Thursday, December 30, 2010


I'm welcoming the return to normal around here.

Not entirely normal, though.
Our wall is covered in cheery Christmas cards and photographs.
The Christmas tree and decorations will remain until Epiphany.
We have two New Years' celebrations with friends coming up.
And as the house slowly is completed, every new step is a celebration.
(We ordered our flooring on Tuesday!)

But the laundry and dishes continue,
E takes her daily naps,
We go for daily walks.
And weekly trips to the library.
And all this is good. Routine and rhythm is a beautiful thing.

And as the Twelve Days of Christmas continue on (it's the Sixth Day today),
we consider further how our own personal beliefs and values (specifically those regarding Christmas)
will be exemplified and/or taught to our children.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

[Don't] Eat Pray Love

Eat, Pray, LoveEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was expecting way better. I will give Gilbert points for writing style. She's easily readable, and I thought the way the book was set up (with the number of chapters corresponding with some kind of rosary-esque number of beads...can't remember exactly) was neat. Some of the chapters were very short and others were longer, and they were often more of a non-fiction essay than a chapter in a novel. Which could have been really cool.

But. While I enjoyed the flavour of the Italy section, and especially her description of her sister, I did not enjoy the rest. I was especially disappointed by the "happily ever after" kind of ending. So predicable...why did she have to go there? This self-prescribed search for meaning in life ends with finding a man? No thanks.

View all my reviews

Quick like a Fox

E is getting very dexterous. And very sneaky.

This morning she was sitting on the floor with some toys, close but out of reach (I thought) of the Christmas tree. But then I looked over and she had reached a paper bag (that had been under the tree) in her lap, dumped out, and the tinfoiled Christmas cake from inside it out on the floor, and she was calmly shredding the tinfoil.

Then, later, she'd pulled over an empty tea mug and was ripping the teabag apart, chewing the bits of chamomile that were in it.

A pictorial example:  
"E snags Mom's cell phone."
 If I just reach a bit further...
 Aha, got it! And now, for the mandatory taste test...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's here

One way or another, Christmas is here. 
It's a beautiful sunny morning and we're all together.
All is well.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tilting toward God

From a wise friend: "Today the earth begins its tilt toward inevitable spring & summer
This season, we celebrate that history began its tilt toward inevitable perfection & joy.  
Thanks, God. Nice job on both fronts."

I find it incredibly apt that these two events, Christmas and the Winter Solstice, virtually coincide. However, this year the solstice weighs much more heavily on my mind than does the birth of Christ. This year, more than ever before, I'm feeling the short days of early winter. Feeling them more than Advent or Christmas. 

Some have argued that we celebrate Christmas when we do to coincide with and offer and alternative celebration to the winter solstice celebration of pagan religions of the past. I will not weigh in on this discussion with my uneducated opinion, but I will say that if that is in fact the case, then it was aptly done. We, or rather, I, NEED something to celebrate to combat the cold and dark. At this time of year, we light candles, sip hot drinks and get together with family and friends. All excellent remedies for long dark nights, and for that I am thankful.

With the passing of the solstice, we will slowly but inevitably and surely slip towards spring. This event I feel in my body. However, as the days slip closer to Christmas, I find my grumpy spirit wondering how it is any different than any other day. I NEED to feel this event in my soul as much as I feel the lengthening of days in my body.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Closer Again

Another tumultuous week brings us closer to Christmas. B and E are sick with some yucky combination of a cold and flu, which I have as yet avoided (but not likely for long). We're all home for the day today, spending some quiet time trying to recuperate in time for Christmas.

What interesting Christmasy things have we done this week?

Gifting: Did a lovely afternoon of Christmas shopping, during which I remembered just how much fun it is to find cool things you just know the recipient will love. And also realized that Chapters sells a whole lot of very neat stuff. I could spend SO MUCH on' books, cookbooks, art coffee table books, biographies, travel guide books, and of course FICTION.

Celebrating: Had a wonderful quiet Christmas party with J&M during which food and wine were consumed, games were played, E experienced her first gift-opening, and we rediscovered what a talented artist my sister-in-law is.

Church:  Attended an old-school Lutheran Church that follows the traditional Lutheran liturgy including the Apostle's Creed, and the Lord's Prayer. It felt so comfortable to fall back on that traditional order of service.

