Tag Archives: Christmas

Reading Olympics

My eldest daughter is a reader.   She comes by it quite naturally.  She’s spent the last six years of her life being read to and watching us read.   I’m trusting that her baby sister will join in the love of books as she gets older.   If not, she’s going to have a rough time getting our attention when all three of us have our noses in books.

The first grader’s school runs a contest all year called Reading Olympics.    To participate you just fill out a calendar each month with how much you read each day.    I’m worried that this year the people who keep track aren’t going to believe that we filled it in properly.    The six-year-old discovered Diary of  Wimpy Kid at the library.   She can’t put it down.   I read part of it with her.  We were giggling quite hysterically.   I told her if she got any ideas or picked up attitude we were shelving Greg Hefley.   I figure I survived reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and didn’t turn out too bad.

She received a set of several more of them for Christmas along with a couple of Baby Mouse books.  After she opened her first book on Christmas morning she promptly started reading.   We had to tell her to put the book down to open her next gift.  She reminds me of me. Really the whole point of this blog was to share this photo.    Add a pair of glasses and you have me thirty years ago.



My first grader and I have many similarities.  We are both fiercely protective and amazingly proud big sisters.   We both don’t shy away from a microphone.   We are both learning to stand up for the under dog and love the bully into submission.

There are some ways that my daughter is nothing like me.  Ways that I am very proud of her.  Ways that she’s a lot like her dad.

She’s way tougher than I ever was at her age.   She can do the entire monkey bar circuit at school.   She beat a third grader at tether ball.    I never beat a kid at tether ball.   I think the third graders would still beat me.   In fact….I’m pretty sure my first grader could beat me.   I asked her how she accomplished this feat.   She says that a friend told her the secret tip.   According to the first grade girls you wind up the ball, fling it behind your back and then throw it as hard as you can.

She loves science.   For Christmas we got her a Snap Circuit set (very cool…check it out here).    She can now explain resisters, circuits and the path that electricity follows.    I even understood what she was talking about.   She and her dad have been spending at least an hour a day since Christmas building simple machines.  They just completed a cool art spinning motor.    I love girls who love science.   I love dads that hang out with their daughters.

My baby girl and I are sitting in front of the fire while the two scientists putter in the other room.    I’m blogging.   Shocker I know.   It’s because my sister-in-law and my sister ganged up on me today and told me it was time.   They are probably right.   The baby next to me is celebrating the fact that she has a new skill.  She knows how to roll over.    Life is about to get very interesting.   Wonder who she’ll turn out to be like.



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Good News of Great Joy


We had quite a Christmas.   We found out Christmas Eve that my sister-in-law is having a baby in April.  A little girl.   I love nieces and nephews.   How fun to have cousins the same age.  On that side of the family we’re pairing them up nicely.  On my side, my daughter is still the only grandchild.

Then Christmas morning we announced we were having a baby via all forms of communication;  text, email, video, phone and t-shirt.   All day long we received notes of good cheer.   We have a video of the whole event.   My daughter and I keep watching it again.   I keep crying.   It’s the joy that is overflowing.

My sister spun into gift overdrive and wrapped up a baby quilt for our new little one.   It’s a sock monkey quilt.   She bought it several years ago at one of our Rwanda fundraisers.  It’s darling. I remember when she bought it.   It was a silent auction.   She kept going back and biding the quilt up.   She passed her budget and kept bidding.  When she won we cheered.  I assumed she bought it to save for her own baby.  When I opened the gift and saw the red and blue and brown quilt blocks laying there I cried.

I spent the entire month of December stressing about my baby sister for two primary reasons.    The first is that I knew she wants to have a baby too and I really didn’t want to hurt her on Christmas by announcing happy news while they were still waiting.   It’s hard to balance joy and tears.   Celebration and patience.   The second reason is that as her older sister, I’ve worried and coddled and cared and cheered and babied her for her entire life.  It’s habit.

I have a secret.   I didn’t need to worry.    God loves my baby sister more than I do.   He has an amazing plan for her life.    And in this particular case, His plan is joy overflowing.     I have something in common with the angels who announced the birth of Jesus Christ.    I’m heralding good news of great joy.

