Sunday, December 28, 2008

Happy Birthday dear Sam!

On this day 8 years ago, we were blessed with 10# 2 oz. Samuel Joseph. I can still feel his weight on my belly as the doctor placed him there for the first time. Wow, he felt big!!

His big sisters, Alice and Emma (just 11 months old) were staying with John's sister Mary for the day. Emma had her first 3 teeth cut through, and was a real "pleasure" to have around, I'm sure! (I still haven't forgotten Mary...thank you!!!)

For a few weeks to come, we'll have 3 eight year olds in the house. The kids like telling everyone that. They mentioned it first thing this morning. I joked, "Yikes. Just wait till I have 3 sixteen year olds." Emma was quick with "Yeah, cool. Maybe we'll plan to go on a triple date that day."
(AHHHHH! don't start with that!)

Happy Birthday Sammy Boy!

patience is a virtue

Patience is indeed a virtue, and one that is given many opportunities for practice and refinement...especially in a large family. Can you imagine having to wait your turn?!

Youngest to oldest is how it worked here on Christmas day. Poor Alice.

(Santa delivered toys to our basement this year, where there was much more room to spread out and yet still be together as gifts with small parts were opened and scattered.)

Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs

Since the sixth century, on December 28, the Church has celebrated the memory of those children killed because of Herod's rage against Christ (cf. Mt 2:16-17). Uncertain of the whereabouts of the Holy Family, he ordered the massacre of all male children under the age of two. Liturgical tradition refers to them as the "Holy Innocents" and regards them as martyrs. Throughout the centuries Christian art, poetry and popular piety have enfolded the memory of the "tender flock of lambs" with sentiments of tenderness and sympathy.
a prayer:
Lord, as the horror of genocide continues today through the mask of abortion, strengthen us for the battle and enlighten us to the awareness of your beautiful gift of life. We pray for your continued grace. Amen.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Blessed Christmas to all

It was a wonderfully exhausting Christmas here for our family! I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas as well.

Ours kicked off on Christmas eve with 4:00 Children's mass. Our two oldest joined in the choir, Sam played the role of Joseph, and Grace was one of the many angels dressed to celebrate the birth of our Saviour. John and Mary also attended mass with us, but this time we left Charlie along with the other 3 young ones at Grandma's. We arrived at church more than 1/2 hour early, and found it to be standing room only already. Fortunately once mass began, and all the angels found their seats, there were a couple extra pews to fill in, so we did get a seat. What a beautiful celebration it was!

Afterwards, we joined the younger ones at my parent's house for dinner (ham sandwiches and appetizers...HEAVY on the appetizers.) It was all so delicious! Of course there was time for some billiards and dancing (mostly the young ones) to christmas music before it was time to open gifts. And of course more nibbling on delicious appetizers and sweets. This is also my brother's birthday, so a phonecall to Florida to wish him a happy birthday was in order.

Naturally, bedtime took a bit longer than usual after all that excitement. I thought the kids would never fall asleep. Of course they arranged a plate of cookies and a mug of chocolate milk on the coffee table for Santa, and did a last sweep through to pick up toys so that the house would be tidy when he arrived. By 10:30 they were asleep, so the elves got busy. Very busy! I'd not wrapped the first present yet, so we had our work cut out for us. For years we've had the tradition of just 3 gifts per child, as with the 3 wisemen's gift for the Infant King. But I also had a few gifts for godchildren to open at our party on Christmas day. I think we made it to bed by 2:30. It's kind of a blur.

The kids were up at 7am, and John and I lingered in bed just a few minutes longer to listen quietly to their conversations about the gifts left under the tree. Too cute to hear their reactions! Of course, we don't open gifts right away. That'd be too easy. Rather, we let the suspense build while we have a light breakfast, get dressed, showered, fresh coffee, etc. (C'mon mom!!!! Can we open them yet?!?!?!) We managed to hold them off till 10. Everyone seemed more than pleased with their gifts. It was a very good Christmas, and I'm enjoying these years when they're still young, and easy to please. My parents joined us for gift opening, and then a late brunch of egg/sausage casserole, fresh fruit, toast and juice. The kids were able to enjoy their new treasures briefly before we were off to set up for John's family Christmas.

