Discovering Mistletoe

All I knew of Mistletoe was that you kiss under it at Christmastime. I was surprised to hear that it grew wild in the South. I was also surprised to hear that it grew on trees. Mistletoe is not a tree, but a parasitic shrub that grows out of the branches of existing trees like oaks. I began to look up and around, and sure enough, there it was all around me, high up in the trees of my own yard.

At a quick glance you might assume it is a squirrel's nest left over from the summer. But with a longer look and a closer inspection you will notice that it is not a mass of brown dead leaves, but green, like strange and untimely new growth on an otherwise dormant and barren tree. 

The boys and I decided we would try to harvest some for ourselves. Apparently, the preferred way to harvest mistletoe in the South is to shoot it out of the tree with a shotgun. I was a little skeptical about this approach for many reasons. So we hauled out an old ladder we found in the barn and hoped it would reach high enough. That's another thing about mistletoe. It seems to prefer the highest branches on a tree on which to grow. We could only reach a small clump of it from the top of our ladder. Even this relatively "low growing" cluster was a little too high for my comfort and letting go of the ladder to do my clipping (and photographing) left me more than a little uneasy. 

The botanical name for American Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum, is derived from the Greek words for "tree thief". It is a hemi-parasitic shrub which obtains water and nutrients from its host, although it also produces some of its own food through its own photosynthetic processes. The common name "Mistletoe" may come from the Anglo-Saxon words for "dung twig". This alludes to the plants method of propagation. Some birds enjoy eating the sticky white mistletoe berries which, when passed through the digestive system and deposited on a branch, may germinate into a new plant.

Kissing Under the Dung Twig

It is unclear why we kiss under mistletoe. The practice may have originated with the Druids who believed the plant to be sacred. It is said that if two enemies met under a mistletoe plant, they must lay down their weapons, great each other warmly and observe a truce until the following day. 

In any case, we have been kissing under the "dung twig" for hundreds of years. Washington Irving referenced the tradition in The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., first published in 1819. 

the mistletoe, with its white berries, hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids.** The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas; and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked, the privilege ceases.

The only mistletoe we were able to reach was devoid of any berries, so I guess our kissing privileges were gone before they even began.

I think I need some hand lotion.

I think I need some hand lotion.

A Picture Perfect Christmas

The boys embelished the "Christ" candle
with their names, a Christmas tree, and a Santa hat.

 

At the beginning of this Christmas season I wrote about how we were late getting started with our Advent candle lighting and how my best laid plans for beautiful moments often end up as cautionary tales. But then I posted twenty-five days of cute little handmade needle-felted ornaments depicting twenty-five names of Jesus. This may have given you the impression that I indeed had it all together, and that we are over-flowing with dreamy, cute-as-pie family moments over here. That is so not the case.

Let me begin by confessing that while I was faithful about posting a name of Jesus each and every day, I was not so faithful about actually hanging them on the tree with the boys. We were consistently three to five days behind. Ironically, blogging about the wonderful things you are going to do with your children often supersedes actually doing them.

I thought it would be appropriate to close this holiday season, much as I began it, by posting a highlight video of this years' annual Christmas day advent candle lighting ceremony.

Playing at Work and Gastro-Explosions: A Gift Guide

I've seen two toys advertised this Christmas season that have me a little baffled.

The first is Doggie Doo.

The product description states,

"Europe's top new action game has come to America! Feed and walk your little pup, if he makes a mess, you clean it up! When you squeeze his leash, he makes a gassy sound that gets louder and louder until...plop. The first to clean up after the dog three times wins!"

At our house, this is one of the boys' actual, real-life chores which we affectionately call "poop patrol". Why play it, when you can live it?

The second is Pop the Pig.

In this game, you feed the pig hamburgers until his stomach ruptures. That's what the product description hints at anyway, but from what I could see on the promotional videos, it looks like his vest just pops open. What a jip. Kids all over are going to be disappointed on Christmas morning when they find out his stomach doesn't actually explode. Incidentally, this toys is made by the same folks that make Doggie Doo. It is also a big hit in Europe where they call it "Feed the American Capitalist Pig until He Explodes". Just kidding. I don't think they call it that.

Jesus

His name is Jesus, which in Hebrew means "Jehovah is salvation".


But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

 

Matthew 1:20-21

 

For Advent I am listing 25 Names of Jesus for the 25 days of Christmas; see them all here.

Blowing the Lid off Santa

When King was little, Santa used to bring him presents - really awesome, big gifts that he'd leave under the tree. And, of course, he'd fill King's stocking, too. In fact, Santa brought such nice gifts that I began to wonder what I was supposed to get King for Christmas. When I was little, it was my parents who always got me the "good" gifts. Santa just filled my stocking. Every year he brought me (among other things): a Life Savers "Sweet Story Book",

Does anyone else remember these?

a large candy cane, a big red apple, and an amazingly large orange, which always found its way to the toe of my stocking. What a guy!

Why couldn't Santa do this same thing for my kids? So I made a call to the North Pole and told Santa that from then on he should just stick to stocking-filling at our house; I would handle the rest. King was a little surprised that I actually had Santa's phone number and that I could boss around the big guy like that, but he accepted it without much argument.

"Yes, Ma'am. Whatever you say."

 

So for the past ten years or so, that's the way its been. On Christmas Eve, we open all the wonderful wrapped gifts from the family and on Christmas morning the boys' stockings are filled with random little gifts from Santa.

However, this year Michael came to Curtis and I one evening and asked,

"Does Santa fill my stocking or do you guys do it?"

As has been our tradition when faced with these kinds of questions, we played dumb:

"What do you mean? Why do you ask?"

"Well, last year Santa gave me a Thor action figure. I mean, how did he know that I needed a Thor?* I wrote him a letter, but then later, after Christmas, I saw the letter in Nana's purse."

"Hmmm... Interesting.... What do you think? Do you think he's real?"

"I think you guys fill my stocking. Just like you are the Tooth Fairy."

We were kind of surprised that Santa's house of cards didn't fall when the Tooth Fairy got called out a few years back. But now, the jig was definitely up. It was time to come clean.

"Yes. We are Santa Claus. Well... Dad is Santa Claus because Mom goes to bed too early."

Later when King came home, Michael asked if he could "tell him". Curtis said, "Sure".

"Santa isn't real. Mom and Dad fill our stockings."

"No they don't. He's real."

"No, really, dude. It's them. They told me."

"Oh, yeah. I knew that. I just didn't want to ruin it for you."

I am thankful there didn't seem to be any great trauma or sense of betrayal over this revelation. However, we will continue on as usual: Santa will fill stockings on Christmas morning, because, in truth, he's still as real as he ever was.

 

 

*Jethro seems to have a taste for hammer-wielding Norse gods, as he has eaten about three of them so far.

King of Kings

Jesus is the King of Kings!

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

- Revelation 19:11-16

 

For Advent I am listing 25 Names of Jesus for the 25 days of Christmas; see them all here.

The Cornerstone

Jesus is the Cornerstone.

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’”

- Isaiah 28:16

 

For Advent I am listing 25 Names of Jesus for the 25 days of Christmas; see them all here.