Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Santa Sign is here!

Every year our Christmas season is marked by a series of traditional events, one of the oldest being the placing of the Santa sign. The time has finally come and the kids have hammered this poor, over-pounded sign into the ground outside our house where it will sit until Christmas day, a reminder to Santa of the good little kids living in this house.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Way to go Yellow!

I didn't want to mess with the "flow" of the Holiday Memories postings, so I've been saving this for after those were done. Now that they're completed I can fill you in on the news around here.

Tristan (aka "Yellow" to his Daddy) had his Tae Kwon Do belt testing on Dec. 8. Wow, was that an ordeal. 4 hours of it to be exact. But he did such a great job and walked out of it with his yellow belt. We're proud in all that he accomplished and are especially proud that he skipped an entire belt color, advancing 2 belt colors instead of just one. Way to go Tristan!

Here are some shots of him in action on testing day:

And here is our proud yellow belt himself:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

HM20: The New Year

It's so hard to think about the fact that a new year is rapidly approaching. Christmas is just a few days off and that's still the focus here. After Christmas though things start moving along, back into the normal rhythm of life. By New Years Eve the Christmas tree is down, the decorations have been packed away and, besides the host of extra toys, things are just as they are the other 11 months of the year.

New Years Eve will be wonderful this year. It's the first time Brian has been home with us since he started in law enforcement and we're all excited about spending it together. We actually have the option of having the kids go to my Dad's house this New Years, but there aren't any big parties or plans that we've been invited to attend so I think we'll be staying home with the kids.

New Years Eve is the only night of the year that the kids are allowed to stay up until midnight (and get to sleep in the front room) and they make the most of it. We bring out pillows, blankets and sleeping bags and make a nice comfy place for the kids on the front room floor. Then we chose a movie or two and sit down and watch them together. We play some games (I'm sure Disney Scene It! will be played, maybe some new games received for Christmas too). We munch on popcorn or make ice cream sundaes. We just enjoy hanging out together.

The kids all really try hard to stay wake. It's sometimes difficult, since they aren't used to staying up and they're so warm and comfy watching movies. Usually at least one of them falls asleep before midnight, but we're hoping they all make it thisyear.

About 10 minutes until midnight we turn on the TV to catch the ball dropping in Times Square (OK, so it dropped 3 hours ago by the time we saw it, but it's our tradition even though it's not live). We all yell "Happy New Years" and hug each other. Then we pose for our traditional first photo of the new year. Shortly after, the lights go out and we all go to bed.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

HM19: The Stash

Well, this prompt will have to wait until after the big day. So look for pictures of our loot and what our faves are after Christmas. :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

HM18: Christmas Day

Our Christmas Day traditions are somewhat less regimented than our Christmas Eve ones.

We are awoken early in the morning to the voices of our children trying to wake us up and asking if they can go see what they got from Santa. We try to get them to head back to bed but, of course, that doesn't happen. As soon as we're coherent enough we hop out of bed and head for the front room with the kids.

Santa always leaves them one big gift and a stocking filled with goodies. They ooohhhh and aaaahhhh over their big gift and then dive into their stockings. After about 20 minutes they are ready to move on to opening the gifts under the tree.

I usually sneak off into the kitchen to bake some cinnamon rolls for our Christmas Day breakfast. YUM!

Sometime during Christmas day we have people over. We have a "we stay home" rule for Christmas day, so if someone wants to see us they have to come over here. We usually have at least 2 sets of Grandparents, and sometimes all 3, visit on Christmas day. So after opening our gifts their are always gifts from the Grandparents to open too.

My favorite thing for Christmas Day is watching the Disney Christmas Parade on TV. I'm such a Disney freak and this one is always filled with great music, great characters and that unforgetable Disney magic!

We have a Christmas dinner in the afternoon, usually with a ham (though I'm cooking both turkey and ham this year). Then things begin to wind down. The kids open the boxes and play with all of their gifts. Brian and I try to clean up from the piles and piles of Christmas wrapping paper, empty boxes and packing materials.

By the time evening rolls around we are all tired and ready to hit the hay. Another Christmas Day is done but we look forward to the ones still left to come.

Monday, December 17, 2007

HM17: Christmas Eve

We have a plethora of Christmas Eve traditions in our household and we're looking forward to enjoying them all this year.

The first tradition is a new take on an old favorite of Brian's. When he was a kid he would watch "Santa Watch" on the local news stations. This was a program for kids keeping them up to date on the whereabout of Jolly Old St. Nick. He has such fond memories of this as a kid that when our kids were old enough he tried to introduce them to it ... only to find out that they no longer do it. But we were able to find a substitute at All day Christmas Eve the kids look forward to the hourly reports and videos of Santa's journey.

We spend some time on Christmas Eve watching Christmas movies too. My personal favorite is the 1995 version of "Miracle on 34th Street". Other favorites are "Polar Express" and the Jim Carrey version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." We'll be sure to watch one or two of those on Christmas Eve.

