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Hand-me-down clothes are simply the best.  Being the youngest of seven children, with 16 nieces and nephews older than our children, we are blessed with a lot of hand-me-downs.  These precious dresses were handed down to my brother and sister-in-law by friends of theirs from California!  They are just the right sizes right now for Little One and Social Butterfly.  It’s so fun for my older sisters and sisters-in-law to see photos of our kids wearing their children’s clothes.  It brings back fond memories of when their children were little like ours.  Remember when Gap Kids was THE place to buy kids clothes?  I have some Gap denim shirts, turtle necks, and sweaters for my boys that my 27 year old nephew wore when he was just a little tyke.  It goes without saying how grateful we are to be able to dress our kids in adorable clothes while saving ourselves some cash.  Another bonus of being the youngest in the family!

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A few weeks ago, while the kids were home for a snow day, and it was 12 degrees outside, I thought it would be the perfect time to strip four+ layers of paint from the molding on top of a knee wall AND the mantle.  I mean why not, right?  There were just so many layers of paint that the surfaces were sort of sticky and I could never get them clean.  Another layer of semi-gloss would just put a bandage on the situation.  Starting over is the only remedy.

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There were so many layers of semi-gloss paint on this surround, that when I gently pulled off the Command Hooks I used to hang our Christmas stockings last year, the paint was either completely gone, or a giant bubble.  The paint stripper worked well on the mantle itself, but the surround has so much “dental work” that I think I’m going to have to just hand sand it.  Since I’m a crazy person who stays sane in the winter (and all year round, really) by doing house projects, I couldn’t be happier!

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The Hubs installed this beautiful ceiling fan last spring.  I absolutely love it and to say it’s an improvement on what was there before is the understatement of the century.  We keep it on the lowest setting all year round because it helps circulate the air up to the second floor (there’s a half wall up there, sort of like a loft).  I have a question:  How is it possible for dust to collect on a fan that is in constant motion?  The pretty fan you see pictured above was coated in half an inch of dust!  I had to get out our giant ladder and climb to the top to reach the blades of the fan with a wet cloth just to get it clean.  Where is Carson or Mrs. Hughes when you need them?  I really could have used some Downton Abbey staff for this one.  It was worth the work, though.  And this time, I think I’ll keep up with the dust by using one of those dusters with the extended handle to clean the blades once a week.

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I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again:  Moving furniture around is a great way to freshen up your house.  After putting away all of our Christmas decorations, I moved this white IKEA shelf thingy from our bedroom window to the living room and put it behind the couch.  This single piece of furniture has now been used in three different rooms of our home, for three different purposes.
IKEA furniture 3 ways
It’s the Hemnes Sofa Table and it’s still available at IKEA!  I guess, based on the name, we’re finally using it for its proper use.  The only trouble is, it’s up against a wall, so we aren’t able to utilize all the cubbies.  This really isn’t a bad thing.  Anything we stored on the shelves would be promptly thrown on the floor by the resident toddler.

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When I look in the living room I feel so peaceful.  It’s clean and uncluttered and there is plenty of room for dance parties, held at least once a day during the winter months.
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You can see the half wall that leads upstairs in this photo.  When we bought the house, The Hubs was very nervous about this, for obvious reasons.  However, kids tend to adjust to these things, so we haven’t had a single problem.  And hey!  It’s easy to throw dirty sheets and towels down to the first floor on laundry day!
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Last week, while The Hubs was out of town, the kids were home from school for a snow day and I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands.  So I created a schedule of events to keep things going.  I tried to pretend that I was a homeschooler for the day and wrote down on our white board what I thought were great activities to keep the children from getting bored.  Because when my children get bored, they fight.  It surprised me that they loved it so much!  Smarty Pants actually said, “We should do this every snow day, mom!  In fact, I think this would be a great thing to do during the summer too!”  There’s no denying, the two of us are cut from the same cloth!  So when we had another snow day this past week, immediately the children started to ask, “Are you going to make us a schedule again?”  Why, yes!  Yes I am!  This is what I came up with:

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I assure you, the kids did not keep to the time slots and they only actually did about half of the suggested activities.  We actually got some snow on our “snow day” so they were able to play outside, which was great.  I love it when they get all their gear on and head out into the fresh air for some play time.  I think I only heard them fight out there once!  And by the way, yes.  We do own an Atari game console.  The Hubs’ best friend gave it to us as a Christmas present a couple of years ago, and the kids absolutely love it!  We don’t have a Wii or XBox or any gaming system.  Up until the Atari arrived on our doorstep, they’ve only every played video games at their friends’ houses.  We do allow computer games on websites, etc., but that’s about it!  I must say, I love hearing them talk about the Atari games.  It brings back great memories from my childhood.

