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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

the not perfect Christmas

So. No snow for Christmas. No cold even. So bizarre. Of course, I lived in Cali for years as a teen but even then, you get cold mornings with frost even. Here. Around 69 degrees at night, and we all wake up with chattering teeth, wrapped in blankets.

But it was a good Christmas.

The kids were blessed by many people with gifts and Facetime calls home with cousins and grandparents took out the sting of being so far from family for the first time in their lives.

But it was still strange.

Guys, I think I'm starting to feel unsettled a bit about moving here. Like WOAH, we really live here? Well then, where is all my stuff ?! Little things like dish towels and jewelry and teapots and my good paints. Why did I not bring my good oils?? Its weird to have pangs for things like this. I need to be all here, maybe, not half of my life sitting in a storage unit so far away.

I think we just need to sort, sell, and ship the rest. Which is going to be torturous.

Clearly I have nothing to say in this post. Its been a hard couple of weeks. I won't get into the nitty gritty but. Its been hard. For many reasons. Last night I was in so much pain - contractions, muscle aches, this weird pelvic separation thing that feels like my body is ripping in half with every step.

And dada has taken a second job, which means I need to be stepping it up around here. But I can barely move by the end of the day. And I can't call anyone to come and help. There isn't anyone, I moved away from my anyones.

Seriously I need to not post until after this baby is born. HA. My body is apparently going to fall apart again. And I - AGAIN - am turning into the worlds crabbiest pregnant lady.

And yet I am wrestling with these attitudes, I need to learn something about myself this time around, of  my compulsion to "step it up" to stay on top of everything, to not let pain get the better of me or my attitude. My sister says to me, "you just gotta let it go." But I cant. I just can't step up over the crayon getting ground into the carpet, or the pile of clothes on the stairs, or the pillow lying askew on the floor, or the honey someone forgot to wipe up on the counter, or the Legos randomly all over the bathroom. WHY ARE THERE LEGOS IN THE BATHROOM?

I could become boss lady. Kids can do more than we think. Little man has actually really stepped it up. He makes tea for us both every night and offers to rub my shoulders when I heave myself down into my chair at the end of a long day. Little miss too. Seven year old girls are amazingly helpful. Cheerfully fetching things in the other room or helping her sister brush her teeth.

But then you get to feel like you are just barking orders all day. Because they aren't me. Because I want them all to do it the way I WOULD DO IT. Which is, when you get up from the dinner table you immediately clear the plates and wipe the table and rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher. I do it immediately. I don't go and sit with my feet up in a chair digesting whilst looking at Facebook. Like some people. I just can't. So. My OCD then makes me the order barking grump. "Can't I sit for ten minutes first?" Um. No?

I DO need to let it go, don't I?


And it extends beyond that of course, beyond the house. Families we know around here posting pics of trips to the volcano, days spent on the beach, running on the sand with their kids, hikes up mountain, camping in the jungles, strolling around quaint little towns and shops. Friends I know who dance and jog and play until the day their babies pop out.

I CANT DO ANY OF THOSE THINGS. Man, I can barely get my ass into the car to drive down to the public library. My poor children. I feel like we are missing out on so much.

Life lessons at nearly 40, right?

I DON'T HAVE TO BE THE PERFECT HOUSEKEEPER. I DON'T HAVE TO BE THE PERFECT ENTERTAINING MOTHER.  There will be other Christmas breaks to go camping and see the volcanoes and drive to the other side of the island. It doesn't have to all happen now.


So. No. It wasn't a perfect Christmas. But it was good. The kids are happy. We have a pool, which is my only source of relief most days, so I don't need to feel guilty about not going to the beach in weeks.

And soon. EIGHT WEEKS FROM NOW HOPEFULLY. A little guy will come into our family. And the tight grumpy Christmas will be far behind us. And I can sit in my chair and hold a new little life. And the pain will be gone. And things will get back to a new normal where I bend over to pick up broken crayons like a boss, and drag four kids around the island without a qualm, and wake up early to bake bread and drink coffee as the sun rises, sparkling on the hazy ocean in the distance.

And it will be home then, maybe. And I can make it.

Monday, December 21, 2015

confessions of a woman in the third trimester

Oh man.

The third trimester. The fourth baby. At almost forty. Yes. I shall confess that. ALMOST FORTY.

SIDE NOTE: What??? How is this possible??? I swear I'm still 23. Except for when I hang out with 23 year olds. Then I'm like, nope. I'm totally almost forty. HA HA HA.

But seriously.

Dude, its like my body wakes up every morning whining...


I have dreams regularly about stretching my belly up to my arms, trying to hold little guy, still encased in my rubbery belly.

I WANT HIM OUT. Okay. But not yet. Yes, yes, I know. Ten weeks. Baby needs it. I can do it.

But I don't have to like it.


One leg is in constant pain. Every step. I have really flexible joints to begin with and the relaxin chemical of late pregnancy just means EVERYTHING IS FALLING APART. And yet, my hips are so so tight. Dada questioned this as he rubbed my hips one night after me begging and I'm all, "I DONT KNOW, JUST MAKE IT FEEL BETTER."


When you think about rolling over at night and you're like, nope, can't do it. Bedsores it is! Or bending over to pick stickers off the kitchen floor and you find yourself looking around, "what else can I do while I'm down here??"

Every move, economized.

Yes, I've made an effort this pregnancy. I swim every day with the kids and do water exercises. This has totally helped. I look slightly toned and fit, so I'm told. I've also been doing regular inversions, pelvic tilts and other exercises from this site in an effort to position baby in a better way and avoid the long painful birth of my last pregnancy.

And yet, LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING. HA. Someone commented on a recent facebook picture, "you look so energetic.!" Made me cackle. Yea, it was 9am when that picture was taken. Talk to me at 2 in the afternoon. By 9pm I'm moaning on the couch. CANT MOVE. DONT. TOUCH. ME.

