Sunday, December 23, 2007

O Emmanuel

December 23

Symbols: Manger

Come to save us, O Lord our God.

O Emmanuel (Isa 7: 14; 8: 8), our King and Lawgiver (Gen 49:10; cf. Ezek 21: 32), the Expected of the nations and their Savior (Isa 33: 22): Come, and save us, O Lord our God.

The manger reminds us of the simplicity and poverty surrounding the birth of Jesus and is representative of His life of humility.

Recommended Readings: Isaiah 9:2-7

*from Catholic Culture*

Saturday, December 22, 2007

O Rex Gentium

December 22

Symbols: Crown and Scepter

Come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.

O King of the Gentiles (Hag 2: 8), Desired of all, you are the cornerstone that binds two into one (Eph 2: 20). Come, and save poor man whom you fashion out of clay (Gen 2: 7).

The crown and scepter signify Christ's universal kingship. As we sing in the fifth O Antiphon, Christ is not only the King of the Jewish nation, but the "Desired One of all," the cornerstone which unites both Jew and Gentile.

Recommended Readings: Revelation 15:1-4

*from Catholic Culture*

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Sewing fun and Traditional Chrismtas Present Wrapping

Yes, I believe that is the longest title I've had so far. Nathan and I were at the library yesterday and I saw a book on the new book shelf entitled Crafting Christmas Gifts. It isn't the kind of book I would normally pick up but something about it struck me. Today I felt compelled to make the above penguin. I will give it away this holiday season to a friend of mine. It was terrifically fun and easy to make. I've never understood how others can get those eyes painted so perfectly round. This book gives a great tip: dip the end of a pin in paint and press onto the fabric. Wow! My best eyes ever. I think I may have to make some more of these little guys. I do love the penguin.This little ornament was made from a pattern called Monoki that I purchased from Burkholder's fabric on Saturday. I will put in on the gift for my mother-in-law. The picture is very dark but you can get the idea. There is a quilt pattern with this little folded kimono that I had planned to make for my sister-in-law for her birthday but now I'm thinking I may use some of the ideas but change the quilt around to better suit her style. I'll post a picture when it is finished.

I hope your Advent has been a joyful one. Nolan has one day of school left and both he and Nathan are very eager for Christmas. I have a little Christmas tradition every year when I wrap the presents. I love the movie It's a Wonderful Life and always put it on while I'm wrapping all the gifts. Mike doesn't like to wrap gifts so I usually reserve this event for an evening when he won't be home. Tonight is the night.

O Oriens

December 21

Symbols: Sun with Rays

Come, and shine on those seated in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

O Rising Dawn (Zac 6: 12), Radiance of the Light eternal (Hab 3: 4) and Sun of Justice (Mal 3: 20); Come, enlighten those who sit in darkness & the shadow of death (Ps 107: 10; Lk 1: 78).

Just as the natural sun gives light and life to all upon whom its rays fall, so Christ, the Rising Dawn, dispels darkness and brings eternal life and light.

Recommended Readings: Malachias 4:2-6

*From Catholic Culture*

O Clavis David

December 20

Symbols: Key

Come, and bring forth the captive from his prison.

O Key of David (Apoc 3: 7) Scepter of the house of Israel, you open and no man closes; you close and no man opens (Isa 22: 22). Come, and deliver him from the chains of prison who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death (Ps 107: 10).

The key is the emblem of authority and power. Christ is the Key of the House of David who opens to us the full meaning of the scriptural prophecies, and reopens for all mankind the gate of Heaven.

Recommended Readings: Isaias 22:22-25

*From Catholic Culture*

O Radix Jesse

December 19

Symbols: Plant with Flower

Come to deliver us, and tarry not.

O Root of Jesse, you stand for the ensign of all mankind (Isa 11: 10); before you kings shall keep silence and to you all nations shall have recourse (Isa 52: 15). Come, save us, and do not delay (Hab 2: 3).

