December 28, 2012

He Never Stood A Chance

Being the last one in the shower means you never know what you might find.  No soap, wet towels or even a duck surrounded by dinosaurs.  

The joy of having boys!  There's never a dull moment or a lack of laughter.

December 25, 2012

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

For a month we have complained about the unseasonably warm temperatures.   It's hard to decorate the Christmas tree when the kids are playing outdoors barefoot and you have to toss the comforters off the bed every night.
 Just Sunday we lamented the fact that it appeared Christmas would come and go without even one tiny bit of snow.  Christmas Eve dawned with sunshine and lots of preparations for our holiday celebrations and lots of whining about how we NEEDED snow.
But just when we had given up all hope...

 There was a flake... and then another.  They got bigger and larger until our hope was fulfilled.
 And isn't that just like Christmas itself?
 
"Just when we needed it most, Christmas came to the world."

December 24, 2012

The Top Ten of Christmas

I am just sitting here in the dark by the Christmas tree.  Christmas music plays on the radio.  The youngers are in bed and the big girls are reading and painting finger nails with Christmas glitter.  I was thinking about how much I love this time of year and why.  It's so hard to narrow it down so this is not in any specific order and really might not necessarily be my ten favorite things about Christmas but rather ten things I really love about this season.

1.  Christmas Cards.  I love to send them.  I love to receive them.  I like to write letters anytime of the year but people don't usually write back.  Oh, but December!  December is different.  Everyday from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve there's guaranteed to be an actual letter in the mailbox and we can usually count on some great photos, too.  And this odd little fascination must be contagious.  I truly don't know who gets more excited about Christmas cards.  Me or the children.  We display them through the month of December.  About ten years ago we started the tradition of taking one card a day starting in January and praying for the sender.  We then write them and let them know we did so and let them know what we prayed for.
2.  Christmas lights.  I love the warmth of Christmas lights.  On the tree, swags over the windows and down the steps and even a little battery powered strand adorning Emma's dollhouse.  It is so hard for me to pack up the lights in January and settle into the cold darkness which comes with a Maryland winter.  The greatest of all the lights might just be the kids exterior light display.  Unbeknownst to our wonderful neighbors, who have quite a lovely setup, the girls entered into a competition several years ago to have more lights than they do.  Brianna was quite in a lather on Thanksgiving night when the B's lights came on and she hadn't even gotten hers out of the attic.  The display gets bigger and grander each year covering not only the bushes and house but also the kids train in the back yard.  Last year they added synchronized Christmas music to the show.  You could not believe how excited they get when people stop to check it out.  Probably their greatest thrill this Christmas season was when a fuse blew and a neighbor wrote to praise their lights and share her disappointed over the lack of music.
3.  Christmas cookies.  Peanut butter blossoms.  Thimble cookies.  Gingerbread men. Krinkles.  Sugar cookies.  What's not to love?  I love baking them.  I love smelling them.  I love tasting them.  I love watching the kids delight as they sprinkle a cookie within an inch of its life.  Most of all, I love sharing them with friends and neighbors.
And gingerbread houses.  This has been a learning experience for us over the years.  The children's efforts have certainly become grander and grander each Christmas and this year they really outdid themselves.  Yours truly, however... well, I am just happy if I can get my four walls and roof to stay up.  You can read more about gingerbread houses in this post.

4.  Ornaments.  Each year from their birth we add a new ornament for each child to our tree.  When they marry they will have a collection of memories to start their own Christmas traditions.  Some years we make them.  Some years we buy them at the Hallmark store.  Some years we choose them while traveling.  Each and every one has a special memory.  There is literally no branch uncovered on our tree.  The tree tells a story of our family.  One for the year we first celebrated Christmas as a couple.  One for the year we were married.  One for the birth of each of our children.  Our first home.  Our baby in heaven.  Special ornaments from trips to the beach, traveling abroad, Disney World.  There are even a few from when Allen and I were kids.  My children love to hear the story of how I picked at the corner of a tiny present to see what was inside... only to be disappointed when I realized it was just a piece of Styrofoam   Many loved ones add ornaments to our tree now.  Opening the boxes each year is like turning the pages of our scrapbooks as we remember the places and people represented in each trinket.  The younger kids love to hear the stories of how each ornament came to be on our tree.

