2012 Advent Tour: My Advent Calendar

Welcome to day 3 of the  Virtual Advent Tour (stop here for all the posts). As I sat thinking about what on earth I can write about this year, I thought of all the people who are so Scrooge-ish with the holiday season. “There is just too much to do!” they cry. “How can I possibly deal with EVERYTHING that is coming my way?!?”

This, my friends, is my personal answer to that question. It’s a tradition that started when I was a kid, and I’ve kept it up. And — I’m here to testify (can I get an “AMEN”?) — we’ve found that this works to not only keep the Christmas season more manageable, but makes the time pass in such at way that Christmas is enjoyed by all. At least for our family.

First you get yourselves one of these:

 My mother-in-law gave us this many, many years ago. The one I grew up with was a Christmas tree with ornaments, which my mother had made.

Then, you organize your month, one activity on each day, like so (click to embiggen, if you really want to know):

Some of the events are permanent (like A’s birthday is ALWAYS on the 5th), some events we have to work around (like choir or band concerts), and some events can be moved around (like charades or story night). But generally, sometime around Thanksgiving, Hubby and I sit down and work out what has to be done and what we want to be done, tradition-wise, for this year’s Christmas season.

Then, every morning, I write down that day’s event on a little slip of paper, and stick it in the pocket.

We rotate girls (keeping track of who ended — baby Jesus is the one everyone wants; why don’t they clamor for a cow?), and they put up a character and read the note.

By the end, it looks like this, and it’s Christmas.

While we don’t have a traditional advent calendar, we also have a candle that we burn each night:

But we often seem to either forget, or burn down more than one number, so it’s kind of a haphazard way to count down the season.

How do you handle the stress of December?

Don’t forget to visit the other advent stops today!

Ana @ things mean a lot
Michelle @ The True Book Addict

Thank You!

One of my favorite things about this time of years is the Book Blogger Holiday Swap. I love getting/meeting new bloggers to give to, and seeing who gets me. This year, I got a delightful surprise in that my give-ee was Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings. (*squee*!!) And he did not disappoint…

When I opened the box, there was a clever card (love it!) and four beautiful prints. I don’t know what to do with them, yet, but I’m going to think of something worthwhile. They’re gorgeous.

I waited to open the presents until today (yes, presents are for Christmas, not for opening when they come), and we got a double squee….

Charles de Lint, whom I’ve never read but have been curious about for a while. And Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The bonus about that is that I gave away our copy of the ARC for my blogger gift. What goes around comes around? At any rate, THANK YOU!

The other swap is from my lovely on-line book group. This year I got one of the crafty people, and she made me this:

The cards say: “Q: What is black and white and red all over? A: A reading pillow!!” With bonus Mt. Shasta chocolate. I’ve never had a reading pillow before — especially not one made this nice! — and I’m not sure what all the loops and ribbons and such are for. I’m sure I’ll figure it out. At any rate, it’s gorgeous, and I’m sure I’ll spend many enjoyable (and comfortable) hours with it.

And lastly, my daughters know me well:

It’s the storytellers shirt from Threadless. My only question is can I wear it to work?

Thank you all!

From My Blog to Yours

From the New York Sun, September 21, 1897:

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas, how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus!… There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished… You tear apart a baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Gift Tradition: American Girl Dolls

Over the years that I’ve participated in the Virtual Advent, I’ve talked about lots of things: books, the tree, music… but never toys. I’m changing that this year. 

When I was younger, my mother gave to me a couple porcelain dolls that she’d had when she was a child. I loved those dolls, played with them, and cherished them. (Granted, this is all in retrospect; maybe I didn’t.) They, somehow, managed to survive me as a child, and I saved them to pass down to my daughter.

And then I had four girls.

There was no way I could pass down two dolls to four girls (well, there was only three at the time I made the initial decision), and I wanted them to have the same sort of experience with dolls that I had as a child. The Christmas M was in second grade, we were searching for gift ideas for her, and I hit upon the perfect solution: American Girl Dolls.

I feel a need to justify this a bit: they are expensive, somewhat extravagant, and definitely over-commercialized. There is a part of me that dreads getting the catalog whenever it shows up, because there’s always more in there that the girls want then we can get.

But.

The dolls are well-made, the clothes are well-made, they’re not Barbies (a big plus in my book!), and they are made to be played with and yet will last to be handed down. And there’s enough stuff to last through birthdays and Christmas presents for a few years.

Additionally, the historical ones — which are the ones that I require they choose from — are fascinating in their detail (which is hopefully accurate), and they make history accessible and fun to the girls. But best of all, they come with books. Possibly not the best-written books, but ones that a second-grader can read on her own, ones that help make the doll that much more interesting.

Thankfully, M (who picked the now-retired Samantha) and C (who picked Kit), and now A (who has picked Molly) were able to find dolls that fit their personality, whose stories they were interested in, and ones they loved to pieces. M no longer plays with her doll, having put it in storage for the time when she (hopefully) has a daughter she can pass the doll and books down to.  C still keeps hers around, playing with her on occasion, but mostly keeping her because she likes to have her things around her. A is over the moon with anticipation of getting her doll this Christmas. And K has already spent hours with the catalog, looking at the dolls, trying to decide which one she will like in a couple of years.

