Friday, December 30, 2011

On a lighter note.... ham!

As I was running some errands with the boys today, I was talking with them about the Feast of the Holy Family. Our last stop happened to be at the Honeybaked Ham Store. A fond memory came to me and I laughed out loud as I told the boys the story.

When I was just a year or two out of college I went with my family on a cruise during the week between Christmas and New Years. It was great fun, especially on New Year's Eve. On that night I saw an image of the Holy Family that few have ever witnessed. (I know we used to have a snapshot of it.... but I can't seem to find it. I tried really hard and I couldn't even find anything remotely like it on Google Images.)

Get ready for it.....

At the top of the midnight buffet.... nestled among the fancy ice sculptures, cheese sculptures, fruit sculptures, etc.... there was a magnificently crafted portrayal of the Holy Family.... carved out of a block of......


On Google I saw Holy Family images made of flower pots, fleece, clay, wood, plastic, and metal. But not ham.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.... pray for us.

The Holy Family -- "Icon of the Domestic Church"

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. We look to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as the most beautiful example of all that a family can and should be. We implore their intercession as we seek to emulate their love for one another.

A simple Google Image search renders hundreds of beautiful artistic images of the Holy Family. I started this post almost an hour ago and became engrossed in looking at and praying with some of those images. I chose the above image for this post because I love how it shows the practical human side of the Holy Family as well as their great holiness. I was immediately drawn to the brilliant light surrounding Jesus and then the halos above Mary and Joseph. However, seeing them engaged in their daily work together really touched me. So many artistic representations of the Holy Family are "posed" but this one depicts them going about their everyday lives.

And it's in the midst of our everyday lives --- in doing the laundry, referreeing the squabbles, paying the bills, doing the dishes, playing board games, raking the leaves, eating breakfast --- that we truly love one another and learn how to grow in holiness. All of our interactions... our working and playing and praying together... make up our family life, our domestic Church. However, if all of those daily tasks are not grounded in and nourished by prayer they become drudgery and distractions rather than paths to holiness.

In this week's message to the General Audience, Pope Benedict spoke beautifully about the role of prayer in the formation of the domestic church. "The Holy Family", Benedict XVI concluded, "is an icon of the domestic Church, which is called to pray together. The family is the first school of prayer where, from their infancy, children learn to perceive God thanks to the teaching and example of their parents. An authentically Christian education cannot neglect the experience of prayer. If we do not learn to pray in the family, it will be difficult to fill this gap later. I would, then, like to invite people to rediscover the beauty of praying together as a family, following the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth".

And so let's take to heart Pope Benedict's challenge today. Let's recommit ourselves to diligent family prayer. As we prepare to begin a new year, let's take a loving look at our domestic church and discern the areas in which God is calling us to stretch and grow a little bit or a lot.

In our family (inspired by Lacy at Catholic Icing) we are discerning a saint whom we will "adopt" for the year. We will learn about that saint, pray for his/her intercession, and seek to grow in the virtues he/she models for us. We are also committing to praying the Rosary together more frequently.

May 2012 be a blessed and fruitful year for all of our families.

Prayer to the Holy Family

This prayer is taken from Prayer Book for Religious, compiled by Fr. F. X. Lasance, S.J. (Benziger Brothers, 1904). Its language is dated, but its content is beautiful.

O most loving Jesus, Who by Thy sublime and beautiful virtues of humility, obedience, poverty, modesty, charity, patience and gentleness, and by the example of Thy domestic life, didst bless with peace and happiness the family Thou didst choose on earth, in Thy clemency look down upon this household, humbly prostrate before Thee and imploring Thy mercy. Remember that this family belongs to Thee; for to Thee we have in a special way dedicated and devoted ourselves. Look upon us in Thy loving kindness; preserve us from danger; give us help in time of need, and grant us the grace to persevere to the end in the imitation of Thy Holy Family; that having revered Thee and loved Thee faithfully on earth, we may bless and praise Thee eternally in heaven.

O Mary, most sweet Mother, to thy intercession we have recourse, knowing that thy Divine Son will hear thy prayers.