The flower which springs up from the root of Jesse is another figure of Christ. Isaiah prophesied that the Savior would be born from the root of Jesse, that He would sit upon the throne of David, and in Christ this prophecy is fulfilled.

Recommended Readings: Isaias 11:1-12

*from Catholic Culture*

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

O Adonai

December 18

Symbols: The Tablets

Come and redeem us with outstretched arm.

O Adonai or O Lord and Ruler (Exod 6: 13) and Ruler of the house of Israel (Matt 2: 6), you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush (Exod 3: 2), and on Mount Sinai gave him your Law (Exod 20). Come, and with outstretched arm redeem us (Jer 32: 21).

The tablets of stone are a picture of the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai. They may be used to represent the whole of God's law, the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible, the Torah), or the entire Old Testament.

Recommended Readings: Micheas 5:1-9

*from Catholic Culture*

Monday, December 17, 2007

O Sapientia

December 17

Symbols: All-Seeing Eye and the Lamp

Come, and teach us the way of prudence.

O Wisdom (Eccl 24: 5), you came forth from the mouth of the Most High (Sir 24: 30), and reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly (Wis 8: 1). Come, and teach us the way of prudence (Isa 40: 14).

The "all-seeing eye" represents the all-knowing and ever-present God. During the late Renaissance, the eye was pictured in a triangle with rays of light to represent the infinite holiness of the Trinity. The lamp is a symbol of wisdom taken from the parable of the wise and foolish virgins in Matthew 25.

Recommended Readings: Proverbs 8:1-12

*from Catholic Culture*

Friday, December 14, 2007

Treasure Box

Nolan has a birthday party to attend. Ten year old boys can be hard to buy for. I saw this post over at the Angry Chicken and thought about how to modify it for a boy. Nolan loves to have a spot for all his treasures. You know, rocks and coins and gems and jewels and coral and bits of this and that. I figure every ten year old boy needs a place to store the really important stuff.I found the box at Michael's for a few dollars. Nolan picked out some cool paper and I just cut, pasted and then affixed the stickers. The bottom of the lid has an envelope for those special papers. For now a Barnes and Noble gift card is enclosed. I added some inexpensive gifts: planet stickers, sticky bubbles, Spider Man playing cards and some candy. I'm sure Cole will find his own treasures to keep inside.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Santa Lucia

Today is the feast day of St. Lucy. I don't have a ton of time to write so to find out more about her you can go to this page of the Catholic Culture web site. When I taught Religious Education at church I always taught about St. Lucy for the boys. This may seem strange because most of the traditional activities surrounding St. Lucy have to do with girls. I taught about her because boys love gore and St. Lucy had her eyes poked out as one of her tortures to try to get her to renounce Christ. Wow, what a faith! In art she is often depicted carrying her eyes on a plate. This fact always made her memorable to the class. I would often put two little bouncy balls on a plate for a child to hold while telling this story. My philosophy is to reel them in with something interesting so they can remember the story for years to come when the real meaning may become deeper. I hope St. Lucy doesn't mind.I made these little Santa Lucia dolls from this pattern. I couldn't find all the correct materials so I just improvised. I really enjoyed painting the dolls but not getting the dresses to fit. I planned on making a special Santa Lucia breakfast and having the boys make and wear star hats but it just didn't happen. We may try to make this snack later today if I have all the ingredients.

In the above picture you can see my pie crust table (which never got the blue star cloth I wanted to make...oh, well). I have St. Nicholas and Our Lady of Guadalupe sitting with the Santa Lucia dolls. Nice little reminders. Below is the current Nativity set up. Nolan changes it almost every day depending on which piece he opened. Today were the benches so he has Mary and Joseph taking a rest. He is pondering what kind of food they would have been cooking and wants to add some to the pot.
Below is another shot of the Nativity so you can see the shepherd with his sheep (and cow and goat which makes him a cowherd and a goatherd).And here is our Angel from on high with two very pretty kitties watching over the whole scene.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bloggy goodness

I thought today I would share with you some blogs I have been enjoying this Advent Season. First, a very fun one. I am a lover of children's books. My boys are getting older and we don't read picture books very often any more. We do still read them and still love them even though our ages are far beyond them. I was thrilled when I found that the blog Bella Dia was posting a children's Christmas book and a craft to go along with it almost every day of Advent. I haven't had any time to actually do more than read her posts but I may try a few of the crafts closer to Christmas when we have some time off school.

