Quote ~ from the movie Parenthood

Grandma: "You know, when I was 19, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster. Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride! I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick so excited and so thrilled all together! Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out if it."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Valentine's Day Part 4

Back to my dilemma, this year I guess it’s a case of bad timing.  Valentine’s Day came at the wrong time or maybe it’s the fight that came at the wrong time.  Either way I’m not feeling overly lovey or connected and I don’t feel like giving a mushy card!  So, what to do?  Well, after some long thought and reading some more stuff on the subject of “act-as-if” I’ve learned, and have come to realize that I don’t act “act-as-if” in most aspects of my life.  Like the speaker and author Mike Robbins says “although I understand the concept of "acting as if" … about how we have the power to create our own reality, in certain areas of my life - especially the ones that are most important to me or the ones where I feel the most cynical and resigned, I often pay "lip service" to acting as if, while simply hoping things will get better, worrying that they won't, or allowing the outcome to determine how optimistic or pessimistic my outlook and approach will be.
This has been a sobering, but important realization … There is a big difference between knowing something and living it.”

After reflecting on this I decided that at least for Valentine’s Day to “act-as-if” The Director and I are both on a high, that we are deeply connected, and that we have resolved all past hurts and arguments, that life despite being a huge mess right now, isn’t!  I’m giving him a silly card that states “Are you thinking of me on Valentine’s Day?  You are now! And inside I’m putting $1.00 (see below for explanation, if you are reading this and you are one of my parents, siblings, children or other family member you may not want to read the explanation, I leave it up to you.)

“Act-as-if”, how much of our lives might change if we did that?  I’ll let you know what the out come is.  Not sure it will be an actual scientific measure but I’m willing to bet the results won’t be any worse than the situation has been the past few days.

My book recommendations for promoting love and long lasting relationships.
Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs by Emerson Eggerichs

The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman

The Love Dare by Stephen Kendrick

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert by John M. Gottman

The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships by John Gottman

Fun & Creative Dates for Married Couples: 52 Ways to Enjoy Life Together by Howard Books

The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian

The Brain in Love: 12 Lessons to Enhance Your Love Life by Daniel G. Amen M.D.   
My top 25 movie recommendations about love, romance or marriage in no particular order (realistic, classic or no where near realistic at all).
1.      RV
2.      Fireproof
3.      The Philadelphia Story
4.      Mickey Blue Eyes
5.      It Happened on Fith Avenue
6.      Joe vs. The Volcano
7.      When Harry Met Sally...
8.      Gone with the Wind
9.      Bringing Up Baby
10.  Christmas in Connecticut (oldest version)
11.  Father Goose
12.  Date Night
13.  I Hate Valentines Day
14.  You’ve Got Mail
15.  The Notebook
16.  The Proposal
17.  The Family Man
18.  Pretty Woman (I’m including this one because it’s one of The Director’s favorites)
19.  The Princess Bride
20.  Leap Year
21.  Serendipity
22.  The Long Long Trailer
23.  Tangled
24.  Enchanted
25.  50 First Dates

What’s the dollar for?  Sometime last year I read a post on A Holy Experience that shared the following letter and response, posted in the Ann Landers Column of the Chicago Tribune.
Their Love Yields A Second Honeymoon
June 06, 1998|By Ann Landers.

Dear Ann Landers: Last weekend, we celebrated my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. This morning, they left on a long-awaited trip to Hawaii. They were as excited as if it were their honeymoon.
When my parents married, they had only enough money for a three-day trip 50 miles from home. They made a pact that each time they made love; they would put a dollar in a special metal box and save it for a honeymoon in Hawaii for their 50th anniversary.

Dad was a policeman, and Mom was a schoolteacher. They lived in a modest house and did all their own repairs. Raising five children was a challenge, and sometimes, money was short, but no matter what emergency came up, Dad would not let Mom take any money out of the "Hawaii account." As the account grew, they put it in a savings account and then bought CDs.