5.  Music.  I talked about this a bit already in another post.  But what I didn't mention was how much I enjoy it when sometime around October the regular piano books are switched out for Christmas books. It is common for us to spend some time in the evenings sitting at the piano while the girls take turns playing for us as we sing some of our favorite carols.  We also try to find an opportunity to go caroling each Christmas.  One year the girls organized a caroling party with the young ladies from church.  That was so much fun.
6.  Beautifully wrapped packages. Well, I try anyway.  I've never been able to master the artistic ability my mother and siblings have for gift wrap.  But I hold my own and figure most people are so excited by what might be inside that they don't pay much notice to the wrapping.   Each child and I have an afternoon we spend together in the basement wrapping their gifts for others.  I am usually the official paper cutter.  I love to watch them as they work so diligently to make each wrapping special for the receiver by choosing just the right paper, bow, ribbon and label.

7.  The food.  Italian Christmas food is the best of the best.  All the special dishes we eat only at Christmas not only have special memories but also are just simply that delicious.  You can keep the marinara give me some Baccala salad if you please.
8.  Christmas books.  From The Night Before Christmas to The Christmas Carol and everything in between.  We read a different story, or more, every night by the light of the Christmas tree.  Our favorite is reading Luke 2 on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  The kids have read it so much they can recite it to me and that is the best of all... hearing their voices in unison sharing the poetry of the King James account of the Lord's nativity.  Music to my ears.

9.  The Creche.  We have a number of manger scenes.  There is a fine porcelain one with gemstones, a carved wooden one and even a little people one the kids love to play with.  This year Allen and the boys made a ceramic one into a beautiful advent wreath using a piece of wood from one of our lost trees as the base.  The boys built a manger to go in the center out of sticks they gathered from the yard.  Each night we follow my mother's tradition of preparing it for baby Jesus by adding a piece of straw for each act of serving or kindness we witness in another family member.

10.  Advent Calendars.  This tradition started on Kaitlin's first Christmas and is something the kids look forward to every night of December.  Except that we usually get behind because they like to do it together.  Some nights Allen and I aren't home at bedtime because of our weekly date and our Monday night classes.  Our last day usually comes somewhere around New Year's Eve.

 Do tell me.  What do you LOVE about the Christmas season?

December 23, 2012

Christmas Musical Celebrations

Music is so important to our family, especially at Christmas time.  Come November 1st the kids breathlessly await the beginning of Christmas music on our local radio station.  We also lament that they stop playing it at midnight on Christmas Day.  Of course we could just put on our CD's or the iPods and hear Christmas music as much and as long as we'd like and we wouldn't even have to hear Moriah Carey sing "All I Want For Christmas Is You."  But there is something special when the music is coming from the radio.

I think it has to do with the idea that people spend months waiting for Christmas.  Come July there are Christmas decorations in the stores.  Then society spends Thanksgiving to Christmas in a frenzy getting ready for the holiday.  The whole time griping and complaining about how much they have to do and how miserable they are.  When all the work is done, the preparations made and you can finally just relax and bask in the light of our Savior everyone stuffs their faces, opens their presents, and moves on to the next thing come December 26th.  The radio station is just a picture of our sad modern society.  On December 14th Emma Rose and I went Christmas shopping.  There were no Christmas wraps or decorations to be had.  In their place were Valentine's day goods.  

December is a very busy time for our family.  With three finals on top of all our regular activities there is much happening around Wachter World.  I try to keep the schedule as light as possible not even making appointments for checkups or tending to other business that can wait until after January 1st in hopes that we can go slow and enjoy this wonderful time of year.  Yes, one of these days I need to bite the bullet and make my way to motor vehicles to renew my driver's license.  But it can wait until January 2nd.  We do try to make lots of time for visiting with friends and  work in Christ centered celebrations of the holiday.  

