7 quick takes, Christmas, liturgical guilt, long hair

7 Quick Takes: Liturgical Musings, Life Updates, and Long Hair Problems


Hungry for details on what we’ve been up to during the long, unscheduled radio silence of the last month?
Want to know about my not-so-internal struggles with liturgical living this year?
Care to weigh in on the great no-shampoo debate and advise me on my suddenly long hair?

Well, you’re here, so you must be at least a little curious.

The Perils of Raising Children Liturgically: A Short Play with One Scene

Lucy has a talent for naming her dolls unconventionally and unforgettably. One of her favorites is called First Day of Christmas. A few days ago, she was carrying the doll through the kitchen when Nora stopped her.

Nora, pointedly and with relish: You can’t play with her.
Lucy: I can, too! It’s still Christmas.
Nora: Maybe so, but it’s not the First Day.
Lucy, who is often reflexively contrary: Is so. 
Nora: It isn’t either the first day of Christmas! She’s off limits until next year.

Lucy: Ahhhhh! (bursts into tears)
Nora, matter-of-factly: I guess you should have thought about that when you named her. If you’d named her Epiphany, it would all be okay.
Sam, coming in to see what the drama is all about: Well, almost. In a few days, anyway.

Tears. Wails. Sobs.

End scene.

As you can probably tell by the previous vignette, my children have inherited my hang-ups about doing things correctly.

Listening to them, I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. What struck me most about their unkindness to poor Lucy was how similar it sounded to my own thoughts about some of my neighbors. I’ve made no secret of my Big Uncharitable Feelings about the Giant Santa Inflatable at the end of the street, who made his first appearance the day after Halloween and was replaced before new year’s by a large polar bear holding a heart. Nor did I attempt to disguise my annoyance at being unable to buy peppermints in Wal-mart the day before Christmas- they were busy putting away all the “holiday” decorations to make room for the Valentine’s candy, and they hadn’t put the Christmas stuff on clearance just yet, so it Just Wasn’t Available.

They do have Cadbury Eggs, though. On an endcap, too, so you can’t miss them.

Why do they have to rush everything? And why does it bother me so much?

I think these little moments of irritation could be opportunities for me. Opportunities to practice patience, maybe- little reminders that we are living in the Not Yet. We’re waiting…for Christmas, or for the end of Christmas, or the beginning of Lent, or the season of Easter. We’re following a different rhythm than big box retailers or the Seasonally Festive Inflatable House down the street. We’re waiting for something different, and it’s just a tiny, dim reflection of the bigger waiting…not just waiting for the next big holiday, but for the coming of the kingdom of God (which looks nothing like we can imagine, anyway, and isn’t about tasteful decor that’s the appropriate liturgical color).

Really, I could be just a little more charitable while I wait.
Barring that, I could practice gratitude. At least there are no President’s Day-themed inflatables yet.

Christmas, in bullet points: What We Did

– visited Christmastown with family
– took a pajama ride to look at holiday lights around town
– went to the Christmas parade with good friends
– hosted a spirited fiesta for Our Lady of Guadalupe with twice as many kids as adults (and Mexican hot chocolate)
– attended Christmas Eve Mass at the Cathedral

– traveled to visit both of our families (and listened to a lot of great Christmas music in the car)
– made and ate a gingerbread village, populated by such residents as Santa, Jacob Marley’s ghost, my Gramp, and the Headless Horseman

– stayed in a hotel with a glass elevator and a heated indoor pool (the high point of celebrating, as far as our kids were concerned) and complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast (the high point of celebrating, as far as I was concerned)
– baked a ton of cookies
– ate and gave away a ton of cookies
– got on a first-name basis with our UPS delivery guy (maybe because of the cookies)
– ate way too many Reese’s Cups (that was just me)
– completed a Master’s of Social Work degree (that was just George, but I’m still rejoicing!)
– visited the Basilica in Washington, DC for Mass on January 1st

All in all, it was a great holiday break. We celebrated well this year. I just don’t feel quite ready to stop yet.

Speaking of Christmas, I’m having a hard time letting it go this year. My “rule-following, liturgically correct” self is having an argument with my “hey, calm-down, it’s-not-an-emergency-it-just-feels-like-one” self. I’m still not sure who is winning.

