Friday, December 31, 2010

How a Midwest Mom Celebrates Christmas

Let's be honest, for most moms, Christmas can be summed up in one word - work.

So how does a busy mom have her own Christmas celebration?  

On an airplane, the flight attendant over the microphone tells parents, if needed, that they should put their own oxygen mask on first.  Then, they'll be prepared to put an oxygen mask on each of their children.  We need to take care of ourselves, so we can take care of those that God has entrusted to us.

As moms, we need to find a little slice of Christmas, early in December.  It could be a concert, passing out plates of chicken at a homeless shelter, visiting a shut-in neighbor, listening to a friend play Christmas carols on the piano, a play, or a worship service.

I have found my own personal celebration of Christmas the last five years at a live outdoor nativity at a church in my neighborhood.  

Outside with the animals, the donkey, some little lambs, the curious goat, the unsanded wooden manger, and the leaning A-frame shelter.  The sky is the ceiling.  The smelly animals, muddy and bleating, seem to understand.  And, there's me sobbing.  Worshipping the humble One, who arrived on this earth as a baby in the middle of dirt and mud.  Praying I can be more like Him.  Loving Him so dearly and knowing that He loves me, even more. Thanking Him for being willing to come to earth.    

I drive past the outside Christmas scene fenced off with animals several times the week that they are out, as I go to store or the library.  I like to be alone with the animals, before the crowd forms each evening for the musical.  I ponder the shepherds and how they must have felt and the manger that was only the first step of many humilations.

In Philippians 2:5-11, the Apostle Paul urges Christians to have the same humble
attitude that Christ had. Even though Jesus was true God, and would have had every
reason to be proud, what did He do instead? The holy Jesus left the splendors of heaven and came to earth to be our Servant, in order to save us from our sins! He humbled Himself in a manger and then, allowed Himself to be put to death on a cross - a very humiliating way to die.   

Philippians 2:5-11 says, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." 

This Christmas, if you need to call me, I'll be at Oakwood and Avail Streets, drawn to and awed by the humble Child King.  You are welcome to join me, there's room for all.  

When I've been touched by the manger, I'll be able to work to give my family their Christmas celebration.

Luke 2:12b " will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." 

 Cheryl Moeller

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Blessing of Discomfort

Do you see that, peeking through the trees? It's one of my favorite people, and someone I see very infrequently during the winter.

Karin: Hello, Mr. Sun.
Mr. Sun: Hello, Karin.
K: Where ya been?
MS: Chillin'.
K: Why'd you come back?
MS: Why not?

Sometimes I swear that's how arbitrarily the sun decides to show up, but I know better (I took earth science in high school). Regardless, the sun is a mixed bag during the winter. While I love to see it, I dread its arrival.

You see, sunny days in northern Michigan mean one thing - cold days. Not your average winter days. No, the sunlight means high pressure, which means no clouds, which means theres nothing up there keeping in the earth's warm (clouds are, after all, the earth's blanket). Sadly a beautiful sunny day usually means freezing-your-nose-hairs cold days. There's nothing as awful as a frozen-forehead headache, and the sunny days bring those.

But the sunny days also bring, well...the sun. Despite the discomfort and the pain, there's beauty, and there's also health. As few as 15 minutes a day can not only reduce your risk of catching the flu (by up to 75%!) because it boosts your immune system. It also chases away the blahs, fighting off depression (I don't have the research data on that one, I'm just talking from experience).

All of that to say that sun filled winter days reflect so many things if our lives - something that's uncomfortable, even painful, can still bring light and health. Even though I can only feel the stinging cold, there's something much better going on beneath the surface.

Isn't that just like God? Using the foolish to confuse the wise. Using the cold to nourish our bodies. I hope I never mistake comfort for good and discomfort for bad - God's creation is so much more complex than that. He's so much more complex than that.

I'm off to enjoy the sun now...

