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I've attempted to write this post twice now, but exhaustion has gotten the better of me and I've scrapped them both.

The short of it is this: on the First Sunday of Advent we got our tree. In the snow. People were cranky and unimpressed with "tradition." (People being mostly Jac and Lu). But we piled on the layers and loaded up and set out on crappy roads with crappy attitudes anyway.

Sometimes you just have to soldier through.

But then we passed very few cars on the way into the hills and the snow and heavy skies made everything quiet, including our hearts and minds. 

By the time we arrived at our usual spot, we were all in better spirits and ready for our adventure. (Well, all of us except Gemma who never wakes cheery and needed a little encouragement to get started but she came around.)

We had brought our decorations and ornaments for "the aminals" including two large pumpkins that have been chilling (literally) on the porch since Licy's birthday. It was quickly decided that instead of decorating a tree across the creek, we should probably choose a close one.

The boys (and their father), relished hacking the pumpkins to bits to make them more accessible to creatures great and small while the girls worked hard to string our decor. Doing anything in mittens, in the snow, is difficult, you see.

But we persevered!

When we had finished, we went in search of Jac and the boys and Tess who had trail blazed before us with Monday leading the charge. Lucy in the backpack, Gemma by the hand and Ellie happy to be on this trip for the first time in her life made for an interesting decent. Along the way, Gem kept pointing to scrubby Ponderosa pines and declaring they weren't big enough to put our presents under. Sister's got her priorities down. We met at the creek which looked questionable so Jac went ahead to try out and clear the ice. 

We made it across without incident and, wouldn't you know it?, there was the tree, right in front of us. Yes, we looked to the sides and poked around a bit, but the first one we had seen was clearly a winner. Snow, it turns out, makes it easy to see the outlines of the trees.

What it does not make easy is the cutting.

 Poor Phil- he jumped right in to start cutting and every blow sent a sheet of snow down on his head and in his face.

We laughed and everyone took a shot. From the backpack Lucy chirped, "My turn!" and we all assured her she would get a shot at home.

 While some of us worked to trim a bit from the bottom (so it was less Griswald-y), the rest tromped about exploring. I kept repeating to stay away from the creek and to not play on the ice. Then I saw Gemma there and when I called her back, she panicked and freaked out. Max was right there and he helped her from the edge but she spent the next 10 minutes telling everyone how she was stuck on broken ice and Max saved her.

Then the tree was ready and we all were, too, (Lucy at this point was tapping my shoulder persistently and saying rather continuously, "Cold, mama. Cold! Mom!!"). Max Ellie and Phil shoulders the tree and Tess took charge of Monday. Jac held Gemma's hand and I brought up the rear.

Jac was in the middle of explaining to Gemma why playing on the ice wasn't a good idea and they were one step away from the bank when the ice gave out. The amazing dad that he is, Jac managed to toss Gemma up and free of the hole even as he fell. She started to cry out of surprise and fear and I was asking if they were okay. Jac was stunned and pulled himself free and onto the ice to collect his bearings as he had been up to his knees in the water. 

Pop, pop, POP!, crackle, boom, POP!

The ice shuddered and groaned but being stunned and Gemma's crying and the other kids asking what had happened, Jac couldn't hear it. "Get up. Get up. GET UP. GET UP!!!" I said in my calm, for-your-safety-and-well-being voice. 

I'm sure he'd take issue with the "calm" part.

Jac made it to Gemma and got her moving while Lu and I went upstream for a better crossing. The eldest and youngest of our family sure we're glad to leave that creek behind us! By the time we reached the suburban, the tree-bearers were inside and Monday was fighting to make her way in.

On went the tree, the car and the heater. Off came hats and gloves and good attitudes. It was time to head home.

When we all were inside and removing boots, Jac found that his socks were barely wet as his boots and snow pants had done their job. God is good.

We prepped the room for the tree and, as everyone has stripped down, I offered to bring the tree inside so they could trim it inside the warmth of the living room.

"That way Lucy can have her turn and I'll clean up whatever mess it makes."   

A power saw was NOT what I had in mind, but it did the job with little sawdust.

