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Manic Monday: Closing in on Christmas

We’re in the homestretch. My kids, especially my tween, are practically hyperventilating with excitement. Okay, not the teen. He’s keeping the excitement close to the vest. I’ve been too busy with work to even realize Christmas is so close, which could be bad news for those expecting presents.

That’s our Christmas tree, over there on the left. Fred the Cat is standing guard. I tried to remove him from the picture, but he jumped back in every time I got set up. So, clearly, he was meant to be in the shot. Oh, and that’s one of my Nativity sets — my main Nativity set — in the header at the top of the blog. I collect them. Nativity set, not blogs.

So, here’s our Manic Monday rundown for the week…

Bookshelf: I’m reading too many books to list here, most of them as research for the book I’m writing. What I’m reading for fun, inspiration, enjoyment when I have time is a magazine I discovered on the shelf at Sam’s Club: The Soul Body Connection, a special annual publication of the monthly Spirituality & Health. If you are into meditation, centering prayer, mindful eating, breathing exercises, prayer in general, check it out. It’s wall-to-wall articles, and what I really love is the fact that this Eastern-leaning publication includes lots of Christian information, including a Q&A with Trappist Father Thomas Keating, a leader of the centering prayer/contemplative living movement.

Soundtrack: Christmas music, of course. Here’s one of my favorites, a rocking version of Angels We Have Heard on High by Relient K, a very cool band.

Viewfinder: While other people were out shopping this weekend, or baking Christmas cookies, I was with the nine girls in our Daisy troop, along with four other moms, for an OUTDOOR winter discovery day. Who thought that was a good idea in upstate New York in mid-December? Actually, it was a really fun day. And a warm-up for our January winter camping trip.

Here’s Chiara working on an animal track rubbing:

The whole gang:

Olivia decided she really wanted pomegranate seeds for lunch. So there I was, working the seeds out of the pomegranate below at 7 a.m. Whatever happened to PB&J?

Since I had about three million seeds after I finished, I decided to throw a few on top of my usual bowl of oatmeal (below). Added a nice crunch. Doesn’t it look lovely? Yes, that’s a candle beside my oatmeal. Truth be told, the absolute best prayer time I have every day is when I sit down to my silent, mindful breakfast and pray before I dig in. It’s become an almost-daily prayer practice for me, one I really miss when I can’t find the time, or the silence. Which is often in this house.

So, onward, as we celebrate the fourth week of Advent and pray the O Antiphons each evening as we light the candles on our wreath. Enjoy these last days before the feast. Shop, bake, party, but remember to breathe deep and find a few minutes each day to sit in silence and contemplate the reason for this season.

My Dinner With Chiara

Chiara and I ended up home alone this evening, sort of unexpectedly. Dennis and Noah are in New York City for a class trip (eating at Carmine’s as I write this), and Olivia was invited to dinner and a sleepover at a friend’s house. Although she was a little disappointed not to have anywhere special to go, Chiara was happy to have me to herself for a little while.

And so over a quiet, candlelight dinner of soup and salad (her choice), we had a chance to talk. She raised a couple of pretty insightful questions over the course of 30 minutes or so, things that make me sure she’ll go far in this life, or at least in the world of entertainment.

Question #1: If Goofy is a dog, and Goofy can talk, why can’t Pluto talk? Ah, this is an age old question, one that has confounded Disney fans for generations. It is, as we say in Catholic lingo, a mystery.

Question #2: If the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz knows she can be melted by water, why would she keep a big bucket of water out where anyone can grab it? And her follow-up question: I wonder if she can drink the water? Excellent question. I wonder…

Now it’s time to play a board game. Then it’s popcorn and a movie. I believe her pick is Peter Pan. It’s certainly not how I intended tonight to work out, but in the end it turned out to be exactly what I wanted.

