My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Catey at Random Thoughts From the Zoo-Christmas Guest post Series Day 3

Today I want to introduce Catey over at Random Thoughts From the Zoo  for the Third Day of the Christmas Guest Blog series. I always enjoy reading Catey's blog full of adventures and fun with her big,beautiful family and I know you will enjoy her stories as much as I do.

In the month before Christmas things start to get crazy
My brain is on overdrive, my thinking gets hazy.
So much to do, the checklist is huge
I'm moving at speeds normally reserved for the luge.

So many to see and so much to do
The house starts to feel even more like a zoo.
The kids are getting restless, we all approach frazzled
What happened to enjoying and just being dazzled?

That's how we come to the way things are now
I'll share the whys, the whats and the hows.
And though I'm enjoying this trite little rhyme,
Coming up with anymore will take way too much time.

And that's all I've got so the rhyming is over now!
Please forgive me, apparently I've watched The Grinch one too many times this month.

Hi-I'm Catey, mom of a handful of little kidlets, found over at Random Thoughts from the Zoo.

I love Christmas so much. The magic, the anticipation, the general feeling of hope and happiness....what's not to love?
Our Christmas traditions aren't anything exotic or fancy. There are times that I envy those with exciting cultural history that incorporate many different familial pieces into their yearly celebration. It was so fun to read about Elia's big hybrid Christmas! But our family.....well, we're about as American bred as they come. And the family that hasn't been here since the 1600s came not too much later, mostly from jolly old England. (I guess that explains my love of a more traditional 'Father Christmas' looking Santa than the Coca Cola bright red version.) Try as I might though, I just can't embrace the idea of fruitcake. We do definitely have a soft spot for Dickens though and watch entirely too many versions of A Christmas Carol over and over each year. Even the youngest children can quote most of the story!

There were of course things that always happened each year in my childhood, and in that of my husband, some of which we've carried on with our own children, but in general we seem to have just made our own little version of Christmas that we've come to love. To us it's also important that we keep the focus of Christmas where it should be, on our Savior, Jesus Christ.

For us Christmas is Family. Christmas is food, music, stories and fun. It's the little things that we just always count on having there. And over the past few years we have sure come to appreciate getting rid of the extra and only doing the things that we really enjoy. It is so wonderful to have more time to just BE instead of the craziness we used to feel because of everything we felt we needed to DO. There is always still plenty going on, especially as the kids get older and have orchestra concerts and choir concerts and Christmas plays and performances, but we've really tried to just narrow the rest of the holiday season down to just appreciating the little things.

I love Christmas music! I am one of those sticklers that reserves if for after Thanksgiving, but once Thanksgiving is past, Christmas music plays all day every day! Everything from crooners to choirs, it floats through our home from morning till night. Music has always been a big part of my life, and one of my absolute favorite things about Christmas as a child was the music. We would have a big extended family Christmas party (we still do!) that included a nativity with roles filled by the grandchildren, hymns filling in between the narration, and a sing-a-long at the end of the party, the good old Reader's Digest Christmas Song Book filling the hours. Each Christmas Eve we would gather at my grandparents house for dinner and more singing, a few of us granddaughters allowed the opportunity to fill in on the piano in Gran's place occasionally. My dad has been a member of the Salt Lake Symphonic Choir my whole life so we attended multiple Christmas concerts each year-some just music, some including scripture and sermons from many different local religious leaders. I love those concerts especially because of the variety of places they were held; a Catholic cathedral, a Baptist Church, Temple many wonderful and beautiful places! While we don't make it to those concerts each year now since it's a little tough to keep some of the youngest children quiet enough to allow those around us to truly enjoy themselves at the concert, I adore the opportunities we do have to go and hear the music that was so much a part of my childhood. Music speaks to my soul, and the hymns of Christmas with their message of hope and joy mean that much more.

We visit Temple Square in Salt Lake City each year to see the incredible display of lights, as well as the nativities from around the world.

