Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The True Gifts of Christmas

We decided this year to wait.

Now that I read that thought put into writing, I am overwhelmed by what that has meant over the past twelve months.

We waited through the storm of grief which followed losing Gabriel--a baby we never saw, never held, never heard cry...though we wait still and know that we will see our child in Heaven.

We waited during Holy Week and the three days of the Triduum for the joy of the Risen Christ--and that Easter Week found us discovering the knowledge of the miracle of another baby.

We waited and watched the addition take more definitive shape, with windows, roof, insulation, lights, and now plumbing--and we still wait for the day we will expand ourselves into the new part of our home.

We waited the nine long months, through discomforts and inconveniences until the joyous event of the birth of the Little Snuggle Bug.

We began the waiting for healing for such dear friends after the loss of their infant son...and we will continue to wait and pray with them for God's gift of peace and healing in their hearts.

And today we have come to the end of the waiting of Advent.

Up to now, these things were all circumstances beyond our control, timed by God.

Here we are now, and today has also marked the end of the waiting which we were able to choose ourselves--the waiting for our Christmas Tree. It sits before me with blinking lights (although...they're not supposed to be blinking.....hmmm...), and My Darling has gone on a reconnaissance mission to the basement to retrieve the box of ornaments. Our family tradition is to acquire a new ornament each year for each member of the family (with a few others added in here and there). The intention is that when each child moves away from home as an adult, he or she will have a collection of beloved ornaments with which to adorn their very own Christmas tree.

Wait! Life just happened! Through the magic of cyberspace, we have just traveled nine hours in the span of three lines! Ah well; this happens when your author is the Mama of five children.

In the meantime, we completed decorating the tree.


My Darling was even clever enough to find alternative strands of lights which are in fact not blinking (and that's just dandy!). My job for the past three years has been to open the boxes containing the ornaments, to unwrap each ornament, and to give it to the owner thereof. My Darling hangs those designated as Mom and Daddy's, and the kids each hang their own, with the Frog, the Pickle and the Chicken helping the Monkey to find suitably strong branches when necessary. As you can imagine, this can result in that well-known phenomenon commonly referred to as "Ornament Clusters". In some families, these may be frosted and eaten. Around here, they are looked upon with much love and appreciation.

"Ornament Cluster"

Underneath the tree, we place the most beautiful ornament, the most treasured gift...

The Most Treasured Gift

We shared a sumptuous meal--a most delicious rib roast (sometimes called prime rib--spotted by My Darling at the local grocery store...they panicked and cut the price in half this afternoon!) with baked potatoes and au jous.

And now the house rests quietly, waiting for Mama to wake them to prepare for Midnight Mass. Around here, it's rare to find a church which still offers the Christmas Eve Mass actually at midnight. We are blessed to be members of one of the only parishes in the area which continues this sacred tradition.

It strikes me at this very moment that the thoughts which sent me to my keyboard earlier in the day have vanished completely from my mind, like so much steam wafting over a cup of hot coffee. The day was productive and full, and I am so thankful. What a cherished blessing it is to have our family all together tonight. Everyone is healthy, fed, warmly clothed, and comfortably ensconced in our modest home.

And now we wait again.

Mantle...waiting for Christ

Merry, Blessed, Joyous Christmas to you and your family from me and mine.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Carols--and the Lessons

Last night, we were treated to perhaps the Advent season's finest offering: Lessons and Carols.

Our whole family went, of course, and the Big Three were greeters. Their job was to smile, look pretty, and hand out the programs. They did it very well!

Lessons and Carols, for those of you who have not had the blessing of experiencing it, is an Advent worship service which incorporates Scriptural readings beginning in Genesis, with the story of the fall of man, coursing through Isaiah's prophesies, the Annunciation in the Gospel of Luke and ending with the beginning of the Gospel of John. In between the readings are various carols and the like, with most of them being performed by the choir, but the people joining in here and there. Kings College in England is the most famous for such a performance, with a rich history. Our own Diocesan Choir doesn't do too badly, either.

