'Twas the Night Before Christmas...

Christmas Eve is always a big, tradition-filled deal at our home. To me it eclipses Christmas day for pure magic and memory making. This year my sister Shona, and her husband Marc were there to help us carry out all the traditions and it was so much fun!

So here's my usual painfully detailed pictorial to cover some of the high spots.

We shall begin with the annual building of the Gingerbread House with Uncle Marc.
He aint heavy, he's my brother. My excited bwown boys.The men and the kids. Aaron and Marc have bonded over the trials and tribulations (er... wonders and joys) of being married to two women who are eerily similar in some regards.

Beautiful table setting. Thanks Aunty Shona!
The Christmas Eve dinner. Our mom's yummy lamb recipe, ably recreated by the boys.To family! And Christmas!
An excited little girl in a very twirly dress.
This photo makes me laugh. They have this angelic glow, thanks to me taking a photo at the same time as Shona's flash was going off.A slightly more accurate representation

Off to make our final "Drop".

We do the 12 Days of Christmas for a family each year. It is so much fun figuring out how to represent each of the 12 days in gifts people would actually like to have (as opposed to a delivery of 6 geese a-laying or 10 demented men jumping up and down).

We finish up with 12 Drummers Drumming on Christmas Eve (this year was a turkey -(with drum-sticks, get it?? and drumstick ice-cream cones). This is the hilarity that ensued after the less then graceful and stealthy get awayGo! Go! Go!
Our laughter soon turned to touched tears when we read the card that had been left for "Our 12 days of Christmas loves". It told about how their beloved dog had died just before we started making our "drops" and how with each day the grief had been replaced a little bit with the joy of the season. It was a really sweet and touching note, and since we do not know the family very well at all, it was a lovely insight into who they are. So anyway picture the scene, Gabe is reading the note in his sweet, clear little boys voice, the song "Let their peace on earth and let it begin with me" is playing on the radio as accompaniment. We are all gently sobbing, hearts fit to burst with Christmas joy. When suddenly the unbearably sentimental hallmark moment is interrupted with the sound of squeaking. It is the sound of sneakers squeaking against a window. Benj, having thrown himself head first into the van during the great escape, had quietly listened to the (somewhat long) letter with his head still somewhere in the vicinity of Gracie's shoes. So we were back to the hilarity and lifted from our Chicken Soup for the Anonymous Turkey Toss and Runners Soul moment. But still feeling very warm, fuzzy and grateful.

The Christmas program read from Luke and Matthew and lots of Christmas carols sung

Sleeping in heavenly peace. Here Finny is falling asleep as we sing Silent Night. Appropriate. (*my fuzzy self is singing melodiously here, not snoring with my mouth open)
Winding down with a Christmas movie

and some hot chocolate
Anxiously tracking Santa on Norad. Ack! He's getting close! Commence preparations! Stat!Reindeer food sprinkled on lawn whilst wearing (initially disappointing) new gift of frog towel*. Check. (*To be fair, when you can only open one present, nobody wants it to be a hooded towel.)
Finny inspects the cookies and milk. Letter for Santa? Check

Gracie especially asked Santa not to forget to put something in Thumper's little stocking.
Annual reading of the Night Before Christmas by Aunty Shona who gave us that very copy of the book several years ago....and a hasty retreat to bed.

Minutia holds momentous things hostage...

I gave a lesson entitled "Avoiding Crisis Living" today. I loved this quote, much food for thought there, and quite timely given the coming new, fresh year coming up! Credit to Emma for making it so pretty.

My favourite Christmas movie. Now on Youtube!

Carolyn reminded me of my favourite Christmas movie. It has been a Christmas tradition of ours too for as long as I can remember. In Mr. Krueger's Christmas, Jimmy Stewart plays the sweet, lonely Mr. Krueger. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir provides the soundtrack. (From their album" White Christmas", which is also a un-negotiable part of our Christmas. My brother Seth, and I once walked around our neighbourhood on Christmas Eve trying to find someone who had a record player to loan us so we could play it, since our record player was broken. It was just not Christmas without that album.)

