Christmas 2008

I don’t normally post pictures of the children, but here are a few photos of our Christmas celebrations for those who are interested:


Trying to get a nice picture of all four children, which is almost impossible, anyway…notice that it’s the baby on the attack, while Bunny looks like she’s trying to pretend she’s not related to any of them!


Moose is a little blurry, and Ladybug had to be distracted with a candy cane, but not a bad photo of the four of them, considering.


Turkey and Bunny (aka Joseph and an angel) dressed and ready for the big dress rehearsal for the Christmas program to be held on Christmas Eve.


Ladybug ready for church…who wants to tell her she can’t take the bag of blocks with her?


Moose all dressed up, and inspecting the Christmas tree, as was his job all Christmas season.


Turkey and Bunny in a rare peaceful and sweet moment together…even with the excitement of the program being only an hour away. Too bad their costumes had to cover up their Christmas clothes, although, the costumes were cute, too!

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

We concluded our trip around the world, as well as our two-week Christmas unit, today by learning about Christmas celebrations in Germany.  We listened to a German Christmas carol (“Now Sing We, Now Rejoice”), and talked a little bit about the difference between hymns (more formal), and carols (much more laid back, and very well suited to singing while strolling down the street).

We also turned once again to the Lion Storyteller for one more Christmas story–a legend from Germany, but one that, ironically, takes place in England:  “The First Christmas Tree.”  I had some mixed feelings about this story, because part of it was darker than the other stories we have read, but I felt that the ending was worth it, really driving home the fact that Jesus is the only sacrifice required by God.  And, while Turkey and Bunny did seem a little troubled by part of the story, they didn’t seem scared, so I think we struck a good balance.

Following learning about the custom of decorating Christmas trees, we made a really neat Christmas tree that has an almost stained glass effect when you hang it in a window.  Turkey and Bunny practiced making the small snips with their scissors that the project requires, but in the end, when working on their actual trees, I made the snips for them.  Bunny just doesn’t have the fine motor skills yet to make cuts that small, and while I’m certain Turkey *could* have done it, once he saw me making specific shapes in Bunny’s tree, he wanted me to do his, too.  They did have a great time with color selection and gluing, and some trimming (mostly on Turkey’s part–he’s way better with scissors than his sister is!).

They also had a tree decorating coloring sheet in their Christmas Around the World coloring books, and a picture of Kris Kringle in their Holiday Traditions coloring books.  We may not “do” Santa here, but I do think it is interesting for them to learn about the way other cultures view the legend of St. Nicholas.

The highlight of the day (other than the tree project), was learning about “Christkindlmarkts.”  That is my favorite thing about Christmas in Germany, and I really hope to attend the Nuremberg market someday.  I have been to the Chicago Christkindlmarket, and from what I can tell, it’s a pretty good replica.  It was also my very favorite Christmas tradition when I lived up in the Chicago area (schnitzel sandwich and hot spiced cider, anyone?), and I can’t wait to take the children there in a few years when they’re older.  I’ll confess to actually having had dreams about it, I enjoyed it so well, and miss it so much.

After I explained to them what a Christmas market is, we watched an episode of “The Seasoned Traveler” from PBS.  I saw this show a few years ago, and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to find this year that’s it’s available on DVD.  I don’t know how I never caught before that the show is geared toward seniors who like to travel (I know, the title should have tipped me off, but I really thought “seasoned” just referred to people who were experienced travelers!), but I don’t think that really matters, and Turkey and Bunny loved seeing the different markets in Germany, as well as other places in Europe.  They were quite surprised that those were actual places, especially the Nuremberg market, with a children’s area, complete with carousel and ferris wheel, and I think they really want to go to a Christmas market now!

I wish I could find the Christkindlmarkt video that we watched every year in my German class in high school.  I have no idea what it was called, but it was really cool, and told a story about a little German girl, while she went exploring through the market (I think maybe in Cologne?).  I know Turkey and Bunny would enjoy that, since it focuses on a child, but try as I might, I can’t even find out what it’s called, much less if I can get a copy anywhere.  I think that’s the only thing that would have made our Germany exploration better, though–we had a great time with Christmas around the world, and Christmas school!

Fröhliche Weihnachten and Merry Christmas!

