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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

I have mentioned previously that I volunteer at my grandson’s school. He is in Kindergarten. Usually, I do one of two things. I either help with kids’ printing practice, one on one, or I take a couple out in the group work center (in the hallway) to work on an art project. I think it’s sad that there is no time for the kids to have an art project as a whole group but there is so much to be covered that there just is no time. I enjoy doing the art projects, though so it’s a good fit for me.

Before Christmas, I was asked to do an art project where the kids would be working on making a Christmas tree picture using their shapes. We were using a large triangle, a small rectangle, and circles. The instructions were for them to (1) draw a large triangle then a (2) small rectangle touching the bottom of the triangle. They had a sample to look at and I explained it slowly and carefully to each of the two (at a time) students. There was more to it but I only gave those instructions until they had completed those steps. The first three kids really had a problem drawing the triangle and we had to erase a lot. So I thought to lightly draw three dots and have them connect them with their pencil to form the triangle. It worked like a charm but I only did it for those that were having trouble with the triangle. So when it was Anderson’s turn (that’s my grandson), I drew the dots for the other child and then turned to help Anderson. When I turned, he had seen me draw the dots and had drawn his own three dots, and was connecting them! No help needed. I was very pleased but the triangle wasn’t quite like the others. It was narrower and not quite as large as the others. However, I did not have the heart to tell him to erase it. He had done such a good job with no help! So what if his was a little different?! I think he made a perfect little Christmas tree!

The last steps were to use a large marshmallow in paint to fill in the triangle and the rectangle; then a small marshmallow to paint ornaments on the tree. Kind of a clever way to incorporate triangles, rectangles, and circles (which they were studying that week) into a seasonal project!

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Anderson’s Three Shapes Christmas Tree

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weekendcoffeeshare

If we were having coffee today, we would be at my daughter’s house. I’ve been here since 8 yesterday morning (Christmas) and it’s after 12 pm on the 26th now. It seems like every time I want to go home, either the boys or my daughter say no! It’s good to feel wanted but pretty soon I’m going to have to get them to take me home or I can just walk so I can go check on the kitty cat and clean up all of the wrapping paper and stuff I left before coming over yesterday morning!

How was your Christmas? Mine was pretty good. We made tamales on the 24th and drank way too much wine. Then I headed over here early on the 25th and took Anderson to breakfast so that it would give his mom and dad a couple of extra hours of sleep before all the present opening! After that it was helping the kids put toys together and watching them enjoy their gifts. And of course, eating!

I also got to talk to my daughter, Susie, and my son, who were not here this year. I got to talk to my mom and one of my sisters and heard from one other sister by text. So, all in all, a great Christmas and birthday. Oh, we had cake! I bought myself a small birthday cake and we had it before the kids went to bed. One of the boys (Spencer) insisted on having cake for breakfast his morning. His mom let him have a tiny bit!

I didn’t get to post yesterday because I didn’t bring my tablet or laptop to my daughter’s house. It wasn’t until after about 1 this morning that she drove me home to get pjs and a change of clothes so I grabbed the laptop, too. They were supposed to go out early this morning and I was staying with the kids but they didn’t manage to get up at 7 so they didn’t go but I was here to get the boys up and entertain them while they slept in for a bit. I have a post to write, might be later or tomorrow, which is a meme going around about 50 Happy Things (50 things that made you happy in 2015). I’m going to take a stab at it and will try to hit 60 instead, because that’s how old I turned yesterday! So you might want to watch for that.

One thing I might talk about, or complain about, if we were sitting here having coffee is that I don’t like it when people and the media begin talking about, posting, showing, the year in review stories before the end of the year. They’ve been popping up all month and as far as I am concerned, the year is not over yet. Save those stories for the 30th and the 31st! It feels like people are giving up on the rest of the year by indulging in those stories early. Personally, I don’t like to write those posts. I tend to include a few of those things in my beginning of the new year posts, instead. You? Which do you prefer?

I won’t keep you too long. I am watching the little ones and the 2 year old is a handful. And I want to start reading some of the coffee share posts that you’ve all put up over at Diana’s blog, Part Time Monster! I’m ready for coffee! Do tell my about your holiday. What are you up to for the last week of the year? Are you working or taking some time off from work? Are you doing any post-Christmas shopping? Exchanging gifts? Stocking up on after Christmas sales? Tempting but I can’t think of much that I need so I probably won’t go but who knows? I could use some new pjs and slippers and I don’t care if they are red and green!

