Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cleaning the Silverware

I don't know about you and your family, but doing the most time-consuming or tedious tasks together seems to bring out the best stories.  After everyone finished their pie and birthday cake on Thanksgiving, I was putting away the silverware with my mom in the dining room.  As we dried each piece before putting it back into the storage box, Mom told me a great story. 

Of course, it started with Mom's obligatory, "I've probably already told you this story, so tell me if you've heard it before..."  When I was younger, I was a brat and would brush off the stories I had heard several times before.  I'm so embarrassed to admit that I would even interrupt Mom and tell her, "Yes, I know that one" or try to finish her sentences.  Now that I am a little older, I'm learning that hearing the story each time will be different because we've both changed since the last time we heard them, and the questions I ask might bring out different details I have never heard before.  Hearing my mom's story on Thanksgiving as a married woman had much more meaning than the last time I heard it in junior high.

When my parents got married, Grandma told Mom to register for silver.  It was a gorgeous pattern, but unfortunately, they received only a single fork.  When my dad's birthday rolled around five months after they got married, Mom wanted to buy Dad a nice gift.  She didn't feel right spending a lot of money because they didn't have much, and "it wasn't just my money; it was our money."

So, Mom decided to take the single silver fork and try to return it to Younker's.  They wanted to give Mom store credit, but she said that the gift she had in mind wasn't in their store.  Younker's obliged and gave Mom money for the silver fork.

With the money she received for the fork, Mom purchased a Crucifix for Dad.  "He would have been so mad if I had spent that much money on anything else."  Mom smiled and said, "I think it really meant a lot to him that I did that." 

The Crucifix, similar to this one, still hangs in their bedroom. 

When they could afford it several years later, Mom and Dad bought a full set of silverware in the original pattern they had registered for.  Mom says, "Each time I get the silverware out, I think of that fork and your dad's first birthday after we were married."    

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Advent at Our House

Sorry I've been MIA from the blogging world.  It's been a busy last week and a half with my birthday, two family Thanksgivings, and getting ready for Christmas!

I thought I'd write about the traditions we're starting at my house for Advent.

Last year for my birthday, Philip bought me a beautiful Fontanini nativity set.  We'll continue to add to it through the years, but for now we have all of the major players -- Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus, the Angel Gabriel, two cows, and random bonus villager guy, Enoch.  I didn't feel right leaving Enoch in his box, so he hangs out outside of the stable.  Just know when you look at the picture that he's not a lone wise man!

This year for my birthday, Philip got me a pretty pewter Advent wreath and candles.

The Advent Wreath has verses on all four sides.

Since Janie and Walt are still so little, we wanted to start an Advent tradition that will hold their attention.  The nativity set and Advent wreath are on the buffet table where little eyes can see them but not reach them!  We turn off the lights after dinner and kneel in front of the buffet table in the dining room.  We light the Advent candle(s) and turn on the light in the nativity scene.  We sing "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and "Silent Night."  Then, Philip leads us in a spontaneous prayer.  Usually, it has something to do with what we're grateful for that day and asking for the gift of faith for our children.

Advent Wreath and Nativity Scene on the buffet table.  Baby Jesus isn't missing; He doesn't come until Christmas!
Janie loves this new tradition!  She looks at the lit Advent candle and says, "Wow!"  She's thrilled that she gets to blow out the Advent candles each night, and everyone claps for her and says, "Yay!"  We're still working on the little niceties of prayer like folding her hands, the Sign of the Cross, etc., but she's learning what it means when we say it's time to pray.  For now, we're thrilled to get two songs and a prayer in without any major meltdowns from Janie or Walt.   

Our parish gave out an Advent booklet with a Gospel reading and reflection for each day.  Philip and I read through that together before going to bed.  Hopefully we can do something like that together as a whole family in front of the nativity scene and Advent wreath when the kids are a little older.

What do you and your family do to celebrate Advent?  Do you have a nightly or weekly tradition?     

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Husband is Better Than Your Husband

I'm sure your husband is great too, but I wanted the spirit of healthy competition to get your attention.  

