Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What Our Writing Group Is Doing These Days

Way back when Anne-with-an-e was a sophomore in high school and Betsy was in 8th grade, we started a weekly writing group with two of the girls' friends.

The rules we established and stuck to for our no-pressure group:

1. The girls could bring anything they wanted: a story, a novel in progress, an essay written for a school assignment, a book review...anything. It could be a first draft or something they'd polished.

2. After each reading, the first reaction from listeners must be positive and encouraging: what they liked about the piece, a description, an intriguing character or plot development they admired. Then we could move on to other constructive criticism, ask questions, or share ideas.

3. When we finished the discussion, the girls headed off for lunch while I re-read the papers and offered ideas via my trusty red pen.

4. The last rule: Don't Be Afraid of the Red Pen. I assured the girls the red pen was their friend.

The most important thing for young writers to understand is that rough drafts are called rough for a reason. I don't want my suggestions and corrections to discourage them, so I stressed that edits don't mean, "Wow, you're a bad writer! Look at all the marks I had to make!" I wanted them to understand that the better the writing, the more they would see my red pen (because as their writing improved they were giving me more to work with.) If I taught them only one thing about writing, I wanted it to be that the real work of writing is in the revision. I told them I became a real writer the day I realized a great editor was my friend and biggest asset.

Our writing group became the highlight of our week. The girls shared silly stories, serious stuff, novels (completed and abandoned), essays, history reports, and stories composed entirely of inside jokes. Some weeks we dug around for a writing prompt and the girls all wrote stories for the following week based on that prompt. Sometimes we went out for hot chocolate, because all writers need to hit the coffee house now and then.

These days, our little writing group is made up of Ramona, another 14 year old, and a twelve year old. The basic rules are the same, and hopefully the kindliness of the red pen is still understood. We've also added a couple of things to our weekly itinerary.

After the girls share the stories they've brought, we do a freewrite. I usually use Julie Bogart's prompts from her Friday Freewrite.

When I first introduced freewriting to Ramona's group, they wrote for only two minutes. Completely unintimidating, and they were excited to do it. I told them that the only rule about what they wrote was that they had to keep writing until the timer went off. (Julie thoroughly explains the process of a freewrite here.) Kids love having permission to write stuff like, "I can't think of anything to write...I am blank...Ramona is laughing while she's writing...I am hungry." After a few freewrites, we extended the time to 6-10 minutes, depending on the prompt.

Last week, I pulled a random prompt from a different site instead of using one of Julie's. The prompt was, "The happiest moment of my life." I always do the freewrite along with the girls, and when we finished, I told them, "I don't know about you, but this was the most boring freewrite I've ever done. The last thing I wrote before the timer went off was, 'This is so stupid.'" The girls thought that was hilarious and it prompted good discussion about writing in general, zeroing in on concrete details, and trying to write about broad, bland topics.

The girls' favorite freewrite from last semester was this one from Brave Writer:
I slowly opened my eyes.  Moonlight streaked across my blanket. I turned over and hoped to drift back to sleep. But…what was that sound? Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. Was it coming from under my bed?! I…
We came up with such fun stories. Mine was about finding a trap door under the bed, and descending the stairs to ... I don't know where yet, but now I want to write that story.

The other new thing we added this year was at the girls' suggestion. One of Ramona's friends suggested the girls write and bring a haiku every week. I thought rather than having one more thing to bring to the group, it might be fun to write the haiku while we were together. So now we each write a haiku that pulls together details from each of the stories the girls brought that week.

Final writing group note:

Last week, one of the girls brought a story about zebras. Then we all wondered what a herd of zebras is called, so, we looked it up.

A dazzle of zebras.

Made my day.

But then, writing group always makes my day.

On Relevant Radio Today at 6 am Central

I'll be talking with John Harper on Morning Air about making the most of Ordinary Time.


A great explanation of Ordinary Time on Catholic Culture.

