Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Pictures -- posted by John

Here is the prettiest tree in Columbia that I told you about:

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Mom usually makes an elegant bow for the top of our tree but some of us wanted a star like the trees we see on TV so Ma bought us one that lights up.

We took a lot of pictures with us kids around the tree but since Webb had fallen asleep and we had to wake him up, Will had to hold his head up because he kept dozing off. Sometimes Webb doesn't hold up his head for the camera but Will usually remembers to lift it for him. This was the best picture of the bunch. Can you believe that?

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We went to my grandmother's house for Christmas Eve and guess what she got me. She got me something that is perfect for me and I love it! A black and white ZOOT SUIT!

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It goes perfect with my pocket watch. I just need a longer chain.

Webb got a fish aquarium.

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Richard and George hiding their eyes while their electric scooters are brought in:

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James got a .22!

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We didn't take pictures of what we got at home but maybe I can get Will to take some and I'll write about that later.

It is New Year's Eve and I'm having the most delicious sparkling grape juice. It is much better than my parent's champagne.

I'll finish about Christmas soon and in the meantime I wish you all a very, very, Happy New Year!

P.S. If you missed the UPDATE on my last entry about our surprise in the mail, just scroll down. It's at the bottom of my last post.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Christmas, Every One! -- posted by John

We have a tradition of going to the same place every year to get our Christmas tree. It is a fruit and vegetable market in the spring and summertime, pumpkins in the fall, and a tree lot around Christmastime.

Our favorite part of the tradition is that once we pick our tree, we boys get up on the roof of our 15 passenger van, straighten the tarp, and tie down the tree. The feeling on the roof is like you are tall and doing a mature thing. We all looked forward to the day when we were allowed to go up there and this was Richard's first year.

As soon as Thanksgiving rolled around and we began thinking about Christmas, Richard started asking Mom and Dad if he could get on the roof this year. They didn't answer right away because he is only six years old. Richard even reminded Mom that if he didn't get to, then what if Jesus came back suddenly before next Christmas and he missed it forever. She didn't point out that if that happened he would get to fly to meet him in the clouds, she knew that wouldn't help anyway.

A week or so later Mom called us all together to make a suggestion since we are being very careful with money these days. She asked us how we would feel about cutting down a cedar tree on our property this year, instead of buying the traditional Fraser Fir. She said it could go down in our history as the year we had our most warm, wonderful, and loving Christmas with few presents and a crummy old cedar tree. She said it would be fun. When she said this Richard jumped up and darted for his room. She had forgotten about his dream of getting on the roof! She followed him and comforted him and offered to let him just get up on the van anyway. He agreed, but you could tell it wouldn't be the same.

Most of us were okay with Mom's idea since these things usually work out. Spencer suggested we use an artificial tree we have in the attic. He didn't think a cedar tree would "honor Bethhallel Academy" (our homeschool) and would "represent failure and a lack of willingness to work together as a team." He was half joking. He was joking about the reason, but he wasn't joking that he didn't really want a cedar tree. We also wanted to go to the tree lot and give the men the Christmas tip money we give them every year. That is a tradition we really didn't want to part with since they are such a big part of our happy times choosing a tree and tying it down.

Meanwhile, we had waited very late to get a Christmas tree and when Dad went by the lot one of the men that helps us every year thought maybe we had moved and said they were wondering where we were. They were down to just 24 trees left and said we should hurry if we want one. Dad called on his Blackberry for us to get our shoes on because he was coming to get us.

When we got there the guy had tagged a tree to save one for us. Mom explained that we were thinking of going smaller this year to save money. He said that was fine and he wondered what happened to us and said they all missed us. He said they love it when we come by because they enjoy the way our family loves each other.

After we had looked at the tree he tagged, he told us to come around back behind the building because he wanted to show us something. When we got there he held up the most perfect Christmas tree we've ever seen. We've never had such a beautiful tree. He said a man who had first pick had them hold it for him, but he never came for it. He wanted us to buy it. They all wanted us to buy it! Mom said she loved it, but we were trying to do less this year. He said they were knocking $20 off. He then convinced her that the man wasn't coming back because it had been a month, and besides, he hadn't paid for it and they had to sell it to somebody. She and Dad looked at each other and Dad was wanting it. We all agreed.

All that was left was to slice off the bottom of the tree and tie it down. Richard was the happiest kid in the world standing up on the roof! He put his fists on his hips like Superman and took in the view with pride. Oh, and when Dad went to pay for the tree they took off another $6 and gave us a gigantic fresh wreath with a big golden bow! We also left Christmas money for a firefighter that usually helps us but we missed him this year. We were all just blessing each other. We pulled away with great emotion filling us up.

