Monthly Archives: December 2013

Why I’ll Never Have an ‘Elf on the Shelf’ – Pt 2

See Part ONE HERE

 

Eventually, my children will outgrow the surprise of Christmas morning, and know it was mom and dad all along, but the mystery will still remain, God willing, as long as I do my part to instill the mysteries of Christ and the Church within them. When they discover the secret of Christmas morning presents, I hope they have the same reaction that G. K. Chesterton had as he explains in his short essay “The Other Stocking.”

 

“What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my mind and fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way.

As a child, I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not even worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good – far from it.

And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed towards me. What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still.

I have merely extended the idea.

Then, I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking. Now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.

Once, I only thanked God for a few dolls and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea.

Once, I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside.

It is the large and preposterous present of my self, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of particularly good will.”

 

And, you see my friends; an Elf doesn’t fit into this scenario. Elves spy on you to make sure you’re being good and report back to Santa? Not necessary, as you already have a guardian angel watching over you, and saints who are praying for you. They’re not trying to catch you in the act, like this elf seems to be doing, but rather are all rooting for you to do the best you can because they want you to join them in heaven – not just to earn holiday loot, then to heck with the rest of the year.

And that’s why I’ll have wandering wise men. Wise men won’t tattle on you to Jesus, since they’re too busy seeking Him themselves. They spent their whole lives searching for the Christ child, and during Advent, when my children see these figurines mysteriously migrating, I want them to remember that, and to try and help them find their way (point them in the right direction? Pray for them? Leave them notes? Draw them maps? The possibilities are endless), and then remember that we are to do the same, and find the Christ child in our own lives.

Now, is this all set in stone? Of course not, my kid is only nine months old, and there’s only one of him so far. I don’t know what sort of questions we will encounter as he and his future siblings grow up, but this is what I aspire to.  So you see, I’m not a complete scrooge about the entirety of the Christmas celebration outside of the Mass. I still love the movie ‘Elf’ and ‘Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer’ and all those goodies (White Christmas is one of my favorites, but it doesn’t factor into the ‘Santa’ mythos!), and I’m glad I have a few years before Finn knows what’s going on enough to ask questions about how St. Nick works with elves at the north pole. We can figure that out when the time comes. In the meantime, join me in tossing those elves out into the street, and get yourselves some wise guys!

… I mean men… Wise Men…

Why I’ll Never Have an ‘Elf on the Shelf’ – Pt 1

Yes folks, look out! This one is a two-part-er!

 

Happy Tuesday! And guess what?! No one, NOT A SINGLE PERSON challenged me and tried to convince me to get one of those gosh darned ‘Elf on the Shelf’ creatures.

Which is fine. I didn’t expect to get much more than an eye roll or two on the subject. To each his own, right? But still. The antics those elves get into are humorous, and there is a mischievous part of me that wants to give in to the cultural phenomenon.  Who doesn’t like making kids believe in the magic of Santa?

But then I have to take a step back and remind myself of a few things, especially when I look at those wise men dotted around my house. You see, especially since the birth of my son, I’ve been trying harder to make my house into the domestic Church that it should be. I try to pay attention to the liturgical year and celebrate when and how it’s appropriate. That’s another reason I started KNOW YOUR SAINTS! – So I could pay more attention to the Catholic calendar. Why can’t I incorporate an elf into that celebration? Here’s why…

 

What it comes down to is St. Nicholas vs. Santa Claus

 

And that’s the long and short of it. When I was in middle school, I think it was, we had a parish priest from Uganda (He pronounced it ‘Ugandaar’ –to this day we love his accent) who despised the American construct of Santa Claus, and refused to call St. Nick by that name. But instead of pish-poshing the entire idea and being a scrooge about it, if you will, he instead did the loveliest thing…

During the Christmas Eve way too packed where-the-heck-did-all-these-Catholics-come-from early evening Mass, he had all of the little children come up to the alter and sit around his chair. He began by speaking to them about the Christmas story, and asking them questions to make sure they knew what the season was all about. The children, along with the rest of the congregation, were listening attentively and silently when all of a sudden a cell phone goes off LOUD. It was obnoxious and persistent. People started looking around, and Father even stopped to look over at… the deacon, who was sitting next to him, and getting his phone out of his pocket! And then HE ANSWERED IT! We were all agape, yet Father was waiting patiently. The deacon said “Yes, hold on, here he is,” and hands the phone to Father, “It’s for you!”

