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Something about the pregnancy hormones makes me- how do you say it?- CRAZY. While growing a baby my brain clicks off all reason and I start thinking things like, "I can make all the things!"

It gets me into trouble.

Coming off the All Saints costume fiasco adventure, I should've dried my tears, looked around and decided that a purchased Christmas would be just fine.  But I didn't.  Instead I dug in about THIS being the year to make the girls dresses AND bloomers because obviously it made sense. I mean next year I'll be nursing a baby and will definitely not have the time or energy.  Nevermind the same was true THIS Christmas AND my ankles swelled, my back seized up, and my pelvis went on strike.

The show would go on!

We did very little Black Friday shopping this year but we did go to Hancock Fabrics for their super sale.  The lines!  Oh, the lines.  I knocked over a shelf of polar fleece with a cart loaded with fabric and little girls and set my purse down.  When I realized my mistake, it was gone.  My heart rate quickens just thinking about it. . . but God is good and an employee found it at the register so I was more than a little giddy when the cashier announced we had saved $130+. "Heck yes we did!" I hollered to the rest of the line, pumping my fist in the air for good measure.

Pride goeth before the fall.

The fabric chosen for the dresses- a beautiful pine colored crushed panne velvet - was lovely on the bolt but a NIGHTMARE in every other sense.  And the waist band - how about a matte black satin just to make things interesting?

I wondered where Mama Syd's good sense had gone to encourage such poor choices.  She's the one who taught me 1. Never sew anything stretchy 2. Never sew anything slippery and 3. You've been warned. Sure, I've broken those commandments but never on such a grand scale with so much riding on it or four times over.

It was rough.

Cutting things out started badly with me losing my temper and Jac calling me 'Chris Reyes.' Good times.  Then he googled how to square up knits (because he's a good man and really, really loves me and really, really hates the crazy), pulled out the 4 ft. T-square from the garage and we were on a roll.  That's when I realized we bought a few yards too many and that green fuzz would probably be the death of me.

I took a few days to recover from the cutting and to steel my nerves for the stretchy sewing. And pleating.  And repeat TIMES FOUR.

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I coaxed and cajoled my machine, stopping often to clean the green fuzz from her guts.  We went slow - so very slow! - and I only had to pick two seams out.  Victory was mine!

Fitting was nerve wracking. "That'd suck if they didn't fit, huh?" Jac laughed.  Seeing my crazy eyes he followed that thought very quickly with, "But they'll wear them anyway!"

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Good save.

I saw the Nutcracker for the first time when I was around 10 or so.  I loved the look of the bloomers with the party dresses and promised myself that if I had a daughter someday I would dress her in such a get-up at least one Christmas.

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Boom.  2015 was the year to live the dream!

Gemma ABSOLUTELY flipped out at the thought.  It bled into how she felt about the dress, too, and she almost went to Christmas Eve Mass in just her coat.  Thankfully, she recovered when she learned she could wear her new ballet slippers. Her sisters on the other hand, they were pro bloomers all the way.  And they have asked me every Sunday since if they could wear them with whatever dress is up for the day.  They testify to the comfort and I do think there is something about wearing essentially jammie bottoms under your fancy clothes. . .

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Donning the dresses in preparation for Mass, the girls spun and spun in the living room.  They were warned that there was no puking in the Christmas dresses.  They laughed and spun some more, repeating the performance for the Bishop and all the revelers who visited in the front of Cathedral after mass was over.

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I swore as I sewed that I would never do such a thing again but you know, a few weeks out and it doesn't seem so bad.

It's probably just the crazy talking.

I used this pattern.  It was simple, lined, and easy to follow.  I highly recommend it!  

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I like a good heirloom and some of my very favorites aren't even things. Maxims, sayings, and the like are the most treasured. Often the kids will say, "Where'd you learn that?" And I'll say, "Mama Syd says it." You know, things like 'slick as snot,' 'bass-ackwards,' etc. etc. We're all about the legacy building, folks. 

