Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Day '11

Christmas Day was the usual relaxing, wear your jammies all day kind of day. Who knows what time the kids actually woke up. Heck, I hardly slept any. I can never sleep well the night before a big event. The festivities officially began in our room at 7:30 AM. Everyone came in to get their Christmas jammies to put on (remember, I don't let them sleep in them because of potential bodily fluid accidents during the night). After we were all dressed in our Christmas Day attire, we gathered on our bed for the Christmas story. Hopefully a little focus at the beginning of the day brings perspective to what Christmas is all about.
The required Matching Jammie Christmas pics
Love my family!!
The calm before the storm
Stockings are one of my favorites.
I love all the fun things that we get in them!
Handing out the gifts
PS3 Spiderman Game
Soccer Ball
Remote Control Jeep
PINK pants
Cowboys Hoodie
Posing in her robe
Cowboys jersey
We like to go around and open our gifts one a at a time so we can enjoy what each person gets. That makes the gift opening last so much longer. By the time it was finished we were hungry for our traditional brunch: Country Ham, Biscuits, Garlic Cheese Grits, Eggs, Mandarin Orange Salad, Chocolate Milk, and Orange Juice. Thank you, Papa, for sending us a ham!!!
Everyone knows that Mom and Dad need a nap on Christmas Day. Once everything had settled down and everyone was busy playing with their gifts, we did just that. Let me tell you, there is nothing better than a Christmas Day nap.

In the evening, Julie came over to have our "Fajitas Fa Jesus" Christmas Night meal. We gave her a stocking of goodies for her and Bailey(her chocolate lab). She gave us a Dallas Cowboys sandwich press and a recipe book of all kinds of sandwiches to make. This will be a great addition to our Cowboys games concessions stand!!
Silliness on the Stairs
I love celebrating Christmas in our home. I love being in our jammies all day. We feel very blessed by all that God has provided for us.

Christmas Eve '11

Christmas Eve was fabulous(as Laila would say it!). We started our day with our Annual Christmas Eve Brunch at the Goad's house. Somehow, we spent the whole time and did not get one picture. I will just have to remember our time by the good food and great friends that we were able to hang out with. Truly, it is one of my favorite Christmas traditions. The food was absolutely scrumptious!!

Afterwards, we came home for the afternoon. The Cowboys game was on. There was food prep for the evening to be completed, and the Christmas Eve service at church.
Our Annual Family pic in front of the trees at church
I had to share these next 3 photos to give you another sampling of Isaiah's personality. This kid is ALWAYS "on."
He is truly a performer at heart.
He has his own style.
He does not fit into a box.
That whole little photo shoot gathered an audience. I think he was the highlight of the night!

Back to the house to finish the Cowboys game and cook the food for our Appetizer Feast!
Look at all that yummy food!
On Christmas Eve, the kids get to open their ornament gift. Each year the ornament represents something about their year.
Lauren's represented her first trip to Africa in June
Cody's represented his first cell phone for his 13th bday.
(This is actually a print out of the ornament. It did not arrive in the mail in time.
I have no idea why he is making that face.)
Abby is loving piano lessons and wants to learn the guitar.
She is our musician with her jingle bell musical note ornament.
Sam loves tools, building, taking things apart, and fixing things
His ornament is a tape measure that says, "Merry Fix-mas"
Isaiah's is a composition book with a place for his picture
representing his first year of school!!
Laila loves Rapunzel!!
Cookies and milk were set out for Santa.
The big kids think it is hilarious to put the biggest cookies
we have out so that Santa will have to eat a lot!
For the next 5 hours, Rick and I did this:
We made it to bed around 2:00 AM. The kids have strict orders from Dad to not come in our room before 7:30 AM where the Christmas Day activities will begin!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Annual Christmas Cookie Decorating Contest

