Easter Sunday 2017

Easter Sunday fell in the middle of an ICU night call stretch for the Man. He spent all night working in the ICU, needed recovery sleep for most of the day, and had to go back in to work on Easter night. We all had the stomach flu last Easter so it was a bit of a bummer to miss church on the biggest feast day of the year again. Still, we can’t complain since he had both Christmas and Thanksgiving off this year. That’s only happened a handful of times in his whole medical career!

The kids and I had a lovely start to Easter itself. The kids woke up to chocolate rabbits and a new book each (The Easter Story from Scholastic, The Twenty-Third Psalm and The Lord’s Prayer illustrated by Tim Ladwig, and When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner). We don’t do filled Easter baskets – not for any deep philosophical reasons, just because I didn’t grow up with them and them seem like another parental obligation resulting in junk and sugar all over the house ;). These cinnamon rolls from Smitten Kitchen turned out perfectly for breakfast and we all loved them. I only noticed her note about switching to a different recipe after making the original, but I have no complaints about using the old one. It was great! I sang Easter hymns at the table with the kids and read the Easter story. The Man arrived home from the hospital after breakfast, stayed awake long enough to gulp a cinnamon roll, and stumbled upstairs to sleep. The morning went a bit downhill from there – overexcited kids on sugar highs, food to prep, girls’ hair to do, and four wiggly people to wrestle into their Easter finest. It’s possible some maternal yelling occurred. Maybe. Likely. Definitely.

My brother and sister-in-law invited us for our nephew’s baptism, followed by Easter brunch at their house. Knowing one of our kids really could not handle that much extra stimulation in one day we limited ourselves to brunch. We were bummed to miss the baptism, but the great surprise bonus was that the Man woke up just in time for lunch and was able to join us at the last minute. We had a delicious and fun meal with our relatives, my sister-in-law’s family, and some of their friends. I can remember Easters with snow on the ground during my childhood so an outdoor lunch with sunny warm weather was a nice treat! My Dad took a few family photos for us. We’ve never yet caught a family photo with all six of us smiling and looking at the camera. This day was no different, but at least we’re all in the picture.

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I thought my brother did a brilliant job coming up with a make-ahead brunch menu. He picked items that required minimal attention during the quick turnaround between church and 20 people coming right over after the service. He had quiches and ham waiting in a warm oven, cold asparagus in a lemon vinaigrette, scones, sliced tomatoes with mozzarella, a fruit salad from my Mom, and deviled eggs from me (I used the Joy of Cooking recipe for the first time and brought the filling in a ziploc so I could just snip the corner and pipe it in on arrival – it was much better than my usual slapdash version). They served pre-made cakes from the grocery store and had juice, mimosa fixings, and water steeped with berries all prepared in advance. Definitely a menu to copy if you want a fabulous brunch that lets you sit and talk with your guests rather than fluttering round the kitchen.

On the longish car ride home we bribed the children with the promise of a bear cracker at home if they managed to stay awake. Over-sugared and oversocialized small children + no nap for kids + no sleep for Daddy before another night of ICU makes a scary math problem. Luckily three out of four made it and went down peacefully for naps (the fourth played quietly in her room, so success all round). The Man also went back to bed and slept for most of the afternoon in preparation for another night at work. After their nap the kids and I took a long neighborhood walk to keep the house quiet for him until dinner time. We got back just after he’d woken up and headed down to the basement to exercise: “It’s Daddy!”

This was our second year observing the liturgical octave (eight days) of Easter, building on our long-standing tradition of celebrating the twelve days of Christmas and, of course, Lent and Holy Week. This post from Better than Eden summarizes my growing appreciation for the drawn out holiday octave. It is so much more relaxing and meditative as the parent of many young children when you can enjoy Easter at a leisurely pace instead of cramming everything into one day and never getting any rest yourself! We went to bed knowing that Easter had only just begun. Seven more days lay ahead for Easter hymns, Easter stories, special foods, family fun, and secular traditions like an egg hunt.

Easter Week

Apologies for any typos, formatting issues, or photo repeats. My computer is out for repairs, so I’m posting via the awkward app

We had a rocky Holy Week this year. Jenny kicked off Palm Sunday with a round of vomiting and remained ill all day. The Man started a week of ICU call on Monday. The stomach bug crescendoed on Tuesday when five out of six family members woke up and puked within an hour of each other. I stayed healthy long enough to nurse everyone else through the worst of it, then went down myself on Wednesday.