Favorite spiritual books:

Fr. Jacques Philippe
Fr. Thomas DuBay
Abandonment to Divine Providence
Talking to God: Prayers for Catholic Women by Julie Dortch Cragon
Prayer Journals

Daily Inspiration:

Daily with DeSales (daily quotes from St. Francis de Sales)


So you want to know the best time to serve the Lord? It is the present time, which is in your possession here and now. The past is no longer yours; the future has not come yet and is uncertain. The best time is really the present, which you should spend in serving God. If you want to recover lost time, do your best, with fervor and diligence, in the time that still remains to you.

-- St. Francis de Sales 
 (Sermons 16; O. IX, p. 132)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Bits and Pieces of Our Days

I like ice in my coffee in July, not on my road in January. But on the road is where the ice is today. School and work were canceled for everyone, but Atticus isn't exactly enjoying his day off. He was hit with a stomach bug last night.


And it's only been six days since I last complained that it's not spring yet.

Six days closer to spring? Yeah, we'll go with that.


I recently read The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine Aron. As Anne Bogel pointed out, the only (and ironic) problem with this book is that some of the case studies mentioned will bother a highly sensitive person. Still, worth the read if you can get through the stories of abuse and are interested in finding out more about yourself, HSPs in general, or your HSP child. 

After reading that, I couldn't decide what I was in the mood to read. I wandered around the house, perused bookshelves, started at least three different books (I'm in the mood for World War II drama! No, wait, I'm not at all. I may never be again. Tiny, Beautiful Things? No. Wait. More abuse. What else? A good bio? No! I don't know! What do I want to read? What do I need to read?) 

Suddenly, I spotted Anne's House of Dreams

Bingo. When you need a palate cleanser, run to Prince Edward Island. 


Last week, when I told Ramona that our break was over and it was time to face the resumption of math, all she could summon in response was a Hamilton quote: "I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory." 

(Not sure what I'll do with myself someday when my daughters aren't around to keep me laughing.) 

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Various Facebook and Instagram moments from the last month or so:

Ramona and I made a TARDIS. 
Thanks, My Froggy Stuff


Although I love nattering on about books, this sounds good, too.

Join us to read books with friends in NYC, SF, LA, DC, and cities around the world, or start a meetup of your own. It's a silent reading party, BYOBook!


INFJs during Christmas baking:
Me: Ramona, let's put your Christmas playlist on.
Her: Mine is kind of sad. Why don't we put yours on?
Me: Mine is kind of sad, too. Do you have Joni Mitchell's River on yours? 
Her: Yes.
Me: Sarah Maclachlan? Wintersong?
Her: Yeah.
Me: Ok. Let's find Bruce Springsteen doing Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
Her: Yup.
Cleaning out some old papers and I found this calendar from *1984*. It was so pretty -- Emily Dickinson poems and lovely illustrations --that I wanted to save it rather than use it. It was a gift from my friend Jack and when I opened it just now, I burst out laughing. On every day for the first half of January, he had written in, "Stayed Home." Except on January 10th, which says, "Saw bird on path." And a happy coincidence is that 1984's dates align with 2017's. So, perhaps this year I'll finally use the lovely Emily Dickinson engagement calendar. But I might go out more often than Emily did.

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Wine charms, made for me by my sweet friend, Andrea. I dedicated my first book to Andrea, because she told me for years, "You really need to write a book." 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Poetry Friday

I'm focusing on gratitude--today, tonight, this month, this year, this life. 
Keep me honest, God, and don't let me stray from thanking you for everything

Winter: Tonight: Sunset
by David Budbill

Tonight at sunset walking on the snowy road,
my shoes crunching on the frozen gravel, first

through the woods, then out into the open fields
(Read the whole thing here, at The Writer's Almanac.) 


The round up this week is at Keri Recommends

Photo credit: FreeImages.com

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Talking about miscarriage on a new podcast

My friend, Demetrio, Aguila, has started a new podcast called How to Speak Catholic. The show is a mix of basic, solid apologetics, and a variety of interviews and conversations, such as the sharing of conversion stories. 