It may be extravagant, but it’s a tradition I’m glad to have started with the girls.

I’m not the only one posting today. Check out these other posts:

Martina Kunz @ Book Drunkard

A Bloggy Thank You

I love this time of year. Partially because I love giving (and getting) presents. And one of the few places I trust to give me books I’ll like is the book blogger holiday swap, which is why I do this every year.

I got my package in the mail yesterday (squee!) and since it wasn’t wrapped, I thought I’d throw out a thank you before Christmas to Amy at The House of the Seven Tails for the lovely present she sent.


I can’t wait to read it! (And the penguin bookmark is very cute!)

Thank you!!!

Advent Tour: O Tannenbaum

I haven’t thought to talk about our Christmas tree before, because usually we wait to put it up after A’s birthday. Which means, if I generally choose the first Sunday in December (and I do), then I don’t think about my tree as a viable advent calendar topic.

But this year, because my husband is off to Hong Kong, we put the tree up early. And I realized, that there’s a story I could tell.

This is our tree:

I don’t know if it shows, but my tree is not what you’d call elegant. Or put together. It’s a hand-me over, 9 feet tall, and leans slightly to the left; in fact, we’ve warned the kids that if they do too much bouncing around, the tree will fall over (we know this from experience). It’s not color coordinated, and I’m sure Martha Stewart would not approve. However, what my tree has going for it is that each ornament (or at least most) have a story behind them. I can tell you where we got each and every ornament and why it’s hanging on the tree. Okay, sure, I’m getting older, and some of the stories are a bit fuzzy. But it’s one of the things I like most about our tree: it’s got stories.

Let me tell you a few.

This one was the first one Hubby and I purchased, on our honeymoon to San Francisco. We saw it sitting in the gift shop of the San Francisco Botanical Gardens, and knew we had to get it.

This one is another early one: I cross-stitched it because of Hubby’s love of cows. I think there should be more cows at Christmas, personally.

While we’re talking old ornaments, this is one of the oldest on the tree. It’s a shrinky dink, made in 1973, when I was one. I’m constantly amazed that it’s still in one piece (though the words “Merry Christmas 1973” on it are are fading). I do still love seeing it on the tree, though.

Another homemade one… if I had a chance and the money to collect anything, I would probably collect Santas/Father Christmases. I’m quite enamored with the whole mythology of Santa, and how he’s represented in different cultures. (There are a lot of Santas on our tree, in various forms, as a result.)

One of the other things we’ve done is get each one of the girls their own ornament for each year. We’re doing it so they have something to take with them when they move out, but, like everything else on the tree, they have their own stories, too.

This one of M’s we bought when we stopped over in Salt Lake City the Christmas of 2000. I was so excited by the stopover that I took her to see Ballet West’s Nutcracker, which happens to be my favorite. They had a gift shop, and so we had to pick out an ornament. She got the Sugar Plum Fairy. (We also have a Nutcracker ornament from the same place, but he was bought much earlier, and is a bit worse for the wear these days.)

This one of C’s was one that I painted (not well, but there it is) the Christmas she adored The Snowman. She was 20 months old, and it was her favorite movie and favorite book. We wanted to remember that.

This one of A’s was a pair of baby shoes that her grandma sent her the year she was born. (She’s our December baby, if you haven’t figured that out yet.) They were much, much too nice to wear, so we tied the laces together and threw them on the tree. Perfect.

K, being the youngest, only has a few ornaments (she wanted to know why she didn’t have very many). This one we picked up at a craft fair in Coeur d’Alene a couple years back. It’s sculpted out of candle wax. I’m not sure she picked this design out; it may have been picked out for her. Still, the detail is amazing.

And being parents of school-aged children, there’s a handful of odd little school ornaments. Things they make in class, and then bring home to throw on the tree. The girls love seeing them as they come out of the box, and so I don’t have the heart to throw them away.

And finally, our tree wouldn’t be our tree without our fireman. He was sent to us by Hubby’s older sister, many years ago. I have no idea why she sent him, but we immediately fell in love: what tree shouldn’t have a guardian fireman? We stick him near the top so he can keep an eye on all the other ornaments, and protect the tree from any danger.

Merry Christmas!

Be sure to check out the other stops on today’s tour:

Veronica @ The First Draft

Christmas Book Week, Day 6

From the Dr. Seuss Christmas Classic:

So he paused. And the Grinch put his hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow…

But the sound wasn’t sad!
Why this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!

HE stared down at Who-ville!
The Grinch popped his eys!
Then he shook!
What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming!
IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold int eh snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?
“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch Thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”

And what happened then…?
Well… in Who-ville they say
That the Grinch’s small heart
Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
And he…

… HE HIMSELF …!
The Grinch carved the roast beast!

Happy Christmas from my house to yours!