Trying on Some New Traditions, Also Known As Liturgical Baby Steps

I love this time of year.

I always have, but since becoming Catholic, it’s even more wonderful. It’s become more packed with meaning and different ways to celebrate. I’m a lover of tradition, and we’ve begun bringing in some new traditions to our family to celebrate many of the feast days that are so abundant during Advent.

There are some old traditions that I haven’t let go of, even though many will say that a true observance of Advent means that we should. We still put up our Christmas tree and decorate it fully on the day after Thanksgiving.

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Since becoming Catholic, I’ve discovered that lot of people don’t decorate their Christmas tree or do much, if any, actual Christmas celebrating until Christmas day, and then they celebrate for the 12 days after Christmas. I think that’s fantastic, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to implement that in my family, and I don’t think I really even want to.

I think that’s okay.

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I do try to emphasize the waiting aspect of Advent with my kids. We have an Advent Wreath. We do a Jesse Tree, thanks to Kendra and these ornaments (I did a version of Method B, printed the images provided onto printable and ironable fabric, and then ironed them onto felt – no sewing!). We open different Christmas books during each day of Advent, that I’ve wrapped in purple or pink paper, depending on the week. We put out our shoes for the feast of St. Nicholas.

These are things that I’ve gradually added in. This is only my third religious Christmas, so I’m trying to take baby steps. I’m learning what works for us and what doesn’t. I can do an Advent wreath. I can do a Jesse tree. I can’t not decorate my Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving. It’s a family tradition that I love too much. Maybe some year, we’ll decide to move back the day we do it, but that’s not this year.

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This year I’m trying to add in a few new traditions. Tuesday was the Feast (or Solemnity??) of the Immaculate Conception. The girls enjoyed providing a little bit of decoration by rounding up all the Mary statues and holy cards from around the house.

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Front and center was Miss’s Immaculate Conception peg doll that she specifically requested for her birthday a couple of years ago. She was pretty excited to put that out there.

I decided to implement a new Immaculate Conception tradition of eating an all-white dinner, since the Immaculate Conception emphasizes Mary’s purity and preservation from sin. White = pure… so, dinner:

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This dinner was a last minute decision, so I chose things that I could make with minimal effort. Cheese ravioli in butter, roasted cauliflower, and poached fish. The result was okay. The fish was supposed to be halibut poached in olive oil, but I couldn’t get halibut at my grocery store so I had to settle for cod. Then I burned the heck out of my olive oil and had to start over again with vegetable oil. Cod poached in vegetable oil. It was about as tasty as it sounds. BUT, the rest of the food was good and the girls really got into the reason we were eating white food, which is the whole point, obviously. And of course we had vanilla ice cream topped with white chocolate chips afterward. Over all, I’d say this is a tradition we can continue. Next year I’ll plan ahead a bit and chose a better recipe for white food though.

Yesterday we celebrated St. Juan Diego’s feast day. This one was pretty easy to do, because our parish had a “Mary Party,” with our associate pastor in attendance as Juan Diego himself.

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The kids played games and made a craft and they absolutely loved it.

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Saturday is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I’m making quesadillas for dinner, and maybe we’ll do some sort of craft. We’ll read a book about her that the girls will open that morning.

Sunday is St. Lucy’s feast day. This one always seems like it has so much potential for fun celebrating, but I just can’t bring myself to make saffron buns from scratch. Maybe I’ll try at least making cinnamon rolls the way Lacy suggests in this post as something different and special to mark the day. I can probably even manage to craft St. Lucy crowns with my girls or something.

You can see I really plan this stuff in advance.

I think the point for me is that I’m trying to gradually add in more activities that acknowledge the beauty of all our Church has for us to celebrate this season, hoping that these things will become traditions for us and that my girls will look forward to them each year. I try to do this all year long, but this season is special because there’s so much potential.

If we don’t make funny-shaped cinnamon rolls or paper candle crowns on Sunday, I’m not going to beat myself up. We have a book about St. Lucy and I’ll print out a coloring page and call it good. I don’t want observance and celebration of the liturgical stuff to be stressful for me or for them.