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Paul Coakley is being laid to rest in Tennessee this weekend.  I’m wearing my bright pink, thinking of all the friends who have traveled down there to give Paul the send-off of the century.  Our family is praying for all of you as you say “good-bye” and “see you in eternity” to your brother Paul.  I can only imagine the mix of emotions you all must be feeling.  Sadness for your loss, and joy for heaven’s gain! #prayforann #livelikepaul

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Behold, the Kenmore 5.0 cubic foot Freestanding Gas Range with Convection!

Stove before and after FUN

stove before and after ONE

stove top before and after

before and after stove clock

I find it humorous that the “before” font is called “Exhausted” and the “after” font is called “Badaboom!”

It’s only been a little over 24 hours since it arrived, so I don’t have much to report other than, I am one happy woman.

That is all.

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Bonnie from A Knotted Life, YOU are Sheenazing! Thank you for putting together this little award to acknowledge all the bloggers out there, big and small, for the work they do to further the Kingdom of Christ.  We’re all trying to do our bit to sanctify the Internet, and this award acknowledges these bloggers.

Venerable Fulton Sheen, pray for us, that what we add to the World Wide Web may be pleasing to the Lord.

Thank you so much for nominating Sometimes Martha Always Mary for the “Best Underappreciated Blog.”  I appreciate it!

VOTE HERE for the 2015 Sheenazing Awards

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The house is dark,  the children are asleep,  and I am sitting by the fire,  reading Facebook updates and blog posts written by Paul Coakley’s close friends. There is a common theme among all these beautiful tributes: Paul Coakley didn’t waste a minute on this earth. Somewhere in the middle of the photos and memories of Paul, there is an announcement: “School closed today. Go back to bed.”  Instead of dwelling on the thought of all the kids being home today, I continue to read and reflect and pray for Ann.  Since Christmas break, school has been closed or delayed enough times to feel like the break never ended.  Start-stop,  start-stop, routines interrupted and activities canceled because of the weather,  sometimes with nothing falling from the sky at all.  Each time school is closed, I get my undies in a bunch, and the day proceeds from there.  The bunched undies tend to set the tone.

I have some faint memories of Paul Coakley.  I think nearly everyone who was at Franciscan University with Paul would say the same.  He made his presence known in a positive and joyful way wherever he went.  And because our alma mater was the kind of place it was, so friendly and positive and focused on the right things, we were open to allowing ourselves to be influenced by the people around us.  Does that make sense?  When you remove things like being judgmental, uncharitable, and self-centered from a college campus, something radical happens.  And when Christ and the Sacraments are added to the equation, well, it’s a foretaste of heaven, even in a place like Steubenville, Ohio.

So, here I am, sitting in my dark cozy house a day with my five children ahead of me.  What’s to dread?  I think about Paul and the fullness of his life and I think about all the days I’ve wasted, going through the motions begrudgingly, allowing myself to become overwhelmed by the demands of my vocation.  All my thoughts about my sins and shortcomings keep coming back to the incredibly stunning image of Ann Coakley holding her husband Paul’s hand as he lay in his hospital bed.  What I see when I look at that photograph are two people who love each other deeply.  I see a man without regret and woman who trusts God’s plan, even if it means that she will lose the love of her life.  I see saints.

And I’m upset about another snow day?  Another snow day.  Another day with the children God has entrusted to me surrounding me in my warm house.  Another day to serve and love these little ones.  I’m not saying that it’s time for me to start repelling off the side of a building, tossing candy to passers-by.  I’m not about to become an avid camper.  Not my style.  And there doesn’t seem to be a grand tour of North America in an 18 wheeler in my near future.  But I sure do need to value and appreciate the people around me more than I do.  There is room for conversion in this soul and heart of mine, no question.  I need to grow closer to Jesus and love Him better, and He will give me the grace to change and to grow and to love more.  Isn’t that the adventure that Paul was on his whole life?  The adventure that is a life lived loving Christ?  That’s what is beautiful to me about Paul Coakley.  Each story, each photo overflows with his love for the Lord.

