18 December 2014

O Adonai

(Recycled/expanded from two years ago, because I want to try to post about all of the O Antiphons again this year but am too tired/stressed/busy to be original. Sorry!)

O Lord and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: come, and redeem us with outstretched arms.

I don't think this has struck me in past years, but today, that very last part of the Antiphon has really caught my attention. "...come and redeem us with outstretched arms." What an image those words evoke! Two different "types" of outstretched arms come to mind as I read that: a priest or bishop stretching out his arms to give a blessing, and a parent opening their arms to embrace a child. In His great gift of redemption, God reaches out to us in both ways. He showers us with grace and blessings, and draws us to Himself.

Today's verse from the hymn is a bit less exact a transliteration of the Antiphon than yesterday's was, but the sense is still there: come, mighty ruler and lawgiver, majestic beyond our comprehension! Come, lord who spoke through fire and cloud, at once ruler and ransomer of your people.

O come, O come Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times didst give the law
In could and majesty and awe.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

17 December 2014

O Sapientia

(Recycled from two years ago, because I want to try to post about all of the O Antiphons again this year but am too tired/stressed/busy to be original. Sorry!)

O Wisdom, who came forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly; come, and teach us the way of prudence.

It's December 17! We begin the final stretch of Advent this evening with the O Antiphons. Each antiphon invokes one of the Scriptural attributes of Christ, referring to Isaiah's prophecy of the Messiah. By praying them in English, we miss the acrostic hidden in the Antiphons: read backwards, the first letters of the titles in Latin form the phrase "ero cras," or "I will be with you tomorrow." (The Antiphons begin tonight and end on December 23, as we celebrate Christ's birth the night of the 24).

For several centuries, the Church of England began their O Antiphons on December 16, adding an Antiphon invoking Our Lady: O Virgo virginum, or O Virgin of virgins. The acrostic then read "vero cras," or "truly, tomorrow." This practice, however, was not adopted by other Christians.

The Advent hymn "O Come O Come Emmanuel" is actually a musical setting of the O Antiphons. Include them in your prayer this evening by singing the verse:

O come, thou Wisdom from on high
Who orderst all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.

(Out of respect for a former schola director, I feel compelled to point out that we "dreadful American congregations" have an unfortunate tendency to add a comma after "Emmanuel" in that last line. Note the meaning of the text; we aren't telling Emmanuel to rejoice--we're telling Israel to! It doesn't make any grammatical sense to put a break there.)

Whoa, Advent

The O Antiphons start today. Today. I have baked exactly zero Christmas cookies. Same with the fudge, the breads... No gifts are wrapped, and there's still a stack of Christmas cards sitting in my purse because I haven't managed to make it to the post office recently. I did finally get my act together yesterday afternoon and candy 10 cups of nuts, but that's the only thing I've accomplished. Last year, I'm pretty sure I'd begun baking mini loaves of festive breads to give as gifts and sticking them in the freezer the week before Advent began... I feel woefully behind.

But I probably shouldn't be comparing myself to last year, when I had a 1.5 year old who took 2+ hour naps and there was no one else asking anything of me. If I look back to our first Advent married instead, I was spending every possible moment curled up on the couch feeling miserable, and I don't think I managed any candied anything, or fruitcake, or stollen, and probably not more than one variety of cookie. As far as my pregnant Advents go, I'm doing pretty well here.

But really, it's time to start making some progress in ye olde kitchen.

Because I like schedules maybe a little bit too much, I actually went through and wrote down every single thing I'm planning to make, each on its own day so maybe hopefully they'll all actually happen. But now my schedule is all mussed, because I kind of want to add two things to the list and there aren't any more days... I know, not the biggest problem in the world; I'm just trying to be realistic about what I can accomplish in a day, with the baby stealing all of my energy. Getting groceries and putting them away this morning still has me tuckered out. The Christmas season is just beginning on December 25; maybe I'll push a couple more things off to the week after Christmas Day.

