8 Little Arrows in my Quiver

Reflections and Ramblings of a Happily Harried Mom of Many

Out of the Mouths of Babes December 24, 2010

Filed under: Advent and Christmas — 8littlearrows @ 10:56 pm

Stories about Santa

 

Two of my daughters were snuggling on the couch this evening, and the older one was telling her younger sister stories about Santa.  Suddenly, the younger one (who is two) said, “tell me about Jesus.”  Wow!  I tried to capture the expression below, as she heard about Jesus.  She had this rapt expression on her face, like she just couldn’t get enough information.  It was just precious.

Stories about Jesus

What a great reminder that even though the whole Santa and presents thing is fun, it’s really all about Jesus.  Even at a young age, the kids understand this somehow.

 
Merry Christmas!

 

 

Peppermint Bark December 23, 2010

Filed under: Advent and Christmas,Recipes — 8littlearrows @ 10:35 pm

Peppermint Bark

 

This is a recipe I found only a few years ago, but it quickly became a family favorite.  And it’s so easy to make.

Ingredients

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 bag white chocolate chips

2 Tbsp. shortening

3/4 C. crushed candy canes or starlight mints

2 drops mint extract

Line a cookie sheet (at least 10×15) with waxed paper.  Melt chocolate chips and 1 Tbsp. shortening in a double boiler or heavy non-stick saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Spread on waxed paper so it almost reaches edges of pan.  Harden in fridge or outside. 

Melt white chips and 1 Tbsp shortening in the same fashion.  The white chocolate will burn more easily than the dark so you have to be careful not to overheat it. As soon as the chips are melted, stir in mint extract and 1/2 C. crushed candy.  Immediately spread over dark chocolate layer.  You have to work fast, dropping by spoonfuls and gently pressing so as not to melt the dark chocolate.  Sprinkle remaining candy on top.  Cool and harden in fridge or outside. 

Break into pieces and store in airtight container for up to two weeks, or freeze for longer storage.

 

A Labor of Love: Chocolate Pinwheels

Filed under: Advent and Christmas,Recipes — 8littlearrows @ 10:17 pm

Chocolate Pinwheels

The depth of my love for my husband is demonstrated by the fact that I have been making these cookies for him almost every Christmas since we were married over 17 years ago.  They were one of the traditional cookies on his side of the family when he was growing up, so he understandably must still have them each Christmas. 

Like the loving wife that I am, I immediately got the recipe from his aunt before our first Christmas and told him I’d be more than happy to make them for him.  Of course, that was before I realized what a pain they are to make.  But somehow, I’ve managed to get through it, and some years they even look good.  If you have some time on your hands, and are looking for another cookie recipe, see below.

Chocolate Pinwheels

Combine and beat thoroughly:

1/2 C. shortening or margarine

1 C. sugar

3/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 egg

Add 1/2 tsp. baking soda and 1 1/2 C. flour and mix well.

Divide dough in half, with one half slightly smaller than the other.

Add 1 1/2 oz. melted, unsweetened baking chocolate to one half of the dough and blend.

Place vanilla half on large piece of waxed paper and cover with a second piece of waxed paper.

Roll to 1/8 inch thickness, trying to keep it in the shape of a rectangle.  Do the same for the chocolate half.  It helps to roll out the chocolate one with the vanilla one nearby, because they need to be as close in size and shape as possible.

The vanilla dough, rolled out into a rectangle

Remove the top sheets of waxed paper and flip chocolate dough over on top of vanilla dough.  Remove the piece of waxed paper from the chocolate dough.  Roll up lengthwise (You want your roll to be long), using the bottom piece of waxed paper as a pusher, and making a firm roll.  Make sure ends are pinched together and pushed in towards the center, so there are no gaps in the roll.  Wrap the roll in one of the pieces of waxed paper and chill in the refrigerator overnight.

Rolling the cookies (I actually did it backwards, with the vanilla on top - oops!)

