Advent

Each year after the turkey has been consumed, Christmas goes up in our house. It felt appropriate that we put it up on the first day of advent this year.

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Our advent calendar is from Naptime Diaries.

Today I taught my 2nd and 3rd grade Children in Worship class about Advent and what the people in the Bible were waiting for. They didn’t know they were waiting for Jesus; they just knew they were waiting for someone to show them the way…someone to save them.

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I really, really love this time of year. Most of the year I consider my faith and understanding of it shaky at best. It’s so hard for me to believe because I am so very afraid. But that is maybe a different post. This time of year is all about hope.

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Hope for a better world and better people and better choices. Hope that it’s all true and that Jesus came and will come again.

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I don’t know where factual truth ends and where symbolic allegory begins. I don’t know what is historic or scientific. This time of year reminds me what faith is all about. Believing even though you can’t see with your eyes.

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The waiting time of Advent slows it all down. It forces me to reflect each day on what it must have felt like to wait and wait for a Messiah, because really, we are waiting for that now.

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I watch the news and see this world. I have felt loss and witnessed despair. But as we enter Advent, I remember that this is not it. This is not how it’s going to be forever.

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I am glad for this time of reflection and peace and tradition. I love to take this time to teach the kids about how love will always win.

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Plus this is our first Christmas as a complete family.

And that is pretty cool too.

The Keepsake I Don’t Have

If I could go back and change one thing, I would change what I chose from my Grandmother’s house after she died.

My maternal grandma, Grandma Jo, passed away from Alzheimer’s in January of 2001. After she passed and my mom and her sisters had gone through her things, the grandkids were allowed to go through before they had the estate sale.

It was the first time in a few years I had even been in my grandma’s house; she had been in nursing homes for some time. Nothing was where it should be. Everything was spread out because it had all been appraised and tagged for sale. My Grandma Jo was something of a pack rat.

Ok, she was totally a hoarder. The woman had lived through the Depression as a kid; she had lived on welfare after divorcing her useless husband. “Waste not, want now” was her motto. In fact, my mom often tells stories of having to wash bread bags so they could reuse them.

Her deep freeze was full. She lived alone.

We found jugs of prune juice that she had gotten from the welfare store when my mom was a kid.

She really never got rid of anything.

But that was also always the wonder of her house. She had so many interesting things packed away. As kids there were endless things to discover. Bur after she died, it was all hauled out into the open. How would I know where to start looking for anything? I hadn’t even thought about what I would want.

Almost 15 years later, I know exactly what I should have taken.

The holidays always remind me of my Grandma Jo. She is forever woven into Christmas for me: I hear her voice in Christmas carols, I taste her baking in the treats, I smell her perfume in church, I see her in the big, multi-colored lights on my Christmas tree.

On a Sunday after dinner, all my cousins, brothers, and I would get to help her decorate her way-too-fat-for-the-room Christmas tree. We danced around excitedly as she brought down boxes and boxes of ornaments, lights, and garland. An adult would string the lights–always multi-colored, mismatched, and tacky–and then wrap the tree in garland. Then it was our turn.

The first box would lose its lid and reveal balls and balls of napkins in which ornaments were hidden. Some fragile and antique, but most handmade and quite gaudy.

Oh they were wonderfully terrible! We would each open a napkin as if unwrapping a precious jewel and hold it high for everyone to see before placing it on the tree.

Grandma would get out other decorations too.

The one that I wish I had been able to get was by far my favorite. It was Christmas to me. Once Grandma had it out, it was Christmas. That was it.

It was a white plastic church that plugged into the wall. When switched on, a single clear Christmas light bulb illuminated the church, which had one stained glass (plastic) window. But the best part of this church? You could turn a small crank on the back to have it play “Silent Night”.

Every single Sunday leading up to Christmas I would crank that church. Christmas Even I would crank it many times until my mom told me to leave it alone.

What I wouldn’t give to have that plastic church.

I think of it every single Christmas and wish for my Grandma.

I bake all the treats she made. I decorate my tree in the tackiest way possible. I sing the Christmas carols. I put an orange in the toe of my kids’ stockings like she did for ours.

I don’t need the church to know she’s here, but I sure do miss her.

The Music of the Season {A Giveaway}

I think I’ve mentioned no fewer than a bazillion times that my boys love music.

