I love this time of year. For many reasons, but I think they all stem from our being more intentional than usual. We have slowly established several family traditions that we hold to each Christmas season....and naturally that requires planning and being intentional about making them happen!
We begin the day after Thanksgiving making Christmas crafts! I've become less creative each year, and realized we don't have to make 8 different projects :) We've settled on three somewhat simple crafts that the kids can (mostly) do on their own. It's so fun to watch them be creative.
I was surprised to find that Kyleigh spent the most time on each project.....she painted her ornament for what seemed like forever. Levi had completed everything and she was still painting away!
Caleb was very purposeful in his painting.....it's so fun to see their abilities develop!
I think Levi was just being sweet and humoring me this year 😂 He was done with everything in a flash....so funny!!
They were excited to hang their freshly made ornaments on the tree, and decorate their rooms with their new snow globes!
When daddy came home we enjoyed decorating their rooms with lights, and then the tree.....each year the kids choose a new ornament and we add it to their box that someday they'll take with them to their own homes and trees.
Busy bees....they were SO funny decorating this year....three very different ideas!
Kyleigh's idea was to fit as many ornaments on one branch as possible. We may have had to do a little rearranging later on :)
They get so excited each year to play with the nativity set....
Christmas cookies! Meme has a day of making crafts and cookies with the grandkids too, but at some point we always make our own as well. This year it was a marathon process. Kyleigh and I made the dough earlier in the day while everyone else was out and about. She was SO into it, adding ingredients and stirring away. I'm pretty sure everything was covered in flour.....but I stopped so many times and just marveled at how blessed I am to have this little girl in my life....she is SO full of joy and makes everything so much fun. Rolling the dough and cutting out the cookies was much the same...it took three times as long as she layered one cookie cutter over another cookie and we started again, but it was so much fun. Eventually she "decorated" her cookies and then insisted on waiting in her high chair for them to cook so she could eat them :)
Caleb had a surprise guest during his school day, so round two began as they decorated their cookies. So cute how serious they were about it, taking their time and being very detailed! It's a good thing Levi has his own special sprinkles because these two used up just about all we had!
Round three when Levi came home from school! He was pretty excited about his own tray of cookies with frosting and sprinkles he can actually enjoy!
At some point in December we take some time to make a list of gifts for Jesus.....things we can do to serve others and in turn show our love for Jesus since we are, after all, celebrating His birthday. One of our annual traditions is to visit the elderly at a local nursing home around the holidays....those that sometimes seem forgotten and may be overlooked. We've made one particular special friend there, and the kids are always so excited to visit her. I think it's one of my favorite things to watch them get excited about. Caleb eagerly asked if we would see Shirley, and expressed his excitement.....and I marveled at the fact that this full of energy little seven year old boy would be so eager to visit this elderly, often very quiet, woman. We try to bring something to give to many of the residents....just something simple and homemade, but something to remind them that someone cares. But for Shirley....her gifts have become more elaborate each time we visit.....this year Caleb colored a stocking just for her so we could fill it with gifts :)
The others helped to make cards, color pictures, and create little angel and wreath ornaments....as well as some other unidentifiable festive gifts!
Kyleigh was thrilled to learn about the bead container, so we made a lot of gifts from beads and pipe cleaners!
We were a little disappointed to find that the nursing home wasn't allowing children to visit as there was a great deal of respiratory illness going around. We all stood there, in the lobby, a couple days before Christmas, wondering what to do with our gifts. The nurses finally decided it would be okay for us to briefly visit those in the lobby who were feeling well, and they brought Shirley down to see us :) Phew.
The residents were in the middle of a bingo game, but were eager to pause and visit. They were so appreciative and enjoyed the energy of our three wild ones! Times like this are when Levi really shines. Nothing holds him back....he doesn't feel nervous, or unsure...he's just Levi. He was happily wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and handing them gifts as fast as he could...commanding them to open them and watching (too closely) as they did! The others joined in easily as well and seemed to enjoy the joy they brought to these sweet people!
They were especially thrilled to see Shirley, and she was also happy to see us. I think each time, her personality starts to come through a little more. She was so grateful for the stocking full of gifts, it was so sweet. Caleb really enjoyed watching her open each one....I think because he had really been the one to pick them out and wanted to make her gift extra special...so sweet!
"Christmas With Keira"
The weekend before Christmas we were able to go all together for the first time, to visit Keira. Luke and I have taken turns, but we had yet to be together as a family. Other than starting off with one child getting violently sick outside and my panic that we'd have to leave before we even entered, the rest of the night went great! We brought pizza so we could have a family dinner together first :)
I made sure to get a picture of all the kiddos together since those are few and far between these days. This also solved my Christmas Card dilemma....I hadn't known what to do with it and had given up on the idea of even doing one this year, but was able to at the last second :)
The kids were so eager to give her all of her gifts. They just stood there watching, excited for her.
We do our three gifts, plus a stocking and this year was a little challenging. I'm not entirely sure what she can have there, but it's also such a different environment, I couldn't really think of much she'd even want/need. Her experience gift had to just be us coming and having a family dinner and visit. Her need was a new bible she'd asked for, but her gold gift had me stumped. When I thought about what she really really wanted, all I could think of were gifts we really couldn't give. Healing. To be a "normal" kid, without all the baggage. Us to have adopted her as a baby. Baby photos. And then....I thought....that was it! I remembered seeing something about a company that does photo regression pictures!! You send them several photos that meet certain criteria and they work to create a photo at a younger age of your choosing. We were SO excited...while it may not be the exact real thing, it's as close as we'll ever get, and we really thought she'd love it. She had also expressed interest in making a life book. I had made one for Levi before he came home, and Keira and I had long since planned to make one for her together. She never actually wanted to take the time to do that, rather than playing or other activities, so the scrapbook she picked and other materials we had put together in preparation were just sitting there. I decided that was the perfect way to give her the photo.....in her completed life book. It took months, but I tried to include every detail I could about her life, starting at birth until the present. I also made sure to leave extra space on most pages where she could add her own memories and details.
