Farewell to Christmas

Farewell to Christmas


My family has always exchanged presents at Epiphany (Christmas giving was reserved for Santa). I really wanted to keep that beloved tradition, though I do it in a much more subdued way than my mom. So for each of the kids I got a little religious picture: Good Shepherd icons for Sophie and Ben, San Damiano crosses for Anthony and Lucia, and a Mary Magdalene icon for Bella (backordered so she actually unwrapped a coloring book with various images of Mary.) Because I was in the hospital on January 6, this year we opened our presents on this past Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. My mom more than made up for any scantiness on my part as she brought a plethora of presents not only from her and my dad but also from my sister and my brother Stephen. Bedtime was a little late what with all the present-opening excitement.

I didn’t get any pictures in the excitement. Oh well.

On Friday Bella made presents for everyone. On my way through the dining room I noticed her hastily covering her paper with her arms. She allowed that she was working on a present for me. Sometime later I heard them go into the office and then come out again. Bella rushed into my room with a roughly kite-shaped package formed out of green wrapping paper with lots of tape. It was labelled “MOMA”. As the day progressed she made presents for Dom, Sophie, Ben, and Anthony. Anthony insisted on opening his right away, a cute little picture of a dog, labelled “DOGY.” Dom’s picture was a portrait of him on Christmas morning sitting in the blue chair, getting his beer (Guinness) from Santa. Ben got a truck. Sophie, who also couldn’t wait and opened hers on Friday, got a princess (and immediately started crying because somehow it wasn’t the princess she wanted Bella to have drawn.) I have to take some pictures of Bella’s drawings and get them online.


Then on Monday morning we took down the tree since Dom was going in to work late. I was sad to see the tree go since I feel like I hardly got to celebrate Christmas this year with being sick and all. (Though I have to admit that Lucia is by far the best Christmas present I’ve ever received so I guess it rather balances out in the end.)


Speaking of which, my little Lucy-girl made her debut at Sunday’s mass. Father was talking about remembering our baptism days in his homily and borrowed my little miss to make a point about how small we were or something like that. (I confess I was a wee bit distracted during that part of the homily.) I was glad I’d put her in a dress. I almost just left her in a sleeper.

Here’s a closeup of Lucia in her dress. Isn’t she pretty in pink.


Anthony has lately taken to napping in my bed. I can’t resist putting Lucia down next to him after he’s fallen asleep. Seeing my two sleeping babies side by side makes me just melt.


Aren’t they just the sweetest?

I have taken pictures of Bella and Sophie holding Lucia, but I need to get them off my camera and I don’t have the card reader handy. Well, maybe next time.

Meanwhile, here’s a sweet picture of my middle children, Sophie and Ben, reading the Horton Hears a Who popup book. Aren’t they adorable too?


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  • Haha, Maggie, I read your comment inattentively and thought you objected to Wright’s stories and understanding of That Hideous Strength!  I had to read Greydanus’s essay and then reread your comment to figure it out.  Sorry.

    I really didn’t care for That Hideous Strength.  I found all the Arthur stuff that cropped up there confusing.  It didn’t seem to ‘go’ with the first two books.

    Scotch Meg:  I believe Anne McCaffrey was originally a romance novelist… and it showed in everything she wrote.  haven’t read LeGuin, except her essay From Elfland to Poughkeepsie, which does offer a fantastic critique of what’s wrong in most fantasy (they’re all modern, dressed up in magic and fancy clothes).
    But O’Brien just ranks up there with Phillip Pullman for me, although Pullman is far, far worse because he betrayed in story the promises the story itself made.  It was only years later that I understood that he so for polemical purposes, but that only increased my disgust.  O’Brien might be a fantastic yarn spinner, but his nonfiction indicates he’d pull the same trick and I’m slowly learning to turn by back on unnecessary incipient frustration.

    That Greydanus essay is interesting though.  I think that Rowling (and many other less well known authors) really try to insert their own hedges, but lacking a firm moral foundation they can only go with pragmatic ones that aren’t as effective.

    A modern writer that uses moral hedges well is Jagi Lamplighter in her Prospero’s Daughter trilogy.  It’s still a little too gnostic-y ‘secret magic world coexists with the mundane’ for my taste, but I can accept that creating a good secondary world is perhaps beyond the capacity of most of us.

  • Before I forget, I was enchanted with the baby and kid photos in your previous post. Grandchild #2 is due in two months and this just whets my appetite even more.
    Back to this post—I wonder if vestal hair fashion had something to do with St. Paul’s dislike for braided hair—bad associations.  I don’t know the scripture reference off hand, but I’m sure you know which one I refer to.
    Michael O’Brien: I thought his first few novels (Strangers and Sojourners, Father Elijah, and one or two of the sequels to Fr. Elijah were pertty good. But after that he must have become, I don’t know, enamored of his success, and convinced that every word and thought of his was golden. As a result, later novels of his are badly in need of editing. They go off an long tangents as he inserts stream of consciousness short stories within the narrative, which I guess are supposed to make some point, but I just get lost.
    As to Landscape with Dragons, I never felt comfortable with the idea that dragons, snakes, etc., always had to be evil. Especially snakes—one of my earliest memories was catching a baby garter snake, thinking it unbearably cute, and running into the house shouting, Mommy! Look at the size of this worm I found! My dad taught me to distinguish poisonous from non-poisonous varieties early on. Other than a healthy caution until I identified a snake as a no-deadly species, I never had that primordial fear that O’Brien claims we ought to have. Yet this does not seem to have thrown off my moral imagination too badly.

