The Very Big Christmas Show

Josie, Joseph, and Ludi dressed for the third act.

Editor’s note: This year, Ludi, Josie, and Joseph all participated in “Miss Kathey’s Academy,” and performed in “The Very Big Christmas Show” in December. All of them did awesome. Josie in particular had a memory she wanted to share:

I am in Miss Kathey’s Academy. I didn’t really expect it, but Miss Kathey said she wanted a small kid to sing a solo called “Happy Birthday, Jesus.” She wanted someone 8 or under.

Me and my friend both went to Pastor Bob to try out. He chose me to do the solo! After that, we practiced once a month every month until December.

I was super-scared at our first performance. Even the tape that held the microphone on to my cheek made me scared. But when I got out on stage and looked at the audience, I realized I couldn’t just chicken out. I said my lines to Santa, the music started, and I began to sing.

Very Big Christmas Show

Josie performs her solo, “Happy Birthday, Jesus.”

Merry Christmas from Ferguson

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What does one write in a Christmas newsletter after your little town has suffered civil unrest and become the center of international attention?

I’m not really sure, but here goes.

The first seven months of the year were memorable.

In April, for example, Yoli and I dropped off the kids for their AWANA class at church and decided to get away for a quick date night. We got a mocha latte and a snack and decided to walk along a trail at Creve Coeur Lake. We rounded the corner of the lake and just kept going. After all, how long could it take to make it back? But as the sun went down and bikers and joggers disappeared, we realized belatedly just how long a route it was. Our romantic walk became a race against time to get back to church that we will never forget.

In May, Yoli’s parents came to visit us. It was Don Hector and Dona Lucila’s second visit to St. Louis. They got to see the kids’ final days of school, Jadzia’s violin concert and the kids’ dance recital. We visited new places like the Science Center, the World Chess Hall of Fame and the Magic House. And we had a grand time seeing classic cars in old St. Charles (except the part where Joseph threw up all over everywhere).

In July we headed south to visit friends in Houston and family in San Antonio. It was cool to get a tour of my dad’s new business, called “City Plating.” We played putt-putt golf with mom and dad, the kids found frogs near Nan’s pool, we swam in the Guadalupe River (and so did my iPhone), we spent a morning at Kiddie Park. It was a great few weeks.

And then came August. Michael Brown was shot on Saturday, Aug. 9. That weekend was intense and surreal: I designed the front page of the Post-Dispatch each night, while watching on TV as my town convulsed with anger.
In those early days our family felt so sad and uncertain. What was happening? Many times we had difficult conversations with our kids. We prayed for the Browns, we prayed for justice, we prayed for peace.

I attended city council meetings and residents-only town halls. I learned of the cycle of tickets, warrants, and arrests driven by poverty. My eyes were opened to injustices I had been ignorant of.

It has been a long four months. The struggle in Ferguson has gone global. “Ferguson” is now a hashtag, a symbol known worldwide. Many people think they know our town, but they don’t. There is a resolve here to turn this tragedy into something good. To reform — and to rebuild, as we did after the Good Friday tornado in 2011.

I once heard a resident cite Esther 4:14, saying she believed Ferguson had been chosen for just such a time as this.

It’s hard to imagine a bright future. Yet we agree with her. God can bring change.

Josh and Yoli celebrate their anniversary at the Corner Coffeehouse in Ferguson.
Josh and Yoli celebrate their anniversary at the Corner Coffeehouse in Ferguson.

The best Christmas present of all time

Two things came up recently which spurred me to write a blog post one year sooner than I originally planned.

The first thing is that I created a new website called Break Into Chat, which hosts a wiki about the history of old BBS door games as well a blog about retro computing topics. You can visit the website to learn more about the reasons why I created it.

The second thing is that my mom has been scanning truckloads of photos from Christmases past, then sharing them on Facebook.

These two seemingly unrelated threads converge in 1993, the year my parents surprised me and my brothers with the greatest Christmas present ever: The Atari Jaguar.

Please take a minute to click the link above and relive the memory with me!

Sprucing up the house (Or is it firring?)

Every year my mom has a lovely Christmas tree at her house. She and dad usually pick one out from a tree farm the day after Thanksgiving. This year, though, they are several states away, and we decided to get a tree ourselves.

Unfortunately we didn’t get out soon enough. Our tardiness combined with the terrible drought this summer meant pickings were slim at the tree farm.

We walked for an hour or two looking for “the tree.” We never found one that was altogether perfect, but we did find a nice small one that had no dead branches or brown needles.

Yoli and the girls got it decorated Tuesday evening. Yoli had also taken some free scrap branches that the tree farm was giving away. On Wednesday she used them to make a wreath, and on Thursday to decorate the mantel over the fireplace.

Here are some photos of how it turned out:

Josh christmastree

Yoli christmastree

IMG 1285

Kristkindl and cookies

Three years ago we took our first trips to Hermann, Mo in search of Springerle cookie molds and a fun time.

