Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The "Natiffany"

Last year I really wanted to find a nativity set that Gianna could play with to help prepare her for Christmas.
I eyed that Fisher Price set and were surprised by how expensive they were.
This year I did a little online shopping and found an adorable set out of resin that was unbelievably reasonable and durable.
Aren't these guys just precious?
Gianna has spent HOURS playing with her "Na-tiffany" - and it has been touching (and hilarious) to watch.
The cast of characters include the usual Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, an angel, 3 kings and a shepherd ~
occasionally joined by Diego, the dollhouse family, a purple pony and even an extra Mary and Joseph.
One of my dearest friends started a beautiful tradition with Gianna.  Each year on the anniversary of Gianna's baptism, Lisa sends her a piece of this Fontanini nativity set.  She got Mary last year and Joseph this year. I keep these two out year round so Gianna is always reminded of these important role models.  I love that they're kid-proof as well as beautiful!
How special is that?  

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jelly Book - Holiday Edition

Living in Lewis Land provides a fair amount of entertainment for those who dwell here. 
This Jelly Book entry might back up that claim. :)

* * * * *

Gianna: Mommy. I want to go see Mary.
Me:  Mary? Which Mary, Gianna?
Mary from the Na-tiffany (Nativity)

* * * * *
Gianna has spent a lot of time playing with her nativity set.
One day we heard, "Hold on Jesus, we go for a ride."
Lucky little Jesus got a ride on a sheep.

* * * * *

G lined all the nativity cast of characters up in a semi-circle.
"C'mon guys.  I take your picture."

* * * * *
We were in the car listening to Christmas music.  One particular selection was orchestral.
I heard, "Oh! I was surprised. And a little scary." (scared).
"Why were  you surprised, Gianna."
"Those cymbals were crashing - LOUD."

* * * * *

At the beginning of December, I realized I needed to work on expounding upon the concept of Santa Claus when I asked Gianna if she knew what Santa brings for Jesus' birthday. 
 Her response, "EGGS!"

* * * * *
G was watching Sesame Street's Hanukkah themed show.  I was cleaning the kitchen.  I heard a very irritated little voice say,  "Mommy, I said Sesame Street!  Elmo's not here!"

* * * * *
One day Gianna's had a mosquito bite that she must have scratched during the night.  When she woke up she discovered a little bit of fresh blood on her arm. 
"Uh-oh, Mommy!  I leaking."

* * * * *
Gianna:  Mommy, I've been thinking......
Me (laughing):  Oh really?
Gianna:  Yes.  I want to go to the library.
(How old is this kid?)

* * * * *

After every song that plays on a CD, she taps her finger on her chin and says,
"Hmmm.....let's see what's next."

* * * * *
"Mommy, I so happy (that) I (am) laughing!"

* * * * *

Usually when I'm busy doing chores and G is getting a little bored she'll say,
"Hey Mommy. you wanna go to Wal-mart?"
If I say, "Not right now. Maybe later." she often says,
"How 'bout the red store?"  (Target!)

* * * * *

Gianna gets a kick out of whistling.  Like many kids her age, G's whistle is a high pitched squeal.  Her version also includes her index finger over her mouth. (No clue what that's about.) 
Iain realized that she's figured out that you can use a whistle to summon people when he took her to Lowe's and she sported one of her impressive whistles.
Just as soon as she whistled, someone turned the corner and started walking down their isle toward them.  With widened eyes and a surprised look, she said,
"Daddy!  I called a man!"

* * * * *
She started calling me "Yo-Yo Mommy"  --- for fun.
She thinks it's hilarious. :)

* * * * *

Getting ready to meet friends at the park, I noticed Gianna was warm and had a low-grade temp.  I brought her to the children's Clinic to check her ears.  Gianna informed the doctor that we were going to the park. By this time, the weather worsened and it was in the low 40's.  The doctor said, "'s too cold to go to the park."  Her response, "But I just a little bit sick."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Cookies

I promised myself that I would not make myself unnecessarily crazy this Advent and Christmas season.  In order to help honor that promise, I gave myself permission to make Christmas cookies AFTER Christmas day (technically still during the Christmas season though.)
 I may have completely passed over the tradition for this year, but my friend Michelle was adamant about continuing the tradition - especially since she would soon be leaving for THAILAND for a 27 month stint in the Peace Corp.  She and her daughter, Jessie (our beloved babysitter and friend), came and helped 'create' for a few hours.  Gianna couldn't have been more excited about this sweet endeavor.
I'm glad we had cookie time.
I'm just as glad that we waited.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Happy Birthday, Jesus!
Wishing you and your family the merriest little Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Lights