My parents were always very much in love. I can remember Dad coming home and telling Mom, "I have a dollar in my pocket," and she would smile at him and reply, "I know how to spend it."
When each of us children married, Mom and Dad gave us a small metal box and told us their secret, which we found enchanting. All five of us are now saving for our dream honeymoons. Mom and Dad never told us how much money they had managed to save, but it must have been considerable because when they cashed in those CDs, they had enough for airfare to Hawaii plus hotel accommodations for 10 days and plenty of spending money.

As they told us goodbye before leaving, Dad winked and said, "Tonight, we are starting an account for Cancun. That should only take 25 years."

Loving Daughter in Abilene, Texas
Dear Loving Daughter: I don't know when I have read a more heartwarming story. Your parents were marvelous role models for their five children. Please give them my warm, good wishes on their 50th, and ask them to drop me a postcard from Hawaii. It is truly one of the most romantic garden spots in the entire world.

That post inspired me to give a box to The Director last year.  I used an 8 x 6 inch acrylic box that had a place for a 4x6 photo in the top.  I made a 4x6 note that read “In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.”  Ephesians 5:33.  I also included a picture of wedding rings above the bible verse and inserted it in the photo area.  On the inside I included a copy of the letter from Loving Daughter to Ann Landers and $1.00.

I think this is one of the best gift ideas I’ve ever come across, and I know The Director liked it a lot!

Happy Valentines Day one and all!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentine's Day Part 3

What is it about Valentine’s Day that makes us feel as if we HAVE to do something special for someone we love?  And, what about all the singles out there that don’t have someone special to spend this day with or do something for?  I’ll bet they are pretty annoyed with Valentine’s Day.  Is it the day or is it the way the media hypes it up?  I mean really life is NOT like the romance novels, you know the ones I’m talking about, I call them lust in the dust books.  I picked up one once and only got through the first 10 pages, honestly I was embarrassed and repulsed not to mention disgusted because stuff in those books does not happen in real life!

Oh!  And don’t get me started on movies!  The stuff in romance movies or romantic comedies is SO not real!  Real life is about real people living real lives!  Movies show only beautiful people living these fantastic, wonderful, lives full of merriment, and happiness in the end. (I believe that the Scooby Doo gang provides and excellent example of what I mean.  Fred and Daphne represent the beautiful people, the rest of us normal folk are represented by Velma and Shaggy.) Speaking of the end, love always conquers all and is always enough to get you though!  BULL!  You need a whole lot more than love to make it through all the tough things life throws at you!  You need a tool box full of understanding, compassion, patience, some tenacity and determination to make it through and stay together.  You need to know when to look away and ignore idiosyncrasies, and when to confront big problems.  You need lots of respect, and admiration for each other.  Love alone in our human state will not get us through.  Biblical love, 1 Corinthians love will conquer all, but I haven’t met a human that can truly, 100% of the time give that kind of love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
New International Version (NIV)
 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

While I’m on the subject of love I would like to address that we can’t control who we fall in love with.  There is an entire science devoted to studying the science of love.  Attraction is a physical and chemical reaction that happens in the body and brain (see my book recommendations at the end for more info on this, Dr. Amen’s book).  There is a whole host of chemicals that are released and are present like pheromones and testosterone and estrogen.  You also have different chemicals and hormones at different stages of your relationship such as when your love struck and attracted the chemicals released are adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin.  When love and attachment is finally achieved the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin are released.

That helps to explain why you have couples that you couldn’t possibly imagine together.  While I’m sure most men would find a tall, blonde, attractive woman “hot” they don’t all marry one.  The same goes for women, I’m sure a well built, sculpted, attractive man would catch many women’s eyes, but the reality is we don’t all marry one of them.  Even if we do find the person attractive we may not be attracted to them.  They are the Freds and Daphnes, and the rest of the world ends up attracted to Shaggys and Velma.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine’s Day Part 2

The second thing that came to mind is, if I don’t get The Director something does he view this as me not loving him?!  What happens if this year I’m just not in the mood to give him a Valentine card?