This summer I received a Kidz Bop CD and Eddie has listened to it so many times I actually find myself preferring The Kidz Bop version of that Selena Gomez song “Come & Get It” than the Selena Gomez version. This is ridiculous because I shouldn’t like EITHER VERSION.

When I had the chance to review the Kidz Bop Christmas album, I jumped on that wagon super quick.

Last year Eddie listened to a Little People Christmas CD that was so bad I thought my ears were going to bleed. They voices were grating and the songs were just…

Let’s just say that CD accidentally broke in half.

What?

It was time for something new.

KB Christmas_2012_Cover_300dpi

The new Kidz Bop Christmas CD has fifteen songs and I’m only giving one the side-eye. “Christmas Wrapping” is just not my favorite song no matter who sings…er…”raps” it.

It does have some of my favorites though like “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and “Silver Bells”, and some of Eddie’s favorites like “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Must Be Santa”–which he knows every word to.

I know Cortney loves when Eddie and I start belting out “special night, beard that’s white…MUST BE SANTA, MUST BE SANTA, MUST BE SANTA, SANTA CLAUS!” You only WISH you were in the car when that happens.

Wait! You CAN be in the car when that happens…well, not in our car, but you can have the sing-along in your car.  All you have to do is enter to win a copy of your own!

Hit up the Rafflecopter widget below and warm up your singing voice!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. I was given a copy of Kidz Bop Christmas to review, but the opinions are all mine (and Eddie’s).

The 12 Questions of Christmas

I’m linking up with Elaine and Kir today for some Old School Blogging!  This month the questions all have to do with the holidays…something we are SO excited about here in Sluiter Nation.

First things first: 1 Holy Night or 8 Crazy Ones? (Do you Celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, both?)

We celebrate Christmas in Sluiter Nation, but we do it about eight times, so does that count as eight crazy nights? We are all about seeing as many of our friends and family as we possibly can this time of year while still getting some quiet, lovely time with just our family.

Peppermint or Chocolate?

If had to choose between the two, I pick chocolate, BUT because it’s CHRISTMAS many times they are combined which is one of my favorite things EVER!

Sing us into the Holiday Season, what is your favorite Carol this time of year?

I will admit that one of my favorite Christmas songs is one of the top most ANNOYING song for most people: Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time”. I don’t know if I love it because it’s catchy and so much of an earworm, of if I love it because it bothers everyone else. Either way, BOOM!  I also love John Lennon’s “So This is Christmas”. Maybe I just like the Beatles.
Tell us about a Favorite Family or Personal Holiday Tradition?

We actually have tons of traditions, but one of my favorites is making Christmas cookies with my family. Ever since I was small, my family has been doing it. It used to be a Sunday afternoon at my Grandma’s house with my aunts and all my cousins. When Grandma couldn’t do it anymore, my mom would do it at our house with me and my brothers. As we all started to get married, spouses came along and contributed. Then our kids. Now it is a full blown tradition! And we make a LOT of cookies.

cookies
C’mon you remember your favorite  (Christmas, Hanukkah) gift, tell us all about it:

I don’t really remember any particular Christmas present that stands out as BEST EVER. Although, nine years ago this month, my first nephew was born four days before Christmas.  That was a pretty awesome gift.
That magical moment? (Your favorite scene was a Holiday movie..it’s okay if you have 2)

All of the scenes in A Christmas Story. Best holiday movie ever. It is not even up for discussion.

Kissing under the mistletoe? Who do you hope is standing underneath(We know it’s normally your spouse, if it didn’t have to be, who would you choose?)

Even if it didn’t have to be, I would still choose Cortney every day ending in “y”. I know…cue the Mush Police, but it’s the truth, yo.

Swans a swimming, lords a leaping, golden rings; which gift of the 12 days of Christmas would you like most?

The only quiet thing on the list is the golden rings, so I’ll take those. If anyone gives me birds for Christmas I will put a bounty on their head.

Play Secret Santa, what inappropriate gift would you love to give this year?

I have a few students I would give the gift of modesty to.

Martha Stewart or the Grinch? What is your decorating style? (Pictures would be awesome!)

I would consider myself more like the family on A Christmas Story. I’m DEFINITELY not Martha Stewart and I’m not a Grinch. Christmas sort of vomits on our house.

decor
What is ONE WORD that defines the holiday season for you? (Examples: Believe/Wonder/Bah Humbug?)

Joy. Definitely Joy.

