Monday, December 28, 2009

And a merry time was had by all...

You could say these are all teaser photos for the good ones yet to come. :)

Just to give you a wee bit of a flavor for our days here, there were "some" (ahem...) who wished to remain anonymous while wearing their bedtime attire during the day.

I'll be back later with more....

FIRST, I'll leave you with a "passing photo" approved by all while they are wearing their new traditional jammies and slippers.


Venite adoremus, venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus, Dominum.

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.

~Laura Ingalls Wilder
He who has not Christmas in his
will never find it under a tree.

~Roy L. Smith

The Twelve Days of Christmas

December 25 - January 5th

Wise Men still seek HIM

And...the three kings are still on their journey towards the great star. One never knows where they will end up around our home next. Three sets moving about makes for an interesting journey.

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold,
everything is softer and more beautiful.

~Norman Vincent Peale

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Advent #9 - Christmas eve

It's the eve before Christmas and all through the house, everyone seems to be working hard preparing for the Solemnity feasting to come.

Two teens are tending to shifts at each of their jobs, two younger ones are sledding in the back with our dogs, presently suited with booties on their feet to protect them from the cold.

My parents arrived the night before last from the westcoast to spend Christmas with us again this year, so great to have family around!

Currently my mother is in my kitchen loving her "tortiere" meat pies fresh from the oven.

A family tradition from my side of the family

She was so funny chopping up all her onions for the pies. I was hiding out in my bedroom wrapping a few last minute gifts when she knocked at the door holding up the cutting board with her high mound of chopped onions on display for me to view.

This was a strange scene I thought, that is until the display was followed by a cheery
"Bonjour" once I greeted her in this position at the doorway. I began to laugh heartily, knowing especially she had just taken in the film "Julie and Julia" on the flight over here. She was mimicking Julia Childs in that wonderful onion chopping scene! Plenty of laughter surely ensued between the two of us from that little scene, so funny.


Tonight, we will venture out for Midnight Mass and return home for a bit of a "revellion" together, munching on that tortiere before retiring for the rest of the wee hours of the morn until daybreak arrives.

Although there is no new snow storm in the forecast to threaten our journey thus far, the weather man is calling for snow tomorrow evening, but by then we'll all be tucked away enjoying the dinner feast my chef husband has planned for all of us, around the dining room table with baby Jesus welcomed into the creche scenes scattered around the house.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel!

My chef husband decided to take charge of the meals over the next few days and tonight begins with a traditional Indonesian dish his mother taught him to make over several Christmas Eves together before we moved east. My taste buds are already savoring freshly grated ginger and lime zest flavors!

With Advent about to close for yet another Liturgical Year, I'll be signing off for the holy days ahead and wanted not to do so without first sending all our family, friends and the blogging communities at large prayers and best wishes for a holy, blessed and merry Christmas.

For God so loved the world,
He gave His only begotten Son...

Just a few more thoughts to include into our Advent/Christmas preparations. I've slipped in a few more photos, until we meet here again....

Just a few from our collection...
... newly enjoyed from a big shuffle...

Advent - a time for preparation and yet, what a wonderful time to reorganize also all the music selections for those traditional family favorites.

There's nothing quite like gathering all those wonderful tunes and preparing the CD player for hours and hours of mental and spiritual preparation, with a giant plethora for even more selections for the Christmas season itself.

My personal preference is to blend, and shuffle all of my music after uploading all our family CD's into Itunes on my computer, and then when the bulk of it is completely uploaded, I take the time to go about burning all back in a shuffled kafuffle onto blank disks to allow for hours and hours (and more hours) of musical pleasure and absolute enjoyment.

This all stems from the old cassette and reel-to-reel shuffles I used to make for our family's listening pleasures throughout the years, now reburned and cut onto fresh blank CDs.

The big bonus of course is also uploading them all onto my ipod touch (hubby's) and my iphone right from my computer for even more optional listening pleasures .. and many of these numbered shuffle musical mixes are in the stereo systems in both vehicles for our travels over the new few weeks.

After the shuffle, all our music is fresh,
new and very inspiring.


  • A time to remember loved ones!
For our family, there is nothing quite like unpacking last year's Christmas card favorites and all those family photos and cards sent to us.

We like to offer prayers for every one who thought of us, hoping to send a blessing their way from here. It's always a joy to review, and remember loved ones near and far before adhering the photos into our Christmas scrapbooks soon after.

Remembering loved ones near and far is always a pleasure!

  • Decorating and Traditions Revisited.
Decorating the house creates a festive flair and builds the anticipation during Advent, all in preparation for Christmas. The decor choices fast becomes a combined family effort around here and no two years seem to have been the same, save for the traditional items which can never change (saith the children).

