Showing posts with label Holidays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holidays. Show all posts

The Christmas My Camera Missed



I didn't get a good picture of me and Georgie yesterday.

I was upset about it last night.  I couldn't believe I failed to get a non-fussy, non-blurry picture with my baby daughter on her first Christmas morning!  I rely on my pictures to be my memory-keepers, because I feel like I don't remember things if I don't have pictures of them.  Some tears might have been shed (and I partially blame exhaustion and postpartum hormones).

Once I settled into it a bit though, I realized that maybe I don't remember things as well without a picture, but maybe that's partly because I take so many pictures.  I let the camera do the work for me instead of taking a second to memorize the moment.  And maybe I need to hold the pictures a little more loosely and hold the mental snapshots a little more tightly.  Because there are some things a picture doesn't capture.

Like the grin that jumps to my face when my kids can hardly sit still for excitement, and my newborn's head bobbing around trying to see everything with her wide eyes.

Like the excitement on the kids' faces when they bring the presents they picked especially for me.

Like settling in on the couch to feed Georgie and watching the kids (and Derek) construct train tracks, and build race cars out of legos, and arrange furniture in a dollhouse.

Like playing Scrabble with my husband, and drinking wassail while listening to our new vinyl record of old songs on the turntable.

Like having my baby fall asleep on my lap while the last of the wrapping paper flies.

Like the translucent (but long) eyelashes that brush her tiny little cheeks.  Like the feel of her breath, rising and falling, while snow falls and joyful noises sound in the background.

Like all the kids tucked away in bed, listening to the account of the birth of our Savior one more time before we turn out the lights.




















Overall, it was a lovely Christmas, and I'll store up all the images I missed with my camera in my heart.

Did you all have a good Christmas?

All The Christmas Favorites - A Survey



This has been such a fun Christmas season!  I didn't expect that this year.  I thought we'd be a lot more stressed with balancing Christmas preparations and a newborn, but it's been the opposite - I've kept my expectations low, and it's ended up being the least stressful Christmas I've had in a while.

Unfortunately that also means there are things that didn't happen quite in the ideal timeframe...like this Christmas survey I saw several weeks ago. I am just now sitting down to fill it out, and it's certainly made the rounds in blogland already!  But here we go anyway, just for fun.

1. Real tree or fake tree?  We always go with fake.  I have one vague memory of getting a real tree as a child, with impressions of wet feet, crying siblings, and a tree turning brown in our backyard until springtime.  I've never felt that it was worth the effort as an adult, so we just do fake trees.  I will say that I wish fake trees smelled like real ones though.  Someone told me once to get a real wreath to enjoy that evergreen smell, and I thought it was a brilliant idea, but it's one of those things forever on my Christmas to-do list and never crossed off.

2. Favorite Christmas cookie?  I have a particular fondness for soft ginger cookies (I love to enjoy them with a cup of tea), but my favorite is probably snowdrop cookies!  Easy, delicious, and gluten-free even (for my gluten-free friends, because personally I love my gluten).

3. Home on Christmas morning or travel? In the last couple years we have started staying home on Christmas Day, and it's the best.

4. Clear or colored lights?  I no longer have to decide between the two, because last year we sprung for the expensive strands of LED lights that can change to any color we want!  I will say, I am not a huge fan of the white light setting though, because they are almost fluorescent, so our downstairs tree still has regular clear lights.

5. Send Christmas cards? Yes, yes, yes!  

6. Favorite Christmas present received? Hmm.  I hate this question.  It's kind of depressing that I don't remember most of my Christmas gifts over the years.  My most memorable and favorite is probably when Derek had a star named after me, the year I was pregnant with Wyatt.  I might have cried.

7. Favorite Christmas present given? I hate this question too.

8. Stockings or no stockings? Yes, but in recent years we haven't put much effort into stocking stuffers.  Stocking stuffers can really eat into the Christmas budget!  And we are on a tight budget (five kids, you know).

9. Christmas PJs? I have tried to buy the kids Christmas pajamas in years past, but this year I let that one go.  It was a good decision.  I just can't do everything.  Thankfully our sweet brother and sister-in-law send pajamas to the kids as part of our advent, and the kids are so excited about their nutcracker pajamas this year!



10. Favorite Christmas carol? I always liked "Hark The Herald Angels Sing", but "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" is another one I like.

11. Favorite holiday tradition?  Derek and me sitting with our sparkling cider on Christmas Eve after all the presents are put out for the kids.  Think that final scene in "A Christmas Story".  It's Christmas-y and romantic, and gives us a much-needed moment of quite before the Christmas morning flurry.
 
