Monday, December 29, 2014

Merry Christmas!

We returned from Michigan just in time to begin preparing for Christmas Eve.  I spent most of the day making stockings for the family.  I tend to screw up even the simplest crafts, so I was thrilled when they all turned out the way I wanted them to!

Summer's preschool teachers gave her some reindeer food to spread out on the lawn, which she was more than happy to do.

We set out some milk and cookies right next to the girls' Christmas lists so Santa would see them.

I'm shocked we didn't wake the kids that night as we arranged the gifts under the tree.  We had them hidden in several not-so-easily-accessible spots {like the crawl space under our stairs}.  But it sure was fun and the kids slept like babies.

Christmas morning is so magical.  I mean, look at Kylie's face!

The girls couldn't bring their gifts into the living room fast enough!

I think the best gifts are the homemade ones.
Or maybe the smallest ones.
Josh got me a remote for my camera so I can take pictures from a distance.  Yay!

Or maybe the best gifts are the ones you buy used.

Or the ones family members have sent from afar.

Or the simple ones.

Perhaps the best ones are those that aren't even yours...
Sometimes the best gifts are the ones you buy with your own money.

Or the ones that you will consider redeeming when you're a little older.

Actually, the best gift of all is time spent with family.  Whether it's a much anticipated Skype session with grandparents or an unexpected phone call with a relative overseas, those moments are golden.
We had such a beautiful Christmas.  We are so grateful for the many Christmas cards, gifts, phone calls, and text messages we received this Christmas season.

Since we had a rare long weekend together, we decided to spend one of those days at the Children's Museum.  Rock climbing is included in the membership and Kylie has been begging to try it.  There's no time like the present, right?

Once she got up there, she started to get a little nervous.  She didn't make it to the top but she had a great experience and is already talking about doing it again.

Summer wasn't old enough to try rock climbing, but she was content riding the carousel and going down the Jolly Slide with her dad.

Even though we had visited the China exhibit before, it was still Kylie's favorite.  If it were up to her, she would have stayed in that exhibit for hours.  I'm positively giddy inside that she loves to learn about other cultures so much.

Like Kylie, Jackson could have stayed in one place for hours as well.  In fact, he rolled a ball up and down this ramp for about 45 minutes.  It's the simple things, I tell you.

The museum is always a big hit with the kids.  We're sad we won't be renewing our membership next year, but we've got some other fun things planned already!

Pre-Christmas in Michigan

We spent a few days in Michigan prior to Christmas.  We arrived just in time for our family Christmas party at my grandparents' house. 

My aunt pointed out that we put the FUN in "dysfunctional."  Some families gather round the piano to sing Christmas carols.  We have dance parties to old school rap songs.  To each their own.

 We had such a great time together, we decided to meet up again the following night.

The next morning we attended church as a family.  I can't say enough nice things about Summer's Primary teacher.  He's so great.

The girls loved opening gifts from Grandma, Granddad, and Kramer throughout the weekend.
These little birds from Kramer were a huge hit!  The girls carried them around with them for the rest of the weekend, recording little sayings as they went.

My mom made these darling little gift bags.  She's so talented.

We made sure to bring our Christmas books with us so we could continue our tradition of unwrapping one book each night.

One morning we left the boy at home {in very capable hands}, and surprised the girls by taking them to the movie theater.


Note to self: Summer only has one volume, and whispering isn't it.

Later we had dinner with some of our best friends.  I just adore their cute family... cats and all :)

We also visited my great aunt who recently moved to an assisted living facility.  While I chatted with her, Summer made friends with her roommate.

It was such a wonderful trip, with the perfect blend of relaxation and time spent with friends and family.

And quiet time :)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Family night, simplified

In our church it has been strongly encouraged that each family set aside an evening each week where everyone can just be together.  For us, that day is Sunday. 

The first half of the day is always pretty chaotic.  By 1:00 we've already faced the battle of getting a family of 5 ready for church, sat through 3 hours of meetings, changed clothes, had lunch, and gotten the boy down for a nap.  {There are SO many gaps that could be filled in that sentence but I'll save those details for another time}.

But once we're home, the chaos fades away and our little family comes into focus.  I love those lazy Sunday afternoons when no one has anywhere to be and nothing pressing to do.  I love that our children have an opportunity to call the shots.  Board game?  Movie?  Books?  Sure!

And I love that Josh and I have the chance to reinforce the lessons that the kids were taught in church that day.  With Christmas just around the corner, it's the perfect opportunity to discuss the reason for the season.

I wholeheartedly believe that this time spent with our families is precious... and important.

But I also believe in keeping things simple.

Tonight we doctored up a typical crock pot meal by adding a few very simple touches, but the girls enjoyed helping with the preparations and being "fancy."
Summer asked, "Mom, are we having branches for dinner?"

We made things fun too!

As the girls sipped their Snowman Hot Chocolate we talked about how amazing that first Christmas night must have been.  I sure love this time of year.