Michelle and Ben are having a baby.     She’s due in August.




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All the friendly beasts

We spent last Saturday at an impromptu Christmas party at my grandmother’s care facility.    Keep in mind my grandmother is 92, has Alzheimer’s and that my five-year old was attending.    This is a picture of my grandma.   She’s darling.     Frankly all six of the residents are cute.

This is a picture of the caretakers’ teenage daughter.  She’s amazingly talented.  She sings.  She plays the piano, the violin and she’s learning to play the harp.  She’s also kind to the patients who live in her home.

This is the harp teacher.  He was also asked to be the entertainment at the party.    I liked the scarf.  It made me grin.     He was leading caroling.   Mind you, none of the residents really sing along.  There was one other family visiting who didn’t really seem cheerful.   I think they were shocked by how their family member had declined.    They don’t visit very often.   Anyway, they weren’t singing.    This left my daughter, my mother, my father and me.      The leader started with “All the friendly beasts”.   Seriously?   What about Silent Night?    Jingle Bells?   Nope, he moved onto O Holy Night including the French and German verses and, I kid you not, a verse in Pig Latin.

This is a photo of the song lyrics.  Very small print.   I was taken back to the last time I had to sing aloud, in Rwanda….not a pleasant experience….funny….painful.

This is my father.  He’s a good sport.  His strong tenor was carrying us all.

This is the caretakers’ son.  He has a crush on my daughter.   Every time we visit he shows up with toys and songs and tries to impress her.    This time he had a three week old puppy he let her hold.   She was in love.   With the puppy.    He was pretty pleased with himself.   Neither one of them was singing.   They were trying to feed the dog Christmas cookies and Orange Juice.

This is a picture of my mother.    She’s trying not to laugh.

I was just smiling.   I liked the residents, I am grateful for the caretakers.   I was overwhelmed with gratitude for family and puppies.   It was a ball.   I even sang along.


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Back in the Real Times

My daughter received a play nativity set at church last night. When she got home, she wanted to put on a puppet show. We dutifully sat in our traditional spots while she got her belly down to the carpet and reached her hands up over the side of our coffee table. My husband narrated.

We heard all about King Herod, the Three Wise Men, lots of full Inns and a baby born in a barn. When the whole thing was over and the cheering had died down, the five-year old took her bow. She was headed back downstairs to get ready for bed but first we had to inspect her scenery. My husband told her he liked how she arranged the stars and put the big star right in the middle. She looked up at him and said “Well, that is where it was back in the real times”.

I love this. Our culture is full of reality TV, fantasy football, glitter and glam. We have ribbons and ruffles. We have Santa and presents and cookies and crowded parking lots. I love that my daughter in child like wisdom can recognize that the time that God decided to join humanity was the most real time.

Emmanuel. God with us. I love Christmas.

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Where did he go?

My daughter and I used to spend a lot of time in the car.   Some of the time this was wonderful.  We’d sing songs, talk about our day, tell stories.  We had a little game we played called Miss Mouse.   When the little one in the backseat got tired of what we were talking about she’d loudly say “Knock Knock”.    I’d ask and she’d say it was Miss Mouse at the door.    We’d role play our way through tea parties and shopping trips.  We’d invite friends to come along.   Miss Birdy sometimes joined us.

Sometimes the long car rides were not so good.   More so at the end.   I was really really sick of driving.   She was sick of riding.   Miss Mouse was bored.

Living so far out of town, there were several routes home.   Our two most used paths we referred to as the Train Way and the Baby Jesus way.    The train way sometimes meant you got lucky enough to be stopped to watch a train go by.    The Baby Jesus way was so named because at Christmas time one of the neighbors on the 11 mile stretch that followed the river up stream had a Christmas light decoration that included a star,  Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.      It was a nice way to finish the day.

This Christmas decoration is the only thing we miss about the drive.    About a week before Christmas, my daughter mentioned this in one of our SHORT drives home.   “Mom, I miss seeing the baby Jesus”.   I agreed.  We pulled into our neighborhood and there in the lawn next door was a full manger scene.   Shepherds, angels, sheep, Mary, Joseph and a Baby Jesus.