Slice the roll into 1/8 in. slices and place on greased cookie sheet.  This is the part that can make you wish you’d never attempted this recipe.  Sometimes they crumble while you’re slicing and you have to piece them back together. These don’t need to be too spaced out on the pan as they don’t spread much.  Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Slicing

 

Ready to bake

 

My husband made a batch of these with my daughter last week to send to his family members, so they could take a stroll down memory lane, but he didn’t have enough to save some, so I decided to make him another batch.  Fortunately, I didn’t have too much trouble with them this time.  Plus, he was taking me out to dinner last night, so it was the least I could do! 🙂

 

The Best Christmas Present Ever December 19, 2010

Filed under: Advent and Christmas,Family — 8littlearrows @ 1:55 pm

I’m walking down memory lane today, full of emotion — mostly that of gratitude.  You see, Advent fifteen years ago was a time of waiting not only for the Saviour’s birth, but also that of my very own “firstborn.”  So the preparations that year were filled with added anticipation, and I found myself entering in to the season with a new appreciation for the Blessed Mother’s role in the Christmas story.  Our home at the time was quite humble, too (though a step up from a stable), as we were living in an apartment in a college dormitory, where we were campus ministers.

After a previous miscarriage, I was full of gratitude when I discovered that the Lord had blessed me with another pregnancy so soon.  This was also to be the first grandchild on both sides of our family, so the whole extended family shared the excitement.  

I soon realized that because I was due a couple of days after Christmas, we would not be able to travel to Massachusetts to spend the holiday with my parents and siblings.  So my entire family (parents and six siblings) agreed to come to us.  And we got permission for them to stay in other campus apartments/dorm rooms that were vacant for the Christmas break.   My mom also told me not to worry about Christmas dinner, since I would most likely be huge and extremely uncomfortable by Christmas Day.

However, God had other plans.  Joseph decided to arrive early.  In the middle of a snowstorm, on the morning of December 19, my water broke, and around 1 p.m. I received the best Christmas present ever.  To this day, I have not received a greater one (other than the Baby Jesus, of course).   I learned that day the depth of a mother’s love, a love I didn’t even know I was capable of, a love that I’ve since discovered grows even greater every time we receive a new baby into our family.

A gang of college students who had not yet left for their homes soon showed up at the hospital to celebrate with us.  They claim that we blessed them with our presence on campus, but with their visit that day they were the ones ministering to us, especially since, with the snowstorm raging, we weren’t too hopeful that my family would be able to make it.

To our surprise and delight, though, two of my siblings, who were to be Joseph’s godparents, braved the snow, and showed up later that day. I’m tearing up just remembering it.  Having them there to share in our joy was so incredible.

Two days later, we bundled up our little guy for the short drive back to campus.  When we arrived, our door was plastered with signs of congratulations to us and welcomes to Joseph.  The students who had become part of our extended family by sharing the dorm with us now shared the excitement of this new life.  It was almost like having a bunch more younger brothers and sisters who had all been waiting for this moment, too.

Over the next couple days, my parents and the rest of my siblings showed up.  No sooner had they all arrived, then one of the Franciscan brothers at the school showed up at the door with a huge bowl of pasta to feed us all.  And Jay’s dad, brother, and grandparents came on Christmas Eve, too. The Baby Jesus was honored by shepherds and Wise Men, and our Joseph was visited by college students, family members, and Franciscan friars.  What a Christmas! And to top it all off, one of our good friends, a Franciscan priest who later baptized Joseph, was kind enough to celebrate a private Christmas Mass for the whole family in the small Friary chapel. 

On Christmas morning, my entire family squished into our tiny apartment to open presents, prepare Christmas dinner in our Barbie-doll-sized kitchen (quite a remarkable feat for a crowd of that size!), and pass around our new little bundle of joy.  When I look back on that Christmas, I still feel the same sense of Christian community that I felt then. We were surrounded by love and support. 

We have a little birthday tradition, started by my husband, where we all gather around the birthday boy (or girl), lay hands on him, and bless him.  We sing that old song:  “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on him . . . melt him, mold him, fill him, use him.  Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on him.”  That’s followed by my husband (and anyone else who wishes) speaking a blessing over him.