Speaking of pjs, I’ll leave you with a picture of Spencer. He’s 2. We have to put his sleeper pj on backwards these days, otherwise he takes it off during the night, along with his diaper, and wakes up to a very soggy bed!1964787_10154458053329148_7603403749089953586_n

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December 25, 1955

[NOTE: This is the story about the night I was born. The words the mother speaks to the baby at the end are the words I spoke to my daughters at their births. And yes, my parents really are named María and José, although they both use their middle names because they feel their names are too common. I have heard the story over and over again over the past 60 years. My mother swears it was 11:52 PM but my birth certificate says I was born at 11:19 PM. In any case, I was my mom’s Christmas baby!]

María lay in bed exhausted, yet unable to sleep. She’d had an endless day and had just finished putting out the gifts for her four children. Tomorrow would be filled with joy and much activity. The kids were sure to waken by seven, anxious to open their gifts and play with their new toys. There would be lots of cooking to do, too.

Just a week ago things had looked quite bleak. They didn’t have much money and her heart had ached at the thought of disappointing her children on Christmas. Somehow, José, her husband, had managed to work a few days and had brought her enough money for groceries and a couple of modest gifts for each of the children. They had even gotten a small tree to decorate.

He had come through and María appreciated it. It allowed her to push back the memories of all the times he’d come home late, drunk, and smelling of dime store cologne.

María thought about her life. They lived in a tiny two room house with no heat and no indoor bathroom. They were far from town. The car was always either broken or out of gas. Her husband worked in the fields during the season and at odd jobs in the winter. Her children never had new clothes. She had to accept old clothes from her neighbors and her comadre’s. María’s beautiful little girl had to wear boys’ clothes. Her boys needed shoes that didn’t fall off their feet when they ran so they wouldn’t fall and get hurt. She was very familiar with the second-hand stores where José took her to shop when the boxes of clothes from her comadre didn’t fill all of their needs.

She had given birth four times in five years and was now nine months pregnant with their fifth child. She wondered how many more times she’d give birth before José tired of her and left her alone or ended up dead on the highway on his way home from the cantina he always managed to visit, even when he said they could afford nothing else.

Sometimes things were alright. José could be thoughtful and attentive if he wanted to be. He loved playing with his children. He even helped María with the housework when he wasn’t working. He had taught María how to cook when they had married. José was a hard worker and always managed to provide his family with what they needed.

María loved her children. Sometimes they were all that kept her going. They needed her. They loved her. She loved to see their happy faces and feel their sticky kisses and tight hugs. She liked being able to console them when they were hurt and crying.

María thought about the baby inside of her that made it impossible for her to find a comfortable position. She hoped this one would be another girl. When her first child had been born, she had wished for a girl, only to get a boy. She had cried but soon she loved him so much that she had wished for sons when she had become pregnant for the second, third, and fourth times. When God gave her a daughter for her fourth child, she had cried with disappointment, only to grow to love her so quickly that now her wish for a second daughter made her smile as she rubbed her swollen belly.

She wondered what the future had to offer this innocent child. María feared that perhaps it was a sin to bring children into the world when she and José had so little to offer them. Her exhaustion finally gave way to sleep, as the infant inside of her womb settled down also.

The next morning the children woke their parents asking eagerly if they could go open their gifts. They were happy with what Santo Clos had brought them. They were not used to getting toys or new clothes. The boys had each gotten gun sets–belts, holsters, guns, and even tin badges. José’s boss had given him a small cowboy hat for one of the boys and María had found a couple of bandanas at the segunda. They had also managed to get their hands on three tricycles for the boys. José had worked on them late at night, fixing and painting them to look like new.

Their little daughter was busy playing with her life-like baby doll that had moving eyes, hair, and drank from a bottle. María’s comadre had sewn a small brown bear for her. The last trip they had made to the segunda had provided them with toy dishes for the little girl and a warm coat of red velvet.

After opening the gifts, the children had breakfast. Their mother had fixed huevos con chorizo and fresh tortillas. While she cleaned up after breakfast, María turned on the radio. She tuned to her favorite station. The announcer was excitedly bragging about how his wife had given birth to a baby daughter shortly before midnight on Christmas Eve. She thought to herself how wonderful it would be to give birth on Christmas day!