Baby steps, right?

Easter-y, Mommy-ish Randomness

We are visiting my parents this week, and I don’t want to interrupt our family time to do a long, or even thoughtful post (you’re welcome?). But I do have a few cute Easter pics and some good ones of my girls having fun at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, so I’m going to get rambly and probably a bit photo crazy for a minute.

If you’re not my mom or my mother-in-law or my Auntie, you may want to just stop here. I won’t mind.

Here goes –

Last week, I had lots of fun Holy Week activities planned. Then Miss got strep throat and we ended up skipping a few of them, like the search for 30 pieces of “silver” (or quarters) on Wednesday and Holy Thursday Mass as a family (Miss was still contagious). Most of the things we did do I didn’t get photos of, like our “Last Supper” dinner (which Miss didn’t feel well enough to eat anyway) or the foot washing on Thursday night after my husband and I got home from Mass.

We did get to the Good Friday service at our church, and the girls did surprisingly well for it being such a long and late event.

Holy Saturday started with an RCIA retreat for me from 9:00 until about 1:00. Then I came home, boiled eggs for dying, put out Easter decorations with the two older girls, gave the dogs baths, and packed our stuff. After Sis got up from her nap, we dyed eggs and my husband and I got ready for the Easter Vigil Mass.

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She said the made ^^ that egg for Jesus.

The Vigil was beautiful, but I didn’t get a single photo from it this year. It was nice to experience it with a little less nervousness and adrenaline than I had last year. I realized that I hadn’t remembered much of the service from last year because of being so excited and anxious about being baptized and confirmed and receiving Communion for the first time (plus being interviewed in front of everyone). It was less exciting and emotional this time, but I probably was able to appreciate it more in some ways.

Sunday morning, we had our Easter egg hunt, I made resurrection rolls, we threw our things and our dogs and our kids in the car and hit the road for the drive to my parents’.

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I was determined to be on the road by 8:00 so we could get here by dinner time and have my family’s traditional Easter and Christmas breakfast of creamed eggs for dinner. We got going at about 8:20, and we made it.

My kids have been enjoying Grandma and Grandpa and the lovely weather and flowers and greenness here since.

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We have many lovely bouquets for Grandma of dandelions, or “Lellow Light-ups” as Sis calls them.

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IMG_4557Someone, who gave up coloring for Lent, is very happy to be able to do one of her favorite activities again.

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As a new Catholic, it amazes me how much Lent creates so much more appreciation of the Easter season and the celebration of spring, and life, and the Resurrection.

It’s Wednesday, but it’s still Easter. What joy. Happy Easter!

7QT Why I Don’t Threaten my Kids with the “Naughty List” at Christmas

A few years ago I heard a story about a friend who said to her daughter, who was about 4 or 5 at the time, “If you’re not good, Santa won’t bring you presents!” The little girl replied with something like, “Yes he will. I wasn’t good last year and he still did anyway.”

When Christmas gets close, I don’t tell my girls that they need to be good or Santa won’t come. I don’t tell them than an elf is watching them and reporting back to the big guy so they’d better behave. We do have an elf. Ours is Christopher Pop-In-Kins, who was recommended to me by Super Friend (he isn’t as popular as “Elf on the Shelf,” but he was actually the original, coming out in 1985, 20 years before the more commonly seen elf).

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Our tradition is that we decorate our tree on the day after Thanksgiving. Then my girls put their letters to Santa into our, appropriately named, “Letters to Santa” ornament that my mom got for them when Miss was really little. In the morning, the letters are gone, the Christopher Pop-In-Kins book is under the tree, and Christopher (Lass always calls him “Mary Poppins”) is hiding somewhere in the house. He moves every night, but doesn’t get up to goofy shenanigans, because I don’t have the energy or desire to create elf messes and then clean them up again.

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The Christopher Pop-In-Kins book does mention that he is a helper for Santa, and that he keeps and eye on kids and reports back to Santa before Christmas Eve. It doesn’t make a big issue out of it though, focusing more on how much Christopher likes little children and wants to be able to visit them. The book doesn’t say that Santa won’t come if Christopher tells him the kids were naughty.