On Friday, Gemma and Ellie asked if they could help roll out the pizza dough. I consented even though it would triple the prep time. Patience in the kitchen is not one of my virtues but I took a deep breath and consented. Gemma was up first and she half heartedly lunged into her stiff elbows. The dough flattened in a sad though obedient line under the pressure. I remembered to breathe and NOT count the seconds ticking by and readjusted Gemma on the stool.

"Here," I said, raising her up above the table, "Get your butt behind your work."

There was a chorus of "Whaaaat???" from around the table. I was slightly surprised because I say this ALL. THE. TIME. Which is exactly how often my mother said it to me.

Shoveling horse poo, mowing the lawn, pedaling up hill, mopping, vacuuming, anything that required effort- these golden words were the wisdom she offered. And as often as she said this I rolled my eyes and gritted my teeth. 

Because seriously.

But now I know and, as they say, knowing is half the battle.

I watched and coached the rolling of the dough while I explained the physics behind this verbal gem. There were a few head nods, a few murmurs of acknowledgement. Then Ellie reappeared and asked if it was her turn. When it was, Gemma and I moved out of the way and let her try. Her first attempt was much like her sister's but before I could say anything, Gemma piped up.

"No, Ellie. You have to push your butt out your pants."

People. People! 

My life is changed and all for the better. 

Push your butt out your pants. . . 

When I saw that Christmas Eve Mass was to begin at 10 pm, I nearly wept.

First, out of sheer joy that I would have that many hours in the day to get things done BEFORE hand. And then second because, ohmygoodness that is so late!

Pregnancy hormones, people.  Pregnancy hormones.

We were ready early enough to get a quick picture BEFORE hand which never happens. Who are these children with the combed hair?!

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Max served and was as reverent and attentive and prayerful as always.  He makes us so proud. And Lucy made us laugh when she recognized him as he processed up. "Oh! Max! HI MAX!"
We arrived with what we thought was plenty of time but the church was already filling up.

"Oh!  Look at the trees!" Gemma gasped. "The lights are on!  Are we going to turn our lights on?  Why don't they have any or-maments on them?"   There was much to take in and she narrated it all.

During the preparation of the gifts, Phil leaned into me. "FINALLY some real Christmas music!" We've trained him well, though I'm not sure why Adeste Fidelis and Silent Night that we sung as processionals didn't register . . .

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Gemma tried valiantly to fall asleep (and failed) while Lucy tried just as hard to stay awake (and failed.) 

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At the end of Mass we had a hard time rousing everyone for a picture but once they were awake, they were climbing on Godparents and friends, running in the pews and spinning in their dresses. Lucy and I made a special stop on the way out and her reaction to finding Jesus in the manger was one of sheer delight and awe.

  
Merry Christmas, indeed.

Christmas.

*sigh*

There is much to be said but the main thing seems to be this:

We survived.

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With one week left, Jac and I went on what was supposed to be a fun shopping date and ended up with me sulking and in tears.  We had been so busy with LIFE that the season had passed us by.  Yes, we would have all of the Christmas season but the holly, jolly was already being packed up around us and we were missing it.

Kind man that he is, he empathized.  He held my hand and agreed.  And then, hesitantly, he suggested maybe I let some of it go.

Well, that's just crazy talk to my crazy mind but knowing I had permission to NOT finish all the things was liberating.

He's good like that.

We plowed into Christmas Eve.  The dresses were done, THANKS BE TO GOD, but the jammies . . . . not so much. In fact they were "finished" post-Mass attendance and in full view of all the tired, longing eyes.

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But they got done.

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2015 was the year of the boxes.  They piled up around our ears - literally our ears!- and Max said, "I don't know if I'm more excited for Christmas or the boxes."  The boy has a thing for cardboard.