Footprints on the Fridge hosted the Beauty of Toymaking Fair (one of several that have happened over the last few months). There are lots of links and ideas here for making some handmade gifts and toys this Christmas. One I wish I had time to create was a personalized board game for your family. Check it out. Maybe the creative juices will be going in your house.

Allsorts has some really nice posts with fun printables and an online Gingerbread house to decorate. She also listed some really amazing Advent Calendars. I can't look too long or I start to think we need a redo on our calendar which is just plain white boxes with numbers printed on them. Look through her blog for some really great ideas and crafts and just plain eye candy!

Sew, Momma, Sew has lots of different crafty ideas posted each day of December. I've not had time to check them out but maybe you do: Click here!

Life has thrown us some changes this year and we are finally feeling a bit more settled. Mike started a new job in October and continues to give music lessons and play the organ at church. Nolan started school in November and just began to take the bus this week. This was probably the biggest transition but it has been a good one. Last night he told Nathan all about how great his school is and why he shouldn't be nervous about going next year (which will be the biggest transition of all). Nolan started with a new piano teacher yesterday and Nathan begins Horseback riding lessons this afternoon. So, Advent is bringing us a bit of a settled feeling.

As our Nativity grows I think about the life that led up to Jesus' birth. I wonder about what the shepherds talked about as they watched their sheep. I think about the awe that Mary must have felt when the angel appeared to her. The fear she must have felt as she told Joseph the story. The sorrow when he didn't believe her, the relief when he did. I wonder how difficult the journey was.

I love to see how Nolan displays each piece of the Nativity. The joy of childhood is embodied in this simple arrangement. For instance, Nolan has the shepherd with all his animals surrounding him. The lambs are facing the mother sheep. When he opened the cats, he has them placed beside the angel which is on the little ledge above the mantle. Yesterday, he opened Joseph. He placed Joseph facing the fire with his arms outstretched so he could warm his hands. I love how he has grown with the Nativity and makes each character his own. Nathan is coloring an advent wreath. He doesn't like to color each day because he thinks it makes Christmas seem too far away. I told him that children think it is still a long time till Christmas but adults think it is coming very fast. He made me explain this and has been pondering it ever since. The JOYS that our children bring!

I pray that you take time to enjoy the peace of the season. Take time to enjoy the simple things: the leaves falling, the decorations surrounding you, the excitement of children.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Narnia writing

Nathan is reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The literature guide he is using has some optional writing activities which I have been FORCING him to complete. I say forcing because he does not think he can write and he hates it to boot. It is hard for him, I'll give him that. I am trying to give him some confidence, however, and I think that comes with practice and success. He agreed to let me share his writing from yesterday with you. The assignment was to look at how C.S. Lewis described the Beaver's house and the activity surrounding making dinner and then write a paragraph about a room in your house and the activity going on there. So here it is:

In the computer room the mother was helping Nathan do some writing. They took a pencil and some paper. Nathan said the words and his mother wrote them down. Nathan thought the computer room was chilly because it was windy outside and there was no sun. There were three big windows on the southern wall. A mismatched couch sat in front of the windows. A map hung on the western wall. It showed all the flags of the countries. Nathan liked that map very much. Some guitars were hanging above the map. A dirty fish tank stood in the corner. There weren't any fish. A computer sat in the other corner of the room. There were books on a huge bookshelf with a globe on the top. The room was kind of messy but very comfortable.