First of all, after attending a Love and Respect conference I found out that most men don’t like mushy, flowery, overflowing lovey, romantic cards, it’s not their language.  According to Emerson & Sarah Eggerichs, men want manly cards that speak their language of love (different from The Five Love Languages  that Gary Chapman writes about).  Cards that use words that appreciate a man’s work, achievements, the protection and provisions he makes for his family, appreciation for his strength, leadership, his desire to analyze and counsel, his insight and how much he is respected and admired.  While men want to know they are loved and don't mind hearing I love you, they are shown your love by using words of affirmation that speak to their God given wiring and desire for respect.   Most of the cards on the market today are filled with flowery love and romance sentiments that appeal mostly to women.  I would say the exception, at least for The Director, is a card that hints of physical relations with the sender, in this case me.  (The Director assures me, any card that hints of physical relations is welcomed!  In his words, “it’s a guy thing!”)

So back to what if I don’t feel like sending a card this year.  Let’s be honest, The Director and I have been together for almost 27 years.  He has been in my life longer than he wasn’t a part of it, more then half of my life.  Anyone in any kind of long term, committed, relationship knows that relationships ebb and flow.  I once heard a speaker explain marriage like this – everyone has highs and lows.  Highs may come from your world flowing well, the house is in order, work is good, you have low stress, the kids are in a groove and behaving well,  things go as you plan, finances are good, life overall is going in the direction you want and it is good.  Lows may come from your world unraveling, work is stressful, the house is a mess, your finances are in the toilet, the kids are in a stage that’s making you crazy, you have high stress, your dealing with aging parents, cranky kids, unruly teenagers, overbearing bosses, overall you are stressed out, life is not going according to plan, the weight of the world is on your shoulders and you are NOT happy.  When I think of lows, I think of the lyrics from the Godspell song All for the Best: 

When you feel sad, or under a curse
Your life is bad, your prospects are worse
Your wife is crying, sighing...
And your olive tree is dying,
Temples are graying, and teeth are decaying
And creditors weighing your purse...
Your mood and your robe
Are both a deep blue
You'd bet that Job
Had nothin' on you...

As I said, everyone has lows and highs, the speaker said that in a marital relationship when both partners are in a high, life and their relationship is great, it thrives!  When the man is in a low but the woman is in a high or vice versa the relationship survives, holds and continues.  This happens because the person in the high helps to carry, and help the partner in the low.  Life can be a bit harder or more hectic, there are hiccups, but overall it is still good.  When both partners are in a low, this is when the relationship is really strained and begins to become unglued.  Both partners are cranky, tired overwhelmed and don’t have the energy to do much more than the daily tasks at hand.  Often this creates for an environment of fights, arguments and nit-picking.

I once heard an author talk about margins in our life, how hard would it be to read a book with no margins?  If we don’t have margins in our own lives, every little thing begins to bother us.  An example of this would be a story I heard about a woman, who felt very worn out and in need of some margins; margins, in the form of a vacation, less stuff on her plate, for school to go well, margins that would get her back to the high.  I had to laugh, as she related the story of driving with her husband and family, to the next state over, for a small family vacation.  She was so spent, that every little detail bothered her, including the fact that her husband was driving in the left lane.  She herself usually drives in the right lane.  This habit of her husband’s was nothing new, he usually drove in the left lane but because of her state of mind (caused my no margin, hence a low) this annoyed the heck out of her.

Every person in a relationship, out there can relate to this, it might be a toothpaste cap, a toilet seat left up, an unmade bed, clothes left on/in fill in the blank because they are going to be worn again but usually never do, slurping milk while cereal is being eaten, dishes left in the kitchen sink, talking during a football game.  Any little annoyance that usually isn’t a big deal, it’s just that, a little annoying, but when you are in a low or are without margin it’s one of the first things to set you off!

