At 4:30 pm, while I was nauseous with nerves and the kids hovered about me while I fought with the sewing machine ("Tension! Let's talk about tension! C'mon!!"), I gave myself a harsh talking to. Why? Why do you do this to yourself? Why do you make things harder than they have to be? Why must you make things a thing?

Well, because they're fun and memorable and pretty darn great.

I'm just writing it down so I'll remember the next time we are all in a frenzy.

I wish I could say it wasn't all my fault but even the kids dragging their feet can be traced back to me modeling plenty of procrastination. Dang. So the fact we chose our Mardi Gras theme on Friday, chose the day to celebrate on Saturday and then didn't have the house anywhere near presentable until lunchtime today. . . It was a team effort on the waiting.

I hope the kids remember how their costumes appeared like magic from the cantankerous machine. How bed sheets and scraps and curtains became garb from Japan, Africa, Russia, and India. I hope they take the joy of Mardi Gras and the fun of costumes  with them where've they go in this wide, wide world. And I hope-for the love of Pete and all that is holy- that they learn, by some miracle, to plan ahead.

We celebrated Penny's birthday with Her Godparents and Susan. We put her in her Guadalupe dress and she represented Mexico. Lucy was a Spanish flamenco dancer, Gem a Russian maiden (because it had a crown AND jewelry!), and Ellie opted for an African woman. "Even though I think I'm probably the second or third most whitest person in the house!" Her reason? She really, REALLY, wanted to wear her hair wrapped up. She went to bed only after asking if she could repeat the hair-do soon. And she loved that Maria came as an Africa. princess. Tess and I watched a video about how to wear a sari and pulled one together out of curtains. How fun to have Val arrive in a gorgeous authentic sari from her days in India! Philip wanted to be a Samurai and even *gasp!* let us put his hair into a Samurai bun. "My hair pores aren't as strong as the girls!" He announced. And Max, well Max likes to push his mother to the point where she gives up and then he pulls through. He would not commit to a country and decided at 5:15 that he would be Phileas Fogg from Around the World in 80 Days. But he wore a pink cravat so I won't complain! I represented Scotland and Clan Crawford with my kilt and Jac was "European" in his FNE uniform. He and Sebastian were a good pair as Seb was a Frenchman. Nate represented Peru and Susan was from North America-it was very cosmopolitan, you can be sure! We ate whipped cream on bacon and pancakes and in our pop and covered in sprinkles. In the end Jac said, "I'm so glad it's not Ash Wednesday tomorrow! Two full days of gluttony!" Yeah, that's pretty great.

It seems right, fitting even, that since we took our fall photos before it was officially "autumn" that I should finally get around to posting them on a frigid day in December.

Yes, I am rolling my eyes. Yes, I am disappointed in myself, too.

The lot of us were struck down with a stomach bug the third week of September. Jac and I both kept telling ourselves that surely we were not really sick. Surely it was all in our heads.

We woke on Jac's Birthday determined to power through, but by 12, admitted that our sweating, lethargic selves were, indeed, sick. We allowed ourselves a moment to mourn and grieve and then Jac suggested a run for the canyon.

Because driving those curvy roads with a van full of nauseous kids and people is living on the edge! And then coaxing photo worthy smiles out of them all?! Who doesn't love a challenge?

I kept glancing over at Jac all the way up wondering what we had done.

But God is good and no one got sick and no one yelled (Lu did cry but she was 2 and she takes her roll of being obstinate and difficult very, very seriously.


As we edited them at home later, Max couldn't get over how old he looked. "I look like I'm 15 or something!" We laughed over grumpy/crazy/confused faces and compared Jac's running shots to those of years passed.


It was another one for the books. "2016-the year we felt like puking." Nice!

_mg_5404 _mg_5365 _mg_5338 _mg_5310 _mg_5292_mg_5264 _mg_5230 _mg_5120 _mg_5466

When the Bishop repeated that there were 50 days of Easter during Easter Vigil, we took heart and took the message to heart. At the time, we weren't sure what our Easter celebration would entail as Philip had dragged himself to the Vigil and Max seemed to be fading fast. 

We reminded ourselves of the Bishop's words when we didn't have Jello eggs or cascaronés made and an egg hunt didn't take place.

Our kids didn't hunt for eggs on Easter this year. 