Mrs. Beaver

"Well, I'm nearly ready now," answered Mrs. Beaver at last, allowing her husband to help her into her snow-boots. "I suppose the sewing machine's too heavy to bring?"
"Yes. It is," said Mr. Beaver. "A great deal too heavy. And you don't think you'll be able to use it while we're on the run, I suppose?"
"I can't abide the thought of that Witch fiddling with it," said Mrs. Beaver, "and breaking or stealing it, as likely as not."

-C.S. Lewis from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Illustration by Pauline Baynes

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Every month I make a little calendar to hang in the school room. I add the saint feast days, the full moon date and any special occasions we will be having. This month, Nolan made the comment that there must be LOTS of saints for December. In fact there are and I'm having a hard time keeping up with them all. I wish I could come up with a special activity and book and snack for every feast day of the year. The reality is that I can't. What I can do is make one or two feast days a month special and talk about the rest with the kids. The idea is to live our regular life for Christ as the saints did. Sometime that regular life involves work (school and for money), illness, distractedness, laundry, dishes, etc. I know the saints had all of these things to do and much, much more. They just continued to focus on Christ and to put Him first in all things. They did, however, continue to live out their lives.

So today, on this Holy Day of Obligation, I don't have anything special to say. Mary was, and continues to be, the most Holy woman and mother. We can look to her when our sorrows overwhelm us for she knew the sorrow of motherhood. We can look to her when we just don't want to say 'yes' to what God is asking of us. She said 'yes' when it made no sense to do so. Let us this day think of Mary and try to have the faith that she did. Let us say "yes" to whatever Christ is asking of us, even when we don't understand it.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Saint Ambrose

Today is the feast day of St. Ambrose. Stand up for what you believe in today, just as St. Ambrose stood firm in his faith. St. Ambrose was a great teacher and musician. Bees are often associated with this saint due to the legend that a swarm of bees landed on him when he was a baby and left a drop of honey on his mouth. His father and mother took this as a sign that his words would always be a sweet as honey.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Feast of St. Nicholas

I have always loved the story of St. Nicholas. I think I just always wanted my children to understand that Santa Claus was more than just a giver of presents. Maybe it was a way to keep the selfishness from getting too crazy at Christmas. To be honest, I think St. Nicholas was the first saint I loved.

The top picture is a craft Nathan made a few years ago at church. I found the pattern on the St. Nicholas Center web site. This is an amazing web site if you haven't seen it before. I have St. Nicholas sitting on our pie crust table in the hall beside the mantle where we have our advent decorations and are building our nativity. The children put out their shoes last night and St. Nicholas left them each a dollar and some gold coins. I am going to try to bake some cookies with Nathan today if we have the time. There are some traditional recipes on the St. Nick web site above.
Finally, if you don't have any books on St. Nicholas, there are lots of stories right here to read to your little ones. My little ones aren't so little any more but they still love a good story. The Saint Nicholas Web site has a section just for kids. Click here to check it out. Here is another web page with the story of St. Nicholas and some activities. Here is a simple coloring page. St. Nicholas was bishop of what is now the country of Turkey. If your kids like geography, see if they can locate Turkey on the map. For Christmas traditions around the globe click here.

Finally, do something for someone else today. St. Nicholas had plenty and he gave to those in need out of his own blessings. Today, give to someone out of your own blessings. Give a kind word or smile to everyone you meet. Bake cookies and surprise the neighbors. Visit your grandparents. You get the idea. Just take the time to do something simple and kind for someone else and you will share Christ's love just as St. Nicholas did so many years ago.

***After publishing this post I found lots of other links to good ideas on the blog O Night Divine. Check it out!****


This is our cat Jaws. He often spend all night prowling outside. He then spends most of the day sleeping on these pillows I made for the cats. He looks so warm and comfortable that I'd really like to do the same. Here's hoping you have a relaxing day today. Get a little rest.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Eye Doctor Update

Thanks to anyone and everyone who was praying this morning. We had never been to this particular eye doctor before and I was THRILLED with the office and the kindness of the staff and especially the doctor. Nathan does need glasses. He was not very happy about it until we went to look at the glasses and he discovered he could have his favorite color: blue! Now he is sad that he has to wait 2 weeks for them to be finished! Praise God. I am eager to see if this makes any difference in his attention in larger groups.

