Monday, December 29, 2008

singing in church

On December 21, Sarah's Sunday school class (along with some of the older classes) sang two songs in the church services. You may remember last year's singing performance. The children sang loudly, enthusiastically, and off-pitch. Sarah and another girl got in a tussle over the microphone. And so on.

It wasn't quite as dramatic this year. A few weeks before the big day, I was given a CD with the two songs so that Sarah and I could practice at home. Sarah took her duty of learning the songs very seriously, and we listened and sang along with that CD so many times that I was ready to burn the CD! The first song, "Happy Birthday, Jesus," was pretty easy for Sarah to learn. The lyrics were simple and straightforward. Song number 2, titled "Glory to God in the Highest," was a bit more difficult. The words were hard for her to understand. Since she wasn't really certain what the lyrics of the song meant, she had a harder time learning them.

But as I said, for whatever reason, Sarah took to heart that she needed to learn these songs. And so we kept practicing. Finally, the day of the performance rolled around. The children did their normal good job, singing loudly and sincerely and not necessarily in key. Sarah was on the front row, looking very serious, but singing every line. The girl next to her (the same one she fought with over the microphone last year) stood swishing her skirt while she sang. But Sarah ignored all distractions, determined that she would do these song "right."

She did well enough that the head of Kids' Community commented that she was one of the few who really knew the words, so I guess all of our practice (and her solemn attitude) paid off. Nelson was able to capture video of the performance. If you would like for him to try to get a copy of the video to you, please leave a comment, or email either me or him.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

much ado about Christmas carrots

Since I have already blogged about Santa, I'm sure no one will be surprised that Santa is a part of our family's Christmas tradition and that we planned to have Santa visit Sarah on Christmas Eve. I spent much of December trying to find out what Sarah wanted Santa to bring her for Christmas. However, Sarah is in a stage where she wants what she sees in front of her in the store at that moment, but as soon as we leave the store she's over it and it's forgotten. While this is helpful in that we don't hear continued whining about an item after we've left the store, it does mean that Sarah doesn't really have a long-term wish list.

I was beginning to feel comfortable with the idea that Santa was just going to have free reign to bring Sarah whatever he chose. How easy for him to choose whatever he wished to fill her stocking!

And then...IT happened. Sarah decided exactly what she wanted from Santa. And she picked a doozy! She declared that she wanted Santa to bring her Christmas carrots.

The problem? No one was exactly sure what Christmas carrots are.

So I asked some questions. "Christmas carrots? What are Christmas carrots?"

Sarah looked at me disdainfully. "They're vegetables!"

Okay...maybe she was talking about the baby-cut carrots we sometimes used for dipping in guacamole or hummus. "So they're the carrots we use to dip?"

You could almost see Sarah roll her eyes. "No. They're Christmas carrots. They're blue, and they come with stickers!"

Blue carrots?? With stickers?! Now I was truly confused. I pondered for awhile. Normally, even if Sarah says something that sounds completely crazy, if I think on it long enough I can see where she's coming from and how it makes sense in her mind. But this time I was completely stumped.

I tried to dig for information again. But this irritated Sarah. After all, she insisted, I didn't need to know what the Christmas carrots were! Santa could take care of it! (Something tells me Santa may be somewhat short-lived at our house. Sarah can't be outsmarted). I did at least get her to tell me where she had seen the Christmas carrots: at Wal-Mart, of course!

Blue Christmas carrots from Wal-Mart...Nelson and I discussed back and forth for a few days, but we were getting nowhere. We began to worry that Santa was going to strike out, even though Sarah is only four!

So Tuesday of this week, I had my final idea. If this didn't work, we were going to be out of luck. But we had to try one last time to solve this mystery of the Christmas carrots. Nelson ended up being off of work, and I wanted to take Sarah to the mall to see Santa and have her picture made with him. Before the picture though, I wanted her to get a haircut. It just so happens that we usually have Sarah's hair cut at Wal-Mart. So off we went to the Super Center. Casually I mentioned to Sarah as the stylist worked, "Since we're going to visit Santa after this, why don't you show me the Christmas carrots while we're here at Wal-Mart so we can tell Santa all about them when we see him?"

