Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Traditions: GIFTS!

How does your family do gifts?

Growing up, we always traveled cross-country to my grandparents house - - trunk FILLED with Christmas gifts. The grandparents always had a glorious tree, every square inch packed with ornaments. There were so many presents under the tree, we could hardly see the floor. On Christmas Eve, we opened presents from one another with our grandparents, prior to their party festivities. Then on Christmas morning, the children awoke to gifts from Santa and stockings filled with goodies.

In my own nuclear family, gift giving looks different. On Christmas eve, we attend a candlelight worship service (whether at home or traveling), and all our gifts are given Christmas morning. We give the children a handful of presents, and my husband prepares the best stockings ever. We leisurely spend the morning in our jammies, enjoying daddy's traditional breakfast feast of bacon/egg/cheese biscuits and pancakes.

Now that the children are getting older, gift giving is easier because gifts are much smaller than they were when the kids were little. We try to keep it simple, and focus on quality time rather than on +getting stuff+.

I will never forget the time I stood up after opening my presents, in a moment of self-importance with my hands on my hips and exclaimed, "Is that it!!??" It took my dad about 4 seconds to snatch me up and take me to the back room for a glorious whoopin. Never again did I appear remotely ungrateful for my Christmas gifts!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas Traditions: Parties!

Do you host or attend a Christmas party each year?

Growing up, my grandparents hosted a huge Christmas Eve party every year with friends and extended family. Nothing can touch the memories I have of their extravagant parties. Pie after pie after pie donned the dessert table. All the adults were dressed to the 9s, and always very jubilant, funny and interactive (it's only in my adulthood that I understand it was because all wine that was served!).

The cousins would open presents around the tree around 5pm, then spend the rest of the evening playing with our new toys, eating fudge and divinity, and watching Christmas movies. Every year, we swore we would stay up late enough to catch Santa. Somehow, he always timed it just right.

Christmas morning was always just as fun. After dumping out stockings and opening our gifts from Santa, all the aunts, uncles and cousins would gather at Uncle Buck and Aunt Jean's house for eggnog and a game of pool. Uncle Buck was such a jovial character - and everyone always raved about his eggnog. The children, of course, had their own "special recipe - just for kids".

Thinking of these parties brings a smile to my face.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Traditions: The Tree

When I was young, my family lived in Colorado and New Mexico. I remember getting on the snow mobile or the horse-drawn sled (true-story) and venturing out to find a Christmas tree. My dad would chop it down with an axe, and we would shake off the snow, load it into the house, and spend time together decorating our tree. I remember that mom had ornaments that were special to her. I remember the crackle of the fire warmth of family time. I remember the scent of the tree filling the house and the sound of children's laughter.
The Christmas tree tradition for my own family looks a bit different, but the elements of simplicity, warmth and family remain a priority. We usually try to find a living tree which we can re-plant after the season is over (some years are more successful than others). We decorate with white lights and the occasional popcorn & cranberry garland. The children assist in preparing the perfect location for the tree. As we decorate, we pause to experience the texture and aroma of this coniferous beauty.

I enjoy seeing the gorgeous tree photos my friends' share during Christmas. And I would love hearing the stories of your own tree traditions.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mighty Girls Literature Circle

In September, my daughter and I started a book circle for girls (age 9-11ish) here in Tuscaloosa. Our intention is to explore the lives and experiences of girls throughout history, both at home and abroad. Each book we read features a brave, strong overcomer who challenges us to stretch ourselves beyond what we know as people who live in Alabama, America. The fall semester was fantastic! Here is our structure:

1. We choose 6 books that the girls read and discuss during the semester. I suspected that the mamas weren't going to want to purchase many more than this!

2. The girls take two weeks to read the book, and we discuss the first half one week, and the second half the next week. This is a great system because some girls read very fast and others not so fast. Two weeks gives the not-so-fast readers enough time to get the book finished. And it is a short enough time span, so that the rapid readers don't forget what they read!

3. We meet for 2 hours. Discussion lasts for 1 hour, and then the girls explore and play for the 2nd hour. It is such a great time frame, because they work hard the first hour to sit still and stay engaged. The 2nd hour, they are free to run, climb and imagine. Mamas pick them up around noon.

4. Each semester carries a particular theme. For our first semester, we focused on girls around the world, all who faced great odds, danger and some sense of loss. We read The Breadwinner, Number the Stars, Wild Girl, Inside Out and Back Again, Esperanza Rising, and The Island of Blue Dolphins. These books opened our eyes to life around the globe - Vietnam, Mexico, Brazil, Poland, Afghanistan and the Pacific Islands. Our spring semester will bring us back to the US, focusing on the historical biographies of young heroines in America.

5. The moms are welcome to either drop-off their daughters, or stay and listen and participate.

During fall and spring, our participants are homeschool girls. But during the summer, we will add public school friends, and will incorporate the 2014 summer reading list provided by our ISD. The girls can utilize our literature circle for anything from a social interaction and discussion, to a reading portfolio for school! If you have any suggestions on how we could make our circle even better - please let me know!

Happy reading!