Gemma announced she never wants to go back to that place agai- EVER- and Lu is afraid of the tree because it's pokey. But the tree is a beaut and we have another adventure for the telling. Tradition!


The Jesse Tree.

It is central to how we decorate and celebrate and it is one of my favorite traditions. Through symbols made into ornaments, it tells the story of Salvation - of God's faithful, reckless, pursuing love of His people. It is so named after the prophecy about Christ, that a branch will come forth from the roots of the stump of Jesse- Jesus! When Max was a baby, a friend gifted us a beautiful 8 piece set and that goes on a bare branch on the table, all the pieces at once.  But years ago, we took part in a Jesse Tree swap at Cathedral and have enjoyed our set ever since.

Each evening, we turn off all the lights and we light our Advent wreath and pray the prayers the Vocations Office posts online.  Then someone reads the scripture for the Jesse Tree symbol of the day and someone else puts up the corresponding ornament.  It goes right onto our Christmas tree, decorating it a little at a time, adding to the anticipation and build up for Christmas.

The stories though . . . we love to hear the same scriptures reread.  From Creation to the Fall, through the covenants and prophesies, promise after to promise until they come to their fulfillment in Christ.  We love the way they point always to him and his coming, not just then in a stable in Bethlehem but one day to us. AGAIN! Even when the oldest kiddos were little, we'd have them tell us the stories they knew well so that the greatest story ever told was woven into their own. I love hearing their voices recalling the wonder of God's strength and mercy.

It is so good.

So good in fact, I love to share this tradition with others.  Each time we did the swap at Cathedral, we gave sets to godchildren.  And this year I started thinking that there were people we knew who would probably enjoy the tradition, too.  In the moments of serious stress over All Saints costumes, I would brainstorm Jesse Tree ornament ideas or peruse Pinterest for inspiration.  I wanted ornaments that would be kid friendly and rather sturdy - our set, well loved and all, has some pieces that have fallen apart because they were fragile and excited little hands sometimes drop things. Durability, beauty, and creativity were high on my list for qualifying ornaments.


I also tried to use things from my stash of crafty supplies.  More than once I heard Randy in my head asking if we were hoarders because I'd see or have an idea and think, "I have just the thing!"  Be prepared, right?!


And I put the family to work, too.  Jac rolled his eyes and heaved some sighs but when it came down to the leather crafting (and tying bits on and the photography and shopping and . . .) he was all business and the pieces were full of detail I hadn't imagined. The kids each helped and made ornaments and they all gave encouragement and excitement as needed, anxiously awaiting the next thing to be done and crossing things off the list.


It was a labor of love, to be sure.

Because there were so many great ideas on Pinterest, I thought I'd add our ornaments here.  Warning: there are a lot of images!  I encourage you, if you don't have a set, to make one with your family throughout this Advent, the next year, or make plans for a swap so you have one for the next Advent.  At the end of this post is a link to my Pinterest board, and a link to the booklet document with all of our scriptures. Prepare the way of the Lord!


Creation- We purchased clear glass ornaments then Gem and El swished in some green acrylic paint with a paintbrush.  They squirted in generous amounts of light and dark blue and swirled it about for a water and cloud affect.  I wish we would have let the green dry first, but now we know.  And I thought I was very clever and original with this only to see others online.  Humility!

_MG_7106The Fall: Finding little apples to add snakes to proved difficult so when the girls spied these at the craft store for 29 cents we snatched 'em up.  Gem and El used acryllic paint again and while it was wet, went hog wild with ultra fine glitter to make it look extra tempting.


Mary: This one was agonizing for me as I wanted something beautiful to do justice to Our Lady.  Inspired by vintage and mixed media art, this paper, glitter, and doily piece was the final result.


Noah and the Ark: Jac really outdid himself with this one.  He and Phil traced the pattern I made onto leather and then labored to cut them out and punch them.  Tess strung the rainbow ribbons while Jac decided no one would know what it was without the details and set to work on the boards and nails.  It's one of my faves.


Blessing of Abraham: Speaking of favorites, I really like this one, too.  It's supposed to be a camel and a tent.  We had left over canvas from FNE banners so I cut out the tents, zig-zagged the edges, painted on the camels. . . but it needed a little something.  Bright tassels seemed to be it!


