Wow, the kids are at such fun ages this year for Christmas! And it's interesting to see the big kids so attached to the traditions we've developed over the years and adopted from others. They remembered so many of the details of how we've done things in the past and were quite insistent that we do things just so this year. It was so fun to sit with them at bedtime and talk about all the things they were SO looking forward to for Christmas - and most of the things they talked about had to do with traditions. It's fun to throw in some new things and I'm not nearly as attached to traditions as I was as a kid, so I'm all for mixing things up a bit - but I guess a year is a lot longer to a kid so it's more fun and special to do the same thing the same way a different year for them than it is for me. Anyway, here are a few pictures of some of the traditions we did this year.We always visit Santa and the Santa at Tuachan seems to be emerging as the best one around here. The kids said they were pretty sure he was the real one. The twins were somewhat unsure about the whole thing, but were pretty happy to sit on Santa's lap once he promised them candy!
Eli and Julie were in town this year to go with us to see the live Nativity at Tuachan - always fun to see the lights there and experience a nicely done and short Nativity play (perfect - 20 minutes -all the little kids can handle especially in the cold of the outdoor amphitheater). We like that Julie. Eli was here to help a bunch of volunteers make phone calls for Mitt Romney down at the clubhouse here and Jared and I pitched in and made phone calls for a while - nice to be at least a bit involved in the upcoming election and support Eli.
Our gingerbread house this year was MUCH easier and more nice-looking than the one last year. Last year we did the whole thing from scratch and wow - that's quite a process figuring out just the right dimensions for each piece of the house, making the dough, cutting things out, getting it to stick together with homemade frosting that's not quite the right consistency... This year was way easier and the kids thought the Costco kit I bought was the greatest thing. Next year, maybe graham cracker houses will do! This is not my favorite tradition but the kids love it - something about an edible house is just so fun I guess.
Here we are ready to go see the Nutcracker.
The Nutcracker was a new thing we tried out this year - some of our good friends were in it (their son, Blake, is with us in this photo) so we went. The production was really nice - great costumes and good quality performances all around and lots of kids in it. Really impressive for a town this size! Eliza really loved the whole thing. Isaac generally has a hard time whispering and when the first boy ballet dancer leaped onto the stage, he said very loudly, "Hey, why's that guy wearing TIGHTS?!" Isaac fell asleep and Ashton begged to leave towards the end after 15 minutes of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Prince dancing and seeming like they would keep dancing forever. That part does drag a bit, I agree. Overall it was a great experience and the kids were good and really liked it and were delighted to see people they know on the stage. I'm not sure this needs to be an annual tradition, though!
On the Sunday before Christmas, the kids get some new Christmas clothes and we take pictures. The clothes-getting or picture-taking isn't really a favorite thing for the boys but Eliza loves it - and so do I. I expect that some day the kids will be glad for these pictures!
Christmas Eve morning we had Jo and Aja over for brunch and a gift exchange and playing the chimes together - for the third year running now. We love having them for neighbors! The kids were DELIGHTED by the gift from Jo and Aja this year - a Blue Man Group instrument that they've been playing with non-stop.
Christmas Eve dinner, we transport ourselves back to the time of Christ, dress up like Mary's family seeing her and Joseph off to Bethlehem, and eat Middle Eastern food on special plates from Israel and Bulgaria in the candlelight.
Then Mary gets on the trusty donkey and they go to Bethlehem.
Then we act out the Nativity play. The kids are getting pretty good at it.
The twins got to watch Frosty the Snowman downstairs since they weren't really getting the whole thing - maybe next year. They did show up at the end and were so cute about holding baby Jesus and singing their favorite Christmas songs with us - the "Jesus Birthday" song (In a Little Stable) and the "Manger Song" (Away in a Manger).
Just before going to bed on Christmas Eve, all the kids hang up their stockings and open up a present containing new PJs. Here they are - so excited! They were actually so great about going to bed and going right to sleep, worried Santa could pass us right by if they were still awake.
Looking at all these pictures makes me realize the tiredness I feel is a small price to pay for such great memories represented by all these photos. It's so much work to make all these things happen - but it's so worth it in the end! The kids keep saying "This is the BEST Christmas EVER" and that makes everything worthwhile.
More on Christmas Day later. Got to go re-wrap some presents Ollie just unwrapped that are supposed to go to cousins. These guys sure like unwrapping presents! We couldn't put anything under the tree - everything had to be tucked away until Christmas...