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!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Halloween Roundup

::A pair of foxes, who, as you can tell, are quite taken with one another's tails.
::We convinced Hugo to change his costume from a frog fish (which is a real animal, by the way, which most of us have not heard of, except for Hugo, who wanted to be one for Halloween) to an Osprey, because at least a bird would be identifiable by most people, right?
::Lily the raccoon (thankfully, we had a mask on hand, because we learned the day of the school parade that Lily is severely allergic to even hypoallergenic face paint!  For better or worse, this girl has inherited my sensitivity!).
::Zosia the deer.  You may notice that she has both the speckles of a fawn and the horns of a buck, which, if you actually live in the country around deer, you will probably realize is not the way God created it.  But it's cute anyway, right?!
::Ben the park ranger
::And the mama bear!

Oh, you guys.  I love this time of year.  I take everything back I said about California being too warm and too sunny all the time, because it turns out that when, paired with a slight cooling of the temperatures, daylights savings time, and a fun holiday like Halloween, fall is glorious even in sunny California.  

There were times "back East" (as everyone around here seems to refer to it) that, I will admit, daylights savings time felt kind of cruel.  It was getting cold and rainy, the foliage was all dying, and as if you aren't already adjusting to your inability to be outside, just like that it started getting dark early.  Last year was probably the first year that I met all these changes with downright dread, an experience so common that those of us from back East have given it a clinical name.

But on the West Coast, fall is gentle and mild.  There is no sudden temperature snap, no weekend when all the beautiful leaves fall to the ground, no drama.  I will admit, I do miss the drama.  But if you tune in closely, you do feel a shift, and the mornings are cooler, the sky is especially clear, and at night it feels cosy to be tucked under an extra blanket.  I make applesauce at least once a week, and Clara has decided that the only way she will nap is once she has fallen very soundly asleep on the shoulder of someone she loves, which has resulted in some wonderful afternoon snuggles.  And truth be told, when the time changed, it suddenly felt just right: dinners with a candle, slightly earlier bedtimes, and we even turned the heating on for the first time this week.

I think what I love about Halloween is the creativity: the excitement and imagination involved in dressing up in a costume and taking on another identity.  Over the years we've often developed a tradition of making costumes, which, despite the *ahem* lackluster craftsmanship involved, is something the kids love and look forward to, and I think there's nothing that pairs better with more time indoors than unlocking some creative energy.  I think this year might be my favorite year yet, and I do believe that there is nothing that makes it feel like fall more than Halloween.