Monday, December 25, 2017

The Spirit of Christmas...Christmas Day

a little background about our Christmas gifting/giving this year...

Our kids are not a big fan of my brain that loves to come up with new ideas.  Several years ago we started doing an experience gift for our main gift to the kids for Christmas.  I've loved doing this the past few years but this year I couldn't come up with anything that would work with our schedule, fiances, and weather.  In September, I started digging down in my brain and online for some new fresh ideas.  Last year I had the challenge of keeping our Christmas to $350.  This year I needed to financially have a similar goal so we could be on track with our financial plan.  I've also loved the experience gift as really I don't think our kids are too "needy" -- more filled with "wants" which is not necessarily bad. 

Anyways, we decided to do something different and boy did we get flack!  Birch even had parents come up to him at church and say, "I heard your family is not celebrating Christmas this year." took a bit for our kids to get on board but in the end I think they all liked it.  I'm not sure if we will do it again next year.  Okay, this is what we did.  Right before Thanksviging we had a special dinner with Christmas plates and decorations.  Then we presented the kids with baggies that were filled with three things - 1) $10 to go toward their sibling gift (after drawing a sibling's name they each purchase a gift, do an act of service, and make a homemade gift); 2 - a chocolate Santa (this represented how each of them was ready to BECOME Santa...meaning we would do things in "Santa's" name throughout the month and they would not be getting a specific gift from Santa (Birch read a great talk by President Faust about how Santa is emulating Jesus Christ - note all the kids knew about Santa); 3) $$$ (each child received $5/year -- ie. Tyler is 17 years old so he got $85, Nate is 13 years old so he got $65) - this money was for them to purchase whatever they wanted (with parent approval) and then we would wrap the gifts for them and put them under the tree; all purchases had to be made prior to December 15th so we could focus on other Christmas things.

The initial shock brought tears, anger, and disbelief.  I was honestly pretty surprised.  To me being given a lump sum of money and getting to pick out whatever I wanted sounded pretty awesome!!  It's hard coming up with ideas each in that fit in the budget and also that you think the kids will like, wear, want, fit, etc... This took out all the guessing.  Chloe was upset because she wanted an electric car she could ride in...let's be honest, she was never getting that!  So as the weeks went on I saw the kids carefully making selections.  For some this was hard - like the idea of spending the money was hard because then they couldn't take back what they had purchased if they came up with a new idea.  For others they added some of their own money as got something bigger that they really had wanted (and wouldn't have received).  Some got a little overly preoccupied with the ME ME ME of Christmas (where usually the focus should be on others that you are getting gifts for not yourself).  To me this was the negative part of the idea.  I loved not stressing out about the gifts, though.  It was nice to wrap as soon as something came in the mail (oh yeah, we also did something new -- each child had a specific wrapping paper assigned to them that their gifts were wrapped in.  They all wondered why there were no names on the gifts under the tree.  Then in their stocking they had a gift from us in their special paper -- then they knew what was theirs under the tree).

The kick-off Dinner back in November:

Best part of Christmas day was our 8 am phone call from Moldova with Elder Ditto!!!
The allotted forty minutes FLEW by for us!!


Opening Gifts!!!
Chloe got a La La Loopsy Easy Bake Oven she has ALWAYS wanted!!!

Nate got a super cool drone.
Nate trying out the gift he made for Coop - a Indo Board.  He saw this at Seth and Caroline's house and knew he wanted to make one for Coop.  He spent so much time on it and was really happy with the way it turned out.

This is my favorite part about Christmas - seeing the kids gratitude toward each other when they have made a gift for them.

Alysee got Nate a slack line set.
More Christmas day fun!!!
Putting together lego sets that we gave the three youngest kids.

Chloe trying out her Easy Bake Oven for the first time - pizza!
Christmas Dinner with the Andersens!!
We had a super yummy dinner of marinaded pork tenderloins, homemade rolls, mashed potatoes, and salad.

Happy Cousins!

So Christmas 2017 will go down in the books!!!  We had so many opportunities to #Lighttheworld and BECOME Santa throughout the month!  

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve did not disappoint this year!  We started it off with going to church and even singing in church as a family.
A member in the ward snatched this picture of our family singing "Far, Far Away In Judea's Plain."  A few of the boys in the family were pretty sure this equaled a near death experience while the girls were begging for solos.  It was a good family bonding experience to practice together the weeks prior to Christmas Eve.