Liturgically Correct Self: It’s Epiphany. You really need to take down the tree before book club this weekend. You’ve never been one of those leave-it-up-til-Candlemas people, and this is no time to start.
Hey, Just Calm Down Self: Oh, come on. It’s pretty. The kids are enjoying it. And besides, we were gone almost all of the 12 Days. We didn’t really get to enjoy it.
Liturgically Correct Self: You sound depressed. Stop being so lazy.

Liturgically Correct Self: OK, enough with the Christmas music already. Jesus is born, and now it is time to move on.
Hey, Just Calm Down Self: These events are outside of human time. Jesus was born and IS born and never stops being born, really…it’s the Incarnation! I refuse to be limited by your human understandings and chronology. And I waited so long to start playing Christmas music because of Advent…the kids are just learning the words to these songs!
Liturgically Correct Self, rolling her eyes: What in the world is happening to you?

Basically, if you come over any time in the next few weeks, there will still be some signs of Christmastide. Maybe even big ones. I’m not apologizing for it…but I am realizing that it probably never mattered quite as much as I thought it did. Being correct isn’t everything, and it isn’t even that fun most of the time.

School is back in session at our house this week, and everyone seems rather relieved to be back on schedule again. We’re easing back in slowly, so we won’t be up to our full load until the end of next week. We’re reading our favorite snow books in the hopes that it might influence the forecast. If you’re local and hoping against snow, don’t be mad- we’ll just cancel each other out (except that little kids hoping for snow have more influence than grumpy grownups who don’t want it to come…you’ll just have to work a little harder than we will to get your point across to the Guy in Charge of the Weather).

The girls and I read Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton today for the first time. It was oddly detailed about the various trucks and vehicles involved in snow removal, but the girls LOVED it!

They immediately set about building a road with the wooden blocks in our living room. Nora pulled out half a roll of toilet paper and layered it carefully on top of the road to be the snow, then borrowed Felix’s smallest bulldozer and started “plowing” the road with it. It was amazing to watch…especially because if I had suggested it, they would have refused to do anything of the sort. There were no princesses or mommies and babies involved at all, either- just growling and tooting and roaring trucks pushing snow-covered blocks all over the carpet and towing each other out when they got stuck. And Felix, who shared his bulldozer without incident, ran through the whole scene over and over with his arms above his head, yelling, “KATY!” with great gusto.

Sam, who is often blurry, is blurry.

Incredible, really.

I realized last month that my hair has gotten really long. It’s halfway down my back. It was shoulder length when Felix was born. Now he’s almost 18 months old, and I haven’t had it cut in over a year.

He was so much littler! My hair was so much shorter!

These are things that happen when you aren’t paying attention.

The thing is, I am a short hair person. I haven’t really had long hair since high school (except a brief time while I was growing it out for my wedding, which now just seems silly. Why do people do that?) Short hair works for my life and my head and the shape of my face. That’s why my blog picture still has short hair (well, that and the fact that I haven’t made the time to update it in a while)- my mental image of myself is of a person with short hair. I cut it above my ears years before Sam was born and loved it, so I kept it that way.

Sometime after the twins were born (or maybe after they became toddlers, because oh.my.goodness), it became really hard to go and get haircuts every five or six weeks, and I started letting it grow. Now that it’s really long, I have two choices: cut it all off again, or figure out what in the world to do with it.

I talked to my sister about this over Christmas. She’s stopped using shampoo and says her hair is softer and lovelier than ever. She’s using a natural bristle brush and baking soda and eggs and vinegar instead of shampoo, and the whole thing terrifies me just a bit.

I decided to start by buying a brush- a real brush with boar bristles, like people who really care about their hair use. (That’s what y’all do, right?) I typically just comb my hair after I wash it and then put it up or braid it, but I guess maybe I could put forth a little more effort? I’ve been behaving like a person with short hair who just happens to find herself with long hair. Having a decent brush seemed like a reasonable first step toward reform.

What do you do, long-haired readers? Please share your advice. If I’m going to commit to being a long-haired writer, I need to figure out how to manage it.

And if I’m not, I really, really need a haircut.

Lent starts in 33 days.

How is that even possible? Wasn’t it just Christmas? Didn’t I just finish saying that it’s still Christmas at my house? I guess I need to get my act together.

What are you reading/doing/praying/becoming this year for Lent? Point me in the right direction, please, because I am still eating candy canes from my stocking (and mini Reese’s Cups from Felix’s stocking, because toddlers can’t appreciate mini Reese’s Cups and are not entitled to have them) and am not feeling ready for this at all.