  • GeekLady: I enjoyed the Arthurian themes, but they were definitely a change from the other books. I’ve heard THS called a Charles Williams novel written by C. S. Lewis, and having read some Charles Williams it seems to make sense. He was absolutely fascinated with King Arthur, and despite being a Christian, he also seemed sort of cozy with magic in a way that Tolkien and Lewis were not. I haven’t read much of his work, though.

    @Daria Sockey: I largely agree about the snakes. Moreover, in the Gospel of John (3:14) our Lord says “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up…” (in reference to the serpent that the Israelites looked at and were healed when the snakes were biting them) It would seem that if God could use the serpent as a symbol of Himself, it would be okay for human beings to use it (with caution).

  • @geeklady: Yes! The bronze serpent was a pretty startling move on God’s part, both for using a snake and for having people elevate and reverence a graven image (protestants never know what to make of this one when I bring it up in a discussion of statues vs. idolatry) I recall that O’Brien said that George MacDonald’s putting a little white snake as a good character in the Phantastes was a lapse on the author’s part. I wonder would he similarly chide God about the bronze serpent.

  • JCW essentially sums up what I intensely dislike about O’Brien – he wants to force allegory on author and reader.  I’ve never been able to been explain what I thought was wrong with his take on fantasy before, and certainly not so pithily.

    The saddest part of this is that A Landscape With Dragon was my first introduction to O’Brien, and consequently I’ve never been able to read his fiction.  I just don’t trust him as a storyteller.  I don’t dislike allegory necessarily, but I like things to be properly labeled.  If I curl up with a novel, I expect a novel.  Betraying genre or style conventions is one of the great sins an author can commit against me as a reader – I’ll put that book down and never finish it.  I can’t even make myself pick up one where I think the author might betray them.

    I have more thoughts, but I’m having trouble putting them together tonight.  I’ll give it a shot tomorrow.

  • Hey, I recently realized the same thing … in reference to your comments at the beginning of this post. Facebook makes it so easy and yet I am much more devoted to my blog and anyone coming by. Last week I began doing the same sort of thing, albeit on a smaller scale. Fellow warrior, I salute you! grin

  • Well I may just keep doing linky posts like this if they generate this kind of conversation! You guys are awesome.

    GeekLady, That’s too bad that it was your first introduction to O’Brien. I really like O’Brien as a storyteller even if I can’t stand his literary criticism. I think some artists should stick to making art and not trying to analyze it. I’m glad I read Father Elijah long before I read Landscape because otherwise I think my reaction would have been the same. I think it’s a very good thing that he doesn’t try to write fantasy because I think he’d stink at it.

    Daria, I agree his later novels need an editor.

    Maggie, I do like that Greydanus piece. I remember finding it right after I’d read Landscape for the first time.

  • Maggie and Daria,

    Great point about the bronze serpent. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent on that passage. I think I even wrote a blog post about it once. One of the most mysterious and intriguing passages in the OT to my mind.

    Julie, We should make it a movement! Back to the blogs!

  • O’Brien tells a great yarn, GeekLady!

    But I couldn’t stand the literary criticism.  Just like I couldn’t stand being told my own stories ought to follow a formula. 

    I want children’s books to have a sense of right and wrong, good and evil.  I can live with good dragons.  In fact, I’m rather fond of a certain Reluctant Dragon invented by the same fellow who brought Rat and Mole to life. 

    I will admit to being bored with Anne McCaffrey, and I don’t care for Ursula LeGuin, who has an anti-Christian agenda.  Too bad, because she’s a good writer.

    Kids live in a nuanced world, not a world in which all is either Good or Evil – and they recognize fake when they read it.

  • This is the best quick takes ever! Can’t wait to look at the ancient hairstyle videos… so excited. And I agree about O’Brien, and enjoyed the excerpts you posted from Wright, with the exception that I don’t like his novels. I used to enjoy them but I find them pretty formulaic… they kind of seem the same to me (I haven’t read them all, admittedly) and don’t really care for them. He also totally misunderstood C. S. Lewis’ “That Hideous Strength”, as Steven Greydanus shrewdly pointed out in an essay—I think this one?

  • I liked the Wright piece. It reminds me of Harry Potter (because I apparently want your combox to blow up, bringing up Harry Potter…). The “good guy/bad guy” divide in that series is very…blurry…but I never got the sense that it was because there was no such thing as good and evil. Rather, the fact that nobody stuck to being good very consistently seemed to underline the fact that “good” was something outside of all of them, something you have to keep striving for your whole life, rather than something you can just wear like a white hat.

