Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Less Than 100 Days!!!

As you will see by the date below, I started this entry several days ago. Being busy with homeschool coursework and the support of Katherine the Great in her opera internship, I haven't had time to write. Now that I am sitting in my car outside the local dance studio, I thought I would finish this off and get it posted.

Today (9/16/08) marks exactly 100 days until Christmas. Given that the United States is coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Ike and the fallout from yesterday's financial news (the collapse of Lehman Brothers), I am guessing that most Americans haven't thought about the holidays yet. I have...and so has my young friend, Alexia, who works at a local restaurant. We both purchased our first Christmas gifts this week. I wasn't planning to start my holiday shopping this early, but one of the regulars on my gift list let slip the smallest of clues about something she wanted and would never expect to receive. Fortunately, the item was available online for a reasonable price, so I bought it and had it shipped to the house. It is already labeled and queued up for wrapping in the storage box at the end of my bed.. This year, I have decided to wrap my gifts as they arrive/are purchased in an effort to avoid that mad rush of wrapping toward the end when I would rather be baking or enjoying the company of family and friends.

Later...OK. So, obviously, I wrote that before the proposed bailout of AIG (American International Group). I am now thinking that many Americans, rather than not thinking about Christmas at all because it is too early, may actually be looking ahead to Christmas with a feeling of apprehension. I know I am beginning to consider a scale back plan, one that is a bit more radical than my original scale-back plan. One tool that is helping in this area: the Family Values Worksheet. Check it out at Here are some of my answers (see below). I also started working on a Master Gift List to see where I can conserve on my holiday gift-giving.

So, what you are doing to prepare for the holidays?

What went well for your family last year?

I would say that the positives for Christmas 2007 were
- the early completion of gift shopping
- the financial ability to give generously to our friends and family members
- timely shipping of distance gifts to Florida and Minnesota family and friends
- an easy Christmas meal that was delicious and prepared ahead, especially breakfast
- my success at getting the Advent wreath set up, even though I was unable to stay on track with daily devotions

What stresses did your family face? Were there too many activities on the calendar?

Stressors during Christmas 2007:
- Hubby traveled for work until the week before Christmas
- we put up and decorated the Christmas tree very late
- some in the household had minor illnesses that slowed our holiday preparations a bit
- we had an extremely full calendar of music performances

While the latter did add more stress than most families endure during an average holiday season, what with a cantata at church and four or five handbell concerts, the rewards of celebrating with many different people in many different venues are well worth the effort.

Was your family spiritually invigorated by the holiday celebration? Did you participate in appropriate worship, service, or giving activities?

This is a difficult question to answer for the other members of my family; however, I can answer if for myself. I felt spiritually renewed. Kate and I did some Advent devotionals at home and the entire family attended Christmas Eve service for a cantata (Kate was performing). I did a short Crossways International Bible study on the "real" story of Christmas. It was great because I learned a lot about some of the Middle Eastern traditions, etc. that are not generally understood in the "traditional" Christmas story as told in America.

As for our giving, we donated to Samaritan's Purse by making an Operation Christmas Child shoebox.

What would you have done differently last year?

I would have done the same thing I should have done every year --- decluttered my house!!! That said, I also would have:
- picked up the Christmas tree a few days earlier
- done more holiday cookie baking ahead of time
- done more freezer meals ahead of time
- purchased a small chest freezer to hold the "do ahead" food
- actually written Christmas cards and sent them (which I haven't done for several years)
- made more of a point to get together for dinner with friends (which depends on my house being decluttered)

If we could only do three things to celebrate Christmas, what would they be?

- tree tagging & decorating
- gift giving (small scale, if necessary)
- Advent devotionals

- tree tagging & decorating
- gift giving
- Christmas menu item: baked eggs

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