Christmas Baking 2008

Here are the results of what we made this year:

  • Peppermint Fudge
  • Oreo Truffles
  • Strawberry-Vanilla Cake Balls
  • Gingerbread Men
  • Decorated Sugar Cookies
  • Raspberry Almond Thumbprints
  • Apricot Almond Thumbprints
  • Chocolate Candy Cane Crunch Cookies

I think that’s it–some standards carried over from previous years and a few new things.  Gotta admit, I’m relieved I’m done.  Cookie baking is not my favorite thing–too putzy–but the children love helping, and I love sharing our treats with others (primarily Ryan’s co-workers).

Now, the goal for next year is to actually get them done before our church’s cookie walk so I can donate some.  That was the plan this year, but time slipped away, and I just didn’t get them made.  Haven’t looked at the 2009 calendar, but hopefully next year there will be more time between Thanksgiving and Christmas for me to get this stuff done!

If I was Smart…

Here’s how I *should* have handled the whole gingerbread house issue:

I *should* have really read the directions, instead of just scanning them to make sure I had any items necessary to complete the project.  Had I done this, I would have realized the lengthy drying times between steps, and I would have just assembled the blasted thing after the children were in bed last night.  Actually, if I’m being smart, I would have made Ryan do it.  Then he could have done the laborious and time-consuming trimming of the gingerbread pieces so they would lie flat.  This was a process that made me want to use some four-letter words, but as the children were present, that was really not an option.

I *should* have had the house ready to go this morning, so that Turkey and Bunny could just enjoy decorating it, as that’s really the only part they can do.  They’re not allowed to use sharp knives, so the trimming was out, and they can’t hold the decorator bag, so they couldn’t pipe the “glue” icing on (although, I suppose they could have tried spreading it on with a butter knife, in retrospect, but I don’t know if that would have made the process easier or harder!).

Finally, perhaps I *should* have considered doing this the easy way, the way I did in school…with graham crackers instead of gingerbread…I don’t know, maybe it wouldn’t have been easier after all, but right now, it seems like anything would have been a better alternative to the way we’re doing it.

Now we have to wait to this afternoon to decorate the house, which is the fun part…Turkey and Bunny are being surprisingly patient, for which I am extremely grateful.

Feliz Navidad!

Today in school we moved onto Mexico.  Actually, this was a little bit more low-key for us, as Turkey and Bunny already  had some familiarity with Christmas in Mexico.  They knew “Feliz Navidad,” they had an idea of Las Posadas from our failed field trip a week ago Saturday (someday, I would like to give seeing that traditional procession of Mary and Joseph looking for a room at night, illuminated by candlelight, lanterns, and flashlights another chance, because I think it would be awesome to see!), they knew pinatas are used for parties (although they were a little surprised that they could be used for something other than a birthday party!).

They did enjoy reading about the legend of the poinsettia, though.  We turned back to our favorite Lion Storyteller Christmas Book, and read “A Flower for Christmas.”  I have no idea if that’s the “real” poinsettia story, or if there might be others out there, but they really enjoyed it, even if Turkey did insist on pointing out to me that that could never happen.  But we talked about how we have some poinsettias in our church, and we added a new symbol of Christmas to our list:  stars in the Philippines, nativity scenes in Italy, Christmas trees in America, and now, the red poinsettia plant as a Christmas symbol in Mexico.

They also got to color a new picture in their Christmas Around the World coloring books.  Much like we had discussed, it showed children taking turns at a pinata, with a backdrop of poinsettias.  They loved the shapes the pinatas were in (three different animals), and they were puzzled and excited that the picture actually showed the pinata being used outdoors.  So, they’ve decided that when the little tree we planted in our yard last spring gets bigger, they would like to try their hands at a pinata out there.  Not a bad idea, actually.

Friday, we finish our Christmas journey around the world with my favorite country (outside of America, of course!): Germany.  Until then, Feliz Navidad!

Buon Natale!

Merry Christmas from Italy!  (Or at least the Italian sector of our house…)  We had a great time learning about Italian Christmas traditions today.  We started with basic geography–where Italy is on the map, what it’s shaped like (Turkey and Bunny were very amused to realize it looks like a boot!), and what that type of land is called (a peninsula).  Turkey also pointed out, with no prompting, that Florida is also a peninsula–proud Mommy moment for that one!

