Monthly Archives: December 2009

A Visit to Bethlehem

One of our favorite family Christmas traditions is to visit a local church’s Return to Bethlehem. It’s a beautiful way to experience the anticipation that the Jewish people must have had for the Messiah. As you fill out your census and walk through the village, you get to experience a part of what life must have been like. We enjoyed watching them weave rugs, carve wooden bowls, make perfumes, sell vegetables, tan hides, grind wheat, make pots, and much more.

And all the while, the roman soldiers are moving people along and the Hebrew people are asking if you heard that the Christ child is supposed to be born tonight.

And every so often, the shofar’s horn blows and then they all stop to pray as a part of the Torah is read.

Meanwhile, you keep making your way through the village and begin to notice a bright star in the sky.

And then you see them… with Him…

And you think of all of the lives that have been changed.
The prophecy fulfilled.
The promise.
The hope.
The very best Christmas gift ever.

And you’re reminded of what Christmas is REALLY all about.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

The Pioneer Woman

Davis Kidd was THE place to be Tuesday night in Nashville. You could see women with The Pioneer Woman Cookbooks ALL over Green Hills Mall. Becky and I were in group 8, and I heard there were at least 21 groups of 25! No telling how late Ree stayed signing books.

We were in Group 8 and got our books signed around 9 p.m.  I’m glad that I went on Saturday to get our line tickets. It was a really fun experience. Lots and lots of laughter with the other women in line, but we had to drive an hour and a half home in awful wind and rain. Gotta be awake to do that!

The line wrapped all around the store, but you didn’t actually have to stand in line very long because of the line tickets. I thought it was really well organized. Everyone was so friendly, perky, and fashionable. I saw more cute shoes and scarves than you could shake a stick at. I kept wondering how many people there were bloggers, but I was a little too shy to just go around asking, "Hey, are you a blogger?"

It was a FANTASTIC Girls’ Night Out though. I’m really glad that my friend, Becky, suggested it. We laughed, talked, did a little shopping, sat in the massage chairs at Brookstone, ate at Panera, bought some Sees chocolate, and finished off the night with slushies. What else does a girl need?

Meeting Ree was fantastic. She is every bit as friendly, funny, and gracious in person as she is on her blog. I, however, totally froze and just kept mumbling about how my friend, Candace, has cooked SO many of her recipes already, but couldn’t come because she’s battling morning sickness. Ree said that she was really sick with all four of hers and that carrying a lemon around to smell really helped with the nausea. Just thought I’d toss that out there in case any of my other friends are battling morning sickness.

And then we got to meet Ree’s fabulous sister, Betsy, and terrific friend, Hyacinth. It’s easy to see why Ree loves them. They were just hanging out like good girlfriends do, passing out t-shirts, and making small talk. They asked me what my favorite recipe was and again, I drew a blank. All I could think of was how my 13 year old RAVED when Candace made Ree’s enchiladas. I have made Ree’s corn casserole. It was super quick and easy, (which is how I like my recipes!) but Ree makes me want to be a better cook.

Enough about me though. If you get a chance to meet Ree at one of her book signings, please do. It is well worth the drive. And even if you can’t make one of the book signings, she’ll sign your cookbook if you mail it to her. And even if you can’t buy the cookbook, you can find great recipes, pictures, and stories on her blog. That’s how it all started and I’m so thankful that it did.

Not a Tractor

Here’s my Jon Deer.
Christmas shopping at the Bass Pro Shop Carter-style.

Creative Christmas Letter Ideas

Wow! The Homeschool Minute readers totally rock!

Here are some of the FABULOUS creative Christmas letter ideas that our readers submitted via email:

  • Last year we thought of television show titles that seemed appropriate to events from our year.  Here are a few of the entries:

Merry Christmas from the M family!  What would your year look like if you described it according to TV show titles?  (I’m sure this is a burning question for all of you.)  Ours would look something like this:

Lost – While we’ve never actually seen this show, it could aptly describe K and C’s teeth.  K lost 4 over a period of three months.  C, not to be outdone, lost her first shortly thereafter.

The Office – OK, another one we’ve not actually seen.  But it doesn’t really matter, because Dh no longer goes to the office.  2008 saw a dramatic increase in his consulting business, so we’ve returned to the land of the self-employed.  We’re thankful that God has blessed his business so much more than we deserve.

