Life is Worth Living

Christmas Shopping!

Yes, we’re talking Christmas here, and it’s about the material side of things, too. Yikes! I intend to dedicate this post to Christmas shopping and Christmas gifts intentionally for two reasons:

  1. It is always a good idea to look closely at one’s finances well ahead of any purchases, especially in a season oftentimes fraught with expense. So for prudential budgeting purposes, our family actually does the bulk of our Christmas shopping in October.
  2. We also like to have our Christmas shopping done well in advance of Advent so that we can do precisely that: Advent. Who likes to rush around frantically shopping at the last minute? Not me, anyway. We prefer to attempt a slower, more prayerful awareness of the liturgical season.
Here are a couple of the little girls in their new dresses we gave them last year for Christmas.

That said, let’s look at a few things our family does for gifts.

Ah, but perhaps I should mention that we don’t do Santa Claus? On second thought, let’s not mention it and move on. Feel free to ask me to explain later, if you’re curious, and I will.

So on Christmas morning, after praying Lauds and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus, our children open a few gifts from us. Our goal is to keep it simple, and so here’s what we typically give:

  1. A book
  2. An article of clothing
  3. And something else fun or useful

Now we have 7 children, and those three items add up and can be expensive, so we buy used things, if possible. For example, almost all the books are used, or I will purchase them months in advance from, say, Bethlehem Books when they have their half-off sales. Most of the clothing I purchase used too, at second-hand stores. The last “fun” gift, however, does get to be tricky and most often is not used.

Let me give you some examples of what our children will actually receive this very Christmas. (Should you happen to see the children, don’t tell them!)

The Youngest:

Second-hand dress from Once Upon a Child, used Jan Brett book purchased online, and a play skirt from Hobby Lobby

Next Girl Up:

Same as above.

The Third Youngest Girl will also receive much the same, except that instead of a play skirt, she will be getting some colorful notecards that I found on sale at Hobby Lobby. (She likes to do crafty things.)

The boys will also be receiving second-hand clothing from my cousin, the following books, which I purchased earlier this year at a Bethlehem Book sale, and one pellet gun, which they will all share.

The Eldest is getting a new dress–not used–and this book:

The Eldest loves everything Jane Austen.

Christmas Stockings and a Family Gift

Yes, we do Christmas stockings. Typically we put Christmas candy in the children’s Christmas stocking. This year I also purchased some Christmas-themed socks to stick in too.

And lastly, I purchased a Christmas puzzle as a family gift.

And what about me and my husband? Do we exchange gifts? Yes, and while I do have his gift purchased already, I cannot tell you what it is, for fear that he might actually look at this blog post.

Do You Have Any Christmas Gift Ideas?

Do any of you have any Christmas Gift ideas? If so, I’d love to hear about them. I suspect that some of you are very crafty and handy and might even be able to make Christmas gifts.

Book Review

Chris Van Dusen: A Children’s Book Review

Anybody reading children’s books these days?  No?  Then this post isn’t for you.  See you next time.  Yes?  Then read on.

I came across Chris Van Dusen’s work a few years ago with the Mercy Watson pig books.  He was the illustrator for this series, not the the author, who was Kate DiCamillo.  But I don’t like the Mercy Watson books, however.  They’re BORING.  But my kids like them, so I let them read a few.  I tend to agree with C. S. Lewis though, who once said, “If an adult finds a children’s book boring, then it sucks.”  Ok, those weren’t his exact words, but something like that. *

IMG_0697.jpg
Note the cute 2-year-old in her favorite blue sparkle skirt.  All girls should have a skirt like that.  I’m told they are a lot of fun to wear every. single. day.

Anyway, I do really like Van Dusen’s two books that he both wrote and illustrated, If I Built a Car and If I Built a House.  They rhyme after all and are fun to read.  These books have great illustrations and articulate every kid’s dream of cars sporting swimming pools and houses featuring no-gravity flying rooms.

IMG_0695.jpg
My 2-year-old with If I Built a House.  This is our second copy, as the first was used to shreds, literally.

So, since I liked those two books, I thought I’d check out a few more Van Dusen books.  He has a Mr. Magee series, which is ok and Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit, which is fine.  They’re worth checking out at a library.  But his Hattie & Hudson is bosh.  First of all, it doesn’t rhyme.  Secondly, Hattie is disobedient, sneaking out of her house at night.  And thirdly, I don’t like big sea monsters portrayed as kind and misunderstood creatures.  Nope.  Quit mixing up your symbols, Van Dusen.  Sea monsters and dragons should be evil.  Always.  Don’t agree with me?  Read Michael O’Brien’s Landscape With Dragons and drop me a line.  (Maybe I’ll do a post on that some day.  By the way, if you have children, you should really read that O’Brien book.)

Van Dusen’s  The Circus Ship is entertaining, however, and mostly appropriate.  Once again, the pictures are beautiful, and it rhymes.  There is a really fun page where one must find all 15 animals that are hiding from the terrible circus boss.  It’s great.  The only problem I have with this book is that all the animals are of course friendly.  Even a big, fat snake.  Humph!  Snakes belong in the sea monster and dragon category – just plain evil.  The only reason why I could still recommend this book is that he’s not saying anything at all about the snakes actually being good.  He’s only showing that they can be tamed, which is true.

One final note about The Circus Ship.  I know some of you are sensitive about anything circus related.  I know I am.  This is because shriners are typically associated with circuses and most of us don’t want anything to do with shriners, as they’re in turn connected to the Masons.  Yikes.  If you’re a Catholic, that should really bother you.  That said, I see no such connection between this particular book’s circus and the shriners.

IMG_0694.jpg
Now she’s onto The Circus Ship.  It is worth a read.

 

* C. S. Lewis’s real quotation is as follows.  And I couldn’t agree more.

“No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”  C. S. Lewis