Prayer lessons: From the mouths of babes

I was saying bedtime prayers with 6-year-old Chiara the other night, when she stumbled over a line in the Our Father. Although she’s got the standards pretty much down pat at this point — Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be — every once in a while she switches a word, or looks at us quizzically when she comes upon something that’s just not in her first-grade vocabulary. Trespasses and temptation, for example.

But on this particular night, the slip-up was something much more basic, and something that, oddly enough, caused me to reflect on how I pray the same prayer. So here’s how it went.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
MY kingdom come,
MY will be done…

Whoa, there sweetie. That’s supposed to be THY, not MY. And then it hit me. How often do I say that very same prayer with the right words but the wrong spirit? How often do I really want MY will to be done, not God’s will. God’s will after all can be so, well, difficult to deal with, and He’s not always on the same page.

So I learned something new about this old prayer and about myself. Every time I say the Our Father now, that line jumps out at me, and I stop for a second to think about whether I really mean what I’m saying. Am I willing to turn it all over to God, or do I say “thy will” while secretly thinking I’ll have it my way?

The Zen of the Aquadoodle

Chiara received an “Aquadoodle” for her birthday from Grandma Mary Ann and Popi Neil this week. Basically this is a mat that comes with a special pen that allows kids to draw with water. It even includes little step-by-step instructions on how to create cats and dogs and houses. The beauty of this, for parents at least, is that kids can’t draw on the carpet or couch or counters because the pen, which is loaded with water, works only on the Aquadoodle mat. Read more

My Birthday Baby

Chiara turned three years old today. Hard to believe. That’s her up there in her princess outfit and tiara, looking very birthday girl-ish. This photo captures the moment she was waiting for. Earlier this morning, when her godfather called to sing “Happy Birthday,” she told him, “It’s not happening yet.” She was referring to the arrival of the “Happy Birthday Party Cake.” As far as Chiara is concerned, it’s not a birthday or a party until there’s cake. She has a point.

Every once in a while since late last night she would say, “After I wake up will it be time for cake…After I get dressed will it be time for cake…After my nap will it be time for cake.” By the time dinner rolled around and the cake was sitting on the counter taunting her, it was all she could do to maintain control. She could barely eat dinner because she was so focused on that cake. Read more

Let’s leave the penguins out of this

We were sitting on the metal bleachers at Noah’s Little League game the other night, and Chiara, in typical fashion, was spinning and climbing and falling and giving me agita, as my grandmother would say.

I turned to her and said (in one of my shining parenting moments): “You are a pain in the butt.”

Without missing a beat, she turned to me and said, quite seriously: “I am NOT a penguin butt.”

Chiara, 1 – Mom, 0

Chiara has left the building

Third time’s a charm, they say, and in our case the third time (aka Chiara) had better be a lucky charm because she’s going to need it with her wild, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners behavior. I don’t know what it is that makes Chiara so willing to push the envelope where her older brother and sister did not, but I do know that the girl has got more chutzpah in her left pinky than most people have in their entire bodies.

Last night Chiara, who will not turn 3 until July 21, decided to exit the house via the garage and mosey on around the corner to the backyard where Dennis was putting lawn furniture back on the deck. I’m amazed that she opted for this route and did not, for example, decide to wander down the street or into traffic. I’m sure if she had any idea that those last two options were even feasible, she would have gone for it without a second thought. We’re thinking about building a moat around the house, but that would just be a gift to her, one more challenging obstacle to figure out between breakfast and snack time. Read more

Simply put

Chiara and I were early picking Noah up from play practice at school today. She asked me if we could walk through the church instead of walking around the outside, so we did. In the darkened church, I knelt down next to her and asked if she knew where Jesus was.

She looked up at the crucifix over the altar, looked back at me and said, “Somebody’s sad.” Wow. I don’t think there’s anything else I can write that could possibly say it better than that.

Reminder: Our discussion of the Trinity continues over on the Corner. Join me there by clicking HERE.

Holy cow!


Chiara decided to don a cow costume, angel wings and a Communion veil this morning. Just another typical day at the Poust house.