This year I tried to keep my expectations reasonable for activities and such for a couple of reasons, first being that for the past three years we have all been sick over Christmas and that has severely affected our abilities to celebrate the way that I had hoped. Second, I had to work up until Christmas Eve, which left me with no "off" time to get things done that I would normally do. So, here's what we did this year...and with my less stress approach I still think we packed a lot in and still all felt the spirit. For Thanksgiving, we went to a nearby restaurant for a brunch. It was perfect to not have to worry about entertaining or cooking. We were joined by Eric's sister, her husband, his son, their newborn daughter, Eric's uncle, aunt, and cousin. So, in all there were 12 of us. It was a perfect number and we had a very nice brunch-all while still maintaining a nap schedule. After our early brunch everyone joined us at our house for dessert. Our dog (needs his own post) ate the pumpkin cheesecake I had slaved over the night before, so we had store bought pumpkin and apple pie. Ugh. The kids napped while we all hung out and chatted and had coffee. It was a nice and low key way to spend the day.
The following day we decided to get our Christmas Tree. We went with a tree from Costco this year again, since they are cheap, easy, and hold up well. Someday we might do the whole Christmas tree farm thing, but for now this works for us...We put it up and then after naptime we decorated it. We got new ornaments this year along with our special ornaments. It was probably the prettiest tree we have ever had. The main ornaments we were using before were just a mish mosh of ornaments I had gotten at garage sales right after I graduated from College. So they were old and very used. As we unpacked the bins, it was apparent that we don't have many decorations...something I would like to do another year. We put everything out while listening to holiday tunes. It was all very festive.
I made an advent calendar this year that was easy and fun for the big kids. I used a large poster board as the base. I hot glued clothespins on in the shape of a tree and wrote the numbers 1-25 on red lunch bags. We put the bags on the clothespins, and voila, it was an advent calendar. I also used glitter glue to write the words "merry" and "bright". I am sure if I would have spent more time on it, I could have made it very adorable...but I was looking more for function this year. We also decided that we would use the clothespins to hold the Christmas cards we would receive. That worked out very well.
We tried to do an activity each day, but I didn't stress if that didn't happen. We went to see "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" at the Stages Theater. That was the same day that Kinley went to the pediatrician and was diagnosed with croup, and later that night Hazel went to the ER and got a diagnosis of croup as well. So, it didn't end well, but the play was wonderful and the kids loved it. I did not love that they had a ton of stuff for sale (which apparently is not the norm) which caused an epic tantrum from Caleb who wanted a $22 stuffed animal. I was the meanie to tell him no...but, we all survived. Let's not mention how he continued to tantrum in the car because he was so mad that the cast wrote their names on his program instead of his name. Sometimes 4 can be very hard.
On a Saturday morning, before Caleb had preschool we went for breakfast with Santa. The Lion's club sponsored the breakfast, which is a cause I can get behind. They provide glasses and hearing aids to kids whose families cannot afford them. The waffles were good, and the people were very sweet. Santa was a bit lackluster, but we got to avoid the mall so that makes me happy.
One evening we made smores cookies (delicious), and delivered them to our neighbors. On Christmas Eve we made peanut butter m&m cookies as well. These are the only cookies we made this year. I would have liked to make more, but it just seemed very hard this year.
We built a gingerbread house, which was my first ever. This was very fun. Caleb loved it. We also added trees using ice cream cones frosted with green frosting and coconut for snow. This will definitely be done again next year!
The kids finger painted Christmas trees. Like any other art project, this was messy and fun was had by
The kids and I also wrote a letter to Santa that we dropped off at a local cupcake shop. These were then delivered to Santa and he wrote and sent a letter back to the kids. This was so fun to get in the mail and it seemed that Santa had really been watching and noticing just how good they all were this year! He also sent them each a coupon for a free cupcake.
We had hot cocoa a couple of nights as well and also watched a Christmas movie two different nights. We all got new Christmas pajamas, though I was not pleased with them. Next year, I will definitely go with a different brand. Plus the didn't match as much as I thought they would...
We barely sent out cards this year, but somehow pulled it together. Let's not mention that we also sent out Hazel's birth announcements at the same time. Oops. Things like this are so much harder now with three kids. The kids opened a present on Christmas Eve to play with, and I think that helped set the mood for Christmas morning. We also set out cookies for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer. The kids made a large note for Santa and he wrote them a note back. We also donated a gift to a child in need, and hopefully next year we can do more than that.
Eric and I gave ourselves tickets to see Cirque du Soleil, which we saw on the 27th. The show was amazing, though I have nothing to compare it to. I have always wanted to go see one of their shows, so for me it was perfect! We also gifted ourselves a used snowblower. As for the kids, they were a bit spoiled this year. I started and finished their shopping pretty early this year so we were able to find great deals and not spend too much. We got Caleb some legos, a Doc McStuffins doctor bag, some games, a remote control car, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sleeping bag and pillow, and some dinosaurs. Santa got him a new chair, some slippers, a leapfrog laptop, some books, a wipe off abc book, and some stocking stuffers. We got Kinley some kitchen appliances, a cabbage patch doll, an Ariel doll, a princess sleeping bag and pillow, and a puzzle. Santa got her a new chair, a leapfrog computer, some books, a wipe off abc book, and some stocking stuffers. We gave Hazel a musical instrument toy and a book. Santa got her a new chair and a blanket.
Of course the kids were gifted things from both of our parents and grandparents, and aunt and uncle. So, in all they were very spoiled this year...we are very blessed and have much more than we would ever need. We just made some thank you cards to thank everyone for their generosity to our kids this year. Let's hope those go out before Valentine's Day.
We spent Christmas together as a family of 5, with no place to go and no one to impress. So we spent two days in pajamas just relaxing, playing games, playing with toys, and enjoying each others company. I always spent Christmas as a child with just my immediate family, so it was reminiscent of that and I loved it. I have never envied having to cart kids here and there to spend Christmas with everyone. I am sure it is wonderful to spend time with everyone this time of year, but I sure did enjoy the slow pace with just our family and no outside expectations. Next year, well...who knows what's in store.
On a sad note, we also had to put one of our cats down this month. Our little Bella was not doing well. She has been struggling with Kidney Disease for the past year and recently had begun to be pretty lethargic and barely wanted to leave our closet. We decided it was time to say goodbye, which is never easy. I know the kids miss her, but mostly the dog and cat miss her more. Since we had to put her down, Summitt, our dog has been acting out more and has been pretty anxious. I am not sure if it is a coincidence, but he has been very destructive since. I will write a separate post about this and what we have done to battle it.
Some things I wanted to do this month, but didn't, were: delivering cookies to a retirement home, going to Macy's Santa Land, going to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and making ornaments with the kids' hand prints. There is always next year! Overall, it was a lovely and low key holiday at home!
So that is our month. It was festive, fun, it went fast, and we celebrated Christmas with no major sickness! I will consider this a success!