Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas, Children, and Snow: Who could ask for more?

Christmas has come and gone now.  The snow lingers on and so do I.  Whether I am running out in the cold air or curled up on my bed reading, I’m enjoying every moment at home.   One of the greatest gifts of being at home this winter has been getting to know my nieces and nephews better.

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I’m known as “the baby-hater” (thanks for the nickname, Raph) in our family.  It’s not that I dislike children, really.  It’s that I think they tend to dislike me.  Besides, when it comes to being an aunt, I feel a bit inadequate in comparison.  Auntie Mary and Auntie Clare not only sounds better than Auntie Colleen, but those two really have a passion for children.  Clare and Mary can and do spend entire days with our nieces and nephews and come out beaming, with children clinging to them, laughing and begging for more time spent with them.  I’m the aunt who comes and visits and plays…for about 10 minutes,   I can run 10 miles and be chipper by the end, but playing tag with a group of small children makes me want to take a nap.

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I really do love my nieces and nephews, even though I don’t have the endurance to keep up with them for long.  Yesterday, Gabriel and Aurora and company visited for Christmas Day.  It was so easy for me to run up to my darling god-daughter, Antonia.  With her huge smile and indiscriminate love, she is so easy to love.  I sometimes struggle with the older ones, Claire, Adeline, and Thaddeus, who aren’t content to just sit in my lap and smile and laugh as I bump them up and down.  But yesterday, I found myself snuggled up on my bed with Claire and Thaddeus watching Downton Abbey.  The afternoon sunlight glinted off of Thaddeus’ eyelashes as hes lowly started to drift off into sleep and Claire was warm and solid next to me.  And I realized that I love these kids so very much.  I may not be the best aunt in the world, but I’m trying.

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That was one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received, just spending time with the little ones.  I’ll do my best to be there for you, little nieces and nephews, but please excuse me if I sneak off for a break every now and then.

 

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Defining Style

by Kate

Oh, the rocky road to personal style. These days, I live in a real live city.

pittsburgh portrait style

Pittsburgh may not be quite like Paris (though it does look like it sometimes!) but it does boast a real fashion scene full of very sophisticated and stylish people. I am not one of them, but I do appreciate the fact that I can walk down the street in bright mustard yellow or pleather leggings and a sweeping cape and (sort of) generally blend into traffic. I am pretty sure this would not be the case in the streets of the small towns near the dairy country from whence I came, although it IS possible to drive a tractor to the grocery store, or tie an Amish buggy up at the hitching post without drawing a second glance.

Granted, even in Pittsburgh the hat I wore to the recent baptism of my son may have gotten a second glance or two.

baptism hat

Still, there is a part of me that measures the success or failure of my personal style not by the outfits I wear in the city. Somehow a part of me will always believe the essence of my personal style is measured by what I wear on Christmas Eve in the choir loft of the old German Catholic parish church across the country road from my parent’s farmhouse. The theoretical opinion of that congregation of familiar farm families kneeling in the candlelit stillness means more to me than any urban fashionista ever could.

This year I won’t be there.

In Wisconsin, my family is beginning to gather, with the college kids returning and the wood stove burning. I’ll see them soon, at a big wedding coming up after the holidays, but I’ll miss them on Christmas Eve, and I’ll miss my own great fashion moment of the year. I’ll be waiting for pictures of my sisters, arriving at church in style.

You can find our Christmas stories here:

Christmas in the Clamor and the Chaos

We’ll All be Home for Christmas

Christmas and Coming Home

The Spirit of Christmas

and more urban style adventures here:

Frumpiness and Pleather

Pittsburgh is my Paris (A Bibliophile’s Dream)

Winter Harpist

by Kate

I play the harp.

harpist fantastic hat

My harp is a Troubadour. It’s a lever harp about five feet tall. Tall enough to make a dramatic statement- but small enough for a six foot tall farm girl harpist to heft and carry hither and yon.

troubadour harp red barn asparagus

After the golden fronds of asparagus have bowed beneath the frost and autumn turns to early winter is my favorite time to play the harp. Advent, Hanukkah, and Christmas music is made for the harp. This is quite literally true, as much of the music I am playing was written with harps or similar instruments in mind. The pieces I am playing are haunting and holy and lovely.

christmas harpist pittsburgh kate stapleton

Of course I rarely (er, never) really play my harp in a frosty field or forest full of holly berries. This year, with a three month old and two year old and demanding schedule of dancing and caring for elderly people and maaaybe doing my laundry someday, I purposely avoided taking any additional Christmas gigs beyond my regular bimonthly visit to the Alzheimers and Dementia unit up the hill. However, a couple grocery store gigs fell into my lap, and I took them. I’m glad I did.

