Thursday, October 31, 2013

Day Four: Soul Cakes and more!

In case I haven't bragged enough over the years, while my upbringing was not Catholic, it was rich in REAL history and I am so blessed to have had it.  A favorite from my childhood? Oh, around this time of year my father and my mother who were both amazing musicians and singers would pull out their guitar and banjo respectively and sing me this song:

Yup - my parents were that cool.  I knew the "Soul Cake" song about the same time I knew how to walk.  My mother also made the delectable little cakes/cookies herself.  For those of you who don't know about Soul Cakes and the original "Trick or Treating", going from home to home on All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day for a cake from the mistress of the home in the words of the great Paul Harvey... "and now you know".

So before you go out today, tomorrow, and Saturday to beg for a treat from the neighbors, just remember, it all started with the Catholics - yup - yet another thing the Protestants can properly "blame" on us.  We are responsible for "Halloween".

Over and above the "extras" in your schedule please remember that tomorrow is a Holy Day of Obligation so if you plan on attending Mass in the morning for your obligation, set out clothes the night before and please limit candy to prevent the amount of long term bouncing off the walls before bedtime. 

And no, I don't mean the kids - be kind to your waistline - those pesky holidays are right around the corner - only pinch a few treats from the buckets and then set them aside or even consider trading out your kid's treats for a book or special treat they've been wanting.

Now, let's start talking turkey - all that Halloween candy in our home becomes the basis for holiday baking!  Anything miniature is often set aside to be melted down and/or put into cookies whole.  Solid chocolate bars are saved for melting and putting into homemade ice cream as well as some of the candy bars which we chop up and add in at the tail end.  Caramels are saved to be melted down and used in a variety of holiday treats.  So, don't be afraid to go grocery shopping in those treat bags.

Now, make sure the few things you plan to tackle over the next few days are reasonable with all the extra things you'll have on your schedule.  Tomorrow is the first Family Mission Friday on our schedule and I'm looking forward to having your families pitch in and help.  For those who are new to Catholic Creativity, Family Mission Friday is when we enlist our families in our efforts to increase the pairs of hands available and decrease the workload on Mom.

In the meantime please know I will be praying for the deceased in your families and I pray that you will join me in praying for the deceased in mine.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day Three: An Ounce of Prevention

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." ~ Benjamin Franklin

I'm rather of fan of this statement so you're "extra" thing over and above the normal household stuff and your lists today is to go through your medicine cabinet and anywhere else you store your medications.

I want you to do this NOW for multiple reasons.

1. The cold and flu season is now upon us.
2. Midnight runs to whatever store happens to be open might be available in your area, but often those stores charge higher prices and/or may not have the medicine you need in stock.
3. Improperly stored medications have a shorter life.
4. Upcoming refills need to be identified before they are needed.

There's one thing I know as the wife of someone with multiple disabilities who is on a small pile of medications he has to take on a regular basis - NEVER run out of routine needed medications during the holiday season.

So, here's the "game plan".

Go through what you have.  If it's a prescription, figure out how long until you run out of that medication.  If you are going to require a new refill between now and Jan. 15, make a note on your calendar the payday or grocery shopping trip before it is due so you can call in the refill and pick it up while you're already there.

Also, note how many times you will need that prescription refilled between now and Jan. 15.  If you don't have enough refills remaining, let your doctor's office know NOW before they're inundated with kids with the sniffles and the latest strep throat outbreak.

Now onto the rest of the cabinet.  Check the dates of ALL your medications and make certain they are not expired.  Medications do have a shelf life and after a period of time they begin to lose their effectiveness.  That's why those dates are there.  The last time you want to run out of tylenol is when you have a splitting headache because Aunt Ilene just accidentally broke your great grandmother's china.  Check it now and make certain it's all good to go. Add anything expiring or about to expire to your grocery list.

While you're in there, go through a mental list of what your family needs in order to get through the cold/flu/crud season and then make certain you have all of it.  Check not just what you need for you, but for all of your children as well.  3 AM is not the time to find out that you're out of cough syrup with a hacking 6 year old crying because he can't sleep.  Add all of this to your list.

Now, while you're going through that area in your home, let's do a quick run through of the rest of the bathroom cabinets.  Do yours look anything like mine?  Half used bottles of everything under the sun? Gift baskets of "bath stuff" that you never got around to using?  UFOs deposited there by the children, husband, and possibly even you that don't belong there?  Let's take a few minutes and tackle this debacle before the latest round of scents you don't really like from Bath and Body Works show up at your door this Christmas season. 

Pull out everything that's half used, not been touched, hasn't been used in over 3 months, and put it on your counter.  Take a look at it.  Now we're going to categorize.  Yours, each of your children's, your husband's.  Next up?  Put on your lab coat and pretend you are a product tester.

Do yours first.  If you never liked the smell of it, there's a trash can right there, start filling it up.  If you don't like the texture, feel, etc toss it.  If it's changed colors since you put it in there, toss it (this means the "good for you ingredients" are no longer that good for you anyway).  If it's makeup from more than a year ago, toss it (as a general rule, most makeup needs to be replaced at least annually due to contamination and bacteria).

