Sunday, November 30, 2008

speaking of Christmas coming

go visit Kerry's blog to see the Carnival of Anglican Advent traditions!

We got our Jesse Tree up today (made of many pieces of construction paper, and taped to the wall above our dining room table) and got all the ornaments made yesterday (of craft foam and Elmer's glue). I'll try to get some pictures up once a few of the ornaments are actually on the tree.

It was so much fun to make the ornaments with my older two kids, and it didn't take much more than an hour. Some year it'd be fun to make more pretty and permanent ones, but I like how colorful and bright the ones we did this year are. They're far from perfect, but the kids (ages 4 and 2) got to actually HELP, with their own little safety scissors, and so the imperfection is well worth it.

We did not get our Advent candles lit though, so I'm going to try to at least get the candles (if not the wreath) out by tomorrow night. We'll see!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


Okay, that's an even longer title than the last post had! Once again, spoiler space for the completed Christmas gifts, so please scroll down . . .




Okay, first is a lovely sweater in cool greens and white, inspired by a dress found in this book.

I love the scalloped hem. It's modeled by my daughter, who's the same age as her cousin, for whom the sweater is intended.

Second is something terribly cute, for a terribly cute new nephew. You've seen those cool little girl's dresses that are made out of men's dress shirts? Well, now it's the boys' turn, so here is a little romper made out of a loud Hawaiian shirt ('cause a little fella can't wear pastels all the time):

To give you an idea of how it looks on, here it's modeled by a convenient stuffed animal (as we have no live models small enough in house at the moment):

That gives a better idea of what it would look like on, but fails to show the length of the pant portion, as Pooh's legs are rather short. The pants part is full length, making a nice little outfit that can be worn as is for summer, or layered with a onsie underneath in the wintertime.

Inspiration found here.

So, how are all of your Christmas projects coming?

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


'k? The rest of you, check out the cool stocking stuffer I finished, after the ellipses




Alright, here it is as it would look when worn. Can you tell what it is?

If not, here it is in all its glory:

Yep! It's a PI SCARF! Oh, the nerdiness. It cracks me up, just looking at these pictures again. Inspiration found here.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, November 21, 2008

impromptu baby gate

7 Quick Takes

Okay, I'm starting out with a bad pun. I suggest reading it aloud, for the full impact:

What's the difference between roast beef and pea soup?

. . . well, anyone can roast beef.

Here's a cool excerpt from the book I'm reading about St. Elizabeth of Hungary, by Nesta de Robeck:

"The one fact always associated with Saint Elizabeth is the miracle of th roses; in her story it takes the place of the Preaching to the Birds in that of Francis, indeed its poetry cannot fail to delight anyone. Such stories, however when divorced from their context, tend to limit and therefore to falsify the proportions of sanctity. The saints are witnesses to the reality of Christ's triumph, for they show what human beings can be when they are faithful to the divine grace of baptism and to the call of God. They show the redeemed creature suffering and working with Christ using His weapons and with Him conquering the evil of the world. They stand as witnesses to Christ's vivifying presence in His Church and to the fulfillment of God's promises in our midst. These wonderful human beings cannot be known though any single episode."

(emphasis mine)

I'm looking forward to celebrating St. Nicholas' Day this year, on Dec. 6. We've never managed to do it yet, but it sounds like so much fun. I want to make sure to have, along with a treat or two, an orange to put in each of the kids' shoes, because I remember that when I went to school up in northern Canada, we always got a bag with candy and an orange in it at Christmas. And when I was in northern Canada? fresh citrus really WAS a treat.

I'm excited about the new Anglican province that looks like it's forming here in the States. Excited and nervous. If there is an Anglican - really Anglican, in communion with the rest of teh Communion - AND orthodox place to go here, how can I not go? But I have the awful feeling that it'll mean leaving most of my parish behind, and that's a sickening feeling. For some it might be "property over theology" and for some it will be "leaving is never the answer; leaving is always surrender".

Maybe I'm wrong though. Maybe my whole parish family will leave together. That would be a wonder and a miracle, and God can do it. Because I think it would not be leaving. I think we have been left, and it would be rejoining.

I'm rewriting a finished novel, which is a great good thing, but I've also started writing a new one and it's so much fun. Rewriting is work, and so is writing sometimes, but I get such a high out of writing new fiction. It's like a rollar-coaster ride and the wind off of the sea and the bliss of an endorphin high all rolled into one.

I am also thinking this book needs at least one duel in it. I've always liked a story with a good duel.

