I kept meaning to get on the computer during the past couple of days and wish you all a Merry Christmas, but... there was just no time. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and reveled in the amazing gift of Jesus!
We have had a great week together as a family. We began our festivities on Sunday night- the week before Christmas- by pulling our mattresses into the living room and sleeping by the tree. Then we surprised the kids with a Pajama Ride announcement (which included a trip to DQ and a drive to look at Christmas lights.)
|Settling everyone into bed before our Pajama Ride.|
Then we spent a couple of days doing the finishing touches on our handmade gifts for one another and other odds and ends (wrapping, grocery shopping, baking, etc).
|Doing some knitting with the girls. (Doesn't Audra look so wiped out from her knitting project? ;))|
On Thursday night we celebrated my grandpa's 91st birthday-- which doubles as an extended-family Christmas party. There were over 100 of us there- and it was a joyous occasion. So many aunts and uncles and cousins and their kids and my grandpa smiling with happy tears in his eyes through it all.
Friday was our own family Christmas. We had a yummy breakfast of coffee cake (birthday cake for Jesus~ candles and all!), sausage, bacon, and Orange Julius-drinks in the blender. Oh, and hot cocoa, too- with dollops of vanilla ice cream. Then we read from Luke and prayed and opened our gifts for one another. Here's the rundown of our handmade gifts:
Audra drew Adelia's name. Mark and I puzzled a bit over what she could give Adelia- since, at 2- she can't really *make* many things. One thing Adelia loves is food- so I contemplated making homemade crackers until I decided that I was spending enough time in the kitchen and why complicate things when she'd be just as happy with popcorn? But then- THEN: Mark had the brilliant idea of making a "snack mix" for Adelia. Bingo. I grabbed a few bags of snacky stuff at the grocery store, and Audra did the work of dumping out the bags, stirring, and transferring into a container. Then I made a label for the top that said Adelia's Snack Mix (made by Audra), and Audra happily colored all over the label. We wrapped it up together and we were done.
|She was so focused.|
Adelia drew Ella's name, and she had a lot of help from me. I gave Adelia some paint pens she went to town decorating a blank canvas that I had. Then I found a picture of the two of them- Ella holding Adelia as a baby- and used some stickers and scrapbook paper and mod-podged it all on the canvas. It turned out pretty cute. I don't have a picture of the front of it, but here's the picture of Ella opening it:
(I had also knitted up a hat for Ella and sewed a bird ornament from this book so I had Adelia give those to her, too.)
Isaias drew Audra's name, and he drew her a paper doll- knowing how much she loves getting into Ella's paper dolls. It was such a sweet, thoughtful idea. Mark and I helped him come up with an additional idea, too (just in case she wasn't quite as enthused with his torn-out stick-figure paper doll as he might think she would be). Mark sat down with him one afternoon and looked up coloring pages online and let Isaias choose a bunch of them for a coloring book. He did a great job- choosing nativity scenes, kitties, Hello Kitty, Little House, and all the things she loves. We printed them out, 3-hole punched them, and he wrote Audra's Coloring Book ~from Isaias on the cover. Then Isaias selected some crayons and put them in a baggie and wrapped it all up for her.
|Audra looks at her coloring pages as Isaias looks on.|
Isaac drew my name- and he had remembered me saying a couple of months before- on a day when I was craving something sweet but we had nothing at all sweet in the house- "All I want for Christmas is some Swedish Fish, some Skittles, and some chocolate." (Immediately after that little declaration, I regretted it because I saw a slight look of panic on Isaac's face and figured he had 1)drawn my name, and 2)was trying to figure out how on earth he was supposed to make mommy some Swedish Fish, Skittles, and chocolate!) He did great. His idea was to make me a treat jar to keep by my bed, so he decorated the outside of a jar and then made a LEGO smiley face and taped it on top of the jar and filled it with Swedish Fish. He also drew me several small pictures (he called them "pennants") that I can hang up on a little string near my treadmill so that I have something to look at while I'm on the treadmill. (Is that not the cutest thing?) I loved it all. :) And the Swedish Fish are all gone.
Ella drew Isaac's name and has been thoughtfully saving the tickets she's earned from school store in anticipation of gifting them to Isaac who is saving earnestly for a LEGO set he desperately wants to purchase from school store. (Mark found a nice LEGO set at a garage sale ($3) and added it to our school store but priced it *really* high (100 tickets)-- knowing that Isaac knows how much that set is worth and recognizing that Isaac will have to buckle down and save for-- something he is not very good at doing. He wants that set more than anything but keeps getting distracted with other school-store purchases, so he's only saved up about 30 tickets for it all year.) In the past two months, Ella has carefully been putting away nearly 40 tickets for her gift to Isaac-- to add to his saved 30.) This was the gift I was most anxious to see opened-- it was such a thoughtful gift from Ella and I knew Isaac was going to be overwhelmed with the magnitude of all of Ella's tickets. Both Mark and I were teary-eyed and Isaac was literally speechless when he opened his gift. He really could not believe that Ella would be willing to give up all of her tickets for him.
|Isaac, staring at the container of Ella's tickets|
(Ella has also been knitting Isaac a green and gray striped scarf, but she didn't finish in time for Christmas, so she drew a picture of it and told him that it was his when she finished. (He's seen her knitting it and had hoped it was for him and is excited for her to finish!))
I drew Mark's name. (I had thought that drawing one of the kids' names would be so easy-- I could sew for the girls or knit for the boys, but-- MARK? What could I make him?) I Googled "handmade gifts" and it took me just a couple of minutes to decide on an idea of a Memory Jar. I sat with my journal for several quiet-times and wrote down memories, then eventually transferred all of those ideas onto slips of colored/patterned paper and filled up a Memory Jar- 365 days worth of memories for Mark to open.
|Mark- trying to figure out what his gift was|
Finally (and you're amazing if you're still reading because I know this is a long post!), Mark drew Isaias' name, and puzzled over what to make him until he settled on a football theme (Isaias loves football) and decided to created a game for him. [If you have boys who are into football you're going to want to pay close attention and do this for them or have them do it.] Mark cut out a picture of a player from each NFL team from a Sport's Illustrated NFL Preview Issue (free at the library!) and then printed out corresponding team logos (from online) and made a deck of 64 cards. Each card was given a value of 1-10, based on the actual offensive and defensive ranking for the teams this season. We used clear contact paper to "laminate" the cards and on the back of each card it said: Isaias' NFL Challenge, along with some football clip art. Rules of the game are similar to the card game of War, where your cards (or in this case, teams) face off, and the highest number takes all cards. When there's a tie (or in this case, "overtime"), they play it out just like you do in the game of War. This was a HUGE hit and our three older kids played this for literally hours that day and days since. (I KNOW. How creative is my husband?! He should patent this.)
|Isaias opens the box and all the cards tumble out|
|Two hours later...|
Saturday we spent the whole day (10:00 am to 10:00 pm!) with Mark's wonderful family- and the kids had a blast with cousins and uncles and aunts and grandpa and grandma and pizza and lots of laughter and games (Twister! Hide and Seek!) and gifts.
Sunday morning we did our stockings here and then headed to my mom and dad's (joining my brothers) for a full day of Christmas there- complete with a huge breakfast and snacks all day and games and puzzles and singing and prayers and gifts and lots of laughter.
We are so, so blessed to have such wonderful family so near. Mark goes back to work tomorrow and we have one week to undecorate, rest, tidy, and ease back into a more scheduled life.
What was your favorite gift to GIVE this Christmas? (Mine was probably my gift to Mark- because I knew he would be blessed and it is such a fun gift because he gets to keep "unwrapping" it for a whole year!)