Sunday, December 30, 2012

Carolina Christmas

It’s always envelopingly sweet to return to my childhood home – a place that holds so many memories. From eagerly awaiting my parents’ return when my brothers were born, to secret spy missions in the crawlspace with my sister, to our blissful wedding reception in the backyard. Christmas recaptures some of that magic by bringing us all back together. And to top it off my mom has the loveliest Christmas decorations creatively reconfigured each year, all in a peaceful country setting.

Last year when we visited, Ellabelle was still a toddling babe, but this year she and Luke were a duo of kid energy and exploration.

They loved to play outside and mostly delighted in my parents’ dogs, though a few times Eleanor shrieked, “Puppy eating me!!!” to let us know that her personal space was endangered. Then when the puppy romped off she would grumpily declare, “Puppy bothering me. That puppy bothering me.” Perhaps this love/fear relationship with the canine residents explains our kids’ newfound zeal for tree climbing.

Old family standbys were not neglected either. Wild horsie rides on Papi,

Family walks through the woods (Luke is still asking for his treasures – aka pinecones – that he collected there),

Gingerbread house decorating (Eleanor quite preferred the ‘circles’ for both decorating and eating),

Holiday movies (this was the Grinch Who Stole Christmas),

And darling church clothes.

Christmas day held stockings by a fire,

A tree surrounded by presents

and our traditional brunch of eggs benedict.

Then there was present playtime! Luke’s new truck was loaded with all manner of cargo.

And Eleanor rocked her new babies in the very same doll cradle I adored as a little girl.

What a fun, full Christmas it was. On our way home from the airport (after wailing his desire to go back to Nika and Papi’s) our sensitive Luke-boy earnestly declared, “I hope February comes really, really soon!!” since we might see Nika and Papi again then. We miss you all!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Festive weekend report

Last weekend was chock-full of Christmas cheer. On Saturday morning we attended a Santa party, our first event in our new neighborhood. It was fun and relaxed with cute activities and several families we know from our street and the local park. We don’t talk Santa up much, so we wondered what the kids would make of him. Eleanor panicked when I stepped away for the photo, and never did warm up to old St. Nick.

Luke, on the other hand, got very chatty when Santa asked what he wanted for Christmas. It’s reported that he requested a giant lit-up Christmas train like the one outside our neighbor’s house, among other things. I don’t think he realized that our Santa doesn’t stock giant lawn decorations…

Saturday evening, just before this bitter cold front blew in, we visited the River of Lights, a fantastic holiday light show at the botanic gardens. Surely seeing their grounds covered in glimmering decorations is sufficient fulfillment of Luke’s Santa wish?

It was our second visit (pics from our first trip here). What fun to see it with friends and our Ella-princess this time!

On Sunday we moved on to the edible side of Christmas festivities. We had a pancake brunch with my beloved Christmas pan, made scrumptious cookies with friends, and tried a little candy cane craft.

What perfect Christmas cheer spreaders to spend the season with!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Preparing for Christmas

First we put up our trusty old tree,

Which prompted half a dozen photo shoots.

Once that excitement subsided a bit, I made a felt tree for the kiddos to play with.

Online this tree is described as a means to prevent children from playing with the real Christmas tree, but I’m not sure that point was kid-tested. In our house, the felt ornaments usually can be found wedged in toy trucks while our real tree’s ornaments are still regularly investigated. But we keep our main tree’s bottom half kid-safe and don’t really mind a little sensory exploration as long as the ornaments are put back periodically.

We added some other holiday touches around the house, including another felt project – a little advent calendar for the mantle.

But I haven’t done too much holiday decorating this year, I think because we have a number of house projects ongoing. On Friday, we painted Eleanor’s room a soft pink and finally put up her curtains. I love having a pink room again, but I may have kicked my slipper into the roller tray in my fast and furious painting zeal.

But back to Christmas… after setting up the trees, we started our evening advent time. Each night the kids eagerly open our advent bag to find a couple Christmas books and a decoration or toy.

I originally considered buying or making treats to put in an advent calendar but realized that we have so many special decorations and Christmas items that I could parcel those out over the advent season instead. After being in storage for a year they’re almost brand-new to Luke and totally brand-new to Eleanor anyway. So their advent surprises have ranged from Christmas plates to a nativity, and from singing snowmen to holiday pajamas.

After they open the bag, we put up the decoration or play with the toy and then read the books.

Next we might sing a song, depending on their moods (Erik and I love the singing segment but the kids often lose focus here). We finish by reading part of the Christmas story from one of our children’s Bibles. Our hope is that by going over and over different pieces of the story, seeing different people come to hear and rejoice over Christ’s birth, L and E will have time for the wonder to sink in of God coming to dwell among us. It’s hard to find the right advent ‘balance’ between fun childhood activities and the life-changing message of God’s love through Jesus. But we’re working on it and pray that God will use us to point the Christmas season festivities back to the greatest Gift that motivates them all.

The first few nights of advent Luke was so delighted that it took him forever to settle down to sleep. Then the next morning he would come charging into our room extra-early to request another advent time! Here’s a pre-advent-time dance pic to attest to the kiddos’ enthusiasm.

Thankfully Luke’s mostly fallen into the routine now and is sleeping better. So now we’re all loving our special evening family time!