One of the traditions we've started is in gift giving with our children. We have eight kids. Our kids were the first grandchildren on both sides of the family. Still the only on my husband's side, although my sister has added two more to my family's count. Everyone knows how excited people are about those first grandkids/nieces/nephews. By the time we had popped out our fourth child in four years, Christmas was getting completely overwhelming! Not only were we excited to give our children gifts, but everyone else was as well. Every year we would sit back and look at everything as Christmas day came to a close and just shake our heads in disbelief, both humbled and shocked at the amount of, well, just stuff! Please don't misinterpret that, we have always been incredibly grateful, but it just seemed like too much when we knew there were others who were left in want, and in need each Christmas. It was that same time when I heard from my mom of a gifting idea that someone in her neighborhood used. "Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read". Brilliance!! Not only would it help tone things down, but it would simplify and remove that feeling of "but did ____ get the same amount of gifts as ____?" and just the general excess that happened so easily, even when we tried to tone things down. ("but it was on sale and I saved so much that I bought three more things as well!") The simplification allowed the Christmas shopping to go from a stressful overwhelming process to a simple streamlined process that allowed us to spend more time enjoying the holidays and less time stressing about them. Paring things down at home also encourages us to think beyond our own family and to look for those around us who we might be able to do something for. We moved to this amazing community six years ago, here each year there is a program called Hearts for the Holidays where those in the community who are able provide gifts to create what becomes a local church building full of everything you could possibly imagine, where those who would be going without at Christmas, or even just those who would not be able to provide Christmas for their families without going in to debt, can come and 'shop' from the many various things that have been provided. It has been a neat experience to be able to contribute to that. Though the program has changed some this year, the opportunity to help and serve those around us is still very much there. I hope that as my children grow older they remember being a part of things like that, and finding the joy that comes from serving others.

Oh-we are often asked about Santa-yes we do the Santa thing, so that is in addition to the four gifts from mom and dad.

Each year on Christmas Eve the kids also get to open Christmas pajamas. They love the Christmas pajamas! And let's be honest, so do I!

I used to be totally on top of things and make them all each year, but as our family has grown my free time has shrunk just a tad, so if I find a fabulous deal, I've been known to just buy them and save the time. I bought for this year, so next year I would like to make them again, even it that means just pj pants for everyone. Keep it simple, right? I do love making gifts for my kids instead of always just buying, so each year I have a few projects I'm working on anyway. I am excited to finish my current project (there will be pictures on my blog when it is finally done)

And food....oh how I love food! Especially treats, and what is Christmas without treats? For a girl who is most at home in the kitchen, all the fabulous holiday food makes things great! Unfortunately I did not inherit my father's amazing candy making skills, but I did become just as great a baker as my mom!
My absolute favorite Christmas treat is Pepparkakor cookies. Think gingerbread, but not as heavy and overwhelming. Which means you can eat more of it! Did I mention, I love treats? I used to spend hours decorating my cookies with all sorts of little details, but as the years have passed I have abbreviated my decorating to spend more time just enjoying plan old frosting of the cookies with the kids. Not that I don't still have a little bit of fun with it....

Cookie frosting night is such a blast! 

Yes it's messy, yes it's crazy, yes there is finger licking, and yes at least one child gets sick from eating too much every year, but it's fabulous.

This year my husband did go just a little crazy-resorting to using tweezers to place individual sprinkles on his Christmas tree for lights. Wow. He raised the bar on me!

Each night in December we gather together before bedtime and read a story. From silly (my favorites are Santaclaustrophobia, and a story called Elsie-about a girl who spends Christmas stuck in the toilet, really), to sweet (Polar Express, The Grinch), to Spiritual (I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day), as heard here, I have my favorites as do each of the kids and my husband.
Two of my absolute favorites, which means I can't hear them without crying (which also means I'm never the one to read them aloud) are A Christmas Dress for Ellen and A Christmas Bell for Anya. Not only are the stories beautiful, but the illustrations are as well. I have a soft spot for picture books, and each year add a new one to our Christmas library.

In addition to the stories each night, we have an advent calendar that involves reading a scripture relating to Christ's birth each night. After we read each scripture, someone moves Mary and Joseph one step closer to the stable, where on the last night baby Jesus is placed in the manger.

Christmas Eve brings the traditional ham dinner, nothing too exciting, but the kids love getting out the good dishes and drinking from goblets as we look forward to the day ahead. The anxious kiddos are tucked into bed and I get to baking the cinnamon rolls that we have for breakfast each year on Christmas morning.
And though Christmas morning of course brings excitement, fun and play, when all is said and done, it comes back to where it should.

When all has settled and the day is winding down, we gather together to read from the New Testament. We turn our focus to the reason we celebrate, the miracle of a babe born in humble circumstance, come to save us all. The hope of life, of forgiveness, of promise, of peace.

1 comment:

XLMIC said...

Catey, your Christmas traditions are note-worthy. I love that gifting motto your mom passed along and plan to use it. Loving Christmas music here, too :) The cookie decorating with tweezers! Whoa! LOL And I love the idea of moving Mary and Joseph a little closer each day and baby Jesus appearing overnight on Christmas Eve. Thank you so much for featuring Catey :)

Take $5 off your first order with coupon REF10

Take $5 off your first order with coupon  REF10
"Never has the devil found such fertile territory upon which to work as in this era when his very existence is denied by so many" - St. Padre Pio