Happy Birthday!!!

The Feast of St. Nicholas

The feast of St. Nicholas is always so fun! The children hung their stockings the night before and awoke to a decorated mantle, adorned with a statue of St. Nicholas, gingerbread cookies, and goodies inside their stockings. Usually I keep the stockings pretty simple.

Here is a list of what I include in each stocking:

1. An ornament.
2. A small toy or two.
3. Gold chocolate coins to remind them of the generosity of St. Nicholas.
4. Candy canes because St. Nicholas was a bishop.
5. Mandarin organges because they are in season and taste good.
6. Something to wear on Christmas (like a hair bow or a tie).

This year our stockings were lovingly made by my mom. She even made us extra so the next babies can have matching stockings! It was really sweet of her. There were aprons too that she made for our cookie making this advent. They are seen hanging behind the stockings. Despite having stayed up until 3am baking a birthday cake and the cookies and then stuffing stockings, I think it turned out all right and the children surely enjoyed the day.