Sacrifice of the Son: In remembrance of my great-grandparent's sheep ranching and strong opinions about black faced sheep, I used some tan craft felt, sketched out a lamb silhouette (Phil advised) and cut them out.  Gem helped me dip them in a watered down glue mixture to stiffen them.  When dry, Phil and Tess gave them their fleece by winding some leftover yarn about their middles, necks and haunches.


Joseph in Egypt: I wanted a colorful fabric but all of my stripes were pretty feminine.  I found a scrap of this from a Holy Handbag commission and it seemed right.  I used the same inexpensive floral wire that I used for Gemma's Mary crown and fashioned little hangers I glued the coats to.


Passover:  I copied the door from our set, found 4 rectangle tags in a package at the craft store, had Max wood burn the outline of the lintels and then swiped some red acrylic paint on for the blood.


Ten Commandments: We made cornstarch clay for school at the end of October and I shaped up 8 tablets then.  After baking, I dabbed on different shades of gray acrylic paint and used a toothpick to paint on the numbers.  I used a strong glue to glue them together and to afix a paperclip for hanging.


The Promised Land: I saw this idea on Pinterest - to use the pompoms to make grapes.  I had the green felt and floral wire in my stash so it seemed right to add leaves and a curly stem.


Bronze Serpent: This is, hands down, my least favorite of the bunch.  But, do tell, how are you supposed to fashion a serpent on a stick?! I opted for metallic puff paint on a branch. Blah.


Jonah: What fun it was to make these guys!  It was my first go at amirugumi and it sure was easy and satisfying.  It was also satisfying to have just enough! of the two blue yarns I used.


Ruth and Boaz: I can't hear 'Boaz' without thinking of my cousin Tom suggesting it as a name for his son. . . Anyway, I wrapped two strands of raffia around my hand, tied it in the middle with some fabric scraps and trimmed the ends.  Ta da!  Wheat!


David and Goliath: I saw it on Pinterest and it seemed the sturdiest way to make a slingshot.  Phil and Jac cut these out of buffalo leather and Tess and I strung them with old cotton rope.


God's Forgotten Scroll is Found: Old scrapbooking paper rolled up and tied with seam binding.  Jac opted to make these instead of using the stamps on the hearts and I think he wished he had chosen otherwise in the end.

_MG_7084Prophecy: A Shoot From the Stump of Jesse: Max cut a branch into little stumps, Jac drilled a tiny hole and I hot glued a bit of a silk flower leaf in the hole.  Tiny eye screws provide the hanging spot.

_MG_7063 _MG_7065

Prophecy: The New Creation:  I fretted over this one, too.  How to do the lion and the lamb together?  SIMPLY. Lots of ideas online had them back to back, but I wanted them side by side.  The Holy Spirit inspired this as I worked on another project and it ended up being my favorite piece. Two wooden beads painted (faces and tails!) and hung on twine.


Prophecy: The Prince of Peace: I didn't find anything inspiring online until I ran across this little pattern.  Just a pattern and picture and no instructions, I did as I saw fit.  He's stitched of flannel, has a felt crown and his less-than-thrilled eyes are embroidered knots.


Prophecy: The Good Shepherd: Max cut a metal hanger into lengths and then bent them into staffs.  We worked together to attach twine with glue and wrap the length of the crook.  Gemma loved these "Bishop thingies."


Prophecy: Suffering Servant: Like the Mary piece, I wanted a beautiful cross.  I found this searching for Cross Ornament on Pinterest.  Two nails, silver wire and beads. I got the wire wrapped around the center of the nails, but Tess and Ellie finished the rest themselves.


The New Covenant: I was inspired by folksy, mixed media hearts online. It seemed fitting to use scraps from a quilt I made for Nate and Lace's wedding to stitch these up.  Jac helped me decide on the words and I used a stamp set he gave me long ago to stamp onto scrap fabric.


Bethlehem: Again, I copied the ornament from our set.  These globes were at the Craft store for a steal so even though I was unimpressed with the glitter, I got them.  It worked out in the end, i think.  I painted a Bethlehem skyline, added yellow, glowing windows and stars.


