December 30, 2014

we had a very merry christmas

We had a wonderful Christmas, although I'm not sure how it came and went so quickly.  We celebrated in the usual way - Christmas brunch with Bobby's side of the family on Sunday; Christmas Eve dinner at my parent's house with all of our extended family; a quiet Christmas morning at home before heading over to my parent's house again for the day.

Things seemed a little more calm and laid back this year, which is just how I like it.  Maybe it's that the kids are getting older, or maybe it's that I wasn't still wrapping presents on Christmas Eve like last year - whatever it was, I'm grateful for it.

And I'm grateful for my Savior, who was born to bring about Salvation for us all.  Because of Him - because of His life, death, burial, and resurrection -  we can all be born again.

Merry Christmas!

December 14, 2014

on the fifth day of christmas {traditions}

Ok, so we've talked about the music, the decorating, Advent, and Christmas books.  There's just a few more traditions that we do every year.

We give the kiddos a new ornament every year.  On Christmas morning, after we go through our stockings, the first gift that they get to open is their new ornament, and then they get to go hang it on the tree.  One very, very, very distant day from now, when they have their own homes and their own trees, they can take all of their ornaments with them and they will have the beginnings of their own ornament collections.

We also build gingerbread houses every year. Nothing unusual about this tradition - it's just something fun that we always enjoy doing together. 

And of course, we always take a little visit to see Santa.  We try to not make too big of a deal about Santa around here, but going to see him every year always makes for a fun time.  And the pictures of the kids with him are some of my absolute favorites.

We used to just go to the mall to see him, but last year we went to Cheekwood and made a whole day of it.  There were so many other things to do there as well, and we really had a wonderful time.  We decided that it needed to be a new tradition, and we are planning our visit for this year soon!

So those are our Christmas traditions!  There are some other small things that we do, but these are the big ones that make up our season.  Christmas is such a magical time, and I hope that these traditions are helping to build up a little bank full of memories for my precious family.

December 13, 2014

on the fourth day of christmas {traditions}

Another one of our favorite traditions is our Christmas book countdown.  Every year, I wrap each one of our Christmas books and put numbered tags on them, and then they all go into a basket.  The kids take turns opening one each night, and we'll read it together while we cuddle up around the Christmas tree.  This is such a simple tradition that the kids absolutely love!  It takes me a little bit of time to wrap the books, but otherwise, it's not adding anything additional into our day since we read every night before bed anyways.  

We have some favorites that we've enjoyed over the years.  This year, I also picked up a stack of Christmas books from the library that we don't currently have.  It's been so much fun to read our old favorites together, and to add some new ones to our list.

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree
God Gave Us Christmas
The Tale of Three Trees
What is Christmas?
I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown!
Santa Mouse
Frosty the Snow Man
The Animals' Christmas Eve
The Crippled Lamb
Alabaster's Song
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
On Christmas Morning

| numbered tags found here |

December 12, 2014

on the third day of christmas {traditions}

Today I'm talking all about Advent.  Of all our Christmas traditions, this one is the most meaningful and important to us.  In celebrating Advent, we are preparing our hearts for Christmas.  We are reflecting and focusing as a family as we anticipate the coming of Christ.  Not only are we looking back at the birth of Christ, but we are also looking ahead to the day when He will come again.

It's so easy to get caught up in all of the Christmas-hoopla, and we can forget what it is we are supposed to be celebrating.  So we have found a few ways to take time each day to come together, as a family, and bring the focus back to Jesus.

I first heard about this book from another mom at church - she was so passionate when she talked about how wonderful it was!  Caleb was still itty-bitty then, and Makayla wasn't even born yet, but I knew that it was something that I wanted to do with our family.  Last year was our first year to read through the book together, and we absolutely loved it.  We cuddle by the Christmas tree every night before bed, and we read one page.  Each night, we read one more page, so by Christmas day, we've read the story 25 times.  The book tells the Biblical account of the Christmas story, and each page has beautiful doors that the kids open as we read.  It is such a gorgeous book, and the kids look forward to reading it every night.  This is definitely a tradition that we will carry on for many, many years.

