Thursday, December 31, 2009

Joy to the World!

Merry, Merry Christmas to you all! Although there was quite a bit of running around on our part, Daniel and I had a wonderful first married Christmas together. Christmas Eve was spent rushing around wrapping presents and completing other last-minute pre-Christmas tasks. For me this included finishing sewing the stockings that I was stubbornly intent on finishing in time for Daniel and me to hang them on our mantle and fill them for each other. It’s amazing that a project that seemed so simple could actually be so complicated. I ended up going to my parents’ house on Christmas Eve afternoon for my mom’s expert help in finishing the stockings quickly.

Just after that, we drove the forty minutes to Daniel’s parents’ house to spend some time with his brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law who were up from Alabama before we all rode with his parents another forty-five minutes to Daniel’s uncle’s house for a party with my father-in-law’s side of the family. A few hours there, and it was back to Daniel’s parents to get our car and drive home in time to leave again for Midnight Mass, picking up two of my sisters and my cousin at my parents’ on the way to the church.

Now, I can definitely say that I love Midnight Mass in theory. It seems like such a perfect, “Silent Night,” “It came upon a midnight clear” kind of time for Christmas Mass. However, I think I liked it much better when I was a college student who was accustomed to being up until the wee hours of the morning on a regular basis. This year I found it very difficult to keep my eyes open. I’m sure being pregnant didn’t help the situation. Luckily, being really sleepy sometimes helps me to pray (unusual, maybe?) so I didn’t find myself unable to focus. I think that next year I would much prefer to go to the eight o’clock candlelight Mass instead. Of course, with a six-month-old, we may not even really be able to do that time…

On Christmas morning Daniel and I woke up at 7:30 (to an alarm of course), prayed together before getting out of bed, then came into the living room to open our stockings and wrapped gifts from each other. Since it was just the two of us this year, it didn’t take too long. We got dressed and drove over to my parents’ at around 8:30 to have the traditional cinnamon roll Christmas breakfast with my family and then open gifts with them. This took the rest of the morning, with so many people and everyone taking turns opening gifts one at a time, and breaks for singing Taylor Swift karaoke with my sisters on Jane’s new karaoke machine, etc. After a second breakfast of hash brown casserole, scrambled eggs, and sausage links, Daniel and I headed to his parents’ for lunch and gifts with his family. A few hours there and it was back to my parents’ for a delicious Christmas dinner with my grandparents: spiral ham, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and rolls.

In the past couple of days since Christmas, with a whole week off from work, my parents and Daniel and I have been in the midst of the last major remodel/construction project for this house: our master bathroom. It was so ugly and gross looking before that I have absolutely refused to even take out and use the new towels we got for our wedding until it was remodeled. It is already looking so much better, and we are not even halfway finished. I’m so excited!

Today is New Years Eve; 2009, the year we had looked forward to as our wedding year for so long, is about to be behind us. As we have for the last few years, Daniel and I will be babysitting—this is prime babysitting money night. Of course, this is the last year we will be able to do that. Who knows what kind of New Years plans we will be able to make next year when we have a baby, unless we get a babysitter ourselves (which we probably won’t, at least not next year)…

Have a blessed beginning to 2010!

Remember us, O God;
from age to age be our comforter.
You have given us the wonder of time,
blessings in days and nights, seasons and years.
Bless your children at the turning of the year
and fill the months ahead with the bright hope
that is ours in the coming of Christ.
You are our God, living and reigning, forever and ever.

(from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dear Diary

(Like many little girls, this is how I always began my daily entry in the little pink book with the flap that locked it closed, marked “Diary” in gold letters.)