Anyway, I tried to stay on top of the wrapping but come Christmas Eve, there was much to be done.  I envisioned another marathon wrapping session alone but Jac loaded some podcasts and we both jumped in, laughing and giggling well into the morning.

Wake up call was rough!

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Jac gifted the fam a heavy-duty gumball machine that requires actual money. Two hours in and I was questioning his sanity and ruing the day gum was invented.  It was everywhere and of course in hairs.

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We ate breakfast at noon and everyone took a long winters nap.  Folks, we never made it out of our jammies all day and that is something we just don't do.  I was raised to dress even when sick so I think it speaks to the level of exhaustion we had reached.  Really, it was the first time since early October or the end of September that we didn't have something looming.

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And boy did it feel good!

It also meant some tears because all of that back-log of stress and tired wears on you just a bit.

In the chaos of the preceding days, we had neglected to remove our Christmas ham from the freezer so Jac made pork loin instead. Actually, he made the whole meal save the stripey jell-o (left to me and Gemma) and the rolls (Max's doing.)  After supper we watched the Muppet's Christmas Carol as we are wont to do and made wassail and popcorn to round out the celebration.

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Because we survived.

There is so much to say.  So very much.  And I've said a good deal of it with posts just waiting to be published.  Well, have photos uploaded and then published.  Therein lies the trouble, you see.  Because this computer and I?  We're not exactly chums.  More like "frenemies" or something along those lines.  The photos I need are nestled in the middle of a card and each time I try . . . well, the details aren't important.  What is important is my IT guy (Jac, love of my life) has been so busy and working so hard that I've barely seen him let alone had time to bother him with this business.

Boo. Hoo.

Can I blame the baby?  I'm gonna blame the baby.  I'm 2 months out and wondering how the heck we got here.  We're having a baby forcryingoutloud and everything's about to get a whole lot weirder and crazier and louder and smellier and what were we thinking?!?!

In the words of Jim Gaffigan, "We thought it through!"

But then there is the speculation (read: arguing) from the kids about whether it is a boy or a girl.  Kisses on my belly and eager hands to feel it stretch and bump.  Loads and loads of "When Septimus comes" or "After Septimus is born." Though Jac and I have yet to let our minds wander there, the kids have put in lots of miles back and forth to that destination.  The general consensus is, "I can't wait!" and it's contagious, thanks be to God.

Now if only technological know how was as easily shared . . .

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Deciding who would be St. Lucy this year was a last minute affair. Our wall calendar ended on the 12th so it wasn't on the kids' radar. So hopped up on sugar from the gingerbread houses and a little loopy from fatigue, Ellie willingly volunteered Tess for the task.
When my alarm went off before the sun was up, I prayed no one else would wake up and went to the kitchen on my own. Our week. . . It's been one of survival. Our weekend was full and no one has been sleeping right so I was reluctant to rouse anyone before they needed to be.

As it was, Gemma wandered into the kitchen while I put together the scones. I tucked her in with Jac and put the scones in to bake before waking Tess to help frost things.
   
     

    

   
When it came time to make the crown the night before, it felt like it might kill me to figure out candles. If I hadn't been sick, I would have kissed Jac for suggesting we use the LEDs he bought at the dollar store. Brilliant, I say. Every year I promise myself I'll make a more permanent gown, sash and crown so that we are not scrounging at the last moment.

    
  
This year was no different but we made do.
 We opted for Advent songs on the iPhone instead of our scratchy voices. Most sleepers were pleased to see us.

   
   
Some were not.

  
  
In fact, the lady of the day had a complete melt down with lots of "NO!"'s and refusal to be happy for a good 20 minutes. 
She perked up for mass and celebrating gaudete Sunday in pink.

  
  
Our Advent activity for the day was to look at lights so after naps and waffles for supper, we printed out scavenger hunt bingo cards. The excitement! The dilemma of wanting the car lights on so they could see their paper but wanting the lights off so they could see the lights! Could you cross off more than one thing at a house? (No.) Where would we find a door wrapped like a present? It was pretty loud in the burb for the first 15 minutes though Monday- through an act of seasonal generosity on Jac's part-didn't seem to mind.