Everyone springs into action, usually marveling and focusing on each item as they are unpacked from our storage bin treasure boxes.

That's what they are you know, "treasure boxes" filled with blessings and gifts from above, reminders of the reason for the season in a great big way! Love it.

Decorating springs the entire family into action, all wanting to be part of the activity.

With all said and done here, we are ready in more ways than one, interiorly and visually as we joyfully await the stroke of Midnight when our Advent anticipations end with grand Christmas hymns, candles lit, carol singing, bells ringing, incense burning and all will bow our heads while on bended knee before Christ our Savior and newborn King.

Yes, we are all thinking about the wee babe who became a man, the man who died for His great love for all.

Wishing you and yours a very Holy, Blessed, and Merry Christmas!

God Bless;

advent overview

The next day, John saw Jesus coming to him, and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world. ~ John 1:29

Jesus is the perfect gift!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Advent #8

Advent Parties!

Other instances have seen tangible ways for our children to share the gospel over the years.

For many years excitement began to grow during Advent as our children created artsy invitations for friends and neighbors to join in our Advent parties.

Yes, Advent parties!

We hosted one for the boys and then another for the girls each year, for many years, separately because there were so many children who were thrilled to come and join the party.

Children arrived with childlike enthusiasm, all dressed up and looking lovely, eagerly anticipating what would happen every new year at such a family function as this one was known to produce.

Always on the agenda was a show and tell of the Christmas story using small figures of some sort, using a script the children each memorized over the course of the weeks beforehand from the Bible, all on their own.

We played several homemade family games for the occasion, passed around instruments to sing Advent and Christmas songs, read stories using other manipulatives (story of the candy cane, etc..), and one year our (then 9 year old) daughter used our piano bench for her makeshift stage and shared the story of the nativity with all before her, stunning even me to bits with her beautiful narration from scripture memory.

Catching it live on tape, I love watching her retelling it and witnessing her confidence to share with neighbors who became absorbed greatly in her story telling abilities. It was so precious. I'll never forget that one year, not ever.

The afternoon's events always ended with a variation of sorts, making gingerbread "creches" scenes to take home with them at the end. A definite highlight for everyone, but then so were many other things each year included on the afternoon agenda.

As each child sat around the extended table working busily with their whimsical and very unique stable's decor, all those barn raisings in preparation for the holy family's entry, each donned protective clothing, and all continually chatted about the rest of the day together.

Always a highlight in the neighborhood and friends from our general locale, everyone wondered if it would be a repeat performance the following year. And there were repeats with gentle variations for quite some time.

Our family loves to watch all of our old movies from these special times in our home and the younger children are hoping in time, they too will meet plenty of children here in this new area to share this message with next year.

It's especially fun and so very heartwarming to view each of the youngsters filmed individually at the end of our parties, each freely offering explanations for their creches and why they chose the theme frame work and decor as they did.

As many of those children are now adults we still continue to keep in touch with them, and with our precious family films, it is so sweet to view them as the little ones they once were, so dear to all of us still today.

Happy Advent

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Advent #7

One thing I've learned over all of the Advent seasons celebrated thus far within our family, is recognizing the blessing associated with offering young children manipulatives, those which they are actually "allowed" to touch, use, and admire when retelling the story of the birth of Christ.

And....who says these great narrative items HAVE to be put away after Epiphany anyway?

He saith to him; "Feed my sheep"...

There are occasions when our children's readiness is not similar to the timing of our own, for they may prefer to linger, to ponder and to revere well the sentiment and validity for the "reason of the season" longer than we do.

Why not then just allow for a time shifting period in a case such as this, that is, if it's necessary.

Some Children See Him

Some children see Him lily white
the infant Jesus born this night
Some children see Him lily white
with tresses soft and fair

Some children see Him bronzed and brown
the Lord of heav'n to earth come down
Some children see Him bronzed and brown
with dark and heavy hair (with dark and heavy hair!)

Some children see Him almond-eyed
This Saviour whom we kneel beside
Some children see Him almond-eyed
With skin of yellow hue!

Some children see Him dark as they
Sweet Mary's Son to whom we pray
Some children see Him dark as they
And, ah! they love Him so!

The children in each different place
Will see the Baby Jesus' face
Like theirs but bright with heav'nly grace
And filled with holy light!

O lay aside each earthly thing
and with thy heart as offering
Come worship now the infant King
'tis love that's born tonight!

'tis love that's born tonight!

~ Alfred Burt

Advent Calendars....
... more about another older one of ours;

When our older children were quite young, my husband and I were determined to begin making Advent items for them. As we sipped our tea many evenings in a row, we colored at the kitchen table, he and I, and with the older two at that time (almost thirty years ago now), together we eventually completed the topical decor "a la wax crayon" upon the Advent calendar below.

