Friday, December 26, 2008

A Lovely Christmas

I think after posting every day or two in November, I've come down with some serious writer's block . . . all that thinking and pondering about did me in! So, December has been bleak when it comes to posting and I'll recap the Christmas festivities with some pictures when we get back from our vacation, but for now I wanted to wish everyone a late "Merry Christmas," and an early "Happy New Year," as well as write a few thoughts.

Last Sunday was one of the highlights of this season. It was so nice to have my parents attend church with us on the Sunday before Christmas. I was touched by the talks and music; such beautiful reminders in the midst of all the holiday craziness, of the true and simple meaning of Christmas. After scurrying about getting everyone ready and just having "one of those mornings" on Sunday, I definitely wasn't the pinnacle of Christlike love getting out the door - ugh. But once I was seated (late), took a deep breath, and listened to the choir sing I was feeling much better.

One talk has stayed with me. The speaker reminded us to remember the Savior daily give those gifts that mean the most each day of our lives: a smile, a kind word, a hug, a portion of our time, extra patience, a note of gratitude, etc. I was really touched by her words and hope to remember that those are the gifts that matter most in life and can make such a difference in our families. Sunday's sacrament meeting program as well as the wonderful program in Relief Society (thanks to Chris for filling in for me on the piano so I could attend) was just what I needed to feel refreshed and focused during this week.

Christmas memories 2008:
  • Liza's pre-school program - being together in our pjs, singing, cuddling, and listening to stories together with her class on a snowy morning.
  • Time with just Sophie delivering gifts and visiting friends and relatives.
  • Making candy with Liza and Caroline.
  • Ryan's gift: "Doing whatever needs to be done without complaining" (it's been heavenly!)
  • Watching Caroline perform as a "party girl" in The Nutcracker.
  • Preparing some Christmas gifts and delivering together to a sweet refugee family from Burma.
  • Having my parents here.
  • Sophie telling us: "I know why we give presents at Christmas. It's because Heavenly Father gave us Jesus, and he's a gift" (out of the blue - she's our sensitive soul).
  • Opening Travis' gift to our family - box in a box in a box in a box . . . the kids LOVED it!
  • Watching Christmas specials under blankets with the fire going.
  • Reading Caroline's sweet note to us on Christmas morning (really, the only "gift" I ever ask for . . . a little note :-).
  • Our family Christmas outing (a play, the bookstore, and dinner together).
  • Listening to Sophie play her Christmas songs on the piano over and over - I didn't even need to turn on the Christmas music.
  • Chris' thoughtful gifts this year - way to go Love!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Christmas Spirit

Tonight we took the kids to Hale Centre Theatre's production of "A Christmas Carol." It was beautiful, touching, and inspiring. I LOVED it . . . the perfect family activity as we head into Christmas Eve tomorrow and try to keep the childrens' focus on the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ward Nativity

Saturday evening was the annual ward Christmas party at the church. The primary acted out the Nativity and Elizabeth was asked to be Mary. I just had to put up some pictures because she was so excited . . . the look on her face when all the shepherds and wise men came over and knelt to see the baby was just precious. I wish I had captured it on video, but unfortunately I was playing the piano (thus, the pics taken in the primary room) and Chris missed it. Here are a few that I thought were sweet:

Joseph and Mary
Silas, the "head shepherd" Liza with shepherds, Daniel and Kai, after the performance

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The holidays have officially begun . . .

OK, 48 hours. It was two days of non-stop action this past weekend and I'm finally composed to write about it. CRAZY is the word that comes to mind . . . think two different overnight guests, a dance performance, two parties you are helping host, a mother/daughter tea party, Festival of Trees, oh, and maybe a gift for one of your kids that unexpectedly is READY to go and it's not even CHRISTMAS! Did I mention trying to keep the house in order and clean? By Saturday night after the final event, I seriously had to pinch myself to believe that we actually pulled it off, and everything went even better than planned. Really folks, after last weekend I consider the Christmas season about wrapped up, wouldn't you think?

The details in a nutshell: My mom comes to spend time with the kids and visit with some friends while she's here - thank goodness, because if she didn't come on Wednesday I wouldn't have had my house cleaned EARLY. She leaves Friday morning and Chris' dad comes Friday afternoon to spend a couple nights and be here for the Cantera Family party.

Guests aside, we are notified Thursday evening that Caroline's Christmas present came a little early and has weaned itself from it's mother and is in need of it's new home immediately. You mean I've got to be ready for a baby bunny and have some explanation for the kids of WHY it showed up three weeks early?? Think quick: get the cage ready, have Chris drive to Provo Friday after work and pick it up, and hurry and write a letter to put in the mail from Santa that looks legitimate so the little girls will really think an elf brought the bunny. OK, we can do that. First I just need to get my table I'm hosting ready for the big neighborhood party Friday evening, find something to wear, and pick up a ski rack.