Exile and Persecution: I made the flames the same way I made them for Gemma's costume, stitching flame-like shapes onto two layers of gold fabric.  I cut them out and layered them and then finished them off with a bit of netting I had.


Return to Jerusalem: The same day I made the Ten Commandments, I made the walls.  I pressed the pattern into the clay and painted them later.


Christmas Star: So very many beautiful options out there, it was hard to choose.  In the end, I went with crochet because I wanted to see if it really was possible to use bakers twine.  It was!  We stiffened these with the same watered down glue mixture we used with the lambs, pinning the points to some wax papered cardboard to help shape them. I should've added glitter. . .


Light of the World: I found this one online.  A little white felt rolled up and a tiny felt (and craft foam, in this case) flame glued in.


Angels Proclaim the Miraculous Birth: Again, so many choices, but not many met up with my qualifying standards.  Maybe it's because Gemma is still so enamored with Angels and Mary that I wanted something that could be handled and still look good.  I found the instructions for this on Pinterest . . . but they were in Russian.  The pictures helped and I made things up when needed.  Made of pieces of satin, lace, tulle, and ribbon.


The Birth of Jesus: Found on Pinterest, I used raffia for the hay, wrapped a little peg doll in white flannel (helped with hot glue) and wrapped it in twine.  Aside from the swaddling, it was super simple.

Four sets of these were made and sent to friends. I told Jac, as we put the last ornaments together, that I wish I had done more.  Next year!

My Pinterest Board of Jesse Tree Inspiration

The Scriptures we use in PDF format.

Prepare the way of the Lord!

This guy.

I'm talking about Jac. . . Not Santa.

I asked for help to get the timing of the pie just right and he just did the filling (it's multiple steps and rather messy). He wore a kilt and a tie to supper. He wrangled my afternoon peevishness and made me laugh at myself which is no small feat.

He loves me- loves us all- well.

It truly is the little things that mean the most. This summer, when I was dragging myself through each day, I received a new debit card in the mail. Calling and getting it activated and all that jazz seemed more than I could handle so I just put the envelope away and went on being nauseous and tired. It was two weeks later when I realized while out shopping that my card was different, newer. Jac had, without being asked, set up the new card, disposed of my old one and put the new one in its place without mentioning it to me. I was stunned by it, overwhelmed by his loving care for me.

To say I'm thankful for him and the way he out-loves me is a massive understatement. He inspires me to think beyond myself, to selflessly give, to love big in little ways. On this day of counting blessings, he tops the list. God sure is good!

"Allhallowtide, Hallowtide, Allsaintstide, or the Hallowmas season, is the triduum encompassing the Western Christian observances of All Saints' Eve (Halloween), All Saints' Day (All Hallows') and All Souls' Day, which last from October 31 to November 2 annually."

As we like to say, "Aint't no party like Catholic party!" When the Cheuch celebrates she goes big. One day to celebrate those who have passed before us? Pshaw. No! We need 3 of those!
We marked All Hallows' with a homeschool party. Philip helped me come up with the Saint-themed snacks so we spent the morning prepping our food.

The girls were happy to unwrap Resses cups for St. Martin's Broomsticks. Then it was on to jello jigglers for St. Januarius' blood, St. Lucy's eyes, and St. Kateri's cornbread. (We also took St. Francis' friends but we just opened the bags of animal crackers so. . . )

Jac got into the spirit, donning his St. Maximilian costume (have we gotten the miles out of that one!) but he refused to enter Walgreen's with it on. "Are ya skeered?" We all taunted as we watched scantily clad people walk through the doors. "No." He replied calmly. "It'd just be . . . confusing." Dressed as a Nazi prisoner with a tattooed number on your forearm? Really?

Sunday was All Saints and the kids donned their costumes for a third time. Max was scheduled to serve Mass and was disappointed that he couldn't just wear his costume instead of the plain alb. We ran into the Trask's on the way in so there were 10 saints trooping up the aisle together.

On All Soul's, we brought out the black and the skulls and the pictures of our deceased relatives. We talked about their memories and how we help them with our prayers. We discussed being ready for death and what it will be like to see Jesus face to face.