Though I have no photos of those memorable evenings artistically working as a family, the memories still pour forth from my heart every time I pull it out each Advent.

Year after year when hanging this particular Advent calendar, heart swelling moments result for me when noting the coloring details (scribbles) of our now adult children's efforts after begging "please, oh please can we help?". And help they did!

Removed from its original packaging for the 29th year...
(with adapted readings from; "Celebrate Advent" - Our Father's House)

This calendar hasn't been used every single year since, but almost. For the most part it's been rotated upon occasion with others we have accumulated within our Advent bins.

And yet, every year the children view it once more, it continues to serve as a reminder that no matter what humble beginnings a family has, preparing for Advent must include the children, both young and old!

It's very obviously been well used, and has always been hung in a prominent spot, usually right on top of a large framed piece of art work in the center of the kitchen.

Over the bulk of these years during Advent, our children have glanced up and pondered the story it depicts daily, noting what the next shape will be and asking who's turn it is to adhere it to the calendar.

Eagerly all have taken turns to hang up one piece at a time, and no fighting or bickering ever seemed to come of this unusual family Advent calendar. Still it remains a visual so many years later and continues to be even now...while living here in the east. :)

I admit to having a sentimental fondness for this

I've since had to laminate all of the pieces and will place a note to self to (finally) have the main page also laminated after this Advent season, mostly to keep it protected and available for many more years to come.

Another thing I've realized over the years is the sincere desire to keep Advent alive and active for our children, within reach and sight in as many rooms as possible inside of our home.

This is not been a very easy task, and yet, with our ever-growing collection of child friendly manipulatives, I've realized how possible it is to do this, even if it's just a craft or hand made item to offer reflection for the "reason for the season".

It's simple really - lay out the Advent symbols or other assorted items and...
  • they will play
  • they will retell
  • they will set it all up
  • they will perform
  • they will giggle
  • they will reflect
  • they will dream
  • they will hope
  • and indeed - they will pray.
They will...I promise you they will.

Christmas Evening - 1988

They offered all present an impromptu performance

(Note the Nativity figures on the table here and then below...)

Part of the best shopping endeavors for collecting items for our Advent bin have come soon after Christmas when retail stores both local and online, offer their goods for half price, or less. This is when families can also afford to add to their own collections for future, and also, don't forget to check out thrift stores for many assorted gems just waiting for a new dwelling place.

In our home, our children are encouraged to retell, to narrate each day's Jesse tree or Advent reading using a manipulative of choice.

Usually our favorite feast days are also narrated using specialty items found within our bulk bins of goodie items.

Here are a of our favorites presentation methods below;

Story Felt figures and backgrounds;

An improvisation for "no room at the inn"...

Many years ago I invested in the "Betty Lukens Bible story felts". I cannot tell you just how great this investment has proven to be for our family over the years!

It's been wonderful for gathering children close and holding their attention during all seasonal, liturgical, or historical presentations.

I've used these pieces in our vacation bible school teachings, Little Flower lessons, Blue Knights, homeschool gatherings, with our grandchildren, for our homeschooling studies, and everything in between.
We've used them for retelling of stories and history lessons, picture book stories and other schooling items of interests.

The Annunciation!

They've been used in catechism classes aplenty, group settings in our homeschooling gatherings and for retelling the lives of saints, martyrs and holy heroes.

And speaking of
"Holy Heroes", what fun to see there is a corresponding felt story in almost all of the daily presentations during Advent on their website.

Our children love to absorb every single detail of those stories, running off as soon as the video sessions are over to create a similar scene with our own felt figures and backgrounds.

The flight to Egypt

My husband's art easel works wonders for our current set up, fabulous in fact, sitting in the midst of our learning room with plenty of "sorting room" around on the floor beneath it for laying out all of our many felt story items to choose the ones perfect for creating a new story. (This year our younger two children have been giving me performances and not the other way around, something new for me.)

Another improvisation, guess where this is?

Helpful hint to those who do not own a bible story felt set;
Use children's coloring pages or pictures of characters in magazines (or old catechism books) by cutting them out and backing them with a small self stick piece of velcro or glue on a small piece of sandpaper.

Purchase or find a large piece of felt material for use as a background. The velcro and/or sandpaper will stick to the felt and story telling will be possible without pieces falling off the background if one chooses to hang it up for all to use or see. Voila, instant manipulatives for story telling.

Playmobil figures;
Unbreakable plastic pieces are often best used for older children due to small bits and pieces, though if the characters are stripped of the wee things, younger children can happily carry these in their wee chubby hands like their older siblings.

These are a family favorite and can be found in many rooms in our home every year, always a surprise for where we'll find them.
And besides, all of the pieces can be used year round for many other historical or biblical story telling moments.

And they followed the bright star...