 

We saw some great lights and having a game seemed to make them all less antsy about where we were heading and for how long. Philip was the first to tell BINGO! but it didn't stop the rest from trying.

When we pulled into Sonic, someone yelled from the back, "Are we getting slushies?!" To which their father replied, "The winners are!" And then he laughed.

  
They'll need years of therapy, we are well aware.

Everyone got their drink of choice and we came home in thick, California style fog that changed the look of the lights and our neighborhood. 

  
My heart rejoiced as it does every time there is fog as it feels like a gift from the Lord to my homesick heart this time of year.
  
Rejoice! Again, I say rejoice!

We are sick.

Technically I am sick, Gemma and Lu are pulling through, Tess made it to the other side and the rest are holding their breath. For the girls, it was a few days of scratchy voices and runny noses but it's settled in my sinuses and has made me vow never to take my health for granted again. 

I broke out the Vick's, people. 

Blah.

I've been trying to explain to Gemma why she can't be outside without a coat (she still holds firm to "the cold never bothers her anyway") or why her nose keeps leaking. 

"You have a little cold."

"But what is a cold? What does it mean?"

The conversation begins to recycle right about there and the pressure in my sinuses and the aching in my head from this train of thought is enough to do me in.

Today she woke from her nap pink cheeked and rumpled. Her nose needed tending as she climbed onto my lap and snuggled in.

"Yeah, but sometimes you get colds and sometimes you get hots and I got a hot from my warm shower." she said quietly. 

I simultaneously realized I had not done a good job defining a cold to her and that her logic was sound. At least in the moment, anyway. But hot or cold, I just want it to go. 

For both of our sakes.

  


I don't remember what age I was when my Aunt Linda and Uncle Mike moved down to the valley and into a storybook cottage of a house. I was young enough that the swing hanging from the massive poplars in front was a real selling point for me. There was a back porch, a bathroom with two entrances and a kitchen that seemed to hug the dining room. I have so many warm memories of that home and the hours spent in it.

It helped that Aunt Linda is a spectacular hostess and homemaker in the real sense of the word. She taught by example how to go all out and how that makes people feel special. A family dinner would mean goblets and name cards and a beautiful centerpiece. I had my very first slice of red velvet cake, baked in the shape of a heart, seated at her table. Life was worth celebrating and celebrations should be big!

She also taught me how to decorate the corners. For each holiday and season, she spread little touches throughout her home. Christmas meant festive towels and wintery vignettes- even in the bathroom. It made sense to me, the way that a celebration would permeate everything.

I thought of Aunt Linda when I cleared the window sill above my sink to make room for my favorite nativity. Was it necessary? Most assuredly not. But helpful? Yes! Finding myself at the sink- as I often am- I am reminded to reflect on the expectation of the season. It brings me so much joy to have such a festive surprise in the midst of the ordinary.

That's what the seasons are about, after all. A break in the midst of ordinary time, they call us to clear away what is normally in view, to make room for the Lord. We fill up our lives with clutter and noise and the special seasons ask us to stop and take stock. To set up a space for Christ to come in and make our hearts his home. Do we extend him that hospitality? True, decorating my kitchen or bathroom or hanging a wreath on the office door doesn't do that but it does open my heart to welcoming his pervasive presence. And the joy that comes in embracing the season- well it's just a shadow of what is to come through him!

We're still working on the decor up in here, but we are relishing the preparation in each and every corner even as we clear the corners of our hearts, "preparing the way of the Lord." 'Tis the season!

I like to involve all the senses in the season. This podcast of sermons from the Cathedral in Bismark is challenging my heart and soul. We know Monsignor Richter but Fr. Johnson and Bishop Kagan are heavy hitters, too, and leave me pondering their words at the sink every day. Good thing I like my view!