We still use these cheap, plastic manger pieces that Dear Husband and I bought when the kids started arriving. They're sturdy to have survived almost eighteen years and three rough boys! Each piece still has all its parts, except one unfortunate three-legged sheep.

Starting on December 9, one piece goes out each day, until finally, the Savior arrives on Christmas Day. I enjoy watching the way each piece is positioned, as appropriate in the mind of whoever happened to put it out there, and how it gets rearranged to suit the fancy of the latest visitor to our little creche.



*I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Pardon me if I don't blithely blog about Christmas this year. Christmas is hard. I'm at a place to admit it, finally. It's been hard for a while now, but I've been better at pretending. But, maybe it's just better to admit and move on --- Christmas is hard. It wasn't in other years, and I'm hoping for better in years to come. Actually, I'm quite the slow learner, and it's taken a few years like this to pound me down enough to admit the truth and join The Many for whom the season is not all calm nor all bright. Yesterday, thinking about the lack of cheer this season, I remembered that hard times in the past have drawn me closer to the Savior, if I allowed them to do so. I've been trying to overcome adversity and make it The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year on my own steam, and am ready to admit that I can't do it. I'm ready to turn to Him and allow Him to be my Christmas Celebration. It's the only way to gain some real Peace on Earth.


Snow Gifts

The snow visited us during the night, and all the slumbery morning. So kind and considerate, according to the Season, it left gifts!

Snug and wooly white caps,

fluffy clean cushions for outdoor seats,

and crisply pristine tablecloths.

Not least, every fir tree arm generously draped in chilly-warm shawls of snow.


If Portraits Could Speak...

This is worth more than one glance. Old portraits again, I know. But old portraits of women are especially interesting. Consider the fact that these women have their photo taken in the raw, so to speak. No make-up. At all - NONE. I've read in antique novels that modest ladies might pinch their cheeks or bite their lips to bring some color out in their complexions. No hair product. Maybe why a hat was such a good idea, right? Hard times, yes? Well.

This portrait stands on its own, really. There's no hat that could've helped any more than this feathery-floral one. The earrings are a shining distraction, but not enough, I think, to keep us from seeing, even a hundred or so years later, that...

...it's a guy.
Did he lose a bet? Was it a joke - something he did to make his sisters laugh? Could it have been some sort of twisted punishment imposed on a drunken and disorderly cowboy? What???


Kentucky Palm Trees

Kentucky has its palm trees! Right there in Warsaw, within sight of the river, next to the best breakfast buffet place - ever.
I just thought they were noteworthy.
Especially the fact that their coconuts (!) match their branches - fascinating!
Blue with blue... Green with green...



Feeding the Many

Remember the sunflower, the only one we had this year, the one that was so bent from bearing? I cut off its head (Can we indulge in this plant being womanly at this point? No.) and hung it to dry in the greenhouse.

Take note of those Almost-A-Man hands - My Youngest, trying to hold the head steady. He's right on the cusp of adolescence, poor boy. Poor us. His heart is still a little-boy heart, though, and that is a wonderful, saving grace. I'm enjoying the last bit of childish goodness in him - the same that I failed to appreciate as my older boys passed this way. Is that savoring appreciation, that goes out to the youngest of any family, what is mistaken for favoritism by outsiders? "The baby is always spoiled," they say. Maybe just overly, belatedly appreciated? Hmmm...

ANYWAY --- The prickly, bristly stem stayed that way, even after the green had turned to brown.

We forgot about it until tufted titmice busily flying in and out of the greenhouse attracted our attention again. They were already dining on the seed! Nice!

'She' gave everything she had to feed many! This analogy can thread its way, all the way out, in the direction of martyrs, but I'll leave you to follow that one yourself.



On the morning of the first real snow,
The Last Bloom



Puppets are kind of scary, as a general rule, I think. I was always amazed that they seemed to calm and distract the little ones, back in our church-nursery-duty days. How anyone can get through two hours of Sunday morning nursery duty without a bottle of bubbles, playdough, and at least one puppet - way beyond my kid skills.

Remember that Sherry person with the Lamb Chop puppet? I remember watching that in horrified fascination as a kid. We came across some of the Lamb Chop puppets for sale in Hilton Head, and they still have the same effect. On me, at least.

And so, I couldn't pass this Clown Puppet up as a fun photo to pass along. Found on a trip through an antiuqe mall, of course. Really, though - what child, in any decade, would like this clown? Effective, perhaps, in frightening the child into a stunned silence.
I guess that's the important thing, after all.

(I missed an opportunity to have a great gag gift for the Christmas Game, didn't I?)