Christmas Eve greetings, dear readers!

Our Christmas cards shipped out on the 21st, which might be a personal best. So, if you get a card from us . . . you might already have it! But if not, and for all of you out there on the interwebs, here’s a virtual update on Tierney family goings on.

Life has felt rather back to normal for us in 2021, despite the times. We are blessed with amazing school, parish, and homeschool communities that are still going strong. So, once again, we find ourselves with toddlers to teenagers and days that are just packed!

Over the summer, we sent kids two by two on long trips to visit our Midwest relations in Chicago, Iowa, and Detroit, where they hunted and fished and drove an ATV and went to amusement parks and helped wrangle little Tierney cousins. Even George got in on the fun, with Betty as his chaperone. Also over the summer, the big kids organized and ran a very successful backyard Catholic day camp for local friends, plus their trusty lemonade stand. Nana and Grandad helped Jack and Betty get in touch with their Deutsch side on a trip to Germany. They saw the sights and drank some beers. Betty’s favorite part of the trip was the castles. Jack liked the schnitzel.

We have a family tradition of visiting Disneyland for 6th birthdays. Lulu’s trip was delayed so long — first by George’s hospitalization, then by COVID — that it turned into a joint trip for Lulu’s 8th and Midgee’s 6th birthdays. Fortunately the new Star Wars Land was 100% worth the wait.

Our annual Camping Thanksgiving trip was again not so much “camping” as “renting an enormous cabin in a scenic location.” But that might just be where we are as a family these days. We spent the week at Lake Arrowhead hiking, throwing a costumed murder mystery dinner party (Lulu did it), and ziplining, throwing axes, and meeting the Big Guy at a Santa’s Village / Adventure Park (yes, you read that right). 

Jim has a new title at his old company, Exer Urgent Care, as the Chief Innovation Officer. We were disappointed to learn that there was no Carousel of Progress associated with the position. But he seems to be doing a good job innovating, and recently helped launch the 25th Exer location. Also going well are the cancer treatments. Brain tumors are not great bedfellows, but Jim and his team of doctors are trying to keep their noise to a minimum.

Kendra is getting booked for out of town speaking engagements again, and always gets to take a travel buddy. Jim came along for a 20th wedding anniversary getaway to Park City, UT where we celebrated two decades of wedded bliss with a ride down the track in an Olympic bobsled. Bob and Mom enjoyed some queso and a Marvel movie in the theater in Houston, TX, and she and Anita saw the Blue Angels and learned about the Florida Martyrs on a trip to Pensacola, FL. Catholic All Year had an unexpectedly booming year in 2021 with a popular new liturgical living box subscription offering. Kendra has brought on multiple team members to help with the workload and now has to worry about things like taxes and insurance alongside her important work of coming up with new saint-themed food puns. 

Jack (19) finally got to leave for college in 2021! He is a sophomore at USC majoring in aerospace engineering and doing Marine Corps ROTC. He has a very cool apartment in a vintage building near USC with a high school buddy. It is furnished with hand-me-downs, sidewalk finds, and IKEA. He has a collection of ironic thrift store drinking glasses and some great Catholic art on the walls. Over the summer, he taught a trebuchet-making class at the Catholic boys’ camp three of his brothers were attending. Everyone survived. He joined us in Lake Arrowhead after classes got out on Tuesday, cooked the turkey on Thursday, and was back at school in time for the football game on Saturday. 

Betty (17) is a senior at St. Monica Academy and has been accepted to her first choice college, University of Mary in Bismarck, ND! She also has applications in at some colleges a little closer to home that also have good nursing programs. Her paper on nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale won the first place writing award at SMA. She has been making the best of her last year in high school theater, playing Audrey in As You Like It, singing in the ensemble in Les Mis, and student-directing The Merchant of Venice (while also performing in Portia’s choir). She was a camp counselor at the Tierney day camp and also at an outreach camp in Long Beach. She stunned her brothers by besting all of them at Santa’s Village axe throwing.  

Bobby (16) is a junior this year, and has the acting bug as well, playing Touchstone the Jester in As You Like It. (He and Betty performed in different casts and so did not have to pretend marry each other.) He impressed with “Drink With Me” as Grantaire in Les Mis, and wore a 50 lbs+ costume as the Duke of Venice in The Merchant of Venice. He earned 3rd place in the schoolwide Poetry Out Loud competition, reciting “Lepanto” by G.K. Chesterton (in which the Catholics are the good guys) and “The Revenge” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (in which they are not), a combined 262 lines. He also played basketball, and, at summer camp, directed and edited a 10-minute film version of Gladiator featuring Frankie as Commodus.