QUESTION: How has God used an uncomfortable situation to minister health (peace, love, etc.) to you?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Our Hay Loft is now The Book Loft

I had another post for today up and ready to go...and then I went snooping and read Lisa's post for yesterday and decided to pull a switcheroo. See, I learned long ago that you make hay while the sun shines, and my goodness, the sun was shining! So naturally I made hay! (Never mind about zooming past her in the night—ships pass in the night and although I might be landlocked now, I wasn't always, so I do my best not to let many pass me by!)

Yes, I truly love playing with blogs. Setting one up and fiddling with layouts is like stepping into a candy shop. It's embarrassing sometimes, especially when an idea like this wraps itself around my head like one of those far north face mask hat thingies—only made of candy. Oh my. The only way to get it off was to eat my way out. So I did. And yanno, if you eat real fast you can squeeze two or three calories in as one... or something like that. I had so much fun!

And Lisa, brave girl that she is, hung on for the ride (Sorry about the whiplash. Hehe. Kinda.) and found the best writers! I love it here! This might have been me dancing around throwing hay in the air... but I cleared out the hay!

Lemme tell ya about that.

Now, every barn has a loft, right? Well, I decided that since our barn has a door that's never closed we should have a loft too. And since we're all avid readers and writers here at The Barn Door, I decided our loft was for books (not hay)! Yummy, delicious, calorie-free books! So, on another whirlwind, sugar-high, candy shop style evening, The Barn Door Book Loft was born created. (whatever.)

Like this site, the idea flew together and we decided to open The Book Loft on New Year's Day. Yup, as in January 1st, 2011. There was only one teeny tiny problem. More authors wanted dates in January than there were days! What were we supposed to do? Turn away great authors like Jim Rubart who zoomed onto the bestselling list? I don't think so!

Today's post was supposed to be a grand kick-off for The Book Loft, but... Shoot. You just can't put a girl in a candy shop and tell her not to eat anything for three whole weeks. It's just not happening! Especially not with this girl! Sooooo, we opened The Book Loft early. Yeah, yeah, I know. There's a lot to be said for self-discipline, but doggone it, there was hay to be made! (Don't worry, if we need to, we'll figure out what do with all that hay since we put books in the loft instead of hay.)

So our Barn Door has a three-week-old Book Loft where we spotlight and interview Christian authors and give books away too! Make sure to stop by The Book Loft and enter the book giveaways! You won't even get hayseed in your hair. Guaranteed.

Monday, December 27, 2010

How the Barn Door Came to Be

By now you're probably wondering about our name.

It was…a surprise.

The site idea came about because I was jealous, I admit it, of the delightful Hoosierink.blogspot, a group of Indiana Christian writers who work together on a group site. I wondered if there would be enough interest in a similar site a state or so over to the west. All I had to do was ask…and my goodness, did I receive! Patty Wysong, the lovely and talented blog queen was one of the first to jump on the hay wagon. In fact, I think I had to leap out of her way a time or two as she careened madly on the way to mow that field and bale that hay! While we were talking themes and names, I blithely declared, "the theme is as wide as the barn door."

You have to picture Patty late at night seeking blogspot for domain names. The next morning she says, " was taken so I bought and set up a blog. What do you think? What kind of picture should we put in the banner?"

As my Iowa grandma used to say, "Did you see me go by?"

In case you're wondering, I'm rubbing the back of my neck in remembered whiplash. It wasn't hard at all to find willing participants. Well, I did have to twist an arm, but, honestly, who can resist a blog that says you're in for the treat of seeing the world through Midwestern eyes?

I've had my eyes opened -- and I'm a lifer. Figuring out what an ice scraper is, sharing Indiana history with pride and joy, shopping and decorating and cooking, Brown Eyed Bessies and so much more. I sure hope you're having as much fun as I am. It's full-on winter since December 21, but we usually know to start hunkering down at least by Thanksgiving. We get our snow blowers out, the ice fishing gear ready and the snowshoes restrung. We sew ourselves into our long johns and sometimes put on hats when the thermometer gets toward zero. Of course all bets are off if it's sunny out.

