Monday, December 31, 2012

Dressed for Christmas

My mom made these two Christmas dresses for me when I was little. It was a little shocking to see them on the Princess and Sweetpea.

Fancy dresses, sparkly lights and excitement written all over the Princess' face (while Sweetpea just looks completely disoriented and is obviously just along for the strange ride.) It was a wonderful Christmas.

That is one wild-eyed kid!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Stockings are hung with care

It's been so long since I used my sewing machine I almost forgot to use it. I should sew more often. It's fun.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Saint Lucia

How do we make Advent and Christmas more meaningful in the midst of the presents and sugar? We tried something new this year. December 13 is the feast day of Saint Lucia, a holiday celebrated in Sweden (and elsewhere). St. Lucia was a 4th century girl martyred for her faith.

In Sweden, where my grandmother was from, the eldest daughter gets up early in the morning before dawn. Dressed in white with a red sash and a wreath with candles around her head, she delivers hot chocolate and saffron rolls to the still sleeping family members while singing the Saint Lucia song.

Since it was our first year, and our oldest is but five, we modified our celebration a bit. I had the supplies all prepared and, while away at work, the Princess worked with Mamo (my mom) to make her wreath. We pulled together a white outfit when I got home, complete with a red ribbon sash (thank goodness I bought that roll of cheap red ribbon for no good reason last year!). When Steve arrived home we turned off the lights and, by the twinkling lights of the tree, our very own Saint Lucia very carefully served her Daddy and little sister chocolate muffins and hot chocolate while the Saint Lucia song played. (We'll have to learn the song so that we can sing it next year ourselves!)

Over muffins and hot chocolate we talked about the feast. The crown of candles reminding us to be the light in the darkness. The offerings of food and drink reminding us to be generous and kind to those around us.

The feast is a simple and beautiful way to celebrate the coming of the Light to the World.

Link to a video of the Saint Lucia song. I tried to embed the video but it's not working, not sure if it's me, blogger, or YouTube...

If you're interested in more information check out my Christmas Pinterest board. I've pinned some websites with information, recipes, crafts, and ideas surrounding Saint Lucia.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Prioritizing in the Rush

Aaah, Christmas. Where expectations and pressure to keep up with everyone else having the perfect holiday is sure to bring someone to tears. After all, it's not a holiday until somebody cries. (We've had three years in a row where one of the girls has cried over the Christmas tree. And not because it was so beautiful.)

I love Christmas. I love the magic, the beautiful decorations, the excitement, the fun secrets and planning of surprises. I love the songs that bring me back to my childhood and adore hearing the songs in the girls' little voices as they sing along while playing with their Nativity sets.

I love that there are so many opportunities to talk about Jesus, love, giving, thankfulness, and generosity.

And then, on the other side, is the relentless pressure to buy, buy, buy. To show your love through stuff. And, of course, it's not a real Christmas unless you've made 12 dozen different types of cookies, thrown a themed party with vegetables displayed in the shape of a Christmas tree and personalized gift bags for all of your guests, shimmied on the perfect Christmas outfit - sparkly and slimming, and hand-crafted meaningful gifts for each person on your list. Naturally, you've already mailed the 100 handmade Christmas cards with a thoughtful, personal message written to each recipient inside. Those went out December 1st, right?

I'm trying to resist because it's really tempting to compare my efforts to those I see around me and find myself coming up short. But, the reality is that I can't do everything. We all make choices about what is important during the season and that's what we focus on. I'm better off defining my priorities than comparing my efforts to others'.

We don't do the Elf on a Shelf thing. I think it's cute and fun and can imagine how exciting it would be each morning for the Princess and Sweetpea, but I just don't want to add another expectation to the list.

I do the Advent Calendar because I want Christmas to be full of memories of doing things together. The calendar is my way of forcing myself to stop and do something with the girls each day (activity, read a book, a craft) when I can easily put it off because I have things I need to accomplish during the day or I don't have any ideas (or the supplies we need even if I do have an idea.) And, when we're doing something together I've also almost guaranteed that we'll have some type of interesting, perhaps even meaningful, conversation.

We don't get yearly pictures with Santa and we don't push the belief that Santa comes and leaves gifts under the tree. (Fewer gifts under the tree since we don't have to supply Santa ones too. Also a bonus!) We do however, talk about the fun magical story of Santa a lot. We read books and see movies about Santa and imagine how fun it would be if it were all true.

We (I!) do send out Christmas cards each year because I love to have that connection with friends. Sometimes I manage a letter, some years I don't. I used to make all the cards, now it's the standard pre-made photo card. I've managed to get them sent before Christmas each year (so far, they're not in the mail yet this year!). I don't want to portray perfection in the cards, I just want people to know that we're thinking about them and appreciate the connection we have with them.

I keep trying to focus in on the relationship opportunities of this holiday. That's the gift that will last forever.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Small Kindnesses

Every morning Steve brings me coffee in bed while I write. The smell of the coffee and the knowledge that I will be sipping it soon is what gets me upright and typing while the world still sleeps around me.

He sets it on the nightstand, says good morning, and kisses me on the forehead.

It is one of the nicest parts of my day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sparkling Bright

We hit Zoo Lights at the Oregon Zoo again this year. The forecast was for heavy rain all weekend but, since it was our only chance, and I convinced Steve that we are hardy folk, we went anyway. The rain held off (the heavy part anyway) and we only got a little damp. The crowds were light and the displays were great. It was a good way to start the countdown to Christmas, after we got out the Nativity sets on day 1, of course.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent Counting

I had plans to do another Advent calendar like last year. My plans were not well thought out at all. Add in that I finished Nano on the 29th leaving me 1 day to figure it out and I was not feeling so brilliant.

 Luckily Steve helped me out and we managed to pull it together. The girls will be counting down to Christmas again this year with a variety of crafts, activities, books and fun; some new, many re-used from last year, but when it's been packed away for 11 months it all seems new again.