Anyway back to the movie. It is sweet, heart-breaking, funny and tender. There is one of the most beautiful scenes of any movie I have ever seen near the end, which is in my opinion, Jimmy Stewart's best work. It is less then 30 minutes long, and I highly recommend you share it with your family. I bet it will become one of your favourites too. Merry Christmas again!

Christmas Eve Program

We have a tradition of putting on a homespun (ie child written directed and acted) Christmas Play each Christmas Eve (since I was a wee lass). It has a Christmas message but it is generally not a nativity play. So I am always looking for a way to incorporate the story of the Nativity into our Christmas Eve celebration. It is special and essential, to have that quiet, sacred time to remember what this is all about in the midst of all the fun and excitement. Sitting in the light of the Christmas tree, reading the Christmas story in Luke and Matthew and singing Silent Night is definitely the most magical time of my Christmas Eve.

This is the program my marvelous counselor Denise found for our Young Women Christmas Lesson on Sunday. I thought it was lovely. Simple and spiritual and very touching. I plan to do it with my family on Christmas Eve and thought I would share if anyone was looking for something similar. Merry Christmas!

Matthew 1: 18-23:

Sing: “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful”

Luke 2: 1-7:

Sing: “Away In a Manger”

Luke 2: 8-14:

Sing: “The First Noel”

Luke 2: 15-20:

Sing: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Sing: “With Wondering Awe”

Matthew 2: 1-11:

Sing: “Joy to the World”

Luke II Video

(This is so beautiful and touching only 5.28 mins long)
Sing: “Silent Night”


Crystal world....

No secret that I am not a great fan of the lack of sunlight and the cold in Winter, but when it is this beautiful I can tolerate and even embrace it. I find ice storms a real miracle of nature. It is breathtaking (and not just because it is so cold), to see everything so perfectly encapsulated and frozen in time. No number of twinkly Christmas lights can compare to the delicate shimmering of a tree with each branch and twig draped in crystal. God really is the Master artist.

I went out to take pictures the other day in just a sweater with wet hair. After several minutes of snapping away, I said to my kids, "wow it is really not that cold out here" and they said, "actually it really is. For once you think it is not cold and we think it is mommy! It is because you are distracted by taking pictures of the beauty". Ah they know me well. Beauty really does counteract a multitude of evils. My pictures cannot begin to do it all justice but they try. As always, clicking on them will enhance the effect tremendously. (Really, do it, you won't regret it ;)

Festive frozen berries

Perfectly preserved parsley

Ice Princess, sitting pretty
Winter Wonderland

The Ice Avengers. Saving mankind one smashed icicle at a time

Ice Anenomes
Lacey crystals

Icy animals
Tearful hydrangeas

O Tannenbaum (the sturdy kind that doesn't mind the snow (or ice)
Our Ice House with drippy shutters

More pictures for those who find ice as fascinating as I do, here.

PS:Today is officially the first day of Winter and also the coldest day of the year. I had a frozen nostril hairs experience out on a parking lot tundra tonight, when I was literally lifted and blown into my car by the most freezing wind you could imagine.

The Lemonade Awards

I have been remiss in acknowledging this gesture so graciously extended by my sweet friend Janet. Who can be found at The Money Jar and also at Life in Focus. Janet is a Southern Belle and everything a Southern Belle should be. She is a real lady and a good Christian, really one of the kindest, most genuine and generous people I have ever met and such an example to me. I am honoured to call her a friend. I love Janet.

A couple of days ago I received a nomination from Denise at Full Nest. Denise is someone I admire so much for her cheerful capability through good and bad times. She reminds me of a pioneer woman, strong, brave with great ingenuity and creativity in making life good for her family, come what may. I always picture her with a big smile on her face, because that is the only way I have ever seen her (and no, I do not just know her through the photos she posts ;). Another great example to me. I love Denise.

The rules connected to this award, tend to paralyze me which is why it has taken me so long to acknowledge this award. I am supposed to nominate at least 10 people whose blogs show great attitude and gratitude. So here goes..

