Sunday, November 27, 2011

Don't Forget To Include 'HIM'

The season of Advent begins today and so too the 'official' countdown to Christmas.  I don't think I have much time to post about all the lovely ideas I have found for Christmas gifts but I hope to maybe fit a few more in.  Today to mark the beginning of the preparations I have decided to remember just exactly why we even have Christmas.  We often throw about the phrase 'The True Meaning of Christmas' almost at the same time as we are elbowing our fellow shoppers out of the way, clocking up our credit card bill and planning how best to indulge our stomach's every whim.  But do we ever even stop for a minute to include Jesus in His own birthday party?

Quite clearly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas and celebrating it well.  Jesus Himself ate well and food features time and again in the gospels.  He said the bridegroom's friends should celebrate while he is with them and who could beat the super duper party at Cana thanks to the six pots, each containing between 16 and 24 gallons of top quality wine courtesy of Jesus? Nobody...that's who!
So it is right to celebrate but what a sad pity if we arrive at Christmas with our houses scrubbed and adorned, our cupboards full, presents wrapped and bank account cleaned out and we haven't even cast a passing thought or an iota of effort to prepare our hearts and souls for this Child.

So maybe this year we can change that and set a little bit of our preparations aside for Him.

Here are some really worthwhile things we could either give as gifts or invest in for ourselves that might help make Christmas more meaningful for us and our children or loved ones.

What Child Is This?

I have seen these beautiful statues of Baby Jesus venerated at Christmas in different places.  I think it is just a beautiful idea to have in any home, the baby can be placed in a special place on a cushion or straw crib prepared by children and the little ones (and not so little) can privately outpour all the love, thanks and kisses they naturally hold for this precious child over Christmas.  All sorts of family and national traditions can be incorporated using the statue.

I have not seen these statues in any actual shop outside of Rome, where they can be easily purchased in any shape, size or price you so choose.  However they are easily bought online and there are lots available to suit your home and pocket.  This year I also bought a tiny plastic (but pretty) baby Jesus figure for each of our children to place in their school pencil cases over Advent. I have told them that each time they open their pencil case and glimpse the baby to use it as a reminder to say a little prayer or work a little harder and offer that to Jesus as part of their Christmas preparation. Time will reveal whether it works.

Fontanini Nativity Scenes

Home Christmas Nativity scenes are an old and beautiful tradition in many countries.  Certainly there are very few Catholics who don't have fond childhood memories of placing pieces of straw, representing good deeds, along with little letters  into the crib. The crib has probably lost popularity in this last generation as it was packed away into the far corners of attics to make way for the sparkling lights and baubles of the 'Holiday' season.  Maybe it's not too late to revive this lovely devotional tradition.  One of the nicest collections I have come across are those made by the famous Italian company Fontanini.

The lovely thing about Fontanini cribs (or Crèches as our US friends say) is that they can be added to year after year.  They manufacture figures and accessories of everything that could possibly be found in that little town of Bethlehem around the time of the first Christmas. Over time an ever increasing scene can be reproduced. In fact there are competitions held every year for the best scene and there are people who dedicate huge areas of their homes, Church halls etc and lots of imagination to representing practically all of the Holy Land with the Fontanini pieces.  Obviously that is for enthusiasts but any home could build up a collection  which would be great fun and really add to the Spitit of Christmas.  I am so sorry I didn't start collecting Fontaninis when I got married.  They are inexpensive and made of resin and so don't need to be out of reach of little hands.

I think a starter set of these figures would be a great and inexpensive gift for a newly-wed couple, a godchild, or anyone in fact. 

The Miracle Maker

Finally for today, although this isn't necessarily related to Christmas as it begins somewhere during the public life of Jesus, this movie The Miracle Maker is a real treasure.  It is a stop-motion animated film using clay puppets made as a co-operative effort between UK, Russia and USA.  It has been described as the best depiction of the Gospel story ever made.  I have a VHS copy of the film and it really is very, very good.  You may think to look at it that it was made for children but in fact, though it has a U rating, it is equally suitable for adults, maybe even more so.  It is so beautifully made.  The lighting, the voices, the music...everything adds up.  I really recommend it.

I have just double-checked and it is now available on DVD in several languages. I promise you will watch it time and again.  There are clips of it on YouTube but as I'm not sure about the legality of that, I thought it better to let you find them for yourselves.  Here is the link to the trailer though:

Well I hope these ideas help you to insert a bit of the true meaning into this year's Christmas.  They are only intended as starting points to set you thinking.  I'm sure with a little imagination or with a little help from Google you will come up with lots of ideas or traditions you can revive or begin in your own home.

Next Up: Let The Scrubbing Begin

I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas on my blog, what you have enjoyed so far and anything you'd like me to include so please leave a comment :-)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Yesterday You Said Tomorrow.