St. Barbara

Today is the feast day of St. Barbara. Click here for the story of her life. She was a martyr so the story ends a bit gory. I read that it is traditional to cut a branch on St. Barbara's feast day. If you take it indoors and force it, it will bloom by Christmas. I think we will give this a try.

Remember our hole in the ceiling? Well we've finally gotten it fixed. It is of course right in our hallway above the mantle where I planned to display our advent decorations. I spent a few hours priming and painting yesterday. I will do so again today. Why is it when one very small part of the house is being remodeled the rest of the house seems to become a disaster zone?

I moved the Jesse tree to the children's room and I think I will keep it there. We read the story at bedtime and it just makes more sense to have the tree and the decorations there. I am going to try to add to my side bar so you can see which story we read each night and which ornament was hung. Here is what we have so far:
  • Creation: Sun and Moon
  • Adam and Eve fall: The forbidden fruit
  • God sends a flood: Noah's ark with a rainbow attached
Well, I must be off. Nathan has an eye appointment today. I think both my boys need glasses. Nolan goes on Friday. Nathan doesn't always deal well with doctors and change and so I would appreciate any and all prayers this morning. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Feast of St. Francis Xavier

I have a confession to make: I don't know anything about St. Francis Xavier. Well, ok, I know this: today is his feast day, he was a priest and a missionary.

I have learned one very important lesson in the pa
st few years. In order to teach you need to know about the topic! So my little goal for today is to learn more about St. Francis Xavier. I think what we will do today is get some Naan (Indian bread since St. FX went to India) for an after school snack and read about this saint from The Book of Saints and Heroes. We can say a little prayer for missionaries and learn a little about the child we will be sponsoring through the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging.

I thought today I would share with you two resources to help you teach your children about the saints. The first is Saint Fun Fact Cards.
These are free cards you can print yourself. I used them on occasion when teaching Religious Ed. and the kids always liked them. Here's one for you to check out (click on it to zoom):
Another site that has some information on the Saints, the church year and activities is Sadlier We Believe. It was the book our Parish used last year for Religious Education. I'm not one to use a book to teach but this web site has some good ideas in it. Click here to see the saints listed. Unfortunately they don't seem to focus on the saint closest to his/her feast day but by how it fits into their curriculum. I'm thankful for the resource and hope you can use it in your own way. What I do is to find as much information as I can and then figure out what will work for the children I am teaching. Yes, this is time consuming but I enjoy it.

Today I am volunteering in the Learning Support room at Nolan's school. I am very excited about this. Nathan will come along and I have given him work to complete on his own while we are there. I think I will dedicate this little service to St. Francis Xavier and pray that he will help me help others today just as he helped others in his missionary travels.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Happy New Year and Happy Birthday

As we walk downstairs this is our view. I am quite happy with my little set up. This mantle along with two gorgeous wood pillars on either side of the entrance to our living room sold me our house. It's a good thing too because the house was a real wreck.

You can see our Jesse tree with its first two ornaments along with the book we are beginning to read. Our Advent boxes sit along side my advent letters. The boys open one box each day until Christmas and build their nativity in that way.

I don't have the pie crust table in the hall because we are having our ceiling fixed and I will actually have to take down all the decorations tomorrow so they don't get
filthy with drywall dust. I wanted to have them up today because it was the first day of Advent and it was also my baby's TENTH birthday. I can't believe both my children are in the double digits. Here are a few pictures of him with the present his Aunt MaryAlice gave him:Yes, this book has a reversible dust jacket. The actual book itself says Physics. Nolan spent a good part of the afternoon laying in my bed reading this book. He is getting an immense amount of pleasure from it. Way to go Aunt MaryAlice!

