Our Advent Wreath
Our Advent wreath is always the centerpiece at our dining room table. The kids loved taking turns lighting the candles each night at dinner time, as we sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” This year, the first night of this little tradition was welcomed with tears and a tantrum by our two-year-old, who didn’t understand the change in routine. So much for a prayerful grace! We quickly learned to warn her about such changes!
Advent ElvesEvery Advent, the kids love to dress up in the Santa hats. It's a great picture opportunity. I've gotten a lot better at actually using my camera!Our Gingerbread House and mini Christmas tree
Dad decided to do a gingerbread house with the kids this year. A lesson in patience! The little tree came in the mail — a gift from Jay’s brother — and the kids were delighted to find that it came complete with mini ornaments and lights.
We love to make cookies around here, and this recipe is one of my family favorites from childhood – chocolate jumbles. The best way to describe them is that they are kind of like chocolate gingerbread. Mmmmmm. I had lots of helpers.
Christmas cookies wouldn't be complete without that red and green sugar!
The unsprinkled version for the purists among us!
I’ve been making sugar cookie cut-outs forever. I found an awesome recipe the first year I was married, and have been using it ever since. It uses pancake syrup, so they smell and taste like buttered pancakes once they have the buttercream frosting on them. I’ve always been somewhat of a perfectionist about these, and I must admit that I have probably taken a bit too much pride in them. So I had a hard time letting my kids help with them. However, this was the year I was finally able to let go. I made the dough, but didn’t touch the cookies again until they were ready to be frosted. This was a huge step for me, as I can be a little compulsive. But I was so proud of my 13-year-old daughter, who supervised all the rolling and cutting and baking. She was way more patient with her siblings than I ever was, and she let them help so much. I was in the kitchen baking other cookies, and my heart was so full to see my kids enjoying the experience, and enjoying each other, and just having a peaceful, stress-free evening. What an incredible blessing and reward I was given when I finally let go of my need to control this project.
My oldest daughter, supervising the sugar cookie cutouts Team work
A sampling of the finished cookies
We always go to the early Christmas Eve Vigil, because it’s so much easier with the little ones. They all looked so cute, and they behaved so well, especially considering that we had to get there half an hour early to get a seat. We almost take up a whole pew, so it can be a little challenging!
All dressed up for the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass
Our Christmas Even tradition is to come home from Mass, have dinner — usually pizza or some other fun, bad-for-us fare — and then decorate the tree and watch “The Polar Express.”
Our Jesse Tree, awaiting the Christmas ornaments Christmas Eve
When my older kids were young I started the tradition of giving them each a new ornament every year. That way, when they are grown and off to homes of their own (a day that I know will come before I’m ready for it!) they will have a collection of ornaments to take with them. Every year, these are the first ornaments to be hung on the tree.
My two-year-old, receiving her new 2010 ornament from Mom
2010 ornament for my eldest
The decorated Christmas Tree
Even though this picture is out of focus, I love it because it really shows the glow of the lights, and I caught my husband’s reflection in the window as he stood behind me. Very symbolic, as I feel like he is always standing behind me, supporting me in all the crazy traditions and ideas and chaos that come with life in our household.
"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care."
OK, so is it obvious that I didn’t get around to making a stocking for the baby yet? She used the dog’s stocking! She’ll never know the difference. I figure if I’m going to slack, I better do it when they’re too young to realize it! I started out making these stockings for Jay and I, not stopping to think about the fact that they are kind of time-consuming, especially since I’m not exactly a seamstress. That’s why I only sew things that don’t have to fit anyone! Santa complains every year that my stocking is too small at the opening to fit stuff in. What can I say — it was the first one I made! I hadn’t perfected it yet. My two-year-old finally got her name embroidered on hers this year, though! Maybe by next Christmas the dog can have his stocking back!
A Child is Born!
What the living room looked like before the kids got up!
I was impressed that the stack was so small. We were actually rather disciplined this year, better than some past years. Thankfully, we started a tradition, when we only had a few kids, that each kid would only get three gifts. If three gifts were enough for the Baby Jesus, we figured that was good enough for our kids. Several children later, we’re very grateful we made that rule early on! This year, we got each kid two gifts, and their Christkindl (sibling Secret Santa, as mentioned in a previous post) got them the third. What we didn’t bargain for was the overabundance of Christmas spirit most of them had. Several of them had wrapped gitfts for all their siblings, rather than just their Christkindl. It was so cute to see all the little presents they had all wrapped for each other.
Santa, however, was not nearly as disciplined as we were, as evidenced by the overflowing stockings below!
Santa was most generous with stocking gifts.
The kids awoke to find Baby Jesus in their mangers.
I have to admit that in the excitement of all the presents and stockings, we didn’t remember to sing “Happy Birthday” to Baby Jesus right away, but we did do that after the presents were open. It was so awesome to see even our teenagers singing.
In the midst of the chaos of opening presents, she was happy just to find her thumb.
We have learned that the little ones are happy with the simplest gifts!
New sunglasses from her big sister
Our two-year-old was so excited with her new pots and pans and toy forks and spoons. And the four-year-old walked around with a little tape-measure from his stocking for probably the first hour after opening gifts. It’s an important reminder not to go overboard on gifts, since it doesn’t take much to make them happy.
So happy to be able to crawl around on a clean floor, with no wrapping paper or small toys to eat!
Goofy big brother modeling baby's new hat knitted by Grandma
Trying out the new presents from Grandma and Boppa