I recently sat down with Demetrio and we talked about miscarriage, and about my book, After Miscarriage. Demetrio and his wife, Jen, have suffered six miscarriages, and we talked about the challenges of dealing with multiple losses, how we all deal differently with grief, and about how our faith has helped us through that grief. (Jen and Demetrio are such a beautiful, faith-filled couple; they were also mentioned in a couple of the stories I told in You Can Share the Faith.) 

You can find How to Speak Catholic here, or at iTunes. It was a pleasure to share such heartfelt stories. I hope you find something encouraging there!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Dithering among the snowmen

I was dithering today.

A snapshot of me, talking to me:

Take the Christmas stuff down.

I don't wanna. 

No one else is going to do it. Buddy the Elf isn't here. 

Why do you put up so many decorations? 

Every year you say that. Every year you put them up, sigh happily, and say, "It's so worth it," then every year when it's time to put stuff away, you say, "Why did I do all this stuff?" 

Shut up and put everything away. Clear the decks. Get to work. 



I started to take everything down today. But now I don't have the heart to dismantle the tree. Not just yet. Someone plugged it in this morning, and it looks too pretty to touch. I'll just let it keep twinkling. At least for today.

I put everything else away: the stockings, the Christmas cards, the Santa figurines my sister gave me. The Jesse tree, the Advent calendars, the Christmas mugs. The greenery, the lights from the mantel, the Nativity. The cardboard Santa Claus card caddy that Atticus brought home from Goodwill 32 years ago. It's silly, and retro, and it's perfectly Atticus. I love it.

Sometimes I dither about the other stuff: I have a few snowman decorations, and sometimes I sweep them away with all the other Christmas things ("The fun is over, people! No more winter-y anything! I'm sick of it! Where is spring? Why is it only January?!") I never meant to start a snowman collection. I don't really even like collections (unless we're talking books), and if you asked me if I had a snowman collection, I would say, "No! I don't collect things that collect dust." And yet, here they are, sitting on my hutch, every December:

They sure look like a collection. As with every good thing in my life, I didn't plan them, and would deny that I'd ever have wanted them, but there they are. A few snowmen who make me smile. A happy life. (Just don't call it a collection. It makes me feel like a crazy old cat lady or something.) 

The tree will come down this week, but this year, I decided the snowmen could stay through January. Probably through February. Instead of wishing for spring to be around the corner (because, let's face it, it's not), I'll use the snowmen this year to cultivate the hygge


Monday, January 09, 2017

Some Books We Read in 2016

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce
A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman
Betsy was a Junior, Maud Hart Lovelace 
The Pretend Wife, Bridget Asher
Essentialism, Greg McKeown
In This House of Brede, Rumer Godden
Yes, Please, Amy Poehler
Bossy Pants, Tina Fey
Little Men, Louisa May Alcott
Jo's Boys, Louisa May Alcott
Driving Hungry, Layne Mosler 
Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys
Still Life, Louise Penny
One Plus One, JoJo Moyes
Prisoner B-3087, Alan Gratz
Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling
Betsy and Joe, Maud Hart Lovelace
The Power of Vulnerability,  Brene Brown (Audible)
What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty
A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter Miller, Jr.
Hannah Coulter, Wendell Berry
Nest, Esther Erhlich
The Madwoman Upstairs, Catherine Lowell
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Jack Thorne
The Awakening of Miss Prim, Natalia San Martin Fenollera
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling
Betsy and the Great World, Maud Hart Lovelace
The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman
Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout
Betsy's Wedding, Maud Hart Lovelace
The One in a Million Boy, Monica Wood
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer 
Crosstalk, Connie Willis
Lab Girl, Hope Jahren
A Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L'Engle
84 Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff 
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, Phaedra Patrick

Two NaNoWriMo novels -- Betsy wrote one in July and one in November

Books I read with Ramona:

The Titan's Curse
Battle of the Labyrinth
The Last Olympian (all three are part of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series)
The Pushcart War, Jean Merrill
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, Trenton Lee Stewart
Return to Gone Away, Elizabeth Enright 
The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase, Wendy Mass
Jane of Lantern Hill, L.M. Montgomery
The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, Jennifer Trafton
The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, Jacqueline Kelly
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg
The Shadow of the Bear, Regina Doman
Black as Night, Regina Doman


Top three picks? (No, don't make me pick! Okay, I will): 

In This House of Brede
Hannah Coulter
Far From the Madding Crowd

Book I'm really glad I read but will probably never read again?