In the evening we headed to the cemetery. The Church teaches we can aid a soul suffering in purgatory by saying prayers at a cemetery, attending Mass on All Souls and receiving the sacrament of reconciliation. The kids were serious but not sad as were prayed for the souls of the people buried around us. "So. . . Our prayers could make one of these people a saint?!" Philip said as he lingered amongst the headstones. When we assured him of this he gave one last look."That's cool." was his quiet response.

We followed mass with the traditional Maxican feast then set to work decorating skull cookies. Oh, the sugar! Oh, the fun!

Philip may look less than thrilled, but he was the most interested in the details and his cookies were painstakingly ornate. It was late and we were coming down off of 4 days of partying. . . 

But why stop at 4, I ask you? Why? To take our revelry into a 5th and final day, we gathered the FNE group at St. Martin's monastery to pray in the sister's cemetery. We had a bon fire. There were torches. We have six-year-olds candles and took them for a walk in the dark and cold.

It was great.

Afterwards, there were s'mores and cocoa and ping pong. 

We slept in very, very late the next day because serious celebrating requires serious recuperation.

Ain't no party like a Catholic party!

This link has a great explanation and lots of ideas for the how's and whys we mark these holy days. May Thespis of he faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. All you holy men and women, pray for us!


Sifting (wading?) through my photos, I found a slew of them from Hallowtide and thought, "Huh. I should probably do something with these." And then I recalled that Lucy's birthday was what ushered in that whole season and so I should probably start there. 
Today, as we celebrated Ellie's feast day, Lucy held out her hands for silence. "MY birt-day." She pointed to her chest for emphasis. Yes, you HAD a birthday but now it was Ellie's FEAST day. She considered this, then with a giant swooping motion through the air announced, "MY birt-day FAST!"
You can say that again, sister.
Thanks to her siblings, Lu was worked into a frenzy about said birthday weeks in advance. And weeks in advance we knew that we would celebrate with the Seton Greet and Treat and pumpkin carving. Because the Greet and Treat meant costumes, I was preoccupied with those but still managed to notice that Lu spent a good deal of time lustily singing, "Happy birt-day meeee! Happy birt-day meeee!"
She spent just as much time demanding cake for "ME!" and telling everyone around, "No, MY birt-DAY!" rather forcefully.
She was more than ready.
She awoke to the requisite decor and cards on the table. She does a happy dance whilst squealing, "Chicken fies!" every time she sees the Golden Arches so her siblings pronounced that as the lunch plan. Jac took them to pick up pumpkins ($1.99 for the big guys at Safeway if you wait to the last minute! Somewhere my dreams of perfect pumpkin patch outings curled up and cried.) and to run through the drive thru and I finished up the last bits of costuming. A happy meal with mini fries AND apples AND a toy (a talking Lucy from Peanuts)? Perfection.
When it came time, post naps, to don said costumes, Lu pretty much flipped out. The more her siblings cajoled and coerced, the more she frowned and scowled and yelled her refusal. After everyone else was dressed, she looked around and, realizing she was left out, became cheerful and enthusiastic. "Me! Mouse! Mine!"

We waited in a looooooong line for the Greet and Treat but she was patient and interested in the other revelers. When the first piece of candy was dropped in her bucket- well, her world changed. By the end of it, the pumpkin hung sideways in her fist, too heavy for her to carry without dragging. When I suggested I could carry it, her reaction was swift. "NO! MY pun-ket!"

Thanks to the candy, she was uninterested in the pizza we had for supper with Fr. Dillon and Randy. She wasn't particularly interested in the pumpkin cake pops either. But the gifts? There was something she could get behind! She especially liked the pink boots and "bookies" from Mama Syd and Papa Chris and, though it took her a bit to warm up to it, the singing, mewing pop-up cat card from her Godfather.

 On to the pumpkins! She took one look inside Ellie's, wrinkled her nose and pronounced, "No!" So she didn't. Randy had brought 2 pumpkins to add to the stash and in the end only 5 of the 8 total were carved. Major fail when we couldn't find the candles to light them that night.

Lu didn't care. She laud on the floor in just her diaper, surrounded by candy wrappers, happy to be two. 

We love you Luba-Lu!

(Before her current stage when she was putting herself to bed and wearing two different shoes from different sisters.)