And do thou, O glorious Patriarch, St. Joseph, assist us by thy powerful mediation, and offer, by the hands of Mary, our prayers to Jesus. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Potluck and Pageant

More than 30 families from our homeschool group gathered last evening for a fun, festive celebration of the Christmas season. It was wonderful to be able to celebrate with these holy families who are our dear friends. And it was so great to have my dad, Mary, and Susan join us as well.

We gathered in a parish hall for an evening that included a potluck dinner, a procession of  "gifts for Baby Jesus" that were donated to a pregnancy help center, a beautiful birthday cake for Baby Jesus, and an old-fashioned children's Christmas pageant.

These homeschooled kids don't often get to be part of group performances. They loved this and they did a great job! They acted out the Christmas story and the show included several traditional Christmas carols that we all joined in singing together. Ray was a shepherd and Adam was a sheep. We all had a great time.

Before dinner, the children decorated their own placemats.

Preparing for the "gifts for Baby Jesus" procession

A scene from the pageant.... the Innkeeper's doors.

The sheep and shepherds. Can you spot Ray and Adam?

We had a super cute little cow in our flock of sheep! ;)

Ray really "got into" the curtain call! That's one rocking shepherd.

Susan and a little sheep.
Have you ever seen a sheep with such chapped lips? ;)

Highlights of our Christmas Celebrations

We have enjoyed lovely Christmas celebrations over the last several days. We are so blessed with wonderful family members and friends with whom we are sharing this beautiful season of joy.

My mom, my sister Colleen, and my nephew Carter joined us for a nice dinner on Christmas Eve followed by the Vigil Mass at our parish.

 The boys awakened us promptly at 7:00am on Christmas morning. They had been up for a bit, but they managed to wait patiently until the "magic hour" of 7:00. We had a really nice time opening gifts together. Suprisingly, they went for their stockings first. Then we took turns opening one gift at a time.

The boys LOVE this "claw machine" that Santa brought.

Look what I got! ;) It's my "Being Mirrors" trademark symbol!

The long-awaited, much-hoped-for Wii DID make it into Santa's sack for the boys. They were so very excited to finally get it. They jumped around the room and did a dance on the bubble wrap after opening it.

They also received several Mario-themed gifts.

It was awesome to see them sharing their excitement.

 My friend Susan came over and enjoyed watching the boys open gifts. We had a yummy breakfast together.

And then the boys spent a good part of the day doing this.....

Later in the afternoon, we headed to my mom's house for more Christmas festivity.

I surprised my sisters with old copies of some books we fondly remember from grade school. Oh, the power of Amazon! ;)

Every year my mom makes awesome pajamas for all of us! Here are the boys modeling some of theirs --

You should see the wonderful placemats and napkins she made as well! I'll try to get a post up about those soon.

We got my mom a soda machine. It carbonates water and includes lots of different flavorings to add. We had fun testing it out. I would love to get one of these!

We've had a bit of downtime this week. We've enjoyed our new toys, watched some movies, and relished the slower paced non-school schedule. We've been observing the 12 days of Christmas in some simple ways (a future post I hope).

Yesterday, we got to celebrate Christmas with my Dad and Mary. We met them for lunch and then spent the afternoon exchanging gifts.

 Here's my dad with a few of his "custom decorated" golf balls!

Adam got even MORE Mario stuff!

Ray got some awesome things for his train layout: boxcars, buildings (which Mary painstakingly assembled), a history of trains poster, and this cool poster ---

Ray had a great time showing off his layout. Pappy and Mary helped assemble the figure-8 track!

Thank you so very much to all of our friends and family who have been so generous to us this Christmas! Thank you Jesus for becoming man, bringing light into our world, giving us reason for hope, and being the source of all our joy.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Catholic Christmas Prayer

Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter,
we praise you for the great wonders you have sent us:
for shining star and angel's song,
for infant's cry in lowly manger.

We praise you for the Word made flesh in a little Child.
We behold his glory, and are bathed in its radiance.