You see, our children take the three kings and the shepherds away most times and allow them to "walk their journey" to Bethlehem throughout the house.

We might find the three kings in the library, on a bookshelf, on a windowsill, in the kitchen , in a washroom, they move forward toward that bright and shiny star to find the new King, the Christ child - Jesus.

One year we found three of our kings in our family vehicle. When asking what they were doing out there, one child responded; "in the van they can move even faster towards the baby"....snicker.

Our "adultish" three kings are also on their journey

Children's creches;

When our older children were little, there was no such things as a playmobil nativity set. We usually just adapted things our way using child friendly (but glass) creches, and our children soon became fascinated with each piece, lingering for long hours with their friends, gazing and touching the pieces, retelling the nativity story and teaching non-Christian friends all about the nativity by encouraging them to also touch, to move, to feel and to observe them all, calling them by name and not ceasing the play until the entire story was complete. Hours could go by before the children had to be on their way back home again, consumed by such "play" at our house.

Ever cute!

Child friendly nativity set is always in use by children

For the entire Advent season, one could find a neighborhood child or family friend around one of our children's creches, with their sweet story telling in progress and all of the creche pieces moving about a room or two.

Located under our Christmas tree, this creche is all about children, set out on the floor for easy touching and feeling abilities. Retelling the nativity story over and over again and moving pieces about the room as both kings and shepherds journey towards the bright star, was a topic of conversation among the neighbor parents, happy to know their children were learning all about it.

A gentle note to mothers...

I'd just like to interject here with a small confession.

At first, I wasn't extremely eager to allow young children usage of one of our glass nativity scenes and perhaps having any of the glass pieces broken by a small child's hand, however if encouragement is key for a natural and continuous review and/or retelling of the nativity, it soon became crystal clear to me to invite and welcome the children to touch and feel each piece, no matter the conseqences. Safety was my only key so I was always nearby, observing and on hand, just in case.

Initially I would hold up each piece while to explain who the characters represented and proceed by retelling the Christmas story to them. Eventually, they too would be tempted to touch and move pieces around with me.

Gradually, I retold the story less and less because they very soon took over being narrator as well stage set up manager, always such a sweet thing to hear them repeat almost word for word from memorizing my own script.

I am the one who had to learn to relax and rest easy about allowances for using these sets. Tell me, might you too be like that?

In training...23 years ago

Consider the benefits the learning experience offers, and the resulting "wonder and awe" as you might also watch one youngun pick up the baby Jesus and kiss him sweetly before resting him down near his mother's knee.

Sweet surrender allows for mighty gifts, both seen and unseen from encouraging your children's interaction with a "special" nativity set in your home. Add to that the benefits of heavenly blessings from your young children responding to grace, when "saying and praying" while using these pieces.

Beautiful...and so very precious to watch the gaze of a young one as he begins to grow in love for the big picture.

There is something most reverent about owning a set which portrays beauty and results in even more reverence towards remembering the Christmas message. We own quite a few of these special, adult-type of sets as well as many assorted "children's sets". It's a great type of loot to behold I might add. (wink)
As a balance; rather than own them and never allow our children use of them, we've allocated several sets around the home for their childhood chubby-handed usage, anytime they wish to use them, and we've also stipulated the need on the other hand for our family to have our special ones segregated and out of bounds for viewing only.

One of our "child friendly" sets

This particular set below was acquired before I married when my parents gifted me with it. The characters are simple and ordinary children who are obviously only actors in a nativity play.

I have always found the three king's gifts so sweet and dear, offering their toys in their acting.

When I first read the book "The best Christmas Pageant Ever" aloud one year to our older children (and laughed my head off!), it became all too clear that this nativity set would now represent innocent and wholesome children who make efforts in performing nativity plays.

Often we've tried to imagine how the characters in our set might compare to those funny children with their quirks and quirms in the book.

Characters from a play, these children are so sweet!

In closing, no matter your angle on presenting the nativity to your young children, best advice I could ever give to you is simply - back away after offering first a parental presentation. Review a couple more times and then, hands off and lips sealed.

Just enjoy, snap a few photos and become truly "heart swelled" with the love of the scene before you.

Oh, and one more thing... none of our family sets have been offered to our older children when moving from our home to their new nests. No, none. Mean mother syndrome? Never! This is what I mentioned before; a nativity set is the very best Christmas gift of all for a young, engaged or newly married couple, a set for the beginning of their own journeys into Advent for their future together. As for our many sets, one day, they will become a whimsical sort of family heirloom collection no doubt, one I hope will evoke many warm memories of Christmas' past in our home. I want our grandchildren to want these, or maybe our great grandchildren, who knows. :)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down

~ G. K. Chesterton

God bless you all during this season of Advent;

~ Renee