I hope you all had a marvelous 1st day of Advent. It is very cold here and we are having some freezing rain. I hope the forecast is better tomorrow.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

New Year's Eve

One of the many things I love about Catholicism is the Liturgical Calendar. It is a visible way to celebrate the joy of Christ's coming and saving the world. It is also a celebration of the people of God who have lived fully for Him. Today is the last day of the Church year. Tomorrow starts Advent. I wanted to share some ideas for ways you can celebrate the season with your family or on your own. I recently bought The Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions. It is written for a classroom teacher and includes activities for early to mid elementary children but I often take an idea and modify it for household use. Another book I have had for many years is The Catholic Parent Book of Feasts. Of course Alice Cantrell's Tea and Cake with the Saints is a gorgeous little book for girls (and women who wished they had this book when they were girls). Finally, I borrowed the book from Catholic Heritage Curricula called A Year With God from a friend a while ago and gleaned a few ideas there. The Catholic Culture web site is a great resource as well. Oh, and one more resource I have is the Teacher's Helper which is all kinds of great Catholic clip art, calendars and ideas from Nippert & Co ARTWORKS.

Here are some saints days of Advent:
December 3: Francis Xavier
December 4: Barbara
December 6: Nicholas of Myra
December 7: Ambrose
December 8: The Immaculate Conception
December 12: Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 13: Lucy
December 14: John of the Cross

I think it is a great idea to have a little area devoted to the liturgical year. For Advent I'm focusing on our mantle and a pie crust table (round with two tiers) for the colors and saints of Advent. I intend to make a dark blue cloth to cover the table and add some stars to symbolize the dark time of year as we wait for the Messiah's coming. You've seen some of my mantle decorations which include the colors of advent: purple and pink. Our advent calendar boxes will sit on the mantle to be opened each day. Inside is a Nativity that will be built throughout the season until the Christ Child arrives on Christmas Day.

Another tradition (which we started last year) is to create a Jesse Tree. Each day I will read a chapter from the book The Jesse Tree and the boys will hang the ornaments they made last year. Click here for a good explanation of the Jesse Tree and instructions on making your own. The Catholic Culture website has a great explanation of the O Antiphons. I keep trying to brainstorm a way to use the symbols for a wreath on my front door. I'll keep you posted on that.

Here are some ideas for two of the feast days in Advent. For St. Nicholas Day have the children put out a shoe before they go to bed. In the morning they may find some gold coin candy (reminding us of the coins St. Nicholas threw in the window for the poor family) or some little trinkets. Make some traditional cookies and give them to the neighbors. Clean out your toys and clothes and donate them to the poor or better yet donate some new items to Toys for Tots. The St. Nicholas Center has lots of great stories and ideas on how to celebrate this day.

Here is a really cute craft idea I discovered from the Posie Gets Cozy blog. It may be a little complicated for kids (well, my kids anyway) but it looks fun for me and I think the boys will enjoy looking at them and remembering St. Lucy. Apparently boys wear star hats on Santa Lucia day so we may make some simple ones out of construction paper and stickers. In Sweden they serve a special breakfast for Santa Lucia day and so you can make your own special breakfast for that day. Nathan loves to make muffins so I think we'll find a new recipe to try.

For myself (although I have to admit all of this is really exciting for me too) I will be following the reading of the Church by using The Word Among Us devotional book each morning. We will all go to adoration each Tuesday at a local chapel. This holy hour was set up with children in mind which is so wonderful.

Well, I have so many more ideas but I think I'll close for now. I hope this was helpful to you. My next project is to make a calendar to hang on our school room wall. If you would like me to send you a copy, just leave me a comment with your email or a way for me to find your email address. Don't type your email in directly to avoid spam. For ex: adventseason(at)nospamdotcom or some other form that will keep the spammers at bay.

Have a great New Year's Eve.
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