(NOTE: have you heard of belly binding?? Apparently its a thing quite normal in other cultures to support the belly. I totally have been doing this around the house. Much more comfortable than the back/belly brace things you can buy at the store. I have found a large strip of fabric works well - I use a sarong from Thailand. Here are some links about it.)

Okay. So far, I have had nothing to say except whining in this post. I think its the current cold I just came down with that has set me over the edge. Pretty sure I am feverish. Every sneeze and I have to concentrate on not, er, losing control.

FUN TIMES, right mamas???

The things we do.

It's like a job, isn't it, to do it "right." I have to watch my sugar intake, not because of gestational diabetes but because of the dreaded GBS. BLARGH. I'm following this protocol, more or less, taking probiotics in mega doses, drinking kombucha, eating as much garlic as I can stomach, vitamin C and D in high doses, I have a list. A LIST. A LONG ONE. Plus there is the whole "good fats!" (yay for our avocado tree, and yet, one can actually get tired of avocados) and "protein!" (seriously, how much meat can you actually eat in a day??) and "daily leafy greens!" (WAH!) of this diet that I try to follow in pregnancy. And really, we're all just like, GIVE ME THE CHEETOS NOW.

The things we do.

I try to reward myself. Carry the laundry down to the laundry room and you can sit for 20 minutes and read in front of the fan with sparkling water! Heaven, am I right?

Meanwhile, the other day I was lounging on the couch, laying sideways, because laying on my back feels like I am being slowly suffocated, and I reached across my belly to turn the page of my book and little punk actually kicked me SO HARD that I yelped in fright. Okay, then. Sorry about that, picky little guy. I roll over at night, finally willing myself to do it, and its 20 minutes of kicks until I roll back to the other side. Already bossing me around from inside. Perfect.


Its not magical anymore folks.

I am ready. Except not. Labor. Ugh. I don't want to do that again. I mean I will. And I've got a good feeling about this time around. But still. Thankfully its not imminent...yet...when those weeks approach its like waiting for a surprise marathon run. Any minute you'll be asked to run for hours and hours. But, you DONT KNOW WHEN.

Also, punk comments aside. I really want to meet this guy. See who he is. When you are pregnant with your first its all so unknown. After a few babies, having kids who are older with funny charming quirky personalities you find yourself wanting to know...who is this guy? How will he fit in our family? Who will he be?

And we all know how patient I am.

So, what do we do? In the meanwhile?

Well, I got several books to read from the library. When I wake up in the middle night, (sigh, get up to pee, FINE.) and can't get back to sleep, at least I have something to do other than look at facebook where all I seem to see are pictures of friends who have had their babies recently. NO FAIR. ha.

I am trying to be nice to myself too.

The house is not going to be the cleanest every day, all day. It will not be a Pinterest-perfect Christmas. The kids can do more if I accept it not being as good as how I would do it. Little man is now being tasked with weekly cleaning of the bathrooms. Its all about the foaming bubble cleaner for him, HA. Its okay to not be perfect lady, slurp down that nutrient packed smoothie and you can have some cheesy nachos as a reward!

Its the little things, my friends, the little things.

So today as I sneeze and sniffle and await our "date night" I'm letting the kids absolutely trash the living room. Earlier we decorated cookies and I actually let them do it. Most of them. Our poor neighbors HA. In a little bit I'm going to put in a load of laundry (has to be be done) then make them mac and cheese and then I'll read, then take a ten minute nap while they zone out on the Ipad (Ah, Christmas break!). Then we'll swim and afterwards I'll bark orders for them to pick up as I sit, queen-like, on the couch with the occasional attempt at bending over to pick the broken candy cane bits out of the living room carpet. And I'm not going to feel guilty. I've gotta save my energy for waddling around Target, limping in pain, to buy them Christmas presents this evening.


Ten weeks and counting.

We women in the third trimester are heroes I tell you. FREAKING HEROES.
Thursday, December 17, 2015

Santa Lucia day, a little late

"We missed Santa Lucia Day??" 

Little man was upset. I had had meetings, fighting off a cold, dada working all weekend. 

"Yea," I sighed. I know I suck. 

His disappointment made me sad. So instead of scratching it for the year I said, "well, we could do it a few days late if you want, on dada's day off?"

So we did. Which was today. I took some refrigerator dough and made cinnamon rolls. Some strong coffee. And, lacking crowns of pine boughs we twisted some play leis into wreaths for the girls and let little man carry the candle. 

Traditions don't have to be perfect to be memorable, to be important, to be worth it. 

Say that with me, a couple times. Ha. 

The kids sang a few lines on the below song as I sat in bed with dada. And then we ate clementines and the rolls. 

(For a few minutes, while I nagged at the kids to please not wipe their fingers on my bed.) 

Santa Lucia
Now in the darkest night

Enter with candlelight

Santa Lucia 

Santa Lucia


Now winter’s coming on 

Now summer sun has gone 

And with the darker days 

Help us to light our ways – 

Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia! 


Come blessed spirit bright 

Shine through the darkest night

Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia! 


As forth in life we go 

Sweet is the faith we know 

That blessings from above 

God sends with living love – 

Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia! 


Come blessed spirit bright 

Shining with God’s own light 

Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Help us to see our way 

Steadfast through night and day

Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia! 


No matter what may come 

Poor rags or kingly crown 

Show us the truth behind 

All things in space and time – 

Come blessed spirit bright 

Shining with God’s own light 

Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Then we read this story together, snuggled on the bed, drinking coffee and eating. (Again, pausing to nag. Ha.)

SANTA LUCIA A story written by Tiziana Boccaletti
Once upon a time, a long long time ago, in a far away land there lived a young woman. Her name was Lucia and she liked spending time on the lake, quietly listening to all the animals and the sounds the water made. The swans knew her and liked her and would come feed from her hand during winter time. Mama hawk would often salute her with a loud screech when circling in the cool sky. 