My list of "I totally can't accomplish all this before Christmas Eve":
- toffee bars
- shortbread
- spritz cookies
- fudge 
- Christstollen
- lefse 
- chex mix
- peanut butter kiss cookies (Matt and Little Bear will hopefully be making these some evening, because Kit still hates the smell of peanut butter)
- maybe some basic cutout cookies for Little Bear to decorate? Is he not old enough for that to be worth it? He's been having a lot of fun looking at the cookie cutters, but I'm not sure I'm up for that kind of chaos.
- also all of the local gift-wrapping and gift-giving and Christmas decorating...

There's definitely a difference, I've discovered this year, between the acclaimed prayerful intentional "celebrating Advent as Advent" and "decorating for Advent and then blinking and it's practically Christmas." Oops.

What's left on your list?

14 December 2014

Seven Quick Takes: A Feast-Filled Week

Late, late, I know. Lazy blogger, or actually using Little Bear's naps productively this week? Maybe a little of both.

I have two freelance projects going right now, one that has to be sent in by Sunday night and one with a fuzzier free-floating deadline that I can't make any progress on until other people finish and give me their pieces of the puzzle, so I'm trying to work on the first while being hazily aware that time is passing on the second. And encountering writers block like crazy, because we're halfway through Advent and pretty much nothing is done around the house... nothing wrapped, no cookies or candy started; I finally finished Christmas cards last night. And for some unfathomable reason, the fireplace can burn for hours without raising the temperature more than a degree or two, so I'm spending way too much time babysitting the fire. At least my fruitcake is done! I borrowed my 13-year-old sister for the morning on Tuesday, and in between doing her schoolwork she kept Little Bear's fingers out of the mixer so I could turn these out:

Mmm. No red 40 lake in here; none of us like the sticky-sweet colorful candied fruits, so this year's fruitcake is full of flame raisins, golden raisins, currants, apricots, and pineapple!

I heard about Emily Oster's book Expecting Better when it first came out last summer, and remember telling myself, "That sounds great. I'm definitely going to look for it next time I'm pregnant." And then of course I forgot, and it's only recently reoccurred to me as I'm finally beginning to feel like eating food again. Post-Christmas-shopping December wasn't the best time to remember... Maybe I can look into it after we get a ways into the new year and have recovered from Christmas. I love the idea, though, that Oster has actually read the scientific studies and parsed out what they really say about what is and isn't safe during pregnancy, allowing women to make their own decisions based on facts instead of leaving them at the mercy of Dr. Google and sweeping generalizations and all of the wildly conflicting advice you get from old wives' tales and well-intentioned strangers. I'm looking forward to eventually reading through her data.

And now it's Sunday afternoon... oops. I'll try to finish these up quickly while Little Bear naps.

I finished and submitted that freelance project yesterday—hooray! I hate having writing projects come down to the last minute.

We've reached the time of year when wars about Santa, the "you're ruining their childhood" moms vs the "you're lying to your kids" moms, spring up all over the internet. I'm not about to add to it, because I honestly think that both camps are a little bit silly... But "what are we going to do about Santa?" is a legitimate question that parents (particularly those whose kids are just becoming old enough for it to matter) have to figure out. I highly recommend Cam's recent post on The Santa Debate: Delving into the Whys. We're handling Santa pretty much the same way they are; it makes a lot of sense to Matt and I. But like Cam says, it's completely up to the parents of each individual family how they want to do Santa. Matt and I both were told that Santa was real as little kids, and I certainly don't think that other parents are doing something wrong if they choose to do that with their kids!

Matt's out at the rifle range with my dad and brother this afternoon, taking advantage of our beautiful sunny almost-30-degree weather. It's supposed to slide back into the mid-20s, low-20s, teens as the week goes on, so I'm so glad that he's getting out today! I'm definitely setting out Little Bear's snowpants for when I bring him over to Grandma's house after his nap, so that he can get some good running around outside time as well.

