After Christ’s Mass

After the Christmas Day Divine Service, (or Christ’s Mass, if you will), this morning, I’d thought I’d take the opportunity to get a picture of the children at church. They were very excited to go up by the Advent wreath for the photo–they’ve all loved “counting up” every week as one more candle was lit each Sunday!

Almost Ready

The decorations have all been put up.

The house is (semi) clean.

Christmas stories have been read.

The gifts have been bought or made and wrapped.

Favorite movies have been watched…and watched again.

The cookies have been baked, decorated, plated, and distributed.

Ornaments and crafts have been made.

Special events have been attended.

Carols have been sung.

The cooking and baking for the big meal are underway.

The Christmas program has been practiced one last time.

The Jesse Tree has been completed.

Everything that can be done and needs to be done has been.

Advent is almost over…we’re almost ready to celebrate our Savior’s birth!

Christmas Baking 2011

This year, we baked close to 20 dozen cookies, plus I made two sheets of Christmas Cracker “Candy” and three-and-a-half dozen Oreo truffles. The only new recipe I tried was for spritz cookies, and the recipe itself is basically just a shortbread cookie–it’s using the cookie press that was new. That will definitely take some practice before I routinely get nice cookies out of it!

Oreo Truffles

Raspberry-Almond Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

Christmas Cracker “Candy”

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

Spritz Cookies

Sugar Cookies

Gingerbread Cookies

I don’t want to bake or decorate another cookie for a very long time! I’m not opposed to eating them, though, which is a good thing, because I need to find the counter that I’m pretty sure is still under all of these cookies!

A Vast Improvement

I probably shouldn’t have spent the money, but after stewing over my nativity scene situation, I decided to just do something about it.

Isn’t it pretty?

This nativity is just what I was looking for…it feels more reverent, it’s made of resin, so it’s fairly sturdy, (important in a house full of children!), and it even has a fairly unique look, thanks to the color palette and the beautiful detail. The best part? It was 30% off at the CPH bookstore. I’m guessing I could have gotten it for even cheaper after Christmas, but I really wanted to jump on it now so that it would be out for Christmas Eve. Like my other set, it strangely has no shepherds, which I really don’t get, but I can deal with it.

I’m so relieved that our house has a nativity scene for Christmas!

A Sobering Realization

I’m kind of a Christmas ornament junkie. I blame this on the years I worked at Hallmark in high school and college. I like to get a new ornament for our tree every year, (in addition to the ornaments I get for the children, to build up their own collection to take with them when they move out someday), often as part of a series. Most recently, I completed the “Doorways Around the World” collection from Hallmark. Sadly, though, this was only a four-year series, and so I’ve been looking for a new series of ornaments for the tree.

Luckily for me, Hallmark started a new collection this year that appealed to me: “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” As the name suggests, each year’s ornament will showcase one of the days from the song, starting with the famous partridge, (complete with pear), this year. I think this will be a fun thing to look forward to every year, but then I started thinking about just how long it will take to get all of them. It’s simple math–12 Days of Christmas, one per year–so not hard to figure out. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was to realize just how old my children will be by the time I get to the drummers drumming!

Turkey will be 19–almost 20! And that means Bunny will be 18, Moose 17, and Ladybug 15. And I’m not even going to think about how old the unborn Chickadee will be–I refuse to think of her as anything other than a tiny baby!

Yes, I will look forward to building this collection of ornaments, but I’m in no hurry to get to the end. I’ll be happy to take it one long year at a time, in the hopes that maybe my children might slow down their growing up just a bit!

Merry Tuba Christmas 2011

Yesterday, we went to the St. Louis Galleria for what has seemingly become a family tradition: Merry Tuba Christmas.

We got there early, so that we could walk around the mall, and look at all the decorations, (and see it “snow” by the big mall Christmas tree!).

Since we were there so early, we got a good view of the Tuba Christmas setup–Turkey really liked this candy cane tuba.

Seeing all of the empty chairs from above just emphasizes how large this tuba choir is–over 90 tubas and euphoniums!

We finished our walk just in time to enjoy the music–except for Moose. He thought it was too loud! Actually, it was really loud–that many big brass instruments together make a lot of noise!

It’s such a weird, quirky event, but it’s also really fun. I love seeing all of the decorated tubas, and all of the players dressed in the festive garb of the season.

And you just can’t beat the sound of that many tubas playing together!

Der Weihnachtsgottesdienst

Tonight, we had the opportunity to attend a German Christmas service at Trinity Lutheran Church in Nashville, IL.

I took the children to a German Good Friday service this year, and that was an experience–very meaningful and somber. But there’s something about a Christmas service in German that makes you wonder if you’re actually in Heaven. The liturgy, although German, was familiar, even to the children. Even the sermon wasn’t impossible to follow, (although I did find the printed prayers, other than “Das Vaterunser,” more difficult to understand). And the hymns! All the standards you would expect: “Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen,” “Von Himmel hoch,” Müde bin ich,” and, of course, “Stille Nacht.”

Following the service, there was even an opportunity for some good, old-fashioned gemütlichkeit in the church fellowship hall, where they had some delicious homemade cookies. It was a great night, and I’m so thankful we had the chance to go, and that the children got a taste of Christmas in Germany!

Third Grade: Christmas School

I won’t be doing my usual weekly updates until after the first of the year, because we’re not using our regular curriculum this month. Instead, we’re doing “Christmas School,” compiled by yours truly.

This year’s approach to Christmas School is a bit different. Ever since we started homeschooling, we’ve done “Christmas Around the World,” and learned about traditions and legends in other countries, sampled some foods from around the world, made some very unique crafts, and attempted to learn to say “Merry Christmas” in other languages. We’ve learned about some new countries every year, and learned about some countries every year, (like Germany, both because of our cultural heritage, and because so many Christmas traditions are German in origin).

This year, because we’re studying American history, we’re learning about Christmas throughout America’s history, starting with the Puritans in the 1600s, (which was not very exciting to learn about!), and going to the present day. We’ll have a special emphasis on Christmas in colonial times, pioneer days, the turn of the century, the Great Depression, and World War II.

I did manage to find plenty of books, both for reading aloud, and for putting in our book basket, (which has actually turned into a bookshelf for this unit, because all of the books wouldn’t fit in the basket!), but coming up with craft projects and recipes has been more difficult. Some of the crafts I decided upon are paper chains, button ornaments, and tissue paper wreaths. We’ll also be learning about some American Christmas carols/hymns, (although there aren’t many), and maybe trying a few new recipes. Movies will be an important part of this year’s Christmas unit, as well, from the American Girl movies,(which depict Christmas at different times through history), to some American Christmas standards, that everyone should see at least once, (the jury is still out on It’s a Wonderful Life, as I’m one of the few Americans who hates that movie!). And, while we always visit St. Charles for the Christmas Traditions festival every year, this year it will be especially helpful to us in looking back at what Christmases past looked like!

This is always a special time of year for our family and for our school. It’s fun to do things differently for a few weeks…as much as I love homeschooling, it can become monotonous, just like anything else can. And the children don’t even realize they’re learning half the time when we’re having Christmas school–they just think it’s fun!