Frankly, because The Director and I are both currently in a low, I don’t feel like giving him a card.  This is NOT because I don’t love or adore him!  I do very much!  It is mainly because all of the cards out there talk about your spouse as being perfect, the person you want to gaze at the rest of your life, how their undying love and devotion moves you to tears, how there is absolutely no other love, ever, that could be more perfect than the one they have for you.  When I read them, I wanted to throw up!  First of all there is and has been only one perfect love, Jesus’ love for us.  He loved us so much that he stretched out His arms and died WILLINGLY for us!

No matter how much we want to, we can never give or receive love as Jesus does.  Because of our human brokenness, our love is given selfishly, or is tainted by past hurts and baggage.  No matter how hard we try we can not give it 100% freely and unconditionally not like Jesus can.  Also, even if we try, with the best intentions of giving our love openly, and freely, and unconditionally it may be perceived and accepted in the wrong manner, because the recipient in their human brokenness, comes to the table biased, and or tainted with their own past hurts and baggage.  No one can receive love unselfishly, and see it for how it is exactly given other than Jesus!  He and only He is the perfect Valentine!

I just didn’t feel like giving The Director a card that spewed all of that mushy sentiment that I’m not feeling right now!  It’s not that I’m mad at him or haven’t forgiven him for something.  I’m just feeling guarded right now.  Because of my own current low situation and my own past STUFF and it is my STUFF, I perceived wrongly and took personally something The Director did last week.  It hurt my feelings!  I forgave him and I’m not mad at him, but I’m guarded.

Everyone in a relationship knows that there is one or two topics that come up repeatedly in arguments or fights through out your relationship.  Had we had better preparations, or maybe if we had paid better attention while preparing for marriage, maybe we would have learned tools and skills that would have lessened these reoccurring arguments.  Or, maybe we would have solved them/worked through them a long time ago and we wouldn’t still be dealing with them 20 years later.  What ever the case is, we still have this reoccurring argument and because it is reoccurring and I have past pain from these arguments.  When the argument rears it’s ugly head again, my past pain resurfaces and I find myself guarded not wanting to be completely open in our relationship.  I know logically that this guardedness creates a wall that keeps us disconnected.  However, when I’m feeling this way I often think of fight attendants explaining emergency procedures.  They ALWAYS tell you in the event of an emergency, put your oxygen mask on first before helping small children or others.  I feel like I need to take care of me and sooth my pain before I can openly connect with The Director again, otherwise I have found that I build up resentment and anger over time, towards him, and that is not good!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine’s Day Part 1

First I am rating this post PG, mainly because I want to talk about adult relationships.

Secondly, I set off on one thought process this morning, and now my head is swimming with thoughts and ideas having to do with Valentine’s Day, love, romance, and relationships.  So, who knows where this is going to go.

As I wrote this, it became apparent that it was way too long for one post, so it will be posted over several days, in several parts.  Not all parts are rated PG.  Actually this is awesome!  I have posts for the next four or five days!!

Valentine’s Day  is a holiday surrounded by legend, myth and mystery.  It is rooted in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, but we know from archeology digs that there are at least three martyrs named Valentine that the church recognizes as saints.   And at least one has the feast day of February 14th.  Legend says that Valentines, sent to a loved one, dates back as far as 1415.  A capital idea, that as time went on, Hallmark and other card companies jumped on.  Imagine an entire day set aside for LOVE!  (By the way, if the whole day is set aside for love, why don’t we get it off in order to cultivate our relationships?!)