Gus (14) was the driving force behind the Tierney day camp over the summer, then joined his siblings in high school. He ran cross country and is playing JV basketball. He had lines in Les Mis as an 8th grader and Merchant of Venice as a freshmen, and earned the Guardians of Memory award at SMA for exhibiting diligence in his history reading. He thinks “Todd” is “a solid name,” letting his opinion on the subject be known when he heard it called at a restaurant while on a hunting trip with Dad and Bobby and Uncle Brian. 

Anita (12) wasn’t sure she wanted to give up being homeschooled (and Mom was certain she didn’t want to give up having Anita at home) but she decided to give St. Monica Academy a try this year as a 7th grader. So far, she seems to be set to take over Jack’s mantle as unofficial mayor of SMA, earning First Honors, the Citizenship Award, and playing on the league championship team in volleyball. Her little sisters made a large sign to cheer her on at the game. It read: “Let’s go SMAnita!” 

Frankie (10) has been angling to go to St. Monica Academy since Jack started there when Frankie was 3, and Mom, considering a Tierney Family School with Frankie as Head Boy, decided that he could go with Anita this year, as a 5th grader. He loves it. His team was second in the league in flag football. He brought home a “gold slip” for good behavior that indicated that “Franas Tierney” had closed the classroom cabinets without being asked. We can only conclude that our Francis knocked over this Franas kid and took his gold slip, so we’re going to have a talk with him about that.

Lulu (8) has proudly taken up the mantle of Head Girl from Anita. They had a little changing of the guard ceremony and everything. In the car, driving around Lake Arrowhead, she led her siblings in an impromptu concert of classic Thanksgiving songs like “This Little Turkey of Mine,” “Twinkle Twinkle Little Turkey,” “You’re a Grand Old Turkey,” and “How Much is That Turkey in the Window.” Since the Christmas Card photos were taken she has lost both of her two front teeth, but the family vetoed Mom’s suggestion that we drive back to Lake Arrowhead for reshoots.

Midge (6) has finally put an end to the chicken massacres we’ve faced since moving to the coyote-wilds of Altadena. Midge has taken over chicken duties, and she remembers to lock them in their coop every night, which turns out to have been the main problem. She has leveled up in her telephone habits since last year. Then, she would chat up incoming callers. Now, she’s discovered that there is such a thing as outgoing calls and can often be found standing at our vintage rotary-dial phone in the living room, deciding whom she might like to call next.

George (4) is such a little firecracker. The residual slight unsteadiness from his meningitis manifests rather adorably in his losing his balance and compensating with a superhero landing pose. A consequence of his older siblings practicing for Les Mis at home is that he now enthusiastically sings lines like, “Look down, look down, you’re standing in your grA-AVE!” Most nights at dinner, he tells us original jokes like, “What did the eyeball say to the whipped cream?” Don’t know the answer? Neither does he. But he listens to suggestions from the table until he hears one he likes.

Barbara (2) met Jack at the door on a laundry visit home and said, “Hi Jack, change my diaper.” So he did. George’s godparents gifted him a 3-foot-tall hard plastic Spider-man doll that Barbara took a liking to and began to carry/drag with her around the house. Lulu and Midge decided to make things official with a little playroom ceremony and Barbara now refers to him as “Pider-man husband.” She has a habit of adding “y”s to phrases, so volleyball is “volly bolly” and oatmeal “oaty mealie.” Like most Tierney two-year-olds she likes to “do it aself,” which is usually great but sometimes results in three stitches in the forehead. Fortunately, her dad works at an Urgent Care. 

We pray that the end of 2021 finds you well in body and soul, and for a happy, healthy, faithful, and prosperous 2022 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. Thanks so much for being part of the Catholic All Year Community. Memberships and subscriptions and the reach of this blog have all grown beyond what I ever could have imagined. I’m grateful to be able to be a resource for you and your domestic church. And I look forward to keeping it up in the new year! Please keep my family and all the CAY team members (Grace, Emily, Sophia, Micaela, Ashley, Elissa, Damien, Renee, Nik, Nate, Nathan, Jack, and Bobby) in your prayers.

P.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.

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