As I get older, I find myself interested in traditional Christian practices. This year I've been particularly observing the liturgical calendar. When I visited St. John's Abbey during Lent, I learned what that season meant to them. Lent was followed by Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost; then the part of the year referred to as "Ordinary Time." Today marks the beginning of Advent, which kicks off the second major center of "Sacred Time" (Advent, Christmas and Epiphany).
The focus of Advent is spiritual preparation for the celebration of Jesus' birth. The traditional "Christmas season" does not actually begin until Christmas Eve. Advent is supposed to be a somber season that increases in expectation and hope with each day approaching the arrival of the Messiah that is celebrated at Christmas.
We gathered together all the Advent paraphernalia at home: the wreath, three different calendars (two of which are hand-made), and weekly prayers. I hope this will become a new family tradition. We explained Natalie's role to her last night. She is already excited to blow out the "birthday" candles!
Natalie is crazy about this page on Pendleton Ward's website. It's just a simple animated walking sequence with a soundtrack of like six chiptunes. And yet she demands to watch it over and over again. This has replaced YouTube videos of Hello Kitty as her laptop entertainment of choice.
This morning I woke up to snow on the ground. It's winter in the new house! Fall has swept through, stripping bare the trees that seemed to comprise a vast and secret forest behind our home, revealing tops of townhouses over the bluffs. Now the earth is wrapped in its clean white blanket and the trees sparkle with magical bedazzlement.
At two and a half years old I wondered whether Natalie would even remember this white stuff. I needn't have worried. As soon as she woke up, Natalie ran to the window and started shouting. "Snow! It's rainin'. It's a beach? Come on come on 'et's p'ay inna SNOW!"
She was excited about each item of winter clothing I draped on or pulled her into, and the excitement lasted until we got outside. "I can't walk," she announced, so I carried her. Then she got fibers from the scarf in her mouth. A couple of minutes later, when I was about halfway through building a snowman, she was cold and wet enough that it was time to go back inside.
"We've got six more months of this, kiddo," I said. "Might as well get used to it now."
What I've been up to in the past couple of months.
- Baseball games attended: Twins vs. Blue Jays
- Cities visited: Rochester
- Ice creams made: Peaches, Rocky Road, Campfire, Strawberry Cheesecake, Pumpkin
- Projects completed: garbage disposal installation, storm door repair, fire pit construction, new ramp on chicken coop, play kitchen
- Books read: The Gunslinger, The Graveyard Book, The Dead Sea Scrolls, Augustine of Hippo, The Tipping Point, How to Win Friends and Influence People
- Video games purchased: Minecraft
- # of mice captured: 4
- # of days our road has been under construction: over 9,000
- Getting ready for bath time, Natalie looks carefully at my swallow tattoos, then looks down at her own chest. "Where my birds?"
- Natalie is enamored with the hens. She loves to throw them food, check for eggs, "chase chickens" and try to "hug" them.
- Natalie loved Halloween. She held out her bag and said, "trick or treat" and "thank you" very politely.
- She calls me and Jenna "you guys."
- She thinks that it's hilarious to call things the wrong name. "Good girl, daddy," she tells me. "You good girl."
What's the best part about waking up to take out the dog when it's pitch black at 5:30 AM? Outstanding stargazing. Yesterday morning was exceptionally clear. I could see much more than usual, and I even spotted a shooting star! Yet another reason that I love living in the country.
I made another discovery in the afternoon that wasn't quite as delightful: a dead, dried-up toad, and a Cedar Waxwing with its guts squashed out in our driveway. On top of that, we've been trapping mice in the house and the last victim was caught by its paws in a neck-snapper. It left a bloody circle while it dragged the trap around trying to escape and ultimately I let it go in the yard instead of killing it. Give it a few minutes of freedom before it is snatched up by a hawk or dies from limb-smashing-induced blood loss.
Natalie is getting an education in the cycle of life. She was very interested in the dead bird and wanted to "see, see" while I picked it up with a shovel and dropped it into our compost pile. While I dumped some weeds on top of the body, she asked, "oh, you cover up? Bird go sleep?"
"Yes, Natalie," I said. "Being dead is kind of like sleep, but the bird will never wake up." I scraped the goo off the shovel blade and watched the gears turning in her head. "Do you understand?"
"Let's go," she said. We went inside and I showed her a video of what the Cedar Waxwing looks like when it's still alive. "That's so silly!" she giggled, and demanded to watch it again. Then she got bored with the video and went back to playing with her new kitchen. Check it out, didn't my wife do a great job?