She was a young girl like many others, she liked what everybody else liked and enjoyed spending time with friends in the woods, playing games and baking cakes with her mother. 

She always felt gratitude in her heart for what she had and her good kind loving family but there was one thing she always wished for. Lucia wished she could see with her eyes. Born blind, she had learned at a young age to use her ears, her hands and her heart to listen. 

One day, after going for a long walk in the woods, she sat under a mighty walnut tree and fell asleep. She dreamt many colorful dreams of faraway places, unicorns, knights and palaces and in her dreams her eyes were as bright and clear as one thousand candles. 

In her dream, an old good witch from the castle told her that soon the light from her heart would travel to her eyes and she would be able to see. Lucia woke up and was at first startled by her dream but then she realized in was time to go home. 

It was the darkest night of the year and she could smell the sunset dampness coming from the green grass. 

On her way to town she heard an old woman asking for help. Lucia immediately ran to her to see what she might need. The old woman asked for help walking home. Lucia immediately offered her arm and the two of them walked for a long time. 

They had been climbing up a hill when a young boy approached them and asked for food. Lucia was very hungry herself but she reached into her apron pocket and offered him her red apple. He thanked her and devoured it right away. Lucia was hungry herself but didn’t say anything..she was happy she could help. 

They had almost reached their destination when Lucia heard the voice of a man calling her. He was sitting by the side of the road and told her he had been robbed of all his clothes. Lucia took her shawl off her shoulders and gave it to him. It was her favorite shawl, the one that her grandma her patiently knitted for her by the fire, but she didn’t mind. 

When she asked the old woman if they had arrived yet, the old woman said, “Yes, you have arrived”. Lucia asked: “Where are we?”. The old woman replied: “Look up at the moon in the sky and you will know”. Lucia raised her head and saw the full moon with her own eyes. She looked at the old woman and realized it was indeed the witch she had dreamed of. 

The old witch said: “The golden light from your good heart grew so strong that it had to find a new home and that new home is your eyes. Go and use the light to be of service to others and light their way”. 

Lucia was overfilled with joy and ran all the way home to tell her mother and all her friends. And if things haven’t changed, they are still the same!


Monday, December 14, 2015

holidays and stress and letting go

Last week at some point I hit a wall. Not actually a wall. I mean, metaphorically speaking. Just to clarify.

In any case.


Christmas lists swirling in my head.

Family to buy for and this year, shipping time and costs have to be factored in to the stress.

The middle of December and ZERO shopping done. ZERO expendable dollars. ZERO time for shopping.

How? WHEN? HOW? WHEN???? HOW??????

And the busy of our current life meant that our traditions (advent readings, stories of festivals around the world, Christmas crafts, going to all the community events, present making, Christmas baking, etc) were all going out the window.

I shut myself up in the bathroom and outright sobbed.


And sobbed.

I don't know why the holidays do this to me. The expectations? The wanting to have it all work out? Wanting to please everyone? Not leaving any space in life to breathe and just be?

I don't know.

But I know other people out there struggle too. A dear friend confessed on the phone the same. We don't even have a tree and I don't know when we will have time to get one. I want our family to have all the memories of holidays that I grew up with, but how?

Its different when its YOU making it happen for your little ones. Oh my gosh is it ever.

So after sobbing. And sleeping. I get up the next day and realize I need to follow the advice I give other moms in rough patches of life.

Lower your expectations.

Not in a bad sort of way. Not in a giving up sort of way. But, in a graceful way. Graceful to yourself. Because you are worth it. YOU ARE MAMAS! YOU ARE SARA!

Sending off a few thoughtful items that arrive last minute to family on the mainland...that's okay.

Not celebrating Santa Lucia Day with homemade saffron rolls and wreaths of candles.

That's okay too.

Not making it to all the holiday events scattered around the island.

It isn't going to mean the world ends.

All the damn handmade pinterest Christmas pins I torture myself with every year.

That's for another Christmas. Not the one where I am (painfully) pregnant and dada is working crazy hours and we live in a totally new place without closets of crafting supplies.

Another year.

Like, when the girls can get up and make me coffee and the Santa Lucia rolls themselves. HA.

And I work hard to push away the stress of the unknown (HOW IS THIS GOING TO WORK OUT?)

But still, its hard. Stress that eats you at night.

Side story: When I worked in Iraq (2005, pre-kids) we were warned about the two most dangerous parts of entering into the country. The descent in the airplane down to the landing strip (the plane was an easy target for surface to air missiles) and the trip down the main highway from the airport to the protected international zone (where cars often targeted armoured convoys like ours). My first time in I made a decision. I closed my eyes and imagined a wall going down around the thoughts of disaster, of bad things happening. And shut it out. Just not even a possibility. Just not going to go there.

It worked. It was still nervewracking, sure, but any thought of any big bad things happening, I refused to entertain them.

This technique is a sanity saver for people like me who tend to the worry/overthinking side. I did the same in each labor. With each pregnancy. Which were all hard (as my readers know) in their different ways.

Where am I going with this?

I found myself doing the same thing with my worry and stress, that next morning.

I am not going to think about all that. I don't know how and when it will all get done, or, beyond Christmas, how the rest of it will fall into place. We need a new car big enough for baby. Life is crazy now...BABY??? ACK?? etc. etc. etc.

Because if you don't reel in the worry, it consumes you. It becomes your master. It owns you. And it robs you of your joy, and joy aside, it can rob you of your ability to simply function!

So, I laughed at my kids at the Christmas parade, as they delighted in scads of candy thrown their way, and the hula dancers dancing to Christmas carols, and the unreal scene of the sun setting over the ocean in the background. And today we are making gingerbread houses (using up scads of leftover candy, YES.) and we will read some Christmas stories and just be this week.

I'm going to have my moments. I still do.

