Saturday, February 7, 2015

I can't believe it's been two months, part 2 - Christmas 2014

This post will share things about our Christmas!

With Jessica's wedding just 10 days after Christmas, there were many times we both thought "What in the WORLD were we thinking????"  There was never any down time for Jessica or I.  I was making decorations, ordering Christmas gifts, ordering suits for the boys and clothing accessories for the girls, shoes for everyone and planning two big Christmas meals (not everyone could be home for the same meal, and I figured more left overs the week of the wedding would be a good idea!) and doing the hand sewing on the 6 bridesmaid's dresses and 2 flower girl dresses when Jessica needed it done!

All the kid's exchange gifts ready and waiting for the fun, on top of the
free piano that Jessica got in preparation for her moving away!
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In the few spare moments I could snatch, we put up Christmas decorations and began to do a few Christmas Traditions.  Unlike earlier years, we were unable to have all our children home at the same time for a dinner, so we had a ham dinner on Christmas Eve just after everyone of the children were at the house for just about an hour to do the children's gift exchange.

For years the children have exchanged names between each other and the love to do this.  For a long time we've divided the gift exchange into "littles" and "bigs."   The "littles" are those who are challenged to acquire their own money, so the cost limit is $5, and they have to do what they are capable of around the house to earn the money to purchase the gift they are to give.  This is generally those under the age of 12.  The "bigs" are all the children who have a way to earn money, whether it's working for my business or they have a "real" job, as they like to say, or they are capable of earing a larger amount by doing big jobs for mom (like washing our van).

For me the best part of this gift exchange is not watching the children open their gifts, but watching all the secrets, planning, wrapping and excitement in the givers.  Especially when that wonderful moment comes when this gift they have worked so hard to come by is finally going to be opened!  The joy and excitement on the face of the giver is so worth it all!

I think as the years go by, the grandchildren will be added to the exchange, but time will tell.  Our precious first grand-daughter, Katelyn, wasn't old enough this year to do anything but enjoy being held and fawned over!

One of our biggest, funnest, most sugar filled fun on the Christmas season is the Christmas Sugar Cookies!  This year we tried something new - disposable icing bags.    we just clipped a small hole in the end and didn't even need icing tips!  This was a huge success!  this made for less mess and more fantastic cookies!

Another great idea that Rebekah came up with was putting the sprinkles in a cupcake baking pan!  So much easier and no sprinkle containers spilling!  My contribution to the best ever decorating session was purchasing a disposable table cloth from the dollar store - just roll it up when we were done and throw it away!!!!

One big difference this year is that the cookie decorating didn't start until Christmas Eve afternoon!  So it was left out for all the big kids who came home for the holidays to add their handiwork to some cookies too.  We even had to condense it to half the table to we could play some of our traditional Christmas games!  This year it was Ticket To Ride.  Our other new favorite game is Settler of Catan.  We play with the Cities and Knights and the Seafarers expansion packs, so we like to refer to our games as the Seafaring Knights of Catan!

The children put up pretty much all the decorations during December, except for the lights.  I always do that.  Finally, on Christmas week, I got out my favorite decor and also was able to get a few new things, like the Willow Tree Nativity set which I got a steal of a deal on through coupons and a sale!  Our old nativity set was pretty much just broken up ceramic figures...Mary had lost her arm, the donkey was on and so forth. I don't think even one figurine was not injured in some way so it was time to put them out of our misery and start over from scratch!  Surprisingly, my porcelain caroler have survives many, many years without breaking anything!

Another Christmas tradition is doing jigsaw puzzles.  Every year we put together a new one.  For our crazy, busy, unorganized family, puzzles are usually disposable, sad to say.  We can usually put together a new puzzle and still have all the pieces, but very few ever get made a second time.  This year we bought a set of 12 puzzles varying from 250 pieces to 100 peices.  We spent many hours doing puzzles together!  My dad used to love doing puzzles and I would help out, he would love this tradition!

After a wonderful evening of fun, family, food, games and gifts, it was time to get everyone tucked into bed.

Another of our family traditions is doing goody bags on Christmas morning.  We began avoiding anything relating to Santa Claus nearly 20 years ago.  Our decorations do not include Santa, nor do we include Santa in our Christmas.  We do, however, give gifts, and have a Christmas tree.  I know some will think this is bad, but we actually threw all our Christmas traditions out the window 19 years ago and only did the things that encouraged us to worship Christ and be thankful for His birth.

We also did things that encouraged our family to be knit together, making memories.  We started out with lights, small presents (the wise men gave the baby Jesus gifts), music, making paper snowflakes, games and acting out the Bibles story with the children in costumes.

 Through the years we have added back some old traditions, and made new ones.  It's just who we are.  So on Christmas morning for years, the children gathered in our bedroom at the appointed time (not before 7 am unless we come and get them), and we give them each a hand sewn goody bag filled with unique candies (PEZ are regulars) and small toys and gifts.  Somes are unique for each child, but mostly now I buy things by the dozen to fill all the bags!

This year was the second year that we included spouses/fiances.  We have decided that the spouse/fiance shares the bag, but there are a few things extra so they don't have to share everything!  Jessica wanted her fiance, Jon, to be able to experience our Christmas traditions, so they spend all of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with us (he even stayed the night, sleeping on in the living room on our two futons with our son, Jonathan).  So everyone looks a little disheveled and most are still in their pajamas even!  This is the second year we have done the goody bag giving in the living room - our family has out grown our bedroom now!

This year we had something new!  Jason had brought a gift for every one of the kids!  He brought nerf guns!  So the goody bag exchange went into opening his gifts and soon it was mayhem and absolute fun!  Laughter, running, yelling, hiding....all out nerf warfare!

Soon it was time to make breakfast - scrambled eggs (2 dozen), sausage (15 patties) and orange juliuses were on the menu this year!

And after breakfast, it was time to read from Luke 2 and that, my friends, was the most important part of our day.  We love because He loved us first, We have because He gave.  He came to die so we might LIVE.  He gave up heaven and came to earth to die in our place so we can live in heaven someday, if we accept His gift of salvation.  Need to know more, please read my blog post about the free gift of salvation!

Oh - and did I mention candy?  Carese loved snitching candies all day!

Such fun memories!  I wouldn't change a thing!

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

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