I have known Carolyn for many years and stages of life and I have dubbed her the Energizer Bunny. I don't think I have ever heard Carolyn's voice sound "down" it is always bubbly and she always sounds as though she is about to burst out laughing. She has so much excitement for life and a lot of love and compassion for others.

Another Pioneer woman. Kim has been dealing with a lot lately, but she is never defeated. I really admire her tenacity and her commitment to her kids and community, regardless of what struggles she may be going through, she comes through for them and makes miracles happen.

"I can do hard things" I have loved watching Julie do hard things and conquer them. She lives life on her own terms and that is inspiring.

I recently re-discovered Elaine, a childhood friend, through her blog. She blogs about her life with her family in England. It find it so comforting and cozy to read, she creates many simple pleasures for her kids. Like me she lives far from family, unlike me, she does not seem to whine about it.

Has survived 4 years of being my neighbour. 'Nuff said. Seriously as her blog header says, "if you can' t find the bright side of life, shine the dull side." I am constantly amazed at her upbeat, can-do attitude. She is always discovering and doing something new, and starting an exciting new endeavour with hope and enthusiasm.

Another recently re-discovered friend from times past. April is funny and unabashedly giddy about all things girly and stylish. A couple of months ago she featured several very honest posts about living with a child with spina-bifida. Many families are torn apart by such a challenge, but it seems to have only brought hers closer. I think many families must be blessed through the example they have set in living joyfully with an unforeseen physical challenge, and not letting it define either them or their child.

How I love Miss Twina. One of the most kind, gentle, and perennially idealistic and positive people I have ever met who has also been through more then most people I know. I can't wait to be invited over to her mansion in heaven :)

Kallie moved away when I was only just feeling like I was getting to know her, so I have loved watching her babies grow via her blog. I never fail to smile or laugh when I see photos of her adorable happy kids along with her understated and witty commentary. She really seems to be enjoying and making the most of her motherhood experience, and her kids are enjoying it too :)

Jen Lynn
Jen Lynn who tolerate the fact that I always call her by her full name and find it amusing to be consistently mean to her. (Weird thing, that). Jen is all about keepin' it real and she has been really generous in sharing her struggles with depression in the past. While she shares the bad days with us, you always have the sense that a better one is just around the corner. I have never had a conversation with Jen where she wasn't smiling and quietly chuckling throughout it. You have got to love a person whose default expression and reaction to anything good or bad is to smile and chuckle. Nervous habit or not, it makes me happy.

Hilarious Julie, keeps me laughing and has such a light and funny outlook on life. She is also the mom of three awesome kids with challenges that can make life pretty complicated. Another mom who does not let those challenges define her kids, herself or her life. I am in awe of moms like these.


Yet another childhood friend re-connected. I love Samatha's honest analytical style of expressing herself in good times and bad. I am so impressed by her commitment to running despite physical problems that make it painful and give her the perfect "out" not to. I am also impressed by her tenacity to her career goals and at the same time, her willingness to be flexible with them when things don't go as planned.

Honourary mention to Benj and Gabe:
Who really are the coolest boys I know (apart from Finny). When things don't go their way, they rarely sulk, in fact they rarely notice. They love life and are grateful for their blessings and this makes me happy.
Who can spin gold from straw. I am amazed at her creative way of looking at things, the fact that she creates beautiful things with such great love, and her endless compassion for brothers who are in trouble (even if they are in trouble for being mean to her).

The list really could go on and on.. and I wish I had the time to extol the virtues of more of my friends, I know some amazing women. I think the internet is a double edged sword. Being allowed into the lives of such incredible women in such an intimate way is so uplifting, inspiring and often educational but at the same time, it can be a bit intimidating to know the calibre of character, talent and strength of so many of the women I associate with. But since I'm being honoured for good attitude here, I will focus on the inspiring part and thank you all for that.

So anyway with great honour comes great responsibility, blahblahblah.... here are the rules associated with this award. Like them, or leave them, it is all the same to me. Just know that I love you and think that you rock.