Now take a good look at what you have remaining.  Is there too much of one item for you to use it up within a reasonable period of time?  Start sorting and prioritizing it.

Once you're through it and know what you really want to keep, wipe down the shelves where things will go and then give everything a quick wipe down with a wet rag as you put it back where it belongs and then move onto the next person.

And proceed to follow those steps for each member of the family.  This is also a great time to get rid of that stinky strawberry shampoo you can't stand of your child's and any fragrances "gifted" by well meaning co-workers to your husband that you can't stand.  Once you've gotten first test, then they can check the rest and make decisions.  Mom gets the first veto vote. ;)

Now that there is an IMMENSE amount of room in your bathroom cabinets and your trash can is full, take a deep breath and give a sigh of thanksgiving.  Gather up any special makeup you will need to create "special effects" for All Soul's Day and All Saint's Day costuming (I can make a wicked weeping stigmata after my time as a special effects makeup artist!) and have that ready for Thursday and Friday.

And now, in new and exciting news, we now have a Facebook group to bless and encourage each other as we travel this journey.  If you want to join us, please hop on over to The Blessed Mother's Hangout!

(See the original post for The Era of Preparation)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day Two - Waxing and Waning

We are in a season of our lives where our oldest (10) is pushing the boundaries of patience and our youngest (18 months) is in the "screeching" phase of life.

I spend a LOT of time praying my Rosary.

Now, let's talk Monday.  How did it go?  Did you accomplish all 10 tasks?  If not, that's okay - add them to today's do list.  We'll have a "catch up" later in the week for when those things happen.  Christ was kind enough to give us the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Penance for our mistakes here on earth - His solution works for us too. ;)  In the meantime I want to talk more about preparing hearts and how we can get ourselves the time we need down the road in Advent.

We all have periods where we wax and wane.  For those not familiar with these "old" terms they mean to grow and shrink respectively.  I'm not talking about the weight loss roller coaster - although I'm nearly 100% certain you know that version of waxing and waning as well as I *eye roll*. 

The holidays become a natural time for waxing, particularly when it comes to the "stuff" in our homes.  "Oh what a's just so UNIQUE!" over and over and we can't bear to disappoint Great-Aunt Martha so we retain "whatever-that-was" and so on and so forth.

The holidays, for many of us, have also become a time of waning.  A time of waning patience, tolerance, and even sometimes, faith. We become frustrated with the crowds when shopping, irritated with sudden "must do" engagements that weren't on the schedule, and often the more upset and flustered we find ourselves, the further we have walked from the purpose of this season - to prepare for His coming.

While Wal-Mart tries to stretch the period of retail Christmas preparations well into September, the Church was far more intelligent about the average person's attention span of a holiday.  How many times have you gotten to Christmas lunch with an attitude of "Thank God this is almost over!" and collapse into bed that night in relief and exhaustion?

This year it's going to be different and that's going to start right now.  We are going to "flip the switch".  It's time to wax in our patience, tolerance, and faith and wane in the "stuff" department.  We're going to wax in love, joy, and hope while we wane in commercialism and greed.

Back to that day planner we looked at yesterday.  Spend a bit more time with it and look at the "required" things on your schedule already.  Which ones bring you joy?  Which ones are things that you are excited about getting to do?  Which ones make you want to go and hide in a corner?

I can't take away all the bad ones and tell you it's perfectly okay to skip your sister-in-law's annual Christmas Party and pretend I did the right thing.  I can tell you to take the ones that don't need to be there off your list.  I can tell you to find ways to really enjoy the ones that bring you happiness.

As for today, you have a few things you need to get done on the "getting caught up" list and also today I would like for you to take a quick inventory of your situation with towels, sheets, tablecloths, napkins, and any other linens you keep in your home.  Give them a good look - you already know what they look like.  Are they serviceable?  Do you wince when someone spends the night at your house and has to use a ratty towel?  How about those dishrags?  Have they seen better days?

I know the budget is tight this time of year but in all honesty, I'm a much bigger fan of getting gifts I can USE than those that will rot.  I believe the same thing for my family as well.  We're very well known for asking for someone to purchase towel sets for the kids than for someone to purchase toys.  Toys they have. Towels I need.  This year, both our children are getting new "more grown up" bed sets for their bedrooms.  I'm making a quilt for each of them to go along with new sheets, blankets, and pillowcases.  Maybe even curtains.  No, it's not a shiny new iPad but unlike that iPad, it will still be serviceable in 5 years. ;)

Start rethinking what you're going to ask for and what you need.  Start rethinking your budget and  how to manage it for the holidays - and while you're thinking, tackle those "to do" items and get them out of the way so we can start getting to the more fun stuff. :)

(See the original post for The Era of Preparation or go to Day 3.)

