Dear family:

I thought it would be nice if I could get off one family letter this week, as it is unlikely I will find the time again before Christmas. This is such a busy time of year Ė we have had stretches in which there is some evening activity every night of the week.

The anticipation of Christmas is quite a discipline for Ben. I try to play it very low-key, but every where we go Ė the post office, grocery store, etc. Ė people ask him if he is ready for Santa and he canít help but absorb some of the hype. I purchased an advent calendar, which has a little chocolate behind each window, from the German store. I explained that Christmas would finally arrive when he got down to the last chocolate. It didnít take him long to figure out that all he needed to do was eat all the chocolates and that would mean it was Christmas! I did manage to nip that idea in the bud; however, he took the calendar to show-and-tell at his nursery school and when I came to pick him up I learned that he had allowed each of his classmates to have one chocolate. This generosity was regretted the following morning when his brothers still had their calendars and his was empty, so we went back to the German store and he has a new one. He is supposed to be doing chores to earn money to buy some books for poor children, as a way of introducing some thought for helping others. He is more interested in rearranging the tree ornaments, though. Two weekends ago we made our annual trek up the cold and windy mountain to cut down a tree, and this year I succeeded in keeping the choice to one that would actually fit in the house, much to the disappointment of every one else.

Ben is also fascinated with the nativity set. For several days he played with all the pieces. Then one evening we noticed that they were all out of sight except one wise man. When asked about it, he said that the wise man had killed everybody. So much for peace, good will on earth! In a slightly more charming gesture, however, he decided to make a picture and give it to God, and wanted to know how he could do that. David told him to put it in the offering plate at church, which I thought was a good idea.

The main point of nursery school, as far a s Iím concerned, is to give the rest of us some time to get work done with Ben out of the way, but from time to time I succumb to the requests to help out chaperoning a field trip or baking something for the Thanksgiving party. Last week his class went to the Moravian putz one day, to Kirkland to sing carols for the residents another day, and on a third day went to tour the Giant grocery store. I got assigned to chaperone the grocery store trip, which was exactly like taking one child to the grocery store, multiplied by seventeen. I thought it was very suspicious that one of the two regular teachers happened to call in sick that day.

Because, as I said, I try to get my full moneyís worth out of the school, I usually arrive to pick Ben up at the end of the 15 minute pick-up time (but not past it, because there is a fine for being late). The problem is that no one wants to be the very last mother to arrive ("the Bad Mother") so you can sometimes see mothers sprinting through the parking lot trying to squeeze in ahead of the last one. Last week I was the Bad Mother every single day! Fortunately, Ben likes nursery school so much that he usually doesnít mind being at the end, but even he commented on my record that week, so I am determined to be early (once or twice!) this week.

This is the season of Christmas programs, and yesterday we had our church production. It was a very hectic day for me, and I intend to force some sympathy from all of you by telling you about it! David has been in Atlanta all week, so I didnít have anyone to pass along some of the commuting to. Peter has a logic class in Trexlertown on Saturday mornings, Ben had a birthday party to attend (and the gift I ordered December 8th on Amazon never arrived, so we had to dash out for a present), we went to the farmerís market to buy cheese for fondue (this is to celebrate Danís homecoming and my first ebay purchase -- a Pfaltzgraff fondue pot), and then I raced home to cook up a storm before dropping Peter off at work and then going to the church for the program. I was glad I had brought as much food as I did, because it all got eaten Ė we had a number of Lehigh students who took a break from exams to come. David arrived in from the airport shortly after the service started. As usual, the little kidís choir, with Ben front and center Ė if not on key Ė stole the show. Today has been dedicated to recovering from all the hoopla.

Another big production was our Masterís Academy Christmas program on December 7th. It is a great relief to me that our school takes a full month off, because it would be brutal to keep up with lesson preparations through this season. The Christmas program highlights the elective classes, so I had a comparatively easy time. I teach the Literature elective, so my part was a display of their Robinson Crusoe

papers. I enjoy teaching this class a lot; the preparation is much less demanding than the history classes, though we were all panting to keep up with the reading schedule. I also had a display table with items from all of the semesterís history classes which we put together at top speed. Christopherís elective is oil painting, and he received oodles of raves about his still life. His teacher is a bit intimidating ("I donít do macaroni art" is one of her mantras) but she sure knows how to bring out the best in her students. Stephenís elective is arts & crafts, and his drawing of a colonial man was selected to be displayed at the Quakertown library next month.

Now, with Peter at LVCHS, we have yet another school community in which to be involved. I have almost no responsibilities there, of course, so I couldnít say no when the parentsí organization called and asked if I would be the Secret Santa for this past week. That meant making snacks for the teacherís lounge Ė which meant making double batches of everything because the boys were drooling and I was afraid they would snitch the goodies. Since I also make stuff for our Lehigh studies, I donít expect to make Christmas cookies because I am all baked out!

I just remembered our church womenís Christmas party, too. I was one of three women asked to give a little message around a theme, chosen from a holiday song. This is the kind of thing my mother could do in her sleep, but I couldnít pull my thoughts together and was in something of a panic. When I arrived, I was surprised to see the room was full and that half of the women were strangers to me. It all worked out fine and I felt that God rescued me in the nick of time!

This is also the season of lots of music. We have been to vespers services at Lehigh and Moravian Ė very proud that four of our RUF students had spotlighted roles in the Lehigh one. Iím sad to see the students go home for Christmas; it has been a great semester and the Bible studies have been very helpful. We have also had some good times with a few parents Ė one was here for a meal and David met others at a play that another of our students was in.

Just a few words to close here... Peter has returned to working at KFC and is there six days a week. This means he has almost no free time. Thursday was his first official snow day as an ice storm canceled school, which meant he could sleep in and work some on his history of aviation paper, due this week. He is especially looking forward to having Dan home and going skiing with him as part of the school ski club. Christopher and Stephen were supposed to be far enough along that we could take the coming week as a vacation week to prepare for Christmas, but a myriad of distractions have prevented that from happening, so Christmas shopping is being squeezed into little corners of the day. The young people at church exchange presents, so a lot of discussion has gone into what one can possibly give to GIRLS! Danielís last exam is Wednesday, so while I will be driving Lehigh students to the local airport, David will drive to Baltimore to pick him up. I think the exams have been rough on him; he asked if I would make macaroni and cheese when he comes home Ė the quintessential comfort food!

My week will be taken up with writing a Christmas letter, shopping for and wrapping presents, and various and sundry projects that should have been done a month ago. Is it just me, or has this Advent gone by unusually quickly? My sisters-in-law put me to shame with their organization Ė for I may have to resort to giving gifts on Epiphany!



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