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Our Family Christmas

We always celebrate "our" family Christmas the Sunday before Christmas each year.  Since we travel to family 300 miles away for the actual event, we try to make it special for just the six of us here too.  It's been a great tradition for us.  We go to church (in our Christmas outfits!!!) and then out to eat.  Normally we come home and read Luke 2 together but this year we have been doing something else with that story and they have it down pat. 

We tried a few shots at church, by their tree and I like how they turned out. . .

 I'm not exactly sure why I can't get the boys' picture to turn the right way -- it's fine in the file but when I import it here. . .oh well.

Our Sunday School classes had a special program for all the grade-school kids this morning and Tom played one of the Wise Men in the skit. 

It was a neat little program.  

 Then they had some crafts for the kids at the tables and we took them back to the classrooms to pack up and go.  I had assembled these little things the day before for our third graders:

 They were just a little cellophane bag with some bell candy (ha--get it?!?), pencil, eraser, notepad and then a snowflake ornament on the outside.  I thought they turned out pretty cute but then forgot to take a picture of the box of fourteen all together.  Oh well. . .it was a fun little thing to do.  Then Tom and I wrote a Christmas card to each child too. . .some weren't there on Sunday so we'll mail those.

Then we headed over to our "usual" Sunday lunch spot -- a local Mexican restaurant.  The kids were so full from all the junk at church that we only ordered three full meals at the table and that seemed to be enough for everyone!  We had a wait so the camera came back out for a few shots:

Then home. . .time for presents!!!

Not even a tree skirt. . .we were *minimal* this year.  (And would you know, we came home Sunday nights and all the lights but the bottom row were out. . .how's that for "perfect timing" -- ha!)

The kids shop for one another's stockings.  Years ago when we began this tradition we couldn't decide whether or not to haul stockings up to Nana & Grandpa's for Santa to fill or what. . .then came the "problem" of having the kids shop for one another -- we were thinking "crazy!" so. . .each year we draw names and give every kid $20 to spend filling that stocking.  This works great!!!!!!  They *love* it, we love it. . .they even wrap everything!!!. . .and in the end we only spend $80 on stockings. . .I think we were spending way over $100 when Santa was doing it all so. . .it's our tradition that I would like to keep for ever and ever.  Even when they are adults. . .wouldn't it be great to have 3 siblings but only have to shop for one???  I mean, they all do their own thing on each birthday but, in my opinion, gift-giving can loose it's meaning when it becomes overwhelming and just plain "too much". 

Moving on through our fun afternoon:
So the pictures are going to stay side-ways I guess.  Well, this is probably one of Thomas's favorite gifts. . .he's worn it non-stop since he opened it.  Good job, Marie, figuring out *exactly* what your brother would like!!
Who knows what Marie was unwrapping here?  With $20 for her sister, Margaret, to spend at the Dollar Tree, she had lots to be excited about :)
I didn't have any pics of Margaret that weren't long-wise. . .so. . .another side picture.  This was a bracelet that Marie made her (I think).  She even made the box!
Here's Frederick. . .happy yet with another Dollar Tree find from his favorite brother, Thomas!

This year the kids wanted to put the presents out early (versus the night before we do this) but I didn't "trust" them to not guess everything before they were opened (no fun for me).  So. . .I wrapped all twelve gifts (3/ea) and put numbers on them. . .

None of the kids knew whose was whose.  That was awesome! One of the kids pulled a number (I had 12 circles with numbers on the front and names on the back. . .just in case they were peeking they wouldn't get all the information on one side). . .then the "picker" would find the gift and hand it to the person it belonged to and they opened it. . .then they picked the next number. . .until we were done.

We had two gifts we couldn't wrap, so we wrote notes to the boys with instructions of where to find the gifts. . .

The gifts were new basketballs. . .Frederick's was in the clothes dryer, Thomas's in the trunk of Tom's car.  He was so excited when he got it that he slammed the trunk lid down on Marie's hand.  Poor girl. . .as it worked out, she was the only one left with a gift to open. . .the last one of the day. . .so, when the ice and Motrin kicked in, we finished up. . .
And, yes, Tom and I got a few things from the kiddies too. . .

And lastly, Frederick and I made the family a photobook from our Alabama vacation this summer. . .that was a gift I went ahead and wrapped for them to open too. . .I always like to do one or two of these a year since scrapbooking is not something I have the time for these days. . .

Well, that's it. . .for now.  We're off, traveling 300 miles to see the rest of the family and celebrate there for the next few days.  Our traditional Christmas Eve Eve is at my dad & stepmom's house with all the grandkids and my mother (always invited. . .we have an awesome family) and then Christmas Eve is a day without presents but time to get together again with my dad and stepmom and this time my inlaws will join us for another casual meal and beautiful Christmas Eve service.  Christmas morning Santa will bring Baby Jesus to Nana's nativity scene so we can all celebrate His birth. . .and there will be gifts from Aunt Kathy, Nana & Grandpa, and Santa of course. 

I love these times. . .these memories we make. . .



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