We all do. But it doesn't make us horrible. It makes us human. Susceptible to the pressures of life.

It just means we need to work at dropping that curtain, letting the big picture worry not take us away from the Season of Love. The Season of Family. Joy. Miracles.

And it means we need to give ourselves the gift of grace. No one is expecting us to be all and do all. Just to be.

But now. Now, I must gather all my strength and patience and Christmas goodwill. I have been informed the frosting on our graham cracker houses are dry and ready for candy and decorating madness.

God bless us, everyone. 

Holy sticky candy Batman. Not sure if there's more candy on the houses, the floors, or in the children. Did I mention we have ants lately? Bad? This is going to be interesting. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Christmas school

Ah. Christmas time.

Sparkly decor to cheer up a bland rental house. Secret angel goodwill to keep kiddies thoughtful and (somewhat) well behaved. Christmas goodies to bake. Festivals and traditional holidays to celebrate all month long.
yes, my tropical climate children went and stood in front of the fire on TV claiming it made them warm (Yule log thanks to youtube, complete with Michael Buble Christmas carols, HA HA) 

And of course, for homeschooling mamas, a built in curriculum plan.


We love this, don't we?

This Saturday is St. Nicholas Day, a traditional European holiday, and while dada didnt grow up celebrating it it is a very German thing to do, and he is very German so. Voila.


This morning for instance. The kids wake up to a few packs of smarties waiting for them at the nativity spiral (a traditional Waldorf-y way to countdown till Christmas) They were delighted, the girls at least convinced it was the work of Saint Nicholas himself. Little miss, so very appreciative, wrote a card on her own initiative to thank him.

We start our school day by reading the below stories about Saint Nicholas, legends really I'm sure, but fun to read about a real person who might have done real things to help real people. The focus is on kindness and love being helpful, not on jolly elves making toys to lust after. I like that.

As I read the kids draw pictures of the story. Little man who is STILL into comic drawing might make a comic strip depicting the scene.


And then. AHHHHH HOLIDAY CRAFTING. Not forced crafting. Exciting crafting. That they WANT TO DO.

So, like today, we get out some finger knitting. We are working on making a garland that will stretch around the whole tree. Little man, who has shunned finger knitting in the past year, is actually taking his turn as I type. Why do I love finger knitting so?? Great coordination/dexterity/mental focus practice, very soothing for little people. That's why. HA.

And of course, we made Christmas ornaments, well, one batch. I have no decent pictures of the actual process because, well, monitoring enthusiastic little girls was a two handed project. HA.

mama tried to make some that were pretty. Eh.

On December 1st after reading our daily story and doing our copy work we all pitched in and made our nativity spiral. Little miss, who has recently conquered drawing stars, drew the 25 stars on and then colored them yellow. Little man then painted the dark blue around the stars (he never wants to paint with us anymore) Then we set up rocks and shells around the scene. A traditional Waldorf-y way of doing the advent scene is to set up the scene slowly, as the weeks progress, based on a verse by Steiner, to celebrate the whole of creation awaiting the birth of the Christ Child. (See story and verse below) The first week is stones and shells. The second is plants. The third animals. And finally humankind. The kids love being able to add special treasures to the scene as the days move by, and of course, move Mary from star to star on each day.

Following this tradition of the Advent spiral we could read stories about the different aspects of nature. Maybe the legend of the Christmas rose in week 2, or the story of how the robin got his red breast on week 3. Bigger kids can read on about Saint Nicholas, the church of the Middle Ages, European history, etc.

We also made a wreath with candles to light every year. I have to say it was odd not to be able to go outside and grab some pine branches to easily twist into a wreath. So we got creative. Okay, fine, this was more of a "DONT TOUCH MAMA IS GOING TO DO IT" process. Um, they watched. Does that count?

Mostly, we just enjoy the season, read the stories ALL THE STORIES, have them write some, maybe throw in a math page here and there. But, yes. Christmas school.

And what have children been doing while I spend a full hour putting together this post? The girls have made a massive fort for their stuffed animals. Little miss was just reading to baby Green in there as part of playing house. And little man was just given some graph paper by his dada. I suggested trying to design the Roman Colosseum (he listened to a few Coursera lectures recently on Roman architecture and has decided he's going to be an architect) He is now designing some plans to later build in Minecraft, except he's going to include wool blankets as padding so when gladiators fall down they dont get hurt.



Christmas School.

The Legends of Saint Nicholas - we read a chunk every morning before we start school.

Five Days of Saint Nicholas Stories (its not too late to start!) 

Once, long, long ago, there was a land far across the ocean by the Mediterranean Sea. In this land was a city and in this city was a grand house. A family lived in this grand house and one day a little boy was born to them. They decided to call him Nicholas.

Nicholas' mother and father were very wealthy and little Nicholas had every sort of toy and plaything that you could imagine. He had tops and balls, wagons and carts. He had dear little farms and villages made of wood. And of course, he had fine clothes and lots of wonderful things to eat as well. But little Nicholas did not care so very much for all of these things. He took good care of them, but none of his beautiful toys were as lovely as the things that he could remember. You see, Nicholas had a special gift. He could remember the time when he was in Heaven with the angels, playing hide and go seek among the stars. And he could remember the wonderful songs that the angels sang, especially at Christmas tide, when the Christ Child came to play with them. And because he could remember how the angels were so happy when they were giving their love away, he was much more interested in what he could give to other people than what he was given himself. When he was just a very wee baby, he could only give kisses and pretty little sing-songs to his mother and father. But when he grew old enough to walk, he sometimes toddled out the door to give his biscuit to some little beggar child crying outside.

