This year was quite different for us as we still haven't settled on a new church home so we had the luxury of going wherever our whims took us. Last night we spent Christmas Eve with my family at their Episcopal church where my sister is the youth minister and my bil is the music leader. Heidi gave a wonderful children's sermon which culminated with the whole congregation giving their "hearts" to Jesus (little felt hearts she and her youth group had passed out ahead of time). She has a real gift for evangelism and for sharing the gospel with the little ones - it was fun to see her in action. We had dinner with Muff and Granddad and a Christmas Eve final Advent service around their wreath - it was just like old times. As a special blessing Muffy had tracked down our wedding pictures which had been lost in the fire and made us a beautiful wedding album -what a sweet treasure!
We came home and bedded everyone down in the basement (with the exception of the three crib-bound ones). Meanwhile, I shuffled around with armfuls of cereal boxes, fruit and juice boxes. Last year we began a tradition of giving each child a box of their favorite cereal for Christmas morning breakfast. The kids loved it so much, they insisted we do it every year and it keeps them busy in the basement with styrofoam bowls and little juice box straws while we get to sleep in a bit.
This morning, as usual, Daddy got up first, retrieved the baby and headed for the basement to torture the offspring while I took my time brushing my teeth and locating my slippers. By the time I got downstairs he had them pretty riled up and they were raring to get up the stairs. I had to torture them a bit more by only allowing them up bit by bit which drove JM to such distraction that he got to the basement door and pounded it in despair.
We finally let them go but we never really have mounds of gifts under the tree. On the way to the tree we had Noah put Baby Jesus in his manger.Then the kids ran into the living room to find it full of....puppies! A friend of mine graciously gave me a dozen Boyd's Bears stuffed puppies - just enough for each kid to have one. She also gave me enough new books for each kid to get a new book under the tree and, of course, there had to be clothing. The biggest hit, though, was probably the candy canes attached to the puppies' collars. Ben and Betsy and I found those at the Squirrel's Nest on our trip up to Delaware for Feingold approved candy. Nancy had special ordered them from Canada - red stripes and all! I don't know the last time my kids had real candy canes and it was like something out of an episode of Little House on the Prairie "Gee, Pa, real candy canes! Where did you find them?! Did you walk all the way to Canada in the snow for us?"
We took our time exhanging secret sibling gifts (for which they had done extra chores all through Advent to earn money to buy), getting dressed and then heading out the door back to Muffy's house.
They were eager to get to Muffy's house where they knew the bulk of their presents would be found in their stockings (another well-preserved tradition from my family). They weren't disapointed there, the bulk of their stockings holding enough Feingold-approved candy to last until Easter if they ration it well.
Every year Muffy and Granddad put a little something in each stocking and then take family pictures with the item-of- the-year. This year it was little flashlights and Jesus wrist bands and we even got everyone to almost smile for the picture.
We stuffed our faces with food, hung out with the aunts and cousins and then headed to the family gathering with Grammy and Tata and crowd. There we had more gifts, tons more food and the chance to visit with Becky and Tom and their two little cuties who had flown in from MN (although this a picture of Uncle Scott with his new little cutie).
We arrived home about 8 or 9, shuffled everyone off to bed and collapsed ourselves. Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night! May the season of Christ's Nativity resound in our hearts all year 'round!