As we sang today, I found myself choked up, remembering all the blessed events surrounding Joe’s birth, and I realized that the love I felt then has only increased.  It’s not like 15 is a magic age or anything, but there are moments like these, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of our crazy family life, when the Lord likes to remind me just how blessed I am.

Now obviously, I’m just slightly biased, but I’m going to brag on my son anyway (mother’s prerogative!).  He is an amazing young man.  Certainly, he has his moments (don’t we all?!) but generally, he is a great big brother, a helpful and kind son, and a responsible, likeable, funny, confident guy who also happens to love Jesus.  I love to listen to him play his guitar and sing, too, especially when he sings praise songs, and sings with his siblings.  I am in awe at how the Lord has used him already, and I can’t wait to see what God has planned for his future.  I feel so blessed to be his mom.

 

Jesse Tree: Week Four (It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!) December 18, 2010

Filed under: Advent and Christmas,Advent traditions — 8littlearrows @ 9:50 pm

Anne and Joachim, Mary, Joseph, Star of Bethlehem, Baby Jesus

This week’s Jesse Tree symbols focus primarily on the people involved with the miraculous birth of Jesus.  I actually only used five, as seen above, but I will include all 7 symbols given in my book for this week.

Anne and Joachim: According to tradition, Anne and Joachim were the parents of Mary, and the grandparents of Jesus.  The book is the symbol of the way Mary was instructed in her faith by her parents.  From them, Mary would have heard the story of the chosen people and of the Messiah, Who was to be born of a virgin, and would save the whole world.  Little did she know that God had already chosen her to be the mother of His Son.

Mary: Read Luke 1:26-38  Only a pure heart, full of grace, could have responded as Mary did at the Annunciation: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  And so we use a heart for Mary’s symbol.  A loving heart is also a wonderful symbol for a mother, the heart of the home, and what greater mother is there than Mary?!

Joseph of Nazareth: Read Matthew 1:18-25  Since Joseph was a carpenter, his ornament depicts a hammer and a saw.  These tools also represent, on a deeper level, his faithfulness in the daily duties he had taken on as provider and protector of the Holy Family.

Star of Bethlehem: Read Matthew 2:1-12  This one is pretty self-explanatory, and the ease of tracing the star was appreciated by this artistically challenged mom, too!

Baby Jesus:  Read Luke 2: 1-20 Every one of my kids wants to be the one chosen to hang this ornament, even the older ones. I traced the Baby Jesus’ head on a piece of paper and glued it on the ornament, kind of peeking up from the manger, with some raffia “straw.”  The rest is made of felt.  We hang this one near the bottom of the tree, so the little ones can “see Jesus.”  I got the most precious picture last Christmas of my then 18-month-old, as she “discovered” Him on the tree.   

"Look, Mama! Baby Jesus!"

 Shepherds/Angels: These are the two ornaments I haven’t gotten to yet.  One has an angel, to represent the angels who appeared to the shepherds announcing the birth of a Saviour and giving “Glory to God in the Highest.”  The other is a lamb and a shepherd’s crook, representing the shepherds “keeping watch over their flock by night.”

It actually works out perfectly this year that I only have five ornaments for this week, since Christmas Eve is on Friday.  After the Christmas Vigil, we’ll come home and finish decorating the tree with our Christmas ornaments, and then carry on with the rest of our Christmas Eve traditions. (Stay tuned!)  

 

Christkindl (a.k.a. Secret Santa) December 14, 2010

Filed under: Advent and Christmas,Advent traditions — 8littlearrows @ 3:32 pm

When I was a child, we practiced the Christkindl tradition throughout Advent, as another way to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus.  (The more secular “Secret Santa” tradition comes from this.)  Christkindl literally means “little Christ Child.”   I believe my parents found this tradition in the book Around the Year with the Trapp Family, by Maria von Trapp.  This is an awesome book, if you can get your hands on a copy.  In Austria, the Christkindl was said to be the bearer of gifts at Christmastime.