Lo and behold, it worked! Sarah agreed that she would lead us to the Christmas carrots after her haircut. But here's where the story takes a truly comical turn. I don't know if Sarah even remembered herself at this point exactly where she had seen these mythical carrots or what they really were. She led us all the through the store trying to find them. And a Wal-Mart Super Center is not a small place! With my ever-expanding pregnancy belly, I was growing exhausted as she wandered about. Finally, I asked her if she remembered the section where she had seen the carrots. Was it in the Christmas section, or maybe the grocery? She decided it was in the grocery part. So we headed toward to the grocery area. We began going up and down each aisle.

Finally we hit pay dirt. Sarah picked up a package of white yogurt-covered raisins and proclaimed them "Christmas carrots!" They were not blue, and they had no stickers, but she was absolutely satisfied that they were indeed the elusive carrots we had been stalking. Big sighs of relief all around.

On Christmas morning, Sarah woke up to find a package of yogurt-covered raisins in her stocking. She squealed in delight, "Christmas carrots! Santa filled my stocking! I KNEW he could do it!" She had left Santa a thank-you note under the tree the night before (her idea! I have to do a little motherly bragging about that), and Santa had responded on the back of the note that he had also left a gift in the refrigerator. Sarah ran to the fridge and found a package of baby carrots and a bottle of ranch dressing for dipping. "More Christmas carrots!" she exclaimed excitedly.

So in the end, Santa was very successful this year, even though we were certainly sweating it out. And interestingly, Sarah hasn't eaten any of the baby carrots and dip yet; when she asks to eat her "Christmas carrots", she heads straight for the pantry for her yogurt-covered raisins. She loves them!

I don't know how this Christmas carrot obsession came about, or even what she might have been referring to originally. But after days of thinking it over, Nelson and I have come up with at least some possibilities. Sarah has really enjoyed Frosty the Snowman this Christmas season, both the animated TV special and the song. I've even told you about her version of the song. And her version of course emphasizes carrots. So maybe the "Christmas carrots" morphed somehow from that. (And yogurt-covered raisins are white like the snowballs Frosty is made of).

But all this is just speculation. For once, I have been unable to get in Sarah's head and figure out her thinking. I'm just relieved that Santa pulled this one off and gave Sarah Christmas carrots that satisfied. He's a pretty smart guy! ;)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

environmental print and budding environmentalist

I'm still not caught up on all my posts yet, but this will be the last one for today. I have explained in a previous entry the concept of environmental print: children recognizing logos and symbols. I have also posted about environmentalism and my personal views on conservation. Both of those things come into play with this story.

Since we have our blue box for all of our recyclables, Sarah has gotten extremely good at picking out the recycling symbol. She will point it out to us if Nelson or I happen to miss it (aren't you proud of her, Tara?). She usually enjoys finding the symbol and setting an item aside for recycling.

But she certainly didn't enjoy discovering it the other day. :-p A couple of years ago, Nelson and I bought Sarah a Wiggles plate, cup, and bowl. Sarah loves the Wiggles, so she was thrilled to have her own dish set decorated with their image. On Monday, she was drinking orange juice from her Wiggles cup (a common morning occurrence) when she made what was to her a horrifying discovery: the bottom of the cup sported a recycling symbol.

As an adult, of course I knew that the cup manufacturers were simply saying that once the cup was no longer usable, it could be recycled rather than tossed in the trash. But to Sarah, that symbol indicated devastating news. It dictated that she throw her beloved cup into the recycling bin. She was in tears, even as I tried to explain that the cup was still fine and I could wash it as always. "No!" she wailed in despair. "It says recycling!"

It took several minutes to convince her that we really could keep her cup, symbol or no symbol. Honestly, who would have thought that a little bitty triangle could cause so much trouble? Apparently environmentalism and environmental print don't make a good combination! :-p

Bristol Speedway in Lights

After Saturday's bungee jumping adventure at the mall, we decided to head to Bristol on Sunday evening for Speedway in Lights. For those not from the area, each year Bristol Motor Speedway decorates itself in animated Christmas lights. You drive through the complex and even on the track itself, viewing the lights. They are set up in themed sections: a Nativity scene, Toyland, the Twelve Days of Christmas, the North Pole, dinosaurs, and even a tunnel that will be very familiar to those who have visited Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies and gone through the shark tunnel there! You can read more about the annual event here.