We read two stories from the Lion Storyteller Christmas Book–the first was about Saint Francis and the first Christmas pageant.  This led to a discussion about the use of nativity scenes in homes in both Italy and America. We then made a foam nativity scene from a kit I picked up at Michael’s.  It will be a cold day when I get another one of those things, but the end result was pretty cute, and Turkey and Bunny enjoyed helping me put it together (they didn’t get to help as much as I had hoped, because I had to get out the hot glue gun, so they had to back off, lest they burn themselves like I did, several times no less!).

We had two different Italy coloring sheets, too.  One, from our Christmas Around the World coloring book, was of a living nativity, much like the one Saint Francis put together in our story.  The other picture (of La Befana) was actually from a coloring book we picked up at our Christmas field trip over the weekend.  Our second story was about the legend of La Befana, so the two fit together nicely.  Using that story as a bit of a springboard, we also talked a little about the wise men, and listened to the hymn, “What Child is This?”

Our big “taste” of Italy, though, was our dinner tonight.  I decided to be adventurous and try out a recipe for  Zuppa Toscana I found online.  It was quite a bit of work to put together, but it was really delicious, and Turkey and Bunny both enjoyed sampling food from Italy.

We will continue our trip around the world on Monday…until then, Buon Natale!

Maligayang Pasko!

(That’s how they say “Merry Christmas” in the Philippines, in case you were wondering!)

We continued our trip around the world to see how other cultures celebrate the birth of our Savior.  We enjoyed learning about what the people of the Philippines call the “longest Christmas celebration in the world.”  The official start of the Christmas holiday is December 16, and they keep on going right through Epiphany (the way it should be, in my opinion!).

The main symbol of Christmas in that country is the Christmas star lantern (or parol, as it’s called there).  So, today in school, we made our own (highly simplified) version of the parol.  Basically, we melted crayon shavings between stars cut out of wax paper, and the effect was really cool.  The first attempts were a little on the dark side, because Turkey and Bunny mixed a few too many colors too close together, but they learned from that and the next ones were much better.

We also talked about the song the “12 Days of Christmas,” because there is such a focus on the time between Christmas and Epiphany in the Philippines.  I told Turkey and Bunny about the possible Christian interpretations of the song, and we listened to a popular recording as well.  We’ll be continuing with that theme throughout the week as we use the “12 Days of Christmas” to do some math.

This country was a little harder than the others I have planned, because I couldn’t find any traditional Christmas stories or legends originating from the Philippines, and I’m not so good with cooking Asian foods.  At least we had a fun craft to do, though, and I also managed to find a World Book Encyclopedia book dedicated entirely to Christmas in the Philippines at the library, so we were able to look at some pictures of their celebrations, as well as many different styles (and intricacies) of parols.

Now, can anyone tell me how to pronounce the above “Merry Christmas” so I can figure out if I was even close?

Kala Christougena!

Today was “Christmas Around the World: Greece” in our little school. Actually, it was more of a Greece/Turkey hybrid, but it worked. I had to throw in Turkey because we also learned about Saint Nicolas (since the commemoration of his death is tomorrow, I wanted to make sure we read the story today, and kept things timely), who hailed from what used to be called Lycia, but is now Turkey.

It  was quite amusing hearing Turkey and Bunny attempt to say “Merry Christmas” in Greek (and I have to admit, my pronunciation of “Kala Christougena” wasn’t that great, either!)  We had a fun time learning about Greek children’s tradition of caroling to homes with triangles, drums, and sometimes, small boats, as a nod to their sea-faring tradition. They were very intrigued to learn about the treats the children often receive in response to their songs! Turkey and Bunny also enjoyed coloring a picture of this tradition from their new Christmas coloring books.

Turkey and Bunny were also quite surprised to learn that the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas a week later than most other Christians do.  They did find similarities in our celebrations, though: we all go to church to celebrate Christ’s birth, many of the foods are the same, the Christmas tree with a star on top is the same, the gathering of friends and family is the same, not to mention the giving of gifts!

The highlight of the day, by far, though, was the eating of the baklava. Although I should have chopped the walnuts a little smaller, and I wrinkled some of the phyllo dough a little too much, it was delicious (and a nice bridge between Turkey and Greece, as there seems to be some question from where it originates)!  I have to admit that I was a little surprised that Turkey and Bunny enjoyed it so much–I thought it might be a little too different for them, but they loved it, and had seconds after dinner tonight.  Making baklava might even become a family tradition for the commemoration of Saint Nicholas every year!baklava

We enjoyed our first stop across the world, and we’re definitely looking forward to visiting the Philippines, Italy, Mexico, and Germany in the next two weeks!