I love grocery store harp gigs. After spending a good ten years of my life in or directly around the grocery business, the aisles of a grocery store feel like home, but to be honest I prefer to descend upon those aisles in a sweeping ballgown with a harp. My favorite thing about grocery store harp gigs, though, is the reaction of the customers. No one expects to see a harpist when they trudge into a grocery store, so there is often a magical sense of wonder when they come around a corner and find one.

Giant Eagle harpist Pittsburgh, PA

And so in this early winter season I was to be found with my Troubadour harp playing haunting, regal, holy harp music… right next to a huge display of Steelers Merchandise near a pharmacy at a local Giant Eagle Grocery store. And it was lovely.

Christmas in the Clamor and the Chaos

by Kate

Having converged from the city in the East and college life deep in the South, the siblings arrived on the ridge last night, laden with bags and boots.

There was an immediate rise in clamor and chaos, with hooting and howling, sisterly spats and a friendly wrestling match or two. Colleen headed straight for the old upright piano in the music room.

There was homemade bread and soft butter on the table, and a plate of garlic and onions from the farm ready to slice into chili simmering on the woodstove.

The woodstove was roaring and so were the Slattery siblings. My own roaring reached a personal screeching pitch after two hours of attempting to put a very excited toddler to sleep while a very noisy impromptu gathering of teens raged in the next bedroom, and the darkness was  punctuated by periodic visitors thowing wide the door to let in the bright light of the hall. The fifth time this happened just on the verge of Olympia falling alseep, Cale strode in strumming a guitar and singing at a high volume. I stood up and ran at him howling.

This morning I headed down the steep stairs to find my father seated at the head of the huge Amish built dining room table, cutting the heads of a bucket of fish. We are miles from the nearest stream, and no one in my family fishes. I have no idea where they came from. I shrugged and headed into the kitchen, absently noting a heap of rubble piled high and filling our entire side yard. It appears to be the remains of a home or possibly outbuilding of some sort, not from our property. No one has commented on it yet.

I am home for Chrismas, amidst the chaos.

In case you missed the recent Slattery sisters posts about Christmas, see here:

Christmas and Coming Home

Dress Drama

We’ll All be Home for Christmas

The Spirit of Christmas

We’ll All Be Home For Christmas

By: Clare

I’m sure you’re sick of Christmas posts. But….one very pesky eldest sister is pushing me and prodding me to write something, and, well, if you haven’t noticed- IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME!

There is no way to describe the way it feels when all the siblings come home for Christmas. The air tingles of excitement and happiness, the atmosphere one of cozy companionship as we form a ring around the stove, each trying to get the warmest spot possible without burning a hole in our pants or recoiling away with a stinging burn. In one room someone could be shedding tears, while ten feet away several people will be laughing over a merry jest. It’s a happy time, Christmas time.

Because I am the youngest I’ve had to watch as one after one, siblings depart to college, or to travel the country, or whatever else they decide to pursue. And so I’m left behind with a few other under-aged dreamers who will also one day leave me. A lonely little child in a three-story farmhouse. Yes, I do have a bit of a melancholic personality, have you noticed? No, it’s really not that bad. But you can now understand how wonderful it is to have us all back together again for awhile.

Except I usually pretend that I’m pretty darn cool and that “hey, yeah, I can do whatever I want”. The following photo is a result of this stupid strategy of mine.

Oof. This is extremely embarrassing. Please remember that I have gotten past this stage and no longer look like this.