Thank you, Paul, for your life well lived.  And thank you, Ann, for allowing us to walk with you on this journey.  Thank you, brothers and sisters and family and friends of Paul, for reflecting and writing about your brother in Christ.  It has been amazing to behold.  Please keep sharing!  We are listening. #livelikepaul #prayforann

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It’s a silly expression, I know, but so useful sometimes.  The phrase “I can’t even” was the caption for last week.

The Hubs left for a business trip last Sunday and didn’t return until late afternoon Friday.  That was a major “I can’t even!”  But somehow, the house is still standing and the kids are alive.  In fact, if I’m being honest, last week went really, really well.  Each day I tried to stay focused only on the things that were necessary.  I kept saying to myself, “Eye of the tiger.  You got this.”  I tend to be a negative person, especially when it comes to parenting without my spouse, so it was a pretty big deal for me to have such a positive mindset.  I hope you don’t misunderstand me when I say this, but if you’ve been in my shoes, then perhaps you’ll agree:  Some things about my husband being away on a business trip are easier.  Actually, a lot of things are.  I miss him terribly when he’s gone.  I have a difficult time falling asleep.  The list of things he helps out with when he’s here is quite long, so there are many extra duties I take on in his absence.  But there’s less laundry, I don’t feel the need to cook like I usually do, and there is only one person in charge, which eliminates a lot of the pushing and pulling the children tend to do when both parents are present.  So I survived.  Yes I did.  I can’t even believe it!
While Dad was gone, Social Butterfly turned five years old.

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Look at her on her first birthday!  Talk about “I can’t even!”  Oh, those sweet cheeks.  What a doll baby.  And now, she’s five years old, heading off to Kindergarten with the big kids in the fall.  The expression “time flies” is so cliche, and so very painfully true.  It really does fly and let me tell you, this one really keeps us holding on tightly as we participate in her journey.  She’s a firecracker, this one.
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We celebrated with the breakfast of her choice (that lump of brown is French Toast Casserole) and then we were blessed to have Aunt Stephie here for a visit.  She even slept over!  An extra set of hands to get me through the middle of the week was such a gift, and Social Butterfly loved having her Aunt here to celebrate her birthday.

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We gave her a Light Tracer and some Crayola Twistable colored pencils and she absolutely loves them!  Thanks, Christine, for the suggestion.  This is one of those gifts that the whole family will enjoy for years to come.  SB is particularly enjoying tracing letters and numbers.

I absolutely love decorating for my children’s birthdays.  For this party, since we didn’t choose to do a character theme, I just focused on making things as pretty in pink as I could.  By the time I was finished, the living room and dining room were as pink as could be, which was just right for this little group of girly girls.

SB birthday photo display blog
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On Friday, Dimples and I hosted a tea party for Social Butterfly and five of her friends.  We had so much fun decorating the dining room in pink, pink, and more pink.  The runner you see down the center of the table is a plastic table cloth from Target that we folded and taped.  The balloons, streamers, tassle garland, tissue flowers on the mirror, and the garland in the window are all “Spritz” party decorations from Target.  Even the sparkly gold table cloth was a holiday purchase, by Threshold at Target, the best $15 linen I’ve ever purchased.  I printed out photos of the birthday girl to display by the front door.  I think I’ll make this a new birthday tradition.  I just placed all the photos in SB’s save box and will take them out again for her next birthday and add a couple of pictures from this year.  Easy enough!

Birthday SB mantel

I made the wreath for Smarty Pants’ First Holy Communion party.  The banner bunting is Spritz from Target.  I love to change out the images in the two frames on either side of the mirror with the seasons, and for birthdays, I usually print out a couple of baby photos.  Then I display baby photos of all the children with their silver cups, etc.  I guess for me, a birthday is an opportunity to look back, and the children love to see baby photos of themselves.