After lunch on Christmas Eve I always remind the kids that Santa won't be leaving presents for girls and boys with dirty bedrooms. He wants to see that the kids are being responsible and cleaning up after themselves. This means they all have some work to do and spend an hour or two (or three) making their rooms spick and span. This is the only time each year when I can get them to clean their room without delay. LOVE that!

Every Christmas Eve we load up in the van with whoever is over visiting (I think it might be my Dad this year) and drive around town looking at all the Christmas lights. This is one of those traditions that started way back when we had little children and no money. It's something we've carried on since then.

Right before heading to bed we read "Twas the Night Before Christmas." In previous years we've all cuddled on the couch in the shadow of our glittering Christmas tree and either Brian or I have read it. This year we've decided to let the kids do some reading too. I'm looking forward to having the kids read it this year.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

HM16: What does Christmas mean to you?

Today's challenge is to ask your children what Christmas means to them. Here are their answers:

  • Getting together with your family to open presents and to see each others faces when they get them.
  • Snow
  • Santa
  • Reindeer
  • Christmas Trees
  • Decorations
  • Christmas spirit
  • Happy spirit
  • Giving thanks
  • Christmas trees
  • Santa
  • Ornaments
  • Snow
  • Presents

Saturday, December 15, 2007

HM15: Christmas Season Traditions

We have a few key Christmas traditions in our home. Many of those are Christmas Eve related, so I'll leave those for a later posting. But here's a few traditions that we enjoy in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

We always go out to the tree farm to pick our own Christmas tree. It takes quite a bit of searching before we find one that I'm happy with. Each and every year Brian gets down on the wet, muddy ground to saw the tree down then he and the boys try to haul it to the car. The boys tend to drop their end so by the time we reach the car we have a half-muddy Christmas tree.

We also love to go see Santa. In previous years we had taken them to Santaland in downtown Portland, but it closed up 2 years ago. Now we take them to Santa's House in the Woodburn Company Stores. We make sure to take them between 6 & 7 pm, when there is snow falling outside of Santa's House. And even though the snow is only some sort of sudsy fake snowfall thing, we love it anyways.

Friday, December 14, 2007

HM14: Weather

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas ..."

Yes, this is me. I dream of a white Christmas. I dream of waking up Christmas morning to newfallen snow, of opening presents in front of our non-existant fireplace then bundling up to go outside to make snow angels before coming inside to warm up with hot chocolate.

Of course, I live in Oregon. It doesn't often snow here (and no, rain is not the same thing!) and it certainly hasn't snowed for any Christmas Day I've ever experienced.

But if I had a Christmas wish it would be for snow ...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

HM13: Wrapping Gifts

I'm not sure there is anything about Christmas that I don't like. I seem to find joy in everything that Christmas brings, including wrapping gifts. I really love to wrap everything.

I have a big wrapping session about a week after we put up the tree. I banish the kids to another room and turn on the animated versions of Rudolph, Frosty and The Grinch for them. Then I scurry out to the front room, put on my favorite Christmas movies (this year it was "White Christmas" and the 1995 version of "Miracle on 34th Street") and wrap to my hearts content. I don't do anything spectacular with the gifts, just wrapping paper and bows. But I have fun doing it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

HM12: Choosing Gifts

Today's challenge is to post what holiday gifts you got for everyone and why you chose them. Well, I'm not going to give you all the satisfaction. I'm going to make you wait until you open them. So there!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

HM11: Holiday Shopping

I LOVE holiday shopping. I know, I'm one of those in the minority but there's something about all that shopping that just makes me happy. I love getting into the holiday spirit early and starting my Christmas shopping in October. I love getting up at 4:30am the day after Thanksgiving and scurrying down to the store still sleepy-eyed to gather great holiday deals. I love to search the holiday ads for great deals on holiday gifts for my loved ones. And I love to have the shopping done and have them all wrapped and under the tree well before Christmas day.

Monday, December 10, 2007

HM10: Christmas Carols

I'm a music-lover at heart so Christmas carols are something that I absolutely love. There is a station in Portland that plays Christmas music 24 hours a day and I love to turn that on during my morning drive to work. The kids absolutely love my musical carousel, which plays a variety of Christmas carols. I can't say that I have a favorite one, but I certainly do love the bit of Christmas glee that they bring.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

HM9: Holiday Eating

Yummmmm ... I love holiday food. I have several must-haves each holiday season and they all revolve around my sweettooth (suprise, surprise! LOL).

My absolute favorite is nanimo bars. These are 3 layer bars. The bottom layer is a mix of crushed graham crackers, coconut, walnuts and chocolate. The middle layer is vanilla pudding mix and butter (this is the sweetest, yummiest part!) and the top layer is just plain chocolate. You chill them and cut them into squares to enjoy. I can't make these until 1 or 2 days before Christmas because I will sit and snack on them all day long. They are just sooooo yummy.

Another favorite is my homemade cheesecake. I'm not a huge cheesecake lover, but this homemade recipe I have is just so wonderful. I like to top it with sweetened raspberries. Again, this is a just-before-Christmas project for me.

