Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I am going to be brief...the compulsive task-completer that I am really wants to post Christmas thoughts and pics before 2008 ends. Soooo...here I am at 10:08 p.m. on New Year's Eve 2008 with a few thoughts on our family's Christmas.
I must say...it was simpler and more joyous that I could have imagined. We got Disney passes for our family this year as our big Christmas gift. I have been selling everything I could drag out of our closets to save money for them. Needless to say, there wasn't much more under our Christmas tree for the kids. They each got a pair of Crocs (winter shoes in Florida) and one toy and a stocking. Hunter got a tee ball set, and Millie got a Dora the Explorer Magnadoodle. The funny thing is...we didn't even pay for those toys. Our church had a toy exchange where we could bring gently used toys to give away...and we could choose a few toys that other families brought. Seriously...a tee ball set and a Magnadoodle were on my list for Hunter and Millie...and there they were...both in their packaging. The Dora Magnadoodle had never been opened. What a blessing. Opening presents on December 17 was a little strange. We left for Christmas travels on the 18th, so I wanted to have a family Christmas at home...so the 17th it was.
As I look back on this Christmas, I am amazed with how much we tried to "scale back" and how much more blessed I was with less. Don't get me wrong...I'll be lovin' every day I am at Disney over the next 12 months...but it still felt simple.
Here are some things we really enjoyed doing this year to make Christmas special:
1. Our free felt board Advent calendar that I found on Craigslist. Over the 25 days leading up to Christmas, Hunter got to place a new piece of the manger scene on the board. It was neat to see how he instinctively knew and cared about making the scene look right.
2. Advent wreath and readings - We bought an advent wreath this year along with a guide from our church. Although most of our readings took place on Mondays (because Sundays were busy this holiday season), I enjoyed reading the liturgy with the kids, lighting the candles, singing a hymn, and letting Hunter and Millie (with great fear and trepidation) blow out the candles. This year, Hunter learned "O Come O Come Emmanuel" and "Silent Night" along with his favorites from last year, "Joy to the World" and "Away in a Manger."
3. Slowly reading through the Christmas story - I enjoyed reading with Hunter (and sometimes Millie) parts of the Christmas story starting back with the prophets. I began at the beginning of December using a guide from Bible Study Fellowship. It was neat to really take the time to read small portions and the different accounts of Christ's birth. Once Christmas came, Hunter had heard Luke 2 so many different times that he could even fill in the blanks of the story when I would read it to him.
4. The Grinch - This was Hunter's first year to watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. It was so funny...he watched it three times within the first 24 hours of seeing it. Of course, being the costume man that he is these days, Hunter came out proudly from his room one day in a green shirt with his red fireman's vest and Santa hat and declared: "I'm the Gwinch!" He's in a "my r's sound like w's" phase right now...so we heard a lot about the "Gwinch" and "pwesents" this Christmas.
5. 12 Days of Christmas envelopes - About halfway through December, I realized that Hunter was having a hard time understanding when Christmas was really going to be. Since we were traveling so much this month, we were going to have about 5 different "Christmases" with different family members. Although we had our advent calendar, Hunter's concept of time and especially with numbers above 10 is fuzzy, so he didn't understand when December 25 was going to be. Soooo...I got a great idea from my friend Lori's blog. She does the 25 days of Christmas where she has different activities for her son and family to do to countdown to Christmas. I put a box together for Hunter and labeled it "Hunter's 12 Days of Christmas." In the box I put 12 envelopes labeled 1-12. On the first day he opened 12...then 11...and so forth to 1. This helped him so much more understand that there are 10 days or 4 days or whatever left until Christmas. In each envelope was either an activity or event or Bible verse or gift that would help Hunter prepare for Christmas. Every morning, Hunter woke up asking if he could open another envelope. Thanks, Lori, for your idea that has birthed what will likely be a longstanding tradition in our family.
6. Christmas Eve - This year, during our Christmas Eve service, Hunter got to hold a lit candle for the entirety of "Silent Night." He asked if he could take his candle home, and we let him. When we got home, he sat by his advent calendar (which then had every character on it except Jesus) and asked if we could turn off the lights and sing "Silent Night." Of course. So there we were...me, Hunter, Millie and Donny...in the dark in my parent's hallway...with one lit candle singing Silent Night. I think that song will mean something different to me from now on.
7. Our Little People Nativity - We have a Little People Nativity that we set underneath our tree on the day we decorate...all the characters are there with one exception...the baby Jesus does not come until Christmas morning. We tell the kids that the people are waiting for Jesus to come and that is what we are doing waiting for Christmas and ultimately waiting for Jesus to return. On Christmas morning, even Millie noticed. Jesus was there. She knows him...or at least his name and that he is the baby in our nativity. I have a Willow Tree Nativity that I set on our TV armoire in our living room. One morning, as I brought Millie into the living room, she looked up on the top of the armoire, pointed up, and said: "Jesus." Sweet words to this Mommy's ears. As we wait for Jesus to join our nativity on Christmas morning, it reminds my heart of how I long for him to come. Come, Lord Jesus. I pray I am waiting and will wait well.
8. Happy Birthday Jesus Cake - For the third year in a row (since Hunter was two), we made a Happy Birthday Jesus cake. This year we went with a cookie cake. None of us (Hunter and Donny especially) are cake eaters, so the cookie cake was great. we set our Little People nativity on top of it (which really made the cookie cake just seem like the ground on which the manger laid), lit four candles, sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus, and blew out the candles. Happy Birthday, Jesus.
Ok, it is now 10:39 p.m. on New Year's Eve. I'm sure there are more things to write...but I am going to stop. We had a wonderful Christmas. We traveled around 2000 miles to Tennessee and Kentucky, saw dear friends and family, our hearts were encouraged, we felt loved, and we celebrated the birth of our most beloved Savior. I am ready to enter a new semester, my heart is full, and I am thankful for so much...more than I can say or write.
Step back with me about six weeks...and here we are at Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was great this year. Hunter, Millie and I went to a local church the day before Thanksgiving to get our turkey fried. They had face painting, hot dogs, and music to entertain while we waited for our turkey to fry. 45 minutes later...voila! We took our turkey home, Jennifer and family arrived, and on Thanksgiving Day we ate the most scrumptious turkey I have ever had. As much as it is in my power, I will always get my turkey fried for Thanksgiving. In addition to a great meal, our families (Morris and Friederichsens...no parentals...just the sis and fam) went to Disney to watch Tennessee play Siena at the Wide World of Sports...very fun. We all got dressed up in our orange and white. It was general admission, so the guys got there early and saved us seats just a few rows back from the Tennessee bench. What a fun day. It took a few "Goofy Pops" (Disney suckers) to keep the kids happy, but it was a blast. So much to be thankful for.