I try to make our elf more of a fun little tradition and less of a “He’s watching you and telling Santa everything, so you better be good” kind of behavioral control. I don’t talk to my kids about being on Santa’s “naughty list,” and I don’t tell them that if they don’t behave, Santa won’t come. I’m not judging people who do do this. I get why they do. Before thinking about it a bit more in recent years, I used to occasionally make comments like, “I wonder what Santa would think about that behavior.” But it never quite felt right for me, so I don’t do it anymore. Here’s why:

  1. I don’t really like the idea of Santa having a punitive role. He’s a happy, jolly fellow. No need to make him the bad guy.
  2. I think it can be a little harder for kids to be on their best behavior at this time of year. Often they’re getting less sleep, or schedules are disrupted by activities. There’s so much excitement and hype (and sugar!) around them. That’s not to say I don’t still expect my kids to behave, but I try to be understanding of it being a little harder.
  3. I try to emphasize that Christmas is about more than getting gifts. My girls write a letter to Santa every year and in it they’re allowed to ask him for one thing. Then I try to talk to them about all the more important things about Christmas. It seem that if I repeatedly remind them that they have to be good so Santa will bring them presents, that keeps the focus of the season on getting presents instead of the other things I want them to be focused on.
  4. I prefer immediate and definite consequences for inappropriate behavior. The threat of Santa not bringing presents, because it’s mom or dad saying what Santa might do (or not do in this case), isn’t immediate or definite.
  5. I try to make it a general rule not to threaten consequences that I’m not willing to enforce. I’m not willing to take away my kids’ Christmas presents, so I don’t threaten that “Santa” will do it, when I know he won’t (see the story above about my friend’s little girl!).
  6. I think the admonishments to kids that they must “be good” at Christmas time to avoid being placed on the “naughty list” are too vague. It isn’t realistic to expect kids to not misbehave in any way for the whole month of December (or November too, depending when folks start talk of Santa). What is the cutoff point? How many times to they have to be “naughty” to get on the list? Can they get off it once they’re on it? How do they know? Seems kind of anxiety-producing to me, and there’s no need for added stress during the holidays, in my opinion.
  7. I want my kids to realize that they should work on being on their best behavior all the time, not just to get something from Santa. When my kids asked me a few weeks ago, “Do we have to be good so Santa will come?” I replied, “No. You have to be good because that’s what we do. We always try to be our best all the time, not just for Santa.”

So. This are my two cents about Santa and the “naughty list.” Even still, because of the brief mention in the Christopher Pop-In-Kins book and the common theme of “be good or else…” in songs and Christmas movies, my girls have an idea in their heads that they need to be good for Santa. When we went to see him last week, Lass asked him, “How do you know who’s good and who’s bad?” He replied that his elves help him. I didn’t mind that she asked him that or that he replied in that way.

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I don’t necessarily want them to think that Santa has no interest in children having good behavior. I’m just not going to threaten them that he’ll leave them out on Christmas if they don’t have it all the time.

 

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes Friday!

7QT In Case You’re Wondering What I’ll Be Doing This Weekend…

Linking up with Conversion Diary.

It’s Labor Day! It’s pretty much the biggest weekend of the year for our family. Here is a repost from last year, just in case you were wondering what we’ll be up to this weekend:

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Here is Part 3 and Final in my series on the Labor Day Party. Sorry it’s a bit belated, but I got distracted by the girls’ baptisms over the weekend and my parents’ visit this week.

Here are some random observations about the weekend, the Farm, the family, and The Party.

1.

A perfect illustration of The Party in a Walmart shopping cart:

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I can’t think of any problem that could come up during the Labor Day Party Weekend that couldn’t be fixed with hand wipes, coffee, toilet paper, and/or a fire extinguisher. Probably should have some beer in there to truly complete the picture, but someone else was in charge of buying that.

2.

Families need to eat together.
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My husband’s family is huge. And they love to eat.

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My Mother- and Father-in-law are the absolute masters of feeding very large groups of people with maximum efficiency.

There are lots of good ways to do it. Weenie roast and lots of wings/fries are two that are employed every year during The Weekend.