A Canticle for Leibowitz

Books that filled me with happiness when I needed it: 

All things Maud Hart Lovelace and L.M. Montgomery

Books I finished, but that disappointed me the most: 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 
The Awakening of Miss Prim 

Books I didn't finish, for a variety of reasons: 

Lab Girl (actually a really good memoir, I just wasn't in the mood for memoir. I plan to return to it.)

My Name is Lucy Barton (I felt I was reading an entirely different book than the one I'd heard described by others as lovely. Maybe it was just my frame of mind at the time? I don't know.)

Favorite read-aloud with Ramona:
Jane of Lantern Hill
The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate


What were your top three books of 2016? 

Photo credit: FreeImages.com

Friday, January 06, 2017

Poetry Friday: Journey of the Magi

It's become something of a tradition to post Eliot's "The Journey of the Magi" on the Feast of the Epiphany. I never tire of this poem's perfect melding of earthly earthiness and supernatural doings. Eliot captures that down-to-your-bones discomfort, the squirming...revelation that is both comforting and terrifying.

Journey of the Magi
by T.S. Eliot 

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,


Read--and listen to Eliot read it--here.


The round up today is at Teacher Dance

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Lights, Camera, Corky...and an Ode to Karl

Last night was the youth choir play at our parish. I've written loads about our youth choir plays; it has such a fun and varied history. It was born on Christmas Eve, 2007, when our liturgy director approached me after Mass and said, "Hey, Karen, when I worked at another church, we did this little play called The Three Trees. I was thinking it would be fun to do it here, with our youth choir."

I said, "Yeah, you have fun with that, Karl. That's a great idea."

Karl said, "I was wondering if you'd like to help direct it."

I said, "Yeah, you have fun with that, Karl."

But I relented and gave it a try, because I really do have an inner Corky St. Clair. (I was not a theater major for nothing, people.) Because I had daughters in the youth choir, I helped Karl with The Three Trees, then the next year we did a play called A Technicolor Promise. (That was the year that Anne-with-an-e's Confirmation led me to buy Zoo Pal paper plates as part of the costumes. Yeah. Go read that link.)

Then I took a year off (I think I was writing a book? Or I was just tired and grumpy?) and then directed another play called Joseph: From the Pit to the Palace. I went full-on Corky with that one. I remember Karl having to pull me back from the edge when I was trying to choreograph a group of 30 kids, ages 8-13, as if they were in Hamilton. "This is getting a little too complicated," Karl gently told me as I wiped my fevered brow and said, "No, it could work. It could work!" I'm certain I then laughed maniacally and I'm equally certain that Karl considered having me hospitalized. Instead, I think he sent me home, I had a glass of wine, showed Atticus my sketches for the dream choreography, and then he wiped my fevered brow and put me to bed.

We simplified the choreography, though I might have been shaky as I made concessions.

The next year, with Karl's enthusiastic encouragement, Anne-with-an-e (who was a senior in high school) and Betsy (who was a sophomore), and two of their friends took a stab at writing a play themselves. They were also eager to try the job of directing (and Karl never once had to consider having them committed. Their inner Corkies were a bit more controlled.) The play was a big hit that year, and I was over-the-moon-proud of my girls. And Betsy was hooked on the directing job. (Directing the musical was one of the things that helped her realize she wanted to be a teacher.) She continued to work with the kids until this year (through her first two years of college.) This was the first year for her to sit in the audience for a choir play, and she didn't like it one bit. It killed her that she was too busy this year to direct. (Maybe next year?)

