1. We continued our "Christmas Around the World" unit with a glimpse on Monday at Russia, a country we will study in much more detail in the spring. The girls enjoyed hearing the legend of Baboushka and making Russian-style fabric ornaments, but we had a split-verdict on the honey spice bread, which reminded me of a cross between fruitcake and gingerbread. Abigail and Anna generally liked it, but Rachel and N. were not fond of it at all.
2. On Tuesday, we took some time to learn about Christmas in China. The girls really liked making these pagoda-style nativity scenes, and then we ventured out to a local Chinese restaurant for lunch. I'd made a pagoda-style ornament as a sample for the girls' craft so we all signed it with "Sheng Tan Kaui Loh" (Merry Christmas) and offered it to the hostess as our Christmas gift to her.
3. We talked a little about Christmas in Nigeria and Ethiopia on Wednesday. That was of particular interest to Rachel and Abigail since one our pastors and his family have recently adopted a boy from Ethiopia. For lunch, we had a chicken and rice casserole and sweet potatoes, and the girls liked making bead necklaces that mirrored African-style jewelry.
4. Wednesday served two functions, since it was also the Teachers' Tots kids' last day with us before the start of their Christmas vacation. So, in addition to finishing up our unit study, we had Pajama Day and read and then watched the movie version of The Polar Express.
5. Thanks to very moderate temperatures for this time of year, the girls - and Anna and N. when they were with us - enjoyed time outside in our 15+ inches of snow almost every day. In fact, sometimes Rachel and Abigail went out two or three times a day and especially enjoyed their evening forays out with Jeff to the "big hill" by the dentist's office across the street. Seeing as we've accidentally hit on a new tradition of having hot chocolate after every outdoor adventure, we're going through even the family-sized containers very quickly!
6. We've long had a Christmas Eve tradition - of the girls getting new pajamas to open and wear that night. This year, they also had Jeff open (in Jesus' stead) the Jesus Baby Books they'd made earlier in the month. And then they performed a Christmas show they said they'd been preparing since right after Thanksgiving. That was quite a treat, as neither Jeff nor I knew anything about it until we received invitations a couple of days ago.
Abigail had written a Christmas poem she read for us and then she and Rachel took turns dancing to various Christmas songs, the choreography for which was all planned out ahead of time. They even had activities for us to do - nativity-themed cut-outs - in between numbers. The whole endeavor was very impressive, and I told them I think they've just started a whole new tradition for us.
7. The girls have always been so sweet about Christmas morning. They didn't come screaming for us to wake up at five in the morning; instead, they'd asked last night if they could sneak down when they woke up to look under the tree (which turned out to be at about 6:45 even though Rachel later informed us she was awake "at 5:23"), and then they went back in their room to play until a bit after 7:00, when they came to get us. And they do their best to contain their enthusiasm just enough to prevent them from ripping open all their packages at once.
This year, the big hits were Rapunzel Barbies and DVDs of Cinderella (for Rachel) and Beauty and the Beast (for Abigail). In fact, Abigail cried when she opened her movie because Belle is her favorite Disney princess and we don't even own a VHS copy of the film. They also really liked the books they got - Rachel, especially, was excited to add to her collection of Ted Dekker graphic novels - as well as sewing machines and one-year story Bibles. They are so appreciative that it really is a joy to watch their expressions as they discover what Santa and Momma and Daddy brought them.
I was very excited to get George W. Bush's memoir, Decision Points, and an iPod Nano so that I need no longer look like a "Luddite" at the Y (where I've long been using - sigh - a Walkman with cassette tapes during my workouts!). Now I just have to get my music on it - that'll take some doing - and give it a whirl.
We didn't do anything of consequence after opening gifts today - watched the girls' movies and one Jeff got, too...read...played - but I was able late in the day to write another blog post, Celebration Contemplation: Christmas. This one means a lot to me, and I hope you'll take a moment to read it if you haven't already.