It is 7:30 p.m., and Daniel and I are at home. We are sitting on our couch, I finishing a slice of pizza that is my dinner and reading a Grace Livingston Hill novel collection, and Daniel typing away on his laptop, working on a paper for school. A little while ago, Daniel and I baked the frozen thin crust pizza that we had picked up from the grocery store on our way home from my doctor appointment, then sang “O come, o come Emmanuel” while lighting the three Advent candles that show how near we are coming to Christmas. We quickly blew them out again since one is getting dangerously short, and carried our dinner to the coffee table to sit at the couch because our kitchen table is covered in the assortment of baking ingredients I have already assembled in preparation for making Christmas cookies this weekend.

The fir tree we spent quite some time in the freezing cold searching for before we (and by “we” I mean Daniel) sawed it down is sitting in its stand, still without a tree skirt and with boxes of ornaments sitting beneath the branches in the place of the gifts that will be there next week. The tree itself is quite perfect, other than the fact that it looks slightly crooked because of the odd angle of the trunk at the base. Once we find something to use as a skirt and fill the branches with decorations, it will hardly be noticeable. As of now, we have only a strand of 200 white lights woven through the green, twinkling cheerily.

Every so often, Daniel or I will say “I love you” or make a random funny face just until the other looks up and smiles. People might laugh or roll their eyes and say “newlyweds,” but I don’t care. This is just what we do to remember that even though we’re each doing our own thing, we’re still together. And being together is still a good thing.

It is very quiet otherwise. Daniel occasionally sighs or breathes in sharply in thought. His strikes of the keys as he types are rhythmic and soothing, at least to me. Of course, I’m not the one with a deadline tomorrow. I can hear the mantle clock ticking and the refrigerator humming. In another minute or so, all of these quiet sounds will be muffled by the furnace kicking on. It’s only 25 degrees outside tonight.

At this time next year, it certainly won’t be so quiet! Our baby will be six months old then. Of course, after bedtime it will hopefully be quiet like this. Hopefully.

In an hour or so, Daniel and I will have eggnog, the delightful beverage that helps in a very big way to make this my favorite time of the year. If Daniel is finished his paper by then, I might snuggle up next to him while we enjoy it together. Otherwise I will sip it while I read—not a bad second choice. He is so close now to being finished his school work for the semester, and then there is only one left until he has his masters’ degree! I can’t wait. Obviously, neither can Daniel.

When we finish our eggnog, provided Daniel has in fact finished his work, we will check to make sure that the tree has enough water, turn off the lights, and go to our room. We might fold some laundry… or we might not. We will get ready for bed and I will shiver while I change into pajamas and thicker socks (my feet are always freezing at night, especially in the winter), despite the fact that the space heater in our room has been turned on for an hour. But then I will climb into our warm bed and Daniel’s warm arms. And I will be content (that is, as long as I don’t think about waking up to the cold again at six tomorrow morning, or when we are going to finish the last of our Christmas shopping before next Friday, or the dinner dishes sitting unwashed in the kitchen sink). It has been a perfect December evening.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Switch

My switch to working part-time finally came! This is my first week of commuting into D.C. only one day, and I love it. I am feeling well-rested and way less stressed, both of which help with the “morning sickness” that still seems to be hanging on for dear life.

Although I can never accomplish quite as much as my ambitious to-do lists say I should, the house looks so much better than it did when I was working over-time. I’ve made a couple of trips to the bank and the post office while they were actually open (amazing) and I’ve taken the time to sleep in and then leisurely read a book while eating my breakfast. While I haven’t actually taken a nap yet, I love knowing that if I wanted to I could. And that would be okay, because I need my rest—it’s good for the baby! I should enjoy it while I can, I know; it will be much different once she is born.

One thing that is a real treat in itself is being able to open the curtains and let the beautiful sunshine in when I am up for the day, since I used to leave for work while the sun was just rising and arrive home long after it had set, at least at this time of year.