Have you ever noticed how women have a tendency to start bashing their husbands when they get together?  The women transform into clones of "Debra," Patricia Heaton's character who plays the wife of Ray Romano on "Everybody Loves Raymond."  All of the Debras compete to decide who gets the Laziest and Most Incompetent Husband Award.  It inevitably turns into one woman trying to one-up the other.  "If you think that's bad, listen to this..."

From the TBS website
I did a little mind experiment that scared the heck out of me.  If Philip were to come across a wife-bashing session with a bunch of guys (as if they'd waste their time talking about us!), what kind of ammo would he have on me?  This, of course, is not the only reason we should be praising our husbands instead of throwing them under the bus, but isn't it a little terrifying?  Need we remember the last time we went on a hormonal tirade that ended in tears and the words, "I don't know why I'm like this!"  The first step toward recovery is admitting that you have a problem, right?  Or, am I the only one with serious issues?  

Regardless of the ammo we could supply our husband with in a wife-bashing session, us wives need to do a better job of praising our husbands -- to them and to others.  There aren't enough positive examples of husbands.  Men are made out to be lazy and incompetent idiots who do little more than get in the way and retreat to their man caves when they're home.      

I'm sick of it for men.  I want to share why my husband should receive the Husband of the Year Award, and I hope it will encourage all of you to share why your husband should receive the award as well.  There are a lot of great husbands and fathers out there, so let's recognize them!

Here's my nomination for Philip:

Philip works long hours as a first-year pediatric resident.  Although recent work hour restrictions allow him to spend more time with us as a husband and father, he still has a long work week.  He never complains about how much he works or the everyday annoyances that inevitably come up.  He doesn't give whatever he has leftover to our family, but he gives the best of himself.  He walks in the door with a big smile on his face for me and the babies.  He gives us big hugs and kisses and immediately asks us how our days were.

He doesn't stop working when he gets home.  He helps with dinner, plays with the kids, does bathtime, storytime, and works on the honey-do list.  I know he wants to relax because he's had a long day, but he routinely asks me if I'd like a break.  "Do you want to go and read for awhile?  I can clean up dinner and put the kids to bed."  Ahhhhh, I love you!

Reading "Horton Hears a Who!" to Janie and Walt
Last night, he suggested I go out to dinner with a college friend because "[I] deserve a break."  (Yes, last night was Thursday so it was technically "date night," so we've postponed this week's date night to Saturday.)  Not only was it great to have some time out with a friend, but I couldn't believe what I discovered when I came home.  Philip had steamed the carpets, cleaned the bathrooms, cleaned up the kitchen from dinner with the kids, and mopped the kitchen floor.  He gave me a big hug when I came home, said that he was glad I got to have some time with a friend, and suggested we watch some "Top Chef" before bed.  He didn't even try to brag about all of the great things he had done around the house.  He let me discover all of them on my own.  Now, if that doesn't earn the Husband of the Year Award, please tell me what does.

Who think their husband deserves a nomination?  Let's hear them!  Share the great things your husband does for you and your family.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Creating a Prayer Routine

It's downright embarrassing how long it's taken me to develop something resembling a prayer routine!  I finally have a little routine going, and I want to share it with you in the hopes that you'll tell me about what you do.

By some miracle, I've managed to get Janie and Walt to take a nap at the same time shortly after lunch everyday.  If I play my cards right, I'm able to get about an hour of devotional time before one of them wakes up.  I'm sure I'll have to move this time around as their schedules change, but it works for now. 

If I were really disciplined, I'd wake up an hour before they do so that I'd be assured of this time.  Well, I'm not that disciplined.  Maybe I'll can pray for the grace to start waking up at 5:30 during Advent.  I'll have to pray really, really hard...   If you know me well, you know that I'd forfeit most of my possessions for a good nap.

Once the kiddos are asleep, I set up shop in the dining room.  My great friend gave me a decorative box that I use to store by devotional materials.  You can see the box on the sofa table in the background.  I'm trying to de-clutter my life, so I made it a goal to create a spot to permanently keep my "prayer stuff." 

