It’s the Most
Wonderful HORRIBLE Time of the Year
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…No. It’s. Not. Every stinkin’ Christmas a tragedy occurs- every Christmas, thousands of us die. Do we deserve it? No. Do we like it? No. But do we wish for a different way of life? Um…yes. I have often dreamed of being a rock, cold and smooth. Or a book, treasured and kept safe. Even being a jack-in-the-box looks appealing right now!!! But no. Here I am, just bein’ a tree. A pine tree. A Christmas tree.
Yes, that’s right. I am one of your precious decorations for a holiday; you chopped down my brother last year, my parents the year before, and my girlfriend the year before that. Ellie…she was hot. No, I mean literally. Someone thought it would be a good idea to put candles on the Christmas tree that year, and when Ellie twitched while trying to hold in a sneeze, she caught on fire. And the guilty party did not even have the DECENCY to send a sympathy card!
The Legend of the Mighty Cliff
Legend has it that the very first North American martyr to Christmas was my great-great-great-great-great…y’know what, this will take forever…my extremely great grandfather. (I don’t know why everybody likes him so much, none of us have ever met the guy. How do they know he was so great??) Anyway, his name was Cliff, and he lived a peaceful life filled with simple pleasures; the chatter of squirrels and songs of birds, the fertile earth and sweet breeze.
But then, one day, a wimpy, harmless-looking thing on two spindly legs came and RUINED IT ALL. It used a weird, deceptively tiny INSTRUMENT OF THE DEVIL to chop down my extremely great grandfather Cliff, and after watching him crash to the ground, proceeded to drag him in a very undignified manner through the forest.
They say the angels wept that day. With his dying words, Cliff informed his brethren (via carrier-owl) that the strange little creature had propped his broken body up in its abode, and wrapped him ‘round with impaled little corn-children on a string. The creature hung paper from his branches and crowned him with a golden star; crowned like some pagan king prepared for a sacrifice ritual. I shudder simply thinking about it.
A Reign of Terror
When they heard of this atrocity, the Council of Trees got together (and by got together I mean communicated by owl, since, y’know, we’re kinda stuck). They compiled all of the information gleaned from various informants in the International O24U Association and discovered that the inhumane practice of chopping trees was all the rage in Germany. Many plans were conceived to put this reign of terror to an end. However, by the time a solution was settled upon, the barbaric tradition had spread to the point of no revocation (tree councils are not known for their timeliness, owls and all. Maybe we should look into drones). Since then, all conceivable options to rid the world of this savagery have fallen flat. World domination has been discussed, but the lack of opposable thumbs (in addition to legs, brains, and other useful organs) has proved problematic.
So here I sit, just waiting for fate to laugh evilly and point some merciless wood’s-bane of a human my way. Oh. Oh no. Oh, heck no! Are those…footsteps?? Somebody knock on wood! KNOCK ON WOOD!!!
I see a small female break through the foliage. I breathe a sigh of relief; that little sprout is no match for my brawn! But…I tense as she sucks a greedy portion of air into her lungs.
“DADDYYY!! I FOUND THE PERFECT TREE!!”
Oh, root rot, not another one! Another bumbling happiness-killer ambles into my clearing. And. He. Has. An. AXE! Oh, for the love of all that is green, please keep that thing away from me!! He advances like death itself! I’m comin’ Ellie, I’m comin’! Oh, the humanity! -Or rather…oh the forestry!! SWING LOW, SWEET CHARIOT!
“Oh Daddy, not that one.” The disgusting little creature wrinkles her nose. “That one.”
I glance behind me in disbelief and see my shaking neighbor, Steve. Might I add that Steve is the single, most annoying tree I have ever…and I do mean ever, met. And he’s not nearly as robust and amply-chlorophylled as I am. You want…HIM?! I gape as Steve is promptly cut down and hauled away. Too late, I yell after them: “HOW VERY DARE YOU!!! I AM CLEARLY THE SUPERIOR TREE HERE!! YOU JUST GIT YERSELF BACK HERE THIS MINUTE OR I WILL PERSONALLY-
About the Author: Emily Wilford is a sixteen-year-old homeschool student. She lives in Iowa, which is always either really hot or really stinkin’ cold. She really likes a lot of stuff, so trust me, I’m sparing you by only listing writing, mythology, Tae Kwon Do, horses, procrastinating, theater, and gazebos. You can usually find her reading a book while hiding in her natural habitat (aka under a blanket), and if not there, she’s probably trying to wrangle her five siblings (it never works, btw). She loves to sketch and listen to music, too; it’s truly amazing she ever gets anything done! Also, she finds it really weird to write about herself in the third person. Emily is part of the True North Homeschool Academy Writing Club and has written previous articles for us, including Creative Writing for Awesome People!
(The following is a guest post from True North Homeschool Academy teacher Amber Fonseca.)