One day, when it was winter time and there was snow on the ground and little Nicholas was six years old, he was walking home. He saw ahead of him a big boy, several years older than himself. This big boy was a bully, a mean boy who did hurtful things to children younger and smaller than himself. Just now, he was hitting a little boy and saying "Give it to me!" Nicholas could see that he was trying to take away the littler boy's jacket. Nicholas could also see that the big boy was very thin and weak and cold, and he had no coat or jacket of his own.
Now Nicholas had on a beautiful warm wool cloak that his mother had made for him and also a fine fur hat and fur mittens. He knew what he would do. He marched right up to the bully and said, "What are you doing?" The bully turned around to say something rude like, "Get out of here!" or "What business is it of yours?" But the look in Nicholas' eyes stopped him. He could see the light of Heaven burning in them and he lost his strength. He just told the truth. "I am cold." he said.

Then Nicholas took off his warm cloak and put it around the boy's shoulders. He put his fur hat on the boy's head and his lovely mittens on his hands. Then he said, "Now that you are warm, you must learn to be kind."
The big boy did learn to be kind. When he grew up, he became a great doctor and people came from all over the world to he healed by him. And he never forgot what Nicholas had done for him.

When Nicolas came home without his fine cloak and hat and mittens, his mother was about to scold him for losing them. But she saw the light of Heaven that still filled his eyes and she knew that he hadn't been careless. Although she didn't know what he had done with them, she knew in her heart that it was the right thing.
* * * * *
When a year had passed and Nicholas was seven years old, he found a little girl sitting in the snow, crying as though her heart was breaking. She looked warm enough and well-fed, too, so he asked her what was the matter. She told him that her mother and father were dead and that she was all alone in the world.
"A kind old woman takes care of me and other orphan children. She gives us food to eat and a warm place to sleep. But I do miss my own mother and father." And she began to cry again.

"Hush," said Nicholas kindly. "See here." He pulled out of his pocket a lovely silver flute that his father had just given him for this birthday. Then he told the little girt that her mother and father were angels now. They were in Heaven, which was not very far away at all. And that whenever she wanted them to come closer to her, she only had to play on her flute or sing a lovely song and she would feel them standing close by.

The little girl gave Nicholas a kiss and thanked him. She learned to play the silver flute, note by note, and whenever she played it, she could feel her Angel Mother and Angel Father very close by. She was never lonely again. When this little girl grew up, she became a wonderful musician. She played and sang for people all over the world and, wherever she went, people always felt happy and comforted when they heard her. And she never forgot what little Nicholas had given her.
* * * * *

When Nicholas was eight years old, he was returning home from visiting a friend. He turned the street corner and there, sitting in the street was a little lame boy. This little boy could not use his legs. He had to beg for food and small coins from passers by. He had been left, when just a baby, with a family of beggars who gave him shelter at night in a tumbledown shack at the edge of town. When Nicolas found him, it was very cold and looked as if it might start to snow. The little boy looked very unhappy. Nicholas came to him and asked him why he looked so sad. The little boy answered, "I cannot use my legs and I can never go where I want to go. I can never see all of the things that I want to see and it makes me sad."

So Nicholas ran home as fast as he could. The lame boy thought that he was just running away. But soon, he was back. He brought with him a fine, big red wagon that he had just received as a birthday present. He lifted the little lame boy into the wagon and pulled him to a busy street. He called together all of the big and little boys that lived close by and he gave them each a coin and a cookie. (His mother was always putting good things like that into his pockets!) Then he made the boys promise to pull the little lame boy wherever he wanted to go and to take turns. He promised to bring them coins and cookies whenever he could.

They all promised and took turns pulling the lame boy wherever he wanted to go. They always took him with them when they went somewhere interesting. The little boy saw and heard many things and asked many questions of the people he met. Sometimes a kind person would take him in for a while and teach him from books. The lame boy learned a great deal and when he was grown up, he became a teacher. People journeyed from all over the world to study with him, for he was very wise. And he never forgot what dear Nicholas had given to him.


When Nicholas grew to be a young man, he decided to go to a big city across the sea. There was a great university where he could learn many things about the world and also about God. So he packed his trunks and signed aboard a ship. He went down into the little room below the ship's deck and sat down for a long talk with God. He was so busy that he didn't even notice that soon after they left the port, a storm arose at sea. At noon the rain was pelting the ship and its crew. But when it was close to evening, the waves were so high and the storm so fierce that even the captain gave up hope. The sailors were running around helplessly. Some were crying and some were praying, for surely the ship would soon break in two and they would all drown in the sea. The captain shouted down below to Nicholas, "What are you doing down there? Don't you see that we are all about to drown?"

"Oh?" said Nicholas, "Let us see about that." And he came up to the deck and knelt down to pray. He told the sailors to kneel down with him on the rolling deck. The captain shouted, "Man, we are past praying for!"
"Nothing is ever past praying for!" Nicholas shouted back over the roar of the storm.

And while they were asking God to help them, the rain lessened and the wind died down. The waves grew calmer and in a little while, the clouds parted. The evening sun burst through in a blaze of fire. The ship sailed safely into harbor and the sailors thanked Nicholas and promised to remember what he taught them. Even to this day, sailors in many parts of the world whittle small ships of wood and hang them up in their church when they arrive safely home after a voyage, in honor of the good Nicholas.*
* * * * *
So Nicholas arrived safely at the big school where he learned a great deal about men and about God. When he finished his studies, he returned to his own city as a priest. A priest is someone who takes care of many people for God. He taught the people of the city about God and Heaven and he helped them in every way that he could. He brought food to the hungry and medicine to the sick. He carried firewood in the winter to poor widows. He collected warm clothing from those who had much and gave to those who had little. He still had a great deal of money of his own and he spent most of it to give people what they needed.

