Monday, November 30, 2009

Red Velvet Cake and the Dora Chair

The Red Velvet Cake was our baked treat (Caroline and I try to bake once a week) for the week before Thanksgiving. I let Caroline have a piece for breakfast (hey, it's sort of like a muffin, right?) and when I ran upstairs to start a load of laundry, I came down to find that Caroline had abandoned her cake and an all too eager Emma had made her way on top of the table was eating the leftover cake. Getting quite proficient with fork I might add.

In an effort to hold them off for a nap, I put on a kid's show and went into the kitchen to clean up the lunch mess. Sam climbed into Caroline's Dora chair and was out like a light. Caroline said, "Mommy, come see Sam! He is so cute in my chair...he is pretending to sleep!". She even kissed him and called him "Sleeping Beauty" it!

The Advent Wreath

We pulled out the Christmas decorations yesterday and I was excited to see that my advent candles will last another year before needing replacing. Caroline asked what the wreath was for and once I began explaining it, I realized that I didn't know much about the history nor the real symbolism behind the colors, which Caroline said were pretty but not "Christmassy enough". Good 'old Google helped me out, and in case you were wondering too, here is what I found:

"The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition. However, the actual origins are uncertain. There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring. In Scandinavia during Winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.

By the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. After all, Christ is “the Light that came into the world” to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the truth and love of God (cf. John 3:19-21). By 1600, both Catholics and Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath.

The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. The wreath is made of various evergreens, signifying continuous life. Even these evergreens have a traditional meaning which can be adapted to our faith: The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly, and yew, immortality; and cedar, strength and healing. Holly also has a special Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns, and one English legend tells of how the cross was made of holly. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also symbolize life and resurrection. All together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul and the new, everlasting life promised to us through Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.

The light again signifies Christ, the Light of the world. Some modern day adaptions include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is to replace the three purple and one rose candles with four white candles, which will be lit throughout Christmas season.

In family practice, the Advent wreath is most appropriately lit at dinner time after the blessing of the food. A traditional prayer service using the Advent wreath proceeds as follows: On the First Sunday of Advent, the father of the family blesses the wreath, praying: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” He then continues for each of the days of the first week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg thee, and come, that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The youngest child then lights one purple candle.

During the second week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure minds. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The oldest child then lights the purple candle from the first week plus one more purple candle.

During the third week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Thy ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The mother then lights the two previously lit purple candles plus the rose candle.

Finally, the father prays during the fourth week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Thy grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The father then lights all of the candles of the wreath.

Since Advent is a time to stir-up our faith in the Lord, the wreath and its prayers provide us a way to augment this special preparation for Christmas. Moreover, this good tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our homes and not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas."

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Thankful Table

Christmas before last (2007), my grandmother gave me her set of china. She knows how much I love plates and setting a pretty table, but it was the year that I was pregnant with the twins, and I never got around to unpacking and washing it all. Life only got busier from there and the boxes remained in the attic...until this week. It was life Christmas all over again to open the boxes and unwrap each piece from the newsprint. It not only looked beautiful on our Thanksgiving table, but it was meaningful to use because I love my grandmother quite a bit (make that quite a lot!). Thanks Gigi!

Days 21- 26 of Thanks
Day 21
Caroline: My family
Kristen: our van...Julie posted this on her days of thanks and it really drives home (pardon the pun) that we get into our car almost daily with three precious children and don't worry about breaking down or making it to our destination. We don't worry about how we are going to get somewhere because we own our own vehicles and don't have to rely on others or public transportation. This isn't the case everywhere or for everyone, so I am thankful that we have our minivan (yep, thankful for a sure does change, doesn't it?).

Day 22
Caroline: books and going to the library
Kristen: terrific neighbors...we live on a street with the nicest people. I am pleased to be able to call these neighbors our friends. I can call them to grab our mail when we are gone, I have a pet-sitting co-op going with two families, and I also get to have girl's night out and play dates with them. They are caring and friendly and I am so glad that we live near them all!

Day 23
Caroline: My Princess Car
Kristen: Health Insurance....there is a lot in the media about health care reform and insurance (or lack thereof). We are fortunate enough to not only be able to afford the doctor visits when we are sick, but when we are healthy for checkups and well visits as well. I don't know what the solution is to getting affordable health care to everyone in America, but I am very thankful for the coverage that our family has.