It was our year to host, so we rented a nearby hall...John's one of 12 children who all have families of their own now. The numbers add up fast. It too was a wonderful party complete with a re-enactment skit of the Christmas Story, a pinata and gift giving. We also enjoyed LOTS of food and beverage. The beef I'd been working on earlier in the week seemed to turn out great. Everyone brought plenty of sides and yummies to share. Good times were definitely had by all, I think. John took the kids home sometime after 9:30 to get them off to bed, and I stayed behind with a couple of the older ones to clean up.

In the days since, we've done not much of anything, but continue to enjoy our Christmas blessings. I was able to sneak out the morning after Christmas with my best friend who was home from South Carolina. We enjoyed coffee and an hour or so of wonderful conversation. Later her kids were able to join ours for an afternoon of playtime, trying out all the new Christmas toys. They played together so well, allowing us all time to just relax and enjoy. We've put puzzles together, built Charlie's new bike, downloaded some music for mp3's, continued to munch on christmas sweets, built forts and castles with Legos and Lincoln Logs, played with dollies and strollers, trucks and cars and tractors...and on and on. Tonight we're looking forward to the bounty of Grace's new Easy-Bake oven.

I'm ever grateful for God's greatest Gift, as well as time spent with family and friends this Christmas season. How abundantly we are blessed!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

questions for the man in red

Grace (almost 6) is asking for help with a last minute letter to Santa this morning.
"Dear Santa, Why do you take our lists if you have no plan to give us what we want?"


Monday, December 22, 2008

more holiday preparations

Somewhere in the middle of our busy day, Alice (8) asked me "Mom, isn't Christmas on the 25th?"
"Yeah," I said.
"Well, how come you're trying to get all this stuff done, now?"
" I can enjoy Christmas, and not be worrying about cooking then."
"Oh. Good thinking."
(yeah, I thought so too,)

Christmas preparations are coming along nicely, and today was another very productive day. I'm grateful to have the older kids home from school. Everyone seems to play together so well, the older ones include the younger ones while playing "school" or "house" or even organizing talent shows. It's just nice having them around. Today John was home as well for his usual "weekend" from work, so I was able to be even that much more productive. I started the morning by putting 5 nice-sized roasts into the oven to cook for the morning. John splurged and bought us all donuts and juice from the grocery for breakfast to celebrate the start of our Christmas break. (Very nice treat!) After breakfast, the older kids helped me to put another layer of paper mache onto the pinata we're making for our family Christmas party. Lunch crept up on us, and then John and Mary were off to preschool. Their teacher was kind enough to schedule a make-up day since their last two were cancelled due to icey roads. It gave them a chance to celebrate and participate in their gift exchange, and other festivities. Once they were off to school, I started shredding the cooled beef for sandwiches. It's our year to host John's family Christmas. We have the hall booked, and instead of ordering premade shredded beef, I thought I'd try a friend's recipe and make my own. It turned out wonderfully!!! And so simple. Why did I not ever try this sooner? After dishes and kitchen clean-up, I managed a shower for the day. (The kids were starting to wonder if I'd ever get cleaned up.) Then it was back to the kitchen for more holiday treat-making. This time it was Ritz crackers sandwiched with peanut butter, and dipped in white chocolate. Yumm. These are one of my favorites.
After supper, I made one final trip out to Walmart and Aldi's for groceries and party supplies like plates, napkins, etc. I hope not to be back in either store before the new year! It was just nuts, and someone please tell me why they have 36 check-out lines, with only 5 registers working?!
It was a very busy day, and I'm grateful to hubby for being so patient. This is definitely a team effort. He is so good about helping out and taking over with the kids so that I'm able to get the extra things done once in awhile. I truly am blessed to have him in my life.

