Holiday Grand Plan Week Three.

September 4, 2008 § 3 Comments

The Official Holiday Grand Plan starts on August 31.  In order to accommodate the Advent season I have started earlier, and I hope to have everything in order and ready for a calm and spiritual Advent season.

We had a fantastic trip last weekend and we have started schooling again.  This is the third week for the Grand Plan, The Entry/Foyer week.  Since my house is a little different than the Grand Plan I am also adding my laundry room to the list. 

Week Two follow up: My time away gave me a chance to think about the Questions from last week.   I made notes in my planner to help me keep our goals in mind.  We want to be sure that this year we emphasise the spiritual and play down the material, focusing on “special times” not “special things”. 

Week Three: Cleaning:  The entry/foyer/laundry room is my focus this week. 

Preparing for the Holidays:  Check out the holiday prep items.  This week I am making plans for the holiday baking.  Each year I like to make six types of cookies and three candies.  By deciding what we will make this week I can keep my eyes open for sales and stock up on the good stuff when it goes on sale.  I also need to check my craft supplies to see if there is anything I have on hand that should be used so I am not buying what I own.

Planning:  The lists continue to get fleshed out as I work on them.

Gifts:  I am starting to think of specific gifts for the people on my lists. 
Cards: I need to get patterns for the cross stitch cards and then start looking into cards for the rest of my list.
Parties: We will be doing our Christmas eve party.  I am still thinking about how we want to do this.
Menus: I want to have some freezer meals made for when things get a little nutty near the holidays.
Decorating: Everything seems to be in good shape from last year.  I haven’t checked the lights, but I will do that once they go on sale again.
Baking: I need the cookie and candy list finished. 
Devotionals: We are considering a Jesse Tree this year.  I want to have an Advent Calendar, an Advent Wreath and an Advent Chain.  I would like to print out prayer books for the Advent Season.
Traditions: Are we going to need tickets for special events? When do they go on sale? which things do we definitely want to do?  Still working on this.  Zoo lights and maybe the Nutcracker with my mom.

Again I have to keep reminding myself that the goal isn’t to blow Chritmas bigger it is to make the planning easier.  Hope everyone has a great week.

Holiday Grand Plan Week Two.

August 27, 2008 § 1 Comment

The Official Holiday Grand Plan starts on August 31.  In order to accommodate the Advent season I have started earlier, last week, and I hope to have everything in order and ready for a calm and spiritual Advent season.

The weather has been cooler this week and I have been busy so far.  Getting things ready for Back to school(ing) and getting ready for the end of summer cabin trip has taken up a bit of time.  This week is Question Week, one of my favorite aspects of planning.   

Week One follow up: The children and I did a good scrub-a-dub on the porch and Kyle helped with re organising the area.  I have a list of outdoor maintenance items that need attended to next month and my lists have been created. 

Week Two: Cleaning:  This week we come indoors.  Here is where my cleaning list departs from the Official Grand Plan list.  And really, that is ok.  My house is laid out differently than the person who made the list.  I don’t have a guest room, master bath or family room.  I do have a home office and if I tried to fit both children’s rooms into one week I would go more than a little batty.  So we switch it up a bit.  This week I am actually NOT doing a room.  Basically because I am going to be gone most of the week.  If you are doing this along with me you might want to take a look at the cleaning schedule that the grand plan uses and think through how to make it work for you home.  We all have different houses and no one list is going to work for everyone.

Preparing for the Holidays:  Taking stock.  Every year I go out after the Holiday’s and snag a few rolls of paper, a bag or two of ribbons and maybe some cute tags and gift bags.  I also try to hit the art supply store and catch their clearance racks in late November and then again after Christmas.  But all of that won’t do me a bit of good if I don’t take the time to figure out what I have and where it is.  So my big thing for preparing for the holidays this week is checking out what I’ve already got on hand for Christmas and Advent.

Planning:  Last week I made up my basic lists this week I am fleshing them out and adding to them.  We also have some questions to think about.

