Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Memories, 2010

December 2010 was filled with celebrating the wonder of the Incarnation with my husband and children, hosting guests for Christmas parties, choosing and making special gifts for dear friends, celebrating Clara Anne's birthday, and spending time with those that I love. Last December I felt I did a poor job of managing the special tasks and responsibilities that come my way during this season. Last year, the whole month rushed by and I fought against feelings of resentment at all of the extra "work." This year, I took a half-day retreat at the beginning of the month and that really helped to set my perspective for the busy days of December.

The truth is, I want to have a meditative spirit in preparing for Christmas. I want to be focused on the Lord's work, in my heart and others'. I want to be a welcoming and joyful hostess. I want to be focused on Jesus and celebrating His amazing, humble birth.

But the honest truth is that often my sin and selfishness can get in the way. When I start to worry about all that has to be done or get stressed or snap at my children who make a mess with toys 10 minutes before 20 guests arrive, that doesn't bring glory to Him. So in the forefront of my mind this Christmas was staying focused on Jesus, depending on Him for the patience, strength, and joy to do the extra activities of the month, and giving Him all the glory! And I want to share here publicly that the Lord really answered my prayer and hopes for this! We had numerous "big" events during the month and on the whole, I felt joy and peace in the doing of them, and more importantly, I actually felt able to worship during them! I truly praise the Lord for this! He helped me have a very different attitude as I got ready for events and sustained me with grace and strength through this busy month. I pray that my guests also sensed, through word and song, the joy of the Lord and the wonder of His birth. I trust that He touched many hearts.

Here are some pictures from the first party I hosted. It's fun to get out the pretty Christmas plates and make the special treats!
A closer look at the candy cane cookies...I told about the legend of the candy cane and shared some of its symbolism, as well as telling the Christmas story and singing Christmas songs!
These cute little Christmas hats (at the bottom left and right) are always a hit, it's simply a brownie mix baked in a mini-muffin tin, topped with an inverted strawberry, and decorated with melted white chocolate or white icing. And don't forget the chocolate peanut butter star cookies! My girls helped a lot with those...rolling them into balls and then in the sugar. And can you tell I had some little helpers decorate the sugar cookies? One night Clara Anne spent some of her points to stay up 30 minutes late and we made cookies together. She was given the joyful job of separating out red and green from a package of mini M&Ms. There may have been a few that got into her mouth by mistake, it's hard to tell. We had such fun together that night!

And speaking of help...of course I had lots of "help" in the kitchen--sometimes it was truly help and sometimes it was an investment for the future! (If you know what I mean!) I like to have the girls involved, generally, so it was fun to carefully let Chloe use the mixer for the first time. We were making eggnog, so she kept it holding steady while I gradually added the sugar and milk.

Our American friends came for Christmas dinner the night of the 17th. We began with an appetizer tray with crackers and a yummy cheeseball recipe that I first got from my Aunt Judy, eggnog or spiced cider, some lovely hershey's mint kisses, and a whole tray of pickles and olives. It was delicious! We then had our worship time, a festival of lessons and carols that ended with a darkened room, each person holding a white taper candle and singing "Silent Night." It was a wonderful way to celebrate the Saviour's birth! Then we moved to the table for the dinner: Ham, mashed potatoes, and a tossed salad with mandarin oranges and candied pecans. Dessert was homemade turtles or red velvet cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese peppermint icing. Ooh, that icing was definitely a keeper, first time I had made it but it's going in the family recipe book. Yummy!
It was so good to be with friends, just look at these lovely ladies:
After the meal the children put on an impromptu talent show. There was dancing, there was playing of cymbals and other instruments, and we all laughed and loved it! Notice Clara Anne dancing with her current crush, Uncle Brad! I love the expressions of joy on everyone's faces in this picture.
Christin favored us with a piano solo, when she wasn't too shy/embarrassed. Her little facial expressions are priceless!
Ok, now on to some later December pictures. In this one below, the girls are receiving gifts of dresses from Grandma, and Daddy is playing a little game with them where he pretends that Christin's dress is for Clara, etc etc. The girls thought it was SO funny and here are delighted that Christin finally found the dress that fit her. (And yes, my girls DO wear their ballet clothes all the time. Have you noticed?)
Now all three have their right dresses on. Aren't they lovely? Thank you so much, Grandma and Grandpa! Clara Anne can't stop looking at hers and touching its ruffly skirt!

Christmas morning, 2010 was the 24th for us since we reserve the 25th to celebrate Clara Anne's birthday. It began with me making cinnamon rolls at 6am and savoring a cup of tea in the quiet dark hours before the girls were up. This dancing extravaganza was happening before we ate breakfast! Look at those braids flying!
Mmmm, cinnamon rolls, orange julius, and lit candles, and of course a steaming cup of joe for me. Delightful!
We arranged a webcam with my mom and dad for that morning so they could watch the girls open their gifts, what a benefit of modern technology! Here's the girls waiting to begin. I realize that not one of them is looking at the camera, but they were all too excited!
Opening their stockings from Mommy and Daddy. They each received identical bunnies (from Ikea--so soft!) which are now named Becca, Bella, and Brea respectively and the names are written on the bunny's bottoms so that we can tell whose is whose. Equality, you know!
We continued our two-years-now tradition of not wrapping gifts...last year on Christmas Eve I ran out of time and wrapping paper and so we decided to simply just bring the gifts out one by one. We made the girls close their eyes each time and John had the "magic Christmas bag" (a large-ish gift bag) that he put things in and drew them out upon coming back from the bedroom. The girls seemed to love it; it's true, they probably don't have clear memories of opening wrapping paper, but anyway, I'm glad it worked! It was fun and saved me lots of time and energy! Here are all three girls, diligently closing their eyes:

Notice that the two younger ones felt the need to put their hands over whereas Clara Anne just squeezed hers shut. Funny girls!
Here everyone is holding a special gift from Grandpa and Grandma...such fun!

We started a new tradition of going to Starbucks for hot cocoa on Christmas Eve Day (well, this was the first year so we'll see if the tradition "sticks" or not). And I'm sorry these are the closest we got to a family picture this Christmas! We'll have to take a family New Year's picture instead!
We brought our own mugs and sipped slowly while the girls played "Hide the pony" with Daddy...they had brought their small My Little Ponys with them and Daddy kept hiding them in unexpected places and threatening to eat them. We laughed and laughed; it was such fun to be together and relaxed, simply enjoying the time. We had ridden our bikes to Starbucks and it was a bitterly cold day, that hot chocolate tasted GOOD!

Nice chocolate mustaches everyone! The final picture here is from Christmas Day in the evening when we completed our Jesse Tree journey. It was so fun to see the girls thoroughly embrace and enjoy the daily Scripture readings and putting the small piece on the tree.

Merry Christmas, 2010! Whew! We made it--with joy, even!--and you made it to the end of this LONG post! Thanks for sharing in our Christmas memories!


Kevin and Becky said...

Merry Christmas Rach! I'm still so impressed with your candy cane cookies.

sandra said...

What a wonderful Christmas season! Thanks so much for sharing. The girls looked so lovely twirling in their new dresses.

erica said...

Rachel -

Merry Christmas to you all! I loved reading about all you did this year! Thanks for sharing the details!!