It was a simple question that Max asked at supper this evening.

"What was Lucy's first word, mom?" 

Inwardly I panicked as I stalled. I couldn't remember. COULD. NOT.

Thankfully, the cloud that is my children's collective memory recalled that her first word was "Papa." 

But my panic didn't ebb. It came from a deeper source, the place that says in a calming voice, "You will remember this. How could you not?" The place that shrugs it's shoulders and tries not to make eye contact when someone asks an innocent question.


Lucy is changing so quickly, we're able to notice it, one hour to the next. But I want to remember her right now, as she is, in this moment.

She's starting to say "yes" very deliberately, with the cutest lisp, and the most earnest expression. It's notable only because for months she has said "Neah." 

My theory is she came up with this word so that if she meant yes and we mistook it for no or the other way around, she could be mad with good reason. It was ALL she used so her "Ye-e-e-e-th," is bittersweet in its arrival. Helpful, sure, but I'll miss those "Neah"s.

In the last week, her bedtime ritual has evolved to more than just her blankie, though that must be present, to be sure. She also requires a pillow (no case though), a stuffy or two (but not touching her, just present) and two books. Her "bookies" began with any tome, but now it must be a photo book mama Syd made for Ellie in 2011 and a large board book titled Rainbow Rob. She hunts them down at naptime, knowing right where there are, and heaven help us if she is denied them at bedtime. Lastly, she says, "Banket" and waits for us to draw it up under her chin while she works to tuck the books in. Then, "More." A second, thick fleece is drawn up. And "More." with her grandma Ruby quilt added for good measure.

"Luh you!" she says by way of dismissal.

Compared to the wrestling/screaming matches that came not long ago, this is a welcomed (albeit detailed) change.

Change. *sigh* It's never ending. But I hope that writing it done will help me to remember all its beautiful facets and keep the panic at bay. At least for today.


You know what I don't like? The way doctors knock before entering the room. It's stupid, I'm aware, to feel this way and I know it's tied to my social anxiety but still. Because, what? Are you going to say, "Just a minute!" or "Come on in!" to the knock? You're in their house. 

The knock. . . It's dumb.

I was left pondering my deep and passionate feelings about the knock as I watched dust bunnies bounce about in the speaker that was playing vaguely country music this morning. Here's the other thing- husbands should be allowed to accompany you to stressful exams. "This is a women's only area. . . I'm sorry!" just doesn't cut it.

The news was good, so I shouldn't be griping, really.

I didn't sleep well last night. When pregnant with Lu, I found a lump in my breast. The day she was born, while in labor, I endured the first ultrasound. "It may or may not be benign. Come back in a year." they said. A year later, it was larger and had changed color, though it was "nothing to worry about," which seemed to go against everything I'd ever read. I was told, again, to come back in a year and so I stood, stressed and frightened, in front of my closet this morning. We had a meeting later in the day that I doubted jeans would be appropriate for. But if I donned a dress and the necessary tights, it'd be a pain at the doctors. In the end, I opted for the dress and figured it'd be fine.

The imaging tech was kind and friendly. She showed me to the pocket of a changing room and pointed out the gown. Then she told me that "only the top" needed to come off. My mind did a victory lap at not having to unzip boots and wrestle out of tights and the pregnancy belt. And then I shook out the gown. It was little more than a child's painting smock-an over the head deal, navy blue with a cheery pink knit collar. 

It barely covered my belly. I stood in that closet and decided that laughter was better than tears at this point. I heard the kids chanting about leggings not being pants and Elizabeth suggesting that we should just wear tights as pants in response to the outbreak of that being ALL the highschoolers wear.

I took the challenge and tried to act nonchalant when the tech came back to get me and usher me to the exam room. Tried to carry on a conversation carelessly, ignoring the fact that I was essentially in my chones and then left pondering how I loathe the doctors knock whilst not wearing any pants.

My nerves were frayed, as you might guess. 

But then the doctor-who kindly averted his eyes from ALL the awkward situations that were present- said it the mass had shrunken to such an extent that they don't need to track it any longer. At that point, it didn't matter what I was or was not wearing because, thanks be to God!, that was some good news.

