But I rallied. And Ashton and I happened to find about the most perfect real tree for a great deal while we were out shopping on Thursday. The kids and I got all the Christmas garlands and nutcrackers and Nativity scenes out and set them up then we worked on the tree all afternoon and evening on Friday. I don't love putting the lights on the tree. My back kills me as I'm bent over and in weird positions getting those lights on - it always takes me about two hours since I'm pretty particular about the lights. But this time it went along nicely as the kids helped untangle and test the lights and then took turns reading aloud while I got those lights on.
We're reading this book called The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. My mom bought up all the used copies she could find a few years ago (it was out of print and not that easy to find - but I just discovered that it's back in print - yeah!!!) and gave one to me and each of my siblings a few years ago. I read it to the kids that year and it was great but they were a little on the young side to really get it. This year they all REALLY get it and it's been so great learning all about how little Nickolas was a sweet and kind boy who took such good care of his little sister and then, all in one night, through a terrible chain of events, his sister and both parents died and he became an orphan who had to be passed from house to house in the little village as no family was wealthy enough to keep an extra child for very long. And through it all, he was extremely helpful and kind and taught himself to make little wooden toys for all the children in the village. It goes on to tell about how he got his first sleigh, how the first stocking came about, how he got his first red suit and so on. It's all fiction but it's a beautiful story about a really sweet and good little boy who makes the best of hard situations and solves problems with love and my kids have been totally eating it up. I love reading stories like this that make us all feel like being better people.
Anyway, so we got the tree up and had lots of fun taking out all the special ornaments we've got from places we've visited and sharing memories as we placed them on the tree. Then we put up all the gold and red balls and talked about the symbols of the colors of Christmas.
Here's the finished tree with our special ornaments from England, Africa, Australia, Russia, Bulgaria, our pioneer trek last summer, San Francisco, Mexico, Belize, and from specific fun activities we've done together - I love the stories each ornament offers - and so do the kids. Tip: key chains make great ornaments if you can't find an actual ornament as a souvenir... (why didn't I turn the tree lights on for this picture???)
Here are some of our Nativity scenes - a cool hand-carved spinning one Jared got in Germany, one Jared and I got in Bolivia, and the snow-globe Nativity the kids love from the exotic land of Costco
I like my kids. A lot.
On Saturday Eliza made us all cinnamon rolls for breakfast (in keeping with the Scandanavian tradition of Saint Lucia), the twins had a basketball game (they lost - they always lose - defense is a foreign concept - but they had fun), then Ashton and I headed out to get that big boy some new Sunday clothes - he's completely grown out of everything and it was time to get everyone their Christmas Sunday clothes (our first gift of Christmas to our kids is new church clothes that they get to wear starting the first Sunday of December). It was great to have time to bond with this great boy of mine (who I end up being at odds with far too much lately). We found Ashton his first full suit which he was very excited about (and which didn't cost nearly as much as I'd worried it would cost). We found great stuff on sale for all the other kids as well. And we had some good chats about all stuff we saw and people we encountered in the mall.
Here are the kids in their new Christmas outfits. They were all pretty darn excited about what Ashton and I found. And they're actually getting a little better at posing for pictures without a huge fuss and a few tears (but I had my dumb camera on the wrong setting...).
Yesterday in Primary we practiced the Nativity play we'll be doing for the ward Christmas party this Friday. We sure have a lot of very cute kids in our ward and I was so glad for the big bag of shepherd, king and angel headdresses I've got from years of doing our Children for Children concert with the Nativity play at the end (If anyone's near Ogden and wants to come to our concert this year, you're most welcome. It'll be on the 17th and the invite is here.).
So cold or no cold, snow or no snow, we're into the Christmas season. And it's beautiful stuff.
P.S. I got to go hiking today after my sadly thwarted attempt last week. It felt so good!