One of the best duels I've ever read was in a short story by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee, where the hero was provoked into a duel, and, because he was the one provoked, he got to chose the weapon. Because his provoker was a toad and a snob, the hero chose water balloons, the better to embarrass his opponent and ended up, among other things, breaking the provoker's nose, with a particularly hard throw. So awesome.

Georgette Heyer is also the mistress of writing the really good duel. If you're interested, I recommend "The Masqueraders" to start.

Am I the only one who thinks the new Star Trek trailer looks lame, but who totally wants to see the movie anyway?

More quick takes over at Jen's Conversion Diary blog; check them out!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

writing and the morning.

The day stretches before me, and I'm curious about what it holds. It's my first breathing space of the day; after the rush of breakfast and diapers and nursing, and cleaning up from breakfast and reading some books and nursing again, the babies are down for their naps and the kids are down for their quiet times. Or, rather, up, since I'm the one sitting in the living room at the bottom of the stairs.

I'm always puzzled at what to do with this short half hour or forty-five minutes of peace. Do I pray? do I relax? do I try to get some chores done? do I write?

Often I do some combination of the four. I'll start by puttering around a bit with the house stuff: move this over there, put that away, start this part of dinner so the end of the day is less harried. Today it was getting all the dirty clothes into the laundry bags and fishing out a recipe for herbed bread that I want to make to go with tonight's creamy veggie soup. Then a bit of relaxation: reading a snatch of TWOP's recap of Survivor (the one TV show we actually watch on the TV - over at my mother-in-law's; what can I say? it's become a Grandma-time tradition: dinner and Survivor). And now the tea is on, and I might read through the morning daily devotion in the BCP and then try to get a bit more of my novel rewritten.

The novel now, that's a thing. I wrote it in the small space between when my son started sleeping through the night and when I got pregnant with Lucy and Anna. Now that Lucy and Anna are - not sleeping through the night - but only waking up once to nurse - I'm starting to rewrite it. I didn't expect to be doing it so soon, but my husband, who hadn't read it yet, started reading it aloud to me during our dishes-and-clean-up time that we have every night after the squirts are a in bed, and hearing the words rather than seeing them has given me a gift I never expected to have: the gift of being able to experience my own words as a reader, and not a writer. I'm terribly afraid Adam has just let himself in for an entire lifetime of reading my work back to me. Brave man.

So I am working on the little, obvious fixes that I've noted. Add dialogue here. Make that character more consistant throughout. Show, don't tell, that they had a lot of fun at the dinner party. And in the midst of these little changes, I'm hoping that the bigger one makes itself clear. The story starts with a flourish, and ends with a delightful build-up of tension and an even more delightful release, but there is something missing from the beginning-middle of the book, and though I can feel the shape of what ought to be there, I don't know the specifics yet.

The shape of the change is so clear in my mind; when I talk about it, I always make the same low, round motion with my hands. But I don't know exactly how it is to be done yet. So I'm hoping that by fixing the easy things - this paragraph, that scene - I'll be able to lure the big change out of hiding. It's there, I know it, I can feel it, and I hope that by innocently working in its vicinity, while paying it no direct mind, it will come out of hiding, and show me its face.

But for now? Tea and Psalms. I've read all the way through them again, my one consistant piece of Scripture reading this year, and I'm back at the beginning: "Blessed is the man . . ."

That, and perhaps the biography of St. Elizabeth of Hungary that I got out of the library. Today is her saint day, and I know nothing about her except that one of the other liturgical blogging moms around her had her daughter dress up as St. E of H for Halloween. It made me curious, and so now I have an old, yellow hardback from the library that's going to assuage my curiosity. I should have read it last week, but I was deep in the middle of Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. That's done as of this morning though, and so to St. E of H I go!

I hope your morning goes well, and that the best possibiities of the day become reality.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, November 17, 2008

24 Days Before Christmas

Advent is coming!

Once again, our family's celebration of Advent is going to be modeled after the Austin family's in Madeleine L'Engle's Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas. In this book, the Austin family does something different every day of Advent to get ready to celebrate Christ's birth. I'm excited that this year, for us, this can even include decorating the banister like they did - because, having moved, we have one ourselves now! (Isn't it fun when a childhood dream comes true?)

Advent was the season when I started really celebrating the church year, and discovered what a good tool it was for teaching the gospel to my children. I'm learning every year that it's also invaluable in focusing my own eyes and heart on Christ. When you see the year not just as Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, but as Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Ordinary Time, then the changing season don't just remind you that the Earth is circling the Sun, but that God Himself came down onto that Earth in order to save us all.

