~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~
Every Thursday, here at Like Mother, Like Daughter!
When I was (very) pregnant with Pippo, I told a priest that I wasn’t doing a very good job at keeping Advent, because I was so distracted by the expected arrival of my baby. He gently reminded me that Mary was waiting for her firstborn son just as I was waiting for mine, and that she was just as focused on Him as I was on my own baby. He said, “Ask Our Lady for the same joy and excitement for the coming of her Son as she had while she carried Him in her womb.”
I felt united to Mary in a special way that year as I counted down the days to Christmas and my due date just beyond. (I ended up going into labor on Christmas Eve, and Pippo arrived a few hours after midnight on the 26th!) But, pregnant or not, I have prayed that prayer many times since. Advent is about preparing for Christmas, and Christmas is about a baby. And who is more excited about His arrival, or knows how to prepare for that Baby better than His mother?
(For a similar reason, I love the St. Andrew Christmas Novena — it helps me stop what I’m doing and take a moment to rest with Our Lady and the Infant Christ.)
Practically speaking, there’s always so much else going on, even if it’s just recovering from Thanksgiving! This year we had my big college-student brothers-in-law here for the weekend (to give you a sense of what a culinary workout that was, know that our other Thanksgiving guests had to cancel, and I was left with a 19-pound turkey for four adults. And it was all. gone. by Saturday night, including the broth), plus an ice storm and a few folks under the weather. By Sunday, Capt. P was still sick in bed, the kids were not well enough to go to Mass, and the world was covered in a few inches of very cold water.
I had pretty much decided that we’d just have a bare wreath for a day or two until things dried out, but Pippo was adamant that we absolutely had to “gather greenery and berries and make our Advent wreath.” (Before my mother has a chance to jump in here, I’ll just say: I know I deserve it. I was very demanding about this sort of thing as a child. No tradition left behind!) So we pulled on our boots and went out just long enough to snip some branches from the one acceptable evergreen in our yard and some seed pods from the crape myrtle. Wrap it in wire, wrap it in ribbon, and we’re good to go.
I finally hung it above the table this year, which I’ve always wanted to do. And not only does it look super exciting, but it has the added bonus of a) freeing up space on the table/making it so I don’t have to be always moving it when we need more room (I usually make it on a cake stand or something so it’s easy to move without making a mess) and b) keeping it out of reach of little ones who might pull it apart (not that we have anyone here who would ever do such a tempting thing).
We pulled our two wooden children’s nativity sets out, and also got out the stable and the manger of our biggest nativity. (I love nativities. And have been given many, all of which I love, and all of which will be set up before Christmas!) We’ll set out the figures soon, but for now we just arranged the leftover branches from making our wreath around it on the sideboard, along with a string of white lights. Pippo and I gathered up some straw, which he cut it up and put it in a little cup nearby. When anyone does something especially good or sacrificial, he can put a little piece of straw into the manger so that we are making a soft bed for the Baby Jesus while we are making our hearts ready to receive Him at Christmas.
(This is the first year we’ve done the straw in the manger. We don’t always remember, but when we do, it is inspiring good works in a rather adorable way. Today while I was sitting and nursing the baby, Pippo asked me “Mama, can I do anything for you?” And I mentioned that the floors were dirty. And so he cheerfully got out the vacuum and cleaned them!)
The only other thing we’ve done so far is hang up our Advent calendars. If we had to rely on me to remember to get one in time, we’d have one maybe by the end of the first week, but since we have competent and generous relatives, we have three. The one on the far right is from Habou, and is at least 3 years old. The cool 3D pop-up one on the shelf is from my mom last year, and Sukie made us the awesome felt build-a-nativity one on the left last year.
I made the mistake of telling the kids we’d open the doors before breakfast every day. So now I have a wake up call bright and early every morning, asking is it tiiiime and whyyy isn’t Molly awake yet?
Here’s what we haven’t done, even though I meant to: our Jesse tree.
We actually have a set of ornaments all printed out on cardstock and half colored in, after a Jesse tree ornament-making party with my Mothers’ Group at church last year. But last year I just couldn’t get my act together to figure out some sort of a tree situation, and we never actually did it. This year the ice storm conveniently provided us with as many bare branches as we could possibly want, but somehow between taking the bag of ornaments out of the box on Sunday and finding a branch on Tuesday (our ornaments start with Dec. 1)… I lost the bag. No idea where it could possibly be.
Good news, though: I have a bare branch AND a backup bare branch ready to go on the dining room floor, whenever we a) find our ornaments or b) make new ones or c) give up and try again next year.
We also still have our fall leaf garlands above our fireplace and gourds on our mantelpiece (though not the moldy ones because I took those down while the turkey was in the oven on Thanksgiving, thankyouverymuch). Not to mention all the other usual “decorations” of a family of young children, aka toys and books strewn around faster than you can believe. Over the next few weeks we’ll keep pulling out Christmas things, but this is enough to get us started.
And I’ll stop now, because I’ve gone on and on, and this wasn’t supposed to be so long! But we’d love to see your wreaths, lights, candles, paper chains, bare branches piled in corners… however Advent is looking at your house this week! You can link up your blog post throughout the weekend, or post on Instagram using the hashtag #PHFRAdvent so we can find you!