My favorite though, is the shrimp boil.
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I don’t know exactly how it works, but it involves boiling lots of corn on the cob, potatoes, hot dogs, sausages, onions, garlic, and shrimp with spice packets in huge pots.

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Sometimes it includes lobster. Yum.

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The tables get covered with plastic and paper and when the food is done, well, it goes on the table. Literally.

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Food. On table.

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What could be more fun than grabbing food off the table, eating it with your hands, squirting ketchup and ranch dressing directly onto the paper…? No plates, no utensils, easy clean up. I love it.

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Talk about family togetherness.

3.

I love how much stuff there is to do at the Farm. The bigger kids and grown ups do lots of boating, knee-boarding, and playing volleyball. There’s tons of fun for the littles too.

When a family reunion lasts a whole weekend, there has to be plenty to do.

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Or not.

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4.

Costumes make a party more fun.

The theme of The Party this year was “Jobs.”

After much deliberation, my older girls both decided to be marine biologists. Lass was going to be a zookeeper, but when she saw the wetsuit outfit I was going to order for her sister, she had to have the same one.

DSC_0809 A cousin was also a marine biologist.

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Baby Sis was a mommy.

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The Band (L-R): Fast food worker, rogue accountant, blacksmith, Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs, trucker, and me, a tattoo artist.

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Some of my other favorites:

The clown, complete with balloon animals for the kids
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“Mechanic Man”

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And, yes, The Lunchlady (complete with the full Chris Farley dance performed during the party)

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One of my favorite lines of the night was overheard from my sister-in-law regarding a comment my niece had made about her dad (The Lunchlady), “This is my Daddy’s fake butt that he wears under his dress.” Nice.

5.

Families that rock together, stay together.

Father and son:

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Sisters:

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Mother and son:

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Brothers:

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Cousins:

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A special tribute sing-a-long for their Grandmother,

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Her favorite song, “Lord of the Dance.”

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6.

One of my favorite parts of the night was watching my girls have fun on the dance floor.

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And the dancing. Oh, the dancing.

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Blister in the Sun:

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The dance off:

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“I ripped my pants!!”

And one of my favorite dance-floor traditions, the “Wipe Out” dance:

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7.

An incredible weekend. An incredible party. An incredible family.

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For other quick takes, go here.

Here are links to other posts about the party, its history, and the band.

Have a great weekend!

I’m in a Blogging Slump, BUT – Iowa State Fair!

Oh, the Iowa State Fair. I have such a love for something that is only mine through marriage. I grew up in Michigan and never once went to the state fair. The only thing I even knew about the Michigan State Fair was that there was a Hog-Calling Contest there, and only that because my cousin won it at least once.

And as much as I love living in Wisconsin, I wasn’t terribly impressed by our fair, which I went to only once, the first year we lived there (I say “there,” because I’m currently typing in Missouri). I had no real understanding of the wonders of the state fair until the summer of 2009, when I went to the Iowa State Fair for the first time when Miss was about six months old.

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Even then, I didn’t quite grasp the Fair fabulousness until taking my kids when they got a little older. We’ve gone for the past three years now, and I so love walking the streets of the fairgrounds, taking in all the sights and smells, and hearing all the stories from my husband and in-laws of fairs gone by. It makes me feel like I have a bit of claim to such a wonderful tradition, even though I’m a true city girl who has always been quite in awe of the fact that people grow vegetables and animals in order to show them and be judged on them at the Fair. It’s bizarre. And I love it.

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So, this year was much the same as always. We have a few Fair things that are must-sees and must-dos and must-eats. By the time we get done with those, we’re about ready to be done for the day. This year was no exception. As usual, we started in the baby animals barn.

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^^ No, we weren’t at the Creepy Perv Fair. The sign on the cage got cut off when I snapped this pic. The top line said, “For My Health, Don’t”

The girls got to see newborn piglets nursing from their momma, and some cute baby ostriches, and a calf being born on the overhead screens. This is always one of our favorite parts of the Fair.

Naturally, the next thing we did was to eat something yummy on a stick.