Friday comes - oh, it's the tea party right after school, which is right after I make a Costco run for the party Saturday night, give Chris final instructions for the bunny pick-up, and help in Sophie's class room. OK - I'm running at lightning speed now . . . type the letter, sneak it into the mailbox, take Sophie to the tea-party, run home, change sheets and pick up disorderly house for the next guest, tell Sophie and friend to go get the mail, iron something to wear for the party tonight (oh this is good, a piece of CHOCOLATE is on the ironing board and melts right into my silk blouse - NO time for that - thank goodness it's on the back b/c I'm still wearing this shirt!), share in the excitement of the Santa letter, run out the door to get to the party early to help, pass Chris as he's coming in, make sure he's got the bunny, tell him to get over to the party on time! Phew, now I can enjoy myself . . . dinner, dancing, good friends and neighbors . . . . then up until after midnight helping clean up :-).

Saturday - girls giddy with excitement at the surprise Santa left overnight, putting the bunny in a box with a big ribbon for Caroline, tears of happiness from a girl who's had her heart set on this bunny for a year, pancake breakfast, costumes, hair and make-up for Sophie and Caroline, guys out the door for Ryan's hockey game, girls head down to fest. of trees for a performance and some tree viewing time, race back home to get ready for big Cantera family party at our house beginning at 4:30pm - oh, don't forget to stop at the grocery store for last minute items. BREATHE JULIE . . . put kids and husband to work, get tables set up, vacuum/dust, food in oven, candles lit, house ready . . . time for company!

After it's all said and done I absolutely love getting the family and cousins all together - lots of food, laughter, and fun with everyone. It's worth every minute of the work and stress. Which reminds me, I failed to mention the two Nutcracker rehearsals we had to get Caroline to during this same weekend. Really, what would life be like without non-stop action every once in a while?? It's no wonder we all crashed and fell asleep Sunday evening while watching the 1st Presidency Christmas message at 6pm :-).

Sophie and little friends at Anabelle's Tea Party

What fun . . . Sophie with Emily, Rebecca, Isabel, Anabelle, and Kate.


My table at the neighborhood Christmas Party (thanks to my friends who helped with the center piece - like I would know how to do that?!)

With my friend Beckie at the party . . . yes, it's a ballroom, and yes, it's inside someone's home.


Caroline's early Christmas surprise . . .

Pure excitement!

Caroline finally got her baby bunny . . .

It's the cutest animal alive . . . you'll want one once you get a look at this little guy :-)

Sophie and Carlie before they perform as dolls at the Festival of Trees.

We love looking at all the trees together

Kids table at the Cantera Christmas party

Family Talent Show - Laura and Jon performing "The Polar Express" for the kids - delightful!

Kevin and family's improv/skit - absolutely hilarious . . .

We ARE the Red Sox Nation

White Elephant exchange - always lots of laughs . . .
Looks like Chris gets the sweater this year

After the party . . . we did it!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Christmas Season

Just a few thoughts now that it's December and my favorite holiday season . . .
  • Keep it simple and meaningful. Your kids will never remember the fancy seasonal decor you spent hours arranging, but they will remember the feeling you created. The one thing my little girls can't WAIT for me to dig out of the basement is the Nativity. That's why I love this picture so much - they will play with it for hours . . . rearranging the sheep, the shepherds, and taking the baby Jesus in and out of the manger countless times. Try to find a nativity set they can play with. We began collecting the 5" Fontanini pieces a few years ago and they are perfect for little hands. (You can find them at Modern Display).
  • Spend more time reading, baking, and singing with your children and less time dragging them through the mall.
  • Create traditions, but be spontaneous at the same time. If you don't do the exact same thing every year, it's ok, your kids will survive and they might even like doing something different.
  • Watch all the fun holiday specials that are on television right now - it's the only time during the year when the entire family can really watch a show together, so pull out the blankets, turn on the fire, and snuggle!
  • Keep gifts to a minimum. Ever since our children were tiny we've told them Santa will fill their stockings with some treats and bring ONE special gift, and Mom and Dad will have something for them under the tree as well. Besides books and clothes and a family gift (usually a game or something we can all do together) each year, that's all they are given. They are very careful in selecting that one item that means more to them than anything and it keeps those "lists" kids put together to a minimum :-).
  • Serve together - visit and sing for grandparents, put together gifts and food for a needy family or neighbor and deliver secretly as a family, or participate in a food or clothing drive together.
  • Set a deadline to have all the gifts wrapped, cards mailed, projects finished . . . so when the kids get out of school for Christmas vacation and the snow starts to fall you can get out and PLAY!
Relish the season, enjoy every minute, and take time to see the magic of Christmas through the eyes of your children.