When ever he came upon a boy who felt angry and who liked to fight, he would tell him stories of the Archangel Michael and how he used his strength to fight only evil dragons. He might give the boy an apple to help him remember to fight only evil.
Nicholas was such a good priest, that they made him a bishop. A bishop is a leader and teacher of other priests and of people in a large area. In those days,
bishops wore special clothes so that people could recognize them where ever they went. Bishop Nicholas wore a golden miter, which is a tall round cap, and a white robe and long red cloak. He carried a tall staff, rounded at the top like a shepherd's crook and he often had a heavy sack of good things slung over his shoulder when out visiting his people. He also had great big pockets sewn into his cloak to hold cookies and oranges and other sweet things to give to the dear children that he met on his way. He loved the children most of all. He always seemed to know everything about them, especially whether they were good and loving, or not.

Sometimes he would meet a little girl whose face shone with joy. This joy came from the happiness in her heart when she was helping her mother take care of her younger sister. Nicholas would pull a sugar cookie out of his pocket and tell the girl " You are as sweet as this cookie."
* * * * *
One day, Bishop Nicholas saw a little girl sitting on her own doorstep, her chin in her hands. She looked lonely and she felt lonely, too. Bishop Nicholas knew this little girl. He knew very well that she was the cause of her own loneliness. Sad to say, she was very selfish and would not share any of her toys or sweets. If something good was being given out, she would cry until she got the biggest piece. She would pout and refuse to play games with the other children unless she was allowed to win. The other children had grown weary of her and they left her alone. She was sad, but stubborn too, and she would not change her ways.

Bishop Nicholas was sorry for her, but he knew that if she did not change, her life would be like a dark room without light and joy. So he reached deep into his pocket and pulled out a big, round, shining orange. He held it out to the little girl and as she reached for it, he said, "This orange shines just like a little sun. When the beautiful sun shines in the sky, it shines on everyone, yes? And it warms everyone on the earth—no one more and no one less. So, everyone loves the sun and everyone feels full of joy when ever they see him."

"You can be like the sun, too. Just give your love to everyone, then you will fill other people's hearts with love. This shining orange will help you remember what it feels like to share your good things with others. It tastes sweet like sunshine and like love."

The little girl looked into Bishop Nicholas' kind eyes and took the orange from his hand. She did not feel dark and lonely inside anymore. She felt happy and sunny. When she ate the sweet orange, she realized how sweet it could be to share. She took her favorite dolly to the little girl who lived next door and held it out to her. The neighbor girl wrapped it in one of her own dolly blankets. They began to play house and took turns being the mother, father and child. They had so much fun that it seemed too soon when her mother came to find her. She went home for dinner happily and at dessert, she slipped a little extra bit of cake to her baby brother. She couldn't help laughing when he squealed with delight. It was not long before she had lots of dear friends and every one called her "Little Sunshine."

There were many families in Bishop Nicholas' city. But I am sorry to say, there was one family in particular that was very unhappy - very unhappy indeed. There was a father, a mother, a big brother and a little sister. There was also a baby brother. They might have been a happy family, but too many things were wrong.

The father drank too much wine. Then he would get angry and sometimes even hit his wife and children. The mother was ill. It was not her fault, but she had a great pain by her heart and there was not money for the medicine that she needed. She looked gray in the face and she was always tired. She couldn't clean the house very much or make it beautiful. She only had the strength to make very simple meals like oatmeal or rice.

The big brother was healthy and strong, but very lazy. Sad to say, he would not do anything to help his mother or father. There were holes in the walls and doors that needed mending and the tables and chairs needed fixing, but he would never lift a finger. The little sister? What a mess! She refused to comb her hair or wash her face. Her clothes were torn and dirty and she never tried to mend them.

The baby was starting to get his first teeth and they were hurting as they came through. He didn't have anything to help, so he just cried all day and night. It was a very unhappy family indeed.

Bishop Nicholas knew this family and he thought and thought of what he could do to help them. When he finally decided what he wanted to give to them, he went one evening to their house. No one would answer his knock. But there, in front of the door were the family's shoes. The streets of this city were always muddy, so people usually took their shoes off on the doorstep before going inside.

Bishop Nicholas reached into his big pockets. In the father's shoe, he put a book about God and how He was a kind and loving Father who provided for His children on the earth. In the mother's shoe he put a bottle of the medicine that she needed. In the brother's shoes he put a hammer and some nails, a small saw and drill. In the sister's shoes he put a bar of sweet smelling soap, a comb and hair ribbons. In the mother's other shoe, he put a lovely wooden teething ring for the baby and a beautiful little music box.

When the family came outside in the morning, weren't they surprised to see the gifts in their shoes! The father read the book and stopped drinking and started to work hard to provide good things for his family. The mother took the medicine and her pain went away and the roses bloomed in her cheeks. When she was strong again, she made the house beautiful and baked good bread and cooked fine dinners for them. The brother set about fixing everything he could. It made him feel so good about his work that he even helped to gather firewood and carry in water. Later, he became an apprentice to a carpenter and learned to make useful and beautiful things. The sister washed her face and combed her hair and tied it up with a pretty red ribbon. She also washed her clothes and helped her mother clean the house. People were amazed at how pretty she was, now that the dirt was gone. The baby chewed on the ring and it helped the new teeth to come through. Mother wound up the music box and it helped the baby fall peacefully asleep.

The family never knew for sure who had helped them, but they could guess. Through the years, they were not the only ones who woke up to find good things in their shoes.

Now I must tell you a sad story. That is, it would have been very sad if it hadn't been for Bishop Nicholas.
Once, in the same town there was a naughty little girl. She was very pretty and quite clever, but also very naughty. She lived with her mother who loved her very much and who worked very hard to give her everything that she needed. But this little girl was not grateful at all. She would not listen to her mother or do what she asked her to do. If her mother asked her to get up in the morning, she would turn over and go back to sleep. When it was time for bed at night, she would run out to the town square. She often threw her dinner on the floor and then demand something that her mother did not have.

Finally, her mother gave up trying to tell her anything but what she needed to know to stay out of illness and danger. The most important thing was to never, never leave the town gates and go into the forest. There were wild animals in the forest and the girl was too little to protect herself against them.