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And then find something homegrown and absurdly large to pose with for a photo

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^^ That’s an 1,131 pound pumpkin.

We went to the Avenue of Breeds barn and saw the Big Boar, along with lots of other types of animals.

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^^ NOT the Big Boar, but for some reason I only have photos of medium-sized pigs from that barn.

The city girl in me was so tickled to see this guy:

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It’s not every day you turn around to see a big pink pig sauntering toward you like he hasn’t a care in the world. There is something funny to me about the way pigs walk too. I kind of wanted to take him home.

After the Avenue of Breeds we walked over to the cattle barn to see the the Big Bull.

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His name is “Big Daddy” and he weighs over 3000 pounds.

After an unmemorable-but-belly-filling-without-long-lines lunch, we finally made it to the Big Yellow Slide, which Miss in particular had been begging to go on all morning. The older girls went down the slide with their aunt, and Sis went down with my husband. They loved it, and each went twice.

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At least they said they loved it after they got to the bottom. Their faces during the sliding sort of suggested otherwise:

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^^ That last picture makes me laugh every time I look at it.

Somehow, I have yet to see the famous butter cow sculpture in person (not sure how I always miss this), but this year I did see, um, extra large American Gothic:

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One of the coolest parts of the day came after the slide. We walked over to the antique tractors, where my Father-in-law located a model just like the one he had driven as a boy on the farm where he grew up. He was not much older than Miss when he started working in the fields driving that tractor.

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I’ve heard about him driving a tractor as a little boy, but somehow seeing that tractor close up, the same kind that he rode on back then, and seeing my small-but-not-much-smaller-than-he-was-then daughters standing next to it made it so much more amazing to me.

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My favorite part of the day, as it has been every year, was taking the girls to the Department of Natural Resources building. They run around and look at the fish in the tanks, guess at which animals the various pelts belong to, and check out many other cool (and educational) exhibits.

DSC_0343 DSC_0344^^ I asked Lass (my animal lover) about the birds in that display case ^^ She said, in a bored voice, “It’s a peregrine falcon. I already know that.” I had to check the card on the glass to make sure, but she was right!

Behind the DNR building, there is a pond with turtles and ducks and geese and swans. We always spend a lot of time there, searching under the surface of the water to spot the turtles, laughing at the antics of the ducks, and admiring the swans.

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This year, we got startled by one of the swans who climbed out of the pond, stretched her wings up and flapped around frantically for a few seconds, right in front of us.

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Perhaps I’m a big dork, bit this shady little pond, and the excitement my girls displayed over seeing turtles trying to climb onto rocks and swans flapping their wings, was the highlight of my day.

It was also fun that afterwards we enjoyed another dessert on a stick, deep-fried this time, as the perfect ending to a lovely day.

Dirty and Weird and We Wouldn’t Miss It

I’m not doing 7 Quick Takes today. I really can’t gather my thoughts enough to write seven different things. BUT, I can share some photos with you from our trip to the Dirty Weird Zoo yesterday. The place is still so odd, but definitely a summer tradition I wouldn’t want to miss.

Sis had her first experience with feeding bread to the animals. She was fearless.

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A donkey even nibbled her fingers a little bit. She just yanked her hand back and went on feeding it.

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The big kids were racing all over the place, screaming with delight about all the animals to see.

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No one even freaked out about the inevitable goat attack. Except maybe me and Super Friend.

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Miss and Lass even said the goats were their favorite, because “they were everywhere.”

Miss found a peacock feather, which she insisted on carrying around the whole morning. I know I’m not the only one who has a slightly neurotic terror of bird feathers. They are so dirty. Am I right? Ew. Ew. Ew. Happily she didn’t put up too much of a fuss when I told her she couldn’t bring the feather home.

After depleting at least 10 bags of bread and buns by generously feeding lots of animals, we had our own picnic lunch. I think it was a successful outing.

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I hope you have a lovely weekend.

New-and-Improved Summer Fun – A Family Tradition

I’ve been working on our Summer Fun List again for this year (see last year’s list here). My kids loved doing it last year and they enjoyed the Fall and Winter List too, so we’re going for it again. I guess we’re making it a tradition.