I stumbled on this photograph a few days ago, it is an ad for sportswear but it shot an arrow through my heart.

I have said 'Tomorrow' so many many times to my little children.  As we all know, tomorrow never comes, but yesterdays add up quicker than we can say 'I love you'.  Before we know it their childhood was something that happened yesterday while we were busy planning tomorrow. 

Two of my children are not children any more and they are not interested in a jig-saw or a trip to the swings, or asking me to help them make Rice-Krispie buns, or read a book aloud to them.

So many tomorrows that never came, so many times 'in a minute' turned into 'tomorrow' which turned into 'no  really tomorrow'

I am not a bad mother.  I think I'm pretty good overall.  But I am normal.   I'm busy.  There are nappies to change,  dinners to be made, clothes to launder, homework to be checked.  Life is a tizzy and we're always going to do the lovely things tomorrow.

So today, I'm going to say...'Yes, I'll do that with you now'  The dinner will wait fifteen minutes, so can the wash. This evening I will ring my friend, not tomorrow evening.  Today I'll tell my husband I love him. Today I'll close my bedroom door for a few minutes and talk to my God.

And today I might just look out a harder jig-saw. I'm sure there are some in the attic.  My big girls might like to help me...

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Little Bit Of Wow!

Well our computer is back home with us and now better than ever so I can go ahead with the post I had planned for last week. I have grouped the suggestions I am giving you today together because I think they all sort of come under the same category.  I'm not certain what you'd call the category but here they are, I hope they are useful to you.

Gift Idea No 8: Sunrise Sonogram

A few months ago a friend of mine on Facebook whose posts are always life-affirming put up a link to an item on Etsy.

Incidently, I have recently discovered and really LOVE it.  It's a bit like EBay but everything on it is hand crafted. There is some lovely 'stuff' to be found there and what's nice is that the sellers are so chuffed if you buy something they've made.  I can relate to that, who doesn't love a compliment...or a nice comment on their blog..hint hint...

The link was to the Etsy shop of a girl who lives on the East Coast of Ireland. As we all know the sun rises in the east so every day this girl, Liosa,  gets up and photographs the sun rise over Ireland.  Recently I was driving into Dublin very very early for my little treasure's small (for a change) surgery on her hand and the sunrise was just stunning, I was blown away by it. I can just imagine how even though the effort of getting out of her cosy bed so early each day must involve a certain level of sacrifice, the pay off must be so rewarding.

With these lovely sunrise photographs and her skill as a photographer, she has had the inspirational idea of superimposing a sonogram photo onto a photograph of the sunrise of any given day.  The result is just so beautiful.

This is her blurb from her Etsy page:

'Sonograms are so wonderful, the first time a new mother sees her child, yet they are so often hidden away in drawers or folders. Why not have it transformed into something that would be appreciated by all? Perfect for a babies room. Choose from many options, colour print, sunset print, clouds print or a special print of the sky on the day your child was born! '

I cannot think of a more special gift to give a mother or father and having lived through the experience of a pregnancy with a sick little baby, this would have meant the world for me to receive.

Liosa can also provide a photograph of the sunrise for any special day, a wedding, anniversary, birthday and so on.

The shop on Etsy is called What The Sea Told Me (how lovely is that?) Here's the link:

Gift Idea 9: Time Out For Young Parents

We have been married for over 16 years now and it was only when we were told that our sixth baby was probably going to be disabled that John and I realised just how many times in our marriage we had neglected time together alone, just enjoying each other and being 'sweethearts'.  I am planning a whole blog post on the topic of date night so here I'll just say that when we thought that time was running out for us to be able to 'date' we rushed to fit in 15 years worth of early-bird meals, chats in a cosy pub, short walks and so on, just because we thought we were going to find it more difficult to find a babysitter for a sick child.  Part of the reason we didn't go out was because babysitters who are reliable are thin on the ground as well as the fact that we thought we were too busy and tired with all the little ones that we couldn't manage it.  How wrong we were, in fact we were so busy and tired that we couldn't afford not to date, it would have helped us tremendously.

I think a lot of young parents make the same mistake we did.

Recently a good friend of mine, Nickie, a professionally trained nanny with many years experience, launched her new business 'The Nanny Service', which is an ad-hoc/emergency childcare service whereby Nickie will come to your house at short notice, or through advance booking, for a few hours, overnight, or whatever is needed. I thought it was a great idea.

I have known Nickie for quite some time now and I would be very confident in recommending her to any family. She is a naturally warm child magnet.

The Nanny Service has recently added the option of gift vouchers to her service and as you can see they are just beautiful.  You just work out how many hours childcare you want to gift and there you have it.  A gift of a few hours together as (albeit tired) spouses could be a lifesaver for a young couple who are parents of young children. A young mother who needs to go shopping or to attend an appointment would be able to relax knowing the babies were in good hands. 