Wow.   He showed up.

Psalm 139: 7-10 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

On Christmas day, we drove back up river.   Our relatives still live next door to our old house.   My daughter stood on their deck and waved at the new owners.   The house looks great.    They are bravely battling the pine needles and the decks were clear.

Driving home that night we went the baby Jesus way.   Guess what.   The lights were gone.

Looks like Jesus went with us.  I think He has a way of doing that.   Where we go, He goes.   He’s a bit like Miss Mouse knocking at the front door.

Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.


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Joy and Mourning

The whole family took a drive today.   An hour south on the freeway to visit my aunt and uncle.  I walked into their house and grinned at all my aunt’s Christmas decorations.   My daughter was enthralled.   My aunt has stuffed Christmas animals everywhere.  They sing. They dance.   A couple of penguins twirl about.  There are two dogs that flap their ears in time to Jingle Bells.  There was glitter and ribbons and tinsel and presents.   My four-year old danced with the penguins and repeatedly pushed each button.  At several points there were competing songs going on in the menagerie.   Slightly loud but tons of fun.  I looked in my Grandmother’s old bedroom.   She died on New Years Day last year.   I promptly burst into tears.

Ever notice that Christmas is like an amplifier?   Everyone works hard to have a perfect time, but sometimes in the midst of joy, sorrow feels sharper.   The first Christmas was no different.   I can’t imagine that spending the night in a barn watching his fiance’ give birth was exactly what Joseph had in mind.   Mary was clearly in pain due to childbirth but also I imagine she was relieving some difficult conversations with friends and family about her baby.   Jesus was feeling His first moments away from the glory of heaven in a fragile and helpless position.  Painful.  Lonely.

and yet

There were angels and choirs and visitors and gifts and promises and hope.  Jesus, fully God and fully man, also knew even at that time what the end of the story was about.  Redemption, peace, great joy.

Our society doesn’t know how to deal with sadness very well.    Sometimes I think the best thing to do is accept it, have a good cry and get back to the party.   John Piper, in the book Taste and See talks about how to deal with times of commingle joy and sadness in a section called “The simultaneous sound of laughter and weeping”.    I loved this line;

My prayer for myself and all of you is that our weeping might be deep but not prolonged.  And while it lasts let us weep with those who weep.  And when joy comes in the morning let us rejoice with those who rejoice.

That first Christmas had to be overwhelming.   I think Mary had the right approach to the balance of grief and amazement.  The Bible says in Luke 2:19 that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”.

Today, my family cried with me, gave me a big hug and then we opened presents.   My daughter got a new doll that giggles whenever she is moved.  We named her Pearl, my grandmother’s middle name.   The doll didn’t quit giggling.   Her young owner thought it was hilarious.   Pretty soon the whole table was joining in.  I was crying again but this time from laughing so hard.    It was a great day.   Lots to ponder.


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Ring those bells!

I’ve had a week to recover from a preschool bell choir.  This is an annual event where we line up twenty or so preschoolers, march them up on stage in front of a full church audience and hand them bells.   It takes us about three months of practice to get ready.  It’s typically adorable.  The worst year we had one child running around on the stage while two other kids had a punching contest on stage.    It took us the rest of the year to forget and to decide this was again a good idea.   Frankly, at three and four, if you march kids on stage and told them just to smile I think their parents and grandparents would call it a success.

This year we also decided that Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas is in fact the cutest thing ever.    So we taught our preschoolers to say Luke 2: 11- 14 in between their two bell songs.    

“For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you, Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest and on Earth, Peace, Goodwill toward Men”.  

People sometimes are cynical about Christmas.    They talk about how our world isn’t exactly at peace and in this economy and political environment there is not a lot of goodwill.     

 I”m certainly not a bible scholar but I think what that verse means is not that Peace is everywhere or that Goodwill magically breaks out at Christmas.  I think what it means is that the Christ child is a gift of peace and goodwill from God to those who will accept Him.    

I love this version of I heard the Bells on Christmas Day.   


God is not dead nor doth He sleep.   

Ring those bells.


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