Valentine’s is obviously, an extremely profitable day for florists, card companies, and candy companies.  I can not believe that one of the best selling Valentine’s candy, Sweethearts Conversation Hearts makes as much money as it does; being that it is only sold around Valentine’s Day!  Even Peeps, started over 50 years ago, branched out, creating their marshmallow treats for different holidays, new flavors, etc.  This year they have a new strawberry flavored, red chick, delicately dipped in milk or dark chocolate to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  And, on their web site they have a delicious (their words not mine) recipe, for a great Valentine dessert, for you sweetie, using their new peeps.  Companies are making a fortune selling LOVE Paraphernalia to the rest of us under the guise, that if you don’t express your love through cards, candy, flowers or other stuff you don’t truly love your fill in the blank. 

Two things come to mind when I think about all this. Now I don’t want you to think I’m cynical about Valentine’s Day or love because I’m not.  I just find it appalling that marketing ploys dictate such lies.  For Valentines Day, The Director and I always give the kids cards and usually a box of conversation hearts mainly because it’s fun and a nice little tradition.  In the past, depending on how life is going, we have made home-made cards, for each of the kids.

This year my parents, bless them, gave each of my kids a wonderful little goody bag filled with several little things like candy hearts, a scratch and sniff valentine (loved that!  Brought back great childhood memories), a bag of pretzels, a craft, and a pencil.  Now I’m grateful that my mom and dad love my kids and want to give them little goodies on holidays.  However, not wanting to be out done or have my kids think my parents love them more than The Director and I do, I of course felt the need (bought right into it!) to buy them each a little goody bag of stuff too.

I’m so glad there is a Dollar Tree right around the corner!  It allowed me to give chap-sticks, Valentine pencils, school supplies, gum and cards for less then $20.00.  We could seriously go broke buying goodies and cards for five kids at the local supermarket, pharmacy or chain superstore.  Have you seen the price of cards lately?!  50 cents at a Dollar Tree, almost as good as a five and dime in my book!

Friday, February 10, 2012

When it rains, it pours!

So once again several family members are sick, including me.  Yesterday, I canceled piano lessons and went back to bed for all of 10 minutes.  After just dozing off, the roosters awoke and began to mutter about, as they became fully awake.  Desperately wanting to stay in bed, but knowing that a six year old and three year old, sometimes known as Frick and Frack can get into more trouble in 10 minutes that a wild hog on the loose in a china shop, I arose barely conscious.  I entered the family room to the incessant chattering and whining of The Little Man wanting to watch Dinosaur Train and not being able to put it on himself.

After putting on something, not really sure if it was Dora the Explorer or Dinosaur Train, I began looking for any sort of medication that would make me feel better or at least help me breath a little easier.  This led me to remember that The Informer needed her antibiotic, so finding something for her to eat, I then gave her, her medication.  About this time, I hear the cat beating on Oldest door, letting me know it is time to be released from his nightly jail cell and that he is in need of the litter box.

No sooner does he come out and I plop myself on the couch, that he starts meowing.  So here’s the thing about the cat, he only really meows for two reasons, he can’t get to his food, kept on the washer so the beagle also known as the goat can’t eat it and or there is no water in the water bowl.  I slowly arise to check the water bowl, water, check; I then see that the food bowl is buried under mounds of recyclables that haven’t made it to the recycle bins in the garage and a basket of dirty clothes.  I decided to push the basket down to make more room for the recyclables therefore freeing up space, in order for said cat to get to the bowl.  Not realizing that there were also recyclables on the other side of the basket, I pushed it down and knocked off a bottle.  So there’s this law called gravity, it sates “Every particle of matter in the universe attracts every other particle with a force that is directly proportional to the product of the masses of the particles and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.”1   Bottom line, the concrete floor was attracting the glass bottle, and the glass bottle being brittle and rigid in nature, of course shattered all over the floor.  Both little people were naturally in tow, upon seeing the mess, inquired why I would do such a thing.  Making them leave the room so that the glass would not be attracted to their bare feet, we adjourned to the kitchen.

