My advent calendar is like my life: always running a little bit behind.

Here's our pretty tree from a couple of years ago -- after the gifts had been opened.

Well, so let me share a list of all the things I have

not done yet

during this Advent season:

  • decorate the Christmas tree with all my lovely ornaments, each of which has special meaning to me, but which I may or may not be able to find currently
  • put lights on the Christmas tree
  • acquire the Christmas tree
  • bake any sort of scrumptious Christmas-y treat
  • put twinkly Christmas lights up outside my home to welcome family, friends, and maybe a wassailing stranger or two
  • wrap any Christmas gifts for my family and friends
  • purchase any Christmas gifts for my family and friends
  • hunt down the Christmas stockings and stocking hangers
  • write a hilarious, not-too-braggy, chock-full-of-pictures Christmas newsletter to include with my Christmas cards
  • mail any Christmas cards
  • purchase, craft, or recycle any Christmas cards

My Christmas angst level is high, y'all.

It feels like I say this every year. But -- I am always able to slide into the pew in time to sing carols before Midnight Mass, and somehow the little baby Jesus is always able to celebrate another birthday.

And I have also realized that Santa has my back; it's just that I need to learn how to recognize his elves when they are all around me.  Somehow the treats get made (the sunny girl is my go-to baker); the presents get purchased (come here, Amazon-dot-com, so I can kiss you on the lips) -- and wrapped by Coleen and by the girl in charge (who has a system, of course). The Boy Scouts come through every year, with a tree, and greenery, and luminaria to welcome those wassailers and friends.  My family's Christmas mornings are always wonderful, and our Christmas Day is mellow (we all lazily read our newest books), and we continue our festive season the very next day with a kick-ass Boxing Day party.

So -- get thee behind me, Christmas angst!

+ + + + + + +

And here -- with no angst! -- is a "catch-up" batch of wintery and Christmas-y books for Advent:

DECEMBER 14:

Twelve Kinds of Ice

, by Ellen Bryan Obed, is a nostalgic and old-fashioned seeming book about the different kinds of ice one family experiences as winter progresses.  From a delicate skim of ice on a pail to true skating ice, the narrator and her sister find a way to find joy and anticipation and fun.  The delicate and precise illustrations by Barbara McClintock match the tone of the writing -- the book evokes all the different feelings of winter.  I'm so glad to have found this book!

DECEMBER 15:

Kevin Crossley-Holland wrote a trilogy of books that re-tell the King Arthur story that the tall boy loved when he was younger, so I was curious to see how he "re-tells" the Nativity story.  His book --

How Many Miles to Bethlehem?

-- is wonderful.  The language is sometimes whimsical and sometimes sweeping and majestic, as Crossley-Holland narrates the story through the voices of the various participants and observers.  And the artwork!  Oh my goodness, it's so gorgeous!

DECEMBER 16:

In A Perfect Day, Carin Berger creates a snowy world using collages made of ledger paper brushed with paint; the texture and depth in the illustrations seem to be a way of representing the unique quality of the light on snow.  The story of the children who emerge from their homes to play together is told very simply, but the pictures give the story a richness that will have young readers and pre-readers poring over the book themselves for hours.

DECEMBER 17:

A storybook called The Nativity seems pretty straightforward, and the reader might assume that it will take a reverent tone when it describes this most important of all births.  And the story is absolutely told with a serious voice -- taken from the King James version of the Bible.  But the illustrations by Julie Vivas are just the slightest bit kooky, so that everyone will delight in looking at the pictures.  Mary's belly is really, really big; the angel Gabriel has bright red hair, shimmery wings, and big work boots.  It's hilarious! I just wish, wish, wish I had been able to share this book with the urchins when they were little -- but I am happy that my sister's small boys will get to enjoy it (guess what they're getting for Christmas?!)