We kicked off the Christmas season with a classical concert of flutes.  I've never been to a concert with all flutes so it was quite a new experience.  Samuel was excited to have his first gingerbread man of the  season at the post concert party.

While we were at Epcot the first week of December we were able to see the Candlelight Processional.  It was rather surreal sitting in a place where it was 80 degrees and surrounded by commercialism totally devoid of the Lord and hearing so clearly the beautiful story of our Saviors Nativity and a clear account of the Gospel message of the cross.  But there it was clear as day.  I found myself looking at the hundreds of people performing and listening to the incredible concert and wondering to myself, "HOW CAN THEY NOT GET IT???" The musicians and choir were both exquisite and the girls were delighted to see Andy Garcia, who was the guest narrator for the night.  An added bonus was at various scriptures Mr. Garcia would first read in English and then translate in his native tongue.  I've never heard Spanish sound lovely.  True to Disney form, even the sign interpreter was so beautiful and poetic.  I was very blessed watching her as she performed the various musical selections from "O Holy Night" to the "Hallelujah Chorus."

Typically, as soon as we return from the beach in October our church is in full swing for weekly practices of our Christmas Cantata.  This year things were a lot different for us and for our church.  Our Pastor decided to try something different.  As a result much of the program was trial and error.  To make matters more complicated Allen had spent all year planning a surprise trip for the family.  He intentionally chose the first week of December because the program has historically been around the middle of the month.  However, when November rolled around our Pastor chose the 9th.    Since we were traveling, our kids didn't even get their parts until a few days before the cantata and were not present for even one rehearsal.  They practiced and perfected their scripture memory while we were away.  We returned after a 16 hour drive very late the night before the actual show.  The next morning not only were we exhausted but the kids were surprised to hear they would be singing couple of songs.  They knew the music well enough but not being at any practice it was amusing watching them try to figure out where and when to be.  But it came off beautifully and as always it was a huge blessing to us and to the many guests present.

I don't have even one picture of this evening since I was occupied from the time I arrived until the time we left with the many visitors who joined us.  You'll have to take my word for it that the program was beautiful, the kids looked great, the fellowship was delightful and the food delicious.

While technically not a Christmas celebration, Allen and I remember our anniversary on the 20th of December.  We usually go to dinner and find a performance of something or another for the evening.  We've done lots of neat things over the year from going to DC to see the National Christmas tree, performances of the Christmas Carol and A Christmas Story, local dinner theater, and even just staying home and eating carryout and watching It's a Wonderful Life in our pajamas.  One year we had a blizzard and cancelled our theater tickets for the night to go sled riding.

This year he suggested a concert performance of Handel's Messiah.  This is one of my favorite pieces of music and it has many sweet Christmas memories for me.  Allen is not a fan of classical music and  has never been to a performance of The Messiah so it was all new to him.  (He loved it, by the way).  When I was a girl I remember going with my father, always the weekend of Thanksgiving, to hear the Naval Academy perform this piece with the choir of Hood College.  Tickets being way too expensive for our crew, one of the things I do now with the kids is to get up a few hours early one day and have cocoa and coffee by the light of the tree while we listen to the Messiah performed by the London Philharmonic.  They all enjoy it very much but Elisabeth particularly loves this music and will often ask me to play it for her.  The other day while she and I were home alone wrapping Christmas presents we listened to it three times through.

I love to hear about other's Christmas traditions.  So I am wondering how do you make time for Christ in the Christmas season and what role does music play in your celebration?

December 21, 2012

And Then There Are The Chickens

... we are chicken keepers.  We have always wanted to get chickens and give the boys a little taste of farm life.  We took classes.  We read books.  We watched videos and listened to CDs but we never quite had the time to build the coop.

