Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Christmas memories

It's mid-January and I'm reflecting on our annual visit to NC for Christmas.  The trip was in jeopardy a bit this year when Cory came down with a stomach bug on Christmas day.  Yuck!  What timing.  But he rallied and we pulled everything together to leave as scheduled the day after Christmas.  We didn't pull out at the crack of dawn or anything, but we got out reasonably early and he got us safely to our stopping point in Charleston, WV.  We drove the rest of the way to Winston-Salem the following day and joined the Hipp family celebration already in progress.  That evening we opened gifts with Nana and Grandy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas

A new tradition for our family.  I was inspired by several different friends/blogs to do a few more Christmas crafts, goodies this year so I came up with my own version of The 12 Days of Christmas.  Each day leading up to Christmas one of the girls gets to open an envelope that explains the Christmas themed activity of the day.  

Day 1:  Read Christmas books around the Christmas tree.  (Wear PJ's. Bring blankets).

We have so many wonderful children's Christmas books that we've collected over the years.  Some of them are from my teaching days.  Those bring back special memories.  Others have been given to the girls by various family members and friends.  A few of our favorites are A Tale of Three Trees, The Crippled Lamb, Dick and Jane A Christmas Story, Nativity (An Usborne Lift-the-flap book), Mr. Crispy's Story of the First Candy Canes and The Night Before Christmas.  One of my favorites is The Gift of the Magi a book given to me by my parents in 1986.  (I know this b/c they wrote on the inside cover of the book.  A good thing to do).   This ended up being a really special time for me and the girls.  I put Jack to bed, we got in our PJ's (Cory was out of town :( ) and we got cozy with blankets and pillows at the foot of our Christmas tree.  I read some aloud to to the girls and Ella and Hannah Jane read some aloud as well.  Day 1 was a big hit and the girls went to bed anticipating the 2nd day of The 12 days of Christmas.

Day 2:  Enjoy a special Christmas lunch.

I filled the girls' lunch boxes on this day with all things green and red.  They had apple juice, red jello, bagels w/ green-tinted cream cheese and red, white and green popcorn.  I sent them a special Merry Christmas note and they LOVED it!  Both girls came home very excited about their lunches.  Maggie enjoyed hers at home b/c she didn't have pre-school this day.

Day 3:  Watch Charlie Brown's Christmas.

I planned this day's activities according to the network's broadcast of Charlie Brown's Christmas.  Cory was home, so the whole family cuddled on our sofas together and watched our very favorite Christmas show.  I love that this Christmas special captures the true meaning of Christmas.  Linus recites the scripture's account of Christ's birth.  It is precious.

Day 4:  Make Gingerbread Houses.

Wow!  This was fun!  The girls got really creative and messy.  I helped Maggie quite a bit with the structure of her little house.  That was the tricky part.  We used a recipe I got from the graham cracker box.   Each girl had their own work space with all the items they needed.  They turned out great and it was a learning experience for Ella who's quite the perfectionist.  (Not sure where she gets it)??


Day 5:  Make Christmas cookies.

We have been making sugar cookies at Christmas for several years now - going on 5 or 6 if I had to guess.  (The kind where you roll out the dough and cut out shapes with cookie cutters).  

I remember making these same cookies as a child with my mom.  The girls love making these cookies!  Their favorite part is decorating.  We used a new egg free recipe this year for the cookie as well as an egg free recipe for Royal Icing.  They turned out really pretty.  Ella and Hannah Jane are so creative and artistic.  I have hopefully gotten a little better at not micro-managing the decorating and allowing them artistic freedom.  This was a lot of fun!

They turned out really pretty.  Ella and Hannah Jane are so creative and artistic.  I have hopefully gotten a little better at not micro-managing the decorating and allowing them artistic freedom.  This was a lot of fun!

Day 6:  Go to the Nutcracker.

I love ballet!  I love live performances!  I love Christmas!  Put all of these together and what more fabulous event can you imagine than The Nutcracker.  I adore the music, the costumes and the beautiful dancers.  The girls and I went this year to a performance in St. Louis at Washington University put on by The Missouri Ballet Theater.  We went with our neighbor Carey Davis, her daughter Allie and Allie's grandmother.  

Ella, Hannah Jane and Maggie all love our neighbor Allie.  (She's 17 :)).  

Here are all the girls waiting for the show to begin.

A picture with our Playbills.

At intermission we went out into the lobby and the girls had the opportunity to get their picture made with Clara.  They were in awe of her.  She was super sweet and she did an excellent job in her role.

We all had a lovely afternoon.  (Probably my favorite of all the days so far.  Maybe because it didn't involve cleaning up a big mess. Ha!)

Day 7:  Make an edible Nativity Scene.

I got this idea from my friend Jen Conant's blog.  She got the idea from Pinterest.  It was similar to making gingerbread houses.  The girls each made their own.  

We had fun with this one as well and the thing they loved the most about it was that I let them eat them when they were finished.  

Day 8:  Go see Christmas Lights

I heard about a big Christmas lights show in Eureka, MO called Santa's Magical Kingdom.  We decided to pile the kids in the car and go check it out.  It's the kind where you pay a certain amount per vehicle to drive through.  It was pretty impressive and for $18 there aren't many things a family of 6 can do for entertainment. 


Day 9:  Read the Christmas story by candlelight.

Cory and the girls piled on the sofa and we listened to him read the Christmas story.  I believe he read the account in Luke.   I never grow tired of hearing this story read.

(BTW- those are battery operated candles).

Day 10:  Make Snow Globes

Unfortunately I didn't prepare enough for this activity and when I went to gather the materials, I couldn't find everything at the store I went to.  I was running errands during Jack's nap and had a limited amount of time... So... Cory took the girls to Orange Leaf instead (their favorite frozen yogurt store).  I really want to do this craft next year, because I think the girls would really like it.

The directions to make these are on my Pinterest page and also on Jen Conant's blog. 

Day 11:  Make a Birthday cake for Jesus

This is another tradition that we've held for many years.  Since Ella was little bitty we've been celebrating Jesus' birthday.  We make a King cake using sugar cones to look like the points of a crown and candy to look like the jewels of a crown.  

This year I even found Happy Birthday Jesus plates and napkins to make the party that much more festive.  
It's a really great way to keep the focus of the holiday on what really matters - the birth of Christ.

Here's a video of the girls' singing.

Day 12:  Go to a Christmas Eve Service

We went to church Christmas Eve with our neighbors and friends Al, Carey, Nate and Allie Davis.  They go to Windsor Crossing in Chesterfield.  It's a great church.  We enjoyed spending the evening with them.  The girls were all with us and their favorite part of the service was the candle lighting and also sitting with Allie.  Since I grew up going to church on Christmas Eve, this event really makes it feel like Christmas for me.  The traditional Christmas Carols focus my mind and heart right on the Christ child who came into this world to save us all.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chris Tomlin Concert

I had the joy and privilege to take Ella and Hannah Jane to their very first concert.  We went to see Chris Tomlin!  He rocked!  Also, Christy Nockels performed (icing on the cake) and Louis Giglio spoke.  It was a true blessing.  The girls loved it - the dark arena, the lights and the pumping music.

(Oh, and did I mention snacks - pretzel, nachos, popcorn and cotton candy)?!!  We had such a large time on our girls' night out. It was a late night - Hannah Jane fell asleep during the last song, sweet girl.  

This evening is forever etched on my heart- my heart swollen with hope and prayers that my girls would grow to love and know their savior more and more intimately with each passing year.