On most days Daniel gets home around five, so he and I have a couple more hours together than we would if I was still working full-time (I would get home close to seven). As soon as I feel better and cooking smells stop bothering me so much, I’m looking forward to being able to make delicious dinners that can be ready (or at least almost ready) when he gets home. For now, we’re eating two different things on most nights—Daniel eats whatever he can find to make for one person, and I eat whatever sounds “the least gross” after searching the fridge and the pantry off and on for about fifteen minutes.

Long story short, life is pretty good. Daniel has a lot of work to do to finish up his semester with grad school (after this, he only has one left!), but he is so close to being done! I’m in the process of getting used to spending a lot of time by myself, which can be a little lonely, but is good for me I think. I still need to work on finding a good routine. I now have time for quiet, personal prayer and relaxation that I didn’t have before, and I talk to the baby even though her ears aren’t quite developed enough to hear my voice. If I remember correctly, her ears will be developed soon. And I can’t wait until I am able to feel her moving—I know she’s doing a lot of it, at least according to my last sonogram a few weeks ago!

We are now well into Advent, and Christmas is only a couple of weeks away. Daniel and I are still working on our Christmas shopping and firming up our plans for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. We plan to pick out a tree this weekend, although we haven’t decided for sure whether we are going to choose one from a tree farm or buy one that is pre-cut. I can’t wait to decorate! From the beginning, I have been determined to sew stockings rather than buy them, so last weekend Daniel and I spent an hour at the fabric store deciding on material (who knew it could take so long). I think sewing them will be a project for next week while I am at home—we’ll see how well that goes… I’m not as good of a seamstress as my mom is!

I hope you all continue to have a blessed Advent season as we prepare both our hearts and our homes for the celebration of His birth!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thanksgiving Traditions

I hope that you all had wonderful Thanksgiving celebrations with you families! Daniel and I certainly did. It turned out that I was able to eat pretty much every dish, despite my worries about feeling sick beforehand. Apparently it’s just chicken that bothers me—turkey’s great! This was a discovery I was very relieved to make.

As is the tradition, my aunt, uncle, and eight cousins from Ohio came down to my parents’ house, and the two oldest who are closest to my age slept at our house. So did Marie, and the five of us (Daniel, Marie, cousins Rose and Therese, and me) spent our evenings playing Rock Band—we are such awesome grown-ups!

On Thanksgiving Day 22 people, aged two to eighty, ate turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, etc. at three tables in my parents’ dining and living rooms. After dinner, Daniel and I drove the 45 minutes to his parents’ house for pie and eggnog with his family. Daniel’s grandparents and one of his sisters and her boyfriend were there for dinner, but unfortunately had to leave almost immediately after we arrived. So, we had dessert with his parents alone, but it was still nice—and of course, still delicious!

Thus Daniel and I had our first married Thanksgiving, and it was wonderful being able to share it all with each other. Since our families live near one another, not much had to change in the way of traditions.

It was strange (wonderful, of course, but still strange) to think about what Thanksgiving will be like next year, when we will have a five and a half month old baby to be taking care of. Will anything have to change in our traditions then? There certainly won’t be late-night Rock Band tours in our living room, which is adjacent to the soon-to-be nursery. That’s really not such a big deal, but what about in years to come? Will there come a time in the not-too-distant future when my family from Ohio stops coming to Maryland for Thanksgiving, which is often the only time during the year that we see them?

When more of my siblings and cousins get married and have kids (I am the very first), it would only make sense for things to have to change. I’m reminded of the Johnson & Johnson commercial that says, “Having a baby changes everything.” I’m sure that having a baby will be every bit worth it and will mostly change things for the better, but there are some things that I just don’t want to change. Like the close friendship that my siblings and I have always shared with the cousins we usually only are able to see once a year. If Thanksgiving traditions change, what happens then?

Can anyone who has already experienced this kind of inevitable (it seems) changing of traditions share some words of encouragement/advice/reassurance? I’d really appreciate it. Being the third oldest of the 29 of my grandparents’ grandchildren on one side of the family and the oldest of my parents’ seven children makes this all new territory for me.