12. Early shopper or last minute? This year we were early shoppers, and it was wonderful!  I think I'm going to shop early from now on.

13. Favorite Christmas movie or t.v. show? I love "The Nativity Story" movie (we make sure to watch it every year), and my second favorite is probably "A Christmas Story".  I also can't help but like "Christmas With The Kranks".

14. Favorite holiday beverage? Eggnog or wassel!

15. Cookies and milk for Santa? When I was a kid we always picked our best-decorated sugar cookie (usually the one that was most drowned in frosting) and left it out for "Santa", who we really knew was my dad.  My poor dad.  He had to eat three over-frosted sugar cookies every Christmas Eve!  Probably quite the sugar rush.  I haven't really had the kids put out cookies for Santa yet, because they are not all old enough to remember that "Santa" is really Derek, and I don't want to make it confusing before we are all on the same we-just-like-to-pretend-for-fun page.


My No-Stress Christmas To-Do List




Okay, maybe "no-stress" is a bit ambitious, but my goal is to keep my Christmas to-do's as low-key as possible this year!  Here are a few things I would like to squeeze in.  If they get done before Christmas, that's great, but I also love the idea of celebrating the whole yuletide this year and extending the fun activities beyond the 25th too.  So if some of this doesn't get done, we're just going to celebrate Christmas until January!

1. Gingerbread House.  The kids all requested a gingerbread house this year, so I want to make sure that happens.  Derek put the structure together last night, and we're hoping to get to the decorating this week!

2. Christmas Cards.  I addressed cards to all the critical people, like family, and I'm just going to keep this low pressure and either 1) write a few addresses here and there as I have time or 2) just focus on returning cards to people who send them to me.  

3. Baking.  There really isn't any way to simplify the work of baking, so my goal is just to do one type of cookie a couple times a week until Christmas, and then freeze them.  I've already got ginger cookies in the freezer.

4. Finish our stack of Christmas books.  I rented a whole stack of Christmas picture books from the library,and we are slowly working our way through them!  The kids are so excited every time I pull one out.  We also got this adorable book from Tommy Nelson to add to our permanent collection!





Christmas Blessings has a different Christmas poem on each page, and my plan is to pick this up this week and read one poem a day to the kids.   The poems are sweet celebrations of different aspects of Christmas.  I think my littler ones will especially like this book, because the illustrations are so cute, and it would be fun (and easy) to even memorize one of these poems with the kids!  I also love how so many of the poems point in some way back to the reason we celebrate Christmas as Christians, which is to remember what Christ has done for us through His birth, and later his death and resurrection! This book is a great starting point for reminding little ones of that.

5. Wrap Presents.  I have a couple presents left to wrap for my extended family, but I'm happy to report that Derek and I knocked out most of the present-wrapping before Georgie arrived!  So there is not much left to do here.

6. Advent.  My brother-in-law and sister-in-law make doing advent with the kids so easy, so this one is more for me to remember to do my own advent devotionals each day!  As I wrote last week, I have to make time for focusing on Jesus at Christmas, or I start to resent all the Christmas to-do's instead of celebrating the joy of His birth.

Notice one thing that is not on the list is shopping!  I am very happy to have all of that done early this year, but if you are still struggling for some gift ideas, I've got a post on Tommy Nelson idea with gift ideas for boys that will last!  Read and tell me what you think. 

What do you have left to do before Christmas?

Note: I received a copy of Christmas Blessings for free from Tommy Nelson in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Finding Christmas Joy As A Grown-Up




The kids have been asking me every day how many days are left until Christmas.  I have to say, it brings back memories of my childhood, when it felt like Christmas would take so long to arrive.  The anticipation was almost too much!  Ah, childhood.  We made paper chains the other day for the countdown, so I haven't had to answer the questions as often.

I've mentioned before how Christmas is usually filled with more stress than joy for me as an adult, but this year feels different.  After six years of Christmas as a mom, nine years of Christmas as a married lady, this year I finally feel like I'm figuring it out.

Being due with our fifth baby so close to the Christmas season definitely has had something to do with it I think.  Not only did I get started on Christmas to-do's earlier, but I have overall put less pressure one myself to do everything this year, and I feel the difference.   So, I have to write down what is working for me, so hopefully repeating it next year will bring about the same results of less stress, more joy!  

Buy presents early.  