When she finished with the dishes, she sat by the tree to watch the children at play. It was cold and damp outside so they had to stay indoors. María looked at the tree. They had only a few glass ornaments on it. They were painted shiny, bright colors with dainty designs that looked and felt like fuzzy snowflakes. María could see her reflection in them. She had cut a silver star out of an old pie plate. The plain, simple star now stood guard on top of the little tree. María hoped that maybe next year they would be able to get some colored electric lights like her comadre had on her tree.

All day she waited for the pains to begin. She couldn’t believe how crazy it was that she was actually looking forward to the pains that she had dreaded so much the other times. She felt that there was something special about this child and certainly it was God’s blessing to have a baby born on Christmas day and so she was almost eager to feel the pain that would threaten to tear her apart from the inside out. She dozed for a while, as the children played and she listened to the gentle rain falling outside.

Later that afternoon María was wakened by the thunder outside, crackling loudly. It had begun to rain violently. The house was dark. The wind was deafening as it threatened to blow the tiny house away. The rain fell as if being poured directly over them from a pitcher. The sky had darkened prematurely.

The children were scared. They gathered near their mother. The radio announcer reported that many roads had been closed and that the reservoir was threatening to overflow. At this, María turned down the volume and went into the bedroom to tell José. She was frightened. Their house was just about a half mile from the reservoir. If it overflowed, their small house would be washed away. It was time to load up the car and get as far away as they could. They had friends in town. Their compadres were sure to let them stay for a night or two.

José came into the room and listened briefly to the radio reports. He told her to gather their things and get the kids into the car. They would go into town for the night. When they were all in the car, José could not get it started. He got out and tried everything he knew to try to get the old car going. Nothing worked.

The children, sensing danger, cried softly and obeyed every order given them by their parents. They seemed to know instinctively that their cooperation was an absolute necessity. Even the youngest acted like an angel.

After some time of futilely trying to start the car, José began walking the half mile to the nearest neighbors to get help. When he arrived, there was no one there. He continued to walk toward the road to look for help for his family. It was very difficult to walk against the oppressive rain and wind which seemed to be concentrating their joint efforts on keeping him from reaching the highway.

As José neared the main highway, he could make out flashing lights. He quickened his step and waved his arms, even though he knew they couldn’t see him. It was about nine o’clock and the night was black, except for the lights that flashed from the highway. Finally, as José reached the road, a Highway Patrolman spotted him.

“What are you doing out here? It’s very dangerous. We’ve evacuated the place and have road blocks to keep people out of the area. How did you get back into the restricted area?” asked the Patrolman.

“I live back there. No one evacuated us. We heard the reports on the radio and tried to get out but our car won’t start. My family is stuck back there. We need help,” answered José.

“Your family? We thought we had everyone out of there. How many people are back there? How far? Where exactly are they? Are there any others still back in there, besides your family?” quizzed the Patrolman rapidly.

“It’s about three miles back. Right up against the dam. My wife and four kids are out there. I didn’t see anyone else on my way out here,” explained José.

The Patrolman sent two cars back to get the family and some of their belongings. José rode along in the lead car to show them the way.

When they got to the house, they found the car empty. Inside the house, the only light was the flicker of a candle. When they entered, they found María in hard labor, the children gathered around her with wide, frightened eyes.

One of the Patrolmen took a single look at thescene and started to give orders. “Officer Taylor, help me get this woman into my car. I’ll take her directly to County Hospital. You can stay here with this man and help him get the children to safety, then you can bring him to County.”

They quickly and carefully carried María into the car and rushed inside the house to get the kids without waiting for the first car to drive away.

An hour later, José rushed into the Obstetrics Ward at County Hospital to ask about his wife. “She’s in labor. She’s not quite ready to deliver. You can wait downstairs. I’ll call down when there’s any word,” instructed the pretty nurse with a sympathetic smile on her face.

In the Delivery Room, María gasped for air. “Please Doctor, you have to help me deliver my baby now. It’s almost midnight. My baby has to be born before midnight. Please help my baby come now. What time is it? What time is it?”

