Saturday, December 6, 2008

Deer Sightings

There was not a lot accomplished today. The tree has been up in the stand since we picked it up Wednesday evening, and Joe keeps asking when is it going to be decorated, but I told him it would have to be when everyone was around to help or at least watch. It really looks good and smells so good even without trimming. Martha Stewart says that you need to pick up your tree and decorate it during the third week of December, so I know I am ahead of her game. She does suggest that you decorate during the second week.

Trying to keep caught up with work has been a much more difficult challenge. There is always something on the list to do, and there is never a time when it is all caught up. I have two parent meetings next week and a couple of deadlines for testing that I need to prepare for as soon as possible. I think I can. I think I can. Well it is not going to all get caught up this weekend as I didn't even put a dent in any of my work tasks today.

Joe's deer hunting has finally proved successful as we now have a deer hanging in the shed waiting for processing. He still has another tag, so will continue going out until he gets it filled or the season runs out.

Today's countdown surprise was the book, "The Wild Christmas Reindeer", by Jan Brett. She has some other favorites for this time of year such as "The Mitten", "The Hat", "Gingerbread Baby", "Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve", "The Trouble with Trolls", "Christmas Trolls", "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and "The Night Before Christmas". She also has a Christmas Treasury with many of these stories in it. My kids spend a long time looking at the details of her illustrations on each page of each story book. Her latest books are "The Three Snow Bears" and "Gingerbread Friends".

Friday, December 5, 2008

Another Bell?!!

The bell theme continued tonight as Daniel opened the next countdown package. Inside was the book, "The Polar Express", written by Chris Van Allsburg. Daniel had taken a bell to school for show-and-tell today, inspired by the Old Lady book last night. He wants to take it back to school Monday. Raymond and Daniel listened to the story and then, since it was Friday night, we watched The Polar Express movie.

What's Left? and The Cookie Ribbon Tradition

My checklist is not as long as it has been in years past at this time. It is so nice to have much of my shopping finished, and by the end of the weekend the decorating will be finished as well. I was hoping to shop with Joe this weekend, but I think that the hunt for deer will continue for some days to come. Maybe we can get out Saturday evening with the little boys. I usually shop at least once with my sisters, but we don't have anything planned this year.

Shopping online has been a wonderful experience for me, and nearly all that I ordered has already arrived to be wrapped, and the last package is due to arrive tomorrow. I have made a list of the few remaining items and will need to go out tomorrow to finish my shopping. The little boys need to go out to get shopping done this weekend as well.

I am going to pace myself to do some of the wrapping every day or so and have it finished up next weekend.

I did write our family Christmas letter, and still need to get the boys' school pictures ready to go out with the Christmas mail. That should not take long. I hope to have them all in the mail on Monday.

Next weekend, on Saturday, the cookie ribbon Christmas countdown begins. The history of the cookie ribbon in my family began when I was probably nine. We each got a long wide ribbon with a poem on top, a bell on the bottom and a dozen cookies in between. I think they were vanilla wafers the first year, and something equally as simple until we were a bit older and my Mom baked pinwheels, snickerdoodles and a couple of other types of cookies that were just the right size (they must be small in diameter) to fit on our ribbons.

My boys have had cookie ribbons for many years. Theirs are made from Christmas print fabric ribbons. I am probably only going to make one for each of the little boys this year as the other three are in their twenties now. The poem reads:

December 13th 'til Christmas
Is the longest time of year.
It seems as though Old Santa
Will never appear.
"How many days 'til Christmas?"
It's mighty hard to count.
So this cookie ribbon
Will tell you the exact amount.
Take off a cookie every night
As the sandman casts his spell
And Christmas Eve will be here
By the time you reach the bell.

I try to have several varieties of cookies on the ribbons, so we will be baking later this week, and Saturday for sure. I like to have the ribbons on the wall before dinner time on December 13th, but it is nice to have fresh cookies on them as the last few are on there for over a week. I wrap each cookie individually and tie it onto the ribbon with yarn.

Here is a sample of a cookie ribbon before the cookies go on. I reuse the ribbons each year, or for at least as long as they look nice. (See the comments for this post for measurements.)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Swallowing Bells?!!

Okay, Daniel has figured out we are opening books every night. Raymond got to open the package tonight and in it was the book, "There was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Bell!" It is a new book the boys had never had read to them, so they were excited that there was something new to this countdown surprise. Reading the book is always fun, too.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hunting Day

Today is opening day for deer hunting season so we had family members up before dawn dressing in orange and spraying dirt scent on themselves. After the hunters and people who went to school or work returned home in the early evening, our family went hunting for a Christmas tree. We were much more successful with the tree hunt than the guys were with the deer.