Trying to distract the little people with TV, food, anything so that I can clean up the mess I’ve just made, I see that The Informer might have a small sliver of glass on her foot.  As I begin to lift her on to the counter so I can check it out, I hear the cat scratching at some piece of furniture in the living room.  I quickly head toward the living room through the dining room and I realize that he is in the dog’s bed possibly getting ready to poop!  (Something he does on occasion, no one has figured out why, because we have a self cleaning litter box and it is ALWAYS clean!)  I yell at him with my pitiful, sick, raspy voice, he does nothing.  So, I decide to scare him because it doesn’t appear that he’s actually pooping.  I stomped my foot toward him, this causes him to jump and go running towards the living room.  As he takes off, two good sized, hard poop balls go flying through the air.  In typical fashion, the little people are right behind me.  Not wanting to get hit with projectile poop, The Informer begins a Mexican Hat dance to avoid all incoming bombs and both kids begin to scream.

Completely frustrated that not only do have to clean up a broken bottle, but now I also have to clean up cat poop, I trudge back to the kitchen to check out The Informer’s foot.  There is not sliver of glass on her foot, looking back now, how could there be after that perfect rendition of the Mexican Hat dance she did.  If there was a sliver I’m sure it’s on the dining room floor now.  (Note to self, vacuum dining room floor tomorrow.)

As I lift The Informer off the counter I realize that the cat, not making it very far, is finishing his business, NOT IN THE CAT BOX! But on the entry hall floor!  UUGGHH!  Big Sigh!  I get a Wal-Mart bag and go clean up the balls in the dining room and the mess in the hall.  I got the bleach spray and wiped both floors down.  Then I went and proceeded to sweep the laundry room floor, all the while being followed by both little people, who are continuing their running commentary on the situation.  I’m really trying not to lose it, not sure I could if I wanted to, I had no voice and I was very weak from illness.  All I wanted to do was go back to bed and pull the covers over my head!

About the time that I finished cleaning everything up The Informer says “Why did we get that bad cat anyway?!”  I told her he wasn’t bad all the time, he just misbehaved sometimes and we aren’t sure why, he’s kind of like a little kid in that way.  She then informs me that we never should have gotten that cat and that we should get rid of him.  I asked her how she would feel about getting rid of her when she misbehaved.  Trying to get out of what she has started, she replied “I just think it’s time for a new white cat, not a gray one” as she turned and tried to slink away.  I was too miserable to argue the point.

I would like to note at this point that all three owls slept through the entire event!

Later in the day as I was recounting the story to The Director, laughing out loud he said “You sacred the poop out of him, literally!”  To this he laughed even harder.  Honestly, I find nothing about the morning funny at all, I just wanted to crawl back in bed pull the covers over my head and stay there until, let’s say, the little people went to college, or at least an hour or so.

Works Cited

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How to end the holidays with a bang!

(This post was meant to be much earlier in the year but life has been a bit more hectic than usual around the Living at Wit’s End abode.  I hope it will spark some ideas for you, for next year.)