And of course we always end up with a new game to obsess over each year. Everyone takes their turn in attempt to be on top and proclaim themselves the “master”. The masters of the game are always James and Raph. Always. I never have a chance at those games. It comes with being the youngest in my opinion.

Yet another Christmas game. They’re quite entertaining.

Mary already covered the dresses. The dresses are oh so interesting. You have no idea how much of an ordeal they are. And you have no idea how much I made fun of Kate for that red dress. There’s also the three or four years in a row when Mary wore the same red velvet dress to Christmas Eve Mass. Mom finally banned her from it after it got a bit shabby and short. Mary was none too happy.

I so look forward to seeing all of my sisters (and brothers!!) together again. The laughter, the rude comments, the deep conversations, and the tears shall be ever so interesting. And I’ll bet you a million bucks Kate will be the one supplying those tears. She’s always the one who cries. About everything.

Christmas cheer to all!

-Clare

If you missed Kate’s perspective on coming home for Christmas see here:

Coming Home for Christmas

Dress Drama

By Mary

Having so many sisters is a splendid gift. It is a little difficult for me to enjoy the splendid gift of so much estrogen at times though, and Christmas always seems to create static within the female family domain.

This photo pretty much summarizes the way I feel about two things that come up every year.

Thing number one: Shopping with my sisters. Lord have mercy, those girls take FOREVER! I can’t handle stores and sisters, it’s just too much. To be fair, I shall note that they can’t handle me either because I always tend to drift off and get lost. In more recent times, I now do all shopping with my brothers. Shopping with them is a quick and humorous event, largely ineffective, but always enjoyable.

The next issue on my Grinch agenda is: Dresses for Christmas Eve mass.

Oh my gosh, each and every Christmas there is dress drama within the house. I tend to duck out of the commotion if I can. The most memorable dress drama happened the year Kate came home for Christmas freshly engaged and ever so proud. Leading up to the visit home with her husband to be, Kate had put considerable effort into buying the perfect outfit. Naturally all her luggage was lost in translation on the trip here. The meticulously selected trendy sweater dress she has specially brought for Christmas Eve mass…..

did  not make it via airport delivery until the following day. Somehow, Kate ended up wearing a startlingly horrid hot red dress from the 80’s that my mother wore for a dance when I was a preschooler. Kate stampeded her foot and sobbed , and I the Grinch, laughed, until I realized that she actually was able to pull the atrocious red number off somehow. In the long run, we made it to and through mass and back home to enjoy candy and eggnog with rum.

As a seasoned vet of the Christmas highs and lows around the Slattery family tree, I am well aware that it is not in my best interests to offer to go shopping with my sisters or provide (what I deem as helpful) fashion advice. After all, karma bites back. And you never know if one day it might be you wearing the red dress.

Merry Christmas to all you readers!

Sincerely,

The Grinch

And I’m Feelin’ Fine(ally)

by Colleen

It’s Finals Week here at the University of Dallas.  I think a bit of this is on everyone’s mind:

Yup.  It’s some fuuuun times here.  I literally can not find a place to study that isn’t full of other people studying.  It makes me feel like a slacker. The campus is fine(ally) settled down.

Every time I sit down, I suddenly am struck by all the things I would rather be doing, and studying on my bed is no longer an option.  Do you know how dangerous it is?  5 minutes into studying for Economics, and my uncomfortable dorm room mattress is suddenly heaven.

Here are all the irrational and assorted things I get the urge to do when I really should be studying:

1. Go for a walk, a long one, with a nice book of fiction that is not an epic poem that is not a thousand years old.

2. Play piano-yes, let’s drag up pieces from years ago.  Might need to brush up on that Beethoven for Understanding the Bible class, right?

3. Watch Arrested Development (actually I have done that when “studying”.  It’s a brilliant show, and I highly recommend it)

4. Look, I suddenly want to write for the blog again!

5. Compile a Christmas wish list in my head.

6. Listen to Stan Rogers and relive my childhood.  I want to “take the Northwest Passage”, and that makes me “an idiot, I suppose”. Ouch.

And lastly, I really just want to go home.  Christmas in Wisconsin, here I come!  3 finals to go…