Be with us as we sing the ironies of Christmas,
the incomprehensible comprehended,
the poetry made hard fact,
the helpless Babe who cracks the world asunder.

We kneel before you -  shepherds, innkeepers, wise men.
Help us to rise bigger than we are. Amen.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holly, Jolly, Happy, Busy, Holy Days

Adam's been walking around for the past two days saying, "I'm a happy boy!" in such a sweet sing-song voice. He is just loving all of the Advent rituals and Christmas preparations. He is so excited for the next few days to get here. We all are. But there is just something so precious about a five year old's pure joy and excitement. I am trying to drink it all in, to see things with his eyes, and to really enjoy what these days are all about. It has, indeed, been lots of fun around here.

We got to watch my nephew Carter all day on Wednesday. The boys played happily together. We made some gingerbread boys and little houses.

 A fun Christmas dessert ---

The boys have really loved our Jesse Tree readings and ornaments.

I made them their own big trees on their bedroom doors. Each morning they have colored the day's ornament and put it on their trees.

When we got to the O Antiphons, they wanted ornaments for those too... so I made them and we added them.

Our beautiful O Antiphon house
Now I need to make ornaments for the 12 days of Christmas. I'm so glad they're loving these Advent traditions.

Today I had the great privilege of enjoying one of my favorite Christmas traditions.... a day out with my "bestest" --- my friend Susan. She lives in San Antonio now and it's such a treat when she comes to visit. Instead of buying gifts for each other, we spend a day together. She accused me of never putting her picture on my blog, so here she is ----- standing outside the awesome restaurant where we had lunch. (Watch out Susan... I have LOTS of other pictures of you that may appear here someday soon.)

We did some shopping and we got our nails all fancied up for Christmas !

 It's so fun this time of year to come home to yummy, amazing treats from friends! Thanks Kelly!

This evening Jon and I took the boys out separately to purchase small gifts for one another. Then, Ray bought us all dinner! He had a free pizza certificate he earned from the Boy Scout popcorn sale. He was so proud to take us all out for pizza!

We ended this day with a trip downtown to enjoy the Christmas lights! (Unfortunately, my camera wasn't
working quite right and a lot of my pictures turned out blurry... but here are a few good ones.)

A local insurance company has been putting up a beautiful Nativity display for many, many years. I remember visiting it as a child. Now it's a tradition for our family to visit it each year.

How wonderful it is to see the TRUE reason for the season displayed so beautifully and boldly right in the middle of downtown Columbus. All of the lights and gifts and traditions are about Him and for Him. We love you, Jesus, and we celebrate your birth once again. Help us to recognize your presence with us. We want to love you and adore you. We want to welcome you anew into our hearts and homes. Amen.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bosco Boys Club - "Initiative"

We had a wild time with the Bosco Boys Club on Tuesday! This month's virtue is "INITIATIVE."

We talked about Saint Vincent dePaul and all that he did to care for the most needy people of his day. We brainstormed ways that we can help others, especially in our own homes during this busy time of holiday preparation. Each of the boys wrote down one way he plans to take initiative in loving and helping someone this month. They offered these virtuous deeds to Jesus by placing their slips of paper into his stocking.

We had yummy snacks. Thanks Fouts family!

We had cup stacking races.

Each of the boys made a Christmas gift for his mom. I won't spoil it here.... but it involved glitter and glass and glue.... and they did such a nice job!

And then, the highlight of the meeting for most of the boys ---- We played with pom pom poppers! It was wild. It was crazy. It was loud. It was FUN!!! They shot at the targets I brought and at the ceiling and of course at each other (and me).

I was so proud of the boys because they had a great time and no one got hurt and they cleaned it all up on their own. (There were hundreds of pom poms all over the room!) Go Bosco Boys!!!

 The pom pom popper idea came from Pinterest (of course). You can see it here -- . (If you need a last minute Christmas gift for ANYBODY... just save your money and make these. They're fun!)

If you've got a boy in our club..... give him plenty of ideas for ways he can take initiative around your house!