We have made a tradition out of visiting the Speedway every year for several years now. Sarah absolutely loves lights, especially Christmas lights, so she gets a big kick out of these big animated lights. Once you have driven through all the various light displays, you can visit Christmas Village, a small carnival set up in the middle of the race track. They have a few rides, hot chocolate, etc. It's pretty fun.

They also set up an ice rink, and we have been meaning to take Sarah there to try out ice skating. We didn't make it last year, so we are planning to go back in time to do it this year. Of course, Nelson will have to be the one skating with her! But she's excited at the prospect of attempting to ice skate. :) So hopefully we'll be able to post about that experience soon! :)


Sometimes on the weekend, we will meet my parents for lunch in Johnson City. Afterward we will either go to the mall or to the bookstore to hang out for awhile. At the mall, they have a bungee jumping experience set up with harnesses and trampolines. Sarah has been eyeing this with interest for quite some time now. My dad promised that when she turned four, he would let her try it out. So last Saturday, when we headed to the mall and Sarah spotted the bungee-jumpers, she reminded her Mike, "I'm old enough now!" Dad dutifully took Sarah to the bungee jumping station to see if there were any rules that might prevent her from taking part in the long-awaited activity.

Thankfully, Sarah qualified (they had a weight minimum, but she just barely squeaked past it). And she LOVED it! She had such a good time doing it with Dad that later when Mom, Nelson, and I rejoined them, she wanted to do it again so we could watch it. It was fun watching her face; you could tell that she was having the time of her life. It definitely lived up to all the expectations she'd had all this time.

Here's a picture of her enjoying her new activity:

Friday, December 26, 2008

post Christmas catch-up

First of all, I hope everyone had a merry and blessed Christmas! We certainly did. :)

I have several posts that I need to write up. I got very behind. My computer got bitten by a very ugly virus (Nelson said it was root kit), so I went for several days without any sort of computer access. But of course, that didn't keep bloggable events from occurring! So now that Nelson has my laptop back up and running, I am going to try to fill you in on all the goings on around here. Here's a preview of what's to come: ultrasound pics and a name for the new baby, Sarah's experience with bungee jumping, and the saga of our confusing search for "Christmas carrots." :) So stay tuned and enjoy!

And belated Merry Christmas! :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

quilt for a cause

My friends over at Rooted in Love are raffling off a quilt. It is a beautiful quilt, and proceeds from the raffle will go to purchase Bibles in native language for nannies in Ethiopia. So click here to find out details about how to purchase raffle tickets and possibly win the quilt. But hurry! The deadline is tomorrow (December 17).

If you would like to donate anyway, Ashley and Jillian will accept donations up until they leave for Ethiopia (they are adopting two children there!).

More info here.

Good luck if you choose to purchase tickets! :)

*UPDATE* Ashley and Jillian extended the deadline through 4 p.m. tomorrow (December 18). So there's still time to let them know you want raffle tickets! Head on over to their site!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Santa Claus

Warning: this post contains the opinions of the writer. You may or may not agree with them. Read at your own risk.

It’s that time of year again. Advent is upon us. I LOVE the whole Christmas season. I love looking at lights and decorating the tree and opening presents and drinking cider and egg nog. I also love remembering God’s wondrous gift to us and singing songs of praise and doing my Advent Bible study. I love How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (the book and the original cartoon version, NOT the Jim Carrey movie) and the Charlie Brown Christmas special. I love trying to teach Sarah about Jesus and the true meaning of this wonderful holiday season.

I also love Santa Claus. There, I said it. I love Santa Claus! I think he’s fun. This time of year, a lot of blogs as well as church literature start spewing all the evils of commercialism and consumerism at Christmastime (I agree completely with that; those things are wrong). But poor Santa gets caught right in the middle of it as a symbol of greed and a distraction from what Christmas is all about.

If you find that Santa does inspire greed in you and that he indeed takes your focus from all that is holy and sacred about Christmas, by all means ignore him. Shun him. But please leave me alone to enjoy my Santa fun. I may indeed be less devout than you, but not necessarily because I like Santa and you don’t.

Let's face it; the overemphasis on commercialism at Christmas is a relatively recent trend. People didn't used to have fistfights and literally trample people to death over "stuff" in the stores. Since Santa has been around for quite a long time now, I don't think it's fair to blame him for all these recent atrocities.