Gifts:  What are we buying and how much are we spending and how important is the whole “gift thing” anyhow?   (insert anti-consumerism rant here).  What gifts am I making? 
Cards: How many cards do I need?  Which cards am I cross stitching?
Parties: We will be doing our Christmas eve party.  Is there anything we want to do differently?
Menus: What can I do ahead?  What are the menus for the feast days? If there are any new recipes I want to try for the big Holiday meals I want to make them at least once before hand.
Decorating: Do I know where my decorating stuff from last year is?  Do I need to replace anything?  Is there anything new I would like?
Baking: I need the cookie and candy list finished.  What gifts am I baking?
Devotionals: What worked in years past?  What didn’t? How can we focus more fully on Christ during the Advent season?  When I get home I am goingto be looking around online for some new ideas.  Are there any books I want to look through?
Traditions: Are we going to need tickets for special events? When do they go on sale? which things do we definitely want to do?

The goal for this week is to get the “theme” of Christmas set.  Note, this isn’t some marathon planning session where I decide in nitty gritty detail what each moment of each day will be.  Nor is the idea to blow Christmas into the focus of the next 12 weeks.  The goal is to set aside a small amount of time for Christmas/Advent planning early enough that I am not stressed and rushing around during Advent.  The other thing I like about the “Grand Plan” is that I will be able to hit each area of my home for a deep clean/organization session.   In theory I would do this anyway, but in practice it doesn’t get done unless I plan for it.

Holiday Grand Plan Week One.

August 20, 2008 § 8 Comments

The Official Holiday Grand Plan starts on August 31.  In order to accommodate the Advent season I am starting earlier, this week, and I hope to have everything in order and ready for a calm and spiritual Advent season.

Week One
It is the middle of August and December Holidays and the cold and snow of winter seem a million miles away, but we all know that they are right around the corner.  It is also a busy time for moms.  School is starting, the summer is ended, there are peaches to preserve and weeds to pull and all those small projects that need doing in between squeezing in a last bit of summer fun or beating off the late summer heat. 

Cleaning:  The front porch is the space on the agenda this week.    While I am outside looking at my front porch I am also looking around the outside of the house and making some notes for the fall maintenance.  The cleaning list linked above is a good place to start. 

Planning:  I use my family planning notebook instead of a separate holiday planner.  This is called “List week” because you are setting up your lists.  I have the following that I am making:

Gift list – who we are shopping for
Card list – collect and update addresses
Parties – which parties we will host
Menus – menus for the holiday meals we will be hosting and rough menus for the Holiday season.
Decorating – plan for decorating for Advent and Christmas
Baking – plan for the baking needs for gifts and goodies
Devotionals – what devotionals will we be doing during Advent/Christmas and what supplies we will need
Traditions – things we enjoy doing as a family or things we might want to experience this year for the first time.

The main goals of the lists at this point are to decide a rough budget and space out the shopping for the Holidays, make sure that we have things we need ready (no shopping for Advent Candles the day after Thanksgiving), and to just get a handle on things.

I am not printing out additional calendar pages, because my master planner has the calendar in it already.   Most lists I make on the computer and then print out lists that I need for my dayrunner or my family planning notebook as needed.

Christmas and Advent 2008

August 5, 2008 § 1 Comment

I walked into Fred Meyer’s the other day and tucked away near the cards and the books was the first Christmas display, the American Greetings ornaments I believe.   Normally I am rather perturbed by the consumer driven tendency to market Christmas earlier and earlier each year, but this year I looked at it and thought about how dizzying the Advent/Christmas season is.  Every year I hope to be more organised and for the last few years I have note of “The Holiday Grand Plan” which starts holiday planning in the last week of August and finishes it in the main planning endeavors by the middle of December. 

Normally I forget all about the “Grand Plan” until mid October.  This year I actually remembered about it early enough to bump it back two weeks so I can use it for Advent and Christmas.  I plan to bump the Grand Plan back to August 17 and “Tweak” it so that I can focus on Advent too.