Our family has a lot of traditions throughout the year, but especially during the holidays.  Lately I’ve explained one of our traditions a lot.  Since so many people seem to be interested in the idea I thought I would share it with you as well.  My kids aren’t sad when the holidays are over, mainly because very soon after New Years we celebrate again.  On January 6th, Epiphany, we have a great party to celebrate the three kings visit to see Jesus.
On Epiphany we start the day by going to mass together.  In the evening we have a nice dinner (no real traditional meal), sometimes it is party finger food and other times it’s a little more formal, sit down, dinner.  That all depends on how busy we have been during the week and or how tired I am.  After dinner we have King Cake.  Some years I’ve made a homemade Bundt cake, and others I’ve bought a pre-made Angel Food Cake.  Either works fine.  The idea behind the King Cake, is that it looks like a crown, and most importantly that three beans (in our case 2 black beans and 1 white, to represent the color skin of our king statues) are baked into it.  With the homemade cake I randomly place the dried beans in the batter and then bake the cake.  If I buy a pre-made cake, I turn it over and stick three dried beans into the cake, in random places.  Before it’s served I let the kids decorate it with icing or whipped cream, fresh fruit and candy, like berries, smarties, spice drops or anything that will look like gems on a crown.
As everyone eats their cake, carefully, we anxiously await to see who will get the beans!  For the ones that find the bean in their cake, are the ones that get to carry the Kings on the long journey to see the baby Jesus.  After cake is consumed and we know who will be carrying the kings, our procession/treasure hunt begins.  Whoever is carrying a king dresses up in king garb, with crowns, strands of plastic beads and a royal costume.
 Each person in charge of a king, chooses their king statue based on the color bean they got in their cake.  In full costume, carrying their king, they lead the procession (youngest child to oldest child).  The entire family follows the king procession looking for the first clue.  The procession proceeds in this manner, following clue to clue until we finally find the baby Jesus.  Once the baby Jesus is found, a person not carrying a king, heads up the front of the line and carries the baby Jesus back to the manger, followed by the kings and the rest of the family.  Once baby Jesus is placed back in the manger, the kings are placed appropriately in the manger as well.  Then everyone shares the chocolate, coin, treasure that was found with the baby Jesus.  (You can find these at party stores or at your local supermarket in the Jewish food section.  My oldest kids always comment on the Menorahs’ imprinted on the candies, when I get them from the supermarket.)
After our procession/treasure hunt, the entire family heads outside with chalk and holy water to bless the house for the New Year.  We all process, The Director first, and everyone else following, singing We Three Kings.  Outside, at each door that enters the house, the following prayer is said “O Lord, grant that the names of Thy saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar may, through their merits and petitions, bless our home and bring physical health and spiritual protection for all who enter here.  Amen.”  While the prayer is being said, The Director writes the following 20+C+M+B+ whatever the year is, (in the case of this year, it would end with 12, so the end numbers change each year), above the door in chalk.  It stands for, the beginning and ending numbers are the current New Year (this year read 20+C+M+B+12) the letters can stand for the three king’s names but we believe, they represent “Christus mansionem benedicat” or “May Christ bless this house.”  Then The Director sprinkles a bit of holy water on the threshold of the door.  We then continue the procession, singing from door to door, praying, writing above the door and sprinkling holy water, until all the doors have been blessed.
We finish up the party by picking a spiritual gift out of a basket (each spiritual gift is printed on a shape that is reminiscent of the Wise Men like a camel or a star or a crown), such as faith, hope, charity, fortitude, patience, a spirit of cheerfulness, simplicity of faith, open heartedness, or childlike faith.  We say a short prayer asking the Holy Spirit to guide our choice, and then each family chooses from the basket without looking.  Whatever spiritual gift is chosen, that’s what we focus on throughout the coming year.  The card chosen gets hung up where the recipient can see it daily and focus on incorporating into their daily lives.  I have found that each year when we do this, the gift chosen is often one that I particularly need to work on or need to spend more time in prayer about.
When everything is said and done all the Christmas decorations come down until next year.  I find it is a fantastic way to celebrate the end of the Christmas season, and it makes putting the decorations away, a little easier for the kids.
I wondered how long this tradition would last in our family, but even as the older kids get older, they love this tradition.  So much so, that this year at bible study, The Organized Child shared how much fun it was, and that it was the best part of her week.  All the other high school kids, at bible study, asked how they can become a family member and get in on the deal.  As I get older, I’m realizing that no matter how old your kids are, they still like parties, to have fun and traditions with their families even if they put up a front and act as if they are not that interested.  I think it is so important to continue family traditions and fun no matter what your kids ages, it is something they will remember always and it makes for great family bonding!
Some fabulous tools to help celebrate holidays and holy days.
A Treasure Chest of Traditions (For Catholic Families) by Monica McConkey (from what I can tell this item is out of print but if you can get your hands on a used copy I highly recommend it)

Image from PicGifs.com