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The last stomach flu symptoms finally petered out on Easter Sunday. Perhaps because of the stark contrast to the previous seven days Easter week felt really lovely. This was our first year intentionally celebrating the octave of Easter (the eight day celebration of the church calendar) instead of just Easter Sunday. It was delightful and refreshing and I never want to go back to the single-day celebration. I love holidays and special traditions. However, holidays aren’t always fun as the mom of many very young children. In general, we’ve found that this current stage of life allows for one “extra” thing on any given day without stretching time or energy too thin. Our ordinary days demand a tremendous amount of work. Add in even the basics of dyeing eggs, a special family breakfast, dressing everyone for church, egg hunt, Easter treats, and a special dinner and you have a recipe for an exhausted Mom who never got to relax and celebrate between special activities and the usual rounds of diapers, feedings, changes, naps, and nurturing. While an extended holiday sounds like more work, in reality it takes so much pressure off without the “the holiday’s over and I never got a chance to enjoy it” letdown. There was plenty of time to savor the meaning of Easter, carry on our usual traditions, and fit in some extra fun. It also allowed us to enjoy secular Easter activities like an egg hunt without feeling like we were crowding out precious Easter time focused on Christ’s work.

On Holy Saturday the twins and I dyed eggs together (their first time) while the babies finished naps. To keep curious hands from messing with the dye as the eggs soaked we read Brian Wildsmith’s Easter book and Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polaco. The book took on new meaning for them as they created beautiful eggs themselves for the first time.

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That evening I read the twins the Passion story from The Big Picture Story Bible at bedtime, with a promise that the story had a happy ending and that we’d read about it in the morning.

The Man spent Easter working in the ICU. With lingering stomach virus issues in some kids we stayed home from church. The kids woke to chocolate rabbits and a waffle breakfast. We cuddled on the couch for home church, resurrection hymns, and the Easter story, then headed out later in the morning for a spring walk/tricycle ride.

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The low-key holiday still felt special to the kids with a few treats scattered through the day.

The next day the Man finally wrapped up his ICU call week. As is our tradition, the kids ran in overjoyed to wake him up for his first morning home.We had a morning showing but made lemons out of lemonade by turning our eviction into our first farm outing and post-Lent ice cream of the new year. As you can see, eating your strawberry ice cream is serious business:

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We scattered bits of Easter celebrations throughout the rest of the week, sometimes turning ordinary activities into Easter festivities just by changing what we called them. After eight intense weeks of home buying, home prep, contractors, late nights, showings, illness, and ICU it felt like such a blessed week of family time: fun dinners, a carrot cake, coloring Easter Egg coloring pages, Easter books, hymns, spring walks, and the kids’ first Easter egg hunt filled out the octave. Knowing we’d just slogged through a rough patch as a family, my Mom thoughtfully mailed off Easter goodies in a box so we wouldn’t have to prep: treats, eggs for a hunt, and a book.

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Somewhere midweek we had a house showing crop up right as I was fixing dinner so we abandoned ship, got McDonalds drive through, and met Daddy for a picnic at the park. Neither of us is that excited about McDonalds, but it was fun to watch the twins’ shock and glee at this unprecedented break from routine. Spotting Daddy as we pulled into the park? Dinner at a picnic table? Happy meals? A new toy with dinner? Playing on the slides after dinner instead of getting ready for bed? It blew their minds:

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This is the first place I’ve lived where Easter actually resembles the pictures in my childhood calendars and catalogues. They always promised sunny holidays with boys in seersucker shorts collecting eggs on daffodil dotted lawns. Easter in Chicago generally dawned cold and rainy, sometimes snowy. I think we only managed one or two outdoor egg hunts in my entire childhood. The South whispers promises of a new heaven and a new earth in spring. We soaked in all the outdoor time we could, grateful for grace in the stressful times and refreshment in the lull.

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I hope you and yours had a blessed holiday celebrating Christ’s work. If you missed it, the church Easter season technically extends for another month and a half after the Easter octave. You still have time to party, and the Easter treats are on sale now ;).