I think I originally intended to talk more about all of the feast days crammed into the past week, considering the title I gave this post, so let's run through those quick. What a week! The Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States (and of our parish), on Monday; St Juan Diego on Tuesday; Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and one of the Marian titles we have a particular devotion to, on Friday; St Lucy yesterday; and today is Gaudete Sunday!

Monday we had a white cake with blueberries scattered throughout—the Marian colors seemed appropriate, and it was a recipe Matt had been asking for. Mexican food on both Tuesday and Friday, along with lots of stories about OL Guadalupe. And Little Bear has been so, so eager to light the pink candle ever since I set up our Advent wreath, so today he was very excited: we talked about the pink candle, and hope and joy and rejoicing, and when he saw that Mama was wearing pink today he wanted to too. We sat right up front at Mass, and he could see that the pink candle on the parish's Advent wreath was lit; he couldn't sit still when we got home until we lit our pink candle, too.

I didn't forget about St Lucy, but her feast day gets its own take, because:

I made St Lucy buns for the first time! They were a lot easier than I'd thought they would be, and we've all been enjoying them! I used this recipe from Simply Recipes, which I'm not going to copy out here because she has a bunch of really helpful step-by-step photos interspersed with her recipe. Yes, saffron is awfully expensive, which is one reason I've never made these before... But all of the Spice Island spices have been 50-60% off here recently, so I was finally able to justify it. :-) I made slightly shorter snakes than the recipe says to, so we wound up with 18 instead of 12. Because they were smaller, I rotated the pans after 4 minutes and checked them for doneness at 8; I think I let both pans go about one minute longer, but I'm not quite sure and our oven has been finicky lately, so check them a little bit earlier than you think you have to.

Have a lovely, not too stressful, third week of Advent! Join the fun at This Ain't The Lyceum.

05 December 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Vacation Edition

Somehow, between lingering first trimester awfulness and trying to catch up from being gone for two weeks and it suddenly being December and Advent (how did that happen??), I completely ran out of time/energy to post this week. Again. Seven Quick Takes to the rescue! Let's see if I can manage to break down our trip into seven parts, and knock SQT and the vacation recap out together.

A friend from Matt's work picked us up at 11:30 pm to drive us to the airport on November 15. As we stepped outside, the sky was covered in the biggest, brightest, most colorful display of the Aurora borealis that I can remember ever seeing. All the way to the airport, the lights danced and changed overhead, and even as our plane was ascending we could see the ribbons of light covering the sky on both sides of the plane. It was incredible.

Photos from newsminer.com.

Between the flights and drive (and trying to navigate Philadelphia traffic in the dark during rush hour—we are never living in a big city again!) we'd been traveling for about 16 hours by the time we reached Matt's parents' house. Little Bear did a great job of sleeping on both flights, so he was happy when we arrived. Because we Skype with them every week, he was comfortable with Matt's parents right away—and very excited to follow their cat around everywhere! It was so nice to spend time with his family again; it'd been two years since we last saw them. And as my morning/all day sickness got substantially worse shortly after we arrived, I was very grateful for Little Bear's desire to play with his grandparents and their happiness to spend time with him. I'm afraid I wasn't a wonderful guest, often winding up needing to go lay down.

We made the roughly five hour trip out to Ohio on Wednesday to see the three of my siblings currently at Franciscan. They were all very busy, but schedules worked out just right that apart from Little Bear's nap we were able to spend time with at least one of them at almost any given time. On Thursday morning, the sister who is in grad school had us over along with the sister who's a freshman. After morning classes got out, my brother was also able to meet the rest of us for lunch at the lower campus coffee shop/cafĂ©. Little Bear was excited to see them all, and has since started adding the three of them to his list of "please bless"s at prayer time without prompting from us. We also had a chance to stop by and visit my boss in public relations, which was great, and when he found out that Matt works in video conferencing he arranged for him to meet Franciscan's head of video conferencing; Matt spent about a half hour talking with him that afternoon while Little Bear napped. And I was so glad that we were able to visit one of my household sisters who still lives in town, along with her sons! Little Bear had trouble sharing with the other boys, but when we were ready to go decided all on his own to give them hugs. As we were heading out Friday morning, we ran up to campus one last time so I could catch my Latin professor during her office hours. We weren't in town for even 48 hours, but it was so nice to be able to visit.

