The Christmas season seems to always whiz past me in a blur, and the further away we get from December, the blurrier the season feels. I consciously didn’t get out my camera as much as I usually do this year, in my attempt to just be in the present. But things fade so quickly for me if I don’t have a picture. So, before it’s gone forever, here are some of the highlights for December. The season started off with our 4th Annual Children for Children concert. This is a tradition my parents started when I was little. They invited the neighborhood children to participate in a “benefit” concert, asking the audience (parents and friends) to donate to a cause in the world that aims to help children. It’s become a holiday tradition for us now and is such a great way to start off the season. Every year I think we get better and better at this. This year was my favorite yet, which is funny because it wasn’t polished or perfect by any stretch of the imagination. What made it so great is that the kids really took the reins this year. We met together with the Krucks and the kids planned it out, divvied up responsibilities (the biggest ones going to the oldest and more capable Kruckenkids) and for the most part carried them through, pulling off a really pretty good event. Of course, there were some gaps, some things that got forgotten, lots of kind of not so slick stuff, but they pulled it off with parents only playing supporting roles. It was what I think that event should be. The kids researched different charities to vote on and chose Camfed (a charity that helps fund education for girls in Africa). They came up with the program, made invitations, invited the guests, emceed the event, Johanna came up with an awesome power point to educate everyone on the needs that Camfed addresses, Ezra solicited donations over and over during the concert to try to reach the goal they had set. It was awesome. I think my favorite part was when all the kids got up at the end and sang carols (pictured above) and when the planning committee counted up the money after everyone left. They were wildly excited to have raised so much money for a cause they had grown to feel strongly about. Here’s the letter the kids got back from Camfed after they sent in the donations. Hazel sings with the Boston Children’s Chorus. She started this year and has fallen in love. I knew that she loved it, I knew that it was good for her soul to have this thing that was all hers. But I didn’t realize how good it was for her until we attended their big holiday concert. I wish I had time to post the video. This girl is in heaven singing with a big choir. Her face was so expressive and happy and full of life. I watched the whole thing teary eyed, so grateful to have found something that would really make her soul sing. This is just what Hazel needs right now. Being 9 is hard and I’m so happy she has this bright happy light in her world. I couldn’t resist buying her some flowers for her first big performance. They were pricy since I didn’t have time to get them until we were in the posh end of Boston, and I hesitated, but as soon as she saw them she beamed. She thanked me about one hundred times for making her first concert feel so special. It feels nice to get something right with her every once in a while. Isn’t it so hard to tell what little things will make a difference? We took the big kids to the Candlelight Carols at Trinity church. This is the 4th year we’ve attended together and I think it is my very favorite part of the season. It is filled with all the Christmas magic you could imagine. A stunningly beautiful cathedral in all it’s New England charm. Incredible music. Candle light. Booming congregational carols accompanied by that huge heart shaking organ. I think my favorite part is singing “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” there. It’s one of my favorite Christmas carols and it was written by Phillip Brooks who was the pastor at Trinity Church in the 1800s. I love watching Hazel and Charlie get older and more able to really appreciate the beauty of this experience. Hazel sang her heart out during the carols and watched and listened with greater intensity than ever this year. We had lots of fires in the fire place this year. I tried my darndest to wait until I could steal a quiet moment by the fire to open Christmas cards (one of my favorite holiday activities) but that darn Hazel beat me to it almost every day. It’s strange having kids grow up. One of my favorite parts of the season is doing our little scriptural advent calendar each night before bed. We read a few scriptures that help us focus on Jesus and sing a Christmas carol and have a family prayer. These little devotionals were not all calm, peaceful and bright, but we’re finally to the family stage where we can do these things and have it be mostly positive and memorable. Of course nearly every night it unraveled to wrestling silliness (pictured above). And somehow this year I was able to see the beauty, even through all the silliness. My goal to see our life as if I was looking through the window, in at the cozy scene, really worked. I was inspired by my friend Catherine (read her blog here, you will not be sorry) to let the kids sleep by the Christmas tree one night. Hazel made up each little bed, we read the first chapter of Little Women (such a great Christmas read aloud) and (finally after a lot of coaxing and me sitting and reading by the light of the tree to keep them quiet) they drifted of to their sugarplum dream world. I think everyone was a little more tired than usual the next day, but there’s just something wildly christmassy and magical about sleeping all night bathed in the soft glow of Christmas lights. We saw Santa at the ward Christmas party……And again at Emmeline’s preschool Christmas pageant. I was surprised that none of my kids had the slightest hesitation about going to sit on his knee. Peter diligently told each Santa that he hoped for a Football for Christmas. They’re growing up. Only a few more years left of this kind of Christmas magic. (more on that later…). I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to the Rockland Montessori Christmas Pageant. It is quite a production. Lots of proud parents, lots of happy kids. Though this even is not my favorite (so much stimulation!) I love that school more than I can say. It is such a warm and happy place for all of my kids. The staff there really truly love the children. And the children can feel it. And boy, when all that love is thrown around it makes it a really nice place to be. Each of my kids have attended the Rockland for at least a year and I think it has made a big imprint on their little souls, filled them with love and confidence in them selves and their little curious minds. Hazel and Charlie got dropped off after their half day (pajama day) so that they could see their old teachers. They were especially thrilled to see Mrs. Simopolous. We feel so lucky that they got to be her students, but she sort of spoiled them and now no teacher can compare. I think this might be the only picture I got of all the kids together during the Christmas season. Silly darlings. On the 23rd we had the Kruckenbergs and Edwards over for our traditional Nazareth Super. I think I explained this back here. I wish I’d have gotten up to take a picture of us all sitting on the floor in our Jesus time clothing, but after making all that pita bread and moving all the furniture to make room for our feast on the living room floor I was too tired to get up and get my camera. I love this night (not sure Jeff loves it as much). It’s crazy, and never nearly as somber and spiritual as I hope it to be, but it helps us all pause and think about what might have really been going on in the minds of the Christmas story characters. This year before eating we all sang Oh Come Oh Come Emanuel. The spirit was thick and I know all the kids felt it. And then the soft, quiet spirit left with Peter (dressed as John the Baptist) letting out a long toot. We joked about how hard that diet of locust and wild honey can be on the digestive system. And then the a new lively and happy spirit filled the room as we tried our darndest to help the kids imagine really what it might have been like for Mary and Joseph and the people who were waiting for their Messiah. After eating and going round the table so that each “guest” can introduce him/herself things quickly unravel so we send the kids off to play, replace some of the furniture and sit and talk as adults, delving deeper into what the Christmas story really means. I always feel immersed in it by the end of the night.
We’ve also made it a tradition to gather round the piano and sing carols. The kids LOVE this part. As they sang their hearts out I thought about what this scene might look like from the outside. I couldn’t help but open the window while we sang Joy to the World. The kids were singing as if they were trying to declare real joy to really the whole world and I wanted the neighbors to hear. I even had to run outside into the cold to snap a picture so that I could really see and know what this warm scene looked like from outside. It was as beautiful as I imagined. The soft glow of the tree, friends singing their hearts together, praises rising up through an open window out into the winter night.
I love the Christmas season.