So, back to the Tea Party!  The girls sipped milk and tea from real tea cups, and enjoyed little tea sandwiches on flowery china plates that were my grandmother’s.  Dimples lead the girls in a game of Simon Says, and loved being the DJ for musical chairs and the cutest dance party I’ve ever seen.  Then it was back to the dining room table for cake!
wpid-20150116_095238.jpgTalk about “I can’t even!”  I can’t even remember what I was thinking when I decided to make a FOUR LAYER cake!  Two layers were chocolate and two were vanilla, both from a box mix.  Then I whipped up my grandmother’s cream cheese frosting and added some pink food coloring.  But because the thing was so huge, I ran out of frosting!  There were so many bald spots on that thing, it looked horrible.  Instead of making more frosting and trying to match the pinks, I decided to make a completely different frosting in white to cover up all my frosting sins.  I used heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar.  I whipped that cream until it was very stiff, perfect for frosting.  And if I hadn’t told you about my mistakes, I bet you never would have known, right?  Social Butterfly was so very happy and the cake tasted delicious (and lasted for days).

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It was a long week, but with my Eye of the Tiger approach to getting through all the demands of single parenting for a week, I made it!  Just a few hours after the tea party, we headed to the airport to pick up The Hubs.  Little One has never been without her daddy for more than a few days, so I was curious as to how she would react.  When he walked up to the car and opened the sliding door to say hello to all the children, she said with all the gusto she had in her little body, “Da-da!” and then giggled the whole way home, stopping only to say “Da-da” a few more times.  I can’t even!  If The Hubs didn’t feel like a million bucks before, he does now!
The long weekend was a welcome blessing after a long week without Dad at home, especially since our oven decided to break on Saturday.  Now, let me preface this by saying that no time is a good time for an appliance to break.  It’s usually a bit of a stress on the budget, and this was no exception.  However,

I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS DAY FOR SIX AND A HALF YEARS!

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Look at that bad boy.  I sure did turn out some pretty amazing meals with the help of this faithful appliance.  Some might say it’s been TOO faithful.  It sure would’ve been nice if it had broken a few years ago when we re-did the kitchen.  I’ll really miss the caked on grease topped with crumbs in the vents under the oven handle, and the way the thingy at the bottom never stayed attached on the left side.  Personally, I love all the spots on the back of the range where the paint has chipped off.  Jealous?  Farewell, old appliance.  You will not be missed.  You did your job well, but man, did I have to work hard to keep you out of pictures!

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Can I just say how much I love Facebook?  I posted a question about ranges and next thing I knew, I had several responses complete with links to various appliance options.  We ended up going with a Kenmore, mostly because we have always had excellent customer service for our Kenmore washer/dryer.  Not to mention that the Consumer Reports ratings for the product we chose were very high, and the price was right.  To save us some cash, The Hubs installed an under the cupboard hood that he found for a steal at Home Depot.  It was a bit of a project, but worth saving on installation.
To top off a nice weekend at home catching up on chores and Christmas decoration clean up, Bright Eyes had a Martin Luther King Day assignment that was due today.
Bright Eyes MLK Day
I can’t even!
On that note, we’re praying so hard for you, Ann Coakley, and for your children, as you mourn the loss of your beloved husband and father Paul.  I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for you to let him go. I didn’t know Paul well, but I was a student at Franciscan at the same time as him, therefore I knew who he was.  Everyone knew Paul Coakley.  He was just the kind of guy who made his presence known.  Full of life, and full of love.  And because we went to Franciscan, we are family.  My son’s dream is my prayer for you, Ann.  That you may all be together in heaven someday.  Eternal Rest grant unto Paul, O Lord, and let Perpetual Light shine upon him.  May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

paul pray for us

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I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get this post published!  I have been feeling a bit under the weather and the children were home from school for two days:  a winning combination for getting things accomplished, no?  It is so difficult for me to blog when all the children are here.  I cannot quiet my brain enough to put my thoughts into words.  I just dropped the three older kids off at school at 10:00 because we had a two hour delay.  Thank goodness the sun is shining and the temperature is rising.  My poor sun lamp has been working overtime these days.  I think today I’ll finish putting the Christmas Decorations in storage.  That always makes me feel better.  It’s not that I’m happy to put it all away, really.  It’s just the cluttered feeling that all the extra stuff brings, not to mention the dust.  So, as I put Christmas away, here’s a look back at the Second Day of Christmas:  The Feast of St. Stephen.
For several years now, we have been celebrating the Feast of St. Stephen which is the day after Christmas, at the Jesuit Residence at Georgetown University.  My brother-in-law is a Jesuit priest and history professor at Georgetown — what a gift!  When we first started the tradition, we would arrive at the private Jesuit residence chapel for Mass at 8 am so that we could have a “Communion Breakfast” immediately following Mass.  More recently, we’ve been arriving for Mass around 10 or 10:30 and then staying for lunch.  There are many elderly Jesuit priests living in residence at Georgetown, so there is a dining hall to accommodate the older fathers.  It’s perfect for our family and the kids think the cafeteria style eating is pretty neat.  The best part, really, is that we have the beautiful chapel all to ourselves.  This year, Smarty Pants did the First Reading.