When I was still teaching, one of the children had a mother who was very much anti-Santa. And she was eager to persuade the rest of us to her viewpoint as well. I remember she had one little boy in tears, telling him he needed to choose between Jesus and Santa Claus, because he couldn’t have both. And the poor little boy was miserable, because he did love Jesus, but he also really thought Santa was a lot of fun.

I do have my reasons for my Santa affections. :) First of all, I grew up with him. My mom is another big fan of the jolly old elf, so Santa was always a part of our Christmas traditions (we did the tooth fairy and Halloween too. Heathens all the way round, I know). It was exciting to wake up on Christmas morning and run to see what Santa had brought. I don’t even remember when I learned the “truth” about Santa, that he wasn’t really real. On some level, I think children always know or at least suspect that it’s all a giant game of make-believe. But what child doesn’t love to pretend? And there was never some big dramatic moment when I realized I’d been “lied” to.

And it was fun as a child to notice that the TV that Santa brought was from the same factory where my dad worked. Or that the note he left was on the same kind of paper that my mom used in the kitchen. I felt smart and smug as I observed these little “slips.” And it was really fun the year that roles reversed slightly. I noticed that my mom, brother, and I all had stockings and gifts from Santa, but my dad did not. This was horribly unfair. So I gathered up some candy I had and left it with a note from “Santa” (again on Mom’s paper) apologizing for having neglected him for so many years. And even though looking back on it, it was probably old Halloween candy full of artificial color that Dad couldn’t even eat, I was SO proud of myself for being his “Santa.”

I still think Santa is good, clean fun for kids. Today, many children are overbooked, overstimulated, stressed out, and strung out. They have very little time just to be kids. Santa Claus is a small way to allow them something fun and a chance to experience some childlike wonder.

But as an adult, my reasons for appreciating Santa have deepened a bit. We all give presents at Christmas. We give gifts to one another because God gave the ultimate gift to us. We show love and kindness to one another because of the love and kindness God has shown us. And Santa absolutely embodies that spirit of giving and kindness. He is a tangible example of generosity.

There are several versions of the legend of Santa Claus. I won’t even attempt to relate them all. I will simply tell my favorite one, which comes from a book I bought in college. Nicholas was a toy maker living in Amsterdam. His sales picked up around Christmas, of course, as parents bought presents for their children. But he noticed that the poor young orphans of the city got no presents at all. Because Nicholas was a compassionate man, this disturbed him. He made toys for all the orphans of the city and left them in secret, along with food and candy. The orphans were of course thrilled, and giving made Nicholas happy too. He continued to leave his secret presents each year, and as time went on he not only gave gift to the orphans and the impoverished but to all of the children of the city. And eventually he was giving gifts to all the children of the world, simply for the enjoyment it gave him. Is that not a perfect illustration of Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to given than to receive”?

And when the focus on Santa takes a backseat to the focus on Jesus, he CAN be a delightful addition to the holiday celebrations. And most children do know the difference between the fun of Santa and the sacredness of Jesus. I don’t remember ever being confused or uncertain as to what the real meaning behind Christmas is. A book I read once demonstrates it perfectly. A small child was asked who was more important, Jesus or Santa. The child was right in the middle of enjoying Santa’s gifts at that particular moment, but she still responded with eloquence: “Jesus. Santa comes only at Christmas. Jesus came at Christmas too, but He stays with us all the time, in our hearts. Plus, Santa only brings presents if we’ve been good. Jesus loves us all the time, even if we forget to be good.” And one of the adults present in the story responded with, "Best sermon I've heard in a long time!" Children know what is real and what isn't, and what is important and what isn't.

Also, there are many traditions at Christmas that originally came from pagan practices. Yet no one protests Christmas trees and such. And no one complains at Easter when children dye eggs (not even the aforementioned mother who was trying to proselytize my kindergarten students against Santa!). So I honestly don't see why Santa has to be singled out for ridicule and revile.

So there it is, my Santa rant. You don’t have to celebrate or acknowledge Santa at all if you don’t wish to. It isn’t at all important, and I would not want to be guilty of talking someone into a practice they weren't comfortable with, or simply just didn't care about. I simply grow weary of all the “anti-Santa” railing and thought I’d offer the opposite perspective. And I wish you a very merry Christmas, with or without the jolly old elf!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

like father, like daughter

I have posted previously about Sarah's excitement over a "Sarah-sized" laptop computer that Nelson brought home from work. She has continued to use it it off and on since then. She can boot it up herself, open the program she wants (usually the typing program or the Paint program where she can draw). When she's finished, she can close the program she's using and shut the computer down.