And the last few years have also been Ramona's time to rise through the ranks. She's had speaking roles, singing duos/trios, adores performing, and I was over-the-moon-proud of her last night as I watched her perform for the last time in this annual musical. She's 9th grade-ish this year, and will age out of the choir as a singer/performer,  but she has her eye on some writing and directing in the future. She may have to elbow her way in, as the young man who wrote the musical the last two years has done a terrific job -- he may not be ready to pass the baton. Karl's wife, Danae, directed this year, and she did an incredible job. But all work out and be well. The Edmisten stake in this choir* has been claimed, and we may never fully let go.

Thank you, Karl, for the vision that was born in 2007, and for asking a lazy, former theater major to lend a hand. I told you to have fun with that, and not only did you have fun with it, you gave my family the gift of a lifetime of treasured memories.

*Adding this footnote after Danae's comment: I forgot to mention that even Atticus had a role one year, as the off-stage voice of God. So fun.

Photo credit: FreeImages.com

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Just a Quick Heads Up, Because the Price is So Low

Just to let anyone who's interested know:

You Can Share the Faith is on sale at Amazon today for only $6.58 (cover price is $14.95, so a nice deal!)

I accidentally typed $658 just now.

Umm, I'm proud of the book, but not that delusionally proud.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

How to Play TelePictionary

Yesterday I mentioned TelePictionary. It's a cross between Telephone and Pictionary, and if you don't know how to play it, I'm here to remedy that for you.

What you need:

Pens or pencils
Complete disregard for your drawing skills


1.) You just need a few players. We've played with three or four or more. Everyone gets a stack of blank papers equal to the number of people in the game. Five of us played, so we each started with five pieces of paper in front of us. (We cut printer paper into fourths, or we just use scrap paper.)

2.) On the first sheet, each person draws a picture of something. It can be anything -- an illustration of a common saying, a movie title, or just whatever occurs to you. Don't look at each other's drawings.

3.) Everyone passes their stack to the person on their right. When you get the stack, interpret the drawing you're looking at, move it to the back of the stack, and on the next piece of paper, write down your interpretation. Pass the stack again.

4. Read the previous person's interpretation, move that paper to the back, then draw your version of what was said.

5. Continue the steps until you've gone through all of the pieces of paper in the stack, and after the final passing, you should have your own drawing back, and it will be on top of the stack.

6. Now you can show everyone your original drawing, tell them what it was, and see how close everyone came to drawing/interpreting it.

7. Laugh until you gasp or pass out.

Here's an example from one of our rounds:

Ramona* drew this:

Anne-with-an-wrote this: 

The Niffler has stolen money and jewels. Eddie Redmayne is very concerned.

Atticus then drew this: 

I interpreted his drawing this way: 

A man is shocked that a blind pig has SWAG. 

In response, Betsy drew this: 


And that is how you play TelePictionary. 
You're welcome. 


* She asks you to please not judge her on her New Year's Eve scribble methods for TelePictionary. 

Monday, January 02, 2017

Bits and Pieces of Our Days

Hey, I think it's 2017.

I'm not sure, though, because we've been on Christmas vacation, and the days tend to blur, one into another. Today, Ramona and I worked on gluing (frostinging?) some gingerbread houses together.

On Christmas Eve, the girls and I shared our 9th annual (really?) Harry Potter Christmas fan fics. Anne-with-an-e first came up with the idea in 2008, and we've done it every year since. We each write a Harry Potter fan fic sometime during Advent (I think this year we all scribbled them out on December 23rd), then we share them with each other over Christmas Eve dinner. Some years the stories have been silly, some years serious. This year everyone went for funny, and it was delightful. 

Christmas break has also included hanging out, visiting my parents (who now live less than two hours away from us! Instead of two days away! Hurray!), reading, introducing Ramona to Doctor Who and taking utter delight in her delight in it, reading some more, eating, drinking wine, making booklists, more hanging out, watching Doctor Who (oh, did I say that? We've watched a lot of Doctor Who), avoiding exercise, going to the movies (Moana, Rogue One), talking about Lin-Manuel Miranda, taking Ramona to play practice (her last year in the youth choir play as a performer, a bittersweet thing), and loving that my husband has a Christmas break. 

New Year's Eve was another lovely family night that included playing TelePictionary and laughing so hard I thought I was going to pass out. 

