I hope December 27 finds you relaxed and filled with warm Christmas memories. Christmas Day was wonderful, but it's busy here every year, with cooking being the main frenzied activity, as we chop, chop and chop some more for a complicated stuffing recipe, a sweet potato casserole, an apple pie, and mashed potatoes. The cranberries are boiled with orange juice and a cup of sugar, so they're easy, and the green beans are just steamed, so very easy too. But boy, it's hours before the meal is done and hubby and me can sit down and relax.
We've thought about making a simpler holiday meal over the years, but the truth is we would miss the special foods. It would behoove me to make some things ahead of time, but what can I say? With four kids, each day has enough work of its own.
In a house with four children, it also takes the first couple hours of the day to straighten the house, wipe down the bathrooms and dust and vacuum for a guest, with the children's help. We have them open presents early, not on Christmas Day, because of the meal prep and anticipating needing their help on Christmas morn. This schedule allows us to make time to play games with them, help them with a new toy, and just enjoy a non-frenzied day before a big day of cooking. This year we chose Christmas Eve morning to open gifts, followed by a church service at 4:30 PM, and cookie social afterwards.
Christmas day I left the dinner dishes for late night, and after dinner we did our Christmas Nativity play with our friend Dean's help, followed by devotions and round robin prayer. Husband's sister sent my girls the Frozen movie, so we watched that later. Dean had never seen it, and we had only seen it once, a couple months ago, as we never noticed it in our town library, but finally put it on hold from another library. Dean was curious to see what all the hoopla was about. I warned him it's not a man's movie, but he enjoyed it nevertheless.
It's so wonderful to have a Christian friend here on Christmas and Easter. The first eight years we lived here we were mostly alone on holidays, with a couple exceptions. The kids love having a guest, but they don't want to be away from home on holidays. Truthfully, as much as having help or trading with the cooking would be nice, I don't want to be away from home either.
|Paul made these cookies, with the girls' help.|
|Our family in our mismatched Christmas outfits|
|Our friend Dean with our boys. We knew him in California from our church singles group. Seven years ago he also moved to Ohio, but we only connected with him two years ago.|
|Miss Beth loves dolls and dress-up clothes. She's an amateur actress and dancer and for every Christmas, every birthday, she asks for a doll and a princess dress. No variety, just the same thing every year and she's a happy camper.|
Don't miss these Christmas books. They're worth putting on hold and finishing before New Year's, or anytime.
Shooting At The Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914 by John Hendrix
John Hendrix wonderfully brings this story to life, interweaving fact and fiction along with his detailed illustrations and hand-lettered text. His story celebrates the humanity and kindness that can persist even during the darkest periods of our history. Back matter includes a glossary, additional information about World War I and the Christmas Truce and its aftermath, and an archival photograph taken during the Truce.
About the Author: John Hendrix’s books include John Brown: His Fight for Freedom, a Publishers Weekly Best Book and New York Public Library Top 100 Book, and Nurse, Soldier, Spy, by Marissa Moss, which received a Eureka! Children’s Book Award and Booklist Editor’s Choice Award. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
My Notes: The writer is a pacifist, which I gathered from his introduction, but regardless of whether you think World War 1 was necessary or not, this book is beautifully done, humanizing both sides and illustrating what Christmas is truly about--hope and love. It's a wonderful history lesson as well as a worthy Christmas story, for children 6 and above, (some might say 2nd grade and above). The text was engaging, and not too wordy or too long for my six year old.
The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg, Copyright 1997
James Bernardin's old-timey acrylic and colored pencil illustrations are reminiscent of Norman Rockwell, but depict both modern and biblical times. Candy canes will never taste quite the same again. (Ages 6 to 9) --Emilie Coulter
My Notes: My library only had a shorter, board-book version of this story available this year, but it's beautiful, wholesome, and powerful. A well-told story worthy of your Christmas celebrations every year.
An Amish Christmas by Richard Ammon Copyright 1996
Two days of Christmas are celebrated by the Amish in their own special ways. There are always the chores, but there is also simple gift giving, in the spirit of the wisemen. There are visits to relatives by horse and sleigh, big family dinners, and the fun of getting together with cousins and friends to sled, build snowmen, and ice skate.
All too soon, the holiday is over, and Amish youngsters return to school filled with memories of two days overflowing with family and fun.
My Notes: This book is not a story, but an accounting of how the Amish typically spend Christmas. It's a cultural lesson mostly, but the non-materialistic view of Christmas is valuable and could spark great conversation about how to keep Christmas meaningful and simple. Each member of the Amish family receives just one gift, for example. The book doesn't glorify the Amish lifestyle, but instead, just portrays it sensibly and respectfully.
Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo, Copyright 2007 (and a newer, 2010 version with a different cover than pictured below)
About the Author & Illustrator:
Kate DiCamillo is the author of The Magician’s Elephant, a New York Times bestseller; The Tale of Despereaux, which was awarded the Newbery Medal; Because of Winn-Dixie, a Newbery Honor book; and six books starring Mercy Watson, including the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride. She lives in Minneapolis.
Bagram Ibatoulline has illustrated many acclaimed books for children, including Thumbelina, retold by Brian Alderson; The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and Great Joy, both by Kate DiCamillo; The Animal Hedge by Paul Fleischman; Hans Christian Andersen’s The Tinderbox and The Nightingale, both retold by Stephen Mitchell; The Serpent Came to Gloucester by M. T. Anderson; and Hana in the Time of the Tulips by Deborah Noyes. He lives in Pennsylvania.
My Notes: A meaningful tale about the danger of forgetting the least of God's people, like the beggars on the streets or the orphans. A little girl, unlike her mother, is not willing to look away and pretend there aren't people who are cold and hungry on Christmas Eve, and everyday. Her simple child-like love, simple reaching out, are priceless and inspiring. This one is a must-have,