On Christmas Eve Eve, we had our annual Christmas Cookie Decorating Extravaganza!!! This is a heated competition every year. We take it very seriously and are always trying to do something bigger and better than the year before. Here is the event in pictures:
We have to start by cutting out and baking the sugar cookies
Lauren is not using cookie cutters. She is making her own designs.
The many icings, toppings, etc. we use to decorate
Let the competition begin! Time to start decorating!
This little tool that Rick is using was a new addition to our competition this year.
Also, the Africa-shaped cookie cutter was a big hit.
I bought it earlier in the year to support a family's adoption from Ethiopia.
It was the perfect addition to our competition.
You can almost cut the tension with a knife!
A sampling of the cookies not entered for judging
Here are the entries to be judged:
Laura - Africa cookie with the South African Flag Design
Rick - Africa cookie with the countries marked and colored
Cody - Polar Bear
Sam - Gingerbread man
Lauren - Penguin listening to an Ipod
Laila - she was a bit more artsy with her abstract gingerbread man
Abby - Papa Smurf
Isaiah - Alien
We each cast 2 votes for our favorites. And the winner is:
This was the first time I have won. I must say, I thought Lauren should have won. She did get second place. Rick, Cody, and Sam tied for 3rd place. The winner gets to be the first to open gifts, stockings, etc. throughout the Christmas activities.

We handled the competitive aspect with much better sportsmanship this year. We did have a talk ahead of time about how we are doing this to have fun. Isaiah did go into the family room after the announcement of the winner, threw himself on the ground and said, "Well, I just quit then!!" I wonder where he has seen that?

It was a great time! We chose to do it on Friday because Rick was off. Doing it on Friday allowed us to do it without having to rush like we normally do on Christmas Eve.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

"No person was ever honored for what he received.
Honor has been the reward for what he gave."
~ Calvin Coolidge

Rick and I entered this Christmas season with a desire to bless others and to teach our children how to bless others. We took one idea from my blogging friend, Courtney, and adapted it to fit our family. We called it our "Birthday Party for Jesus." After all, He is the reason that we celebrate Christmas each year.
One of my favorite decorations, our Swazi Nativity
We hope this will become a tradition that we live out each year. We are basing it off the Scripture in Matthew 25: 31-46, focusing on verses 35-45 that say,

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

By blessing those in need, we would be giving Birthday gifts to Jesus. In November, we received a catalog from Samaritan's Purse, an organization that is doing work around the world to help those in poverty. In this catalog are items that range in cost from $5 to thousands of dollars that you can "purchase" for a family in need. We gave the kids an amount of $15 each to "shop" for their Birthday gift to Jesus. Each one chose their gift and told only me about it. They were then challenged to find something to represent that gift to wrap for the night of our Birthday Party. I ordered the items online ahead of time and we received cards to use along with our gifts.
Our party started with a yummy meal together with our
"Happy Birthday, Jesus" plates and napkins
Rick and I took some time to talk to the kids about all the ways during the month of December that our family has chosen to give to others. Those things range from putting change into the Salvation Army's red buckets outside of stores, baking bread for our neighbors, buying stoves for families in Haiti, etc. We were actually surprised when we talked about everything, how much our kids have done on their own as well. It was neat to talk and encourage them to continue even when it is not Christmas. We really want to be a family that is known for giving to others.

After dinner, we were ready to open the gifts. We drew names from a hat to decide who would open each gift for Jesus. Throughout the process, we discovered what each person has chosen to give and took the opportunity to read in the catalog about each gift and how it would impact people around the world.
Laila chose to give blankets which fits her so well.
She loves her blankie!!
Sam, Lauren, Abby, and Isaiah all chose to give milk to feed a baby for a week.
Cody opened Lauren's gift which also included food for a baby for a week.
Cody chose to help a child learn to read and write.
Along with a book, his package included this paper:
It says, "The Needy Child that Couldn't Write."
Rick gave soccer equipment to children and
I chose to give prenatal and postnatal care to Mothers and babies.
We sang "Happy Birthday"
and ate some yummy cupcakes.
We ended the night by watching the show, "A Home for the Holidays." It focuses on stories of foster care and adoption and has many celebrities that have been impacted by adoption in some way. It really was the perfect addition to our evening.

It was so much fun to start this new tradition. I hope that next year, we can expand on the idea of blessing others very intentionally during the Christmas season.