“It’s about 11:30 María. Don’t be in such a hurry. This baby will come when it’s ready. I can’t do anything about it. Relax. It’s almost here. On the next contraction, push as hard as you can!” the young intern smiled at María reassuringly.

After pushing through three or four more contractions, María felt the baby being born. She heard the strong crying. The doctor gladly announced “It’s a girl, María! You have a beautiful, healthy baby girl!”

“What time is it?” asked María. “Did I make it? Is she a Christmas baby?”

“It’s 11:52. You made it! You have a Christmas baby! Congratulations, María.” The intern smiled as he continued to examine both mother and baby. “Why was it so important to have a Christmas baby anyway, María?”

“Because this baby is special. She is my gift to the world. She’s going to be a very special person,” beamed María as she put her arms out to take her baby.

Later, when she was in the ward, after José had come in to see her and the 5 pound little girl María held in her arms, María spoke to her daughter with complete adoration: “You are my hope for the future. You are a gift. A gift to me…to our family…a gift to all the world. You will bring good things into this world. I know you will be a special daughter. You bring me hope that out of the darkness of my life, something beautiful will come. Joyful, beautiful, and wonderful things will follow you wherever you go and everyone you touch will be blessed with your joy. You are my joy today, tomorrow, and always.”

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My mom holding me up…I think this was around 5 or 6 months old so maybe April or May of 1956.

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Letters From Santa

When my kids were growing up, I (Santa) always left them a letter. It would praise them for the good things and also mention one or two things they needed to work on during the year. It was left next to the plate of cookies and cup of milk the kids would leave Santa and always mentioned the cookies.

The kids could never figure out how Santa knew about things that happened even hours before they went to bed on Christmas Eve. They were always fascinated by the letters.

One year, long after they stopped believing in Santa, when my son was out of college, I was talking to a niece about how she could leave Santa letters for her kids like I used to. My son asked why Santa’s writing wasn’t anything like mine. So I had to divulge my secret and I’m sharing it here with you just in case you have a Santa letter to write. The secret: I wrote my letters backwards…starting where I normally ended the letter and working backwards (ex: start the a at the tail end and work back, right to left). The letters come out looking very different from your normal handwriting. It was fun to see the light bulb moment when my son figured it out!

 

 

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Candy Cane Smile

A long time ago, in 1960 to be exact, I was in Kindergarten and it was my turn to take a treat for the class party. There were always three or four of us that had to take something in. We had more parties then. I think we had one for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Lincoln, Washington (this was before they combined their birthdays into Presidents Day), Valentines, Easter, and the last day of school. Lots of parties.

For the Christmas party, it was my turn. There were a lot of us kids at home and my mom didn’t work (most moms didn’t work then) and my dad worked a low paying cannery job. So there wasn’t a lot of money to buy treats for my class. The night before the party, my mom realized she had forgotten to buy something and she didn’t have supplies for cookies or cupcakes. We did, however, have a big package of individually wrapped candy canes so it was decided that I would take candy canes. When it was time to count them out and put them in a bag to take the next morning, my mom noticed that some of the candy canes had ants inside the package. We didn’t have enough of the ones with no ants for my class. There was no money and no time to go get anything else.

My mom decided they would try to get the ants out. She figured out that if she shook them and tapped them gently, she could get the ants to go out the little opening in the package. So there we were, my mom, my brothers, and I, shaking and tapping the candy canes gently to cajole the ants to get out of the package until we had enough for the whole class.

The next day, I took the candy canes to my class and everyone was happy. No one ever knew, outside of our family, about the ants in the candy canes, until now.

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Once Upon A Time

A long, long time ago, I lived in a neighborhood full of wonderful friends and supportive people. I was the perfect place to bring up a family (well except that it was really close to Los Angeles). I was invited to join a babysitting coop where we babysat each others kids for points that we could cash in when we needed a babysitter. I didn’t usually need a babysitter because we never went anyplace without the kids but I did join, just in case. It was also good for the kids to have other kids over when I babysat once in a while.