If you have ever heard of fishing excuses (you know, the stories about why the big one got away), then you will understand the reasons we have heard about why we do not have a deer waiting to go into the freezer. The scheduled hunting "spot" had been taken by someone that did not belong there, so they had to find alternate spots and by that time the morning was nearly gone. The bullets were duds and so the rifle didn't fire properly. There were more excuses, but I think that you can comprehend the conversations that will be continuing until the two tags are attached to deer waiting to be processed into steaks, roasts and ground into venison-burger.

It was 28 degrees F as the seven of us went out into the cold on the hunt for the perfect tree for our great room. We stopped off first for a dinner at China Buffet and then on to the tree lot. We looked through a couple hundred possibilities and settled, after Danny had made at least a dozen laps through the lot, many of our finger tips turned numb and all noses were red from the frigid air. Danny said he was going to pick the tree, but I don't think he stopped long enough to help make any decision. He liked them all. The rest of the family looked at me to be the tree expert, so I let them know the types of trees we had picked in the past and why they would or would not work for us. We selected a Balsam Fir tree that was at least a foot taller than what we needed, but it was full and we could cut off the bottom to make it fit into the corner we had cleared for it at home. The tree was tossed into the back of the truck and then we headed home to set it up. Tree trimming will be this weekend, as the tree needs some time to fully unfold after being wrapped and shipped to Kansas.

When we got home the boys opened their newest countdown package. Inside was a book. "The Biggest, Most Beautiful Christmas Tree". It is actually one of Rick's books, and Rick and the little boys listened in as I read tonight before the boys went to a late bedtime.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Cozy Blizzard

Raymond had the honor of opening the package labeled "Open Dec. 2 ~ 23 more sleeps until Christmas". Tonight's surprise story is The Christmas Blizzard by Helen Ketteman. It is a tall tale that I bought through Scholastic several years ago and we also have a cassette tape with the old man telling the story of the Christmas of '22 when he was a boy. Tonight we listened to that tape while looking at the book. They are predicting snow tomorrow in our forecast.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pages Turning

We are on the last page of the 2008 calendar. Daniel turned the page as soon as he got out of bed this morning. This has been his job since last spring when he started watching the days. He tells me about past events now by telling me the number that was on the calendar when something happened. We went out to eat at the China Inn on 2 and we had a day off from school on 26.

I read somewhere over the weekend about the idea of wrapping up 24 books and having your child open one book each evening from December 1st until Christmas Eve. I have more than that many Christmas themed story books on hand, so I thought Daniel would really enjoy it as we have been doing the traditional story time before bed each night. I used three different colors of wrapping paper and wrote a short message on a post it note tag on each. It took about 20 minutes to get them all wrapped and into the basket. The little boys didn't see the basket until this morning and were excited to open their package (book). They were both wanting to open it as soon as I came in the door this afternoon. I made them wait until dinner was finished. I will make them wait until bedtime tomorrow night, but I had to go out to a PTO meeting this evening so we did it earlier. Raymond read the tag (Open on Dec. 1 ~ There are 24 days until Christmas) and Daniel opened the first package. I have the rest of the packages in a flat basket on top of the game cabinet in the dining room. Inside tonight's package was Eric Carle's Dream Snow. Raymond was kind of put out that it was just a book, and one that we had packed away last year at that, but Daniel did not lose any enthusiasm. Raymond was right with us as we settled in to read together. Although he reads a lot on his own, he still enjoys me reading to or with him. The boys are not sure what is in the rest of the packages. Raymond asked me if there was another book, but I told him that he would have to wait until tomorrow. He gets to open the next package tomorrow night.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Good-bye November

There are just 25 days until Christmas. There is snow on the ground, which has been a great thrill for the boys, and for Daniel especially. The boys went out to catch snowflakes last night before bed and then played in the snow today. The snow was pretty wet, so it made some good snowballs. They cleaned off the patio furniture and then made paths in the snow in the yard. Oh, and they did get to sip on cocoa when they came in to get warmed up.

The major part of my Christmas shopping is done. I put the last order in yesterday. I just have a few things to pick up for my team at work and the boys' school gifts and then just a few small finishing touches that are more fun to do when shopping. The little boys also need to shop for their brothers, so Joe or I will take them out to do that soon. I have had plenty of years where I waited until December weekends and more often I had waited until my Christmas break to do the bulk of my shopping. Last year's ice storm knocked out a lot of my shopping time as we spent two weeks before Christmas dealing with electricity and heating issues, so I wanted to make sure that being unprepared with shopping was not repeated this year. Two years ago I had all of my big shopping done the first week of December, but I procrastinated on the finishing touches and the wrapping until my break. I know I don't want a repeat of that either.

Still on my to do list:
( )Finish up Christmas cards
( )Order pictures online
(X)Wrap 24 Christmas themed books so that the little boys can unwrap 1 book each night to read until Christmas as a countdown
(X)PTO agenda for meeting this week
(X)Let family know about plans to pick up tree Wednesday evening
( )Plan for cookie baking
(X)Check calendar for parties and programs