On those trips, we missed out on the Kristkindl Markt, not realizing how early in the day it finished. It’s a bit tricky for us to make it out there, with our church and work commitments on the weekends.

Anyway, Sunday we went straight from church to Hermann. Upon arrival, we drove to a town square area where the Kristkindl had been the last time we were in town. But it was empty. Yoli found a friendly older couple who explained the market was being held at Stone Hill Winery. The gentleman also advised us to visit St. George Church for its rectory tour, which he assured us was beautiful and full of trees.

Eventually we found the correct hill, parked the car, and wandered into the winery’s gift shop, thinking it might be the market. Lots of grapey gift items, but not what we wanted. At last we were directed to the right spot.

Inside we found plenty of lovely handicrafts and food items. If I was a lottery winner, I’m sure I could have bought a minivan-load of stuff, especially the beautiful hand-turned wood items.

Particularly eye-catching to me were some hand-painted clay Springerle “cookie” Christmas ornaments. Given Yoli’s affinity for Springerles, this seemed like a natural purchase. The lady selling them loved our little kids and let each of them choose an extra little ornament as a bonus. We also purchased some beeswax ornaments from a honey vendor.

We left the winery and made our way back downtown to St. George’s. We walked through the sanctuary of the church, which was beautiful but bereft of trees. The girls were quick to point this out: “Where are all the trees?” A lady directed us to the other side of the church where the rectory tour began.

What a beautiful tour! We only explored a fraction of it before the kids (nap-less and hungry) began to get restless, Joseph especially. Each room had its own theme, and all were striking. Yoli and I could have stayed all evening exploring it all.

Our final stop was the Deutschheim historic site. Time was running short (I had to get back home in time for work), but we browsed the rooms with old toys and Christmas decorations, transporting back in time.

And at last, we made it to the most important part of our visit: the Deutschheim gift shop, where they sell replica Springerle cookie molds. Yoli has been itching for some new ones to increase the variety of the cookies she makes.

The gift shop setup was different this year than the last time we were here. The gift items were being sold out of one of the old, electricity-less buildings. So all the transactions were being done long-hand. It took quite a while, and when it was done, the worker who was helping me realized he had the carbon paper in backward. So he had to copy the receipt again. Ah, the modern conveniences we take for granted. A nice Square credit card reader hooked up to an iPhone sure would have been handy for the gift shop folks.

And the proof of our purchase: Springerle cookie dough waiting to be pressed into molds and baked.

Jadzia’s first Christmas program

Tonight Jadzia participated in the Vogt Elementary Christmas program. Here is her account of the night:

I liked singing on the risers. My songs were “’twas the night before Christmas,” “Ring those bells,” and “Hear those bells.”

I wore my new dress with a new sweater and a new hairstyle.

My Nanny and Grandpa came to the show.

I was on the top riser and I could see my family way in the back.

The end.

Who opens the Advent calendar first?

Last night while I was at work, Yoli told the girls that the following day would be Dec. 1, and we would start our Advent calendar.

This is our third Christmas using this calendar, and it’s pretty neat. It’s a manger scene with a bunch of hooks. Each day, you open a little door and inside is a wooden figure (like an angel, a shepherd, Mary, Joseph, etc). Then you hang the figure somewhere in the scene.

Anyway, Yoli told Jadzia that we would let the girls take turns in reverse birth order. So, Josie would go first, Ludi the next day, and Jadzia last.

Jadzia didn’t take this very well and argued with Yoli, who told her she would ask me for my opinion after work.

Continue reading “Who opens the Advent calendar first?”

Christmas chuckle

This Christmas was a lot of fun. Perhaps the best part was having my Nan in town all week, and my brother’s family for several days. We went over to my mom’s house daily to hang out.

Of all the gifts the girls received this week, this one gave us the biggest laugh. It’s a ladybug toy for Josie:

As Yoli removed it from its packaging today, she found the following warning:

Caution: Please be safe. Always select the correct size toy for the type of breed and chewing habits of your dog. Should any portion of this toy break or tear, please remove from your dog and discard immediately. Vo-Toys, Inc. is not responsible for any pet owner’s neglect or misuse of this toy.

Third time’s the charm

In recent years I have twice written up a stack of Christmas cards with every intention of mailing them. I even got them into the envelopes and somewhat addressed. Then some thing(s) or other cropped up and I procrastinated to the point that I thought “well, it’s too late to mail them now!”

It’s embarrassing. (Well, I guess it’s only embarrassing now that I’ve mentioned it here on the blog. Before that, nobody really knew about it!)

But this year, I did put together a little Renaud family letter for Christmas, and I have managed to get most of them into the mail. I have one left, and it will hit the post office sometime tomorrow.

Of course this whole endeavor is a bit pricey, with the cost of having the letter printed and folded, stamps, and all.

To cut costs, I ended up printing in black and white. Also I decided I will send a digital PDF of the letter via email to many folks.

Maybe that’s the way to go in the future. It sure is easier to do. But then again, there’s something nice about getting a tangible letter with a little handwritten note (even if it’s just a short note).