My favorite Christmas gift…

Christmas has long been put away (except for the Christmas cards on the fridge of course) but there’s one gift I’m still in awe of and think about daily and that is a gift Steve gave me.

There was a small card on the tree with the letter K on it. When I opened it Christmas morning, it was a clue and I ran around the house trying to figure out where the clue led. Eventually, I ended up in the game room and I could see a video was cued up to play on the tv.

I sat down as all the kids and Steve filed into the room and made themselves comfortable on the couches. On the tv was Steve talking to me. He spoke of a secret project he’s been working on for a long time and this video was a culmination of all his efforts. The secret project was him learning to play (on the piano) our wedding song my brother wrote for us 20 years ago.

I was in shock and emotional.

For the record, Steve doesn’t play the piano. But the video chronicled his journey of taking piano lessons outside our home and then practicing every time I left the home to drive soccer or had meetings at the school. The kids were all in on it – they all knew what was going on and I was clueless.

Hallie helped by compiling the video together and she did an amazing job. She took all the videos Steve had filmed while learning to play and then told a beautiful story of his humor and wit and lack of musical ability. 🙂 She captured his diligence and efforts and even frustrations. It was beautiful and so moving and I’d share it if it wasn’t so vulnerable for him.

Even as I write it about it now, it still makes me emotional. It was the most tender and meaningful Christmas gift I’ve ever received. He showed me love in a way I hadn’t witnessed before and it was touching.

I asked if he was going to keep taking lessons now that the gift has been presented. He didn’t think he wanted to spend the time and money to keep up with lessons, but he still sits down to work through the song a few times a week. I love hearing the song bounce off the walls of our home, it reminds me of our commitment to each other and my love for this special man.

As a sidenote: I think this little project has sparked an interest in Hunter and he’s been sitting down at the piano for probably an hour daily working through songs he’s learning from youtube. Morning and night we hear the latest song he’s trying to master and I love it.

Squirrel love…

The first time I heard the words “squirrel feeder kit” was when Briggs was sitting on Santa’s lap at our neighborhood party. I asked him about it later and he kept talking about the list of 27 things. I had no idea what he was talking about – he just kept repeating, “You know, the 27 list.” After some additional digging I found out the 27 list was a list he gave me of the things he wanted for Christmas. Sandwiched between gum and and candy lower on the list was squirrel feeder kit. He also gave me one of those large toy catalogs and he had circled the feeder kit in the magazine – not sure how I missed that circle on page 72 of 150!

I broke the news to him we don’t have squirrels. He informed me we don’t have any because we don’t leave food out for them…hence the need for the squirrel feeder kit. He really put in some time thinking about this. With this much concern I knew he needed to open this on Christmas.

Just before Christmas a note came home from school. He had written a letter to the classroom elf and wouldn’t you know it, Twix was kind enough to write back. (Evidently this is a continuous letter which is why it starts out the way it does – they have been writing to the elf back and forth)

The excitement on Christmas morning when he ripped the paper and saw his most sought after gift was priceless. Who would’ve thought that much happiness could come from such a simple gift.

When we were done opening gifts, you better believe he immediately got to work – the squirrels could not go another hour without being fed!

Unfortunately, there have been no squirrel sightings – major disappointment. Briggs even insisted we put it in a place where our backyard cameras are so we can hopefully catch a glimpse. I love his energy around this and I really hope we find some success but it’s not looking good. If nothing else, we have a beautiful art project displayed in our back yard.

A quick thank you to Mark Rober and his popular “Squirrel Ninja Course” youtube video for Briggs’ new found interest in the furry little creatures!

Christmas day 2023…

Christmas at our house is an event – we have no where to be on Christmas day and we take advantage of our time together. Present opening has always been done at a snails pace. Open a few presents. Prep breakfast. Open a few presents. Eat breakfast. Open a few presents. Play with a few presents. Open a few more.

We’ve always done it this way to so our kids don’t know any different but their friends always seem alarmed with how long it takes for us to finish up – and not because the amount of presents. We just like to take our time.

I love the excitement of the morning and I love capturing the moments. However, the videos from this morning are even better because of all the funny commentary and stories you hear in the background of all the videos.

Here are a few of my favorite reactions:

Steve’s parents joined us for a good portion of our morning including breakfast and its always fun to share our morning with them – they have become a staple in our home Christmas morning. We even had Steve’s brother visiting from out of town and he also stopped by to enjoy our morning with us.

And then there is always the aftermath – chaotic and messy but oddly relaxing at the same time: Everyone content and occupied with their gifts.

There were so many happy moments. And not just happy, but deeply fulfilling ones as well. Knowing our family is growing and on the cusp of big changes we were all fully aware of the desire to linger with this magic just a little longer.

Christmas eve 2023…

I have decided my favorite Christmas Eves are when they fall on Sunday. It forces us to be a little more prepared – shopping and presents are totally buttoned up by Saturday and then we get to enjoy our time as a family on Christmas Eve. We had a beautiful musical program which invited the spirit of Christmas and started our day with the correct focus.

We hosted our friends for our annual Christmas Eve dinner. If I’m counting correctly this is our 6th year together for this dinner. I called my friend a week before wanting to finalize some details for our evening. She was sensitive to the idea this may be Hallie’s last Christmas for a few years if she chooses to leave on a mission next fall – and wanted to make sure we didn’t feel obligated to carry on with this tradition if we wanted our private family time. She couldn’t be further from our desire of wanting to gather – this is Christmas eve: Our family and their family under one roof – eating, playing chimes and touring the neighborhood to see the luminaries and lights. We wouldn’t want it any other way!

I’m happy to report our chimes get better every year. There were a few years when the kids were younger, it was hard to make out what song we were trying to play. But this year, we were solid.

And without planning it – our Christmas jammies were nicely coordinated this year!

The kids get to open two presents on Christmas eve: Their Christmas pajamas and the gift from their sibling. I know when we first started doing sibling gifts I was fighting to keep it being opened on Christmas day, but the kids voted early on to open them on Christmas eve. I think at the time it was a selfish desire to open more gifts a day early, but we did it. Now, I see the importance and value of opening sibling gifts outside of the excitement of Christmas morning and I absolutely love it.

There is time and attention given to some special gifts the kids are so excited to give and receive. It is probably my favorite gift opening we do – because there is so much love and they feel compelled to give such big hugs of gratitude to each other.

Hugs all around!

We ended the night with Steve reading his family tradition book, “Twas the night before Christmas”. Which I’m guessing ends up being a little silly and more playful than most readings of the same book.

And then it was off to bed…

Except for they’re getting older and only the two youngest went to bed while the others stayed up far later than should be allowed for Santa to get his work done. 🙂

Christmas card 2023…

This year’s Christmas card was a celebration of our 20 years – one family picture for every year we’ve been married.

Life is an accumulation of many seasons. For 20 years, we have been in the season of building and raising an active family. How it started…

How it’s going…

The next 20 years will be a season of launching our children into adulthood. We’re learning to celebrate all the seasons.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas in your season of life.