A sad day in a joyful season

December 28, 2007 § Leave a comment

So young, so small that they had barely begun to know that they were when they died in place of Christ.  They died to save the one who would die to save them.  The first martyrs, the Holy Innocents, who we remember this day.

There is almost nothing that I enjoy more than being surprised by a thought.  And Fulton Sheen can do that on a regular basis it seems.  Today was one of those times were I read something and just sat back and said, “Wow.”

Happy Catholic (yes, one of my daily readings) had this quote:

There is anguish for us, twenty centuries later, in thinking of the slain babies and their parents. for the babies the agony was soon over; in the next world they would come to know whom they had died to save and for all eternity would have that glory. For the parents, the pain would have lasted longer; but at death they too must have found that there was a special sense in which God was in their debt, as he had never been indebted to any. They and their children were the only ones who ever agonized in order to save God’s life …(F. J. Sheed, To Know Christ Jesus)

I have often wondered how Mary and Joesph felt as they fled ahead of the slaughter.  What did they think?  Did they know what was about to happen? These would have been their neighbors, the little babies they had seen growing up, the toddlers their own son had played with.  No wonder the “Flight to Egypt” is one of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. Even though they escaped the anger and rage of Herod there were those who died in Jesus place. The sorrow when they learned of the massacre must have been horrible. 

Merry Christmas

December 26, 2007 § Leave a comment

It is finally here.  We have had a wonderful Christmas so far.  Christmas eve was our typical crab and fondue feast.  Christmas morning we opened the gifts, last night we had dinner with my parents.   I hope everyone is enjoying this blessed season.

Happy Saint Nicholas Day

December 6, 2007 § Leave a comment

stnic.jpg

Click here for the 2008 Saint Nicholas Day Post.

Today is St Nicholas Day and we will have sort of a fun time.  Coloring, crafts and cookies. 

Santa and St Nicholas

I have always been sort of an odd duck among my friends in that I don’t really “do” Santa.   Even when the oldest was very little I had a bit of a problem with the idea of telling my child that someone in a red suit flew through the air and gave them presents when I know myself that it is actually not true.   That may sound somewhat fastidious of me or just crazy, but in reality I think we have struck a good balance between the secular celebration of Christmas (the orgy of consumerism) and Christmas (the nativity of Christ).  A good part of that has had to do with our approach to Santa Claus.

Over the years I have discussed our approach to the “Santa thing” many times with various friends and family both online and off.   Most the time I am a bit surprised at just how hostile people can be when you say that you “don’t do Santa”.   Part of this I understand, the most common thing is for  “dear friend or relative” to ask, “why?” and they don’t really appreciate the response.   In reality we never started doing Santa because use I just really couldn’t lie to the kids that way.   I have had a couple people argue with me endlessly that it isn’t lying to say that Santa is real.  I can appreciate the mental gymnastics that go into their arguments, but it just doesn’t fly.  To say a Jolly Old Elf dresses up in red and flies about the world  giving presents to good little boys and girls is not, by any stretch of the imagination objectively true.  

Now I have heard and I do understand all the “magic of the season”, “Harmless fun” , “Spirit of joy and love” , “Childhood memories” and “tradition” arguments.  I am by no means even suggesting that anyone else should do what we do.  What we do is what we do, I get that you might do something else, I am not saying you are dishonest or  hurting your children in any way, I get why you do what you do I just don’t quite agree.   I don’t quite get the “Your poor kids!” argument which seems to get tossed my way quite a bit– they enjoy the season very much and look forward to Christmas with all the pleasure of any young children.  They don’t miss any of the fun, joy, love, tradition and they have fantastic childhood memories.  We just don’t “do” Santa but that doesn’t mean that we toss out the Christmas tree and presents, have no cookies, no stories, forbid the mention or fantasy of Santa, that we don’t hang stockings or sing carols or sip eggnog. 