    I’m gonna go hide from the people who don’t like Rowling now. *duck*

  • The facebook/blog conundrum…left facebook in December and have been blogging furiously. I don’t know if I’ll go back to facebook. I enjoy the freedom of not having it and I was definitely addicted in a very bad way, but, I do miss many of my friends who use it as their pretty much only social outlet.

    And if I grew my hair out, I would sure be hiring someone to copy the vestal hairstyle. Seriously.

  • Sojourner, I wrote a lot about Harry Potter several years ago. In brief, I enjoyed the series but I have some reservations and definitely wouldn’t put it in the same category as Lewis and Tolkien. Mainly because while Rowling is a fun storyteller I think she just isn’t that great a world builder. My biggest problem is with her lack of consistency. Magic seems to work… well however is most convenient for whatever plot twist she needs to work her way out of. She doesn’t seem to have laid ground rules and figured out how everything fits together first. Instead it feels like she makes it up as she goes along. That drives me nuts. And I think her morality is of a piece. She wants there to be good and evil and for good to triumph. She has a roughly Christian worldview, but she’s never really sat down to figure out how it all works. It’s sort of cobbled together ad hoc with no big picture plan. Sometimes it works for me sometimes it doesn’t.


    I haven’t read any Charles Williams and haven’t been sure I’ve wanted to.

    I haven’t read much Le Guin at all. But I do recall having very much liked The Dispossessed.

  • To be fair I read the first few HP books a couple of times but the later ones only once. Still, I’m pretty sure the things that bugged me the first time though will only bug me more on a re-read. Fun books but only if I don’t let myself think too hard about them. And since what I usually do on re-reads is think harder about what I’m reading, I’m on the fence about whether I want to do that. Maybe when the kids are old enough to make them family read alouds…. (Only after we’ve read the complete Narnia and LOTR of course.)

    Kristen, I kind of wish I could just leave Facebook altogether. But because Facebook is the only way I’m in contact with much of my extended family and because there are a handful of very good friends I only keep in touch with through Facebook I can’t give it up for good. If it were all chitchat and no substance it would be easier to wash my hands of it, but I do have some very good conversations there. I think I may give it up for Lent again, however. I think I can manage 40 days without in the grand scheme of things.

  • Narnia … ugh. I feel the same way Tolkien did about them. To be fair, I was able to get through the first three or four fairly recently by listening to the audio. They were enjoyable enough for what they were. What they were wasn’t nearly enough though. I can hit my own head with a hammer to make points about Christianity, thanks. grin

    I’ll take Rowling any day. Story first. All that other stuff second. To which I believe both Lewis and Tolkien would agree. grin

    Love C.S. Lewis, just not those books.

  • From the biographies I’ve read on the Inklings C. S. Lewis tended towards pastiche and literary homage. Someone (maybe Alan Jacobs?) suggests the Lewis tended to take his friends’ writing styles on semi-consciously. Certainly seems like that in That Hideous Strength. I actually like Lewis’s interpretation of William’s style more than I like Williams straight. He’s kind of creepy about power. He was fascinated by magic and was (I think briefly?) a member of the Society of the Golden Dawn. He also had these weird semi-love-affairs with his female followers.

    Anyway, kind of creepy.

    I like Le Guin very much in spite of her anti-Christian agenda. There’s a very beautiful passage in her novel The Dispossessed about time, fidelity, and suffering, which I think I quote here (with a bunch of my other favourite quotes:

    Thank you for the video links for the hairstyles. They’re fascinating.

  • I only read the HP series once, and that very fast (all 7 books in less than 2 weeks), so I can’t really engage in an in-depth discussion of it. (Actually, that’s less because of the speed—I’m just a fast reader in general—than because I wasn’t reading it for analysis. I was reading it for fun, and it was fun enough to keep me reading, so I didn’t try to analyze.) For me, the real test of a book is whether I still enjoy it on the 4th or 5th read, and I haven’t had the time to spend 2 weeks in a Harry Potter haze since the first time. But I figured I should contribute to the discussion to encourage you to post links. smile

  • It seems to me that in general people who read Narnia as children love it and people who encounter it first as adults don’t.

    The Narnia books are the first ones I remember reading on my own… at a very early age and I have read them ever so many times. To me they are the atmosphere of my childhood and much of what I love about my faith I first came to know and love through them. I suppose they were really my first catechism. But they are also some of my favorite stories and characters too.

  • It probably is because I didn’t read them as a child.  But that’s why I’m always surprised when they’re brought up as a comparison to the Harry Potter books. Partially, I am fond of the early books because my kids were at the perfect ages when they came out and we read the first three or four together. However, they keep deepening as they go (very much like the Little House books). So we all passed around the last Harry Potter books when the would come out.

    And when I reread them a year ago (in audio format, admittedly, which can change the experience), I was surprised to see how I really enjoyed even the early ones again.

  • Your experience of Narnia, Melanie, is pretty much identical to mine…except I was 10 or 11 when I first read them. I’ve read them as an adult and still like them, so it’s not just that I’m seeing them through a nostalgic haze…not totally, anyway. wink

  • Stopping by veeery belatedly to say (a) I liked these posts! and (b) if anyone’s interested, I had a go at following those hairstyle instructions and wrote about it here. Thanks for sharing! It was great fun.