I have the list pretty much done, but I haven’t yet put it on our big poster for checking off each thing.  Through discussing it with them, I’ve discovered that doesn’t seem to matter much to my kids that most of what’s on the list is the exact same as what we did last year. Things like Go to the Iowa State Fair, Go to the Zoo, Ride a Horse, and Go to the Beach are the same and probably always will be.

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We got rid of some things that didn’t work last year. Get Ice Cream from an Ice Cream Truck never worked because I never saw a truck on our street all summer. Not gonna try to do that again. I got rid of the bubble activities from the list, because the “special” bubble solutions and contraptions we made were pretty underwhelming. My kids blow very nice, perfectly fine bubbles all summer long with the cheap concoctions and bubble wands we can get from the store, thank you very much.

I got rid of the glitter firework art that I had on there last year. After having lots of Thanksgiving and Christmas and Valentine’s Day projects planned for winter, I determined it’s not awesome to put holiday-specific crafts on the list. Sometimes other holiday plans get in the way or things just don’t work out as planned and you end up making snowflake Christmas ornaments in February as “winter art.” Ahem.

I’m trying to plan ahead, and realizing that we may not be able to make it to a fireworks display for the 4th of July this year, so that’s out, but I did add in Play with Sparklers. I also remember last summer how disappointed Miss was that we didn’t really complete the item “Sleep in a Tent,” since the girls decided to come in and get in their beds at around 10pm. So this year the list just says, “Camp.” No sleeping or overnight shenanigans required. They “went to bed” and spent several hours in a tent with their Dad when we visited my parents last week. I’m calling it “Done,” though Miss wants to try again to stay out all night.

DSC_0194I just love having and doing the list, though a few months ago, I briefly questioned my use of The List for our must-do seasonal activities. I read a post called “I’m Done Making My Kid’s Childhood Magical.” It’s a great piece, though a little heavy-handed on the “when we were kids” references. I agree with a lot of what the author wrote and with her opinion that parents nowadays can sometimes go overboard trying to make every moment magical for their kids. I’m all about just letting my kids play without needing to make a big experience out of everything.

The author of the post really poo-pooed all the Pinterest-y lists of summer things, and winter things, and birthday themes, and crafts that start with Q, and so on. And since my word for the year is “Open,” I usually try to think about it, at least briefly, when I come across ideas that might seem to contradict something I’m doing or the way I’m thinking about something (my list in this case).

So I thought about it. For about five minutes. I reflected on our list and whether I was going overboard. I asked myself if I was micromanaging all of my kids’ activities or hijacking their free time with my own agenda. I thought about whether I was just stressing myself out trying to do all of these activities because of perceived pressure to do all things Pinterest.

I decided nope. I’m not. My kids spend the vast majority of their play time doing their own thing. Even when we do an activity from our list, sometimes the outcome isn’t what I planned, because they do it their own way, and that’s okay too. And I don’t’ feel any pressure at all to do certain activities with my kids. I actually like doing crafts with them and going on outings that we might not do if I didn’t have that list staring me in the face saying, “DO IT!”

See, I’m sort of a homebody. If left to my own devices, I often tend toward thinking, “That might be fun, but I’m so comfy here at home, and this is so nice and easy, and I’d just like to stay right here.” And so I sometimes avoid outings or adventures, even though when I get off my butt and go do them, I love them and so do my kids. The actual activity or outing is never as stressful or difficult as I sometimes make it out to be in my head while contemplating it.

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So having our fun list is actually good for me. It actually doesn’t stress me out at all. Even when I think that we might not get all the things done (I was pretty unsure about whether we’d make it on that skiing trip on the winter list!), it isn’t a source of worry or distress. I did 50 out of 51 things on last summer’s list with a four, two, and one-year old and it was great. There’s nothing on the list that I am forcing myself to do when I really don’t want to (except maybe the glitter craft projects). My kids love it and seeing how excited they get about making the list, doing the activities on it, and checking off the items as we complete them, is totally worth it. So it’s on.