This is our first year to read this book, but it will definitely not be our last.  This book is written by Ann Voskamp, who has such an amazing way with words.  There are 25 stories - one for each day leading up to Christmas - and it goes through stories of the Bible, beginning with Creation and leading up to Christ's birth.  There are printable coloring sheets and ornaments available on her website.  So every afternoon, the kids color while we read the story for that day.  Other kids might be fine to just sit and listen, but this book is a bit wordy and heavy for my kids' ages and attention spans.  The coloring pages really help them to sit still, and it really amazes me how much they are still hearing and absorbing.  After the story, we go to our Advent box where we have the corresponding ornament.  They hang the ornaments on our Jesse tree (named after Jesus' ancestor, Jesse, who was King David's father) - which is simply a bunch of tree branches that I put in a vase.  This is such a simple thing, but my kids love it and look forward to it every day!

So that is what we are doing this year, and really, I can see us doing this for many years to come.  The main thing is to get some ideas of things to do with your family, and then make it work.  (Go on pinterest and type in Advent - you'll be amazed at how many ideas are out there!)  We've tried some other things over the last few years, but for whatever reason, they weren't the right fit for our family.  These books are working for us, and I am so grateful for some of the sweet moments that we've had this month because of them.  

We are making memories!

December 11, 2014

on the second day of christmas {traditions}

So once we've kicked off the season with our Christmas music, it's time to decorate!  My mom was, and still is, all about the Christmas decorating.  I remember the very first time Bobby came to my parent's house during the holidays, back before we were married.  He looked around, his eyes got big, and he said it looked like some kind of museum.  And I was all, "I know!  Isn't it awesome?!!"

I realize now that his deer in the headlights look was not one of wonder and amazement.  It was more like a oh crap what have i gotten myself into kind of look.  Luckily for me, he still married me, and he has grown to love Christmas decorations almost as much as I do!

Now, as much as my mom gets into the Christmas decorating, she is of the mindset that it should not be done until Thanksgiving is over and gone.  We had been following this rule as well, but over the last few years, it seemed like Thanksgiving was happening later and Christmas was happening sooner, and there wasn't as much time in between the two.  I was getting so stressed out trying to get decorations up as quickly as I could so we could enjoy them for as long as possible.  It was taking the joy out of it for me, which then, of course, was taking the joy out of it for our family.

So last year, amid the stressful, decorating mess, we decided no more.  That may have been the way it was done in my family growing up, but we needed to make it work for our family now.  This year, we had all of our Christmas decorating done a full week before Thanksgiving.  We took our time putting everything out, and it wasn't stressful or rushed.  It was glorious, and we are never going back!

We all decorate the tree together.  The kids put on some Christmas pajamas, we play some Christmas music, and we get busy.  This year was so much fun because the kids are starting to remember some of the ornaments.  I think that's my favorite part of it all - the memories and emotions and stories that go along with all of it.  You're not just hanging an ornament - you're hanging a memory.  You're not just setting out the nativity scene - you're setting out a whole host of emotions and sentiment.

To me, that is what it's all about.

December 10, 2014

on the first day of christmas {traditions}

Today is all about Christmas music!  I start playing Christmas music around the first of November.  I know - that's super early and some people think I'm crazy!  But I love it so much, and to me, limiting it to the month of December just isn't long enough.  Also, I like to live on the wild side, and nothing says wild like listening to "White Christmas" in November.

When I think of Christmas as a kid, Amy Grant's music is always playing in the background.  I know we listened to other music as well, but her songs are what I remember.  I love her Christmas cd's so much, and I still listen to her more than anyone else at Christmas time.  Her song "Breath of Heaven" is probably my favorite song of all time.  And "Tennessee Christmas" pretty much sums up exactly how I feel.  There's no place I'd rather be than home - it's the only Christmas for me!  Her version of "Jingle Bells" is also really fun - the kids ask for it all the time.

I have managed to branch out a little over the years.  Right now I'm loving Pandora for this - it's given me a lot of new favorites!  My fave station on there right now is "Francesca Battistelli Holiday".  Also, I just discovered the group "Pentatonix".  I know I'm probably the last one to hear of them - I usually am behind on all things current - but their Christmas cd is ah-maze-ing!

A few new {to me} favorites listed below:

Happy listening!

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