Once the Nutcracker was over, we decided it was time to decorate for Christmas. This is one of my favorite pieces, the advent calendar made by my mom.
This year we had our own little family Christmas all by ourselves. Ryan was providing on-call coverage for the hospital so we couldn't leave town, but that's actually how we prefer it. (Not Ryan working, but staying home.) It was quieter than in past years but I love being able to have Christmas in my own home and do things our own way, concentrating on togetherness, traditions and memories for our kids.
After church on Sunday, we decorated the tree. This is always one of my favorite things to do at Christmas time and I like to make it a big deal, talking about the symbols of Christmas, and our past Christmas memories. We let Betty decorate her own little baby tree on the other side of the gate while we put up all the breakable ornaments safely high on the tree.
Once we had all the breakable ones up, we let her in to help. Cora was feeling pretty sassy, I guess, and Elijah was grouchy, as he often is.
Betty was very excited to help.
This is Betty's preferred way to decorate her tree - all the ornaments hanging from the very top of the tree.
Coming home from school we spotted Santa at the parking lot of Subway! So we got out to take a few pics with him and his cute sleigh and ponies. Betty was asleep in the car so she didn't get to but Cora and Elijah got out. Elijah was still carrying his mouse around everywhere with him.
Cora was pretty shy about talking to Santa but I got a picture at least.
December was also my birthday and this is the cake Ryan got me. We had a nice dinner out and then home for cake. I turned 31 this year and feel so blessed to have enjoyed 31 wonderful years with my wonderful family.
Ryan and I celebrated our 11th anniversary on the 22nd and our friends Jake and Jessilyn Warr very kindly babysat for us so we could go on a date. It's been a while since we've been able to go out without kids. We were very excited to be able to go see the new Star Wars in the theaters together! We are both big fans. But I'm a bigger fan of this guy - he's such a wonderful husband and father and I feel so blessed to have had him for the past 11 years.
Our Christmas preparations wouldn't be complete without a sugar cookie extravaganza! This year, I decided to forgo making gingerbread cookies, even though I do like them, most of the rest of the family doesn't. But we did make a huge batch of sugar cookies, enough for ourselves for several weeks and to give away to friends and neighbors. While we worked, we had to keep Betty happy, so we gave her one of her favorite things that she is usually not allowed - markers. She promptly colored all over herself and bit off the tip of one of the markers, coloring her teeth and mouth as well. Luckily we only gave her washable markers and it came right off.
Here are my helpers taking turns helping me roll and cut out the dough.
Betty also helped clean the spatula.
On Christmas Eve Ryan took the kids and went out delivering goodies. I didn't take any pics but that was also the day we had our ham Christmas dinner. We enjoyed really nice weather this year at Christmas, it got up to 70 on Christmas day! The kids were very surprised, they thought that Christmas on the mainland always had snow.
One of our neighbors, Nancy Friend, invited us in for a bit to chat, and sent us home with a much bigger and better plate of goodies than we had brought! They're sweet neighbors. They are the grandparents of one of Cora's friends from school, Johannes.
The Rivas came over on Christmas Eve and gave us some presents as well - so sweet of them. Betty loved her Anna doll and gave her a drink from her own water.
Reading the Night Before Christmas for the kids' Christmas Eve storytime.
Betty always gets to stay up a little later though so she helped us with some of our preparations.
On Christmas morning we had our traditional morning devotional where we read the scriptural account of Jesus' birth, and we let the kids use the Little People Nativity to act it out. Then we let the kids start with their stockings from Santa. Elijah got that toy can opener he had wanted, and a build your own snowman kit (from a foam molding kind of material like play-doh) and a superhero book and yoyo. They all got pretty special things from Santa, along with some of the usual things, like socks, slippers, toothbrushes, candy, etc.
After stockings we had breakfast, with the traditional breakfast casserole my mom always use to make, although it's not the kid's favorite. Then we moved on to the presents.
I didn't make the kids any Christmas pajamas this year since they all still fit into their cute elf and Santa ones from last year. Next year they'll probably get new ones again. But they're wearing some of their new footwear from their stocking in this pic.
The kids got way too many gifts, as usual, despite my attempts to simplify. But my favorite part was when they opened the gifts they had picked out for each other. Elijah got Cora some panda figure toys, and Cora got Elijah an elephant book.
Cora and Elijah picked out an open-the-flap Sesame Street book for Betty that was a big hit.
Betty also loved her toy baby bottles, and pretended to drink from them herself as much as she fed them to her baby dolls.
We had a nice quiet afternoon playing with new toys, making a Bethlehem from blocks, etc.
This was the fun toy the kids got from Grandma and Grandpa in Hawaii - a cool cars and tracks set. We got to Facetime with them and with my family during the day, as well as texting back and forth pictures and thank-yous for the gifts.
Betty crashed on the couch after lots of present opening and playing.
Christmas night we spent at the Rivas home. They had invited us over for dinner and it was so nice - traditional Puerto Rican food and good company. A great way to spend Christmas evening.
We hadn't managed to find time to do our gingerbread houses before Christmas this year but we didn't see anything wrong with doing them the day after Christmas. It was kind of fun for the kids to have Christmas excitement not be all over. These were the houses Elijah and I worked on together.
And these were Ryan and Cora's.
The finished products.
After all that work, the kids discovered that the houses looked better than they tasted.
We also did a little more cookie decorating then, since we had run out of steam earlier when making cookies to give away and we still had lots of undecorated cookies left. This was one cute one I think Ryan did.
We kept Betty busy while we did the houses with food and cookies.
But after we were done we let her go after the houses a bit.
Cora is such a great big sister. This was the next day, two days after Christmas.
And the day after that, the kids, including Betty, all had fun with playdoh, using all the Christmas cookie cutters we had out.