Monday, December 28, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!!!  So happy this is the beginning of a whole Christmas season, because it means I am not late in the least in extending my wishes to you.  We are in the middle of a wonderful, luxurious, lengthy visit from my full side of the family, including my parents and Aunt Basia, my sister, brother-in-law, and niece, and another niece to be in the womb!  We had one of the most beautiful, meaningful Christmas celebrations in recent memory, complete with our Polish Wigilia meal, many little children, and our first year spreading out presents over the twelve days of Christmas  (which has been pretty awesome, partly because it means we still have presents left to go, and partly because it gives the kids time to really enjoy each gift as opposed to unwrapping things in a crazy rush and then tossing them aside).  It's nice to slow things down so that Christmas feels more about the birth of Jesus than a glut of stuff.

Somewhere in the middle of the past few weeks, Hugo was a really cute Christmas tree in his school's Christmas show, the twins turned two (more on that later this week!), and I am suddenly 37 weeks pregnant.  On Christmas morning we went to the local mission church for mass, and sitting there surrounded by family members in this beautiful old church that was founded in 1777, I was so awe struck with the enormity of Christmas and the ordinariness of it, how God came to the world as a baby, and what that means for all of us.  To be very pregnant at Christmas is a special gift, and even in the midst of being tired and a bit slow and exceptionally emotional, holding this life inside of me gives me such a special window into Mary the Christ bearer holding none other than the Son of God. 

This is going to be an especially exciting week, followed by an especially exciting couple of weeks, because we are about to have a baby!  Woohoo!  And yikes!  Because I have not even pulled out the baby clothing yet, but we'll get there eventually, and what I plan to do in the meantime is take it pretty easy and enjoy every single moment with this family of seven of mine.  Ooh, but we're so excited to meet this new person!

Merry Christmas, friends!  May this be a blessed, joyful season for you.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Advent, Almost Two, and Pregnancy

Advent is in full swing around here, which means that the tree is up and lit but not decorated, there are nativities all around the house, and every evening we gather for a moment of prayer and reflection around our (not yet made Advent wreath) and candles.  The thing I love about Advent is that it gives us permission to be not quite ready yet,  because man do I find myself needing a few extra days to get anything done around here!

The twins, if you can believe it, are right around the corner from turning TWO, and can I just take this opportunity to sing an ode to being two?  Having two one year olds in the house has been (picture me biting my tongue), quite an adventure?  Ay yi yi!  The messes!  The quarrels!  The opinions (without ability to express them)!  However, the past few weeks, on many occasions, we have sat back and watched while Clara and Dorothy happily, cooperatively, enthusiastically play together, and this has been amazingly wonderful.  They love both imaginarily and really feeding one another, washing one another in the bath, and (this is so cute) massaging one another before bed.  They have fully embraced the world of spoken speech and are adorably assertive and direct in their language choices.  "Sit!  Here!  Mama! (complete with finger pointing to exactly where I should sit)" is Clara's favorite, which is perfectly fitting for the daughter of a women who is perpetually flitting about from one thing to the next.  Oh my goodness, this age is among my favorites.

I am entering that stage of pregnancy when I am both ramping up, inexplicably getting a surge of energy that causes me to want to rearrange the whole house, and sloooowing down, royally crashing and then spending the day in my slippers and pajamas.  We have only now started assembling baby things and I am once again comforted by the fact that a newborn baby needs surprisingly little in the first months.  A sling?  A few outfits and diapers?  A baby swing?  California weather is a dream, and I am relieved that I won't have to mess with too much bundling this time around.  And my mind continues to be blown by the fact that we will just have one baby!  We are so excited, you guys.  Having a new baby is magic.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Under Big Trees

We just wrapped up the most delightful week with family who came to visit us all the way from North Carolina.  We walked around our little town, made candles, rode bikes.  We sat around the house next to a warm fire, snacking and chatting and reading.  And then after we ate a lot of tasty food and pie, we went up to the Redwoods to stroll around (and then drive into the cute little mountain town next door to eat some amazing pizza).  I think that of all of the natural beauty out here, there is nothing that matches the Redwoods.  Their age and scale and wisdom, it is truly something to behold.

We celebrated the first Sunday of Advent together before everyone went their separate ways, and there was something so sacred and life giving about praying together and singing together and looking towards the birth of Jesus with glad hearts.  

Our family has experienced great loss this year, which was poignantly brought home this past week by the absence of Ben's brother John.  It has been only a few months still, and we feel the weight of his loss.  And honestly, that sadness feels like an appropriate response: I would never want to conceal it or sugar coat it.  But there is a way that our hope transforms even our sadness.  As we together recited the response for Sunday's Night prayer, "He will conceal you with his wings; you will not fear the terror of the night," I think we all felt the words with conviction.  We still have so much goodness and beauty and joy in our midst-- and that is a testament to God's great provision for us.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Advent and Premature Decorating

I don't know what it's been over the past few weeks.  The seasons changing (which they are, complete with colorful leaves and crisp fall weather)?  Sickness working it's way through the house (and now on it's way out the door, knock on wood)?  Nearing the advanced stages of this pregnancy, our own little advent in this family?  Or maybe so many sad stories of violence both near and far?  I find myself ever so ready this year for the Advent season, for joyfully waiting for and celebrating the great miracle of God incarnate among us.

The other day I was sleepy and sick, resting in bed while Ben and the kiddos embarked upon weekend adventures.  I only have to be away from the fun for about thirty minutes before I start missing everyone, and when I crept downstairs, a full blown dance party was underway in our living room, with everyone from Zosia down to Clara and Dorothy shaking their stuff to Ben's eclectic dance mix.  Those little ones have some moves, you guys!  "Mommy loves this one," Ben said as he changed the track, and when he started the song I could only manage a smile for a second before I burst into tears, because isn't it all so beautiful and unlikely?  And Ben held me while I cried for the entirety of that song, because there are very few things so good and true that they only get better and better over the course of a lifetime, and this is one of them.  It is a good thing to cry about something like that.

On the home front, all of this has meant that I have embarked upon some utterly premature holiday decorating, which I blame in part on my nesting instincts and in part on my eagerness for it to just be Advent already.  We even took our family Christmas photo this morning, which I will obviously hide from you until it is appropriate to share, but I got a kick out of some of those out takes.  Twins in little gnome hats is among the cuter things I've seen this week.

We love Advent around here, and over the years I have realized that it takes surprisingly little work to create the space for a meaning filled advent.  Simple rituals: the lighting of an advent wreath, the singing of an Advent song or two (O Come O Come Emmanuel is our daily tune), and the reading of a few sacred words together alone can create the feeling of a sacred time that is somehow set apart (It's all about a wreath and a nativity, you guys!).  This year I'm hoping to join the church in the reading of one of the hours, maybe Night Prayer, just because that is the time of day when things simmer down around here.  The kids have already been asking about our advent celebrations, and it makes my heart so glad that they think of joyfully waiting for the arrival of Jesus rather than all the other stuff that can be so distracting this time of year.

Ben is out picking up some pretty awesome family from the airport as I write, and we brought home our Thanksgiving groceries this morning.  Thanksgiving is one of the best holidays around, if you ask me.  There is so much to be thankful for.  So much, you guys.  And then we just have a big party with all the best food to celebrate it, and a few days later we begin the Advent season.  I hope you find yourself in the midst of the spirit of gratitude these coming days.  Oh, and because I know I myself will be searching the blog for this turkey recipe within the next 24 hours, if you're still about to dash out to the store and haven't yet found a turkey recipe you love, try my mom's!  It's totally the best, even though it will never be as good as when she herself makes it.  Happy cooking!