Yes, I am already in the midst of Christmas decorations and plans....I admit
this is a weakness, no will power when it comes to waiting. My best excuse is
that with the decorations up, it gives me all that much more time to enjoy
watching my kids enjoy it. They never get tired of the lit tree, the mysterious
packages underneath, and the nativity that gives purpose to it all.
Which brings me to the best gift any of my kids has ever received. My sister-in-law, Heather, has a gift for giving just the right thing (see last Christmas' post when the kids spent hours threading shoelaces through dinosaurs, still trying to figure out the allure of that one). When Sophie was getting ready for her first Christmas--eight years ago, unbelievable--Heather and Chris (though I don't know that he necessarily knew they were giving this...feel free to comment and defend yourself, Chris) sent us the Fisher Price Little People Nativity set.
I must admit, at first I was less than taken with this gift. It's musical, in that battery-operated kind of way that most of us parents learn to dread. Aside: Am I the only parent out there guilty of saying to her kids "Sorry the batteries must be dead," when I secretly removed them or replaced them with dead batteries just so I wouldn't have to hear that song/noise/voice ONE MORE TIME?
To add injury to insult, the song this little treasure plays is "Away in a Manger". Not my favorite Christmas Carol, which is a running joke between John and I. Its the simple line, "The little Lord Jesus, no crying he made". I mean, come on! I am TOTALLY on board with the fact that Jesus, God-man, was sinless. This is a foundational part of my theology and my theology is a foundational part of who I am and what I do. HOWEVER, crying--especially the way newborns do it--is a form of communication, not sin. Of course He cried when He was hungry or needed changed. And so, my dislike of the song. Unfortunately, my kids love it and when the girls start to sing it they catch my eye and say, "I know, I know, He really did cry. Mo---oom, its just a song." Obviously, I have not yet passed on the theology as a foundation for living stuff yet. New Years Resolution.

Anyway, back to the gift. This little nativity set has really grown on me over the years. Even as I hear its tinny version of Away in a Manger, a smile comes to my face. The memories of Christmas past flood back, Sophie's obsession with getting everybody in just the right place, Annie's obsession with Mary, and now Benjamin. At three, this is his first year to really begin to understand why we as a family celebrate and anticipate Christmas.

I must admit, when I gave it to him last week, I had high hopes that this would
be the beginning of a new understanding of Jesus for him. These hopes came
crashing down when he started calling the wisemen "ladies"--and afterall, they
do look pretty feminine with their long robes and glitzy crowns. He also began
adding his other Little People to the mix...Construction workers, Animals from
Noah's Ark, poodles, and even a beanie baby frog began joining the mix. My inner theologian began to cringe. Was this treating something sacred so lightly?

Then I began to look at it as children do, and my theology came back into sync.
Who better to worship at the feet of Jesus than construction workers and
poodles? Jesus didn't come just for those 2,000 years ago, nor did He come only
for those "wise" enough. He came for the every man, He came for Ben.



One of the many joys of Canadian life is that for a small fee, and the price of some skating gear, the lower grades of the school troop off to hit the ice once a week during November, December, and January. What fun! Its also great exercise as they walk to and from the rink (30 minutes each way) and skate in between.

Sophie started off with a little contraption to give her support, but quickly moved on to "solo" flights.

Annie showing off Benjamin to all her buddies.

John, his dad, and Benjamin came to give moral support. Grandpa Cook is seen here helping kids get their skates tied.