Inside the box, I keep my prayer journal, the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament (absolutely awesome resource with complete footnotes.  The Old Testament edition is likely due out this year!), a Catholic Study Bible (NAB), the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and my current devotional materials.  Today, I started this study: Woman of Grace: A Bible Study for Married Women.  I'm also reading a book Philip bought me called A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms: 52 Companions for Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul by Lisa M. Hendey (Catholic Mom, author, and blogger on 

Are you looking for a study?  I have to mention the study I finished last night through my parish called "Full of Grace: Women and the Abundant Life" by Johnette Benkovic.  There is a supporting site as well.  I highly recommend bringing this study to your parish.  I'm not over-selling when I say that this study completely transformed my life.  It's the invitation and encouragement I needed to give God the time He deserves.  Not only is the study rich in content, but it's completely faithful to Church Teaching.       

To make my prayer time more special, I make myself a cup of coffee with a yummy creamer, put Pandora on "Gregorian Chant Radio," light a candle, grab my "prayer stuff," and jump in.  
Journaling helps to keep me focused on prayer instead of the dishes I have sitting in the kitchen sink.  I like to use the ACTS model for structuring my prayer.
A = Adoration
C = Contrition
T = Thanksgiving
S = Supplication

I write for awhile until I'm ready to start reading my devotional material.  I alternate between reading, taking notes, sitting in silence, and journaling.  Journaling also helps me to see my spiritual growth and keep a record of answered prayers.  Here's an example:
Last week, I was feeling frustrated and overwhelmed one day when I wasn't getting much accomplished in the way of my to-do list because the kids were demanding so much of my attention.  I asked God to multiply my time like He multiplied the loaves of bread and fish.  The next day I read over that entry to discover that I got everything accomplished on my to-do list and managed to make a great dinner. 
If I'm lucky, I end the time with a closing prayer before I hear one of the kiddos wake up.  If not, having that time (even if it's just five minutes) never fails to re-energize and inspire me to get back to my vocation as a wife and mother. 

I'm still a work in progress (if that isn't the understatement of the century...), but I finally feel like I've developed a routine with God, and I miss my special time with Him when I don't get it.  Maybe someday I'll have a deep enough relationship with God that I can just sit in complete silence and listen to Him for an hour.  I have a lot of work to do before that would ever be possible.  For now, I'm okay with depending on my prayer training wheels of journaling and reading.  

Do you have a prayer routine?  What does it look like?      

Friday, November 11, 2011

Reclaiming Date Night -- At Home

Before marriage, Philip and I went on our Catholic Engaged Encounter weekend along with several other engaged Catholic couples.  We received a lot of great advice, but some points stick out more than others.  We keep revisiting this point:  Keep your priorities straight.  Your order of priorities should be:  
  1. God
  2. Your Marriage
  3. Your Children
  4. Everything Else
These pictures from our nuptial Mass pretty well sum up that point.  
    Receiving a blessing on the crucifix that hangs in our home.  We brought it with us on our honeymoon to Rome to be blessed by Pope Benedict XVI when he blessed our marriage.

    Having our children has been a tremendous, life-changing blessing, and we both agree that we wouldn't trade our "old married couple" life for anything.  Unfortunately, we've gotten into the bad habit of putting the kids and their needs before our marriage.  It's easy to do that when you have two kids under two in diapers!  They need us, they have a lot of needs, and we love them, so we try to do everything we can to make them happy.  The problem is that Philip and I need each other, too.  We need to make sure we're giving the best of ourselves to each other and not just whatever is leftover from the busy day.  We want our children to know that we still love each other very much romantically. 

    Evenings always seem to go by in a blur.  Philip gets home from the hospital (unless he's working the night shift), we have dinner, I clean up the dishes while Philip gives the kids baths, Janie gets a goodnight story after brushing teeth, Janie goes to bed, Philip works on something from the "honey do" list on the fridge while I close up the kitchen for the night, Walt gets his bottle, and Walt goes to bed.  By the time we have the kids' bedtime routine done, we have an hour together before we go to bed so that we can function the next day.

    We've been lazy about our time together lately.  It's a lot easier to watch a favorite t.v. show on the couch rather than do something that will actually enrich our marriage.  Cuddling together and relaxing is, of course, a great thing.  However, if it's the only solo time you have together and you're spending it staring at a t.v., it probably isn't a good thing.  We always make an effort to have good conversation throughout the evening, but it's not always a possibility with the interruptions that happen with the kiddos.  Additionally, both of us have evening commitments at least two days of the week, so this time has become even more limited and, therefore, even more precious.

