"What's the big deal about a star?" the youngest one wanted to know. "Let's just stick an angel up there. That's what Peter's mom does." 

 

"I don't want an angel. I want my star that blinks on and off with the Christmas lights. I can't have Christmas without my star." I was emphatic.

 

"Ooooo. Mom can't celebrate Christmas without her star," an older son mimicked with playful sarcasm.  

 

"Yeah, I'll bet that's what all the mothers with starving children in Africa are saying..." someone else chimed in, "... if we could just have blinking stars on the tops of our trees, we would be completely happy right now."

 

I rolled my eyes at all four of them, stuck an angel on top of the tree, strung the lights, and started searching for the box of wooden ornaments I had collected over the years. "OK, guys, where are my keepsake ornaments? Help me look for them."

 

"Don't say it, Mom. We know. You can't have Christmas without your special ornaments." 

 

They thought they were real funny. I shook my head and ignored the fact that two of them were now playing catch with a shiny glass ball. One of them slam-dunked it into the trashcan. 

 

"Uh oh! Mom, why didn't you tell us this thing was breakable?"

 

I clenched my teeth and kept searching.

 

"Whatcha lookin' for now, Mom? You've sure made a mess in here. It's no wonder you can't find anything!"

 

"I'm looking for the wind-up snow man that always sits on the windowsill," I replied - having given up on the tree. (It looked more like it belonged in a Ripley's Believe It or Not book under 'most ornaments hung from a single branch' than on the cover of a decorating magazine.)

 

"APB - there's a snowman on the loose. All units keep your eyes open for a runaway snowman!" a wiseguy reported into his cupped hand. "Mom can't have Christmas without her snowman."

 

"Oh, no," one of them exclaimed in mock seriousness as he peered out the window. "There's a black hat floating in a puddle on the driveway. Things don't look good for the snowman."

 

I had to smile. They were having far too much fun for me to be upset. "We forgot something," I suddenly remembered as I spied an unopened box. "We didn't set up the nativity scene."

 

Little hands reached for individual camels and sheep and wise men and angels as I carefully unwrapped them. Tenderly they arranged (and rearranged!) them in the crèche which had been crammed with pine needles.