Anyway, back to our list. We already started to complete several of this year’s items while visiting my parents. I mentioned the “camping” above, and you can guess from the photos that we already rode horses, went to the beach, swam in a lake, and built a sand castle. We also went to a park (at the beach), planted our garden, and played barefoot in puddles (a new item this year inspired by the ridiculous amount of water in our front yard this week).

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But the best activity we have completed? By far it was the one thing that we did not manage to do at all last year.

DSC_0148DSC_0151The girls absolutely loved catching fireflies. We went out at dusk and waited for what seemed like a really long time. But once those little guys were finally lighting it up, the girls started squealing and screaming and running and laughing like it was the best thing ever. We caught plenty of the glowing bugs. Miss even caught a few by herself. The girls were simultaneously terrified and ecstatic when the bugs got caught in their hair or when one danced on Miss’s nose for several seconds. Though we’ve barely begun, I know this will be one of the best memories of the season.

Summer is so short for us and so glorious. We have to wring every last bit of goodness out of it before the looong cold months arrive again. I’m so excited to do the list again.

DSC_0243 In case you’re curious, here’s what’s on the list this year.

Copied from last summer’s list:

  • Catch lightning bugs – DONE
  • Camp – DONE
  • Go fishing
  • Ride a horse – DONE
  • Go to the Iowa State Fair
  • Make Ice Cream
  • Make popsicles
  • Hunt for bugs
  • Go to the beach – DONE
  • Pick wildflowers
  • Roast marshmallows and eat s’mores
  • Raise caterpillars into butterflies
  • Go to the zoo
  • Go on a treasure hunt
  • Swim in a lake or pond – DONE
  • Go to a splash pad
  • Run through a sprinkler
  • Visit a butterfly garden
  • Put our sprinkler under the trampoline
  • Play hopscotch
  • Play with water balloons
  • Catch tadpoles
  • Go to the Dirty Weird Zoo
  • Have a picnic lunch in the yard
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Read books outside
  • Have an outdoor scavenger hunt
  • Go for a boat ride
  • Go to the farmer’s market
  • Go to the park – DONE
  • Go to an outdoor concert
  • Visit a farm
  • Have a cookout and movie night with friends
  • Plant a garden – DONE
  • Make lemonade
  • Pick berries
  • Go to some yard sales
  • Complete the Summer Reading Program
  • Make a fairy house
  • Have a dance party in the yard
  • Make an art project with outdoor found treasures

New this year:

  • Go to a walk-up ice cream stand (the alternative to the truck)
  • Play with sparklers (an alternative to watching fireworks)
  • Play with moon sand
  • Paint with ice paint
  • Make a worm habitat
  • Make sun catchers
  • Make tin-can lanterns
  • Play barefoot in puddles – DONE
  • Paint with flower-dyed paint

What will you be up to this summer?

Joy to the World

I love Christmas carols. Love them. I am nearly incapable of doing something Christmas-related without turning on my favorite holiday tunes. In fact, when I was wrapping gifts the other night, my husband was listening to some (quite lovely) classical music. It just didn’t feel right. So I grabbed my phone, plugged in my ear buds and started jamming to “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.”

DSC_0545 DSC_0548When I decorate the tree, wrap presents, bake Christmas cookies, I must listen to Christmas carols. And to be honest, I listen to them any other time I get the chance too, or just sing my favorites at random wherever I happen to be. I’m the annoying lady singing along with the songs playing in the stores. Love me some Christmas carols.

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I’ve been this way as long as I can remember. My Mom and I listened to Johnny Mathis Christmas music while making no-bake cookies for her bunco group every year, and the tradition kind of stuck. You know I am a Christmas tradition junkie. And I have music in my head constantly, so this is the perfect time of year to just sing out loud as much as I want (so sorry if you happen to see me in a store).

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My favorite carols? Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Chestnuts Roasting... I’ve also always loved Give Me Your Love for Christmas and What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? which I think are solely Johnny Mathis songs, though I’m not positive. Perhaps oddly,  other songs that I have always included among my favorites are JM’s musical rendition of the Our Father (which is actually how I came to know the prayer by heart long before ever actually praying it), Do You Hear What I Hear?, Silent Night, and my all-time favorite, The Little Drummer Boy (which may or not be responsible for my previously-vaguely-held half-belief that there was a drummer boy involved in the story of Jesus’s birth).

