December 28, 2011

A little bit of Christmas Morning


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We had a very merry Christmas!  I hope you all did too.

December 26, 2011

12th Day of Christmas


America – Our family

On Christmas Eve we have always had a party that involves a lot of food and family and friends.  During that party a visitor comes. Good ole Saint Nick with a present for us to open that night.  You better believe that it is always a brand new pair of PJ’s.  Then some years we have put together a pageant to act out the Nativity Scene.  This is only our second year doing Christmas at our own house so we really miss seeing a lot of our family, but luckily we have my brother’s family here with us and we also invited the missionaries over for the Christmas Eve party.  We really had a great time.

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My kids have also started a tradition of sleeping in our bedroom on Christmas Eve.  I love it, but I have a feeling this won’t last very long.

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December 24, 2011

11th Day of Christmas


Christmas in Denmark is supposed to be when a mischievous elf called Nisse can have his fun. He is said to live in the lofts of old farmhouses and enjoys playing jokes. He wears gray woolen clothes, a red bonnet, red stockings and white clogs. Families leave him a bowl of rice pudding or porridge on Christmas Eve to keep his jokes within limits. Usually though he is kind and helpful helping out on the farms and being especially good to the children.

Christmas Eve dinner begins with rice pudding that holds a magic almond inside. Whoever finds the almond receives a prize. They then have goose, red cabbage and browned potatoes. After that lots of pastries and cakes.

The Danish tradition is the Christmas plate. This was a tradition in the early days where rich Danes gave plates biscuits and fruit as presents to their servants. These plates were the nicest and best kind and were not used for everyday use, this is the reason why they became so collectable.

They take much pride making their own decorations with bright paper, bits of wood and straw. The parents secretly decorate the tree, and children are not permitted to see the tree until dinner on Christmas Eve. The tree is then lit up and families gather around to sing carols and hymns.

Each Sunday in Advent, guests are invited to join in the lighting of the candles on the Advent crown. Adults drink a warming mixture of red wine, spices and raisins, and children drink a sweet fruit juice, like strawberry. Everybody eats small cakes of batter which have been cooked over the fire in a special pan, and dusted with icing sugar.

Troy is like our little mischievous elf.  He is always teasing the kids, but he didn’t want to dress up.

December 23, 2011

10th Day of Christmas


 - Italy

The Christmas season in Italy goes for three weeks, starting 8 days before Christmas known as the Novena. During this period, children go from house to house reciting Christmas poems and singing.

In some parts shepherds bring musical instruments into the villages, play and sing Christmas songs.

A strict fast is observed for 24 hours before Christmas Eve, and is followed by a celebration meal called cenone which is a traditional dish of eel. Then they typically serve a light Milanese cake called panettone as well as chocolate.

The "Urn of Fate" is part of the Christmas celebrations in many Italian households. The Urn of Fate is brought out on Christmas Eve. It holds a wrapped present for everyone. The mother tries her luck first, then the others in turn. If you get a present with your name on it, you keep it; otherwise, you put it back and try again.

At noon on Christmas Day the pope gives his blessing to crowds gathered in the huge Vatican square. Christmas lunch is Tortellini in Brodo which is filled pasta parcels in broth, also served is cappone which is boiled capon, or roasts are served in central Italy.

In Italy the children wait until Epiphany, January 6th, for their presents. According to tradition, the presents are delivered by a kind ugly witch called Befana on a broomstick. It was said that she was told by the three kings that the baby Jesus was born, she was busy and delayed visiting the baby. She missed the Star lost her way and has been flying around ever since, leaving presents at every house with children in case he is there. She slides down chimneys, and fills stockings and shoes with good things for good children and it is said leaves coal for children who are not so good.

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December 22, 2011

9th Day of Christmas


Most of Australia’s Christmas traditions are the same as ours; however, Christmas in Australia is often very hot. Whereas the northern hemisphere is in the middle of winter, Australians are baking in summer heat. It is not unusual to have Christmas Day near 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

A traditional meal includes a turkey dinner, with ham, and pork. A flaming Christmas plum pudding is added for dessert. 001In the Australian gold rushes, Christmas puddings often contained a gold nugget. Today a small favor is baked inside. Whoever finds this knows s/he will enjoy good luck. Another treat is Mince Pies.