I'd say it was the right choice. She was definitely happy. She said it "meant a lot," which meant a lot to us! I could tell she wanted to look through and read everything, but also wanted to spend the time we had together. We all looked through the pictures and reminisced and then she surprised us. She had gifts for each of us....thoughtful, wrapped gifts.
She knows her siblings well, even with not being home for so long. They were SO excited.
They all played together for a while which was sweet to watch. At some point, Keira sat back down and opened her book. I sat by her while the others played and was able to spend a little time looking at it with her. I thought about how that's what we would have done....later on, when the others went to bed, we would have sat and looked through it together as she shared her thoughts and memories. It made me sad to think of her sitting in her room later, looking at it by herself. A few people have said she's shared it with them when they've been there, so that's sweet. Our hope is that she can look at it and feel loved....that even though there's a lot of hard memories mixed in, there's also a lot of good. So many memories made together as a family. So many smiles....so much joy.
Altogether the visit was great....another good family memory!
The church we've been visiting is always sharing ways that you can partner with different organizations and groups to serve others. It's amazing how many opportunities there are, and how many different ministries they support. It's truly so exciting! A few days before Christmas we were blessed to be able to join in and serve by very simply delivering a couple of meals to some Cranston residents. All we had to do was pick them up at the senior center and then bring them to the homes of those whose addresses we were given. The kids had pictures for them, and we had brought a bouquet of flowers to give to one of the women along with the meals :) But when we got back in the car and I looked at our papers, we only had men! haha! Caleb didn't think a man would want the flowers, and we had pictures anyway, so he wanted to save them for our neighbor. He's too funny :) Anyway, it was a lot of fun and just such a simple way to help out!
Annual Christmas Lights Adventure!
Heading out to see all of the fun houses decorated for Christmas.....
Each year, we have experimented with different children's advent devotionals. Last year we found "The Donkey In The Living Room" and decided to stick with it for a few years while the kids are young. It's more on their level than many we've tried, and it's interactive so they get really excited about this part of our day! Here they are looking for the wrapped nativity piece for that day :)
Once they find the piece, they unwrap it and add it to the nativity scene and we read that day's story....from the perspective of whoever was found. It's cute, and easy to modify for their differing ages and understanding. They always guess who they will find each day, and for some reason weren't getting the fact that baby Jesus would probably arrive on Christmas. So by Christmas day, they were relieved to finallyyyy have unwrapped baby Jesus and place him in the stable :)
Another favorite is giving our gifts to Jesus on Christmas day. We LOVE the Gospel For Asia Christmas Catalogs that we can look through and choose ways to truly change lives. There's a great children's book called "Beatrice's Goat" which helps make this whole idea more real for the kids. I love how they are always incredibly decisive about what they want to buy. Typically when making decisions there's a lot of wavering....but these things are so important, so necessary.....they don't have to think twice about it.
After we do our devotions and gifts for Jesus, we enjoy giving to our kiddos. They were excited to learn about their experience gifts to come (these have proven to be very tricky with weather and other factors, but they are by far my favorite as we just enjoy experiencing new things together!). Needs were easy this year as the boys helmets had been falling apart, and Kyleigh will soon be needing a big girl bed so she received some cute new bedding! These munchkins love everything so Gold gifts are also pretty easy for them. Caleb really needed a new bike, so we were excited to get him the bike he'd been hoping for. Levi is a little challenging since he likes the same things he's liked for what seems like forever and still has a million of...so we settled on some police and fire playsets, as that seems to be his newest interest! And Kyleigh....well....Luke's been working for months on hers....using random pieces of scrap wood and different parts he's saved "just in case." I had just suggested that we maybe add on a counter and cabinet to her little tikes kitchen set. Yeah. I should have known better. Over time, it became an entire kitchen and laundry set and the old kitchen got the boot. But it will be a great thing for them all to enjoy for years to come....such a labor of love. She walked in with her back to it and didn't notice at first.....as she turned around she said her famous "Oh my gawsh!" She said "thanks mom, dad," and then ran and hugged daddy when I explained that he made it for her. 💕
And aside from all of our traditions to celebrate, are of course our fun family get togethers....starting with Christmas Eve breakfast and fun at Meme and Pops....
This is a great advent devotional too, if you're looking! "What God Wants For Christmas" Meme does it with the kids each year before they open presents, and this year my niece narrated...it was precious :)
Singing Happy Birthday To Jesus.....for some reason Kyleigh asked if it was her birthday party when she woke up that morning. I didn't think much of it, as she speaks daily of her "Hello Kitty" birthday party that she's planning six months prior to her birthday. But then as we sang Happy Birthday later that morning, she looked around expectantly...not singing...waiting to hear it..."happy birthday to....Kyleigh." When we said "Jesus" instead, she seemed a bit confused, but quickly moved on. Oh she is just too much!
Then on to Christmas Eve at my grandparents at night.....featuring Princess Kyleigh
And Christmas Day at my Aunt's......
Such special moments and memories being made.....I just love this time of year.
I'm so thankful for my family and friends and most of all for God sending His only Son to be born into this world. What a sacrifice. What love. What a GIFT.
All of this would be so meaningless otherwise.
Merry Christmas 💚