I bought all of the presents early this year because I wanted to finish all my shopping before Georgiana was born.  I don't think I realized how much stress present shopping causes me when I save it for December.  It has been so nice to not be out and about so much so far this year, and I feel less stressed about finances since most of the purchases are already made.

Do all the Christmasy things as soon as I feel like it.  

I used to feel like I had to save all the Christmas activities until December, and that they had to be made into a big production.  This year I am spacing things out a little more and doing all the Christmas things as the mood strikes.  Example: Christmas cookies.  If I feel like baking Christmas cookies with the kids early in December, we'll just bake whenever the mood strikes and freeze them for later.  If we feel like wrapping presents and listening to Christmas music in November, why not?  It's more fun to do Christmasy things when we feel like it, instead of "saving" the Christmas fun to the point of procrastination and then getting stressed out when we have to squeeze it all in.

Take the family picture early.  

I'm continuing my strategy of taking a family Christmas picture before our actual Christmas gatherings.  If I get everyone dressed up in their Christmas clothes and get some good pictures on a low-stress day, then I don't feel like I have to try to wrangle everyone together for a family picture on days when we are actually going somewhere.  I can just enjoy being present and not worry about it, since I know we already got a good picture of the family at Christmas.

Cut out the non-essentials.  

I don't know why it took me so long to realize that I don't have to do all the Christmas things.  I'm learning to be a little more particular about what we choose to participate in at Christmas time, because it's a lot easier for me to enjoy the Christmas season if we have more days when we aren't doing anything specific.  When we all have more room to breathe, the Christmas fun happens more naturally, and it's a lot less stressful on me.  

I also think one of the reasons I have had a hard time enjoying Christmas is because I rush around so much, trying to make everything perfect, and I don't allow myself to have time to just relax and reflect on why we are celebrating in the first place.  Having a newborn this year has given me the perfect excuse not to do things. I am enjoying Christmas so much more since deciding to say no and allowing myself enough mental rest to reflect on our Savior.  Which brings me to my last point.

Prioritize Advent.  

It's tragic really, how often I let this get overlooked in previous years in favor of all the more commercial aspects of Christmas.  I think having the shopping done before the season started has really given me the space I needed to focus less on things and more on our Savior.  He is the reason our family celebrates Christmas in the first place, after all.  

I am doing this advent devotional, and listening to my favorite Christ-focused Christmas songs, and I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on why He came (to seek and save sinners) and my part in that (the great commission).  Of course I did advent stuff in years past, but I think the fact that so much of my other Christmas prep is already done this year has left me more space to keep advent in the "because I want to category", instead of the "I have to do this or my kids won't remember that Christmas is about Jesus" category.  I am convicted that I even let the Lord get relegated to the "have to" category during Christmas.  If other things have to take a backseat for our family to have the time and space it takes to focus on Jesus, well, that's what we'll do!  It's as it should be, even especially at Christmas time.  

As I've guarded my time a little more this year, and given more of it to the Lord, I feel the joy that I've been missing in years past coming back a little.  It makes sense.  He is the only true source of Christmas joy, after all.  Everything else ends up being a disappointment eventually, but in the gift of Jesus's birth and sacrifice for us - that's where the joy is.  

And it only took me nine Christmases as an adult to figure that out.


















Do you do anything to guard your time at Christmas?  How do you make sure the focus stays on Jesus during Christmas season?

Sweater Weather Musings




You know how I never really got to finish my memory-keeping series in October, since Georgie was born sooner than expected?  Well, one of the things I was going to observe about that challenge of writing for 30 days is that somewhere along the way I've made blogging way too hard on myself.  

Back in the day I used to just type something up and post it, and there was something really freeing about not having to make every post completely perfect before sharing it.  It also seemed that those on-the-fly posts were the ones that recorded things that I would genuinely be interested in remembering later.  They are more enjoyable to write and relatable to read, and they are surprisingly quick to pound out on the keyboard.  

There is something to be said for "quality over quantity", but then, there is something to be said for just quantity too.  I've found over the years that the more I write, the more I want to write, and the more ideas I have for what to write.  So maybe every post doesn't necessarily have to be ground-breaking or perfectly polished.  Maybe it's sometimes valuable to quit tinkering with an idea until it loses it's life and just put something out there, even while it's still rough around the edges.

So all that to say, that's what I'm doing today.  Just putting things out there, because after taking it easy the last month (having a baby and all that), I need a little quantity over quality to get this blog running again.