Thinking: Spent a long time contemplating faith and Christmas with some insightful discussions with friends...and have come a bit closer to understanding why we choose to believe what we do. Does that sound complicated? It IS complicated.

Family: Had several family gatherings, both planned and spontaneous, both working and lazing about, which made us once again appreciate our family. Christmas really is an important time to be around family.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Traditions

We've spent quite a lot of time lately thinking about and discussing Christmas traditions over the past couple of days and I think it's been quite productive. We've been thinking very carefully about what it is we're trying to celebrate and hold important and how we want to build that into our family. It has all become much more imminent to discuss, now that we have a Little One for whom we want to create a family routine. So far, we've come up with a couple of traditions to set in place:
Tradition #1: head west to pick out and cut down our own Christmas tree. 
We did this first last year in the -40 degree "crispness." This year was much, much warmer and equally as fun. I can't wait til next year when E can participate in the jollity to a greater extent.
Tradition #2: attend Christmas Eve service. 
I often attended a candle light service growing up, where each person got their own candle to light and hold, and the flickering mix of darkness and light always filled me with awe. Last year we went to a Midnight service downtown Calgary and that was also very precious and meditative time, our last Christmas as "two."
Tradition #3 (not quite clearly thought out yet): extend the holiday.
Last year we considered drawing Christmas out to the "twelve days"--that is, the days between Christmas Eve and Epiphany in January. This year we're celebrating Advent, the four weeks prior to Christmas. We want to draw focus away from simply celebrating Christmas Eve/Day somehow.

And more: we're always interested in hearing about other people's traditions. What do you do as a family to celebrate St. Nicholas/Christmas Eve/Christmas Day/Epiphany/12 Days of Christmas or any combination of the above?

Third Week

Borrowed from Cyberbrethren
For the Third Sunday in Advent, we traveled back to our home church in the city, to see old friends and revel in being a part of that community again. The sermon (though I missed part of it) was based on Luke's account of Zachariah and was about Christmas, which I was really blessed by. The story is pretty amazing, when you think about it--an angel appearing to a man in the temple, a baby born to parents too old to bear children, a baby who was prophesied to have a hugely important task in life preparing the way for Christ.

I think it might be important that we find a church that will acknowledge the events of the church calendar...or at least not be opposed to acknowledging them. It's not a matter of placing too much emphasis on tradition and not enough on relationship. It's a matter of appreciating the richness and depth of the history of the established church and the concern ancient Christian founders had for understanding the doctrines of Christianity. More on this to come.
Advent is relatively easy to celebrate. As our pastor friend explained it, it's a holiday where "the world celebrates with us." It's easy to prepare and anticipate and await because everyone is (though perhaps anticipating different things) whereas I think it's going to be more difficult with other things, like Pentecost. At any rate, right now I'm actually really glad that everyone is celebrating with us, because I don't have a lot of energy to be the carrying force for the celebration. So the fact that celebrating is built into these four weeks of December is a blessing. Eggnog, decorations, candles, the happy celebratory feeling...these are all readily available to us and we partake with glad hearts!

And, as a side note, how thankful we are for the people who have offered us their kitchens to bake cookies. We had an opportunity to do some baking Saturday night thanks to B's parents and these delicious recipe suggestions (note: sea salt is a tasty addition to chocolate cookies).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nothing Profound

Still searching for Advent answers, but mostly just living out the mundane of life.
Baby things like vaccinations and teething and washing diapers.
Winter things like finding lost mittens and remembering to wear thick enough socks.
Renovation things like re-tinting paint and making to-do lists.

But there are moments where we remember why we're here.
Purple candles on our Advent wreath signify the royalty of Jesus Christ, King of Kings.
The coming of the CPR Christmas train demonstrates that, overtly Christian or not, Christmas is a time when everyone remembers to give and share and be kind to one another.
And Bela Fleck playing Joni Mitchell's "River," while unusual, is still a contemplative beautiful piece of music to listen to while observing it all.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

I forgot

I forgot how beautiful snowflakes are. 

But today, as I was out walking with E, I looked down to see this beautiful little white sparkle on my jacket.
My first instinctive thought was "What's that? How did that get there?" Because I'd forgotten that snowflakes aren't just white globs, they're delicate intricate little white...sparkles (for lack of better word).