I still don't like the knock or that I was alone. And let the record show that while pants are advisable, my sartorial choice made for a humorous moment. Above all, God is good, I am relieved, and we are thankful.

Pants or no pants.


It seems fitting that since I have the scent of vinegar stuck in my nose and having just scattered 4 cups of baking powder across a mattress, we should talk about pee.

We've been having some, ahem, issues as of late. Which is to be expected with a two-year-old who removes her diaper like it's her job, a four-year-old that thinks a night time diaper is the greatest injustice (she removes them after she's been put to bed, hence the mattress), and an incontinent dog (oh, the grinding of teeth over this!). Everyone, save the three offenders, has become quite adept at cleaning up the accidents and it seems like there has been a crib or bed that it stripped at all times. 

And then yesterday. . .

Gemma naps on our bed because while they sleep together at night (eventually), our children CAN NOT handle nap times together. So it's divide and conquer up in here. Yesterday, I ushered her into our room but she shied at the sight of our bed.

"But, um, did you pee in your bed?"

"What?! No!"

"Well then, who did?"

I'll admit I was confused. It slowly dawned on me. I had stripped the bed earlier that morning because there had been a lull in the laundry and I could wash our sheets. After all, there's nothing better than the feeling of clean sheets.

I laughed and assured Gemma that no one had peed in the bed though she couldn't understand why I had removed the sheets. At any rate, she snuggled down for her nap under the comforter but only after asking, "This doesn't have pee on it, though, right?" 


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It occurred to me as we hustled the kids into their costumes to catch the good light for pics before the Greet and Treat that perhaps this was NOT the stuff that I desired memories to be made of.

Fast forward 10 years: "Yeah, Halloween is just really stressful to me.  It reminds me of my mother being hysterical . . ."

I exaggerate but only slightly.

It was a stressful costume year.

The weekend Mama Syd and Papa Chris left -IN JULY- we started discussing who they wanted to be. (An aside: "I think it's cool how people usually ask, "Oh, WHAT do you want to be?" But for us it's WHO because it's an actual person." -Philip) There was no discussion, just decissive announcements.  Surprised and pleased, I accepted all of them willingly (and, let's be honest, I'd accept any saint so . . . ) But that Sunday we went to Cathedral for mass and I looked up at the stained glass and saw St. Catherine's veil and my heart sank.

It was pretty much all uphill struggle from there.

St. John Vianney


I was equal parts excitement and trepidation at the thought of sewing up a cassock and surplice for the boy man.  I was relieved and overwhelmed to find a cassock pattern but put off cutting it out for 3 weeks because things would get real.  Let it be known here and now that I hate patterns because I'm convinced they hate me.  "Matching symbols" - mine never match.  I told Jac I would stop sewing if the pattern instructed me to "ease in fullness" one more time and in the end I abandoned the hem for bias tape finishing.  In total the cassock used 150+ yards of thread and I didn't weep when I had to rip out the collar and reset it.  But I DID cry when Max announced Thursday night that he had to start on his crusader costume because his friend wanted him to be a crusader for the party on Saturday.  Okay, I flipped out and then I cried.  For an hour.  In the bathtub, alone.  Yes, I had spent 3 nights up past 1 to get his stuff done for the parish party so I was a little frazzled and fragile but still.  It was a low point for sure. I was torn as I want him to experience those sorts of frienships that call for coordinating costumes but the cassock!  And the surplice that sprang from my mind and was trimmed in a thrift store valance!  And wig! Appologies were made (from each of us) and he rocked it as The Cure of Ars.

St. Martin de Porres


Philip's current fave was a cause for joy.  In a year where every piece needed to be made, when I realized that he could wear the alb from last year I did an actual dance for joy.  Yes, a cowl/hood combo is tricky and slightly stressful but each time I do it, it gets easier and that's good news as Philip announced on Sunday that he wants to be a different kind of monk each year.  He requested a mouse for his costume and we had a lot of fun stitching up a little felt critter for his shoulder together.  He was so enamored that he made one all on his own for Lucy's birthday gift.