A recent article from Milwaukee weatherman Brian Gotter had me chuckling. He listed phobias dealing with winter:
Chionophobia – fear of snow
Cryophobia – ice
Cheimatophobia – cold
Pagophobia –frost
Chionoandrophobia –snowmen

I tried to find some for barns, but naturally there aren't any (except in England, where they don't have a name for it), but I did find:
Lachanophobia – vegetables
Xylophobia – wooden objects
Carnophobia – meat
Alektorophobia – chickens

Since phobias are from Greek words, I thought you'd like to know that the Greek word for farm is: Φάρμα, so a person with a farm phobia has Φάρμαophobia, and Greek for barn door is:
Σιταποθήκη, and you can add your own "ophobia."

Interesting that I couldn't easily find fear of cows or pigs.

Or maybe not. J

Merry Christmas from the folks at

Join us in the new year for more columns and more of our creative writing.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas At The Lavy's

Husband and I are blessed to have the Christmas season stretch across three months at our house! When we built our home/office on the farm 12 years ago God blessed us with a large walk-out basement. With the blessing came the responsibility to share.
Many Christmas activities take place here. We enjoy the carols that drift up to us when the group below is not our own family. Often the wonderful smells of Christmas seep through the floor as well.
In this post I want to feature an annual event called the Secret Sisters Luncheon. It's evolved to include 4 elderly men, but the name remains the same because the Secret Sisters are younger women who give the older one's gifts on their special days and other times through out the year.
They reveal themselves to us at the Luncheon.
But first they ask us who we suspect! Of course we often guess the wrong name. But then the real Secret Sister comes beside us and we eat at the table together.
It is a special day of sharing.
And we feel so blessed!

How was your Christmas special for 2010?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

When I Knew I Could Live in Michigan

Winter has certainly settled in here in West Michigan, and it's actually been quite predictable (which is NOT a normal thing). For the past week or so, the temps have been in the mid- to upper-20s just about every day, with a bit of snow here and there. Kinda nice to know what the weather's  gonna be like ahead of time (if we trust that weatherman and the "trend," of course!). My kids are on winter break, so they're enjoying the white stuff outside (and, of course, the Wii inside hehe). Here's my boy all ready to head out into the former.
Despite the fact that I lived in Southern California for the first twenty-six years of my life, I'm convinced that Michigan is in my blood. Of course, when I lived in the land of sunshine, I had no clue. All I knew as I began thinking about settling down was that I was fairly certain I didn't want it to be in sunny So Cal.

In 1993, just about when I met my future husband (now THERE'S a story for a future post!), I decided I was going to find a job "somewhere else." I was a teacher at the time, and had a California teaching credential, so at the time my sights were NOT set outside the golden state. Still, I took a several-day trip up into Central California to apply for teaching jobs. I'd guess most of the towns I applied in you have never heard of (and to be honest, most I've forgotten the names of as well!), but not a single one of them panned out. Didn't even get an interview.

Christmas at California Adventure Pictures, Images and PhotosBut then things between Marc and me got a bit more serious. How do I know this? Well, were engaged for one. But perhaps even more telling was that he brought me home for Christmas. And home, in case you haven't figured it out, was Michigan.

And Michigan, in case you don't realize it, generally is pretty cold during Christmas. And white. Southern California, on the other hand, is...well...not. Average high in my hometown in December? 67. In Jackson, Michigan, where Marc's folks live and where I spent most of that Christmastime? 34.

But did I complain?

Actually, yeah. Probably more than I'd like to admit. My West Coast body did NOT take well to those chilly temperatures - at least at first. As the week went on, I got a different perspective.

frankenmuth Pictures, Images and PhotosMarc's folks decided that it was important that, as a first-time visitor to Michigan, I visit Frankenmuth, a lovely little German town/tourist attraction (Michigan's little Bavaria  by their own slogan) around the central part of Michigan. Quaint little shops. Delicious food. The world's largest Christmas store. Really, a lovely and delightful place.

And it was in that little town that I realized that I could become a Michigan resident.

Not necessarily because of the quaint shops, the delicious food, or even the world's largest Christmas store (which held SUPREME interest to me, by the way, since I did not celebrate Christmas :::roll:::). But it was here where I realized that the weather might not be a huge issue.