I can’t be the only homeschool mom that is attempting to host a tasty AND nutritious Thanksgiving dinner while trying to educate my little man… Oh! Did I mention that I also have a disability and my little is autistic bipolar? I know, I’m a little crazy, but I have a plan!
That’s the most important part of any Thanksgiving dinner, right? Having a plan makes things more manageable and allows you the ability to know where to adjust as the inevitable unplanned happenings occur. Yup, right up there with having a plan is the necessary skill of being able to adjust the plan when the unexpected happens. How? Well, everyone’s plan and backup plan will look different, but here are some helpful tools that anyone can adjust to fit into their own holiday preparations.
- Shop early – there will be things that you forget, but having the majority of your shopping done before the masses hit the grocery stores will lessen your stress and allow you to ensure everything on your list is available.
- Spread out the cooking – Don’t try to do all of the cooking in one day. I make my rolls first because I can put them in the freezer. Then I make things that don’t require refrigeration (brownies, even low-carb can sit on the counter for a couple of days with no problems). The ingredients (like eggs) will often come from the fridge, and you will slowly give yourself more space for things that MUST go in the fridge once you are done making them.
- Use your helpers! We homeschool. That means that while other children are still in school, ours are home and available to help. Younger kids can create decorations as you discuss why Thanksgiving exists, middle and older kids can help with the cooking. Home-economics at its finest!
- Don’t try to keep up with the three R’s. Yes, you can have your kids do the math associated with cooking; that isn’t what I mean. It is perfectly okay to take a few days away from written work and focus on relationships and family. I am far from being Super-mom, and there is no way that I can keep up with it all AND continue our regular class work.
- Enjoy your family. No matter how much pain I am in or how stressed I may be trying to figure out the carb counts associated with every meal I make, my goal is to enjoy spending time with my son and with my parents when they arrive.
These are just my top five recommendations, as a diabetic with other disabilities including RSD/CRPS and back damage, there are more items on my list. I don’t have the ability to stand and cook for hours and hours. I have to take breaks, I have to give myself time, and I have to accept that my body may not always cooperate.
Here are some added preparations for those of us with disabilities.
- Pre-plan your recipes AND your grocery list – knowing what you are cooking and what you need to purchase will make a HUGE difference as you move through your preparations.
- Order groceries delivered or for pick-up! Save your time and energy. Pick-up in most places doesn’t cost anything extra but makes a huge difference on your energy levels.
- Plan for easy meals, maybe even take-out, for the week leading into Thanksgiving. Your fridge is likely overrun with supplies for the big day, so planning easy meals like spaghetti (I have a low-carb high-protein pasta) or salads don’t use up the energy needed for cooking.
- Keep it easy – Don’t try to make two versions of everything. It is okay to have some foods that are not on your diet if you know the majority of the people coming will appreciate it and eat it. Meanwhile, other items can be replaced completely. Stuffing is replaceable here. I heard that gasp! Seriously though, my family grew up eating mashed potatoes over stuffing. This means that I can make Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes and there is no need to make my amazing stuffing. If we had a larger group, I might, but this year the stuffing has been axed!
- Take your time and take breaks – I started cooking almost a week in advance. I made my rolls and put them in the freezer, then I made the cranberry sauce and put it in the freezer as well. Next, I will make my sweet potato casserole and the green bean casserole. I will wait until the big day before I add toppings at the last minute. Spreading out the different dishes allows me to better manage my pain levels. On the day of – the only thing I should have left will be the turkey.
Now that you know my lists, I have one more thing to share — a low-carb high-protein bread recipe that actually tastes AMAZING. I needed a recipe that let me think I was cheating with a good-ol’ yeasty roll slathered in butter, and this recipe let me do that while still controlling my blood sugars!
- 1 packet quick activated yeast
- *Mix these and set it aside*
- ½ cup softened butter
- ¾ cup sour cream
- ¾ cup ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg whites
- 2 cups Almond Flour (set ½ cup aside)
- ¾ cup GF Flour (or regular if you aren’t gluten-free)
- ½ cup egg based unflavored protein powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¼ cup warm/hot water
Mix your dry ingredients in one bowl and then cut in the butter until the butter is mixed in and creates a fine crumble in the flours. In a separate bowl, blend together the sour cream, ricotta, and eggs. By this time, the yeast and water should be nice and frothy. Mix the yeast into the sour cream and egg mixture. Lastly, slowly add the flour ingredients into the liquid ingredients. The dough will likely still be a bit sticky. Mix/knead in the last ½ cup of almond flour. If the dough is still to wet to shape, you can add more almond flour, OR you can place it into a muffin pan and make muffin rolls. The dough can also be placed in a bread pan. Bake at 350 until the top and edges are lightly browned, and a knife comes out clean. Enjoy!