Back to our celebration of Advent. Here's a list of some things that we've done before on each day, and that I'm thinking about doing again, along with a few new ones. The key to doing something every day of Advent, I've found, is to be both prepared and flexible. Have a list of things you want to do, and even have an idea of the order in which you want to do them - perhaps even the day on which you want to do each - but be prepared to change that order and those days. If someone gets sick, it's not the day to try to get all the Christmas packages mailed. It might, instead, be the day to sit on the couch together and read all the Christmas books, one by one. Or cut out snowflakes.

And, with each activity, take the chance to talk to your children about the Incarnation. Tell them about the God who loved them so much, that He sent His only Son, that whoever believed in Him, might not die, but have everlasting life.

So, without further ado, here are some ideas to get you started:

-get a Christmas tree
-decorate the tree
-make snowflake cut-outs
-get out all of the Christmas books and display them together
-make iced cookies
-make candy for presents
-wrap presents
-write Christmas letter
-get out Advent calander (Day 1 or 2)
-assemble Advent wreath (Day 1)
-sing carols and have hot chocolate
-get out the creche
-celebrate St. Nicholas' Day (Dec. 6)
-color pictures of the Nativity story
-make ornaments
-make paper-chains
-make a star for the top of the tree
-act out the Nativity story
-make a wreath
-color pictures with the kids for them to give as presents
-make a gingerbread house
-make ornaments
-make popcorn chains
-make Grandma L's coffee cake
-make Grandma B's persimmon cookies
-donate to a food bank

Those are just some ideas; I'm also going to be checking out sites like The Crafty Crow for crafts for the kids; and we're planning on doing a Jesse Tree this year.

The whole of the idea is, though, to make sure that every day we are doing something to remind us that Jesus came, and that He came because of the Father's great love for us.

Many of the activities involve sweets or decorations, but for kids, this is a good thing, because we can always point out (and if you have a 3 or a 4 year old, you'll get the importance of this) the why of activity. Why are we doing these celebratory things? Because Jesus came (and died, and rose, and will come again), and there is no greater reason to rejoice. To celebrate. To party. :)

Also worth remembering, however, is that all of this is preparation for the party. Advent is actually a minor mourning season; Christmas is the feast. You might put the bulk of the cookies and candies you make into the freezer, to take out during the 12 Days of Christmas (December 25 - January 6). It also would not be untraditional to save some of the decorations you make and not put them up until Christmas Eve. And as you do all of these things, let it remind you to repent, much as the vegetarian fare of Lent reminds you to repent. "Let every heart prepare Him room," as the carol puts it. As you help your kids learn the story, take time to meditate on it yourself, and to make your heart as clean and bright as your home, by inviting the Holy Spirit to examine, convict and renew you.

A good Advent to you!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. This post is written partly for the Carnival of Anglican Advent Traditions, hosted by Kerry of A Ten'o'Clock Scholar. Go here to participate yourself. (And other liturgically-minded Christian bloggers are also welcome.)

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

7 Quick Takes

Jen, over at Conversion Diary, has been doing these “7 Quick Takes” posts for the past few weeks, and right as I was getting up the courage to copy her, she invited the whole interwebs to join in via a Mr. Linky. Thanks for keep me from plagerizing, Jen!

And, without further ado:

Is anyone else completely charmed by Steve of Blue’s Clues? The old, good Blue’s Clues, y’know. Before they went live-action and added the stupid puppets.

I have a rule for DVDs watched by the children in our house: they must not annoy Mom. Hence, John Deer Tractor movie? In. Barney? Way, way out.

Blue’s Clues? AWESOME. One of my husband’s friends told us once that he’d come home and find a bunch of teenage girls in his house, gathered around the television watching Blue’s Clues, because they all had a crush on Steve. While I don’t share their crush, I totally get it. He’s like the fellow you’d want your teenage daughter to date, because he’d to take her to the amusement park, be a real gentlemen the whole time, and actually yell “Wheeee!” on all the rides. Perfect for a kids’ TV host, because he just seems to think the whole world is so much fun.

Gamgee has moved up into 3T clothes, and so today I found myself dressing him in a shirt he’d never worn before: a red and blue plaid, long-sleeved shirt.

Quoth Gamgee: “A SPIDERMAN shirt!”

I guess all it needs are the colors.

On the awesomeness of John and Ken: I live in SoCal, and the two local obnoxious talk show hosts are named John and Ken. Now, they’re loudmouthed, and can be really annoying, but they’re doing something really cool this week: holding some local politicians to account.

The mayor of L.A. claimed, in a grab for good press, to have filled one million potholes since his term started. John and Ken questioned this, and the mayor’s office managed to produce proof of filling 50,000 of those potholes. Which leaves about 950,000 unaccounted for. Ha! the first.