My husband and I were walking the streets of Frankenmuth, peeking into shops and enjoying the atmosphere, when we came to a bank--and not just any bank. It was one of those banks with an electric sign outside, showing the time and the temperature. I looked up, smiled, and said these immortal words.
"Twenty-three degrees? Oh, that's not too bad."
Yup. That's when my husband knew I didn't have to be a beach girl: that I might actually survive in below-freezing weather. Within a year we were living in Michigan, and I was thrilled.

For two years (at least), I wanted to get out of Southern California. But it wasn't until I met Marc, and his home state, that I knew where I wanted to go.

So, the fact that it's supposed to be in the 20's for the forseeable future? That's not too bad. ;)

Visit me at my blog!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Kid on the Block

Being new is never easy. Like the time I showed up at the bus stop for my first day in junior high. How was I to know the preferred method of carrying my lunch was a paper bag instead of a metal Star Trek lunchbox?

Or more recently when I took on the role of women's event decorator at church...which, by the way, really ought to come with a handbook. Though in hindsight, I suppose it should've been common sense to use covered candles. Wow. Who'd have guessed hair could ignite so fast?

In light of these few faux pas of mine, I'd like to offer a disclaimer before I charge through The Barn Door. Yes, I am a Midwesterner, but first and foremost I'm a freak. Not in the bad way, like a drooling idiot cowering in the corner. Nor in the creepy way such as waggling my eyebrows while wielding a battle axe. I'm actually a relatively sane functional freak--and darn good at it.

I'll be posting once or twice a month. Don't worry. I'll eventually fit in and become part of The Barn Door body, kind of like a toenail fungus. At first you won't even notice me, and by the time you do, it'll be too late. I'll have grown on you.

If you'd like to know more about me then check out my website at

Monday, December 20, 2010


Lillian Duncan

Stories of faith mingled… with murder & mayhem.

lil2011c.jpg    As a multi-published author from Ohio, Lillian writes Christian Fiction, specifically suspense and mystery. After a thirty plus years career as a speech pathologist, she’s now retired and focusing on her writing career. Whether as an educator, a writer, or a speech pathologist, she believes in the power of words to transform lives.

To learn more about Lillian and her books, you may visit her at Her personal blog, Tiaras & Tennis Shoes can be viewed at She also has a devotional blog at


TheChristmasStalking_h11248_120A.jpg darkalleyback.jpg Deception_w4966_120.jpg SerenitySpringsCOVER_72La.jpg Pursued_w4861_120.jpg gmflsmall.jpg

Cheeseburgers for Christmas

For those of you who don't know me well, I'm a former city slicker living in suburban Minnesota. I worked in the big city of Chicago for years, and my Mom's standard joke was: "Michelle doesn't cook...she's the take-out queen!" And for the most part, she was right. I could cook if I HAD to for some special party or function, but since I'm single, I didn't have to worry about cooking for a family, so I didn't. My married friends, otherwise known as my friends who cooked, would come over to my place and laugh when they opened the fridge because usually all it had in it was bottled water, cheese, and ALOT of condiments!

Well, since moving back home, alot has changed for me. I cook now, several times a week, and all my city friends keep wondering what has happened to me. They probably think it's a phase, like when I refused to wear pink for almost a decade.

Well, I was very excited to be invited to my very first cookie exchange! I had heard about these festive food events, but had never actually been to one. So, I made 3 dozen of my favorite Christmas cookies, Mint Meringues, and off I went!

Once I got to the party, we all laid out our Tupperware containers of cookies, and then went around and each took 2-3 cookies of each variety, until we ended up with 3 dozen. Bake 3 dozen...bring home 3 dozen.

Most of the cookies were your standard holiday fare. Gingersnaps, Russian Tea Cakes, Sugar Cookies, and then of course, some Martha Stewart crazy decides to be a show off and make the candy cane cookies, and tries to convince all of us that they are "so easy!"

