By the end of the Third Sunday of Advent we were totally failing at Mass-going this season. It is not quite as bad as last winter, I think, but between the downpours (and no car!), the growth-spurt tantrums (I'm guessing it's a thing?), and the never-ending lack of sleep it seems that we're meeting an epic fail despite the number of Mass times available to us in this metropolis. So that's a disappointment but it's also life with two toddlers.
As for the novena, totally sucking at that also. But in good news, I've managed to get the Advent candles lit on Sunday each week so that's quite an improvement over previous years. Small steps, my friends, small steps.
All that said, last Tuesday (December 8th) was the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (Holy Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee). In most places it's a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics, meaning that they're supposed to treat it as importantly as a Sunday and get to Mass. In Canada things are very lax so there's no obligation. But I try not to let that stop me, especially now that I've discovered a 7:15 Mass at the Cathedral downtown. I can get there and back to my work shuttle on one bus ticket and it doesn't even make me late for work. So off I went to enjoy a peaceful and quiet Mass. Of course nothing seems to come easy lately so my fancy new umbrella with its auto-open-auto-close feature broke and wouldn't close, no matter how much button pushing, force, or cursing was directed to it. And it was downpouring. To say I was in a bit of a fluster would be putting it mildly. But it didn't matter, because there was something soul-deeply-calming about being in a candle-dim church, listening to the sounds of the rain and the voices praying, feeling like I was being held close in Mary's heart. It's totally worth the 6am wakeup time to go.
In order to try and give a nod to the feast day at home, I went for a white-themed meal (to symbolize purity). We had a thai chicken-coconut soup, garlic bread, and lemon snow bars. It was a lot of fun.
I spent the rest of the week trying to gear up in order to survive the weekend. Walter has his Ukrainian dance class every Saturday at 9:30am in downtown Vancouver, which means that we leave the house at 8:30am, which means that IF no children wake up early I get to sleep in by about 10 minutes compared to my normal wake-up time. And this week was even more hectic, because I was taking Annie along with us AND it was dress rehearsal day AND all the adults were corralled to help set up the hall for Sunday's recital. But I survived and thanks to the magic of crayons the children behaved during the setup and Annie even made friends with a baby at the class.
Later that afternoon my brother came over to help make Christmas shortbread. He is much less edgy with the kids than I am when it comes to making stuff so it's always nice to have him around for kid participation time. It ended up being a tonne of fun! We made our batch of cookies, got them all suitably decorated, and I don't think that I yelled once. It probably helped that John brought a case of cola with him because man oh man was I running on sugary caffeine all weekend.
Then came Sunday. Not just any Sunday, but Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for "rejoice!" and it's the day that we light the pink advent candle and the day in my house that we start hitting the Christmas festivities with the same hardcore zeal as the rest of our culture. Usually it's the day I put up the tree and really start indulging in my favourite Christmas albums. As a nod to all things seasonally liturgical, Annie & I wear pink and we all try to get in a very joyful mood. This year? Mostly epic fail.
The toddlers would! not! stop! screaming! So we changed our plans of going to a morning Mass at the Cathedral and opted to stay at home until Dance Recital time and then go to one of the three evening Masses we could easily do on our way home. And then a certain Sir threw an hour-long fit when his cruel parents tried to dress him before leaving the house. And then the sprinkling of rain turned into a downpour that ended as soon as we reached the stage in our journey that no longer required being exposed to the rain. And my poor sick husband got soaked to the bone, and is subsequently much sicker now, and the toddlers would! not! stop! screaming!
We did make it through the Dance Recital with a minimum of upset. I count it as a success that I got Walter into his costume, sans hat (he was supposed to be a magical mushroom from Baba Yaga's forest), because he was mostly adamant that he'd wear it "tomorrow". The recital itself was great fun, because Ukrainians are AWESOME. From the minute the music started the hall was full of stamping feet and clapping hands and good, positive energy. After the recital there was a sa potluck, carol singing, and a visit from Grandfather Frost (who had a present for each child).