If Santa could assure its delivery, what’s the first thing on your CHRISTMAS LIST?

For myself, I would wish for a bigger house where I could have my own office/work room and more closet/storage space.  For others, I wish for one more day with some they love that has gone on to heaven.

 

What about you? Do you have the holiday spirit bubbling inside of you waiting to vomit all over your blog? Then come link up!


Christmas Without Words

Christmas Eve with Cort’s side of the family…

Christmas Morning in Sluiter Nation

Christmas Night at my parents’ house

We had an extremely blessed Christmas.

How was yours?

A Holiday Message from Sluiter Nation

Because we are sure to be too busy for pretty much anything other than stuffing our faces, laughing with family and friends, and opening and giving gifts over the next couple days, I wanted to leave you with a holiday message from Sluiter Nation.

Oh, and yes, Eddie yelling NO in the middle?  That is because he is a solo performer and was not allowing audience participation.

He’s a diva, what can I say.

He comes by it naturally.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you from all of us.

Love, Cort, Kate, Eddie and {coming in 2012} Baby Charlie

a very, very fine house

I was warned that building a Ginger Bread House with a toddler was a sure recipe for tantrums and frustration.

I was told to have zero expectations except that of a mess.

So I put the expectation bar on the floor.

And we proceeded cautiously.

waiting is the hardest part, so says Tom Petty

 

this is what the finished product should look like? hmmm...not likely.

 

moments after he yelled, "be ca-ful, mommy!" a thousand times while I frosted the roof for him.

 

as you can see, he wanted me to get in and out with that frosting and not fix a thing. Whatever you say, little dude. Also? He is probably giving me MORE instructions as I take this picture.

 

"hurry up mom, I don't have time for pictures. You need to bust out the red and green frosting already."

 

clearly tasting the "materials"

 

House Complete. Wait...that doesn't look much like the picture on the box. In fact...I thought there was more candy than that...

 

"I have no idea what you are talking about, mommy."

What I learned:

1. My toddler is a control freak.

2. He is more careful than most adults when it comes to placing candy on houses.

3. He would probably give his right foot for candy.

4. We can do crafty things without tantrums and freak outs.

What crafty things have you done to keep your kid from driving you crazy entertain your child(ren) this holiday season?

Sluiter Nation is Decked

There has been some getting Christmassy around these parts.

See?

Toddler Art...check

 

Toddler in antlers the Mall Santa gave him...check

treats made as a family...check

 

plans to make more treats...check

 

tacky lights all over the house...check

 

monsterously tacky star atop our tree...check

 

itty bitty 6 month old hand print hanging on the tree that brings tears to my eyes...check

 

98% of our Christmas shopping done, wrapped, and under the tree...check

 

snowman with s'mores...check

 

classic christmas movies on TV...check

 

Elvis...check

 

Jesus...check

 

and a blogger in a santa hat...CHECK!

 

And this is just the beginning.  Starting at 2:30 today (Friday), I am on break.

Let the overload of Christmassy Goodness begin!

So THIS is Christmas?

I don’t usually like to post about “hot topics,” but Galit convinced me a hot topic is better than no post at all.

Like most of my posts about “controversial” topics, this stems from something I saw on facebook.  It never fails.  This time of year brings out the copy/paste status updates that claim that Christians are under siege and that the government is out to de-christianize Christmas by making everyone use the phrase “Happy Holidays.”

This is one of those cut/past updates that caused me to “hide” quite a few people:

WHAT A CROCK ….. We can’t say Merry Christmas now …we have to say Happy Holidays. We can’t call it a Christmas tree, it’s now called a Holiday tree? Because it might offend someone. If you don’t like our “Customs” and it offends you so much then LEAVE …I will help you pack. They are called customs and we have our traditions …If you agree with this please post this as your status!! I AM …

Yesterday I saw this blog post (you may have to scroll to the exact post.  This site is actually blocked at school, so I can’t get you the exact link) and in turn, I shared it on facebook.

I knew I would catch some grief.  And to be honest, I don’t agree with everything the post says, but I do agree with the sentiment.

I believe that Jesus was more than just a “good guy,” however, I concur about the whole nonsense of people getting their panties in a bunch about semantics surrounding the holiday season.

It bothers me to think that people really believe that there is some sort of coup going on to destroy the Christian part of Christmas.