The Christmas Eve clan...just missing Elder Ditto

Church was only an hour so we spent the rest of the day getting ready for our Smorgasboard and talent show with friends and family.
The smorgasboard never disappoints -- Dad chose chips and salsa, Mom (homemade pizza), Alex (orange chicken), Tyler (curly fries), Nate (cheese, crackers, and salami), Coop (street tacos), Chloe (two kinds of goldfish).  With the others that joined us and also brought their favorites we had TONS to gorge ourselves on.

Decorating gingerbread houses

Chloe had been waiting all month to do this!
Talent Show...
Birch sang and played the guitar

Truman growled like a dinosaus

Alysee and sidekick Coop did a hilarious British cooking show teaching us all how to make a peanut butter sandwich.

Nate played "Away in a Manger" - self taught this past month.

Mila did a gymnastic's routine.

Camilla showed off her skills of being able to figure out who someone is -- while blindfolded and using only kitchen utensils.

We were all DYING with laughter as she struggled to figure out who Bro. Seal was.

Chloe did a short gymnastic's routine as well.

Then she treated us all to singing "Oh Holy Night"

Sagey showed off her 3-D snowflake she had made.

I read "I Believe" a story comparing Santa and Jesus Christ.

We look forward to Ryan's cheer routine every year!  BOOM!!

The Seals did several talents including a few magic tricks, trumpet playing, and this awesome bell carol.

Tyler played the guitar while Chloe sang.
 Live Nativity!!!
The cast...each child drew their part in the Nativity and then had five minutes to find a costume.  Pretty sure the costumes get more creative every year!

Baby Jesus, Sage and her parents


A few more pictures of the cast!

Wish you were here?!!!  Click here to watch the talent show and Nativity:

Saturday, December 23, 2017

P.A.R.T.Y. during Christmas Break!!!

"What fun thing are we doing today?" was the question I heard almost every morning of Christmas break.  And boy did we pack it in!!! 

Flood Frosting Cookie Decorating...
Tyler decorating away

Nate spent a lot of tedious time decorating this cookie with using tiny sprinkles to spell out a couple of words.

We learned Camilla loves sugar cookies so I'm so glad we did this activity together.

NERD BOWLING with the Andersens!!

Truman and Emily

Now that's a lot of bowling feet!

Alysee helping Truman pick out a nerd.  After we each picked out a nerd the color was coordinated with a way we were supposed to bowl (ie. pink nerd - bowl backwards, green nerd - bowl like your daddy, purple nerd - freestyle dancing)

Coop bowling backwards


My favorite was the freestyle nerd where I got to totally embarrass my kids!
 Hours of games!!!
Luke and Camilla gave the kids "Gang of Four" for Christmas.  They played hours and hours together!
These snowglobes were started in Corvallis over Thanksgiving and then Birch helped them all finish them.
 Good food + new cooks!
We enjoyed a super yummy Thai dinner that Luke and Camilla made together for all of us.  
 $2 Smorgasboard
It had been a few years since we had done our $2 Smorgasboard meal - this is done by everyone getting $2 and we went to Safeway.  Each person can pick whatever they want within their $2 budget and then we came home and cooked it all up.  What an assortment!!!  Frozen waffles, sweet potato fries, teriyaki chicken, french bread, oranges, mac and cheese, and two string cheese's all cut up.
 Aunt Jackie's Gingerbread Men
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Aunt Jackie's gingerbread cookies!
Alysee and Nate's Kid's Camp

Alysee and Nate did a great job putting on two sessions of a Winter Kid's Camp.  Alysee made enough money to buy a phone (with permission from her parents) and Nate was thrilled to make some money too.  I literally had NOTHING to do with the camp this time -- and I loved that.  Both did such a great job preparing for the camp and cleaning up each day.
Alysee really is gifted with the kids and is so patient.

Christmas Eve Singing "Far, Far Away on Judea's Plains"
The boys in the family (minus daddy) just about died when I announced early December that we had been asked as a family to sing on Christmas Eve at church.  It took us several weeks to agree on a song and some pretty painful family scripture times when we practiced together.  Tyler learned that he actually almost enjoyed singing once he learned how to match his voice to Birch's.  Coop is still pretty sure that singing in church is a form of torture.  He suffered through and survived.  Chloe and Alysee thought it was the best thing ever singing in church!  We roped Camilla and Luke in to join us as well!

Hosting Luke and Camilla!!!!! 
Our #1 favorite activity was hosting Luke and Camilla!  It didn't matter if we were going to watch the new Star Wars together, drinking milk shakes while looking a lame Christmas lights around town, double buckling all the way to the Tri-cites,  shopping trips, putting on a group date night with Tyler, or singing in sacrament meeting -- we LOVED it all!!!