So, I'm making my rounds, filling up my Tupperware container, and I catch a glimpse of what appears to be mini hamburgers. Yes, indeed, they were Cheeseburger Cookies! My friend Sherri was working late, and didn't have time to make cookies, so her husband, Cori, decided to whip up a batch of his favorite cookies for the group. They were a hit! Turns out, they are super easy to make, which makes them a double hit in my book.

To make these cool holiday treats, you will need:

1 box Nilla wafers
1 box of Thin Mints or Grasshopper cookies
Red, Yellow, and Green Food Coloring
Shredded coconut
Sesame seeds
Honey, Corn Syrup, or Agave Syrup

Divide up your frosting and make half of it red and half of it yellow. Then take one nilla wafer, which is the bottom bun of the cheeseburger, and spread yellow frosting on it. Next place a thin mint, or grasshopper cookie on top of the nilla wafer. That is your burger! I prefer thin mints because it gives you a softer cookie to bite into, and you have more of a minty taste, but that's just me. Grasshopper cookies taste great too!

Next take your coconut, and use your green food coloring to make it a bright green color. That is your lettuce. Sprinkle a little of this green "lettuce" on top of your burger. Then take another nilla wafer, and liberally spread red frosting on it, and press it on top of the burger. I like to press a little harder, so the frosting mushes out, and it lookes like ketchup is oozing down the side of the bun. Final step, spread a small dab of honey, or corn syrup on the top of the nilla wafer, and sprinkle wth a few sesame seeds. have a Cheeseburger cookie!

I made these with the two little neighbor kids last week, and we had a blast! As for me..I all ready know what I'm bringing to the next cookie exhange! :)

From my family to yours...Merry Christmas!

Michelle Strombeck

p.s. My friend Cori recommends serving them with a can of shoestring potatoes, so you can have a "Cheeseburger and Fries!"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ignore The Calories

Sugar cookies, homemade chocolate fudge with walnuts and pecans, chunky applesauce, pumpkin pie, and a fat turkey roasted to a golden brown. Sometimes a venison roast in a thick brown gravy (for those great hunters out there).


I can’t possibly imagine writing at the moment. I have more cookies to bake and that second batch of fudge—brown sugar this time—to beat until creamy and then cut into squares. I could care less if my protagonist, Rochelle, is saved from her crazed stalker or not. She’ll have to deal with it until January when I’ll once again try to keep her safe.

All I can concentrate on is getting up the last wreath and finishing the final three or four dozen cookies all the while watching George Bailey run the streets of Bedford Falls in search of his own importance in life. Ahhh, only the fourth time I’ve watched it so far this year.

Looking out my window at the snow—yes, loads of snow—and imagining a chubby man in a funny red suit sliding down my chimney (watch out, Claus, I have the fire going) has me chomping at the well-chewed bit for Christmas to hurry and get here. While I no longer have little kids running around, I have managed to mimic a child’s behavior as I wait the last seven days til the whole gang is together again for the first time in six years.

Not only do we love family, we folks from the Midwest know how to eat. That’s why we love cooking. I never get on the scales during the month of
December . . . why be masochistic? I KNOW what it’s going to say,

“Get off, chubby, you’re killin’ me.”
Yeah, well, I had to have that last cookie. It was calling my name.

I guess you can tell from today’s ramblings that Christmas is fully on my mind. And more important than food, though it’s amazing, or gifts, I hope I get a Kindle, or even our loved ones, is Jesus Christ. Good strong Midwest values still put Christ at the center of Christmas. If we lived in shacks in the middle of the woods, or a shanty on the banks of the one of the lakes, we would still enjoy Christmas as long as Jesus shared the day with us.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy the blessings He offers us every day.

Oh yeah, and remember, if you eat the last piece of fudge, ignore the calories. Who cares? It’s Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Count Down to Christmas

Seven days until Christmas and then, just a breath away is a new year waiting. Oh, the possibilities.

“Lake effect snow” are the words we’ve been hearing a lot of lately and will continue to throughout the winter. We live a few miles east of Lake Michigan and with that come the blessings of white stuff. While I don’t mind it, in fact it is quite beautiful especially if you don’t have to drive in it, Farmer hates it.