My final favorite holiday food are spritzer cookies. Believe it or not, I haven't actually made these since I was a kid. My mom makes them every year and brings some over to trade them for my nanimo bars. This year I am determined to make them with the kids. My Mom got me a spritzer machine last year and I haven't yet used it.

So while I haven't actually made anything for holiday eating, I will be doing it soon. I'll post pictures of all when the time comes.

Happy Eating all!!!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

HM8: Christmas Cards

Here's my little pile of Christmas cards, all written up and ready to go. I sent 14 this year ... about the same number that I send every year. These go mainly to family member but some also go to our close friends. This year we included photos from Brian's police academy graduation. I don't send out a mass newsletter to everyone. I prefer to write personal messages, which is why it takes me 2 evenings to complete all of the cards. But they are completed and are ready to be mailed out. YEAH!

Friday, December 07, 2007

HM7: Holiday Parties

Oh, Christmas parties. Dressing up in beautiful holiday dresses, sharing bowls of egg nog and tables of holiday goodies. You always see these on TV but here in the real world it doesn't happen. At least not here in the boondocks where I live. There are no Christmas parties where you dress up and hob-nob with your friends. At least I've never been invited to one. Then again, it couldn't be that I'm a hermit, could it?!? LOL

Holiday parties ... who needs them?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

HM6: Outdoor Decorations

Each year I get the urge to put up the outdoor Christmas lights. The urge usually hits before Thanksgiving, on a day when the sun is shining and it seems perfect "lights" weather. Of course, I'm nearly always wrong about this because by the time I've gotten the lights from the attic, untangled them and readied them for hanging, evening has come and with it the cold. This year I put them up in the semi-dark with freezing cold fingers. (I will admit that Brian did come help, as I do NOT get on the roof .) Yet I was determined... I wanted them up and ready for Thanksgiving night, when we turn them on. And I did get them up and we did turn them on Thanksgiving night, despite Brian's claim that they should not be turned on until the night AFTER Thanksgiving.

This is what our house looks like now, glowing brightly in the cold winter night. Adorned with bring blue and white bulbs, flashing snowflakes and spiral tree.

Beyond the lights we have two very important Christmas additions. A fresh wreath always adorns the front door, hung with the same bow and the same jingle bells that have graced the wreath for several years.

For the kids the most important piece is the "Santa Stop Sign", which they ceremoniously hammer into the yard each year.

I really love our outdoor decorations and sharing our holiday spirit with neighbors and friends.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

HM5: Indoor Decorations

Decorating for Christmas is always fun for us. The biggest focus is the tree, but we also have a lot of little Christmas items strewn around the house.

These sleigh bells for instance. We've had them for 10 years and each years the kids truly enjoy them. They have been used in past years to simulate Santa's sleigh bells when he comes to check to see if the kids are in bed. Of course, the kids each take a turn ringing them while we are trying to find a place to put them up. Nothing like sleigh bells to wake up the holiday spirit.

I also love this Christmas carousel. It was given to me by Brian's parents many years ago after the kids and I admired it at their house. Each time we were over the kids would turn it on and watch it go round and round, light glowing, to the sound of Christmas carols. This has been a favorite of everyone's but Carissa especially loves it and has a habit of turning it on whenever the mood strikes her.

My Snowbaby collection holds a special place in my heart and in our homes each winter. My first Snowbaby was a gift from Brian the first Christmas after Chase was born. Now my collection has grown and I have several shelves of them. I love bringing them out each year.

My absolutel favorite indoor decoration, if you can call it that, are the kids Christmas stockings. I cross-stitched these stockings for the kids, finally finishing Carissa's last Christmas Eve. Now there is a complete set of stockings, homemade with love. I hope the kids will treasure these as much as I treasure the one I had as a child.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

HM4: Decorating the Tree

Well, I'm a bit ahead here today too. It was on actually decorating the tree. Since I can't seem to shut up when posting, I already talked about this. :)

Monday, December 03, 2007

HM3: Putting up the Tree

We LOVE our Christmas tree. We love picking a really big one and making Brian haul it in the house. We love putting it up and decorating it with colored lights, glittery snowflakes, Christmas balls and garlands. And the best part of it all is the crowing glory - our angel.
This angel is so special to me. Brian and I got it the first Christmas we were married. It lights up and it's wings and arms move. It is beautiful and unique and carries so many wonderful memories. It has now graced our tree for 13 wonderful years of togetherness. It just wouldn't be Christmas without her.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

HM2: Picking Your Tree

Today's Holiday Memory is picking your tree. I already posted that a few posts below this one so I'm already way ahead of the game. ;)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

HM1: The reason for the Season

We can politely be called a "non-religious family". We don't celebrate the religious aspect of Christmas. Instead we celebrate this as a season of togetherness, of cuddling up on the couch watching holiday movies, of making cookies and treats together, of decorating the house, of listening to Christmas music, of driving around to enjoy the holiday lights, of thoughtful gifts, of the magic of Santa Claus. We celebrate this as a fun season of memorable, happy times spent with one another. So while we don't celebrate the traditional way, we do enjoy our own traditions and the happiness and joy they bring to all in our family.