On my to-do lists for tomorrow:
cook up a few more roasts, and shred (better too much than not enough)
cook and shred chicken for sandwiches (also for John's family party)
one last treat recipe (a toffee-like bar)
another layer to the pinata
christmas cards to get finished and in the mail (better late than never, right?)
fold laundry (I'm getting behind's clean, just not folded)
double check on kids clothes for Christmas eve mass, iron as needed
begin gift-wrapping? (or maybe not just yet)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

St. Joseph, pray for him

Sam came home from church this afternoon wild with excitement. He had just come from practice for the Christmas Eve children's mass. He was chosen for the part of Joseph in the mass, and while it's not a speaking part, he is involved in the processional, and again during the Gospel. Oi! I'm excited for him, and pray he was paying attention!

christmas traditions

We drove over to St. Henry last evening for my mom's family Christmas. She is one of 11 children, who along with all my cousins, and in-laws, and cousins kids, manage to fill up a hall pretty quickly. It's always a nice time, with great food, socializing, and of course Santa. He delivers a gift to every child, who waits in anticipation for their name to be called. My kids were revved up to say the least. One of my older kids, to my dismay was completely ungrateful this year. She got a crafty bracelet kit, that I knew she'd enjoy, but for some reason, she was a real turd about it. I tried to have a talk with her know, about how some kids get nothing at Christmas, etc...but she wouldn't hear it. Of course today she loves it and has been crafting every chance she gets. But, I'm left thinking of her "attitude" and how everyone around her was very aware of her little performance. Geesh, I always thought "beggars can't be choosers," but I guess I was wrong.

Anyway, the evening went on a success, and even little Lucy had the time of her life...walking all over the place! She got new shoes for her birthday earlier this week, and I think it was just what she needed to motivate. Too cute. (and yes, she had shoes before, but I'm not big on putting shoes on little ones before they're walking...seems unnecessary.)

As we drove home after 9, the kids pointed out one farm just outside of St. Henry that had a large lighted star mounted high up on their silo. I got little goosebumps, that for as long as I can remember back to my childhood, we watched for this same star as we drove home from my grandparents every Christmas eve. Little Christmas traditions. For these I'm grateful.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

December 17th, 2008

14 years ago today...
I said "I do," and I'd do it all over again! (and I'm pretty certain he would too.)

A Marriage Blessing
We thank you, O God, for the Love You have implanted in our hearts.
May it always inspire us to be kind in our words, considerate of feelings, and concerned for each other's needs and wishes.
Help us to be understanding and forgiving of human weaknesses and failings.
Increase our Faith and Trust in You and may Your Prudence guide our life and love.
Bless our Marriage, O God, with Peace and Happiness, and make our Love Fruitful for Your Glory and our joy both here and in eternity.

holiday preparations.

Sorry for infrequent posting, lately. John's home from his weekend shift on Mon, Tues, Weds. so this has allowed me more time to concentrate on Christmas details. My shopping is now finished. (Wooohooo!) Wrapping usually waits till Christmas eve. I don't stress about it, and just plan to do it last minute with John's help while the kiddies are sleeping. I think he enjoys seeing everything before it's torn open too.
I've also been busy in the kitchen making all the favorite Christmas treats. I try to make several batches of everything, to share with friends, etc. So far, I've finished Peanut Butter cups, M&M cookies, Brownie bites with Reeses cups, Pretzel Hugs, and a huge batch of "Puppy Chow." I've got a few more recipes to complete before the week's up, but I'm pleased to have so much done at this point. Alice and Emma and I went shopping last night for some new dresses. They have a Christmas concert at church as well as a Childrens mass, and a wedding in early February, so they'll get some wear out of them. They have such completely different taste in clothes, so it's fun to see what they're willing to try on. I was completely shocked (and a little excited) to come home with matching dresses. They chose them together and agreed immediately. They haven't dressed alike in years. The trip was a success and I look forward to not being in a mall again for a long, long time!
Now if only we could see a little of the white stuff on the ground...

angels among us?