Of course, one day the little girl took it into her head to go into the forest. She walked down the street and right out of the gates. She walked down the open road and turned off onto a path leading to the forest. It was great fun to pick wildflowers and to chase the little animals of the woods. As the day went on, she wandered deeper and deeper into the darker and wilder part of the forest.

Suddenly she stopped. There on the path right in front of her was a great grey wolf! He was much larger than she and he had glaring eyes and long fangs and he looking very hungry. In fact, he was very hungry and he had already decided that she would make him a fine dinner.

There was nowhere to hide and she could never outrun the wolf. It certainly looked like the end of her when all of a sudden (she never knew how) there stood Bishop Nicholas behind her! He stepped in front of her and looked sternly at the wolf. He raised his great staff in the air and the wolf put his tail between his legs and slunk off into the forest. Then, without a word, Bishop Nicholas took the little girl's hand and led her out of the forest, through the town gates, and up the street to her own doorstep, where her worried mother was waiting for her.

Bishop Nicholas reached into his pocket and pulled out a shining gold nut. "Do you know what might have happened to you today?" he asked the little girl.
"Yes," she answered.
"You must never forget this day." said Bishop Nicholas. "And to help you remember, I will give you this golden nut. Whenever you look at it, you will remember how you were saved from death."
"I will remember," promised the girl as she took the golden nut into her hand. Then Bishop Nicholas was gone and she went inside to her dear mother.

After that day, her mother's life was not as hard as it had been. The little girl did whatever her mother asked her to do and helped her in every way. She grew to be so loving, kind and good that many years later when she went to live with the angels, everyone who ever knew her said that she had always been an angel herself.


Bishop Nicholas often traveled about the countryside, bringing people things that they needed. He had a big sack that grew very heavy with food, clothing, medicine and other good things. Leaning on his staff, he carried this sack though the forests and over the hills.

One day, as he was journeying through the forest with his sack, he heard a low moaning sound coming from the brush with some howling noises. It didn't sound like any animal that he knew of, but it certainly didn't sound like a human being either. Whatever it was, it sounded like it was in great pain and distress.

So Bishop Nicholas put down his sack and held tightly to his staff, making his way through the thick undergrowth of the forest. He parted the bushes and there lay a creature on the ground with its foot caught in a cruel steel trap. This creature might have been a human being, but it was covered in furs and its hair was long and tangled and its fingernails were long and sharp like claws. It snarled at Bishop Nicholas and would not let him near to help free its foot from the trap.

What could Bishop Nicholas do? He made his way back to the path, raced to the town and bought a light but strong chain. He hurried back to the forest and the creature who was in ever greater pain. He bound its arms with the chain. Now he could free the hurt foot. The creature passed out from pain and exhaustion and Nicholas was able to pick him up and carry him home. He put him into his own bed, washed the foot and put medicine and bandages on it and gave the creature some food. When the creature saw that Nicholas was not going to hurt it, it took the food and ate, then fell asleep again.

While it slept, Nicholas washed it with soap and water, trimmed its nails and clipped its hair and beard. It really 
was human after all!

The man creature lived with Bishop Nicholas a long time. His foot healed, although he had a slight limp for the rest of his life. As soon as Nicholas saw that the creature wouldn't do any harm, he took the chains off his arms. He had to teach him to stand upright and not walk on all fours. He never was able to stand perfectly straight, but always had a slight stoop. And with great effort and patience, Nicholas taught him how to speak, although some words always remained difficult for him.

Bishop Nicholas taught Rupert many things, especially about God and the angels in Heaven. Rupert loved Nicholas with all his heart. He began to help Bishop Nicholas by carrying his heavy sacks and baskets when he journeyed to help people. At first, the children were a little bit frightened of the strange Rupert. He could not stand up as straight as they could. He could not speak as well as they could and he wore always a bit of fur as a reminder of his days in the forest and a chain around his heart to show his love and gratitude to Bishop Nicholas. But they soon found out that he loved them every bit as much as Bishop Nicholas as did.
And Nicholas gave the man creature a name. He called him Rupert. When Rupert could speak, Nicholas learned that he had been abandoned in the forest as child and had survived with the help of some wild animals. Rupert had never really known if he was a person or an animal.

Whenever Rupert saw children who had warm clothes and safe homes, good food and loving parents and who knew about the angels in heaven, his heart was filled with joy. His greatest pleasure as to give them the good gifts that Bishop Nicholas had brought. He also loved to play games with them, to play silly tricks to make them laugh. But oh! If he met some children who would not learn their lessons or mind their manners or thank the Good God for all of their blessings, he would take a little bundle of switches and switch their knees. He would chase them around and around until they promised to try to be better.

Everywhere that Bishop Nicholas went, he took Rupert with him and he still does to this day.
Finally the day came when Bishop Nicholas was so very old that his body was too tired to serve him any more. His long beard fell snowy white down the front of his red robes. He lay down in his bed and the angels came to take him to Heaven. He left his old body behind because his didn't need it anymore. When he went to Heaven, he had the greatest joy possible, for there was Mother Mary coming to meet him and the Christ Child was with her! There was so much joy in Heaven, now that their dear Nicholas had come home, that the angels' hallelujahs could be heard on the earth.

But suddenly, Nicholas grew sad. He remembered his dear friend Rupert, who had also grown old and tired. He also remembered that he promised Rupert to take him with him wherever he went. So he asked the Christ Child if he could go back to the earth and bring Rupert to Heaven, too. The Christ Child answered that if Rupert wanted to come, he could do so.

So the angels took Nicholas back to the earth. He woke Rupert up and asked if he would like to come to Heaven. Rupert said, "Oh yes, please take me with you." So the angels helped Rupert take off his old and tired body and they all went back to Heaven. Rupert played with the Christ Child and all of the little angel children. The big angels sang their hallelujahs even louder than before.