I guess I should clarify that he hates the cold part of it. But, then again he is out in the elements much more than I am. I can say that in the past, I’ve had my share of miserable times in the snow. Such as sliding down a hill on my hiney without a sled, slopping buckets full of warm milk all over my legs and having my pants freeze so solid and stiff I couldn’t bend my knees. My fingers have been frozen solid while trying to get a calf to drink milk and I’ve had icicles hanging from my nose.

Nowadays, I am not obliged to be out in the elements so much. That is something I like. I can pick and choose.

We’ve had an addition to our family since my last post. In fact, he arrived on the day of my last post. Wigglie number 7 was due December 24 and arrived three weeks early.

The youngest son of the youngest son of the youngest son of the youngest son.

Wigglie #7

Gotta start them young in their "Greenwear".

 We all appreciate his effort to get here early which helps with all the holiday planning. I am blessed beyond measure with another healthy, precious, perfect Wigglie. God is so good and gracious to me.

Our Wigglies.

The best stocking stuffer ever!

As we get closer and closer to Christmas my mind tends to travel to Bethlehem to the first Christmas. So often we glamorize the nativity. Here are my thoughts.

On the first Christmas, what was Mary doing? It’s seven days before Christmas and I imagine that her and her fiancé, Joseph were traveling. Yep, Mary wasn’t married yet. According to Luke 2 - And all went to be taxed every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 

In fact, if you really study it out, Mary could have been stoned to death for her “transgression”. Thankfully, Joseph was an obedient man and took her to be his wife. Somewhere between the time they left for Bethlehem and when Jesus was born, some think they were married. Matthew 1:24, 25, "Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS."

All that being said, my thoughts turn to Mary. Think about it. She was close to full term, and they had to travel about 80 miles. So, did she really ride a donkey? Who knows for sure, the Bible never says. I guess it’s assumed. They could have walked the whole distance. I doubt they walked under a starry night with a light summer breeze blowing. I have read that there was snow on Mt. Hermon at the time they traveled. Was Joseph strong enough to carry her at all? Either way, thinking about traveling 80 miles outdoors, 9 months pregnant was not an easy task. Swollen ankles, sore back, contractions and then sleeping on the ground. Where were the rest stops? We spend so much time glamorizing the whole manger scene. Let’s be realistic for a bit. What did they pack? Food for the 80 miles had to be carried. No Mc Donald’s for them. Did they carry wood for the evening fire or count on finding it when they decided to stop? 

All this while Mary had time to ponder. What did she really know about her son? How much of his future was she sure of? I am no scholar, but I would think that she could not have possibly known the whole picture. I can’t imagine being able to wrap your brain around how profound her son would be. That he would change the world, history and eternity. I don’t think a person can comprehend. 

Last Christmas it was rainy and 38 degrees in Bethlehem. This year it is predicted to be 63 degrees and sunny. I wonder what the weather was like that first Christmas. What would the temperature be inside a stable, barn or cave?

As Mary walked into her delivery room and the pains were coming, what was she thinking? No smiling nurses, bright lights, or reassuring words were spoken. A manger would be her son’s bed. It wasn't a glittered covered manger. It was smelly and could have been full of animals. Mary shared the straw with mice and spiders. Lantern light, the sound of animals shuffling in the manure filled bedding was the ambiance.

What did she know of her son’s future? Was she concerned about being a good enough mother? How do you mother a Savior?

Our thoughts are with Mary, but what about Jesus. Jesus became schema - a king who exchanged his kingly garments for a brief period of time for the clothing of a beggar.

The pain came in waves crashing into each other until finally Jesus, the Savior of the world was born. No running water to clean up, no heated blankets to comfort a worn out body. No baby blue hand knitted cap was placed on the child's head. Even though - the hand of God was there. Sacrifice was there. Mercy was there. Grace was there. Salvation was there.

All of this was for one reason. You.

