The season arriveth

And Christmas is here, at least in my heart.

I generally try to hold out until Thanksgiving, when the Macy's parade ends with Santa and I officially let myself listen to Christmas music. This year, though, the bug hit a bit early, because we were trying to get some Christmas stuff done this weekend so that we could give presents to folks we're seeing at Thanksgiving instead of having to give so much money to the USPS. I was wrapping things, trying to cross items off my Christmas 2008 spreadsheet, and I had the urge to listen to The Nutcracker. It started innocently enough. I then made some Praline Pecan Crunch to take with us, the yummilicious cereal snack mix stuff that I make every year... and once I started to nibble on it after it came out of the oven, I could no longer deny that Christmas is here. I had sound, smell, sight, touch, and taste all working on me at once.

I pulled out my foam holly berry stamp and painted on some acrylic paint to decorate one of the plainer gift bags I was using, and when I finished, I had some red and green paint left over in my little egg carton cups. I started looking around, thinking, "Hmm, what else can I stamp??" It's like when I'm making fried green tomatoes, and I have batter left over, so I start looking through the fridge and freezer and thinking, "Hmm, what else can I dip in batter and fry??" (We usually end up with a few onion rings and some fried mushrooms or zucchini as a result.) The answer for the stamping question, oddly enough, turned out to be aluminum foil. I only made two long sheets of it, since I didn't want to go completely overboard, but it was really fun, and it looks amazingly cool and shiny and will make a nifty wrapping for some small presents.

I'm going for a mostly handmade Christmas again this year, which is always important to me because it's so personal and allows me a creative outlet with a purpose. Kent is even helping out, though yesterday, he was less than enthusiastic about his role in the helping. We have to be careful to space out his "helping" sessions. But the results are worth it.

After church yesterday, I swung by our church's holiday table for presents to give needy families and kids, and I picked a little boy who needs PJs, socks, and underwear, and who wants some toy trucks and cars. I look around at Kent's room now and am reminded of how much he has, and I hope he grows up realizing the importance of giving to others, when our family has so much. We often feel like we never quite have enough money, but hello, he will always have more than enough PJs, socks, underwear, and toys. It's hard for me to imagine what it must feel like not to be able to provide those things for your kid. So we try to help, but we know we could always do more.

We're also trying to find a way to volunteer on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day, either at a soup kitchen or some other place in town that needs people. We're going to be just our little threesome until Mom and Bill come the week after Christmas, so we're planning to celebrate with church friends, but I also want us to give some of our time to people who need it. Perhaps a new holiday tradition is in the making.

Happy Thanksgiving week to everyone — treasure your families and your abundance of food, and have a wonderful start to your holiday season.

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You're so lucky your family enjoys the handmade things you've thought about and made...my in-laws are more into the things you can buy mass-produced; the ones that pillage your pocketbooks.
About those home made presents-- As Grandpa and Grandma were cleaning out the back bedroom, I came across the kitties you made, and I was thankful there were two. When cousins come to play, they can each have one. The kitties will soon be moving from alone on the bookcase into the company of other toys, waiting for little people. So looking forward to seeing you. I'll stand in line for the Kent kisses. Hey, Jack and I used to sing O Christmas Tree in July. And like you, I'm baking to share, too. Thank you. Love you.
Volunteering on Christmas is a great tradition to start. However, in case you find that it becomes too much, I've been told (and now I can't remember who told me) that soup kitchens and the like often have plenty of volunteers on days like Thanksgiving or Christmas when people are thinking about giving, but come up short other times (may be the month of January, for example) when people get back into their regular routine. As a result of this information, combined with a general desire to see only family that I get around the holidays, I plan to take our kids to volunteer at places during the less obvious times.
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