Christmas Eve greetings, dear readers!

Our Christmas cards are currently chilling with all their pals in a USPS sorting facility. So, if you get a card from us . . . it’s coming! But in the meantime, and for all of you out there on the interwebs, here’s a virtual update on Tierney family goings on in 2020.

Photos by Noemy O’Hara. 📸 🌵 😍

Dear Family and Friends,

Our last card was all about what an unusual and challenging year it was for us. That was 2019, of course. We are glad to report that things have been more familiar in 2020: homeschooling, working from home, hanging out with family, liturgical living and building up the domestic church, RV vacations, backyard homesteading, complicated crafting projects, baking from scratch . . . so glad things have gotten back to normal around here. <wink>

In March, just before COVID-19 shutdowns began, we went to Memphis, TN to celebrate Kendra’s grandmother’s 100th birthday. Nini’s three children and their spouses, five grandchildren and their spouses, and sixteen great-grandchildren were all in attendance, along with other beloved friends and family members. It was a wonderful weekend, with food and fun, and Nini regaling us with stories about the produce man with cart and horse who delivered their vegetables, and the time her headlights went out in the middle of nowhere in a terrible fog and a guy in a beat up old truck mysteriously appeared, and he was definitely a car mechanic and possibly also an angel.

A month after her birthday party, on the feast of Divine Mercy, Nini got dressed in a smart pantsuit, watched Mass on TV, said the Rosary, lay down for a nap, and passed away peacefully in her sleep in the home of her son. Praise God for a happy death. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Anita Falls Pharr, and for all the faithful departed.

We did a family RV trip in July that covered two weeks, over 2,500 miles, a half dozen National and State Parks in the Pacific Northwest including Crater Lake, Mt. Rainier, Olympic, beaches in Washington and Oregon, Redwoods, Golden Gate, and Pinnacles, and two ER visits—for a broken elbow when mom fell out the door of the (parked) RV and a cut finger sustained by Frankie while scrambling over some rocks. The ERs were fine, the trip was great, the scenery was extraordinary, and so was the company.

We followed that up with a Thanksgiving getaway to Joshua Tree National Park, where we hiked, rock climbed, relaxed, enjoyed family meals and board games, and put up with taking family photos.

Jim has been working twelve hour COO days since last spring as Exer Urgent Care navigated an initial slowdown followed by an explosion of months of record-setting business and new clinic openings. It’s been taxing, but he’s grateful to have a good job with a good company doing its best to serve during these crazy times. His treatments are going well, with manageable side-effects and a run of “no change” scans which isn’t as good “miraculously cured” but we’ll take it. 

Kendra is living out her dystopian YA novel fantasy of being the “Chosen One” who had been unknowingly preparing for fifteen years to be ready for this crisis. We’ve never been more grateful for the Catholic liturgical living in the home traditions that have given our days and seasons order and meaning and so much joy. She’s been tapped to share about them at one million online conferences and Zoom presentations, as well as on radio shows and in newspapers, so you’ve probably already heard. Having studied enough saints’ lives to know that plagues and pandemics are the rule not the exception, she never uses the word “unprecedented.” Her newest book, O Come Emmanuel: Advent Reflections on the Jesse Tree for Families was just released to excellent reviews. She had surgery on her broken elbow, and bought a giant home laser-cutter against the better judgement of everyone in the house, including herself.

Jack (18) has not had the 2020 he imagined. After an all-virtual end to his senior year, he graduated from St. Monica Academy and was able to have a modified in-person Mass and diploma ceremony. This year he is a freshman at the elite Viterbi School of Engineering at USC (mom’s Alma Mater), although “at” is a bit misleading, as he attends from his/dad’s office upstairs and has been to the campus exactly once ever. He’s also doing Marine ROTC, which means he puts on little shorts and does pullups in our yard while on Facetime. He’s always been a “run towards danger” kind of guy, so as soon as in person classes were cancelled in the spring, he got a job bagging groceries (the sign out front said they were heroes) and has since leveled up to overseer of the COVID testing wait line at Exer (he gets to wear scrubs and everything, also very heroic). He’s disappointed to have missed out on in-person classes and friendships, but—if pressed—will admit that having a pigtailed baby sister to peek in your door with a drooly grin during your classes is pretty great. 