But Sarah has seen her daddy use his computer to play games (her mommy too--crosswords, Sudoku, and the like), and she decided today that she wanted to be able to play games too. So this was the scene when I walked into the living room earlier.

It was kind of a sweet moment, father and daughter bent over the computer, with Nelson very patiently teaching Sarah what to click in order to play the game correctly. I got warm fuzzies watching him share one of his loves with her. Perhaps this can grow into something of a shared hobby for the two of them. I wouldn't want Sarah to spend an inordinate amount of time playing computer games, but as active as she is I don't really see that happening. But it was neat watching a bonding moment between father and daughter as he taught her how to play. :)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

walking in a winter wonderland...

We may not have any chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but Jack Frost is certainly nipping at our noses! Someone apparently told Old Man Winter that it was December, and that he'd been neglecting us the last several years. We've had cold weather and a few snow flurries already. Today it snowed for real. Not a huge snow, but enough to stick to the ground and the roads. We were behind a snow plow coming home from a birthday today, and I've heard a couple more drive by in front of the house this evening.

Sarah, of course, is thrilled. She has been eager for snow for awhile now. The last several nights, she has requested Ezra Jack Keats' book The Snowy Day as her bedtime story, and she has wanted a snowy day of her own. Plus, she has those boots she's been wanting to wear! She didn't have much snow to play with today, but she did get some, so she's happy. :)

Some photos of our wintry weather...

Sarah, all bundled up and ALWAYS ready to strike a pose...


Happy to be playing in the snow.

Making tracks...

Trying (not so successfully) to throw a snowball...

She just doesn't quite have the hang of that yet.

The back deck.

Back in the warm house, after a fun time outdoors...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

funny quote...

No offense to my non-Southern readers, but this quote was too good to pass up. :)

"You can say whatever you want about the South, but you never see Southerners heading north when they retire."--Anonymous

So there! :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Frosty the Snowman, Sarah-style

Sarah is definitely in Christmas mode. She asks every morning if it's Christmas yet. She LOVES looking at Christmas lights. And I've already mentioned that she has selected gifts for some people and that we've watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (She is looking forward to viewing the Charlie Brown special soon).

She is also frequently singing her own unique version of "Frosty the Snowman." She's got the tune pretty close to right, but her lyrics are a bit unusual! Try to imagine these words being sung to the "Frosty" music:

Frosty the Snowman,
he never, ever starts
but when he puts a carrot to his nose!

And she just sings those same lines, over and over again! :) Hilarious.

In other news, Sarah is still missing dear Ethan from Bible study. Our class doesn't start until Jan. 7, but she is still proclaiming, "When I grow up, I'm going to marry Ethan and he's going to love me forever!"

We went to watch Nelson's first basketball game for the church team tonight. Sarah has talked for weeks about wanting to go see the games, so she was really excited. And she did well throughout most of the game, clapping and cheering and saying, "Nice shot!" The last ten minutes or so of the game, she got tired and cranky and ready to go home. But overall, she really seemed to enjoy the experience of attending her first sporting event.

Little Baby Girl is moving around a lot today. She has been quite the active little thing! I think she must be having a party in there! ;)

Hopefully we will get the house decorated this week for Christmas and be able to post pictures (not to mention appease Sarah, who is begging for the Christmas tree). :) She needs a place to put all these presents she's bought, after all!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sarah's Thanksgiving weekend

I've told you a bit about our weekend--mostly Sarah's adventures in shopping. But here are a few more tidbits from our Thanksgiving and afterward.

We went to my parents' for Thanksgiving dinner. Dad had bought a gingerbread kit for Sarah to build and decorate a gingerbread house after we ate. Sarah LOVED doing this! Here is a picture of her finished handiwork:

She has had a very good time eating the gingerbread house too. It's about halfway gone now. So it's a good thing Dad got a picture to preserve the project! ;)

On Saturday, we went to do a bit more Christmas shopping. I was shopping for a teenager, so we were in the Junior department at Kohl's. One of the skimpy shirts that is so in fashion these days caught Sarah's eye. Her comment? "That's too small!" What a good girl! ;)

We watched the cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! last night. Fun!

And since yesterday officially kicked off the Advent season, I wish you all a joyful and blessed time of celebration and reflection. :)