Ha! the second: John and Ken are now sending a bunch of their listeners out to check that 5% - you can go to their website and be assigned a pothole address to verify – and guess what? Not even all of that 5% the mayor supposedly has proof for have been filled. Ha,ha!

So, like I said: annoying guys. But I love that they’re actually checking up on one of those wild claims that politicians like to make sometimes.

I got a great break from my usual, “boy you sure have your hands full” comments three times this week.

The first two were two separate times that a little old lady asked me, “How did you get all those children?” and I had to refrain from saying, “lots and lots of sex” or “do I really have to explain this to you?” (I went with, “um, the normal way?”) and the second was when I passed a bunch of firemen on the way to the library and one laughed and yelled, “You need more kids!”

I was proud that I thought fast enough to respond, “Yes, I’m just longing for a set of triplets!”

RSV seasons sucks.

It’s been five months since we moved, and I still can’t find my rosary. I thought I knew exactly where it was, but I didn’t. Then I thought it’d turn up any moment, but it hasn’t. I think it’s time to send out the bloodhounds. I miss it. It really is such an aid to prayer. To ordered, good prayer. Especially when I’m tired.

When I’m tired, my prayers tend to get repetitive. And if they’re going to be repetitive, I’d rather be repeating, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me,” rather than, something that starts, “and, Lord, um.”

Caring for mobile twins really is like herding kittens.

Go over here for more Quick Takes!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"we plow the fields and scatter"

Last year, during October, we taught "I sing a song of the saints of God" to our kids, in preparation for All Saints' Day. Now it's November, with another major holiday at the end of the month, and I've decided, "hey, it worked well once!" and we've started teaching the kids "We plow the fields and scatter" in preparation for Thanksgiving.

This is an especially good hymn to teach to children, because it has a chorus, as not many hymns do, and so they can pick up on part of the song very quickly, and, like any good chorus, it carries the theme of the rest of the song:

"All good gifts around us are sent from Heaven above;
Then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord, for all his love."

Our favorite method of teaching the kids a new song is just to sing it at bedtime. Do that for a month, and just about everyone will have it memorized, or close. (Which is good, because my husband and I don't have the verses quite down yet ourselves.)

Okay, all well and good, but here's the real puzzler: what song to we learn for Advent, in preparation of Christmas? So many good Christmas hymns, how to pick just one to concentrate on? I'm leaning towards "Hark, the herald angels sing!" just for all the good theology in it ("Veiled in flesh the Godhead see/Hail the incarnate Deity"). Well, okay, and 'cause I love it. But there's also the excellent and joyful, "Oh come, all ye faithful", which rivals it for both cheer and good theology ("God from God/Light from Light eternal/Lo, he abhors not the virgin's womb").

We might just have to do two.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

a quad stroller and God's good gifts

I was recently granted the chance to purchase a secondhand quad stroller, and immediately called the woman listing it on Craiglist and said, "Yes, please, pick me, and I'll come today with cash?" Now the kids and I can take walks again (thank you, Lord, for your blessings) in an amazingly cool vehicle that I call "the Rickshaw" and my husband calls "the Hummer" and my eldest simply calls "the monster stroller".

(I wish I could put in a link, but Blogger is not being kind to me at the moment and my tech guy - that is, Adam - is not quite home yet to help me out. But Google "Foundations quad stroller", and you can see a picture of the blue beast which we did not - I hasten to add - pay as much for as the price next to whatever picture you're going to find is going to suggest.)

There are a couple of things about this stroller, and I have to go back a bit to explain one of them.

You see, our twins were premature, and so are pretty vulnerable to illness this winter, particularly a nasty bug called RSV. It's a virus most people get by the time they're two, and most people just experience it as a nasty cold. But our girls didn't have the last seven weeks in utero that most kids get in which to develop their lungs, so they're still internally playing cattch-up, and, with airways much smaller than most babies their age, have a much greater chance of getting very, very sick with RSV. It can even kill, God forbid.

So, we had the fun of trying to decide how careful we were going to be this winter about exposing them to other children, taking them out in public and all of that.

It's so strange, because with my older two, I was the sort of mother who was back in church the Sunday after I gave birth, and who didn't worry about a snotty nose. But with the twins, a snotty nose could easily turn into something much worse. Still, it was weird to have to make a decision that boiled down not to, "what's the absolute right answer?" but to "we're going to have some risk; how much do we want?"

We didn't want to be paranoid, but as we prayed about it, I began to have these pictures going through my head. The idea of staying cooped up all winter sounded nightmarish, but as I asked the Lord for wisdom in this situation, the pictures in my head were all of green pastures and peace. I felt like He was reminding me of the Jubilee year, when the pastures are allowed to lie fallow, and the ground that has been worked over too long is allowed its rest. This was what this winter of staying in could be to us.

