Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November Blessings

Now that the fall colors are fading, and Thanksgiving is approaching, I often find myself in a bit of a funk. During the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas I always worry and fret and stress myself out. What are we going to get our kids/parents/brothers/sisters-in-law/niece/nephew? What am I going to cook? How am I ever going to get my house clean AND buy presents AND send Christmas cards AND get presents wrapped and shipped, etc. etc. etc. I'm always envious of people who get all their Christmas shopping done and their presents wrapped before Thanksgiving, and are able to relax and enjoy Advent, and really prepare their hearts for the coming of the baby Jesus. I've mentioned this to Joe on occasion, but he doesn't like to think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving; although today he reminded me that there is no reason why I can't start thinking about it sooner. But this year at least, as always, we'll spend time with family for Thanksgiving (which is always a relaxing and enjoyable time for us) and in the weeks ahead, try not to stress too much about Christmas.

This year I want to focus on the many blessings that we have. Why do I worry so much about what gifts to buy friends and family? Many people are unable to buy gifts for anyone. Is it really necessary that my children get the latest electronic gadget they're begging for?

We have so much to be thankful for. We have a home to live in and plenty of food to eat and clothes to wear. My husband has a decent paying job that keeps the heat on in the winter, the refrigerator stocked, and allows us to save money so the kids can go to college. Right now our parents are all alive and well, and they love our children more than they imagine. They have aunts and uncles and cousins who miss them and pray for them every day. The boys are all doing well in school, and are forming lifelong friendships.

I want to share some highlights of the last month; on All Saints Day, Moe dressed up as St. Juan Diego. He had an old shepherds' tunic left over from one Christmas when the boys were in our church's Christmas pageant, and he painted an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the front. At school his class led the annual All Saints Day parade, and he was one of a few students selected to read his essay about his saint in front of the whole school. His teacher complimented him on how well he read. I was so proud of him!

(He's covering his face because he doesn't want me to take his picture. I'm seriously thinking of abandoning my own blogging rule about not showing my kids' faces here, especially now that they're getting older. The picture of Moe with the hat on top of his head is much better, and you should see his sweet smile!)

This is Curly, getting wrapped up like a mummy this past Sunday by the boys in his confirmation team. I am really looking forward to his confirmation preparation this year! My friend Lesley, whose twin daughters are also preparing for the sacrament, and I are leading the team together. (That's the other thing. I'm tired of referring to my friends as "L" and "J" and "B", etc. I want to use their real names from now on. I hope they don't mind.) Anyway, on Sunday we got the team together for our first official meeting, fed them ice cream, and as an ice breaker we had them wrap each other up in toilet paper.

At our parish, kids preparing for confirmation are required to complete three spiritual works of mercy and three corporal works of mercy with their assigned teams. A spiritual work might be attending Stations of the Cross during Lent, or a holy hour at church--something to help them grow closer to God. A corporal work is serving someone's physical needs--feeding the homeless, collecting clothing for the Salvation Army, raking leaves for an elderly parishioner. We decided (and this was Lesley's idea, as was the toilet paper icebreaker; I am extremely blessed to be working with my friend I've known since the sixth grade--plus she's super-organized AND creative!) for our first corporal work we would pack boxes for Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child project. We packed boxes with small toys, school supplies, toiletries, even socks and t-shirts, and they each wrote a note to the child who would be receiving his or her box. Lesley delivered the boxes to the distribution center where they were packed into crates and loaded onto a truck to be shipped, eventually, to needy children overseas.

Ever since we moved into our house nearly fourteen years ago, we've been talking about landscaping the front and back yards. We've had a lot of other things done--remodeled our kitchen and two of our bathrooms, had a deck built, painted and re-carpeted various rooms--and now we've finally hired a landscaping company to hopefully make our yard more attractive and (hopefully) less muddy. On Saturday there was a crew here drawing lines and digging holes and planting bushes and ferns and things and spreading topsoil. These last few days have been rainy, so unfortunately they haven't been back; but Lord willing, we'll have a perfectly landscaped yard before Christmas, and if we're lucky, it will stay that way for years to come.

This will eventually become a stone pathway.

Oh, and one more miracle happened: Curly was able to snap a picture of Holly our neurotic yellow Lab before she jumped up and started barking and letting us know in no uncertain terms that she does NOT like cameras.

I want to wish you all a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

UPDATE: There is one more November blessing I did not mention; check out my latest post over on Cooking Nick's Books to see what it is!

Friday, November 18, 2011

It's a Beautiful Autumn in Our Neck of the Woods (2011 edition)

Joe spent all of last weekend blowing leaves. And the weekend before that, and the weekend before that. A couple of years ago he invested in a heavy-duty gas-powered backpack monster blower, and the first time he used it he threw his back out. Now he's got the hang of it, but Monday morning, after the three-day weekend, he was sore and stiff. One Saturday recently, Moe built quite an impressive fort with the piles Joe had made.

It rained this week. As Joe left the house one morning, I heard him exclaim, "I HATE LEAVES!" No doubt he was dreading this weekend, which would surely mean more leaf-blowing. That afternoon, we returned home to find more leaf piles in the yard, as if someone had come and blown them for us. We were somewhat perplexed, but grateful. The next day we found little yellow flags in the ground leading from the house to the street, marking the buried gas line. That was when we remembered that last weekend we had signed a contract with a landscaping company, and they were eager to get started.

Today I came home to find all of this.

They start planting tomorrow.

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