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Archive for December, 2008

Take it all in

It’s a mad dash for us all as the holidays approach, and I often forget to slow down and take stock of the blessings I enjoy.

I won’t list them here, because I’m sure mine will differ from yours. But just take a minute, over the next week or two, to recount your good fortune, and the positive things that’ve happened for you in 2008.

We can all dwell on the negative, and we often do. Time for a mental reboot.

Merry Christmas, all, and best wishes in the New Year.

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Can’t beat the holidays for quality family experiences. Here’s just a few from recent weeks.

cookietimeWe went to my parents’ earlier this month to make Christmas cutout cookies. Depending on your perspective, this can be seen as great fun (the kids), a chance to gorge oneself on dough and frosting (again, the kids), or a semantic free-for-all requiring hours of post-baking recovery (the adults).

I think our efforts turned out well, as the photo at right will illustrate. We ended up with about 5 dozen sugar-infused masterpieces, and took home about half of them.

They didn’t last long, and the kids really do enjoy it, so that’s a tradition worth keeping.

Next up was the annual hunt for the perfect tree. And in this case, our field perception was just a bit skewed.

treedecoratedIt’s always fun going to the Christmas tree farm, and our farm in particular is quite picturesque — a large hill festooned with row upon row of Scotch pines, balsam firs and Douglas firs. (Don’t ask me which is which — I just know they’re different.)

We decided to go with the long-needled tree this year, because it’s softer and easier to adorn with lights. And when we found what the rest of the family felt was the “perfect tree,” I had my reservations.

“It’s a little big,” I said. “Not sure it’ll fit in the house.”

Nonsense, I was told. We have a vaulted-ceiling family room. No problem.

Well, when we got it home and tried to hoist it into its stand — the problem emerged. No amount of wedging could change the fact that the tree was at least 1 1/2 feet too tall for our family room.

So, down it came, and I performed a little creative surgery, right there in the middle of the room. I hear I was a little edgy about it, but in the end, the tree fit our space. And frankly, it’s one of our more impressive trees to date.

Then last weekend came a truly impressive, kid-friendly ride on the Midwest Central Railroad’s North Pole Express.

christmastrainClearly meant to mimic the trademark-protected Polar Express, the holiday-themed train transports passengers from Mount Pleasant, Iowa, directly to the North Pole, where a host of kid-friendly activities await. The train cars’ windows are frosted, so the journey itself is as mysterious as the destination.

The trip itself takes as long as the re-telling of the Polar Express story on the train’s loudspeakers. The event sells out every year, and we were lucky to get tickets.

It’s a well-crafted holiday experience, and perfect for kids. I have no doubt we’ll do it again.

Authentic steam trains taking kids to the North Pole to meet Santa. How can you go wrong? It’s the perfect holiday recipe.

So that’s been our holiday preparation to date, in a nutshell. We haven’t gotten our Christmas cards out yet, of course, and there’s still plenty of wrapping and such to do, but we’re well on our way.

And we’re getting plenty of snow, so it’ll be a true postcard Christmas.

Enjoy, everyone.

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