Monday, 30 November 2015

First Sunday of Advent

Advent, the four beautiful weeks before Christmas where we prepare our hearts and homes to receive the Incarnation. A time to ponder sinfulness, salvation, and to start us on the road that leads to Easter. Also, a time when everyone around us goes completely Christmas-mad!

For the Porters, the first Sunday of Advent means:

1) David can finally play Christmas music (and watch Christmas movies) without reproach. In the Ideal World it would only be Advent Music, but I can extend my decrees only so far and we have so many great Christmas records that it would be a shame to only listen to them between December 25th - January 7th. 

2) Sunday desserts suddenly become part of the Christmas baking program. Working mum's gotta save time wherever they can, right? So instead of the usual pies, puddings, cakes etc, it's going to be squares, cookies, and candies for the next few weeks. Today we're kicking it off with peppermint bark. I can pretty much guarantee that the Man of the Place will hate it but as it simply involves stirring crushed candy canes into melted chocolate it seems achievable and like something that toddlers can help with. 

3) We will build our Advent Wreath. This family tradition started in Ely, which means this is our third year doing it. People who live in tiny apartments with no storage cannot accumulate an excess of liturgical decorations. Do you know how much space a wreath takes up and how awkward it is to store? Do you know how hard it is to find one that is both beautiful and affordable? 

This morning, on our way home from Mass, the children and I foraged for some winter evergreens to build our wreath. I was hoping for holly & ivy, but instead we managed to find some red berries of dubious origin, one lone adolescent evergreen, and a few hedges of greenery that looked like it might last until the new year. I may have cursed cities under my breath during the whole excursion, particularly as I have it on good authority that rats are nesting in some of those green hedges. I miss the beautiful fenland walks for Ely or the forested country where I grew up, where to harvest Christmas greenery meant a walk to the sideyard and the holly bush growing there and the ivy twining its way up the mighty trunks of the towering evergreens. City dweller by choice I am not.

While the children slept I snatched a few minutes to clean away the toy-and-crumb clutter that seems to surround our coffee table. That way, when they woke up I was able to quickly settle them in to helping with the advent wreath making. My method is simple -- decide what size wreath we want and then cut out a circle of cardboard to that size. It can either be mounted (ie taped) onto a plate or put on a board or directly onto whatever surface we're using. In years past I've wrapped the circle in tinfoil or tissue to make it pretty, but this year Emily suggested that we just colour it in. It was a great idea!

Once the circle is decorated, I lay the base layer of the wreath. This year I formed the base layer with evergreen branches from a young tree, which meant that they were easy to bend. I just stick them on with some tape here or there. After the base layer is down, I weave on a top layer. I like to weave this one in and around the base layer, because it hides the tape and adds a fullness and some height to our wreath. Then I weave in our more decorative pieces, which usually include red berries and perhaps a different type of greenery.

and yes, as I pointed out to David although I might be in my jammies and a cardie I am still rocking 3 strands of pearls. 
The final stage is to add the candles. I misjudged the size this year so our Christ candle doesn't fit, but that's no big deal as it wouldn't be lit until Christmas anyway, at which point we won't be lighting the advent candles. So I will just remove them and maybe use our largest white candle as it should fill up a good portion of the wreath.

And that was that! We set it on the living room windowsill and David read a prayer for the First Sunday of Advent:

Bestir, O Lord, Thy might, we pray thee and come; that, defended by Thee, we may deserve rescue from approaching dangers brought on by our sins, and being set free by Thee, obtain our salvation. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

I lit the candle and we all enjoyed the cheerful light until the children went to bed.

Love my ghost image in the background? I do not have time to edit photos! But what I am loving is how one of the beautiful wedding ornaments is centred behind our wreath. Our faith is the heart of our family and I'm loving this visual of it.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Here we Go Again

It's a new liturgical year and I'm back from yet another unplanned hiatus. Life with toddlers and working full time is a busy life. I'm hoping that maybe I can find the time to blog once a week, just like I'm hoping I can find the time to do my embroidery at least on the weekends and keep up with my emails and remember to apply for all various things I keep forgetting to apply for that the Government will send me now that I'm back in Canada and... well, you see where this is going. 

The thing is, over the past few years of difficulty and stress I've been wondering where my place in this new, harder, world is. In the dreams of a younger me by this point in time I am a stay at home mum in my own house and with several little kids running around. That's not reality for me right now and I don't want to sit around feeling sorry for myself, because I have faith and hope that right now I am where God needs me to be. 

It is often a very lonely place. Because I work full time and then watch the kids full time so that my husband can work (and vice versa) there is not a lot of opportunity to go out and do the things that one needs to do to meet the new people who become friends. And because we're Catholic and being Catholic is basically the sum of who we are and what we do throughout the year, it is always particularly lovely to connect with other people who are doing the same things. Then we seem less weird being the ones who are still celebrating Christmas a few days in January, because our friends are doing it too and in this hipster world it means we're basically the coolest of the cool with our crazy trend-breaking trends. 

In this ridiculously decadent, over-priced mega-city where we live I know that mine is not the only family renting, not owning, and renting a much smaller space than we would have in the ideal world. We may not even be the only family without a van, let alone a car. And I am certainly not one of those working mothers who are sometimes denigrated as selfishly working simply to buy unnecessary luxuries and vacations for my family. My life, and my home, is often messy and full of stress and half the time I think my landlords are secretly wondering if their tenants are complete and total insane slobs. But as my husband likes to remind me, we only get one life so we might as well make the best of it and have fun while we're going. 

So, here we go again. I'm going to try and blog more, because it's a good outlet for me and because these precious days of family life are flying by. There never seems to be enough time to do anything that I love, and I know that is the life of a mum with toddlers, but week by week I am slowly regaining minutes as the children get older and as life settles into a bit of a groove. 

I am going to try and blog more. I am going to try and share how a working mum with crazy toddlers can still live out the liturgical year, simply and easily. I have no idea if I will succeed, or if another surge of activity will tear me away from all my relaxation outlets for another six weeks. But hopefully, hopefully, I can begin to carve out a little space of hope & promise for myself.