Snow And Christmas Cards

It's supposed to snow again today, so I'm breaking out the winter mug and sweaters again!  We have had unseasonably warm weather the last couple weeks, and I'm kind of over it.  It's winter, darn it!  It should be cold enough for me to wear a sweater, and I want some pre-Christmas snow.  Every year I try to get everyone dressed up in their Christmas clothes before the actual holiday so I can take a family Christmas photo - then I don't have to worry about trying to capture a family photo amidst all the presents and chaos of the Christmas gatherings.  It's nice if my little Christmas family photo happens on a day when it snows (like the last couple years), so I'm anxiously awaiting some cooler weather.

Speaking of Christmas, on the agenda today is ordering some Christmas cards!  Receiving Christmas cards is one of my favorite parts of December, so I really wanted to try to send some out even in a year when we have a newborn.  I did not get address labels written before baby like I was hoping, so I think I'm just going to send a reciprocal card out for each one I get in the mail, for the sake of ease and spreading out the work load.  So if you want a Christmas card from me, send one my way!

How's It Going With Five?

We have settled into something of a rhythm for our at-home days over the last couple weeks, which mostly consists of feeding the baby and goofing off.  I did some schoolwork with the kids last week and probably felt way more accomplished than was warranted.  Today I am hoping to make some pumpkin bars. Pumpkin bars were supposed to happen last week before Thanksgiving, but they just didn't.  I've found a lot of things being migrated forward on my to-do lists lately.  I also hope to watch Hallmark Christmas movies and perhaps read some Christmas books from the enormous stack that I picked up from the library.  (It really is enormous.  I was in pain carrying them to the car with my already-injured shoulder.) 

Speaking of my shoulder, I don't know what is going on with it!  I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I slept on my neck wrong and my shoulder and neck were hurting.  I had a chiropractic visit that seemed to help, but I slept funny again last week and now I seem to have full-on tendonitis.  I decided I didn't care if my blood was too thin and I've been taking ibuprofen because it's really the only way I can make it through the day.  I can't lift things up from the floor, raise my arm above my head, or turn my head to the right without a jolt of pain through my shoulder blade.  I really am not sure what to do about it either, aside from ibuprofen, ice, and hoping it heals quickly.  I'm drinking ginger tea because I read that it helps with inflammation.  It's not terribly convenient to have shoulder pain when you have a newborn and two other children who occasionally like to be picked up.

Books

(Some affiliate links here, to help me buy more books...)

The first couple weeks with Georgie I went through the first four seasons of Cheers during nursing sessions, and then I finally decided that maybe there was a better way to spend all this time than watching a show that was on television before I was born (though it's very interesting to see the hair styles that were fashionable back then).  So I've been trying to read more, but it's hard to land on the right type of book during this phase.  I either want non-ficiotn that gives me something to think about without straining my brain too much (because you know, sleep deprivation), or fiction that keeps me turning the pages but without much cussing or other smut that makes me feel yucky while feeding my sweet innocent baby.  Suggestions?  So far I am working through Okay For Now, The Austen Escape, The Vanishing American Adult, and World Religions And Cults Volume Two. (That last one was written from a  Christian perspective, and very interesting, and only $3 for Kindle today!)

Thanksgiving



I should say something about Thanksgiving, shouldn't I?  We had a great dinner with Derek's mom and dad.  The kids ate hardly anything, Georgie got lots of grandparent time, and we played Yahtzee. I lost both rounds and was the only person to not get a Yahtzee.  When I was pregnant with Georgie I won almost every single game Derek and I played.  It was uncanny.  I joked that the baby must be lucky, and indeed, it seems since she is no longer on the inside the luck has left me.  Rats.

What have you all been doing, reading, watching lately?  







Memorial Day Is Not About The Barbecues




Today is Memorial Day, and if you are like our family, you are probably going to a barbecue or using the extra day off to full advantage in some other way.  And I truly hope you have a wonderful, fun-filled day, but at the same time, I hope you take a minute to think about Memorial Day a little more deeply too.  Because the thing is...Memorial Day is not about barbecues.

Memorial Day is a day to remember and show gratitude to those who have died in defense of our country.  It's a day to remember the fallen, those who have died.  I think we overlook this a lot, because Memorial Day has largely become a party holiday, the kick-off to summer, etc.  But we have this day off, because we live in this country that is free.  And we live in freedom in this country because men have died to protect it.  Most of us will never be called upon to sacrifice in that way, and the reason we won't is because others have already sacrificed for us.  These men and women gave everything they had for people they would never meet, out of love, and duty, and honor, for God and country and freedom.  And the only reason we can go to parties and pools today in freedom is because of them.