2017 is off to a good start. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas! ("In Which I Am Imogene Herdman")

Merry Christmas Eve!

Rerunning a piece today in which I am Imogene Herdman (and if you've never read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, promise yourself this will be your year. You won't regret it.)


I remember when I first met Him – that Child who was born in Bethlehem. I didn’t bump into Him in my childhood (though I now know He was there all along.) No, our first encounter -- the one in which I was really a participant -- came when I was older. I was a twenty-something atheist, and a Catholic friend recommended C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to me. “Pay special attention,” he suggested, “to the character of Aslan.”

My friend had a way of recommending things that dramatically changed my life, so I read the book. As urged, I “paid special attention” to Aslan, and I fell in love with him. And I fell in love with Him, though I still didn’t fully understand Who it was that I loved. But I knew I wanted to hold Aslan forever, in my arms and in my heart. Like Susan and Lucy, I wanted to bury my face in His mane, inhale His sweetness, and never let go.

A few years later, the same friend gave me Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, in which “awful old” Imogene Herdman (while playing Mary in the Christmas pageant) is walloped with the story of Jesus for the first time in her short, rough life. She can hardly bear the weight of the irony and the beauty. And as I read about little Imogene bawling her eyes out, I began to sob. I loved Imogene fiercely, and realized that I loved her because I was Imogene: I was that sad little girl who’d never known Jesus, but who one day collided headlong with the reality and power of Him. The God of the universe had bowled Imogene over and she would never be the same. Neither would I.

What changed the Herdmans, the Pevensies, and me? That child born in Bethlehem two millennia ago.

That child. It’s hard to fathom, isn’t it? A child, born in a stable, in poverty, to a virgin. A child raised by a foster-father in relative obscurity. A child who for many years was nothing more than a carpenter’s son. A child.

The Christ Child set a Herdman sobbing, made perfectly sensible little British girls follow a lion for the rest of their lives, and He crumbled my unbelief.

Such is the power of our precious Jesus, and of the books written about Him. Although I wasn’t raised on beautiful tales of our Lord, I know the compelling power of books. I want to share with my own children everything I can about Him. I want to give them the gifts of picture books, chapter books, the Bible. I want to give them storytelling, fine art and great music. I hope to introduce them, through these things, to the Source of all that is good, and true and beautiful. I pray my daughters will remember countless, sublime meetings with Him, and will yearn to inhale His sweetness, the sweetness of that baby in a manger.

That baby was born for us. He lived and died for us.

He loves us so much.

Let’s pay special attention.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Coming Soon: The Christmas Season!

Ramona, when she was about three. 

I'll be on Relevant Radio's Morning Air Monday (tomorrow), December 19th, at 8 a.m. CT, talking about the Christmas season and ideas for celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Years ago, when we first started doing some of these things, my girls noticed that much of the world was dismantling Christmas Joy just as we were picking up speed at our house. I told them repeatedly (because that's a nagging mother's job, right?), "It's a shame the whole world doesn't realize that the Christmas season is just beginning! They don't know all the fun they're missing!" The harping instruction paid off, and ever since, we have thoroughly enjoyed the many traditions we've built around the seasons of Advent and Christmas.

Some ideas:
  • Keep your tree up at least until the Feast of the Epiphany, of course, (January 8th this year), or keep it up until the Baptism of the Lord. (This year, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord falls on January 9th.) 
    • Keep watching Christmas movies and TV shows, and listening to Christmas music. 
    • Keep reading your favorite Christmas books. (See this post for links to great picture books.) 
    • Post prayers for the Christmas season (I put them up on the wall in our kitchen.) 
    • Send Christmas cards during the 12 days. And don't apologize for it -- it's the Christmas season! (This may have started out as a tradition at our house because I am always behind on getting Christmas cards done. But one day I realized that "late" cards fit perfectly into the actual Christmas season.) 
    • Give Epiphany gifts (as large or small as you want them to be). 
    • Have the wise men from your Nativity set travel through the house during the 12 days, making their way to the stable for the Feast of the Epiphany.