Day 24
Caroline: my family
Kristen: the military. My father retired from the Marines, Matthew's cousin Tim was in the service and went to Iraq three times, Bea's husband Chris is on his third tour right now, and my cousin Jacob is thinking of enlisting out of high school. I am in awe of the commitment and bravery these men show to serve for us. I am so thankful that we live in a free country because of the men and women who make it and keep it so.

Day 25
Caroline: my friends. I love them and they love me.
Kristen: that my children feel loved by so many people. There has been several cases in the news lately about missing children or worse, those who have been found but not safely. My heart breaks to think that they didn't feel loved or safe in their last minutes of life. My children are so fortunate to feel loved and doted on by so many people in their life. Who could want much more for their kiddos?

Day 26
Caroline: food. we have a lot of food today, Mommy. and my family and my bunny, and my princess car, and my brother and sister (hey, I just write down what she says).
Kristen: I am thankful that my life is exactly as it is. I wouldn't trade with anyone! I am loved and safe, we have a home and food, great kids and parents, friends and neighbors, money to cover the bills and sometimes even enough for the extras. While our thankful list is complete, I hope that I can remain as grateful for all that I have in the future as I am today.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Days 18-20 of Thanks

Day 18
Caroline: Bunny (repeats? I think it still counts when you are three)
Kristen: Great-Grandparents. My kids have four great-grandparents that love them and spoil them. That is so incredibly rare these days and I am so glad that my kids have gotten to know the neat people that our grandparents are.

Day 19:
Caroline: For you Mommy (Finally! Didn't think that was ever going to happen)
Kristen: Matt's safe return. Matt was away on business for three nights and I am so glad that it was an uneventful trip and that he made it back to us safely. I never sleep as well when he is away, so I am also thankful for that reason to have him back home!

Day 20:
Caroline: My brother (very sweetly said while sitting across from him at breakfast)
Kristen: Weekends. We are fortunate enough to have the weekends together as a family. No one works on the weekends and we often spend the entire two days together in our pajamas. I am almost giddy by the time Friday rolls around...I love them!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day 17 of Thanks

Caroline: That Bunny can go in my blue bag (on school days Bunny waits for Caroline in her blue book bag instead of going into the classroom with her).

Kristen: Caroline's preschool. It is the first place that she has ever gone without Matt or I and we're so glad to have such a neat place that cares and loves our girl like we do. They pray with the children and have the most creative projects. I feel blessed that while drops-offs can be a little teary, she comes bounding out with a huge smile on her face with lots of details about her friends and the things she did. I know that she loves it there and I am so grateful to her school and teachers!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Days 14-16 of Thanks

Day 14:
Caroline: Princess dresses
Kristen: Having girls! I am a girly girl. I love hair and make up, clothes and shoes. I am ecstatic that I get to share these things with daughters that love it as much as I do. We got to share some of this at Jillian's 4th birthda party...princess themed party. It was a blast....the girls made crowns, dressed up paper dolls, were read to by the "real Belle", and had lots of royal snacks. What a treat to be with my girl!

Day 15:
Caroline: playing with Daddy
Kristen: My husband. It is wonderful to spend my life with my best friend who loves our children and loves me no matter how ill behaved we are. I am so happy that my children have an involved father that is fun and supportive and helps their mother so willingly.

Day 16:
Caroline: playing outside
Kristen: health. We have all had very minor coughs and colds on and off for a month or more. It is difficult to do my job while feeling a little under the weather and it is hard to be a baby and not feel your best either. As much as I have complained about not feeling one hundred percent, how many people would trade their illnesses for these? I am blessed and feel lucky that the only illness on my plate are very tiny colds. How many mothers would rather have a toddler with a snuffy nose for what their children are facing medically? I am so thankful to have three vibrant, healthy children, for a very healthy husband, and to be pretty healthy myself.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Day 13 of Thanks

Caroline: my library books (whew! nice reminder as they are due today!!!)

Kristen: My parents. It's so nice to have an adult relationship with them; we laugh on the phone about the silly things that went on during the day or things people said to us. The know my kids well and can give a fresh perspective to me on parenting. I just love 'em.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Day 12 of Thanks

Caroline: My bed. Well, I did just wash her sheets and bedspread...could it be that she has a fabric softener fettish like her mother?