Even when I didn’t believe in the story told in these songs or the God praised in them, I still loved the music and tradition of them. I’d sing along to them every year, without giving a thought to what they were about. “Joy to the World,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “O Holy Night”… I’d sing them all loud and proud and never stop to consider the beauty of the songs beyond the tune. I didn’t think about the words, so half the time I sang them incorrectly (“Long lay the word, in sin and err opiiiiiining…”)

But this year. This year, oh how I love these songs. This year I have a new appreciation for how truly beautiful they are.

My new favorite is O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. I purchased some new Christmas music from iTunes this year specifically with this song in mind. I have to admit, I still don’t entirely understand what it means, but it’s so haunting and joyful at the same time. I can’t get enough of it.

The wonders and joys of Christmas are multiplying for me this year. Joy to the world.

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Our $5 Birthday Tradition

I think I might be experiencing the beginnings of a sinus infection today. Consequently, my brain feels like a blob of sludge. Instead of trying to write anything coherent, I’m just going to share lots of photos from our birthday party for the Daddy over the weekend.

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If you’re not familiar with our tradition, I take the girls to the Dollar Tree store, give them each $5 and let them pick five things to give their Daddy for his birthday.

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As you can imagine, it’s a very fun tradition. I think I enjoy it as much as my husband. I love watching how the girls select their gifts. Lass picked all of hers from the first aisle we entered (office supplies/teaching aids).

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So, from her Daddy got fish stickers, glue sticks, a package of plastic clip/link things, some rulers, and a pink, feathery wand/pen (see first pic above).

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She was so happy about his reaction to her presents. She gets snuggly when she’s happy:

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Like last year, Miss searched the whole store in search of the perfect gifts. We even went down several of the aisles twice. She was so pleased with her selections.

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My favorite part of the whole process is seeing how much fun the girls have watching their Dad open the gifts they selected just for him.

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They feel so proud of themselves when he gets excited over their selections.

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Gifts from Miss: Scissors, colored paper clips, a dish drying mat, a new pair of glasses, and a pair of earbuds.

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Even Sis picked out one gift this year.

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A fake apple.

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My Grandma and aunt got to be with us from Florida for the party this year. Gram made all sorts of fun stuff from the tissue paper, which the girls had a blast with.

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I’m off to wrap presents. Miss has been on me about getting more of them under the tree for her to inspect and question me ceaselessly about.

Kentucky Family Fun

It’s that time of year again where I bring you the we’re-at-my-parents’-house-here-are-a-ton-of-photos post. This post will include all of the same elements that always make an appearance in those about Christmas with my family.

1. Silliness with Grandma (and playing with my old toys):

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^^The girls decided that Barney, my huge old teddy bear, was sick, and they were doctoring him in Grandma’s bed.

2. Watching our favorite Christmas movie, Heidi:

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^^Baby Sis was even enthralled by this, the best holiday movie ever.

3. Story time at the library with Grandma:

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^^She could not understand why she couldn’t just go get in Grandma’s lap for a story.

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4. And of course, a big holiday free-for-all with my brother’s family yesterday.

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We haven’t seen my brother and his family in a long time, and it made me so happy to see my kids and his kids jump right into cousin-ly camaraderie.

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It was awesome to have my whole family together. Six adults + Seven kids (two of which are toddlers) = Crazy and wonderful.

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The present opening was just as chaotic as ever, and just as fun.

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Everyone got pretty tired out by the festivities.
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More silliness with Grandma:

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After my brother and his clan left the girls got dressed in their new princess PJs, which Lass had been begging to put on from the moment she opened them.

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They danced around in their new finery, with Lass breathlessly proclaiming, “I’m Snow White! I am really and truly Snow White! All my dreams have come true!”

At the end of the evening last night, we put on a movie for tired girls (and tired parents).

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We have one more day at Grandma and Grandpa’s before hitting the road to go home on Saturday. We’re packing in as much quality time as we can.