Smarty Pants reads St. Stephen's Mass
Dimples read the Responsorial Psalm.

Dimples reads at St. Stephen
And Bright Eyes was proud to do some altar serving.  Somehow I missed the opportunity to get a good photo.

D'Uncle and kids St. Stephen's
D’Uncle is really Uncle David.  When Smarty Pants was little, he came up with “D’Uncle.”  There really is no explanation for how this nickname came to be, but Uncle David gave it his stamp of approval and he’s been D’Uncle ever since.

boys train st. Stephen's
Between the chapel and the dining area, there is a colossal live Christmas tree, just dripping with shiny Christmas balls.  And under that tree are two train sets and a Christmas village.  The boys are allowed to take control of the trains, while the girls love to chase the trains around the track and play with the little figurines and nutcrackers.

girls train St. Stephen's
And while the children play in this magical setting, the fathers who haven’t gone away to visit their families sit and enjoy the entertainment.  While I worry that the children are being too loud, the Jesuits enjoy every second of our family’s presence in their home.

LO looking up at D'Uncle
Each of our children have been blessed to have D’Uncle so close by all these years.  While most Jesuits are far away from family, ours is right here at home and I cannot imagine not having him here, not just to celebrate the sacraments for us, but to be an uncle to our children.  Each child has grown to adore their D’Uncle and appreciates the love and attention that only a special relative like David can give.

slack line
When we returned home, we immediately set up the gift that my Mother-in-law gave our family this year.  The weather was perfect for some outdoor playtime that day, so the kids got busy learning how to  maneuver on the slack line.  What an awesome present that I know we’ll put to good use the whole year through!  I just love it when we have something to draw the kids outside in the winter, especially something that they can all play with together.  We had so many visitors stop by with kids over the holidays, and the slack line was definitely the favorite thing to play with!
Now, back to putting away the Christmas decorations.  I hope you’re staying warm wherever you are this weekend!

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Christmas morning steps FINAL

I can’t say that I didn’t expect them to wake up early, but since The Hubs and I were having so much fun after “the children were all snug in their beds,” we didn’t exactly go to sleep.  It was a late Christmas Eve for us and the calls from the top of the steps, “Can we come down?!” came way to early.  To delay the whole process, I took the stockings upstairs and handed them out to everyone.  It was so fun listening to them oooohing and aaaahhhing over the band aids and toothbrushes, Mad Libs and Silly Bands as I threw the French Toast Casserole and ham into the oven.  By some miracle, we held them off until 6:30, and suffice it to say, they were ready to tear into the presents.  The Hubs and I took our positions on the couch, he with the video camera, and I with my cell phone, trying to capture all the surprised expressions and thankful smiles.

Christmas morning FINAL 2014 big kids
Pause.  Take a break.  One at a time!

opening presents Collage Christmas 2014
Little One was too cute, saying “Awwww!” while snuggling her gifts to her cheek.  She is one of the most expressive eighteen month olds I have ever known.  When her older siblings were opening their gifts, she stood and watched intently, taking it all in.  It’s amazing to think that just two years ago, we were announcing to the children that we would be having another baby, and now, I can’t imagine our lives without her.

Christmas presents 2 Collage
It’s difficult to think of new and clever things to buy our children after ten years of gift-giving.  The Hubs and I came up with a budget, of course, and took stock of what toys we already have.  I’d say that this year, the kids received things that they really appreciate and use, and so for me, our mission was accomplished.  And Santa did pretty well too.  Santa!  If you’re a blog reader, thanks for the thoughtful gifts this year!