One year, as part of the babysitting coop, we decided to have a Christmas party with caroling and then Santa! It was fun to plan and the kids looked forward to it. They didn’t know Santa was coming but they looked forward to the party and to caroling. The question was who would be Santa? None of the dads wanted to do it then my friend, Linda, asked her dad and he said yes! The mom’s knew who Santa was but the kids didn’t. Most of the kids had not met Linda’s dad previously so they didn’t recognize him. It was neat to watch the look on their faces as Santa held them on his lap and took his time with each one of them then handed them a gift (the parents had supplied the gifts for their own children). To see Santa interacting with the kids was a treat, too. You could tell that Santa was truly enjoying his appearance as Santa. The evening was a huge success, mostly because we had such a genuine Santa!

A few days later, Linda and I were talking about how the kids had love her dad as Santa. She said her dad had said that it was the best thing he had ever done…the most special feeling of all!  Later, I was to find that out for myself when I got to play Santa for my kids’ elementary school. And I think one of the reasons I agreed to do it was because I knew from  Linda’s dad that it would be a really great thing to do for the kids…and for me, too!

I won’t ever forget that very special Santa who was not only a perfect Santa but a truly nice man that treated my kids and myself as if we were his family. I miss that Santa. And I won’t ever forget the feeling of friendship and community in that neighborhood where my kids were raised.

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My daughter, Tina, enjoying her time with a very special Santa.

 

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Jingle Bells

So last night, on our way back from getting that Lego set at Toys R Us, my daughter mentioned that today, which is the last school day before Christmas, Anderson’s class is watching The Polar Express then, after lunch there will be a school assembly where the whole school will be singing Christmas carols. Families are invited.

Well, today is also the day I volunteer in Anderson’s class so I’m not sure if they need me or not but I am going in anyway. Then I got to thinking that if I had some bells on hand, I could make a jingle bell necklace for each of his classmates. I used to do that with my students every year after reading them The Polar Express and the kids always loved the bells. But it was late and the stores were closed. I remembered seeing a package of bells but I knew there weren’t enough in the package. Then when I was getting some wrapping paper for his teacher’s gift, I found two more packages of bells! Each package has nine bells. I had three packs so twenty-seven bells. There are twenty-seven kids in his class! Perfect! Meant to be! So I found my sparkly ribbon and sat and made the necklaces while watching The Polar Express!

I hope they like them and there’s not too much of a fuss because they are different colors. Usually I get them all the same color but this time there was no time!

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I remember when Christmas was the happiest time for me. It was special, even though we didn’t do anything special.

I remember the secrets and the whispers that I knew were all about presents. I remember piling in the car at night to drive around town looking at Christmas decorations. I remember decorating the Christmas tree and the whole family sitting in the living room night after night enjoying the tree, and each other.

I remember sitting with the rest of the family and watching the same movies each Christmas. White Christmas was a favorite. My sister and I would pretend we were the two sisters in the movie and sing the “Sisters” song, complete with fans and all the movements. So many years ago yet it seems like just a few. It’s A Wonderful Life always made me stop and think, even before I knew what it was all about. I think what I liked about it was the way the whole town came together to take care of the Bailey’s. Then the animated movies: Frosty the Snowman; Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; and later, A Charlie Brown Christmas. They are all still favorites and I enjoy sharing them with my grandsons who also enjoy them and this year, Anderson knows the words to some of the songs so even better!

I remember the Christmas parade on the day after Thanksgiving. I always loved parades but this one was special because at the end of the parade, there was a Christmas program at the Civic Auditorium, where the parade ended. At the end of the program, those of us that had the special tickets given out by the church and the schools, would line up and we would get a wrapped toy to put under the tree. It made me feel so special to be a part of the group that got to go to the front of the auditorium and line up in the right line (by age and gender). Not everyone got to do that!

I remember writing out all the Christmas cards my parents sent out and keeping a list of the ones we got from other people. My mom was too busy and she said my handwriting was better so I got the list of people and addresses and wrote them out and addressed them to the people that had sent one the previous year. It made me feel so grown up. I think I started doing it when I as in about fourth grade!

I remember my dad putting on Christmas carols on our stereo that was one of the components in out cabinet TV in the living room. And when in the car, that was what we listened to. I remember singing along and being so proud that I could sing along with Adeste Fideles, which I thought was one of the best Christmas carols. My favorite, Silent Night, I learned in Spanish, too…Noche de paz…such a beautiful song in any language.