About Amber – Nobody knows the faith required to walk the home education path like a prior homeschool graduate turned homeschool mom. Often, when God calls us to walk in faith, the first step is the hardest. My parents took that step when I was in elementary school: they withdrew my public school enrollment and we started our homeschool journey. Years later, I graduated college armed with an English Language Arts degree, a teacher’s certification, and a passion for teaching English. Choosing to home educate my son meant that I would no longer be able to teach Lit & Comp, (College) Composition I and C.S. Lewis to high school students – or so I thought. I am excited for this amazing opportunity to share my passion for English with homeschool students online!
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The Holiday Season is hard upon our heels. As our family size shifts and changes with kids launching and significant others joining us, our traditions are changing. Regardless of the natural ebb and flow of family changes, we fill our holidays with the tastes, sounds, sights, and smells of Christmas. This is how we are celebrating Christmas.
TASTE: Food & Drinks
Food often evokes memories, and holiday foods can bring up beloved relatives, now gone and the happy glow of childhood. Green bean casserole was de rigor at my house growing up during the holidays and always served in a huge clay handled and lidded pot we got from Mexico. Mmm! We incorporate old favorites each holiday like deviled eggs. And don’t try to sneak any chic new ingredients in! I want them plain, simple and perfect with just mayo, mustard and a dash of paprika on top. Served up on the green colored Carnival platter, of course.
But we also add in a new recipe or two. While the pumpkin should be traditional, how about bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers to add some zing to the table?
Along with food, we have a tea/coffee and a hot chocolate bar stocked for the holidays with flavored hot chocolates, peppermints, and flavored Keurigs. This can be as fancy or simple as you like but it makes for quick and happy gatherings as those of us in the far north thaw from coming indoors.
We make simple changes throughout the year during different seasons. We have an old shed window pane (sans glass) in the bathroom and have homemade banners swaged across, which we change by season. We go all out at Christmas and swath our three-story 4 x 4 farmhouse in twinkle lights, decorate trees on each floor and bring out homemade treasures that we’ve collected over time.
I add to our mini-stuffed snowman collection throughout the year, and these perch atop windows, nestled in boughs of greenery. We have mini-trees throughout the house as well, some decorated by theme (cowboys, y’all) or color (pink and purple with twinkle lights is an adorable look!). Twinkle lights are everywhere and we often spend holiday evenings chatting with twinkle lights and fire going, making a gentle, cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy the holidays.
SMELLS: Candles & Flowers
With the plethora of essential oils and candles, it’s easy to create scents by seasons. We sprinkle peppermint and evergreen on our fake Christmas tree, creating a subtle and beautiful aroma, while still protecting families from seasonal allergy attacks.
We are suckers for growing things and holidays often find newly potted flowers in our dining room- poinsettias for Christmas, of course, but we love cut flowers too, which are worth buying at least a few times a year. You know the old adage, if you have two loaves of bread, sell on and buy a lily. I take that pretty seriously.
Don’t forget Cinnamon Applesauce ornaments and clove-studded citrus to decorate with. Place them amongst ornaments when you pack them away for subtle and beautiful fragrance when you unpack your treasures the next year.
SOUNDS & More Sights: Music, Videos & Books
Family tradition in our house dictates that Christmas decorating begins the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas music and videos must wait to be watched and listened to until then. However, the day after Christmas you’ll find us bringing down Christmas decorations while playing the Peanuts Christmas album and from then until New Year, we’ll play new and old favorites.
We save seasonal videos and books as well. Each Christmas season we’ll watch The Star, The Nativity, Muppets Christmas, White Christmas, Miracle on 31st street, While You Were Sleeping and other holiday favorites reserved especially for Christmas.
When our kids were young we read Bartholomew’s, Tabitha’s Travels and Johan’s Journey, along with other well-loved Christmas books and while our kids are older now, we do bring these books out each Christmas and stack them around the house. It’s not unusual to find people reading them curled up on a sofa with hot tea or chocolate or even reading them out loud to each other.
And of course, we read the Nativity Story on Christmas Eve, often having attended a candlelight service where we sing beautiful hymns like O Little Town of Bethlehem, Away in a Manger, and Silent Night.
Stockings and Presents & Christmas Morning
We love giving and receiving gifts and I fill the handmade Stockings my Mom and I made with magazine subscriptions, Burt’s Bees, gift cards, gum, and flashlights and batteries.
We’ll eat a simple or fancy brunch, depending on who’s home and who wants to cook what and then we’ll open presents. Some things just happen year after year, like good books and movies, hats and accessories, home-made items and of course, something Peanuts-related. Art and craft supplies always show up; though as my kids have gotten older and their skills have developed, their craft supplies are decidedly more expensive- have you priced a pottery wheel or anvil lately?! An art course would even be a nice touch.
We’ll feast on roast turkey later in the day and then play a board game, read books and watch movies in front of the fire or go on a walk if the weather is nice.
We love the Christmas Holiday season, with all of its sights, sounds, smells and good gifts! What does your family love about celebrating Christmas?