Some Australians and particularly tourists often have their Christmas dinner at midday on a local beach, Bondi Beach in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs attracts thousands of people on Christmas Day. Other families enjoy their day by having a picnic. If they are at home, the day is punctuated by swimming in a pool, playing Cricket out the backyard, and other outdoor activities.

The warm weather allows Australians to enjoy a tradition which commenced in 1937. Carols by Candlelight is held every year on Christmas Eve, where tens of thousands of people gather in the city of Melbourne to sing their favorite Christmas songs. The evening is lit by as many candles singing under a clean cut night sky. The sky with its Southern Cross stars is like a mirror. Sydney and the other capital cities also enjoy Carols in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Australians surround themselves with Christmas Bush, a native plant which has little red flowered leaves.

Christmas shopping is often done in shorts and t-shirts. At many beaches Santa Claus arrives on a surfboard, or even on a surf lifesaving boat.

December 21, 2011

8th Day of Christmas



In Bethlehem the town where Jesus is said to have been born is the site of the Church of the Nativity, which is ablaze with flags and decorations on every Christmas. On Christmas Eve natives and visitors alike crowd the church's doorways and stand on the roof to watch for the dramatic annual procession. Galloping horsemen and police mounted on Arabian horses lead the parade. They are followed by solitary horseman carrying a cross and sitting astride a coal-black steed, then comes the churchmen and government officials. The procession solemnly enters the doors and places an ancient effigy of the Holy Child in the Church. Deep winding stairs lead to a grotto where visitors find a silver star marking the site of the birth of Jesus.

Christian homes in Bethlehem are marked by a cross painted over the door and each home displays a homemade manger scene. A star is set up on a pole in the village square.

December 20, 2011

7th Day of Christmas



Everybody's house is given a very good clean in readiness for Christmas. Hours are spent in the kitchen cooking and baking special treats for the festive season.

Joulupukki is a Finnish Christmas figure. The name Joulupukki literally means Christmas Goat or Yule Goat. The Finnish word "pukki" comes from the Swedish "bock" (equivalent of the English "buck" or "billy-goat") and is an old Scandinavian tradition. Over time, the figure became more or less merged with Santa Claus.

Today Joulupukki looks and behaves mostly like his American version, but there are differences. Joulupukki's house and workshop are situated in the mountains of Korvatunturi, whereas the American counterpart resides at the North Pole. Another difference is that instead of sneaking in through the chimney during the late night hours, Joulupukki knocks on the front door during the Christmas Eve celebrations. When he comes in, his first words are traditionally "Onkos täällä kilttejä lapsia?" (Are there (any) well-behaved children here?) The children do not put up stockings.

He usually wears warm red clothes, uses a walking stick, and travels in a sleigh pulled by a number of reindeer. Unlike the American version, the reindeer do not fly.

Christmas Day services in the churches begin at six in the morning. It is a day for family visits and reunions. In some parts of the country the Star Boys tour the countryside singing Christmas songs. During all these days the people keep wishing each other a "Merry Yule."

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Need I say that I loved celebrating Finland.

December 19, 2011

5th & 6th Day of Christmas


5th day was Iraq.  I thought it would be neat to learn what their traditions are considering we have had so many Americans living there during Christmas over the years.  I am so happy to know that they will all be home with their families this Holiday Season. 

In the Christian homes an unusual ceremony is held in the courtyard of the home on Christmas Eve. One of the children in the family reads the story of the Nativity from an Arabic Bible. The other members of the family hold lighted candles, and as soon as the story has been read a bonfire is lit in one corner of the courtyard. The fire is made of dried thorns and the future of the house for the coming year depends upon the way the fire burns. If the thorns burn to ashes, the family will have good fortune. While the fire is burning, a psalm is sung. When the fire is reduced to ashes, everyone jumps over the ashes three times and makes a wish.

004On Christmas day a similar bonfire is built in the church. While the fire burns the men of the congregation chant a hymn. Then there is a procession in which the officials of the church march behind the bishop, who carries an image of the infant Jesus upon a scarlet cushion. The long Christmas service always ends with the blessing of the people. The bishop reaches forth and touches a member of the congregation with his hand, putting his blessing upon him. That person touches the one next him, and so on, until all have received "the Touch of Peace."

Apart from this divine tradition followed here, gifts are also a part of the Christmas Eve. Here, Papa Noel, the Iraqi Santa Claus, brings gifts and presents for the kids like Santa Claus in the west. Gifts and greetings are exchanged amongst the families.


We simply had Kaylee read the Nativity Story from the KJV Bible.  I guess I must have misplaced my Arabic Bible.  TJ was really pushin’ for the bonfire, but that simply didn’t happen.  But, it was a good opportunity to go through the scriptural account of the Nativity Scene. 

The 6th day of Christmas was France. 

Christmas is known as NOEL.

Nearly every French home at Christmastime displays a Nativity scene or crèche, which serves as the focus for the Christmas celebration.

In cathedral squares, the story of Christ's birth is re-enacted by both players and puppets.

The Christmas tree has never been particularly popular in France. The French make a traditional Yule log-shaped cake called the buche de Nol, which means "Christmas Log." The cake, among other food in great abundance is served at the grand feast of the season, which is called le reveillon. Le reveillon is a very late supper held after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. The menu for the meal varies according to regional culinary tradition. In Alsace, goose is the main course, in Burgundy it is turkey with chestnuts, and the Parisians feast upon oysters and pat de foie gras. Le Revellion may consist of poultry, ham, salads, cake, fruit and wine.

In Southern France, a log is burned in people's homes from Christmas Eve until New Years Day. A long time ago, part of the log was used to make the wedge for the plough as good luck for the coming harvest.

Another name for this day is Twelfth Day. It is the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas, which used to be one long holiday. It was the last night of the Feast of Fools 002before the Lord of Misrule had to give up his crown and become themselves once again.

In France it is a time for the whole family to come together at Christmas time to holiday and worship. On the eve of Christmas beautifully lit churches and cathedrals, ring out Christmas carols with the church bells.

Once dinner is over and the family has retired to bed, they leave a fire burning and food and drink on the table in case the Virgin Mary calls in. Children leave their shoes or wooden clogs called sabots in the hearth for the Christ Child or Pere Noel to fill. In the morning they also find that sweets, fruit, nuts and small toys have been hung on the tree. In the north of France, children are given gifts on December 6, which is St. Nicholas' Day, instead of Christmas Day. The adults give each others’ presents on New Year's Day.

Yule Log Recipe

Our Chocolate Log turned out looking a little like a loaf of cinnamon bread, but oh well we had fun trying.

December 18, 2011

The Grinch and the Meaning of Christmas


The Grinch from Who-Ville woke up from the night

And to his surprise found a glistening sight

Children were singing, happy you see

But without their presents, how could this be?

And he puzzled three hours till his puzzler was sore

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before

Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

The Grinch then remembered a story he knew

It was the birth of a baby who isn’t a who

It wasn’t in Who-Ville that this story took place

But it was Bethlehem Joseph did face.

Joseph? Who is he?

A wise man? Maybe one of the three?

No No that wasn’t him you see

Joseph was the father to be.

He searched and searched to give Mary the best

However, instead he found no place to rest.

Joseph and Mary were very distraught.

No one would help them nor give them a cot.

The Innkeepers said the Inns were all full

But as for the Grinch he thought that was bull.

So Joseph thought. He thought and he thought till his thinker thunked.

A manger they found and the donkey kirplunked.

There in the stable were donkeys and sheep

But on that night they weren’t going to sleep

On that night our Savior was born

He was therein a manger, there to adorn.

The night was clear not a cloud in the sky

And Mary was singing a sweet lullaby.

The star shone down bright on the world below

Awaking the shepherds away they did go.

They followed the star in hopes that maybe

They would find Jesus a newborn baby.

When they came upon him he was wrapped up in clothes

These clothes were swaddling because no one yet knows

That this is Jesus their Lord, Savior, and King.

If only they knew great gifts they would bring.

What is that Grinch? Yes, you are right.

Gifts were given, but not on that night.

The wise men, there were three

Got together and did agree

That they must go and find God’s son

And give him gifts for he had none.

They had to travel far to see

This little boy who was no more than three

Jesus our brother gave a gift to you and me

Our Salvation, on the cross in Galilee

So when you shop and shop and you shop till you can shop no more

And there are lights, and tinsel, and presents galore

Don’t be a Grinch. Enjoy the season.

We feel Joy for good reason.

Take a moment to ponder and pray

And celebrate, it’s Jesus’ Birthday.

December 17, 2011

4th Day of Christmas


Christmas is called Ganna in Ethiopia

002Christmas is a public holiday in Ethiopia. However, it is celebrated on January 7th because they still follow the ancient Julian calendar. On Ganna everyone dresses in white. Most Ethiopians wear a traditional shamma, a thin, white cotton wrap with brightly colored stripes across the ends. The shamma is worn somewhat like a toga. Everyone goes to the early mass at four o'clock in the morning. Then some children might be given a small gift from family and then they play outdoor sports (that are native to Africa) to celebrate. It is summer at this time so it is usually sunny with flowers blooming.

Usually the wealthy shares a medium sized feast with the poor and a large feast with their family and friends.

Most people usually put up decorations that symbolize something relating to Christmas, like a male infant to represent the birth of Christ, or a small Christmas tree to represent Christmas decorations.

In a celebration that takes place several days later, the priests will dress in turbans and red and white robes as they carry beautifully embroidered fringed umbrellas.

Ganna is typically a holiday for worship, family, and sports.


The kids dressed up in their white shamma and played around.  Then Troy taught the kids a little bit about how poor the country is and what life as a child would be like in Ethiopia.   



Just in case you are wondering why Michael isn’t in any of these pictures, it is because he has figured out that everyone is distracted and focused on something other than him.  So he takes that opportunity to unwrap the presents under the tree, draw on the walls, or sneak a whole bunch of chocolate. 

December 16, 2011

3rd Day of Christmas


In the mainland of China, December 25 is not a legal holiday.  However, it is still designated as a public holiday in Hong Kong and Macau, both former colonies of Western powers with (nominal) Christian cultural heritage.

The Christian children of China decorate trees with colorful ornaments. These ornaments are made from paper in the shapes of flowers, chains and lanterns. They also hang muslin stockings hoping that Christmas Old Man will fill them with gifts and treats.

The Chinese Christmas trees are called "Trees of Light." Santa Claus is called Dun Che Lao Ren which means "Christmas Old Man.".

The non-Christian Chinese call this season the Spring Festival and celebrate with many festivities that include delicious meals and pay respects to their ancestors. The children are the main focus of these celebrations, they receive new clothes and toys, eat delectable food and watch firecrackers displays.

In the mainland, the small percentage of Chinese citizens who consider themselves Christians unofficially, and usually privately, observe Christmas. Many other individuals are beginning to celebrate Christmas-like festivities even though they do not consider themselves Christians. Many customs, including sending cards, exchanging gifts, and hanging stockings are being adopted from the Western celebrations.

In Hong Kong, where Christmas is a public holiday and a major retail period, many buildings facing Victoria Harbour will be decked out in Christmas lights. Christmas trees are found in major malls and other public buildings, and in some homes as well, despite the small living area. Catholics in Hong Kong can attend Christmas Mass.

In honor of the Chinese traditions my kids made paper lantern ornaments.

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December 15, 2011

2nd Day of Christmas


2nd Day of Christmas - Germany

Preparing for Christmas usually starts before December 1st. Many Germans set aside special evenings for baking spiced cakes and cookies, and making gifts and decorations.

Germans make beautiful gingerbread houses and cookies. The German Christmas tree pastry, Christbaumgeback, is a white dough that can be molded into shapes and baked for tree decorations.
On December 6th they celebrate Nikolaustag or St. Nikolaus day. This is where they leave a shoe or a boot outside the door on December 5th and the next morning they will find a treat or a small gift, if they were good or a stick if they had been bad.

In parts of Germany, people believe that the Christ Child sends a messenger on Christmas Eve. She appears as an angel in a white robe and crown, bearing gifts. The angel is called Christkind. Children leave letters on their windowsills for Christkind. Sometimes the letters are decorated with glue and sprinkled with sugar to make them sparkle.

There is also a Christmas Eve figure called Weihnachtsmann or Christmas Man, he looks like Santa Claus and also brings gifts.
Some homes in Germany have several Christmas trees, and in all towns across Germany, they can be seen glittering and glowing.
They lay out advent wreaths of Holly with four red candles in the center. They light one candle each Sunday and last on Christmas Eve. Children count the days until Christmas using an Advent calendar. They open one window each day and find a Christmas picture inside. We have adopted the advent calendar tradition from them.
In Germany Catholic boys and girls dress up as kings and carry a star round the village, singing carols. This is done on January 6th to collect money for donation.

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So the kids made Gingerbread houses and I think that they might be able to give Germany run for their money.

I set aside the evening for baking, well not really but I made these delicious Oreo treats and then took them to PTO.

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Then before the kids went to bed they made sure to put their shoes by their door in hopes to find a present when they woke up. 

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December 14, 2011

12 Days of Christmas


We are going to celebrate the 12 days of christmas by learning about a different countries traditions each day.  Yesterday was the first day and we decided to start 038with Mexico.  I wasn’t able to be here because I had mutual, but Troy did a fantastic job making sure that the kids had a great time.  He took the kids outside to act out La Posada.  Then they came inside and had a fiesta complete with dancing and Tamales!  

Here is what we learned about Christmas in Mexico.

Christmas is called Navidad.

Mexico’s main Christmas celebration is called La Posada, which translates to “the Inns” in Spanish. It is a reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter. Neighborhood adults and children will go from house to house looking for shelter. They will be denied shelter by the first two houses and then the third house will let them in. This will be the host house for that night. The hosts dress up like the Innkeepers and they have a Nativity Scene on display. After letting everyone in they will pray and sing around the Nativity Scene. Then they will have a fiesta including a piñata for the children. Traditionally this is done 9 times (once per day) leading up to Navidad.

The Nativity or the Nacimiento is the center of the holiday décor in Mexico. The baby Jesus isn’t added to the scene until Christmas Eve. They also attend a mass service at midnight where they sing lullabies to Jesus.

Some parts of Mexico do not give/receive presents on Christmas.

Other parts of Mexico receive a small present on Christmas from either Santo Clos or El nino Dios (Baby Jesus). Santa Clause is referred to as “Santo Clos.” He may or may not be a part of Navidad depending on their individual beliefs.

Then on January 6th they have the Merienda de Reyes where they will receive presents from “Los Reyes Magos”(the 3 wisemen). During this celebration they enjoy Tamales, hot chocolate, and Rosca. Hidden inside the Rosca is a plastic figure of Baby Jesus. Whoever gets the figurine in their piece of Rosca will be the host for the final celebration on February 2nd called the candle mass day. This concludes the Christmas season and they put away the Nativity.

December 11, 2011

Orange Crush


Kaylee has completed her first year of Basketball! 

She was lucky enough to have her dad as the coach and her little brother be an awesome team manager.  I don’t know if any of you have ever watched a third grade girls basketball game, but I have to give Troy some serious recognition for how positive and patient he was with all of these girls. 

They had so much fun and I was so proud of Kaylee for how much she learned.  The girls started out the season not even knowing what half court meant, let alone traveling but after a few games they started to learn the concept of the game and some great fundamentals.  TJ got to practice with them every week and learned a lot as well. 

I think my kids have found a new love.

December 09, 2011

12 Days of Christmas


On the first day of Christmas my husband gave to me a little girl cute as can be.

On the second day of Christmas my husband gave to me 2 blue eyed boys, and a little girl cute as can be.

On the third day of Christmas my husband gave to me 3 Children, 2 blue eyed boys, and a little girl cute as can be.

On the fourth day of Christmas my husband gave to me 4 compliments, 3 Children, 2 blue eyed boys, and a little girl cute as can be.

On the fifth day of Christmas my husband gave to me 5 I love yous, 4 compliments, 3 Children, 2 blue eyed boys, and a little girl cute as can be.

On the sixth day of Christmas my husband gave to me 6 awful stretch marks, 5 I love yous, 4 compliments, 3 Children, 2 blue eyed boys, and a little girl cute as can be.

On the seventh day of Christmas my husband gave to me7 sleepless nights, 6 awful stretch marks, 5 I love yous, 4 compliments, 3 Children, 2 blue eyed boys, and a little girl cute as can be.

On the Eighth day of Christmas my husband gave to me 8 shoes a missing, 7 sleepless nights, 6 awful stretch marks, 5 I love yous, 4 compliments, 3 Children, 2 blue eyed boys, and a little girl cute as can be.

On the ninth day of Christmas my husband gave to me a 9 dollar budget, 8 shoes a missing, 7 sleepless nights, 6 awful stretch marks, 5 I love yous, 4 compliments, 3 Children, 2 blue eyed boys, and a little girl cute as can be.

On the tenth day of Christmas my husband gave to me 10 pans for cleaning, 9 dollar budget, 8 shoes a missing, 7 sleepless nights, 6 awful stretch marks, 5 I love yous, 4 compliments, 3 Children, 2 blue eyed boys, and a little girl cute as can be.

On the Eleventh day of Christmas my husband gave to me 11 leaking diapers, 10 pans for cleaning, 9 dollar budget, 8 shoes a missing, 7 sleepless nights, 6 awful stretch marks, 5 I love yous, 4 compliments, 3 Children, 2 blue eyed boys, and a little girl cute as can be.

On the Twelfth day of Christmas my husband gave to me 12 Loads of Laundry, 11 leaking diapers, 10 pans for cleaning, 9 dollar budget, 8 shoes a missing, 7 sleepless nights, 6 awful stretch marks, 5 I love yous, 4 compliments, 3 Children, 2 blue eyed boys, and a little girl cute as can be.

December 08, 2011

My Reading Group


I volunteer in TJ’s classroom once a week and I have the opportunity to take a group of the top readers for about 40 minutes each time.  We have been working on a readers theatre for the story of Chicken Little and today they got to perform it for all of first grade and for their reading buddies in 4th grade.  I love being able to go into the classroom and get a feel for what it is like.  TJ has a fantastic teacher and some really great friends!


December 07, 2011




 Every morning for the last 7 days, I have woken up to find a subtle change in the house.  One small item in the house has been moved.  Quietly but distinctively that little tree on the advent stocking mysteriously moves over one spot indicating that it is one day closer to Christmas.  Not a word has been spoken about it.  In fact I don’t know which one of my kids is doing it or if it is a group effort.   But I think the action speaks very loud and clear.  Someone is very excited for Christmas.  I remember what it felt like watching the calendar and counting down until Christmas.  I felt like it would never come.  It seemed to take a thousand years to get through one week in December.  Oh how that changes as you get older.

December 03, 2011

Charter Schools?


There is currently a charter school being built in our area.  (and when I say our area I mean within 25 miles.)  It is a STEM school which means the focus will be on Science Technology Engineering and Math.  I really do want more for my kids than what their current school is offering, so I have been considering this as an option.  However, I have little to no experience or knowledge of charter schools.  It would be a bit more of a drive for them and I don’t know if I love the idea of making them wear uniforms. 

Supposedly the students would frequently work in groups and do a lot of hands on Science and Engineering projects.  They would also gain a lot of experience in presentations.  I asked Kaylee how she felt about group work and she said that she has never done that before.  Nor has she ever had the chance to do a presentation in front of the class.  She has never done a report of any kind.  Granted she is only in 3rd grade but is this typical?  Does that sort of thing not begin until they get older?

What do you know about Charter Schools and would you moms ever send your kids to one?

December 01, 2011

Mouths of Babes






  “It wasn’t me.  It was Master Yoda.”