Dimples Craft Cart
I must admit that I have a favorite gift.  This beauty accoutrements cart was given to us by my sister, Kathy.  It belonged to her daughter Kristen who is now in college and just doesn’t use it anymore.  Well, Dimples is just eight and a half, and doesn’t really have any beauty supplies quite yet.  So I hit the arts and crafts aisle at Target and picked up a few things from Michael’s.  There certainly was plenty to choose from in my own crafting section in the basement storage too.  I painted one side of the mirror on top with some chalkboard paint so that Dimples can draw pictures or write herself little notes.  She’s just sort of past the toy phase.  Ever since the beginning of this school year, she has moved into a new phase of just wanting to play pretend with her younger siblings or do arts and crafts.  Oh, I just love this age!  I know she can’t stay like this forever, but I am going to do my best to appreciate every day of her still being a little girl!

view of living room from upstairs
We hosted Christmas dinner again this year, which I love, of course.  It’s not easy for me to sit down and just enjoy the mess of Christmas morning.  Somehow, after many years of hosting, I have learned that I have to allow myself to enjoy Christmas in my own way.  I love being in the heart of our home on Christmas: the kitchen.  I’m not slaving away over a hot stove, but I am keeping everyone fed, playing music, doing dishes, and maybe doing some simple cooking.  I’m talking and texting with family members, wishing friends a Merry Christmas, and snapping photos of the children as they play.  The noises and sounds of the home are easy for me to hear from my Christmas Command Post.  A nap up in the girls’ room gives me the fuel I need after an early morning to serve my in-laws a sumptuous feast later in the day.  Now that’s what I call “enjoying the mess of Christmas”!

Christmas dinner Collage
My in-laws arrived in the late afternoon with enough time to visit with the children and hear all about their gifts and Christmas Eve.  Then we sat down in the dining room for our family’s traditional Christmas dinner:  A standing rib roast (this year with a rosemary salt crust), velvety mashed potatoes, carrots, and a simple salad.  I served homemade cookies for dessert while we did some star gazing through the lens of a telescope my brother-in-law made with his own two hands.  It was a beautiful Christmas.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you all about our family’s Feast of St. Stephen tradition.

Here’s a preview for you…

Little One St. Stephen's Day trains 3

 

Do you celebrate the Feast of the Three Kings with the Church and on January 6th?  Our family does.  All the Christmas decorations are still up and the tree is still standing tall.  Okay, so it’s an artificial tree, but still.  The children are all heading back to school today, and I’m a little sad.  It’s easier for me to keep the feasting going when life isn’t ordinary, if that makes sense.  There is no alarm clock impeding us from sleeping in, and there are no schedules dictating when we get out of our jammies.  Today we will experience the rude awakening of the usual routine, and life will be in full swing all at once.  To ease the pain of getting back to our schedules, here’s a little back track to Christmas Eve.  After all, it is the Eleventh Day of Christmas and we’re doing our best, in spite of our schedules, to keep Christmas in our hearts the whole year through!

In past years we have attended the five o’clock Children’s Mass at our parish, followed by dinner at home.  Sometimes I like to switch things up a bit, as does The Hubs.  I hang out in the back of church with our toddler quite a bit (shocking!), so I decided to poll my other mom friends of toddlers with the questions, “What’s your favorite Christmas Eve Mass and why?”  The consensus was that while the Children’s Christmas Mass is beautiful and festive, the 7:30 is where it’s at.  So the plan was to eat our Christmas Eve dinner at 5:30, get dressed and take some family photos, and head over to church with plenty of time to get a pew together.  We even saw to it that Little One got an evening cat nap so that she wouldn’t be too cranky during Mass.  We could hardly believe it when we pulled into the church parking lot at 7:10 and saw just a handful of cars.  Surely, we had the wrong time!  Well, my mom friends were right, the 7:30 pm Christmas Eve Mass is where it’s at.  The church was full, but not overflowing, there wasn’t a choir, but the music was still lovely, and we certainly did not miss the scramble for a parking spot or a seat.

Even dinner before Mass was more relaxed.  Usually we come home from the 5:00 Mass pretty hangry and so the cooking process is hurried and stressful.  Eating our feast before Mass, factoring in our one hour fast, of course, was quite enjoyable!

Christmas Eve Table FINAL
For dinner I served the same dish I make every year on Christmas Eve:  Linguine with Shrimp Scampi.  Dinner was delicious and definitely not something we have often, which is what constitutes a feast day meal in my book.  Then we all put on our Christmas finery and set up the tripod.  Isn’t The Hubs so discreet with his little remote control?

Christmas Eve 2014 Family Photo 3
It’s a Christmas Miracle!  Everyone is looking at the camera and smiling and no one is picking their nose.  Glory to God in the Highest!