It was a wonderful experience to be sitting in the audience for the first time in years. (I'm on leave from the choir this semester because of the Bug, for Pete's sake.) I was able to meditate on the readings for a change, and to listen attentively to the music--some of it familiar, and some of it not.

The Gospel reading for yesterday was from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, vs. 26-38 . It never escapes me how quick Mary was to say her fiat to God, to trust His will even though it was such a huge unknown for her. Her example of obedience is truly one from which I pray daily to learn, and to which I aspire to attain. I have asked My Darling to pray for his wife to have a more obedient spirit and the humility and grace needed to accompany such a gift.

This same Gospel reading was repeated for us again at Lessons and Carols, and then again (however more abbreviated) in the Rosary last night (the Joyful Mysteries were prescribed for the day). It really seemed to me that God was again nudging my heart to more fully hear His words to me--words which were first spoken by our dear pastor, homilized by our dear bishop, read by a dear friend, sung of twice (both by the cathedral and the diocesan choirs), and then repeated by the first of the Joyful Mysteries.

Daily I find myself wondering how many times I have to repeat (fill in the blank here with whatever directive you can imagine for my kids--make your bed, brush your teeth, put away your laundry, do your math...). Why should I imagine that such a loving Father would not also repeat to the heart of His daughter that which He intends for me to hear?

At any rate, consider it heard. Consider it meditated upon. Consider me likely still needing reminders...regularly!

And in the mean time, I pray that the heart of this beautiful little child would be moved to obedience also. So far, she's doing alright.

Mama and Kateri

Friday, December 12, 2008

23 Whole Days

I absolutely cannot believe she's 23 days old already. It seems like forever ago that my Little Snuggle Bug was born--and yet a mere three weeks and two days ago, she was just barely 10 minutes old.

From this:


to this:


Where in the world has the time gone?? And how did I miss it?

Of course, I look at the Frog, the Pickle, the Reepicheep and the Monkey and wonder those very same things.

Last night, we had a Mass and social with the boys' club that the Pickle and My Darling are part of. I watched the Frog walking to and fro with her friends, chatting, giggling and blushing, as twelve-year-old girls are wont to do. TWELVE! Is that even allowed? And at twelve, I'll have you know she stands better than an inch taller than I. And we can no longer share shoes, since she outsizes me by half.

The Pickle, I noticed, needs new pants. Not only does he not "need" his belt anymore, the bottoms of the cuffs are no where near the tops of his shoes...more like hovering somewhere around the altitude of an orbiting spacecraft! I guess the second-hand store will be seeing us again sooner than we thought.

The Reepicheep was treated to new Sunday shoes a couple of weeks ago, and we ended up buying shoes not one, but TWO full sizes bigger than her previous pair.

And the Monkey? I've had to pack away every pair of pants he wore last year, even though some of them were far too long for him back then. I always tear up when I box up the "too small" clothing.

I know in my heart that they will grow, for Pete's sake, and I'm happy that they are all healthy, thriving and growing! But it breaks my Mama Heart to know that they are getting bigger and older. It just always feels like they're getting a little bit farther away from home each time this reality makes itself known.

My Darling and I were looking at the Snuggle Bug last night as she slept between us in the Big Bed. We remembered each of the kids when they were the age and size that she is now...and we talked about the time passing and the possibilities of the future.

More babies? We hope so.

Our fears for our children? Lots.

Our hopes and dreams for them? Even more.

Our prayers for them? Endless.

But for now, I'm just prayerfully taking each day as it comes. With all the things we've been through, with our blessings--even our blessings which have fronted as challenges--I don't know any other way we could live.

I don't think I'd do it any other way....anyway.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

"...and I'll fall asleep counting my blessings..."

I love the move "White Christmas." Love it. I remember waiting for it to come on every year as a child, and practically holding my breath until Judy and Betty appeared at the end in the gorgeous red satin dresses with the white fur trim. And the little ballerina girls would come out from the sides of the stage on their tippy toes and dance like little fairies, and then ever-so-delicately perch on the knees of the adoring little boys who raised their soprano voices in cherubic harmony.