At the breakfast table yesterday morning, Mary (4) commented to Charlie (3) "Charlie, you know you have an angel sitting next to you right now."
I happen to sit on Charlie's left, and caught his sideways, disbelieving glance in my direction as he followed with "That ain't no angel!"
(What, did the bed head and flannel jammies give me away?!)

Mary went on to try to explain about guardian angels, and I tried to help her, but the image in his head must have been blown, as he continued to glance at his disheveled mom and argue, "She's NOT an angel!"

(sigh) Even my kids know the truth about me.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

celebrating St. Lucy

The braided bread turned out absolutely delightful!!! This was my first effort at baking "real" know with kneading, and rising, and punching down the dough. Alice and Emma each took turns with kneading and had great fun!

...and this was the closest we came to little girls parading with wreaths of "lit" candles on their heads. (as apparently is customary in Sweden?)

St. Lucy, feast day

St. Lucy (Lucia) whose name means light, bacame part of our Advent tradition last year. We offered up many prayers of intercession for the safe delivery and health of our own little Lucy (her namesake) who turns one this Dec 18th.

This year we're going to attempt a traditional St. Lucia bread. We'll see how that goes.

a prayer from Catholic Online:
Saint Lucy, you did not hide your light under a basket, but let it shine for the whole world, for all the centuries to see. We may not suffer torture in our lives the way you did, but we are still called to let the light of our Christianity illumine our daily lives. Please help us to have the courage to bring our Christianity into our work, our recreation, our relationships, our conversation -- every corner of our day. Amen

Thursday, December 11, 2008

if you like brocolli...

I made the most wonderful (super-easy!!) Brocolli Cheese Soup yesterday, thanks to a recipe I found over at Kathryn's Kitchen. Tonight, I turned the leftovers into a wonderful chicken bake for supper. In a 9x13 I layered cooked white rice, then chicken breasts, poured the leftover soup on top of that, and finished with some dry stuffing (bread crumbs) for crunch. Baked for an hour, and voila...wonderful.

more holiday (curses) spirit!

Nothing says "Joy to the world!" like black smoke billowing out of an oven. Oh, I've had burnt items on the bottom of the oven before, but this was the real billowing smoke, that had the kids wondering if they should laugh or cry. I was crying, of course, from the smoke burning my retinas. In my first baking effort of the season, attempting chocolate chip bar cookies (with little red and green M&M's), the mix rose over the edges of the pan and proceeded to drip all over the floor of the oven. I think it was the M&M candies that really added to the smoke. I found myself reaching in, scraping the hardened goo off with a spatula, as the cookies continued to bake and splatter. Nothing like having to open every window and door in the house when it's 32 degrees outside.

Anyhow, by dinner time the house was nearly emptied of the smokey haze, which returned when I preheated the oven to bake the chicken breasts. On a side note, the cookies turned out perfectly!!! I cut them into 1 inch (bitesize) squares and placed them prompltly in the freezer, hoping they'll last to see the likes of the jolliest elf.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The holiday spirit...

I'm finally starting to feel that excited anticipation for Christmas around here. The kids have been feeling it since the stockings went up...but it's taken me a bit longer. I just kept looking at my list of shopping, baking, school exchange gifts, decorating, party planning...and I was just not in the mood. But something's come over me, and starting today, I've got the fever. The younger kids and I started our day by cleaning out the basement toy room. Our intention when we started was to clean up, then sort out and part with our gently used toys to be donated to a nearby Women's domestic violence shelter. It was just the motivation we needed and Grace, Mary and John and I got the job done in less than an hour. And while we cleaned up, and tossed many broken, neglected toys, "gently used" is unfortunately not in our vocabulary. We did not have anything worthy of donating this time. (Our cleaning sweep mid-summer though, sent many nice things to Agape, so perhaps next round).