We read stories about Christmas, both the Nativity and the secular stories.  The children are in fact delighted with the idea of the secular Santa.   But it is along the lines of how they look at Peter Pan or The Wizard of Oz.  We do talk about St Nicholas on December sixth.  We discuss his life and why he is remembered this time of year, we make “CandyCane Cookies” (the Bishop’s/Shepherd’s staff), some years we go to our parish event or to the Grotto.   Some years ago at the Grotto one of the monks dressed as St Nicholas  gave the children candy-canes.  He didn’t ask what they want for Christmas, he didn’t promise them gifts, but instead he asked them to remember the Baby Jesus and to do their best to be good.   That I love.   I love seeing the Saints brought to life for our children and I love hearing them promise to remember their Savior and strive to be good.  It highlight the biggest intellectual problem I have with Santa Claus.  The “gimmies”.   

Once, a year or two before Ashley was born, I was at a shopping mall during Christmas.  Hectic and in its own way fun.  I have often referred to shopping malls as “Temples of Consumerism” not sure where the term originated, but it has stuck in my head.  I was looking over from the second level below to the “Santa’s Village” display.  Here was the God of consumerism seated in red velvety glory, his liveried attends assisting the supplicants as they approach the throne to tell him their requests.  Mothers grooming their tots to catch the perfect picture to accompany the “Christmas Letter” for friends and relatives and leading them up to sit on the big man’s lap.  Some of the children were happy and excited, coming forward with letters in hand detailing exactly what they wanted, others horribly afraid many were bored in the line, stressed out parents — all in all it was a really strange affair.  Completely commonplace and yet in some part of my brain completely alien.  It mad me question the whole “thing”.    It was beautiful in a way and yet off-putting as well.

There is no doubt that most adults have wonderful memories of their childhood Christmases.  Drifting to sleep Christmas eve hoping to hear the faint tinkle of sleigh bells in the distance, almost believing they do as they slip into dreams of Christmas morning  where they will receive the gifts they have been hoping for.   It is really an enchanting thing.  And yet there is always that “horrible” child in school who learns “the truth” and then tells all their peers.  I really shudder to hear how I have heard such children described.  One of the other very common things I hear is that my children must somehow be out to ruin the Christmas Joy for all their peers since they aren’t raised with the misconception that Santa is Real.   What a sad ignorance of the power of fantasy on children’s minds.  Children can delight in and believe in for a moment anything, any fantastical thing they can create in their imaginations.  All stories are for the moment real.  There are princesses with glass slippers, elves, fairies, teddy bears talk, and toys spring to motion when no one is looking in a child’s world.  Santa can be part of that, loved and enjoyed and treasured yet put away in a moment. 

Parent’s don’t need to say something is true for their children to enjoy to thought of it.  My children love the whole idea of Santa, but they don’t believe in Santa why way the believe in God or England.   There has been no crushing moment of “discovery”;  I have never had to utter the words “Thems that believe receive thems that don’t don’t”.   They slowly outgrow the Santa story the same way they leave behind the puzzle with ten pieces or nursery rhymes.  A loved part of happy childhood, but not the big part it is to some others.

Our Wreaths

December 5, 2007 § Leave a comment

I finally have gotten around to moving the pictures off the camera and onto the computer.

First our wall wreath:

wallwreath.jpg

Then our Advent Wreath:

adventwreath.jpg

Advent 2007: Hope

December 4, 2007 § Leave a comment

The first week of Advent is the week of Hope. 

The hope of life everlasting.  The hope of the world to come.  It is one of the central themes of Christian faith.  A fortitude that sees us through horrible darkness and leads us to the one true hope of Christ.  The light of the world.

First Sunday of Advent

December 3, 2007 § Leave a comment

Last night we had a fantastic time.  Not only was it the first Sunday of Advent, but we went to see Trans Siberian Orchestra and really enjoyed it.

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We made our wreaths yesterday.  I will have pictures of them later today.

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