Holiday traditions

If you sat down to a dinner something like this in the last few days, you are among the most financially wealthy people in the world.

Thanksgiving dinner

salad and roll

As am I.

Sometimes it almost seems like a sin, feasting so much—in a way that has nothing to do with whether or not I overeat. But I remember the feasts built into God’s laws from the earliest days, and I know that whatever simplicity may be called for in ordinary living, and however joyfully He invites us to share our abundance with the less fortunate, He loves when we celebrate His good gifts together.

This brings me a lot of joy.

I like holidays steeped in tradition. Our Thanksgiving dinners are with my parents, and seldom vary: turkey, stuffing, both sweet potatoes and mashed, cranberries, and pumpkin pie (not to mention the vegetable sides). The day after, I dig boxes out of storage and decorate the house for the Christmas season. I’ve seen a lot of facebook pictures of lovely and costly decorating, and sometimes I really wish I were that kind of a person. My Christmas decorations come mostly from the woods.

berries in stoneware jug

Scrabble word Immanuel

Pine boughs, red berries, birds’ nests (I can take photographs that make them look artsy, but sometimes they look tacky, even to me)… and a few carefully-stored treasures.

The Nativity scene for babies, bought at a craft fair by my Aunt Rhonda several years ago. It will win no prizes for beauty, but little hands love these people…

wooden Nativity

And the jeweled Nativity, which Kelly arranges and rearranges and adds to, with her best matchbox Minnie Car and a bobblehead named James, so that they can worship as well…

porcelain Nativity

And the Baby Jesus doll, best beloved, in the manger my husband and son built together. He is sleeping on a crocheted dresser scarf for now, to be quite honest with you, until I can get outside to cut some dried grasses.

baby Jesus doll

Did you know that you can buy a baby doll for five dollars, and cut him some swaddling clothes and a hat from white fleece? Kelly loves this Baby with all her heart, and looks forward to him year after year.

We like to add a pair of baby boy shoes somewhere—in fact, one pair has been sitting in my living room for a year now because I never had the heart to take them down. I’ll soon be making Party Mix and Buckeyes, and perhaps we’ll do our Advent of Quiet again this year. These are the traditions.

And then there are the surprises. Such as coffee grounds leaking all over my pot. And kindness in unexpected places. And fostering twists and turns. And my dog’s astonishing Black Friday gift to me: puppies.

puppy paws

I have no idea how she managed this, since she does not exactly hang out with other dogs, nor how I missed all the signs. Does this kind of thing happen to normal people? I’m naming the darlings Shades of Evening–partly for their coloring and partly for their uncanny arrival. Midnight, Twilight, Starlight, Dusk, Gloaming, and Sunset. I have two thoughts: What a dumb time of year for this, and How utterly adorable!

newborn puppy

I invite you to celebrate both tradition and surprise this season (this is me forcing an Important Lesson Out of Nothing)… but, however you celebrate, don’t forget—this month-long ecstatic exhausting Jubilee is all about a baby. He was small and messy and helpless. Put Him in your children’s hands. Welcome Him. Cherish Him. Touch Him.

Baby Jesus' hand

God with us.


Your turn! What do the children in your life love best about Christmas? What early-season traditions does your family enjoy?

On the naming of cats


So much depends upon
the naming of small furry ones.

They will be fundamentally altered
if I call them Muffin and Pudding

or Tiger and Panther

or Solomon and The Queen of Sheba.

cream and two

He is small and black, the baby of the litter.
She is feisty and golden, and leads him around.
If only their colors were switched! I would call them Arthur and Morgan le Fay…
but Arthur must be golden and le Fay black.

golden paw

Almost I settled on Trotwood and Miss Betsey. I love to name for personality.
But I would have had to explain
so often.

We hovered over Pepper and Saffron

black paw

and settled, at last,
on Goldilocks and Bear
because they belong to children who do not understand Trotwood
and Kelly liked it

with Kelly

and I enjoy the subtle irony of the personality reversal
or prophecy–
the mild Bear and the pushy Goldilocks.

cream and one

So they venture out
where so many braver animals have been decimated
by cars and traps and hawks and things

with Regan

I think they have a little fairytale magic of their own
and it is good to snuggle fluff again.

in kelly's skirt


Confession: I kissed a frog once, for five dollars.*

I thought it easy money, and I do still. If I had a lineup of frogs right here, right now—I’d kiss them all.

One hundred bucks? That’s only twenty frogs.


*Sadly, he did not turn into a prince. He turned into a frog.

Little Sal, Mk2

Introducing our new goat, Little Sal Mark 2. She’s four days old and darling!

little sal 2

I’m no believer in reincarnation, just relieved out of my wits that she looks nearly identical to the one we lost so painfully last year. I feel like I have my pet back.

bottle feeding

And I still love bottle feeding.

We would’ve called her Sally by mistake anyway, so we gave her the same name. Mark Two.

kelly and sal2

If we’re lucky we’ll get another in a couple of weeks, to keep her company…