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Era of Preparation: Day One

Welcome to Day 1 of The Era of Preparation!  So glad you joined us here. :)

Today is going to be a Monday and EVERY Monday we are going to focus on recovering from the weekend. :)  I know between Mass, social obligations, and extra humans in the house my Monday is always my catch up day and so it will be for us too. :)

So, here's the list of this Monday's "Ten To Do's"

1. Gather up the trash and get it out of the house.
2. Get the dishes done and put away.
3. Relocate the bathroom sink from the toothpaste of "getting ready for Mass toothbrushing" and other weekend atrocities.  While you're at it, gather up all the towels and anything else soft in there that can be washed and run that through the laundry.
4. Pick a cleaner(s) of your choice and run through the kitchen real quick.  Okay - now stop running through the kitchen and actually take the time to clean it.
5. Straighten up the living room and have the kids do a quick run through of the areas of the house that they inhabit.  Even my 18 month old can pick up toys and dust with a microfiber cloth.
6. Gather any items needed for All Saint's Day costumes AND clothes for Mass and get those into the wash today so they're ready on time.
7. Pull out what you need for dinner and get started a bit early so you have some buffer time.
8. Make a list of all the "extra" cleaning things you need to get done between now and Christmas.
9. Find your day planner.  Mine seems to have magical feet that pop out of it when I'm not looking.
10. Sit down with your day planner and your list.  (We'll do this together below.)

Okay - take a look at your list.  Is there more than 30 items on it?  Then you're going to need to do more than 1 a day.  Can you group some of them together?  Do some take longer than others?  Now, make a schedule of these "extra" things that need to get done and get ready to do 1-2 (or however many necessary) and plan out the ones you're going to tackle this week.  Next Monday we'll sit down and handle next week's.

For the remainder of this week, we're going to focus on those "extras" along with surviving All Hallow's Eve and All Saint's Day.

Please comment below if you have some great ideas for these two holy days and how your family celebrates them.  I am ALWAYS looking for ideas. :)

(Continue to Day 2 or see the original post for The Era of Preparation)

And so it begins...

In case you haven't noticed, it's 8 weeks to Christmas.  This isn't meant to inspire fear, it's meant to remind you of a few things.

1. Chances are you have approximately 4 weeks until people start beginning to drop by your home unexpectedly.  This usually begins around Thanksgiving in our home.  (for the record, that's American Thanksgiving)

2. Chances are also fairly good that if you have children, or even if you don't, your social calendar is going to start filling up in the next few weeks making catching up on ANYTHING nearly impossible.

3. Chances are there is a part of you that DREADS the chaos that ensues in the next few weeks and lasts until mid-January.

4. Chances are, you need a PLAN.

Now, the problem with #4 is MOST plans out there that exist are not FOR Catholic families.  They're FULL of "decorate your house in November so you're all set" and taking an entire day off for Black Friday crazy shopping.  They're not dedicated to time with family and time in prayer during Advent, which is to serve as a "mini-Lent" where you should be spending your time focusing on the light Christ will bring to the Earth on Christmas morning, not time spent being nearly beaten to death so you can secure the latest, greatest toy for your 10 year old.

Fed up with the crazy?  Yeah - Me too.

So for the past 2 years I've simply refused to participate in it.  We still celebrate, but we've done it in very small ways.  For one of those years I was 6 months pregnant.  For the other, I had an 8 month old baby.  Our family holiday season focuses on helping OTHERS, not ourselves.  Now that's not to say my kids come downstairs Christmas morning to an empty tree or that I've thrown the baby out with the bathwater.  We DEFINITELY still celebrate - but in a VERY different way.

So this year, I'm inviting you with me on the journey.  We are 8 weeks from December 23, 2013.  Right now it doesn't really have a name - at the moment I'm dubbing it:

I'm literally simply planning to share with you my day planner, how *I* prepare.  My "to do's" and my "don'ts", my cleaning schedule, my prayer schedule and meditations, and simply just my way to say, "I wish you EVERY ounce of love you can possibly absorb between now and Christ's birth."

Every morning I will give you a chance to pray, a list of "what to get done", and a list of "what to let go".  Yes, there will be some decluttering in the process.  You may not be June Cleaver by the end, but by the time Advent begins (actually ON Dec. 1st this year!) the random drop ins will be less stressful and the time of prayer and reflection will be able to occur without you spinning your wheels and just ending up making it worse and then stuffing the clutter into your shower and praying no one opens the curtain while they're there for a holiday dinner.

Let's do this together.  You, and me, and anyone else who decides to hop on board and take the journey with us.  I promise we will laugh.  I can also promise we will probably cry.  I will take your ideas and you can take my ideas and together, we will make it to the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  I can promise you this year you will have clean clothes ready for every Holy Day of Obligation for all members of your home and party and will have new and fresh ideas to incorporate Advent into your home and heart.

We will spent the first 4 weeks preparing our homes for the holidays.  The next 4 preparing our hearts for Christ.  Join me!  I look forward to sharing my journey with all of you.

Day One