(left to right: Richard, George, me. James still gets up there but he wasn't in the picture. Will and Spencer have outgrown it.)



I saw A Christmas Carol but not the very beginning. It was the one with Patrick Stewart. The Ghost of Christmas Past looked very unmanly and pale. I could easily beat him up.

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol and I could have guessed with the style clothes and the gloomy, cold, wintry, dark, and dirty England. And don't forget the goodly hearted poor boy that makes you want to be his friend and relieve his poverty.

When Mom and Sarah Grace went shopping last week they got very hungry and even though we decided not to eat out, they pulled in McDonald's drive through because they accidentally skipped breakfast and they needed to eat something. When they pulled up to the window the girl said there was no charge because the man in front of them paid for their meal. Mom asked why and she said it was just a random act of kindness. I'm glad we live in the South.

During Bible time this morning I pulled back an imaginary arrow in an imaginary bow to shoot James because he was making fun of me. Usually he falls over like he's hit. Today when I pulled back the arrow I accidentally bopped myself in my own eye. Hard. Every time Mom remembers it she starts laughing. She was sitting next to me.

UPDATE: Today after I wrote this post we got a Christmas card in the mailbox and it said this: People like you make the season a little nicer... Thanks for being so special! Dear Allen Family- We thank you for making your "family tradition" so wonderful for us! Have a Merry Christmas & a Healthy and Happy New Year! They signed their names and sent us back the check for the most beautiful tree in Columbia! It had Merry Christmas written in red with VOID written across it. The firefighter sent back our cash gift, too!

God bless us, every one.

Friday, December 5, 2008

What a Night for a Daydream -- posted by John

Mom and Sarah Grace picked up a nice package of spekulatius from Aldi. It was so tasty that they bought three more bags on their last trip because we loved them so much and since they are seasonal, they could run out.

Spekulatius reminds me of my father's grandfather, Opa. He was a German baker man from Alsace-Lorraine and he and Oma had a bake shop in New York City! I never met them but I wish I had. He had wooden spekulatius molds and he made the cookies for his family.

Lately I've been reading the Bible a lot and I've been understanding everything I read. I told Mom and she read I Corinthians chapter one where Paul writes that he knows very well how foolish the message of the cross is to those who are on the road to destruction. (I call it Broadway.) God says he will destroy human wisdom and discard their most brilliant ideas. Paul was a very educated man like an intellectual, but he didn't count that for anything. He said the cross of Christ is the very power of God. So, where does that leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world's brilliant debaters? God has made them all look foolish and he has shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. I know he is showing me his deep secrets and I'm just a kid!

We're visiting another church on Sunday. I hope they are real Christians and not just the churchy type people. This church uses grape juice for communion instead of wine, but they should know that I can hold my liquor! They think it is wrong to drink wine. They are misunderstanding that part. Jesus drank wine and his first miracle was turning water to wine, not wine to water! He said to not get drunk. He didn't say not to drink. I think they are trying to please the Lord by not drinking wine and I'm glad for that.

After all the trouble with Webb having that bad seizure and all, my mom told us a story that I want to tell you. When I told her I wanted to put it in my journal, she warned me that the world won't love it like I loved it but I want to write it anyway.

After my mom went through a day with a lot of hard trials and deep cares, she couldn't get to sleep that night. She came out to the den and just laid on her stomach on the sofa with her arms above her head. As she was lying there, she pictured herself with her arms wrapped around Jesus' ankles with her head on the top of his feet. While she was holding on to him and crying her heart, she kept wondering what was over her shoulder, not feeling completely safe. So, after awhile she stood up and backed up against him (he was tall like a giant). It was like you could back up against curtains, and she pulled his robe around her from the right and the left to try to hide herself, but her feet were sticking out and she made a bulge in his robe. Then she remembered how Jesus showed Thomas the slit in his side from the soldiers spear and offered Thomas to stick his fist in to prove he was him. So, Mom found his slit and climbed inside it! It wasn't bloody because all his blood was poured out for us so she said it flapped back in place like a doggy door and she curled up in his side like a squirrel in a nest in a tree and she fell fast asleep. She said she slept her warmest and best sleep ever inside Christ, and it was just the comfort she needed for her broken heart and grief. I loved this story.

A few nights later I had a dream that we were on the road in the field next to our house and it started raining, so I asked Jesus if I could get under his cape. He was sitting down writing a letter. It was in cursive so I couldn't read what it said. (I have trouble reading some cursive writing still.) I crawled under his cape. (He had on a cape like in a movie I saw where he was clearing the temple and he swung his cape.) I didn't fall asleep- I just stayed out of the rain. The next thing I knew our bathroom appeared in the field and the black guy from The Three Musketeers was reading Jesus' note in the bathroom.

My dream was just nuts.