Sunday, December 21, 2014

New Instagram Account

Remember that one time I decided to take a Facebook break?  And to fully walk away from Twitter forever?  And I was on the fence about Instagram?

Well, I deleted my Instagram account the other day.

The reasons were varied, but mostly had to do with pregnancy-related emotional melt down.  Things that are NOT rational seem rational in my crazy mind.

Two point five months left of this insanity.


I'm ready to be normal again!

Anyway, my sweet friend texted me later to ask me if I regretted my decision.  I didn't answer because we engaged in a conversation about something a lot more interesting than my social media drama.

I gave it a few days, and now the answer is yes, yes I do regret it.

(Luckily I backed up all my old pictures...but I guess it isn't so wrong to start fresh?  I had like a thousand pics on there, I couldn't even enjoy them all!  And truthfully...I use IG selfishly, I like seeing the highlights!)

So, will you follow me on my new account??  I'll keep it open for a while while I get it started!

My new user name is hiswillmypeace.

(That said, I'm re-thinking Facebook today...but I'm still giving it until April.  We'll see.)

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Great O Antiphons: Ero Cras (7QT)

We're getting close to Christmas, friends.  It is evidenced by the arrival of the 'O Antiphons.'  Many people are much more versed in this ancient tradition than I am, but this is our first year to do a little bit more with them than sing O Come, O Come...

-1- O Sapientia
The O Antiphons begin on December 17 every year, and run through the 23rd of the month.  They begin with O Sapientia - or O Wisdom.

O Wisdom that came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come and teach us the way of prudence.
What is an antiphon, anyway? It is a chant sung before a psalm that typically has to do with the feast day or the Psalm.  Here's a very in-depth definition if you are more interested.

The Great O Antiphons are sung before the Magnificat during Evening Prayer on the days leading up to Christmas Eve.  They remind us of how eternal Christ really is and give us hope as we prepare our hearts to celebrate His birth, and more importantly to greet Him when He comes again.

-2- O Adonai

O Lord and Ruler of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai, come and redeem us with outstretched arms. 

To commemorate the "Ruler of the House of Israel," we put together a gingerbread house kit last night!

(I was also the grateful, and very excited recipient of an early Christmas gift last night!  A new camera!  Yay!  I've been stuck with cell phone photos for over a year now, so I was so surprised and thankful to unwrap my new camera in time for Christmas celebrations and a new baby!)

-3- O Radix Jesse

O Root of Jesse, which stands for an ensign of the people, before whom the kings keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: come, to deliver us, and tarry not.

Since we have dinner plans tonight, we enjoyed Sonic root beer floats.  We're also going to enjoy these lovely O Antiphon coloring sheets from Michele Quigley once we're finished with our (last day's!) school work.

-4- O Clavis David

Each night of the Great O Antiphons, we sing the appropriate adapted verses to the tune of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."  This has become one of the most beloved of our Advent traditions; it makes me tear up to hear all members of our sweet family singing together in anticipation of the holy feast that is to come.

O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: come and lead forth the captive who sits in the shadows from his prison.

This year since most of our children can read, we printed and laminated these song sheets from Family, Feast, and Feria.

The traditional monastic gift for December 20th was for the cellerar to use his key and unlock the cellar for good wine.  We'll pick up a bottle of wine from Trader Joe's tomorrow that comes from a papal vineyard (the See of Peter - to whom the keys to the kingdom were entrusted!) - I wish I could remember the name of the wine, for Charlie and me.  The children can enjoy some sparkling cider.

-5- O Oriens

O Dawn of the east, brightness of light eternal, and sun of justice: come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Next year, I'd like to plan ahead a little bit more and order these beautiful O Antiphon ornaments from Jesse Tree Treasures to adorn the Jesse Tree.  We really have to build these traditions slowly, or we risk burn out.  This year we added little gifts, next year I'll pick these up to enjoy along with them.

It's really such a joy to visit my friends' homes and see their matching Jesse Tree ornaments!
I'm truly grateful that everything came together for last year's Jesse Tree Ornament Exchange.
On Sunday evening, I'm going to make a big pot of hot cocoa and we'll surprise the children with a little trip out to enjoy Christmas lights after dark.

-6- O Rex Gentium

O king of the Gentiles and their desired One, the cornerstone that makes both one: come, and deliver man, whom you formed out of the dust of the earth. 

There are lots of beautiful ideas to commemorate the King, most of which require more time and effort than I am able to put forth this year.  So, I picked up this lovely Panettone cake (which looks to ME like a crown! haha) for a dessert on the 22nd.