Seriously--I am not joking--I would find a curtain, a table cloth, a bath towel...anything that could resemble a skirt if safety pinned around the waist, and dance around for the next several days, singing the theme song......"IIIIIIIIIIIII'm dreaming of a whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiite (a white) Christmas........

And now I have the movie on DVD. I try not to watch it until at least Advent, but I almost always break down around mid-November and just have to watch it. Can you blame me? It's the one pre-season indulgence I allow myself, for Pete's sake. If that's the worst I can do, I think I'll be ok.


I spoke with My Wonderful friend on Thursday....the Dear Friend who is missing her Dear Baby. She asked me how my little Snuggle Bug is doing. She sounded not sad--well maybe a little sad, but more wistful. I said that The Bug is doing very well....she's starting to fill out and look chubby around the neck and wrists.....and My Friend said to me, "Cherish it, please. Just love her and kiss her and look at her, and cherish her."

And I do.

And it didn't really strike me how deeply she meant that until we were gathered together last night after the First Friday events: our family, our three friends K., T., and V. and their families (we were at V.'s home) and three of our good priests, Frs. E., B., and L. We were talking after supper, and V. mentioned that she had spoken with Our Dear Friend. Our Friend mentioned that she just really misses holding her Little One and that his memory is fading so quickly and it was taking her by surprise.

And then I began to remember how it was after my dad died, and how I looked at his picture as often as I could so that I could see his face. And I plugged in the videos that we had taken regularly so that I could hear his voice. But there was nothing that could bring back how it felt to hold his hand or feel his arms around me in a hug. I could smell a shirt, but it wasn't truly him--it was the smell of the laundry. It scared me silly, because I couldn't believe how quickly I was beginning to forget him.

I remember buying tiles to fill out the floor in front of the fireplace, and how I knew I had found The Tile I Wanted when I ran my hand across it and it faintly felt like his hand. (And yes, I know how odd that sounds.) I felt like a child who sees a grown up for a while, and then not for a long time...and the next time you see that person they're so much different than how you remember them. I just wanted to always remember him just the way he was, and it was fading so rapidly.

My heart aches with such a raw wound for my friend, although I have the absolute luxury of being witness to her grief rather than being at the core of it. And while I know that right now, at the onset of her true grieving, her pain is growing steadily, mine is coasting and becoming familiar. And it just doesn't seem fair.

And still she ministers to everyone else with such love and wisdom and passion that she just continues to inspire everyone she knows. It's not always comfortable: her statement to V. was something like, "It was a SACRIFICE for us to have to give up our son. People have been asking what they can do to help us...they can sacrifice to make it to First Friday Vigil and spend time in prayer together."

We are on day 7 of our Rosary Novena for this good family. We have been praying for them each night, and last night it was with 20 children, 4 couples and 3 dear priests. We all sat together and prayed the Rosary for our friends. Somehow it didn't feel like the sacrifice that we ought to be making, but I know that God will use it for His purposes anyway.

But now, tonight, sitting by my beautiful baby's cradle, I find it all too easy to do as my friend exhorted me to do. I am cherishing, kissing, gazing upon my lovely child, and it is becoming easier, too, to allow the reality of this blessing sink in.

I will see my Dear Friend tomorrow at Mass. I know that she will come to me and we will hug. She will look at my baby and smile, and maybe cry a little. She'll touch her head and maybe kiss her a little, and her heart will just pour out the love that consumes her. And then she will remind me to cherish my beautiful children and to be thankful for every little blessing.

And I will.


Please pray in this Season of Waiting for those who wait in Hope: for healing, for forgiveness, for love, for new life, and for new life in Him, that they may rejoice in God's Timing as He remains faithful to those who remain steadfast in their faith in Him.

Please pray for those in need, whether it be the need for food or shelter, for a job, for acceptance, for a softer heart, for Jesus in their lives, for the Sacraments--that they may accept the prudence of God's Timing.