Christmas Eve 2014 SILLY Family Photo SILLY
The obligatory, “Smile nicely, and then we’ll make silly faces” picture.

Christmas Love Birds 2 2014

This guy is so patient with me during the holidays.  There is an extensive list of things I like to do for our family and friends around Christmastime, and The Hubs is always so generous with his time.  He goes above and beyond so that I can too.

Mom Dimples SB THE GIRLS

Mom and boys FINAL

This year we had the children each pick the name of another sibling out of a bowl.  In my family, we called this “Pollyanna,” but the children prefer to call it “Secret Santa,” so Secret Santa it is.  We told them they could spend $5 or less and it had to be out of their own pocket.  They took this so seriously!  The Hubs took each of them individually to the store of their choice (Target, Five Below, even the grocery store!) and they painstakingly chose what they deemed to be the perfect gift for their sibling.  Then the day before Christmas Eve, I facilitated the wrapping of the gifts and the writing of the gift tags.  I never could have anticipated how much they would enjoy this gifting experience.

Dimples and LO Secret Santa

Little one held that stuffed dog with antlers under her arm for days.  In fact, that night, I had to sneak into her room to grab something.  She was sitting up in her crib, dog under her arm, looking at its face.  Precious.

Bright Eyes and LO Secret Santa

Dimples and SB Secret Santa

When the Secret Santa love fest was over, it was,  “That’s your last cookie! Get in your pj’s!  Brush your teeth!  And don’t come downstairs until 6:30 tomorrow morning!”  I absolutely love Christmas Eve after the kids are in bed.  The Hubs and I listen to Christmas music, enjoy an adult beverage or two, text with family members far and near, and pile up presents all over the living room.  It’s the one night of the year when we get to assist in the magic and wonder of  childhood.  We get to give our children what our parents gave to us:  Priceless Christmas memories.

Come back tomorrow for another haul of Christmas photos and reflections.  Until then, I’ll be playing with PicMonkey because I can’t stop.  It’s pretty much the best thing that has ever happened to me as a blogger.  Thanks, Bonnie!  And please, forgive me for the excessive amount of touched up photos.  What else am I supposed to do now that the house is nearly empty AND quiet?  I know!  Play on PicMonkey!

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bloggy birthday
I truly cannot believe that I am embarking on my fourth year of blogging.  To be honest, I didn’t think one bit about the future when I started this endeavor.  I just went for it.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that I started this blog just so I could link up to The Nester’s Christmas Tour of Homes!  Now that’s funny.

In 2012, I blogged my little heart out.  I showed you every nook and cranny of my life and my home the best I could, not having watched a single tutorial on how to use WordPress.  Maybe I should have sat down and watched some videos, because man, did I spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to figure out this here blog site thingy.

In 2013, I was like a sophomore.  You know, the “I’ve got this” attitude that is something like pride.  I waxed poetic and decided somewhere along the way that I didn’t have to stick to my blog title when writing.  My category list got longer and my tags got ridiculous.  Whatevs.

And in 2014, I got lost.  I don’t know how to describe it, other than to say that I lost my purpose.  I lost my focus, and I almost quit.  I didn’t want to stop because I had become too attached, but I didn’t really know what in the world I was doing anymore.  Enter Bonnie from A Knotted Life.  Sometimes, I don’t take the time to pray.  Crazy, I know.  But somehow, in the midst of all the chaos, The Lord still helps things along the way that He sees fit.  So when I asked a simple question of a new blogging friend, she directed me to someone who really knows her stuff.  Bonnie is knowledgeable and helpful and humble and kind.  She’s a straight talker like me, so I sure hope our friendship grows.  I love me a straight talker.  Thank you, Bonnie, for your wisdom and guidance and kindness.  You are excellent at what you do.

Over the next few weeks or months or however long it takes, I’m going to be making changes to this little blog that could.  I mean, come on!  That header is ginormous!   The list of things that will be moved and moved again is endless, really, but please.  Stick with me.  Hopefully, by the time I have tweaked and changed stuff, you’ll still see what inspired this journey in 2012:  Sometimes I’m a Martha and Sometimes I’m a Mary and if you feel the same way, then maybe this could be a place where you could find some peace, or some inspiration, or some encouragement, or some joy.  That is my prayer.

So Happy Birthday, Blog.  Let’s grow together.

siggy

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