Extreme Home Makeover – We had our own version of this show, just without the lights, cameras and one-week deadline.  We spent most of the year working on the remodel, changing our small, awkwardly laid out two bedroom home into a larger, open three bedroom with room for D to work and the kids to do school work or head off to their own rooms.  With the remodel, R has learned more about the Albuquerque area dumps than you’d ever want to know.  And while the country is struggling financially, D and R have attempted to single-handedly keep the area Home Depot and Lowe’s in business.

(I’m leaving out a huge section of her Christmas letter, but I love how she ended it… -Nancy)

It’s a Wonderful Life – Finally, no holiday season would be complete without this timeless classic.  Ours is a wonderful life, thanks entirely to Christ’s love and His ultimate sacrifice.    Praying that His love changes your holiday and your lives!

Submitted by Robin

  • For the past 12 years I have continued my mother’s tradition (started when I was in kindergarten!) of writing a poem at Christmas.  All of the year’s highlighs (and some low-lights) are chronicled using a 4-line stanza format (first two and last two lines rhyming), with about 8 stanzas total.  Usually the first stanza is standard Christmas-greeting fare, and the last sums up with a view of the True Meaning of Christmas.  Usually each family member gets a stanza, and then a couple more for general family events.  Folks look forward to them every year — I think my parents’ friends would cause a ruckus if she ever stopped this tradition! 
    Submitted by Ellen

  • I’m a big fan of trying to be funny which usually involves poking fun at ourselves.  Here are ideas I have used over the years:

    -Last year was an impromptu description of our family by the 8 year old.  He was making a newspaper (his own idea) and I wrote down as he dictated.  How he summed up our family was HILARIOUS!  "Daddy likes to snuggle, likes Joel love, and likes to go to church."  I also included 16 random things in the pattern of a facebook note that was going around last year.

    -A comic that illustrated each member of the family followed by a paragraph summary.

    -A ‘Most wanted’ including AKA, wanted for, description and last seen.  Ex. the baby was charged with disturbing the peace.  "Since his appearance Joel has repeatedly and without remorse violated noise ordinances.  Victims drop charges after he smiles at them."

    -Our year’s story in the pattern of "Twas the night before Christmas" or to the Gilligan’s island theme song.

    -The year the boys were in Fiddler on the Roof, the letter was paragraphs themed according to song titles.  ex "Wonder of Wonder, miracle of miracles"

    Top ten lessons learned, then paragraph explanation.  Ex "Free library is a contradiction in terms.  (fines b/c we ck out 30 bks at a time)  "If you take the cheapest flight, be prepared to find out why."

    Thank yous from our family devotions.  With little ones this is hilarious.  "Thank you for a good trip.  Thank you that we won the revolutionary war."

    -On a heavy travel year we copied a map with stars where we had been and short paragraphs telling about our travels.

    Best and worst of the year, and aspects of the year.  ex best and worst of working at home 😉 best field trips, best verses

    Once upon a time – a fairy tale about the King Queen and 5 children.  Story about disturbances in kingdom – too much water used for bathing, mysterious odors etc…  A sage is consulted and concludes castle is infected with adolescence.  Solution?  Time and 3 potions- Compassion Growth formula, Backbone Strenghthener, Sense of Humor.

    ABC’s of Christmas.  A word beginning with each letter and a one sentence explanation.

    "Our Space" done like a Myspace with a profile pic and description of each family member.

    -This year is questions heard around our house, with answers mom says or just thinks and keeps to herself. 😉

    What a fun walk down memory lane!!!  My favorites are the comics, Most Wanted and the fairy tale.  Some years are better than others 😉
    Submitted by Betsy

  • This is the third  year we have written letters – and it is a blessing to us -and hopefully to those we send the letters. We create 2 letters – one for our personal friends & family and another for our church family, since my husband is a pastor. Our church family sees us so regularly – we don’t feel the need to update them on what is happening with each of us. 

    We try to pick one of the Christmas Hymns – and put one verse of the hymn at the top, and then we use our introduction paragraph – to encourage thoughts of the true meaning of Christmas – based on the hymn we used. For example – this year we used the hymn, O Come all Ye Faithful – so we encouraged those reading our letter – to come and adore , and behold the Lord of lords.  We then pick out a verse of scripture related to the hymn, and have it at the bottom our letter.

    Our second paragraph is a personal note to personal friends & family about our family or to our church family we put a summary of the encouraging work of God in our church.  My husband then writes a handwritten note to each church member – and I take care of writing a personal note to our friends/family outside of church.

    We too enjoy receiving notes and even cards- when they have a personal note in them. Just thought I would send this . I am fairly new to Old Schoolhouse, but what a blessing it has been to me.  Thank You.
    Submitted by R&K

  • Our annual Christmas letter wraps up the year’s events in the form of a Dr. Seuss-inspired rhyme. It’s always really fun to put together, and now that our children are learning to rhyme words, it’s really become a family tradition!