We didn't decorate much outside our home this year.
Inside looks great - but the outside -- well, we opted for sanity instead.
A big part of the reason we didn't decorate is because NOBODY would EVER look this side of the street, since our amazing neighbors, 'The Griswold's' as we affectionately refer to them, completely DECK THE HALLS.
Santa's sleigh and all the reindeer, too.  It fun to look at from our home, and an added reason why we're not even going to try. :)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
After we celebrated my brother's birthday at my parents' home yesterday, we decided to take Gianna to look at Christmas lights. 
"Let's go find some more!" was the exclamation of the night.

We heard that there was one house in our town who had their light display set to music on a radio station.  We waited quite a while to get close enough to see the house, but it was well worth it to see Gianna's reaction. 

I wish we would have gotten to slow down a bit at the Nativty, but the drive-by was enough to excite Gianna.

The best light show came from the spactacular moon which happened to be rising at the time of our little light tour.  Gianna is quite obsessed with the moon, so she was pretty excited.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

And nine....counting Rudolph

A few weeks ago, our Story Time at the local library, showcased a couple from Arkansas who write and perform children music...Terry & Brian Kinder.  When we walked into to our usually familiar surroundings, Gianna actually got VERY nervous.  She had a death grip on my hand and looked like she'd seen a ghost.  She's usually very comfortable and animated during Story Time, but not that day. The performance was so darn cute, but Gianna hardly participated.  The other adults got tickled but her shy behavior.

I bought the Kinder's Christmas CD to listen to in the car.  Later that day, Iain took Gianna to run errands.  He happened to catch Gianna in the rearview mirror doing the motions to the reindeer song.  Turns out she knew all the words and motions to all the songs.  Turkey.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"NO" - a 'yes' in disguise!

No.  It's a tiny little word yielding a tremendous amount of power.  It can be frustrating to hear and frightening to say.  It can be an ending or a beginning.  It is mostly perceived as negative, but can be the gateway to many positive things.

I know you are thinking that this post will be about my two year old's use of the word, but it's not.  It's really not even about the word -- just the meaning behind it.

Let's rewind many years to session of spiritual direction.  I was working in ministry.  I was stretched thinner than I had ever been and was seriously suffering from the 'Need to Please Disease."  All the things I was involved in at the time were wonderful ways of giving to others....but I was miserable.  I just couldn't figure out a fix.  I felt obligated, required and called to 'do good' (and probably to 'look good' by 'doing good.')

Well, my spiritual director questioned my need to say 'yes' to most everything that was asked of me.  I was a little confused, because I really believed I was doing the right thing and that I was making God very proud.   "No." seemed so harsh and negative and shameful to me.  I will never forget her words to me...

"Ah, Maria.  It is "no's" that give much more meaning and power to each of your "yeses." 

Even though I've come such a long way since that dismal time in my life, I continually have to be reminded about that truthful nugget of wisdom - especially now that I must be a model for my daughter.

Lately, I've had to use my no's quite a lot. I expected to be filled with guilt and maybe even a touch of shame. I've been surprised to have found quite the opposite. I am filled with relief and peace.

One example was a recent choice to participate in a women's study circle - one of the few things I've done for myself lately.  It got so stressful and frustrating with my husband's increased work schedule, other unexpected issues coming up and figuring out how to parent my challenging two year old.  I backed out. "No."  I had to give myself permission to quit something I'd started. I looked at all the busy moms of many kids who were able to keep that commitment - and sighed.  Then I took a deep breath and got over myself and then found peace.  There will be time for that in another chapter of my life.

Another 'no' was to a ministry - serving on the Board of Director's of the Pro-Life Agency largely responsible for our adoption.  It started out a do-able commitment, which snowballed into a consuming effort.  There was major guilt involved in this one.  ("But you're helping to save babies!" someone told me. Ugh.)  I mulled over this one for a while, prayed about it and finally realized that there was one baby that I was given TREMENDOUS responsibility for....MINE!  I chose to stay home so I can be here when she needed me, when she was sick, when she was going through rough stages, so I can enjoy every bit of her.  It became clear to me that my 'no' was a YES in disguise.  It was near impossible to feel guilty about saying yes to my family. 