You can still order for Christmas. Go to and click on
the Buy Now button on the right.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Wonder filled New Year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I recently visited my family in Las Vegas. Though we're all from Michigan, everyone in my fam (the big sis, lil' sis, and the 'rents) spends winters in Vegas. Last year they all bought houses, and this was the first time I've visited the new digs during the Christmas season.

There are some definite differences between Christmas in ER and Christmas in LV. I'm not a huge fan of December in the desert (a tall creme brulee latte doesn't taste the same when it's 61 degrees and sunny). It's weird to see Christmas decorations without the snow...but that lack of snow makes Vegas pretty spectacular in a very fun way:


Without the cold or the snow, more people in Vegas head out to string up the lights. Sadly this isn't an actual picture of the lights, but it's a good representation. And even though I love the lights, it was SOOO much more fun to see them with my two year-old nephew. "Whoa! Wow! Whoa! Wow!" And if we turned down a dark street, the chat "Mo'e! Mo'e!" How can you say no to that??

I'm surely am a fan of the weather and temperature of December in the midwest, but I've got to hand it to the desert people - they know how to light things up!

I've not desire to leave my small town life in ER, MI, but if I ever end up in a hot, snowless world, I can look forward to the lights.

QUESTION: What do you look forward to at Christmas?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

An Ornamental Christmas

Our eclectic Christmas tree
 At our house, we celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. Instead of one massive gift opening session, we spread it out, allowing our kids to open one gift every day for the 12 days leading up to Christmas. On Christmas, they will get to open three gifts (symbolizing the three gifts the wisemen offered to Jesus). I love doing it this way because I remember how excited I was as a child, begging my parents every day..."can we open just one present?"

OK, maybe you're thinking that allowing them to open gifts early takes away from the anticipation and suspense. Well, I'd agree, except that I SO anticipated the gift opening as a child that it caused me to (carefully and sneakily) unwrap and peek at my presents when they were under the tree. This spoiled the surprise, of course, but I just couldn't help myself. So I'm convinced that allowing the kids a little something every day for a couple of weeks actually adds to the excitement (and keeps everything a surprise!).

So anyway, one of the 12 gifts I buy for my kids every year is an ornament depicting some event from the past year. When my son was into collecting dog figurines, he got a dog ornament. When my daughter did cheer, she received a cheerleader ornament. Here are a few of the ornaments that have been added to their collection over the years:

The skateboarding phase
Zach has played tennis since junior high
Lynz finally got that iPod she'd been begging for!
Last year, Lynz got glasses. She's already begging for contacts.

This year (way back on the 2nd of January), my son turned 16. He officially got his drivers license a few months later. My daughter is in 8th grade, was on the volleyball team this Fall, and plays the drums, but she's already been given a volleyball and drum ornament in past years, so I had to come up with something different. Then I thought of something absolutely perfect for her. Below, is a picture of the ornaments my kids will be receiving next week (on the 10th day of Christmas, to be exact).

I have a funny story to go along with this year's ornaments. I took these pictures a couple weeks ago so I'd have them ready for this blog post. When we were celebrating Christmas at my mom's this past weekend, my son was scrolling through the photos I'd just taken. He went back a little too far and wanted to know when they'd ever gotten these ornaments?

As I slapped my head, it dawned on him that he'd stumbled (or in this case clicked) on one of this year's gifts. So he knows which ornament he's getting and is having fun teasing his sister about how he knows which one she's getting, too.

As you can see from the photo at the very top of this post, the Schab Christmas tree is rather eclectic. And I love it. I think themed trees are beautiful, but not nearly as much fun as a tree decorated with ornaments that tell a story. And as we hang our ornaments every year, we enjoy looking back at each of the "seasons" the kids have passed through so far. And these memories never fail to bring smiles to our faces and warmth to our hearts. Maybe a little bit of sorrow, too, knowing that there probably will never be another "skateboarding" or "ballet" season. But definitely happiness that there will never be another "braces" season! (At least for my son. Daughter may just receive her "braces" ornament next year).

So what about you? What event or milestone would be on your (or your child's) ornament this year?


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