Thanks to Kelly for hosting and to you for reading!

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Christmas, feasts and seasons, tradition

Happy Twelfth Night.

Tonight is Twelfth Night, the last night of Christmas. Tomorrow we will celebrate Epiphany, which commemorates the arrival of the Magi or The Kings (depending on your preference, I guess) to visit the Baby Jesus and bring him gifts. 
I’m feeling a little reluctant to be done with Christmas. I’ll miss the new traditions we have started and the rituals we have been celebrating. (I’m also going to miss the cookies…we finished them up today.) It has been so much fun to do Christmas this year, with our children old enough to enjoy so much of what is happening. There were some things we never got around to doing, obviously. There is always more you can cram into your family celebrations, especially at this time of year. We observed Christmas fully and well, though- we enjoyed each other, created new traditions as a family, and celebrated the birth of Christ. As my grandma would say, we done good.
One thing that was left undone as of this evening was the finding of our special ornament. The year we were married, George and I acquired a glass pickle and have taken turns hiding it in the tree for each other to find every year since then. The finder of the pickle is entitled to a treat of his or her choice. This is the first year that SuperSam is old enough to participate. I hid the pickle when we put up our tree weeks ago, but it had not yet been discovered. 
We told SuperSam at dinner that tonight was his last chance to find the pickle before the tree comes down tomorrow. 
Announcing that he planned to eat a candy cane as soon as he located the pickle, SuperSam stuck his head into the tree branches and started looking. It took a boost up from his dad for him to be able to see the pickle…but eventually, he found it!
(And yes, he ate a candy cane, even though he was about to go to bed. We did brush his teeth very well.)
Merry Christmas to each of you and a happy new year. May this coming year be full of light and goodness for you and your families. Thanks for sharing this past year with us. 
activities, Christmas, crafting, feasts and seasons, liturgical year, process art, projects, recycled materials, SuperSam

Christmas, ongoing…Recycled Paper Tube Nativity

Despite the growing number of Christmas trees lying in gutters across America (and a Cadbury egg display sighting by George this weekend at a local convenience store), Christmas is still in effect. Today’s the ninth day, and SuperSam and I finished up a project we started a couple of weeks ago.
Now that he’s discovered how much fun it can be to play with art materials and glue things together, SuperSam is kind of unstoppable. One of my favorite things is just to give him a pile of recycled stuff and say, “Hey, what do you think we could make with this?” and see what he does.
It was his idea to make a nativity scene out of paper tubes. I had been saving them for his rocket making, and when he asked for them, I assumed a string of rockets would soon appear. I was surprised when he suggested we make an angel instead. The angel turned out great, and then we were on a roll.
We worked together since hot glue was involved – he picked out all the pieces for each character, and I helped with the cutting and the assembly as needed. The pipe cleaner arms were entirely his idea- he said that Mary ought to have arms “so she can rock her baby in case he gets upset.” (I love that.) 
Yes, those are airplanes on the angel’s robe. And clouds. SuperSam definitely knew what he wanted in the costume department. (You can see how he got there, though.)
This isn’t one of those lovely tutorials about how you can make your own nativity out of cardboard tubes. Come on, you don’t need a tutorial. It’s easy and fun, and you should definitely do it – you have three whole days of Christmas left, so get busy!
We used toilet paper tubes or gift wrap tubes for most of the people, cutting them to appropriate lengths and adding pipe cleaner arms and clothes from scraps of fabric. We cut really small sections of tube for the sheep and covered them with quilt batting using Elmer’s glue. It was a sticky mess.
SuperSam did all the faces with magic marker. Most are smiling, and one king has a goatee. 
Baby Jesus is made from an empty spool I had been saving. He’s also purple…wait for it…”because he is the newborn king, and purple is the color of royalty.” My son, ladies and gentlemen…the liturgical sponge (who somehow managed to absorb something in church even though he was lying on the floor making drum machine noises during part of the homily).
Here is one of the kings bringing the baby a present. (Notice the sticky, half-bald sheep looking on…and Mary, for whom we emptied out the fabric scrap bag searching for the perfect piece of blue flannel.) 
After we completed the kings today, SuperSam played with the whole group for quite a while (until The Sisters got up from nap and threatened to eat some of the sheep). The kings ended up flying in from the end of the hallway on a spaceship “because we forgot to make some camels…we have, basically, none camels at this nativity”.
It was awesome.