St. Margaret of Antioch


Tess was introduced to St. Margaret through the Explorer girls who took her as their patron.  Tess and I researched her story and went back and forth - St. Margaret is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, saints that were popular in the Middle Ages.  For that reason most of her artwork shows her in medieval dress but she was a virgin martyr from the 4th century.  She settled on Roman style and, God bless her, hers was the easiest to pull together.  We went in the style of Scarlett and Maria and used a curtain (technically, shower curtain.  Again.) for her dress and a pashmina I had for her shawl.  She found some great accessories and we had a sword, palm branch and dragon stuffy so she was set.  Tess was a great encourager to me when I wanted to quit - she asked over and over how she could help and would inquire each morning what I had accomplished the night before and would cross things off the list.

St. Catherine Laboure


Is NOT the flying nun.  She is a Daughter of Charity and that's not a veil but a Cornette after the headdress of the peasants of France at the time the order was founded.  Oh, we researched and did our homework!  Susan suggested writing the community for a pattern and the response I got back was that the habit it a sacramental so the sisters don't pass it on.  Back to square one. *insert weeping here* Jac and I studied photos and paintings and made miniatures and then full scale models in paper.  I used heavy fusible interfacing instead of the traditional starch because I thought the smell would be too much for our sensitive sensed gal.  It worked excellently.  On Sunday after Mass I instructed everyone to remove their costumes so they could eat.  "Take it off? But why?!" Ellie wanted to know.  She kept it on, relishing in the feeling it gave as she jumped on the tramp and ran around the backyard.  She then asked if her habit could be a mass dress.  She's a big fan.

Mary of the Immaculate Heart


The kids thought it was so funny and clever that Mary appeared to St. Catherine 3 times to tell her to make the Miraculous Medal, "And Gemma is 3!" They like connections.  I let Gemma decide on the colors of her dress and "capey-cape."  "And a bail, right mama?  You're going to make me a bail, too, right?"  We cut up a sheet for her dress and everyone was delighted at the bits and pieces from my stash that came together to make  her heart.  But Gemma was over the moon about the halo with stars Jac fashioned to top her veil.  Friday as they donned all the pieces for the first time she opted for her "sparkle shoes because they match my capey-cape like they are really Mary's shoes because I AM MARY."

St. Martin's Mouse


We couldn't decide what we wanted Luce to be.  We were leaning hard towards her being the dragon St. Margaret vanquished.  Everyone liked that idea because, as Phil said repeatedly, "All our saints battled the devil in their own way." Everyone liked that idea but Randy who pulled the godfather card and nixed it.  So she was a mouse for St. Martin instead.  I cut the jumper out of a thrifted thermal and Tess put the elastic in the existing hem - a mercy for sure.  I sewed her tail on by eye-balling it one late, late night and it ended up being about 3 inches off center which proved to be all sorts of funny to Jac each time she put it on.  She was not excited about the costume or her ears, no matter how her siblings tried to coax her.  But when she saw everyone else dressed to the nines, she changed her mind very quickly.  Come Saturday, she was yelling, "No!  Me!  Mouse! Me, face!  Mouse!  Face!"

They decided when they got into the car after the All Saints party on Saturday that they didn't want to go trick or treating - Sonic corndogs, Ichabod Crane, and Charlie Brown sounded just right to them.  And really?  It was the best thank you they could've given me


All you holy men and women, pray for us!

1 Comment


"Can I get you something from Walgreen's?" he texted, because he's always thoughtful and considerate like that.

"Sure. . . " I replied.

He sent a ridiculous picture with the caption, "Creepy skull mask?" 

Thank you, Jesus, for Ellie not having any Halloween induced anxieties this year. Not yet, anyway.

"Some sorbet? Or The Tonight Dough Ben and Jerry's?" I suggested.

He sent pics of the inventory and it was less than impressive.

"Surprise me." I said.

He brought home Half Baked and I said thanks but questioned if he knows me AT ALL. Chocolate? And "gobs" of it? Was he serious?

Turns out, Septimus said, "Heck yes, chocolate, please and thank you!"

I was very surprised, I assure you. And thankful for a husband who knows me better than I know myself.

Meanwhile, this pic makes me all sorts of homesick for California. Holstein cow? 'Gobs'- Aunt Linda says gobs. And the Half Baked reference, obviously. Let me just eat my feelings, I'll be okay.