It seemed He was saying that we ought to take this winter quarantine as a gift from His hand, that it was meant to our family as a blessing and not a curse, that it was to be a chance to be what we literally were not last year this time: to be together. (And, weirdly, the quarantine time will last from Nov. 1 to the end of March. Which is exactly the time last year from when we found out we were having twins and that something was wrong to when they came home from the NICU.)

Last year, for over two months, I was away from either my older two or my younger two children. And for half of that, also away from my husband. We were not all together.

This winter, we will be very, very together. And though it seemed like overkill to me, I heard our Father telling me to be at peace about it. So I said, okay.

And the very next morning, I got this quad stroller. That I'd been looking for for months. It was as if He said, "see? I'll take care of you."

This stroller means that this winter will be easier. I can get out with all four kids, without exposing them to germs. It means we can take long walks and avoid cabin fever. Walk to the park, and let the older ones run around the duck pond and get their wiggles out. It means that when I need to, I can run to the store, and by dint of keeping them all in the stroller and Purelling my hands afterward, make that a not-too-risky venture (no germy shopping carts). It makes it much less bleak.

So, there are many thoughts in my head about this quad stroller. I'm walking again, and that means I'm well on the way to getting rid of that last five pounds from the girls' pregnancy, that was hanging on without my regular exercise (I've always lost weight from pregnancy by walking with the kids). It means that I got to take the kids to a park where they could see herons and kingfishers, along with the more normal ducks and geese. It means that I was able to pick flowers from the roadside to fill the vases in my house (yes, even in the suburbs, pretty things peek over the walls into public space - I love it!). It means that the babies get to get out in a winter when they would otherwise have only seen the inside of our house.

But, foremost, it is a reminder to me to be grateful to the God who calls me to obey Him for His glory. And not just for His glory, but, as the prayer book says, for His glory and for our good. Praise Him!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. I don't know where in the prayer book it says that. I'm just pretty sure that's where it landed in my head from!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wanted Children

I read an article this morning that made the point (and it was making a point, not asking a question), "Should a baby ever be born who is not really, truly wanted?"

I almost spit out my coffee. Wanted? WANTED?

Should human life then, depend on human caprice?

Isn't it, cruelly, peer pressure at its earliest, its foulest? Don't we always tell our children not to base their self-worth on what other people think of them? Yet this bases their very reason for being on whether or not someone thought they were worth it. Wanted? Wanted by whom, why, for how long?

Isn't someone worthwhile because of who he is, rather than what other people want from him, want him to be, hope for him to be?

In the end, there is only One whose love never fails, whose plans are never mistakes. His wants are truly linked to our existance. His desire engendered us, even more than our parents' desires did. In His Self, our existance and His desire for our existance are truly one. The philosophy, "the parents' desire should determine the child's existance" is a cramped, small twisting of the truth of God's "let it be".

In the end, I suppose, it IS so that only really, truly wanted children should be born. The problem is, for their existance to be justified, it is not we who need to want them.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

election links

I got caught up in election news (online and via radio, as we're TV (but not DVD) free over here). And now that it's over, here are some good people's reactions to the results:

Here's Kelly, with some thoughts on other ways to fight about social issues you care about, besides merely voting on them.

And here's Elena, with some thoughts that trip lightly and easily from why she disagrees to Obama to how to trust in the Lord to rejoicing with her neighbors.

And here's Barbara, whose thoughts include this gem:

Let us pray that under President Obama's leadership we will finally see the end to the bitterness and hardness of hearts - on both sides - that has stood in the way of reconciliation and final healing for the sin of slavery. Conservatives voted for Sen McCain for political reasons, not because of racism. But we can all share in the pride at how far our country has come. May the reality of an African American family in the highest place of honor bring assurance to every person on Earth that in this regard the American spirit, with the grace of God, has triumphed over evil.

I so earnestly hope this is true. I voted for McCain, because the President is not a legislator, and neither candidate can really do everything he promises to do, but the President can appoint Supreme Court Justices, who have a hope of ending the slaughter of the innocents in our country. So I made my vote on the executive branch in hopes of having an effect on the judicial branch.

Now I'm hoping so very much that there are no Justices stepping down in the next four years. Unlikely, but I hope it.

Nonetheless, though I wish Obama hadn't won because of his policies, I am so glad that his win was possible, I am glad that, as Barbara wrote above, there is a chance now for the final healing of the wounds the great evil of slavery inflicted on our country. May the curse of racism that has been passed down the generations here in America finally have its end.

God grant that it is so.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell