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Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

It’s Christmas Eve!

In a time of year full of traditions, there is one I think I cherish the most, and it will happen this evening, after Mass and dinner out, when all my kids–even the adult ones–will gather in the living room before the tree to open one present each.

The tradition has its roots in my own childhood.  I don’t know where I got the idea that everyone should be allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve, but I convinced my mother that we, too, should adopt this custom.  And for the first few years, I can remember picking any present I wanted to, which usually meant the biggest one!

Somewhere along the way, our practice changed to opening a specific present that my mother chose, and it was always a chapter book.  The idea was that we would go up to bed and read a few chapters and it would help us fall asleep while waiting for Santa.

Emily was not quite a year old on her first Christmas, and I started the tradition immediately with a picture book I read to her before putting her to bed.   The following year I gave her a Christmas book by Tomie de Paola (described in more detail below).  This gave me the idea that going forward I would give only Christmas books.

As Christmases passed and our family grew, so too did our collection of Christmas picture books.  I started a couple of new traditions–reading a few stories every year in my children’s classrooms, having a bedtime story party for their classmates in our home.  Then our house burned down and we lost them all.  A sweet little girl in Lorelei’s class, remembering the party she had attended the year before, helped us repurchase our favorites, and six years later we again have a full box that we pull out every year.

It became increasingly difficult to find five good-quality Christmas books that we didn’t already have every year!  For awhile I tried buying the big kids chapter books but the Christmas offerings for adults weren’t quite on the same level as the picture books they had loved as children.  So last year I tweaked the tradition yet again, and began giving Emily, Jake, and Teddy each their own copy of one of our favorites for them to begin building their own Christmas library.

We began last year with The Clown of God by Tomie de Paola, our all-time favorite that we read on Christmas Eve every year after we’ve finished the new books.  I cannot get through this sweet retelling of an old legend without crying.  It’s a very Catholic tale of conversion with some Franciscan brothers and a miracle included.

the clown of god

This year they will be receiving The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski.  This redemptive love story is beautifully illustrated and yes, it makes me cry too.

jonathan toomey

The Other Wise Man, a story written originally by Henry van Dyke and adapted for children by Pamela Kennedy, will probably be next year’s gift.  It’s the story of a fourth wise man who missed meeting Jesus in person because he was too busy helping others along the way.

The Other WIse Man

An Appalachian tale based on a true story, Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant is another touching story about Christmas giving that ends with a tear-inducing twist.

silver packages

The four stories above were among the first Christmas books we collected and they continue to be favorites that the kids–yes, even the big ones–want to hear year after year.  But there have been a few gems that despite their more recent acquisition have captured a spot on our favorites list, like A Small Miracle by Peter Collington, a surprising tale in which a poor woman is repaid for her kindness by some very unexpected visitors.  This is a quirky, wordless story that will hold the attention of every age group.

small miracle

I’ll stop here, because five seems like a good number and then I can do this again next year.  Tell me about your favorites in the comments–and Merry Christmas!

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Five years ago, I participated in an exercise in which bloggers were challenged to post a list of what they liked about themselves.  The premise was that most women are a lot better at self-criticism than self-praise, that we are always focused on the ways in which we don’t measure up rather than on how we excel.

The originator of that challenge, Elena Sonnino, decided that this year would be a good time to reboot it.  So I’ve had to come up with a new list to share.  I’ve decided five makes a nice round number that is manageable with today’s writing schedule, so without further ado:

  1.  I like the strength of my body.  I’ve given birth to five children, including my 13 pound 5 ounce son who was born vaginally after three C-sections (which is a major abdominal surgery, not a walk in the park).  I hiked all 40 miles of the Urban Wilderness trails.  I work in the garden, I lift weights, I can move heavy boxes.
  2. I am awesome legal assistant to my husband.  I write killer legal pleadings,  research law,  and run the office.  Other than the guidance I nave received from him by asking questions and reviewing the pleadings he had written in the past, I’m completely self-taught.
  3. I am fluent in computers and social media.  I may not be able to turn on the television, but even my adult kids have been known to ask me to figure out why their laptops aren’t running smoothly.  I am active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.  I even have a Snapchat but I may have hit a wall on that. 😉
  4. I am an excellent advocate for my children.  I am not afraid to be That Mom, in fact at this point I am used to it.  I go to every meeting and conference (and after 21 years of kids in school that adds up to a scary amount).  I have an intimidating binder to carry to IEP meetings.  I’m not afraid to ask pointed questions, send emails, go over people’s heads, and let school personnel know I’ve done my research–or to be completely honest, even when I am afraid I don’t let it stop me.
  5. I’m a good cook.  I enjoy preparing Blue Apron dinners but in everyday life I don’t need recipes.  I am a champion pie baker and my birthday cakes are legendary.  I have that natural ability to combine ingredients in my head to improvise meals–and John says those meals are the best ones.

Wow, that sounds like a lot of bragging! I think I will stop at five this go round.

Now, another thing I know is that YOU have gifts also.  Even if you aren’t used to thinking about them!  In fact, if it’s hard for you to come up with your own list, or if it makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s all the more reason you should do it.  Write your own list! Post it on your blog, or Facebook or Instagram if you aren’t a blogger.  And if you do it, link it up right here.

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