I have to say, for being a pro-life school and all of the talk about openness to life that goes on there, it was frustrating that I could only find one changing table on the entire campus, in the chapel... I do realize it's a university, but a lot of the professors have big families, and alumni come visit with their families frequently, and they make many of their events open to the public. Would it be so hard to put one changing table in the bathroom of the student center or the coffee shop?

Following the cat around everywhere remained a favorite activity of Little Bear's the entire trip. It took us a while to teach him her name, but once he got it, we frequently heard "Molly! Molly!" and an occasional "Molly, come here right now!" as he learned that cats just don't listen when you call them. She was surprisingly patient with all of his attention, though, and he did a pretty good job of being gentle when he petted her. Wherever Molly was, Little Bear was pretty sure he needed to be there too.

We made a whirlwind trip to Baltimore and back the Monday-Tuesday before Thanksgiving. On Monday morning we walked around by the water and visited the national aquarium with Matt's good friend from college, my matron-of-honor, and their two sons. We spent the day/night with them, enjoying the warm weather and the chance to catch up after so long; we hadn't seen each other since I was pregnant with Little Bear! 

The next day we met my other best friend and her family at an indoor playground just north of Baltimore. We'd last seen each other shortly after Matt and I became engaged, I think, but it might have been slightly before... It'd been way too long! Little Bear and her daughter had a lot of fun playing in a kid-sized village and on the play equipment and bouncy slide/ball pit, but not together... They each happily played with their fathers and pretty much ignored each other while us moms sat and talked.

Matt, his dad, and I took Little Bear to the zoo one afternoon. I think the adults enjoyed looking at most of the animals more than he did, but he loved the ducks: there was a little observation deck built next to a creek, and dispensers with corn and seeds that you could feed the ducks. Matt got a handful of corn, and Little Bear quickly learned that if he threw a bunch of pieces at once the whole crowd of ducks would swarm after them. We did so many other fun things with his family... An early Christmas gift exchange, so that we could actually be present to open gifts; talking and reading and cooking together; spending time with his brother's family. Matt's mother hosted Thanksgiving dinner, and I helped with part of the food prep; baby was being particularly uncooperative on "Thanksgiving Eve" and Thanksgiving, so unfortunately I wasn't as much help in the kitchen as I'd have liked. Our last night in town, Matt went over to his brother's house for a few hours while I watched the movie Moms Night Out with Matt's mom, my sister-in-law, and Matt's grandmothers. And Little Bear loved all of the story-reading, picture-coloring, train-watching, puzzle-assembling, and running around that he got to do with Grandmom and Grandpop!

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, our last day with Matt's family, was our niece's baptism. Matt and I were honored to be her godparents, and we were so glad that we could be there for her baptism! 

My baby unfortunately doesn't seem to like the smell of chrism... usually I love smelling it on newly-baptized babies, but it (like pretty much every other sweet scent these days) wound up making me feel sick. Baby had better get over that by this summer!

(Eight takes today, just because :-)
We drove back to Philadelphia right after the reception, going to an evening Mass, returning our rental car, and checking into a hotel with a shuttle to the airport. After making plans to get up at 3:30 to catch the 4am shuttle, we went to sleep. Well, Matt and Little Bear did. I lay awake, dozing occasionally, unable to sleep, worrying about flights, until I finally got up at 1:30 to check my phone in the hopes of finding a confirmation email that our first flight would be on time. Instead, I found a message that our flight had been bumped from 6:30 to 9. Our second flight was supposed to leave Chicago at 9:30. I spent the next hour and a half on the phone with the airlines, and got us all moved onto a 6am flight on a different airline. Woke Matt and Little Bear, threw everything together, ran downstairs to check out, and barely caught the 3:30 shuttle.