The way we incorporate this into Advent is to have each of our kids pick the name of one of their siblings out of a hat.  This person becomes their Christkindl for all of Advent, so they must think of ways to treat this sibling as they would treat the Christ Child.  In doing so, they begin to understand the concept of ministering to Christ by doing “unto the least of these,” and hopefully, become more like the Christ Child themselves. 

However, it is supposed to be a secret, only to be revealed on Christmas, when each child will give their Christkindl a gift.  But in the days leading up to Christmas, they sometimes leave little presents, or do their Christkindl’s chores secretly, or say special prayers for them.  They have a ball trying to guess who has whom.  And it’s another fun way to not only keep the focus of the season on Christ, but also to ease the frustration of waiting a little bit.

The little ones aren’t very good at keeping secrets, so sometimes I try to help them out by having one little kid deliver something for another, to confuse the older ones.  This way, Mom gets to have some fun with it, too.  And we get to spend some quality time with each child, taking them to buy an inexpensive present for their Christkindl, or helping them make something. 

The other thing that’s so great about this is that every time we talk about this tradition by name we are saying the name of Christ.  So His name gets spoken many times a day and is associated with fun, and loving behavior.  I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely an association I want my kids to make!

 

Jesse Tree: Week Three December 11, 2010

Filed under: Advent and Christmas,Advent traditions — 8littlearrows @ 11:29 pm

King Solomon, Elijah, Isaiah, Daniel, Jonah, Zechariah and Elizabeth, and John the Baptist

 

Solomon: Read 1 Kings 3:3-14  Week three begins with King Solomon, remembered both for his incredible gift of wisdom and for the beautiful temple he built for God in Jerusalem.  I chose to use a crown for Solomon, but a temple could also be used for this ornament, depending on your level of artistic ability.

Elijah: Read 2 Kings 2:11-18  This prophet lived 900 years before Jesus at a time when Israel was ruled by weak kings and the people worshipped false gods.  His job was to convince the Israelites to return to their true God.  The symbol for Elijah is the chariot of fire in which he was swept up to Heaven when his job on earth was done.  This was one of my favorite ornaments.

Isaiah: Read Isaiah 2:4, 7:14, 9:6-7  This prophet lived near Jerusalem about 700 years before Christ, and gave hope to the Israelites that peace would come to their nation (“and they shall beat their swords into plowshares”). He also foretold the birth of “Emmanuel … God with us.”  The symbol for Isaiah is a hammer beating a sword.

Daniel: Read Daniel 6:10-23  Daniel’s faithfulness to his God in spite of persecution is an inspiring example, and the story of the lion’s den is such a wonderful reminder of God’s care for His people.  I had fun making the lion for this ornament.  I just cut fringe all the way around a golden circle of felt and glued it onto a smaller circle.  Then I traced the face on a slightly different color and glued that on top of the gold circle.  It looks good, but wasn’t too hard. (Just my type of project!)

Jonah: Read Jonah 1-4  I love the story of Jonah.  Maybe because it’s such a great reminder to the kids of how important obedience is! 🙂  Moms need all the help we can get in that department, right?!  This ornament was one of the easier ones to make.  I’m really good at tracing!

Zechariah and Elizabeth: Read Luke 1:5-23  The praying hands on this ornament represent the many fervent prayers offered by this holy couple that God would bless them with a child.  Their faithfulness was rewarded, finally, with the visitation of the angel Gabriel to Zechariah, and the subsequent birth of their son, John the Baptist.

John the Baptist: Read Matthew 3:1-11  John’s symbol is a shell with water dripping from it, since John is obviously known for baptizing and preaching repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.  I used glue and glitter to make the drops of water.

By the end of this third week, we’re almost to the story of the nativity.  And all the exciting “Christmasy” activities we’ll be doing during the fourth week of Advent will only serve to heighten the sense of anticipation.  Stay tuned!