Paying attention to the O Antiphons isn't just an activity for children, it's a nice spiritual component to prepare our hearts as well, as the craziness of the season threatens to steal our peace (though, to be honest, I haven't felt that way this year!).  There are some beautiful meditations for each day that can be found here from Catholic Online.  And here is a video I loved about confession, Advent, and preparing for the second coming:

-7- O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: come to save us, O Lord our God.

Breathtaking.  This Advent I've been really reflecting on Christ's humility.  Baby Jesus...born into a manger.  My constant prayer is "O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like Yours."
He is a King, and yet He came in great humility.  I need to grow in that same humility.

As a final treat to the children (and it has been a treat for me to create as well), I will gift them with this handmade Nativity set that they are welcome to play with.  The pattern is from Do Small Things with Love, and the gorgeous wool felt I purchased from Benzie Design.
It's been such fun to work on these little things while the children are sleeping.  I hope they like them just as much.

May your remaining Advent be blessed, my friends!

Friday, December 12, 2014

The McFluffers, OLG, Protesting the Hospital Gown, Bacon, and More: 7 Quick Takes

Just miscellany from around here...

-1- Meet the McFluffers
We've had more dog drama since Bree the Narnian Goldendoodle died last spring.  We've tried a couple of new pups out that were not a good match for our family (knocking over toddlers, chewing everything, incessant barking, not cuddly, not house trained).  Their visits were short and not-so-sweet, leaving the whole family feeling like maybe we wouldn't ever match the awesomeness that was Bree.
Over the weekend we found the perfect match for us: a pair of pups whose loving family didn't have time for them.  They were very well taken care of little guys, and came with all the gear you might need for your dogs, including hair bows, sweaters, Halloween costumes, glitter collars....  They were well loved by their family, who was sad to see them go.

Meet Coconut (black) and Clive (white).  Coconut is a "Shorkie" (Yorkie/Shih Tzu) and Clive (whose name we changed, after C.S. Lewis) is a Shih Tzu.  Together, Serafina (my 5 year old) has dubbed them "Mr. & Mrs. McFluffers."
They are 1 and 3 years old, so old enough to not have puppy drama, but young enough to be quite spritely.  They're wonderfully playful, affectionate, and seem to be fitting in nicely with the family.
A Christmas joy, indeed.

-2- We Love Bacon
My family loves bacon, and Charlie, Joe, and I eat it probably 3 out of 5 mornings during the week (not even counting weekends) with eggs.  We are very careful about what kind we buy though (and other meats as well, sandwich meats, hams, sausage, etc), and here's a great blog post about why: What Vitamin Can Reduce the Toxicity of Nitrates?

I thought it was great information in a succinct fashion.  Give it a read!

(Also, I just can never seem to get over how amazing real butter and real bacon are!  Growing up, I didn't have either very often and wow...such beauty!)

-3- Birthing Fashion
I'm planning another birth at home with this baby on the way, but I came across this post, Does This Hospital Gown Make Me Feel Empowered?, and really enjoyed the read.
When I had to fight tooth and nail for a VBAC with Gabrielle (and Colette, and Serafina), the first thing I rejected was the hospital gown.  It may seem silly, but I really enjoyed this article from Mothering about how it can often represent intervention and the over-stepping of boundaries to certain women (like me).
The only thing I'd disagree with from the article is that a nursing staff will always be docile to a woman wanting to wear her own clothing, that was not my experience at all.  It was the first stand I took on a regular basis when I showed up at the hospital.  It was like drawing the line in the sand, my way of saying - I'm informed, and I'm not going to consent to the cascade of unnecessary interventions. (That said, once that was over with, the OB nurses were awesome - barring that poor triage nurse - and were a great support in my VBAC attempts.)
(That was exhausting.  I'm so so grateful for midwifery and the health to be able to birth at home where I'll wear whatever I please thankyouverymuch.)

those are my clothes, my towels, and I was in my so grateful for that
I felt so safe

-4- Chicken & Carrots w/ Olive and Lemon
This time of year calls for simple meals to me.  Once Christmas and the Christmas Season start, I'm all about the feasting.  But, during Advent, I'm trying to keep things simple.
I posted a photo on Instagram (follow me if you don't already!  my user name is AMM726) a week or so ago of the dinner I was about to pop in the oven.  Several people asked for the recipe, so here it is!

  • 3-4 pounds chicken legs
  • 2 pounds carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces (halved lengthwise if thick)
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1-Heat oven to 425° F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the chicken, carrots, olives, bay leaves, lemon, oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Arrange in a single layer and sprinkle the chicken with the paprika.

  • 2 -Roast, tossing the vegetables once, until the chicken is cooked through and the carrots are tender, 45 to 50 minutes.
Using a baking sheet instead of a roasting pan ensures that there is enough room to spread the vegetables into a single layer so they will caramelize, not steam. 

Yup.  You had me at Kalamatas.

-5- Growing Boys

Now that my little guy is Three, he's like an all new person.  An all new person with a Star Wars obsession (he's getting this in his stocking for Christmas....yeah I'm gonna be a hero), a great sense of humor, and an infinity for Thomas the Train underpants.
We may actually be diaper-free in this house for all of two months, for the first time since...well...I was a newlywed of only nine months.  That'll be wild.

-6- Lost
About two weeks ago, I lost something very important to me.

Will you say a prayer for me that I find it?

It's making me sick to my stomach...and so sad.  Everywhere I have called to see if I've lost it there gives me the same answer.

I keep asking St. Anthony to pray for no avail at this point.  :-(

-7- Am I Not Here, Who Am Your Mother?
Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

I love this feast, and I love Our Lady - the little plaque regularly resides on my bedside table.  There is something so compelling about her, and this story, to me.  (Since someone asked on Instagram, you can find this painting from Flor Larios art on Etsy.  I LOVE her work.  Another of her pieces is hanging on the wall over the couch in my bedroom as well.  I show both of these a little closer about 2/3 of the way down on this post.)
To celebrate, we kept it simple (I love what Charlotte says about that here) by putting out poinsettias and reading my favorite Tomie dePaula book, The Lady of Guadalupe .
It's kind of a long story, but it hold's the children's rapt attention.  I always choke up on this page, when the tilma is revealed.  There is a wonderful article out today about the tilma that you should totally check out:
In 1979, when Dr. Callahan was analyzing the tilma using infrared technology, he apparently also discovered that the tilma maintains a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (36.6-37 deg. Celsius), the same as that of a living person...Dr. Castillo concluded that the dimensions of Our Lady’s body in the image were that of an expectant mother due quite soon (Dec. 9, the day of the unveiling, is barely two weeks from Christmas…).
Woah.  Read the rest here - Four Literally Awesome Facts About Our Lady of Guadalupe.

We wrapped up with tacos and these star (as on her mantle) cookies from Trader Joe's.

+Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray for Us!+

Check out more quick takes with Kelly!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

An Advent Playlist (...and Some Thoughts on Evolving Traditions)

Advent has long been known as the "Little Lent."  It is a time of waiting and anticipation, even if not at the same level of penitence as Lent.  We're waiting for the celebration of the birth of Christ, yes, but also calling our souls to something greater and higher as we await the second coming of our beloved Lord Jesus.

My understanding of this season has been molded and changed over the years.  As Cultural Christmas approached in years past I was ready to deck the halls and start jamming to the Christmas carols right as the Thanksgiving dishes began to dry.  I still don't think that's a bad thing.  Just now, I force myself to accept the little sacrifices of not delving in full force to the holiday celebration when the celebration has not yet begun.  It's a reminder to me that this world we live in now is not Eden, it's not Heaven, we haven't begun the banquet.  It's a reminder to me to "keep watch," as we do not know the time that He will come again.  Living Advent to it's fullest has helped me to realize that Advent is our lives on Earth.

So, we've slowed things down.
My heart aches for that spot in my entry way to be filled up with a big Christmas tree bedecked in twinkling lights, orbs of glitter, and treasured childhood creations.  We're waiting a little bit longer (we've chosen Gaudete Sunday, a day of rejoicing, to be our tree-purchasing day).
We celebrate the feasts of the season: St. Nicholas, Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe, maybe St. Lucy, the O Antiphons.  We put up the decor a little at a time, outdoor wreaths almost right away, (otherwise Trader Joe's will sell out of my favorite Boxwood wreathes), stockings on St. Nick's, and probably some odds and ends as the days go by.

Then, of course, last year we introduced the Jesse Tree that I'd been longing to bring to my family for years and years.  Our awesome homeschool group made it possible to share this tradition with our family!
ornaments ready to go when Advent started on the 30th
This year, because we aren't moving and I don't have a new baby, I feel up for introducing another long-longed for tradition of dinner time gifts on the nights of the O Antiphons.  I'd love to make a wooden "O Antiphon" house as well, but that may need to wait another few years due to time and budget.  Anyway, we usually sing the O Antiphons at dinner when we light the Advent wreath, but I love the idea of adding another layer of depth and anticipation with simple family gifts.  I'm making the final preparations on that, and will share our plans next week.

from last year
Lastly, we will trim the tree in full splendor and glory on Christmas Eve with a Mexican meal (for some reason my family growing up always liked to eat Mexican food on Christmas, so it's just not right for me otherwise....hello tamales....) and copious amounts of creamy egg nog.  This not only keeps the fun and "magic" spread through the season of Advent, and fresh for the following Christmas season, but also serves to keep children awake for Midnight Mass!

As with most family decisions and traditions, mine is certainly not the best or only way, but I only hope to share because so many others who have shared their ways with us have shaped these amazing seasons beautifully for my family and for me.  The real fruit has been spiritual fruit.  The side benefit has been that the season of Christmas, all the way through Epiphany, has become an ALL OUT season of fun and festivity for us since we're not Christmas-ed out!

During the season of Advent, we don't avoid Christmas-themed fun, or movies, or music, but they aren't really as prevalant for us as they were before.  This has opened up the beautiful world of Advent Music to me.
May I share a few of my favorite albums that are on my Spotify Advent playlist?

The first is:
Advent at Ephesus

also -
Legends of St. Nicholas, Medieval Chant & Polyphony

and -
An Advent Procession Based on the Great 'O' Antiphons

some selections from -
Sing Ye Heavens, Hymns for All Time

Particularly Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence - my favorite Advent hymn

O Magnum Mysterium

Particularly the title song.

finally -
Puer Natus Est - Tudor Music for Advent and Christmas

This has been my favorite this year, and it's especially poignant because as member of an Ordinariate parish, I hear lots of Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, etc.

Pop those albums in your Spotify playlists and enjoy the sounds of this Advent season!!
by Gab, today

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Saint Nicholas Day 2014

Visions of St. Nicholas Day....

I wish I had a real camera today, all I had to work with was my cell phone, which doesn't work well in the dark (and my house is extra dark).
We've had a lovely day!
Last night all the children put out their shoes in anticipation of treats "from" St. Nicholas, and in fact, they also put out mine & Charlie's, as well as Kit and Rebecca's (the American Girls) as well!  Once everyone was finally fast asleep, I went to work setting the table for our traditional St. Nicholas Day breakfast feast.  We always have nice table settings, cloth napkins, fancy tea cups, flowers, the Christmas tablecloth, candles, and a pile of clementines.  The breakfast food varies from year to year, the only exception being the clementines and a big, steaming hot pot of mulled apple cider.
I think it's so sweet that the children look forward to this day with such anticipation, especially since it's looked the same for 8 years in a row now (I only know that thanks to this blog!  haha Strangely, I've only written specifically about our St. Nick's day twice though, once in 2007 and again in 2009.)

In their shoes, the children receive a larger chocolate "St. Nicholas" (usually Santa) of some variety (this year it was caramel-filled, I was totally a hero!), chocolate coins, a candy cane, and a clementine.  I usually add something extra as well, this year it was mini boxes of raisins, a rare treat for a family that typically shops in bulk.  Each of these items (sans raisins) has a traditional meaning specifically for the day, which clarifies why we follow this Saint as an example.
Each child is also gifted with a carefully chosen Advent/Christmas book, which has served to stock us well with lovely books for the season over the years.  This year, the books they unwrapped were:

(Charlie got a box of chocolate covered peppermint JoeJoe's from Trader Joe's and mistletoe.  Very important.)

As our traditions develop over the years, we have begun to take things more slowly.  Decorating the house is done in spurts, rather than a huge debacle (which usually stressed me out anyway), so St. Nicholas Day is the day to hang our stockings as well!
As the morning light broke, and my little ones begun to emerge from bed this morning the smells of cinnamon, apple, and clove wafted through the house, mingled with beautiful polyphony, they may not have known it, but their mama asked for prayers from this great Saint (who was no fluffy pushover) for them as well.
Visions of the day...cider on the stovetop, Legends of St. Nicholas - Medieval Chant & Polyphony , a prayer, and decor...
(Really, you must check out that beautiful album above, it's on Spotify if you have it!  I'll post more Advent music ideas later this week.  There's tons of good stuff and I have a new favorite to share!)

+Saint Nicholas, pray for us!+