When all other reminders of God seem far, far away,
When I question everything about my faith,
One thing remains ever present.
That the One who made this earth,
Who made water,
Which freezes in the air into snow,
Which falls not as ugly blobs,
But as one-of-a-kind beautiful flakes
This is a God who appreciates beauty.
One thing always remains certain:
Larger than everything in this world is a Creator
A One who is creative mastermind of the universe.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Waiting for Advent/Searching For Joy

Such an all-over-the-map week and it's only Tuesday. 
The search for Advent continues. 
The wait for normalcy also continues.
The mission to celebrate Advent has gotten a little lost in the exhaustion/weariness of daily life.

Dare I hope this is a low point amidst the four weeks of Advent?

Some thoughts:
I was heartily disappointed in the lack of acknowledgement of the Season at the church we attended on Sunday. There are many, many good things about the church, but if we're not going to acknowledge and learn about Christ's birth at Christmas, when else are we going to? The sermon preached was passionate and thought-provoking, but I'd rather learn about, for instance, why it is paramount that we believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. There is so much to learn about Christ's birth and why Christmas is distinct from the pagan practice of Saturnalia.

[Giant grumpy complaining alert]. Confession: I'm feeling sorry for myself. There's no way we're going to be living upstairs by Christmas. While this possibility is not that big a deal in the bigger picture, I kind of had my hopes up. There is so much to be happy many reasons in our lives to be joyful. I'm just tired of feeling like we're not able to quite have a functioning normal family life. Feel free to give my head a shake and make me grateful for all we DO have. Which is lots.

And the rest of my grumpiness in one quick breath so I get it out my system: drywalldustbabydoesn'tliketosleepatnightimmunizationstomorrowschedulingChristmasnoovenforcookiebaking

Ok I'll quit now. Praying for glimpses of God--"sparkles of joy" as one dear friend puts it and the energy to continue the conscious waiting (Adventing) for Christ.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

In which...

In which we went on a hunt for Christmas trees
...and met with success all around.
In which we planned on embarking for said hunt with eggnog lattes in hand
...but S'bucks was out of eggnog.
In which we intended on carrying E in her trusty Beco carrier
...but forgot the carrier and made do with a tie down strap.
In which we planned on borrowing M's dad's Chevy pickup
....and ended up driving a reindeer named Chevy (complete with nose and antlers) that looked oddly similar to a pickup truck.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Chocolate, of course!?

So, to be entirely honest, Advent isn't all about spirituality around here. It's also tied up with the phenomenon of the Advent calendar. My mum has given each of us siblings a calendar almost every year since we were old enough to eat the waxy some-amount-of-chocolate concoctions.

A longtime friend from Switzerland dropped by last week and brought us a LINDT chocolate Advent calendar. No waxy there's-got-to-be-some-chocolate-in-there goodness for us, we get the GOOD stuff.

Er, I mean, E gets the good stuff. It's supposed to be hers, but she's only getting chocolate second hand these days.

But she did get to help open the first window last night. She just didn't know that it was a chocolate that came out, not the slice of orange that she got to munch on afterward.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

In Advent

It's the first of December. Days whirl by for us lately, what with our normal daily routine of work for Brent and chores and routine for E and I, and then packing as much work on the house as we can into our evenings. Our big wish (one might even say Christmas wish?) is to be living upstairs by Christmas...but I have great doubts this will actually happen.

Especially since, as we were furiously assembling kitchen cabinets last night, we ripped open a box to discover it was the WRONG product...that the IKEA kitchen lady had ordered us one cabinet in birch rather than white, necessitating a flustered trip to IKEA this morning for E&me. The good news? A spontaneous lunch visit with S&R is in the works, and we haven't seen them since...June, I think.

Anyway, the point is, Advent is supposed to be a quiet contemplative time to consider Christ's first coming and the promise of His second coming. I like the idea of Advent being countercultural. That amidst the materialism and busyness that our society counts as part of Christmas preparation, we are offered an opportunity to stop in our tracks and consider, for four weeks, the character of our Saviour and the sacrifice He made in coming to this earth.

Yet, though I say I value this chance to move in slow motion against the current, that's not what is actually happening in our lives. We're furiously trying to get done the house and so we organize our days around this, to the detriment of our relationships and possibly our sanity.

So one goal of mine for the next month is to carve out time each day to contemplate, to love and to pause. We'll see how that goes, since at the same time, I really, really want to actually move into our house...