Anyhow, from basement, we moved on to more holiday decorating. I finally got our large nativity set out and Mary helped me to arrange it "just so" on the pie safe in the kitchen. We added a few small Christmas trees with lights surrounding it, and it looks beautiful. This evening, the boys kept turning the kitchen lights out just to stare at it in wonder.

During afternoon naptime (while the older ones were at school) I added more lights outdoors. This time decorating the back porch, and stringing one tree full of lights. I always like adding something out back that's "just ours" to enjoy. The tree I decorated is the one that has several bird feeders hanging in it..visible from our kitchen window for bird-watching. I got a kick out of the black-capped chickadee who kept calling to me as I strung lights. I'm not sure if he was as excited about the decorations, or just wanted his supper perch back. He was good company, none the less. The kids excitement as they all gathered home after school was priceless as they checked out the new lights and decor. I get such joy doing these silly little things, knowing how much they find pleasure in it.

By evening, John got the big star hanging outside above our lighted yard nativity. The lights had burnt out after last season, so it needed completely restrung. (God's always providing us with exercises to grow in patience. Thank you Lord.) It looks beautiful, I think. The four oldest kids got out for an evening of Christmas movies at our Parish Center. So they came home all giddy and talkative about the movies, meeting Santa, etc. Seems as though we're all getting anxious.

Anyhow, tomorrow's another day and I'm hoping to get the baking "bug." I love trying new recipes every year, and I've got a couple yummies up my sleeve for this Christmas. Bring on the chocolate!
Peaceful night all!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

reminiscing about St. Nick

Meant to post over the weekend...just didn't get around to it. Anyhow, was thinking back this morning to St. Nick's feast day (Saturday) and what a nice day it was here. Other than the fact that the kids were up before 7a checking stockings. But fortunately, they let Lucy and I sleep in just a bit longer. Although when I got up a little closer to the 8 o'clock mark, I'd wished I would have joined them earlier. Most of their chocolates were gone, the orange slices (though there were only a handful) now gone, and they were working on the shelled peanuts. Who needs breakfast?!

Later that morning, the older kids organized a "gift exchange" for all the kids. (I should mention that we don't typically draw names or exchange gifts in this house, so it was cute that they came up with it...and with such organized formality.) Alice and Emma helped everyone to draw a name, and then helped them to "shop" from the toys in the basement. They were incredibly thoughtful about it...choosing favorite toys that they knew the recipient would love, then wrapping them with plastic grocery bags. Their efforts culminated under the tree where each child patiently waited to give. It was priceless. Charlie got his favorite plastic wrench from Rose, Sam recieved his favorite black high tops that Alice remembered "He wears everyday, so I know he'll love them!" (and he did.)

Moments like these, when everyone cooperates with such generosity, is one of the greatest graces I receive. Thank you Lord for everyday blessings!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Surely I'm not the only person in this world who spent the majority of my life confused about this feast day. It wasn't until recent years (embarassingly enough) that I realized we were talking about our Blessed Mother, conceived without the stain of original sin.

Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Amen.

children's thoughts on "sisterhood"

Grace (5) and Emma (8) were conversing over breakfast this morning about marriage verses the single life. I somehow missed how the conversation started, but the ending went something like this...

Emma: "No Grace. Like, Fr. Rick, he's single!"
Grace: "Oh, I thought he was married."
Emma: "No. Since you're a girl, you'll either get married, or be single. And if you're single you can be a nun." (pause) "Nun's pray a lot!"
Grace: (making the sign of the cross) "Dear God please send me a husband."

I nearly snorted milk out of my nose, and had to calm myself to explain to John what he'd just missed. Where do they come up with this stuff?!

and the ultrasound shows....

...ONE healthy tiny miracle!