But God must have thought it was time.  Listen to this neat story of how he worked out the details.  We live at the intersection of two roads.  Over the years we have made a point of getting to know our neighbor on our road a mile or more in both directions.  But because of the dangerous road that parallels ours we've never knocked on many doors to our east.

When the weather is nice, I like to have my morning devotions outside in the garden.  Sometime last spring we noticed this very odd noise had come to our neighborhood.  We knew it was some sort of animal but could not figure out what it was.  We thought some sort of poultry but it was not like any we'd ever heard before.  As the summer progressed, it seems the critter matured and so did his voice.  It became evident somewhere around July that it was a rooster.

Well, right about the time we were packing for vacation in September a neighbor from over the hill came to our door.  Mr. C.  had some eggs to share with us.  As we got to talking he told us he had been keeping chickens since spring and he had quite a brood.  If we ever wanted eggs he said just knock on his door.  We explained we'd been wanting to get chickens for some time but hadn't been able to build our hen house yet and in exchange for eggs we'd be grateful for any experience he could share with our boys.

A short time later Mr. C. called and said he built a new coop and would we like his old one.  We said we'd be glad to buy it from him and that when we got back from vacation we'd work out the details which would be nice so we could get things set up to take in chickens come spring.

When we got back from vacation Mr. C called again and said he would need to have surgery and wouldn't be able to care for his hens.  We offered to do it for him since he could tell us what to do and he could watch to make sure the boys did it right.  He said no that while we were away he had made the decision to get rid of them for the winter and he had struck a deal to sell them to someone else.  However, he told the lady who was taking them that she couldn't have them until we took all that we wanted.

So he helped Allen and the boys set up the hen house and the run.  He gave them feed and dishes and water containers.  Then he insisted each child pick a hen.  So in the back of our suburban sat 8 kids each holding a chicken.  And if you don't think that is hilarious, I don't know what is.  In the end he also insisted on giving (yes, giving, he would not take one penny for anything) us the big house he had built also.  We are loving having fresh eggs each day and I love watching the kids with their brood.  It is hilarious how much the chickens love the kids and how much the kids love them.  The boys are up and out there before dark every single day.  They have them tamed and trained and will play with them for hours.
Sam and Tom Swift.  (Don't you love that he has a boy name?)

And they are very useful, too.  We put them lose in our vegetable garden after we canned the fall crops and they cleaned it up beautifully.
Left side: Camilla (black and white in front) Margie (black)
Right side:  Philadelphia Chicken (black and white), Violet Crawley (black) Lady Cluck (Black and Gold) 

And they are very useful, too.  We put them lose in our vegetable garden after we canned the fall crops and they cleaned it up beautifully.  Of course, we love having a fresh supply of eggs every day and even extras that we can bless others with.

We have lots of laughs over the chickens, too.  The first morning we had them several got lose when over excited Elisabeth went looking for eggs.  The whole family chased them around the yard for nearly an hour before we could coax them back in.  They are so tame now it is not a problem since they follow the boys where ever they go.  But I must admit that first day, before we'd even had coffee, I was beginning to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into.

And I will leave you with that.  Considering how our good Lord meets the needs of our family and gives us the desire of our hearts through the life of a stranger.  And how he provided us with the opportunity to share the Gospel with someone we wouldn't have met otherwise.  Someone, who incidentally, has since joined us for worship.

That and me, before makeup and coffee, trying to bribe a couple of chickens with a banana.  We sure went through a lot of bananas that day!

Dantes (Red) Philly (Black and White)

Jenny!!!

Jenny Z.  I tried to reply to your email and it bounced back saying your box was full.  Let me know how else I can contact you.

Hugs,

Kat

December 12, 2012

A Stitch in Lives Giveaway Winner!

Art's Chili Pepper is very pleased to announce that the winner of the giveaway sponsored by A Stitch in Lives is number 2...

...

...Bree from Tea and Bree!

Congratulations, Bree! You have the choice of either any wristlet from A Stitch in Lives wristlet page or a custom wristlet. To claim your prize email your choice to Kaitlin at contact@astitchinlives.com.