And to go so far as to call Christmas “ours” (um..whose? ) and that they are our “customs” (why is in this in quotes and again..whose customs?) and to call for people who don’t believe to “get out” (get out of where?  The USA?  But we have more than just Christians here…huh.), is simply not, well, Christian.

I could go on and on here giving you the history of Christmas.  I actually know quite a lot about it since I went through a very long doubting and questioning phase, but I’ll just give you the nitty gritty.

But what it boils down to is this:  December has been a month of holidays (yes, plural) for thousands of years. WAY before Christianity even existed.  In fact, Christians placed the celebration of Christ’s birth in December rather than when he was probably born (September or March) because there were already celebrations going on and this way they could justify all the celebrating.

In fact, Christmas celebrations became rowdy, drunken very immoral events throughout Europe and part of the “religious persecution” that Puritans came to the Americas to avoid was due to their disgust with how un-Christian and corrupt these practices became.  The Puritans did not celebrate birthdays or Christmas.  In fact it was outlawed.

Christmas celebrations went in and out of favor right through the American Revolution because Americans didn’t want to celebrate something that was British (since we were trying to find our own identity).

The actual revival of Christmas, which lead to Christmas as we know it, mostly had to do with Charles Dickens’ novel in the mid-1800’s, A Christmas Carol (which is where the phrase “Merry Christmas” came from).

Christmas didn’t become a “legal” holiday in the USA until close to the end of the 1800’s when the Christmas card was introduced.

Up until the twentieth century, with The Night Before Christmas  (which is where Santa first appeared as we think of him today), Christmas in the USA was small and religious.  It was with the re-introduction of pagan symbols as part of marketing that Christmas is what it is now.

Sooo…what does all that historical stuff mean?

Nothing if you are celebrating Christmas because you are celebrating the gift of love and hope to the world.

But what about the other “holidays”?

Well there is Kwanza (a strictly USA holiday started in the 60’s) and Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice.  People who celebrate Kwanza do not necessarily NOT celebrate Christmas.  Kwanza is a celebration of culture and community for African Americans.  Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday–and not necessarily their biggest (their new year, Rosh Hashanah, is actually bigger for most Jews), but has been made big by the media and marketing effects of the overall season of trying to be inclusive.  And the winter solstice is a collection of many holidays both pagan and religious from all over the world and in many cultures that happen around the same time in December.

What do ALL of these holidays have in common?  They celebrate a new hope.  New beginnings.  Something better for their culture/community/religion.

They celebrate a miracle of newness that brings hope and joy and goodness for this world.

Is it important to recognize that there are more holidays than just Christmas in December?  I think so.

Is it an attack on Christmas to recognize everyone?  No.

Nobody is forcing you to say “Happy Holidays!” I know I tend to say “Merry Christmas!” because that is what my family celebrates.

We focus on the birth of a baby that brought hope and joy and love to so many.

Do I get offended when Target tells me “Happy Holidays!” in their commercials?  No.  It IS the holiday season.  Some I celebrate (Christmas and New Years) and some I don’t.

But that isn’t the point.

The point is that we spread cheer and love and kindness.

The point is hope.

And my hope for you is a beautiful season filled with love and joy.  But mostly hope.

and just like that…it’s done.

Our Christmas started with fun and memories…

starting Christmas Eve off with a water fight with Granny

reading the Christmas story

Eddie helped uncle Cody

And daddy helped Eddie

we had so much fun opening gifts, snacking on treats, and playing euchre.

finally we dragged our tired bodies home around 11pm.

Eddie was up all night.

We were up all night.

Finally Eddie slept with us.

and then the phone rang at 7am.

Grandpa Sluiter had passed to heaven.

But it was still Christmas…

Opening gifts in Christmas jammies

camera bag!

Gussy!

so many new things!

our day was filled.

after our gifts we got ready and headed over to my grandparents’ house.

then it was home for a quick nap for ed and then to my parents’ house.

50 mm lens!

Eddie made my mom (and all the grandmas) ornaments

with all that was going on, we were pleasantly distracted by so many blessings.

but once we were home…

and eddie was in bed…

a quiet finality washed over us.

eddie using his new personalized stool

of course our little man was unaware.

He went about his morning today playing with all his new toys.

laughing and pointing at all the new items in the house.

but there was a feeling…

and end to something.

not just Christmas.

a fake tree next year, perhaps?

but to a life.

Grandma called to ask Cortney to be a pall bearer today.

and I packed up Christmas and put it away.

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