But when the people on the earth found that Nicholas and Rupert had left them, they were very, very sad. They cried and prayed, especially the little children who felt very lost without their dear friend.
When the Christ Child saw that the children on the earth were so unhappy, He said to Nicholas, "You will have to come to the earth with me on my birthday, when I go down to all the little children. They miss you so much."

This is how Nicholas became Saint Nicholas and Rupert became Knecht Rupert (which means Servant Rupert). Every year they journey to the earth on the sixth of December, which is Saint Nicholas' birthday in Heaven. And the little children know that if they ask him to come to them and if they have tried to be good and to prepare for the Christ Child's birthday, they will find good things in their little shoes in the morning.Nicholas was happy that he and Rupert would be able to go back to the children every year at Christmas time. Then Mother Mary asked him to go on ahead, to help the children prepare for the Christ Child's birthday.
The children also leave good things for Saint Nicholas and Knecht Rupert and even sometimes hay or carrots for the little donkey that Mother Mary lends to them to carry all of the goodies. And the songs and laughter of the children on the earth are as loud and joyful as those of the angel children in Heaven.


Holy Bishop St. Nicholas lived faraway
Near the Aegean Sea is where Turkey did lay.
Travel back with us now to a time long ago.
We will visit his country, his life we will know.
We remember this saint, such a holy, good man.
Be like him in charity, do all that you can.
Many miracles Nicholas hastened to do,
Helping people in need with gifts that were new.
Bishop Nicholas traveled to Nicea town,
Where the Creed would be written, to us handed down.
During church every Sunday, we stand for the Creed.
Thank you Bishop St. Nicholas, for doing this deed.
Sailors tossed in the wind and the storms of the sea,
Saw a vision of Nicholas who guided them free.
Now patron of sailing, they remember him yet.
Many icons and pictures with fisherman's net.
Giving money to poor girls, so marry could they,
Made our Nicholas famous, remembered today.
With dowry in hand, soon they were wed.
"God bless you and keep you," St. Nicholas said.
Kid's patron in Germany, Netherlands, too.
Asks that presents be given to children like you.
Their customs are different: they put out their shoes—
Filling them with toys, his coming's good news!
Here stockings are hung by the chimney with care,
In hope that St. Nicholas soon will come there.
Dressed as bishop or Santa, he's one and the same—
Jolly, friendly, good man, we're glad that he came.
Call him "Santa" or "saint," they both mean the same,
For his nickname is Claus, short for Nicholas' name.
Giving gifts was his custom—we still do today.
Deeds done in Jesus' name forever will stay.
Bishop Nicholas still is a hero to all.
Christmas Day, and all others we follow his call,
Bringing gifts and some joy to children in need.
Follow Nicholas today—do a good deed.

Nicholas, Saint of Children,
Loves to spend his wealth On pretty toys for girls and boys, Leaving them by stealth. The wind in the chimney Hears children call: "Bring me this, Saint Nicholas! Bring me that, Saint Nicholas! A silky scarf, A bag of sweets, A big gold ball!"
Children of the sea,
When their sails are torn by gales
Close at hand is he.
The wind in the rigging
Hears the sailors cry:
"Save us here, old Nicholas!
Save us there, good Nicholas!
Saint of Sailors,
Bring us safe
Home, high and dry!"
Nicholas, Saint of Sailors,

In the heavens lives a Saint,
St. Nicholas is he.
He loves to help all people,
and do so secretly.
Down to earth he journeys
on his special day each year.
He brings great joy and happiness,
and LOTS of holiday cheer!
He and his white horse travel,
from star to star to star.
Children anxiously wait for him,
children near and far.
And so St. Nicholas comes to us all,
sharing gifts and sharing love.
St. Nicholas, you are a blessed saint,
sent to us from Heaven above!

This is the story we read the night we put out our boots - December 5th. 

Once St. Nicholas rode across the clouds from a country where the sun rises in the morning to a country where the sun says goodnight in the evening. Up in the heavens he met Mother Mary who was carrying the Christ Child in her arms and Mother Mary said to St. Nicholas: "Once again it is time that I take the Child down to earth for a while so that he can play with the children." When she had said this, many little stars came along from all sides of the heavens and asked whether they could go with them down to the earth.
"Yes," said Mother Mary, "but only if the moon will show you the way, for I cannot carry you all under my cloak."
When St. Nicholas heard this he rode off to the moon: "Good evening, dear Moon."
"Good evening, St. Nicholas."
"Dear Moon, will you please show these little stars the way to the earth."
"Yes, willingly, if the sun comes along too."
St. Nicholas rode to the sun. "Good morning, dear Sun."
"Good morning, St. Nicholas."
"Dear Sun, will you please help to take these little stars down to the earth?"
"What do they want to do there?"
"They want to play with the Child of Light and the children of the earth."
"That is how it should be," said the Sun.

And now the sun placed himself on one side of Mother Mary and the moon on her other side. The moon took the little stars in her lap, and the sun held the hand of the Child of Light who was sitting in his mother's arms. Thus they went together down to the earth, but St. Nicholas rode on in front of them. He rode so fast across the clouds that he arrived on the earth much earlier than the others. On earth he went from house to house and told everyone that the Child of Light would soon arrive, and he gave the children on the earth presents so that they could play with the Child of Light.

Then the Child of Light arrived on the earth accompanied by sun and moon. He jumped out of Mother Mary's arms and showed the little stars the path to the children on the earth, but when the little stars leapt out of the lap of the moon onto the earth, they had all become human children and played with the Child of Light and the other children on the earth. It was a happy game, for the children of the earth play more beautifully and happily when the Child of Light plays with them. Mother Mary looked on and smiled.

Many stars who had become children of the earth stayed with the human children; and when Mother Mary took the Child of Light back into the heavens, many children of the earth were allowed to go with her and the Child of Light, to live with the stars.

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