I remember the Christmas candy in the glass jar that was there “just to look pretty” until it got close to Christmas and we got to eat one each day! I remember my dad making candy for us but that’s memory I’ll share later as it’s a “dad memory” and because he just passed in May, I have a special place for those memories. I remember the boxes of food that the people from the church would bring us that made it possible for us to have delicious meals for the holiday. Sometimes we would get boxes from the school, too. With such a large family (there were nine of us) we always used every bit of the food they brought to us.

I remember later Christmases, when we had my uncle living nearby and we had gotten a little older. On Christmas Eve we would all get together and make tamales. It was fun, not just because we knew there was delicious food at the end of the night but because we were all together and we laughed and sang and talked. The grownups would drink beer and the kids would get to drink soda, which was not common in our house so sodas were special to us. I think the most special part was that we were all together, at least to me.

I remember Christmases when my eyes sparkled just like the lights on the tree and my voice jingled with carols. I remember Christmas when there was wonder in my mind and joy in my heart. I remember Christmas when we were all together and that was enough to make it special.

I remember Christmas.

 

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I seem to be very emotional today. I’m not sure why. We had a very good trip. We spent the day in Tacoma with the boys’ other grandparents before heading home. All is fine here. The kitty missed me and is letting me know I should not leave her alone again.

And yet, I find myself getting teary with almost everything. A post on FB; song lyrics; a movie I put on to get over my emotional state (White Christmas). Everything. It might be because it is getting to me that I won’t be spending Christmas with two of my kids. It might be because I will be turning 60 in a couple of weeks. It might be because I want the whole world to be a better place. It might be because I’m tired. It might be because of the season. It might be because I miss my sisters and because although my three brothers have been gone for years, this is the first Christmas without my dad and the combination of all of them being gone is getting to me.

It has been a very busy, emotional, scary, and exciting year. Things seem to have happened on someone else’s plan, not mine. There is also so much that is unknown for me personally right now.

I think it has all snowballed from last January when I first started to feel sick to now when I don’t know where I will be this time next year.

I wanted to write a happy post; a positive one; but it just isn’t happening today. I’ll try to turn that around for tomorrow.

Do you get emotional at Christmas time? What do you do to “fix” that?

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The other day, I went out to look for Toblerone bars to put in my grown kids’ Christmas stockings.  I didn’t want the huge bars.  I was looking for some smaller ones that are actually hard to find.  I went to three stores and didn’t find them.  Finally, at Fred Meyer I decided to get the bigger ones because I could not find the small ones.  While I was in the candy aisle, there was an older gentleman stocking up on boxes of chocolate assortments.  He was looking for one brand in particular.  I don’t remember the brand but I know it was not a brand I had ever heard of.  He put about 30 boxes into his shopping cart.  An older woman came around the corner into the aisle and made a comment about him not leaving any for anyone else.  He smiled and said there were still two big boxes  in the back and he would pull them to the front of the shelf so they would be easy to find.  He did just that as she examined one of the boxes in his cart and asked what was special about those particular chocolates.  He explained that they are made in the town where he was born and raised and he grew up with them at Christmas time so now, every year, he buys them for everyone in the family and it has become a tradition.  They all look forward to those chocolate boxes.  She put the box back in his cart and maneuvered her cart past his saying she was looking for orange sticks.  I had just grabbed a box of orange sticks (a favorite of my mom’s when we were growing up) so I showed her where they were on the shelf.  So what did she do?  She loaded up her cart with about 20 boxes of orange sticks because she can only get them at Christmas time!

I got to thinking about candy and Christmas and my childhood.  I remember looking forward to the bulk hard Christmas candy assortment my mom used to buy.  She would put them in a clear class candy jar with a lid on it (which I later learned was called an apothecary jar) and they were so pretty in there.  She would let us have a piece each day as we got close to Christmas day.  By night time on Christmas they were usually all gone!  My favorites?  I loved the candy ribbon ones but there were also some little round shaped ones that had white in the middle with a picture in it.  I don’t know what those are called but I really enjoyed those.  I can’t seem to stop thinking about those Christmas candies and it has been about three days.  I think I’m going to have to go out and buy some so I can get it out of my system.  Don’t worry, I won’t get more than just one bag.  I’ll leave enough for everyone else!

Do you have a favorite Christmas (or other holiday) candy you remember from childhood? What is it?

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Christmas candy mix, photo from fijis.com

(Originally posted in December of 2014)

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