But you know what? We didn't die, no one cried about it (except me, of course) and we are still in those 50 days so you never know what can happen! 

It's a little thrilling to think about springing the eventual hunt on them. . . 

Baskets were enjoyed and ham was eaten even if we didn't get pictures to prove it. The meal was rather slap dash actually but Mama Syd and Papa Chris made it happen and didn't complain about the less than Martha quality table. We were together, we feasted and remembered the reason for our celebration. It was hard for me to let go of expectations but once I did, I sure was happier.

Max and Phil spent most of the day in bed. We moved slow and rocked the babe and enjoyed jelly beans. And serrated well in the Alleluia and truth of a Savior risen, making us an Easter people all through the year.


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.


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!"



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.

img_4575.jpeg img_4578.jpeg

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. . .

img_4583.jpeg img_4580.jpeg

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.



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!  



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

We survived.


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.


But they got done.


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!



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.


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.

img_4678.jpeg img_4682.jpeg

File_004 File_002 _MG_8212 File_006

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.

_MG_8210 _MG_8206 _MG_8180 _MG_8156 _MG_8159 _MG_8169 _MG_8144

Because we survived.

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!

1 Comment

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!


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!


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!


Let's remember 2015 as the Seder That Nearly Wasn't.

About a week before Holy Thursday I had a moment where the bickering and whining and complaining and all around nastiness pushed me over the edge.  There was yelling.  Awkward sideways glances shot from kid to kid.  I announced I wasn't going to a Seder if they "kept it up." (Oh, hello dreaded words my parent's used that I said I never would!  Welcome back!) I threatened no Easter baskets.  I put the read aloud up. That got Philip's attention.

"What can we do to make sure we actually do those things?" he quietly asked.

Then there came the puking sickness.  Lucy being sick was rough and on Sunday when she refused to walk or hold up her head and cried the little she was awake and sweated through her sleep - well, that about did us all in.  Then Gemma was hit and had a hard time bouncing back (insert joke about food and bouncing here). But when Mama Syd came down with it, well, that was terrible.  EVERYTHING was suspended.

I thought long and hard about cancelling.

The thing about traditions, though, is that they don't care what is happening.  They will be observed! The kids wondered about the matza.  They asked over and over who was attending.  Why couldn't Susan come?  No, but why? Tentatively, I started to prepare.

Mama Syd took a turn for the worse. Guests backed out.  We had bought a roast instead of a brisket, for the love of Pete!

I thought back on years past and the prep work we did in the week leading up to the Seder as we began prep around 7 pm the night before.  Philip took care of the marinade.  Ellie trimmed parsley and Gemma and Lucy supervised the slicing of the radishes.  Papa Chris came up in time to peel and grate apples and help Tess put together the charoset.  Around the table, the girls chattered excitedly.

Remember this?  Remember that?  Mom, don't forget!  Oh, that year!  What about. . . ?

They were busy and intense and filled with excitement.

"I'm so excited, I don't think I'll be able to sleep!" Ellie giggled. My throat grew tight.  This was what it was about.

The next day brought frenzied cleaning, Max manning the mop and Tess ironing the linens.  While Jac and I Easter shopped (a luxury with the grandparents in house), the crew made name cards complete with drawings of the Ten Plagues. (Some were more impressed by this than others.)  They researched napkin folds and all tried to get some mandated rest.  We tested our new lamb cake pan (some adjustments need to be made but I didn't cry!) and rinsed goblets.  Soon, I looked over to see all busy at work setting the table and doing the real work required and it was beautiful.

IMG_9603.JPG IMG_9606.JPG IMG_9608.JPG IMG_9611.JPG

In the end, it was a calm and lovely Seder.  The roast was delicious.  Lucy sat in a big chair and participated like a big kid.  The eldest read scriptures and Ellie did a fantastic reprise of the question reading.  Gemma only asked once if we'd buy her some Frozen flip flops and we were done in time to clear the table and load the dishwasher before Mass.  It really was a beautiful night.

IMG_9621.JPG IMG_9634.JPG IMG_9630.JPG IMG_9622.JPG IMG_9651.JPG IMG_9638.JPG IMG_9641.JPG IMG_8378.JPG IMG_8382.JPG

Here's hoping the kids remember the Saving of the Seder over my tantrum and that I'll remember that it's never as hard as I make it out to be.

Next year in Jerusalem!