We made all of our connections fine after that, despite spending eight hours on the plane from Chicago to Anchorage (supposed-to-be-6.5 hour flight + technical difficulties + strong headwinds). Little Bear was as well-behaved as you could expect a two year old to be, trapped on a plane for so long. Matt had thankfully taken this past Monday off work as well; I don't know how he would have functioned at the office after that trip, or how I would have managed to unpack and go shopping and survive that first day at home with Little Bear by myself. I'm so glad we went! But now I'm so glad to be home.

Linking up with everyone else at This Ain't The Lyceum, the new home of the Seven Quick Takes party!

02 December 2014

People, Look East

I'm so sorry for disappearing there for a whole 2+ weeks... We've been traveling, and I don't like telling the internet when we are away from home because who knows who might find out and decide to take advantage of an empty house, you know? But we're home now, and I'll have stories and photos from our wonderful trip soon. Today, though, because my brain is all fuzzy from flying and not sleeping and trying to adjust to the four-timezone shift, I'm just going to throw out a handful of Advent links.

Four weeks until Christmas, y'all! Advent is definitely one of my favorite liturgical seasons. What are your favorite resources or traditions for the Advent season?

Some new finds and old favorites:

AdventReflections.com – FREE daily Advent reflections emailed to you from Fr. Robert Barron, available in English or Spanish.

Magnificat Advent Companion – I loved going through this last year, and am definitely looking forward to using it again! Scripture readings, prayers, and meditations for each day of Advent. The print edition is sold out, unfortunately, but e-editions are available for Kindle, Nook, or Kobo for 99 cents, or on the iOS App Store for $1.99.

Prepare Him Room: Advent Family Devotions – Amy Welborn's new devotional booklet, available for Kindle for just 99 cents. (You don't have to have a Kindle to read Kindle books; there's a free app you can download to your phone/tablet/computer.) It looks like a print edition was also put out by Creative Communications, but in my admittedly brief perusal I couldn't find a way to buy one; perhaps they're only available in bulk to parishes?

Our Favorite Family Read-Alouds for Advent – Kendra at Catholic All Year has a great list of picture books and short chapter books that kids and parents will both enjoy as we prepare for Christmas.

Melissa & Doug Nativity Set – I've been looking for a kid-safe nativity set that wouldn't completely break the bank since Little Bear's first Advent, and just hadn't been satisfied with the more cartoon-ified versions I'd seen so far. I had no idea Melissa & Doug made one, but we discovered this at a toy store in Matt's parents' town last week, and I was so happy! Little Bear still spends more time taking the roof off than anything else, but he did sit through the nativity story last night and seemed to understand which people in the book corresponded to the wooden people I kept pointing to... we still have a few weeks for him to figure it out.

12 November 2014

Much Rejoicing

I've been trying to find the time to write for days and days and days, and it just never happens, and now I'm exhausted after a ridiculously long day (in town 7:45 am to 2:45 pm and again 4:45 pm to 9:20 pm). But I have to at least throw a quick excited post up here because...

...we have a new bishop! After more than a year of waiting for a new ordinary, we found out Friday that next month we'll finally get to celebrate the ordination of Bishop-elect Chad Zielinski. He's currently an active duty chaplain stationed at the local Air Force base, and has served several tours overseas. I haven't met him yet, but have heard wonderful things from others who have.

...and Little Bear slept five straight hours in his own bed the other night, which was seriously a minor miracle after the awful nights we'd been having. He hasn't repeated the feat yet, but at least he's regularly giving us until 1 am or later before climbing in with us.

...AND today I had an ultrasound, and got to see baby Kit and hear the heartbeat! I've been so stressed all week, half convinced that the ultrasound was going to show that I'd lost another baby. I was so relieved, so happy, to hear Kit's heartbeat and see a tiny arm waving!