Well, the children were looking at each other as Father carried on a conversation with someone on this phone, when all of a sudden he announces that St. Nick is calling! And he wanted to check in with all the children at this Mass to make sure they were being good. The kids were enthralled.

I honestly can’t remember the rest of the conversation, homily, or Mass after that. It was a long time ago, give me a break. But my point here is that, though he felt that Santa Claus had no place anywhere, and was really just an absurd construct, he did more that night to reinforce the mystery of the season than any of those parents could do by themselves. This is the route that I want to take.

Because, you see I’m the kind of person who almost doesn’t want to do ‘Santa.’ Because it’s not ‘Santa,’ it’s St. Nicholas. The ‘Santa’ of our culture today barely reflects that saint, and I have a problem with that. I want my kids to know who Santa really is: a man that does, in fact, see you when you’re sleeping, but is trying to get you into heaven at the same time. A man you can ask to pray for you, just like any other saint, except that this one replies with presents on a regular yearly basis. I should never have to prove ‘Santa’ is real, because St. Nick is, along with St. Lucy, St. Ambrose, St. Clement, St. Augustine, St. Elizabeth, St. Anthony, St. Francis, St. Theresa, St. Agnes, etc etc etc…

 

To be continued on Thursday!

My Nativity Set: The Wise Men (NOT SHELF ELVES!)

Good Morning! Only three (four if you count today) days till Gaudete Sunday! (Holy Guacamole… raise your hand if you’re not ready!)

On Tuesday you saw my Nativity set, sans Wise men. Well, that’s because it’s not the Epiphany yet! Those Wise Guys are still on their way. In my house, they haven’t even met up with each other yet. I have one in the living room, one in the kitchen, and one in the playroom. But they haven’t stayed there that whole time. No, they’ve been migrating, in my attempt to be reminiscent of the actual journey of the maji. Other people in their house may have a wandering elf, I have migrating maji.

By the way. I hate the elves on the shelves. Well, hate may be a strong word. But kinda not. I guess it depends on the day and my mood. Why? You ask? They’re adorable, and inspire children’s imagination, and blahblahblah? Nope. I really have an issue with them. But I’ll explain that next Tuesday. Just hold your horses. Or camels. Because today is about those camels… and the men who ride them.

Or kneel beside them.
Or kneel beside them.

Ok, so the camel is a little disproportionate to Caspar there (I’ve decided that this one is Caspar. If you know better which one should be which, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!). And I know, I know, I need to take some photography classes. I’m working on it. But you know what’s fun about him, and his other three compatriots? He’s holding one of the three gifts of the magi, FOR REAL. This set came with real gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The puffy stuff makes it look like he's ascending into heaven... via my refrigerator, no? :)
The puffy stuff makes it look like he’s ascending into heaven… via my refrigerator, no? 🙂

Yeah, this guy, Melchior, is the one holding real gold (encased in a little vial that doesn’t leave the chest there), and the other two have empty boxes that you can put the frankincense and myrrh in. The set came with two bags (maybe a 1/2 ounce) of each, and suggests that you burn a piece to make the scent fill the room. I may do that when Finn is older, on Christmas or the Epiphany or something. For now, I simply showed the kids I nanny the pieces and had them smell each one. They said it reminded them of Church! Good job, kids!

So majestic...
So majestic…

Balthazar is hanging out in the playroom. Check out the look the camel is giving us. It’s like he knows something we don’t… Anyways, I’ve been trying to move the magi here and there every so often when the kids aren’t here (or aren’t looking… or it’s naptime), and they love it. Every day they look for them to see if they’ve moved. And if I’ve forgotten “Well, kids, they’ve got to rest SOMEtime! It’s a long journey to Bethlehemonmytable.” And best of all, they don’t get into any mischief! They don’t have the time for it! They have to find baby Jesus!

Just don’t tell them I hid Him in the napkin drawer, mmmkay?

*By the way, you have till Tuesday to convince me that the Elf on the Shelf is a good idea. My rant begins then!*

Thanks for stopping by! And have a great weekend, and happy Gaudete Sunday!

 

My Nativity Set

Good Tuesday morning everyone!

Is your house all Christmas-y yet? I’m still working on it, but I wanted to share with you the very first decorations I got out this year. I was very excited about them, since I just got them for Christmas last year. Are you ready?

YAY!
YAY!