Betty (16) is a licensed driver! When the DMVs finally reopened, we got the first available behind the wheel test, which was in tiny Delano, CA . . . over two hours away in the central valley. But she passed with flying colors and does the drive to St. Monica Academy’s twice-a-week day camp four times a week, twice for her and Bob, and twice for Gus. She’s gotten her accidents out of the way quickly, running over a side-of-the-road ladder and into our front gate (but, to be fair, mom did that too this year). She’s a great baker, an expert doer of little sisters’ hair, and practices to become a nurse by patching up cuts on siblings.

Bobby (15) is just barely shorter than dad, but he’s going to keep trying. He successfully harvested over a gallon of honey from his beehive this summer. On a hunting trip to Iowa, he and Uncle Bryan bagged a deer within two hours of his arrival in the state. He also got a couple pheasants. Along with Betty, Gus, and Anita, he was confirmed by Bishop Barron. He is writing, directing, and starring in a top secret science-fiction film that he can’t tell us any more about. 

Gus (13) also got some pheasants this year, but, alas, no deer. He is working on a science fair project that involves making homemade rocket fuel, was elected 8th grade class president, and won the taste division of the Tierney Family Bake Off this year with a homemade strawberry cake. He’s been rejoicing in having finally become a (as we like to say) “stinkin’ teenager” and so be allowed to drink caffeine, watch PG-13 movies, and have a Kindle. 

Anita (11) got to trick-or-treat on Halloween with cousins and visit the graves of all four Chicago great-grandparents on the feast of All Souls, when she and Barbara accompanied mom on a work trip. She’s also helping mom develop recipes (and actually write them down for once) for an upcoming cookbook. She requested the role of Herod in the homeschool group Nativity Play, so as to be able to employ her evil laugh. 

Frankie (9) is very . . . Frankie. His favorite pastimes are science, drawing, doting on his baby sister, and tormenting his other sisters. But also, he unhesitatingly jumped into the water to rescue George, who had lost his balance and fallen in while trying to help get the pool net off. So . . . he ended the year in the plus column.

Lulu (7) prayed very hard that Jack would not go away to college. Sorry about the global pandemic, everyone, but . . . mission accomplished. She received her First Holy Communion in a private Mass in our home chapel. She and Midge are pretty much joined at the hip, and their favorite thing is a long-running joke with dad wherein they call him a “doodlebongos” and try to trick him into responding, thus proving that he is a doodlebongos, and he does the same to them. They were in a years-long stalemate until Lulu fell for the old “doodlebongos says what?” trick, and she might never live it down.

Midge (5) is in charge of answering the home phone, since it’s almost always a robot or a sales call and she’s great at hanging up on robots, and telephone sales people seem to think they shouldn’t sell stuff to five-year-olds. When it is a real person, she’ll have a little chat with the caller before passing the phone on, whether it’s gramma or the dentist’s office or one of her teenaged brothers’ friends. She owns thirty-seven chapsticks and is NOT a doodlebongos.

George (3) is once again allowed to go in the big trampoline, as he passed the one year mark since his discharge from the hospital, a milestone for which he waited impatiently. He’s still a bit unsteady on his feet after his bout with meningitis but he has made great progress in his physical and occupational therapy sessions. He likes to make up songs about what he happens to be doing in the moment. Our favorite so far is “Walkin’ on the trail, walkin’ on the trail. 1, 2, 3, 4! Walkin’ on the trail!”

Barbara (1) is a darling baby, unless you are George. To the rest of the family, she gives sloppy kisses and beaming smiles. George, she likes to shove out of chairs and take his lunch money. Fortunately, he’s very forgiving. She walks all over the place and chatters all the time, and has names for all the kids. When we tried to convince her that she couldn’t call both dad AND Jack “dada” she compromised by calling Jack “jah-da” instead. She calls Frankie “gang-KEE!” as she has somehow gotten the impression that his name must be shouted.

We pray that the end of 2020 finds you well in body and soul, and for a happy, healthy, faithful, and prosperous 2021 for all.

Love and Christmas wishes to all of you from the Tierneys,

Jim, Kendra, Jack, Betty, Bobby, Gus, Anita, Frankie, Lulu, Midge, George, and Barbara

P.S. If you’re looking for a fun and meaningful family tradition for tonight, tomorrow, or anytime during the Christmas season, I highly recommend an At-Home Nativity Play! Grab the script here, and see for yourself how amusingly imperfect it can be here.

You might also enjoy the Hymns and Carols for Advent and Christmas Printable Booklet and this Spotify Gramblewood Christmas playlist, including all those song and more.