I never cease to be amazed at the perfect miracle of God's handiwork growing in the womb! This 9 week old life inside me with a beating heart, tiny arms and's just beyond belief. I'm so grateful and humbled to be entrusted once again with this beautiful gift of motherhood. My estimated due date is July 6th. I continue to experience morning sickness (most of the day) and coma-like fatigue, but I keep reminding myself that this means baby is healthy and growing...and if all goes as before, the magic 3 month mark means freedom from these nagging symptoms. (somewhere just into the new year.)

Hope to have a widget up on the blog soon, to track new baby's development, as we count down the days.

Thanks for all the prayers. God Bless!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

on the feast of St. Nicholas

God of joy and cheer,

we thank you for your servant,the good bishop Nicholas.

In loving the poor, he showed us your kindness;

in caring for your children, he revealed your love.

Make us thoughtful without need of reward

so that we, too, may be good followers of Jesus.

From All Through the Day, All Through the Year: Family Prayers and Celebrations, by David B. Batchelder

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sam's First Reconciliation day

"I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Luke 15: 7

Our Sam celebrated the sacrament of Reconciliation this evening. With much nervous anticipation, he escaped to his room just prior for a "thorough" examination of conscience, and made notes of the sins he'd committed. He did not wish for John or I to read them, but assured us, he wrote "4 or 5 good ones," and used "complete sentences" to boot. I have to admit, my heart skipped a beat when he took those steps into the confessional for the first time. Flashbacks to his Baptism, and the promises we made to raise him to know Christ were coming to fruition now. I said a prayer of blessing for him, and the 60-some children joining him this evening. That they grow to love this sacrament, and share in it often, that they may remain close to Jesus, as He so wants us all to be. God Bless Sam!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!

I got the dreaded question today. Surprisingly though, not from one of my own children, but one of the kids in my 2nd grade religion class. It caught me completely off guard, as I had just asked for questions relating to their First Reconcilation tomorrow night. Out of nowhere, one sharp little student took the opportunity to ask what was apparently hot on her mind. "Mrs. Schmiesing, is Santa Claus real?" (panic, cringe) I realized that I was so unprepared for this question, or for when my own kids might spring it on me.
I dodged the bullet by responding as simply as I could. "Yes, the spirit of Santa Claus is VERY real!" "You should ask your parents so tonight." ...and then "any questions about First Reconciliation?!" (Please!)

'spose it would be wise for me to visit the confessional tomorrow as well.

Monday, December 1, 2008

boys, beds, blankets, and battles

At 2 in the morning, I tend to lose my sense of humor. So what started as a cute little episode between brothers, soon had me seeing red. It went something like this:
2am: Frank comes sliding in under the covers of my bed with frigid little hands and feet. Poor boy had probably been without blankets for some time. I scooped him up and brought him back to his own bed and tucked him in tight. I had to gently tug the covers away from his big brother Charlie, who was apparently hoarding them.
2:05 am: Charlie's at my bedside now, crying. "Mom! Frank stole all the blankets!" Arrg. I scoop him up, and carry him back to his own bed where sure enough I find Frank with their full-size comforter rolled into a ball and holding on tight on his side of the bed. I give them both a little reminder about sharing, spread out the blankets again, and back to bed I go.
2:10am: Frank's back and crying this time. More blanket stealing going on. More reminders about sharing.
2:13am: Frank's back again. Crying louder and with a different tone know the kind...the "I've just been punched in the head for no reason" cry. Another return to his bed...more talk of sharing, couple of kisses. (Did I mention little John's sleeping like a king across the room alone in his bed?!)
2:20: Charlie's turn to cry again. Alright's losing it. Time to share...time to sleep!!!! The threats begin...I think I may have mentioned stapling them to the sheets. I was tired, and cranky...and losing patience to say the least. Not my finest hour.

Anyhow...they did manage to fall back asleep with only a couple more visits to my room.
Can you believe that Charlie mentioned at breakfast that he didn't sleep well?! Arrg. Praying that tonight's a better, more peaceful night. Loving husband John suggested I could always pin one corner of the blanket to each of their pajamas. Funny. He obviously didn't hear a thing last night.