It’s my nativity! Ain’t it purdy? My in-laws got the set for me last Christmas, and my father-in-law built the stable himself to go with all the figurines. It has a place to perch the star (which originally has it’s own stand), and has a lightbulb that, unfortunately, you can’t see all lit up, because there’s no outlet anywhere near that table. And that’s the best table for the set, so it must remain un-illuminated. Maybe someday. 

Stable

I like the little lean-to as a stable. It’s sturdy, and just the right size for the set. And, as you can see, the Holy Family experienced a bit of inclement weather on their way there. It snowed poly-fill stuffing! (Looks believable enough though, right? No? Ok, give me a break… it’s all I’ve got right now. With tiny grabbing hands, it’s not worth getting more stuff out).

So peaceful...
So peaceful…

Here’s Mary and Joseph with their noble steed (Donkey!). Notice Mary’s arms… you can put the little baby Jesus either in her arms or in the manger when he comes (he’s in with the napkins in the drawer below. Sorry baby! It’s not your birthday yet!). I love that Mary can hold him. It’s a nice touch. I also like that Mary is kinda rocking a Mother Theresa vibe. 

Think of the poly-fill as reminiscent of a dream-scape... See it now?
Think of the poly-fill as reminiscent of a dream-scape… See it now?

Here’s the two shepherds with the Angel. Ideally I would have a whole legion of these angels like it says in the Gospel, but one will do. Besides, the shepherds don’t look nearly terrified/awed by the angel’s presence for there to be a whole legion of them. In fact, the one kinda looks like the Angel just gave him some indigestion. 

"'Tis my heart burning for Christ... Holy Heartburn, if you will... Pass the Tums..."
“‘Tis my heart burning for Christ… Holy Heartburn, if you will… Pass the Tums…”

But don’t get me wrong. I love this nativity set. It’s big and sturdy enough to last hopefully my whole life, and it has all the pieces. 

What was that? We’re missing someone? Three wise guys? OH don’t worry, we will see them soon.. On Thursday!

In the meantime, why don’t you share your nativity set? What kind do you have? Do you use something better than poly-fill for added decoration (I’m looking for ideas here!)? See you then!

Baby Sleep Resources & My Two Cents

Hi everyone! Hope you are all doing well.

I’m please to report that Finn slept ok last night, though Sunday night’s shenanigans were not his last. I don’t know what got into that kid. Three nights in a row he was a mess. I even took him to the doctor yesterday, thinking that maybe his ear infection was back. Nope. So a dose of Ibuprofen before bed, and that seemed to do the trick last night. It may have helped that we went out to eat for dinner (neither of us was in a mood to cook or clean), and then he got to bed a bit late.

Unfortunately he didn’t sleep great – he now has the kids’ cold, which produces a copious amount of snot. Oh well. At least we weren’t up constantly, even if he was restless.

Anyways, Finn has never been an awesome sleeper. His personality is such that he can’t miss anything, and will force himself awake if need be. Being a first-time mom, I’ve had my days of desperately searching online with a pot of tea on my desk to try and find help, sympathy and ways to get him to sleep better. Here are a few that I’ve found, along with my commentary on the whole thing.

First, my commentary. If you find yourself like I was, wondering if you’ll ever not feel like a zombie again, listen up. Don’t get so desperate that you do something that geos against your gut. Give it a week. Try things that won’t hurt you or your child’s well-being. Do your research, but take it all in with a grain of salt, and people’s opinions with a heaping tablespoon. Everyone has their own solution, but YOU know YOURSELF and YOUR BABY. Experts don’t know everything, and they don’t know you.

Again, give it a week, and follow your gut. Your mother’s instinct works. Trust in it.

That said, knowledge is power, and, like me going to the doctor just to hear him say that it’s ok to give Finn some pain medicine, since he must be in too much pain to sleep well, it’s ok do to your research and find out what options are out there. Here’s what I’ve found out that may help you.

Sleep/WT Chart – This is a Google Docs page that has a chart of how much sleep babies should get by month. It’s a good way to figure out if your baby is getting the appropriate amount of sleep, if they’re ready to give up a nap time, or if they’re getting too much/too little sleep during the day. Of course these are just averages, but still… helpful.