Here is a link to her Facebook page:

Gift Idea 10: PiñatasPiñatas

My gorgeous, huge brown eyed and lively nephew, Ethan, turned five this year and my sister, knowing him only too well provided a most unusual and beautifully made piñata for his party.  It was a huge hit (if you get my pun ho ho ho) with all the cousins who range in age from early 20s to several one year olds.  I asked her where she got it and she told me a girl she knows, Ruth, makes them.  I checked out her website and I think these are just fab!! Just have a look at a few of her designs, they are so much nicer than the mass produced boring ones you find in party shops and you can ask her to design anything you like...I even heard she has done a JEDWARD one!!! Brilliant!!

Definitely a WOW factor going on here!

What is lovely about these gifts is that they are very personal, handmade and I think it's so nice to see people making an effort at a cottage industry which I think is the way to go when times are tough. A small business, a good idea, a bit different and a friendly and efficient service....How can you go wrong?

Here's the link to Ruth's website:

So what do you think of these ideas? Am I on the right track?
My next collection of gift ideas are connected to the true meaning of Christmas.  

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Go Back 10,000 Years

Life's paths...It's funny the convoluted routes life's circumstances take us. Unpredictability and unforeseen events can cause little (or big) diversions even in minor issues like what you are going to write about in your blog. A little and unimportant glitch today led me to some change of plans simply about the subject matter of this post. However, this very change of topic has gotten me thinking of some things much more profound.

Today is a quiet day at home as the mid-term break begins to wind down. I had thought that I'd have been blogging every other day with the school schedule relaxed but for some reason I hardly seem to have even sat down all week. Between pumpkins, colcannon and dentists, I've been rushing from pillar to post all week so it was lovely to be able to spend some time just thinking this morning.

Yesterday evening, while looking for a new profile picture for his Facebook page, I spent a very nice time with my husband looking through our summer photographs on the computer, remembering holiday moments that get you through the winter. I was also waiting for some messages from people I had asked permission from to mention them here in this blog as for today's post I had intended to feature some very individual and unusual gifts which really are very very special. You are going to want to see them, I promise. Anyway the computer was working perfectly last night.

However, the unforeseen glitch I alluded to just now presented in the form of a computer with a broken internal hard drive this morning when we went to turn it on. Of course, being Friday, there's no way it'll be repaired until some time next week...and I had been so looking forward to writing that post. I need the computer for it as there are links and so on that are just so much more cumbersome on the phone.

So I got to thinking about how every tiny thing we do can have an influence on the future. Recently I read a status on FB posted by Chris Stefanick, a very interesting guy whose page I follow. It was about the chance of YOU being ever conceived and gratefulness for life. I did a little online research and the figures I came up with would blow your mind.
If you go back only 10 generations, that is, 250 years, the chance of YOU being born at all is at most
1 in 60000000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000 000000000000000000000000000000000000!!!

If you go back one million years the likelihood is 1 to 18 with 403,166 zeros after it!!

This is taking into account only the father's line.

All of the people, the circumstances, the decisions and actions which led to YOU, any of which had they been different or absent would have led to NOT YOU.

Imagine all the wars, childhood deaths, plagues, famines, illnesses and so on which so many had to survive in order for you or me to even exist

And so it continues..looking at your own life and maybe your own children, had maybe that song which brought you a romantic memory not come on the radio...had the day not been sunny and you had a relaxed meal in the garden...had this or that circumstance or moment been even slightly different...

So thinking of all the people who had a part in my existence I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. The children who lived through wars, the medieval folk who worked so hard and buried lots of their own children at a young age who had succumbed to illness, men and women who lived, loved, maybe were less than perfect, maybe downright scoundrels some of them, all of whom chose life at that moment that led to one then another then another and another link in the chain that I am now one link in on with my own children making up the rear.

How very, very, very lucky we are to exist.

So apologising for the poor quality of these photographs which are simply screenshots taken with my phone, here are some of the people to whom I owe so very much. Thank you, each one of you I am eternally grateful.

This Is My Father With His Little Dog:

Washing His Car:

This Little Cutie Is My Mother:

As A Beautiful Young Woman:


My Paternal Grandfather With His Uncle:

With His First Motorbike:

My Father's Mother With Her Brothers:

As A Young Mother:

My Maternal Grandparents

And Skip A Few To The Oldest Photo I Have: My 2nd Great-Grandfather born in 1828 who died in 1911 having lived through and witnessed the Great Irish Famine...

What a gift life is, there ARE no accidents.
"Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary"
Pope Benedict XVI

In Catholic tradition, November is the month for remembering our dead and praying for them. This November I think I'll also add a prayer of gratitude.

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