    We decided that we need to do something proactive to strengthen our marriage and our time together.  The natural conclusion is that we need more date nights to reconnect.  We're not in a financial position to be able to go out each week and get a babysitter, so we came up with the next best thing:  a scheduled weekly date night at home.

    We have declared that Thursday night is our new date night.  We haven't worked out all of the details yet, but we're glad to have this special night to look forward to each week.  I came up with some things I can see us doing on date night:
    • picnic in the living room
    • get really dressed up for each other (wear real clothes that have zippers or buttons instead of sweats and a t-shirt AND wear full makeup!)
    • make a fancy cocktail we've never had before
    • dinner for two by candelight in the dining room
    • make a playlist, turn the living room into a dance hall, and see if we remember anything from our dance lessons
    • make a family "time capsule"
    • bake a really indulgent dessert
    • create a video diary for our kids
    • plan a future trip (even if it's only imaginary until we can afford it!)
    • watch a fun movie on Netflix and theme the evening around it (the meal, drinks, dessert, what you wear, etc.)
    • design our dream home
    • play a board game and put a bet on it
    • take the night off from cooking and get our favorite takeout
    • bust out the Wii and become hardcore gamers for the night
    Do you do something like this with your spouse?  What fun things have you done?  Do you have anything you'd add to this list?

    Lovebirds During Our Dating Days of College
    I can't wait to date my husband each week!

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Uncle Matt Came For Dinner!

    Tonight was the highlight of Janie's week because my younger brother Matthew (aka "Uncle Matt") came over for dinner!

    Janie usually takes a few minutes to warm up to people when she hasn't seem them for awhile or if she's meeting them for the first time.  No warming up necessary with Uncle Matt, though!  Janie jumped into his arms the second he walked in the front door and had a big smile on her face when he carried her off.

    Janie had a ball asking Uncle Matt to chase her around the house, playing peek-a-boo, showing off her knowledge of animal noises, and pointing to the body parts that she's learned.  

    As the "baby" of our large family, Matthew has a lot of experience as an uncle, and he's definitely a natural.  Here's a sampling of the fun Janie has had with her Uncle Matt in the past.

    "Airplane," January 2010

    Easter 2010

    Family Birthday Party, August 2011

    After looking at those pictures, it's pretty obvious how much fun those two have together!  To top off a great visit, Uncle Matt read Janie and Walt a bedtime story in the nursery.  How cute are the three of them all cuddled up together?!

    We love you, Uncle Matt!

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    What's this blog about?

    First, why in the world did I call the blog "Hallelujah Is My Song"?  This is a reference to Blessed Pope John Paul II's quote: 
    “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. 
    We are the Easter people, and hallelujah is our song.” 

    Blessed Pope John Paul II was an important presence in my relationship with my husband from the first days.  (I'll write a future blog post about his impact on our early relationship.)  I chose this quote because, well, it's easy to forget the joy we should have in the Resurrection despite any suffering we might experience now.  It's my Catholic version of "Don't worry.  Be happy!"

     This is a blog dedicated to documenting the everyday occurrences in our "domestic church" with our daughter, Janie (20 months), our son, Walt (5 months), and our dog, Monty (2 years).  I used to teach high school Spanish.  Now, I'm a stay-at-home mother to our two beautiful children.  My husband, Philip, is a pediatric resident.  

     Here's our latest family pic from Halloween.  
    I love how both of the babies (Walt the monkey and Jane aka Elmo) are giggling.

    In addition to writing about our family and what we're up to, I will post about my interests which include: anything and everything related to Catholicism, cooking, home organizing, education, crafts, reading, and keeping up with current events.  I'm sure I'll come up with more as time goes on!  If I'm organized enough, maybe I'll figure out a way to categorize my posts.

    I hope to use this blog as a creative outlet and an opportunity to network with other people who are passionate about the same things I am.  Here's to hoping that I can stay dedicated to this blog and not let it fall by the wayside.  Third time's a charm, right?  

    Better go!  Jane's emptying the pantry and just ran off with the vanilla extract bottle!  Stay tuned for more...