As we meander our way through this season of Advent, we remember another woman who's 'no' gave meaning to her ultimate YES. The 'no' was to her own will....her own plans.....her own dreams that she had for her life.  That YES became our Savior.

My prayer is that we can all still ourselves enough to know what we are called to say no and yes to.  Happy Advent.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Visit with Santa

The company Iain works for held their Children's Christmas Party last weekend.  Gianna was quite excited about the special guest. 
When the children were gathered near the stage and Santa was announced and entered from the back of the room, Gianna left the others and ran to meet him.  She was quite the little groupie.
When she had her turn to talk with him, the conversation quickly turned to her shoes.
(When she is excited to see someone, she always talks about her clothes and shoes.  Nervous chatter, I guess.)
I just love this next picture.
I would love to know what she is saying and what he is thinking. :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Napping House

I fell in love with this book years ago and couldn't wait to share it with Gianna. She LOVES it. Gianna often "reads" her books when she's by herself. Some time around Halloween, Iain caught her on video. I'm posting this in hope that her two day Nap Strike will end quickly and without incident. :)

And yes - she says, "I so cute." at the end.  Lovely.

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Advent Wait

When I was little we never saw our Christmas tree during Advent. Never. The tree would magically appear in our front room on Christmas morning lit and completed decorated and surrounded by shiny packages and gifts. It was magical, and frankly, I don't know how my parents ever pulled that off.  It was impressive.

When we moved from New York to the South, we were more than surprised when we realized that many, if not most, people put their trees up the day after Thanksgiving (or before!)  That was a foreign concept to me.  I just love the Christmas decorations, but it seemed that people were overlooking Advent and jumping straight to Christmas. I was adament that I would carry on the family tradition of waiting to decorate.  Maybe I became a tad bit judgemental of that practice of decorating so early.....until I became an adult.

As an adult I was so excited to have my own Christmas tree and have collected beautiful ornaments over the years.  When I was single I'd wait to week of Christmas to decorate.  Because I was working long hours, I was exhausted, WAY behind of Christmas shopping and that week ended up being so stressful, that my focus on the true meaning of Christmas was compromised.  Plus, it was a lot of work only to be taken down a couple of weeks later. After a few years of doing that, I was frustrated and wanted to give in to the temptation of decorating early.  I was really conflicted because I didn't want to sell out and subscribe to the whole marketing madness that seems to lose the entire focus of these two holy seasons, but I wanted to really enjoy the season.

A few years ago, I really had to think things through.  The holidays were a depressing time for me.  I wanted to be married and have a family and it seemed that's what this season was centered around.  I often felt frustrated, sad and forgotten.  And then on top of that I was denying myself the small pleasure of sprinkling my home with lovely and nostalgic surroundings.  I thought, discerned, prayed - and this is what I came up with:  The season of Advent is about waiting and preparing - not about home decor.

My entire adult life has been an intense practice in waiting.  I've waited for clarity in terms of a career. I waited during a long (unchosen) vocation as a celibate, single Catholic woman in ministry for the vocation I longed for in my heart - marriage. And that was a LOOOONNNNGGG wait.  I waited to become a mother through miscarriage, subsequent infertility and an adoption roller coaster. Those are some of the bigger ones, but there have been MANY lessons in waiting for me.

And the key about Advent isn't just about the wait.  It's about what is WITHIN the wait.  I believe God hides Himself in our times of waiting - and when we embrace the wait, learn to wait well, and prepare our hearts --- it's then that we embrace God - and allow Him to embrace us.  And even though we associate typical waiting with anxiety - there is a special peace learning to embrace our waiting and to be still enough to find God there.

I saw this video this morning and thought it was magnificent reflection and challenge about Advent.

And this Advent, we are still waiting. We have recently decided to move, so there is waiting involved in the many unkowns in that realm.  This year's wait also involves God's revelation wheter or not He will grow our family.   I haven't blogged much about our adoption updates this go 'round but have recently updated our adoption blog. Somehow I think waiting and surrendering control go hand in hand.

I'm chuckling as I read this post, because my home is still decorated for fall. Even though I've given myself permission to jump into the holiday decorating earlier ~ I've also given myself permission to not be too driven to make it happen. Things have been busy, and it will get done, but I'm enjoying letting things go and doing the best we can without stressing ourselves out.

For those of you who might enjoy an Advent meditation, I found this article about knowing how to wait.
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