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!
3. Link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

Christmas carols for the mentally unstable....

I have been feeling particularly distracted and ineffective lately as I flit from one unfinished project to the next like a demented humming bird. There is so much to do! And none of it seems to be getting completely done! I feel sure that if anyone has Adult ADD it is me. I was telling my sister about that this evening when, mid sentence, I was reminded of this little gem. Of course I went looking for it online in the middle of trying to get another project done. Giving someone with ADD tendencies access to the internet is like giving a hyperactive kid lots of sugar and turning them loose in a room full of balls and loud music, and video games, and lot of bright colours and other little kids....

Anyway, lest I get distracted again before I get to publish this post, without further ado, Christmas Carols for the mentally unstable.

Schizophrenia -- Do You Hear What I Hear?

Multiple Personality Disorder -- We Three Kings Disoriented Are

Dementia -- I Think I'll Be Home for Christmas

-- Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me

Manic -- Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and . . .

-- Santa Claus is Coming to Town to Get Me

Borderline Personality Disorder -- Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire

Personality Disorder -- You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm Gonna Pout, Maybe I'll Tell You Why

Attention Deficit Disorder -- Silent Night, Holy OOOOOOOOh look at the Froggy, can I have chocolate, why is France so far away?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder -- Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bell ...

The Christmas Wrapping Paper Solution. Frugal, functional and fabulous dahlings.

A couple of weeks ago I bemoaned the very very serious dilemma I was mulling. That of Christmas wrapping paper. To recap: the cheap stuff, is cheap..and nasty. It looks bad, cuts bad, covers bad. It's just bad. Apart from the fact that it is cheap, and it probably recycles better. Those things are good.

So what is a girl to do? Such problems. Such problems! Buying the glossy thick paper which will be ripped and cast aside on Christmas morning seems like literally throwing one's money away, but it is so much nicer to wrap with, it cuts more easily, it does not tear at the slightest provocation. Do I dare? Do I splurge? Buy the nice wrapping paper? Oh the agonizing. It just struck me that this paragraph is really pretty tragic.

So here's what I did. I bought huge rolls of brown wrapping paper (the type you use to wrap packages for mailing) on sale and at the Dollar Store. There's scads on a roll. I have yet to see the end of one. And it is thick, and it is durable. It cuts like a dream. It leaves no hint of what lies beneath. It is a veritable Fort Knox in the world of wrapping. But yeah..it's brown. Not all that festive.

I disagree, gentle reader, I disagree. I see the brown paper as quite charming. It brings to mind memories of getting "parcels" from my granny. Brown paper packages, tied up in string? I mean it's on the original Favourite Things List people! Before Oprah even!

Ok, then what you do is go to Big Lots. (There will most probably be Big Lots in heaven. I just wanted to let you know so there would be no surprises when you get there), and you buy some home-spun looking ribbon, and you tie those brown paper packages with that ribbon. That infinitely recyclable ribbon. And it looks delightful, and enticing and heart-warming and wholesome . Everything Christmas is supposed to be. And I'm not just telling myself that because I'm cheap. Really. It's quite lovely, and I probably will never go back. The other is starting to look quite garish in comparison. That's how wholesome I am becoming. Of course you could also break out the crayons and let your kids make the paper festive. But I am not quite that wholesome yet. I am a work in progress.

And then..behold-in the words of 4 year old Finny when he woke up to find the tree skirt buried under brown paper packages tied up in (pretty) string. "Now that's what a Christmas tree looks like!"
PS: In the past we have bought different paper to differentiate each kids' gifts without them knowing which is whose. This reduces the success of the guessing-what-is-inside-the-package- through-diligent-daily-fondling process slightly. Of course, now that we've gone all brown all the time, we can't do that anymore. So we assigned each kid a symbol which we drew at the bottom of each package. They are going crazy trying to figure out the gig this year. Of course you could have a different type of ribbon for each kid. But that seems less Alias-ish somehow. And we must get our kicks wherever we can find them.