Kristen: Friends. I have some great ones. Ones who call to tell me to bring the kids over while I pack or unpack, some that watch the dogs while we are away, some that ask us over to breakfast in our pajamas, some that try to help me with getting my love of cupcakes into a business, some that listen to me on the phone with loud children in the background, and others who are there when I need them no matter what. I feel really fortunate and I am sure I don't tell them "thank you" often enough.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Day 11 of Thanks

Caroline: my Bunny (Bunny got a bath this morning and is looking especially good and smells quite lovely)

Kristen: clean clothes...sounds silly, especially after a day of doing nothing but laundry, but how lucky I feel to have the ability to wash clothes in my house at my timing. I don't have to go out in all weather to wash and dry. I am also thankful that every member in my house has clothing, which we know isn't the case for everyone. These things sound trivial and small, but listing things every day for a month to be thankful for really forces you to look at all of the little things in your life that are a blessing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Days 6-10 of Thanks

Day 6:
Caroline: Doc and M coming with us on our trip
Kristen: DITTO!

Day 7:
Caroline: my new little bed at Grandma's house. I think it is cozy. (Caroline ended up sleeping with us in our room at Grandmas's on a make-shift bed of blankets and a changing table cushion).
Kristen: three precious kids who slept all night long in a new environment without a peep

Day 8:
Caroline: Jonah. Mommy, he is a nice boy.
Kristen: Getting to see almost everyone from Pittsburg on our trip. What a treat to catch up and visit. It really IS the simple things in life!

Day 9:
Caroline: Xuxa (the Brazilian kid's show she watches over and over and over again)
Kristen: a safe trip and extra hands. Matthew and I ended up with migraines and the kids had horrible ear aches on the plane. Our crew was restless and loud and we didn't make many friends on our flights, but I am thankful for my in-laws who made the rough patches so much easier and loved our family.

Day 10:
Caroline: new groceries (we replenished this morning and the girls went to "help"...Princess cookies, marshmallows, Dora soup, Cars get the picture)
Kristen: bring home and in my nest. No matter where you go or for how long and wonderful, nothing is like being home again!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Day 5 of Thanks

We are headed to Kansas tomorrow to visit Matt's side of the family. He has so much family there and there are so many children! We don't make the trip often so we are glad to be able to go and that the kids are at a pretty good travel age (please, please, please don't make a liar out of me!) and will really enjoy the attention and loving they'll be getting.

Caroline: snacks that Mommy bought for the airplane
Kristen: Matthew and I have great family on both sides. Our families love us and each other, which is such a gift to our children! I am very thankful for our family.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day 4 of Thanks

The girls have been coloring together daily. For hours. It is wonderful bonding time for them as Caroline picks out the colors to share with Emma so carefully and lets her choose the page she wants. When Emma colors, Caroline complements her on her scribbles. The whole thing is great to observe and doesn't hurt that they do this while I am making about a win-win-win situation. Today I asked Caroline what she was thankful for and she immediately said, "a sister" and kept on warmed my heart. What am I thankful for? Children that love each other so dearly!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I almost never read these, but this is what I found on my homepage today...I don't really believe in them and think they are just for entertainment, but even I have to admit that it hits close to home today (see previous entry). Feel free to click to get your love reading :)

Day 3 of Thanks

One of the best pieces of advice came to me while I was student teaching. My mentor teacher, Jennifer Godfrey, noticed I was having a crumby day and said to me, "the best thing about bad days is that they never come in twos". She was right...usually when you have a rotten day, the next seems better (I mean, it's GOT to be better by comparison at least). Today was a day we will be happy to have only one of. Caroline didn't want to wear what I had picked her out for school ( I normally give her a choice, but with leaving this week to visit family, I am reserving certain things for the suitcase), she didn't like the way I combed her hair, she didn't want a banana for breakfast, she wanted juice and not milk, she didn't want to go to school and cried, she let the dogs out on her way to the garage instead of waiting inside while I buckled up Sam. She is a toddler! Sometimes my expectations of her are too high and I can be too tough on her. She is a great kid, but boy was this a rough morning! Every now and then, we get a wake up call to let some of the little things go and enjoy our children in the stages they are in. After being so stern and mean-sounding, I am resolving to giggle and play the rest of the day with her and to make the rest of the day less yucky...for both of us!

Caroline: I am thankful for my Bunny
Kristen: thankful that the bad days make you appreciate the good ones more and that rarely do bad days come in twos...

Monday, November 2, 2009


Thanksgiving is one of my two favorite holidays. I love that is makes you focus on what is really important without the pressure of gifts and expenses. This November Caroline and I are going to list one thing each day that we are thankful for...ought to be interesting!

November 1:
Caroline: I want to tell God that I am thankful for food.
Kristen: these three sweet little faces

November 2:
Caroline: I am thankful for my Princess microphone (oh boy!)
Kristen: that Matthew is able to provide for our family which allows me to be at home with the children