We took a trip to our military cemetery with the kids the other week, to visit the graves of my grandfather and great-great-grandfather.  And we looked around at all those graves, many of men who died while fighting for our country, and I explained to my kids that many soldiers have died to make us free.  I'm so glad we did it, because while we celebrate in some ways today, this is a solemn day.  I don't want my kids to grow up thinking it's just about barbecues.



Full thoughts on Tommy Nelson today...and I hope you take a little time today to thank God for our freedom in America, and for those who have died to keep it for us.


How To Have Easter Fun When You're Apparently Not Anemic



What a full week we've had!  Last week we not only had our first ultrasound, but we also had Clyde's 3rd birthday, and then Easter of course! I was also so excessively exhausted and actually physically weak one day I called my doctor to find out if I had anemia.  Wouldn't it be nice if that was my only issue?  Hello iron supplement, problem solved!  

But I apparently am not anemic.  However, that's not stopping me from eating foods that are iron-rich, just in case I have low iron stores or something.  Which is entirely possible, because right before I got pregnant I was craving ice - and isn't craving non-food items a sign of iron deficiency?  I think so.  Maybe I should have told that to the condescending nurse from my doctor's office (I may or may not have cried when I got off the phone with her).  Thankfully iron-rich food is what I'm craving anyway.  Give me all the dark leafy greens, eggs, and hamburgers.

Lots Of Easter Fun

Since I was so exhausted most of last week, I tried a new strategy and woke up with the sun and the kids just long enough to pour bowls of cereal and turn on Clifford The Big Red Dog.  Then back to bed I went.  I'm happy to report it worked beautifully, and I got another hour and a half of sleep.  Yes, that also means my kids got an hour and half of TV first thing in the morning, but you do what you've got to do.  This gave me enough energy to actually do the Easter activities I had been hoping to do all week, instead of spending another day miserably tired on the couch!

We colored eggs...





We did a (late) review and celebration of palm Sunday (I think this is the way to go, because I got five palm branches on clearance for a $1)...





And we made Resurrection rolls, to remind us of the empty tomb, because Jesus rose from the dead! Yes, I added pink frosting.  There were probably flowers on the outside of the garden tomb, right?





As for Easter Sunday, we went to a sunrise service at a local Christian camp, and then off to my mom's for Easter dinner and egg hunt!  It was a lovely Resurrection Day!  Much better than last year, when we spilled a gallon of paint and nearly ruined the carpet.

Sidenote: Easter with kids is like, 100% more fun.  The fun may come at the expense of actual reflection time, but I snuck some in where I could, and you do have to naturally reflect a bit to explain what Easter is really about to children.

What Am I Reading Lately?

I finally finished all the fiction books that were in my obligatory review stack, and I've decided I'm done with the book reviews for a couple months (after I finish the two non-fiction titles I have left -  insert sigh).  I need time to read what I really want to read.  I just get so tempted by the brand-new free books dangling in front of my face, but I'm shutting my eyes now and saying, "no!"

I'm trying really hard to finish a young adult read this month to participate in Collaboreads, but it's not going so well.  I feel like I'm running gout of time, and I'm not totally sure if my book choice counts as "young adult".  I went with "On The Edge Of The Dark Sea Of Darkness" by Andrew Peterson (affiliate), first book in the Wingfeather saga.  I'm only a little way in, but I am so enjoying it!  It reminds me a lot of Narnia so far, and it's funny.  I read a couple chapters to Derek in the car, and he was laughing out loud. Also, it's written by Andrew Peterson, who is a Christian singer/songwriter a couple of you recommended to me when I asked for new music a couple months ago!  I didn't even realize that until after I picked it up!

What is the best young adult book that you've ever read?  And I'm taking Hunger Games and Divergent series out of the running, for variety sake.

Old School Blogger Shoutout

As previously mentioned, I have been a complete blog slacker between trying to finish my outrageous to-review book list before vacation next month, and feeling kind of gross if I stare at a screen for too long (pregnancy-related).  I won't totally let this section go, but I don't have anything new for you this week!  I will attempt to get caught up on my blog reading soon.

What I'm Drinking:  Orange juice.  I cut back on the decaf coffee because I couldn't decide if it was helping or hurting my excessive exhaustion.  What is your favorite tea blend for iced tea in the summer months?  I'm planning ahead!
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