Arms-Reach Co-Sleeper – This company and their co-sleeper bassinet saved my life. Seriously. Infant wakes up just a bit, boom. You’re right there. Wake up in a panic because baby slept, like, 15 minutes longer than usual. Boom. Hand on chest, everything’s fine, back to sleep. You didn’t even have to get out of bed. It’s a brilliant thing and a beautiful concept. I HIGHLY recommend.

API Baby Sleep Strategies – This is a bit of a cheat, since it’s a link to a page of links, but sometimes these are better than those forums with the moms that say “just let them cry it out! I did! My kid’s fine!” Ug. NOT helpful. These are a bit more gentle and reasonable (and backed by research!)

I think that’s all for today! Did I miss anything? Do you have some great advice I should add to this page? Vehemently disagree with something I’ve got here? Feel free to add it in the comments! And be sure to check out the ‘related articles’ below – I think they reflect kinda what I’ve said here. More help for the sleepless mom and dad!

See you next week!

A Midnight Monkey

Good Tuesday morning everyone! I hope you all have recovered from the festivities of last week and any crazy bargain hunting you may have done. I regret to inform you that I have not. No, I am still trying to put all of my china away, get the Christmas decorations out and the boxes put away, and catch up on my sleep. Whew. Don’t get me wrong; we had a wonderful Thanksgiving. My experimental beet and squash casserole turned out amazing… I will just have to make it again so that I can get pictures and actually post a legitimate recipe. My sister and her boyfriend stayed with us for a couple of days, so Finn got to hang out with his godmother more than he has for a long time. We also got to go out to see Catching Fire while Finn played with his cousins. All in all a busy weekend, but us extroverts had a blast.

Unfortunately, Mike and I aren’t the only ones who haven’t quite recovered yet. You see, with all the excitement and whatnot, our poor little boy has not had a normal bedtime routine for nearly a week. We paid for that Sunday night.

Mike and I were getting to bed quite late. He was getting some housework done, while I was trying to get my KNOW YOUR SAINTS! post up for the first time ever. Better late than never, right? Anyways, by the time I went into our bedroom to nurse Finn before I went to bed, it was nearly midnight. By the way, Finn sleeps in our bedroom still in his own crib. Since he wakes up once or twice a night still (I think he must get thirsty), I have yet to move him clear down the hall to his own room.

While he went to bed early that evening with no problems, he kept waking up and needing attention here and there. He was very restless till about 10:30, when he finally went to sleep, till I went in at about midnight. He was already fussing again, before I even got into the room. Usually after I nurse him he’s back out cold, but this time, though he was quiet, his eyes were wide open, looking around. So I thought “I’ll put him in bed with us, that usually relaxes and reassures him.”

I did, and he laid there. Then he flipped. Then he flopped. Then he hummed to himself. Then he rested for about five or ten minutes. Then flip, flop, hum, drop binki, find binki, rest. Repeat. None of us were getting any sleep. I would shush him, put him on my chest, give him more room, more snuggles, just let him be, everything. And nothing worked. An hour of this, and I was getting very frustrated. He was throwing a little fit, and I was going to throw a bigger one. *Sigh*

At this point Mike tried to pick him up and rock him, and Finn lost it. He was angry crying, and I was ready to do the same. But when Mike took him out of the room, I felt bad, since his alarm was going to go off at 5 AM. So I tried nursing Finn again, gave him some teething gel for his gums, and put him to bed. Then we went to bed too, and listened to our kid do the flip flop hum routine a few times.

As we lay there, we heard him start to crawl around and smack the sides of his crib, but we closed our eyes and tried to ignore him, hoping he would just go to sleep himself. He was talking to himself, bouncing in his bed. Suddenly I hear a binki nearly hit me in the head. We sit up and see Finn jumping in his bed, scream-giggling at us and playing peek-a-boo. We couldn’t help ourselves. We started cracking up.

Honestly, I don’t know what got into him. It’s like he had an espresso at midnight. Sheesh. Anyways, we did the song and dance of rocking him, snuggling with him, consoling him… Finally he ended up resting for a bit on Mike’s chest, but he was very fidgety. I took him and put him between us and he slowly fell asleep. At about 3 AM I woke up and put him back in his crib, hoping to never have to stay up with him like that again.

But just in case, the whole family is going to sleep right after dinner… if we make it that far.

 

Along this same vein, I hope on Thursday to share some baby sleep resources I’ve found on the Internet, along with my two cents on the issue of baby sleep. If you have any resources or advice you would like to share, I would love to hear it! Thanks!