Please also pray for all those who wait, trusting in God's Perfect Timing for their families, that their hearts would be blessed for being so open to His will for them.

And please continue to pray for My Dear Friends, who have been an amazing example of accepting God's Timing. Tonight marks two weeks since their infant son's death...and not quite one week since it's just been Their Family (all the visitors have gone back home)...and they are finally beginning to grieve here and there. Please pray for them to just trust God to catch them in His loving arms when they fall apart. Please especially pray for the Daddy and the sons in this family.

A continued Blessed Advent to all of you.....

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Back to......normal?

........though I'm not really sure just what constitutes normal anymore.

For the past few months, "normal" meant that I was on my pseudo-bed in the living room, directing traffic and chores, correcting schoolwork, quilting or embroidering, reading, and getting familiar with the remote control.

Then came the Snuggle Bug. For the past two weeks, there really hasn't been a "normal," so to speak. I only say this because you can't really count close friends losing a child, closely followed by a major holiday as being in the spectrum of normalcy. Life, yes, but not normal life.

And in between, there are sleepless nights spent with a baby who seems to think that dancing around the milk with her tiny, opened mouth is the way to get milk rather than Just Latching On Already. There are countless diaper changes (many of which are just so comical--such a great reminder of how little control we really have in this life!) and the realization that sometimes you really have to give in and turn on the lamp, even at 2 in the morning, just so you can gaze on the soft beauty and perfection that a healthy new baby brings into a family.

And what happens when you spend hours on your feet a mere week after the birth of a child? Your body lets you know that you shouldn't have, that's what.

And so it has.

And rather alarmingly, to boot.

So "normal" has returned, in the form of midwife-ordered REST, for Pete's sake.

Now, still coming to you via the trusty laptop, I am now ensconced in another nest. This one is more comfortable (it being my deliciously cozy bed), and includes a bedside table not filled with a rainbow of flosses, but with diapers and wipes (we no longer need the alcohol and cotton swabs, since my Little Bug now has an Official Belly Button!), burp rags and apricot oil. I also have, of course, my assortment of books (I'm starting in on the Mitford series again...) and plenty of room for my eternal glass of ice water.

And of course, my nest now also includes One Small Girl, with beautiful eyes, a perfect tiny mouth, soft, sweet cheeks and unbelievably adorable newborn grunts and squeaks.

I still plan to attend the First Friday events tomorrow, and of course Sunday Mass is a must. But the trips grocery shopping with the family (last week) and the other incidental shopping that must be done for things like diapers and wipes and the like must be done by someone other than me for the time being.


But you know, everything in perspective.......................normal for me still means that I have my vibrantly healthy children surrounding me; that I have a husband who more-than-capably provides for our family (and does so cheerfully into the bargain!), loves me and our children dearly and serves us all so very well; that I have a warm home surrounding me and nourishing food set before me. And miraculously, I have the gentle blue-gray eyes of a newborn daughter gazing at me in complete and utter innocence, learning about what Mama is all about, and learning that every need she has will be fulfilled.

And yesterday and today, My Darling has very kindly taken three of the five with him to the shop (yesterday the Frog, the Pickle and the the Frog, The Reepicheep and the Monkey). He's left me with a Helper and a Helpless, and the result has been very quiet, restful time with the baby and the one left to lend a hand...and time that the older ones get to spend with their Mama and baby sister. It's been lovely.

Normal is rather comfortable, no matter if I can be out and about or not. Once again, I am reminded that I am so very well blessed, thanks be to God.

Normal is a good place to be.


Please keep in your prayers the Mamas who are still waiting, either for the conception or birth of a child.

Pray also for the mother-in-law of a dear friend whose cancer has returned and spread to her brain. She will be receiving radiation and chemo beginning in a few weeks and lasting for a few weeks. Timing-wise, this encompasses the time which includes my dear friend's due date.....

Pray, please, for the humility which should be so abundant this time of year and which always seems to be just a little elusive. (It is for me anyway....perhaps not so much for others.)