    We’re recounting ’09, a year chockfull of blessings
    As we eat our fill of turkey and dressings.
    So how do we wrap up this year, grand and merry?
    Guess we’ll just start with the stuff back in January.

    Submitted by Brandy

    (This was a fabulous full page poem. I absolutely LOVED it, but didn’t want to give away her whole letter. ~Nancy)

  • In our Christmas letter, we always try to sum it up evangelistically.  We’ve taken all the time to write it, why not use it to try to draw others to Christ, or point them towards the "Reason for the season"?  I’m sure many of TOS readers are more eloquent and much better writers but examples from our past Christmas letters may better explain:

    1)  A church in the US found a valuable print by Albrecht Durer dated 1493 hanging in their chapel. The members could not believe they were unaware that it was there. What about us? Are we unaware of something valuable right under our noses? Jesus isn’t hiding. The truth that God came to earth is plainly announced in the Bible, reflected in our art, and in songs throughout history.  But we are still unaware of the significance of Christ’s birth.  This Christmas, join with the wisemen and shepherds. Give praise to Jesus, God who became Man. Wise men today worship not only the Child of Bethlehem but the Man of Calvary.

    2)  It is such a precious feeling when someone slips their hand in yours.  Old or young makes no difference.  That little bit of intimacy is unmatched.  How often do you reach up for your Heavenly Father’s hand?  He will never push your hand aside or refuse to take hold.  God’s hands are always there.  Just reach up and take hold.
    Submitted by Barbara

  • One year we did our family letter as a crossword puzzle that we made on one of the free sites online.  It was a big hit.
    Submitted by Kena

And here are some comments from The Old Schoolhouse Facebook page:

When I was 6 months pregnant–for our first child– our letter came from his point of view. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or girl, so we just said "Baby D". The next 2 years it also came from him. Friends and family loved it! It was a fresh take. Not just a letter from mom: "so and so did this, so and so did that". It’s become that in the past few years as my boys have grown. I’m determined this year to make it unique in some way again! Thanks for the inspiration! – Joie

We really had fun one year and sent out a Mad Lib as our Christmas letter! I included our e-mail address for people to send us their version of our Christmas letter with their words filled in, then I would send them the actual letter with the correct words. It was kind of a fun way to write about our family that year. I was thinking it might be fun to do it again! :o) – Yvonne

I don’t have the time or energy at Christmas, so I picked another holiday. We happened to choose Valentines Day. I figure people get lots of Christmas cards they don’t have time to read, so if I’… See Morem going to take the time to write it, I want somebody to have the time to read it. People are surprised and seem happy to get a Valentine’s card (We try to keep it short and sweet, but include a picture, greeting, some kind of thing we’ve learned to appreciate through the year, and keep it low on the boring details.) – Jennifer

I have to say my favorites are those that are ‘real’ and funny. I don’t like those that seem like mini resumes of accomplishments (bragging). I rather hear how the Lord has blessed a family/person than how advanced a reader a child is, but that is just my preference. With that said, my Christmas letter is not really a… See More letter at all but more of a newsletter. I call it The Santiago Fun-Times, and people always tell me they love getting it because it’s funny. I format it like a newspaper (one sheet, front & back) and have sections like The Sports Section (My husband is a coach) and ‘Arts and Leisure’ where I write real things about our family but in short articles. It’s fun to write & read & I need to get started on it. 😉  -Jasmine

We’ve done the newspaper format (with a variety of articles from different "reporters") as well as a "menu" outlining a smorgasbord of appetizers, entreés, and desserts from which our readers could "taste" a year’s worth of our family’s activities
. – Paula

We started doing Christmas letters the year after my oldest was born. That first letter was a simple summary of our year as a new family. We change it up every year. One year the highlights were summarized in a seasons theme (winter, spring, summer, fall). Another year, we did a top ten list. We did an acrostic of CHRISTMAS. Last year we did a multiple choice quiz and that was the one that got the most compliments so far. This year the theme was TWO because events in our lives were doubled. – Anna

I really appreciate you all taking the time to write in and share these awesome ideas. Readers on the FB page are already saying how much these suggestions have helped them!

Anyone else have a creative idea to share? Just leave it in the comments section!

Merry Christmas,

P.S. – You can still read The Homeschool Minute issue on  Christmas Letters if you haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet. The Familyman has some great things to remember when you’re writing your family’s Christmas letter.