Although our Christmas morning (Dec. 22) actually happened before the real Christmas Eve (Dec. 24), I'm posting both our Christmas Eve (Dec. 21) and the real Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) just to confuse you. How's that? You're welcome.
On the real Christmas Eve, we attended our church's Candlelight Service. We took some pictures before going. They were having three services. We got there early but it was still packed. The four of us sat in two seats and there were still people standing along the sides and back. This was our second such service at our church. We laughed. We cried. We sang. And then we ate prime rib (not at the church). It was awesome.
On our Christmas Eve, we went to a PJ party at Chick Fil A. They had some high school kids singing carols, a lady making balloon animals, crafts, games, Santa Cow, and free kids' meals. The kids didn't know we were doing Christmas early so letting them open their PJs early so they could wear them to the PJ party was perfect timing and a brilliant plan. It was like Christmas Eve without all the excitement and anticipation and childhood insomnia. See? Brilliant! Right?
Did you notice the bare feet? Sort of reminded me of a ski bum. But they played and sang good!
So, I wanted to take a picture of my kiddos with Santa Cow. If you know them at all, you know they HATE anybody in a cartoon-like suit. Santa and Santa Cow included. They know they are just real people dressed in suits. Somehow, they have developed this irrational fear of them, similar to how some adults feel about clowns. How did I talk them into letting me take their picture not just sitting with Santa Cow; but smiling? Here's the thing. I told them if they did, they could open a present the next day. Remember me telling you that I failed to inform them that the next day was our Christmas? Yeah. They figured it all out the next day. Evidently, the evil grin I gave Mac didn't register until the next day. Somehow, though, they found it in their hearts to let me off the hook. Maybe the bribery worked after all! I have to admit; it is getting harder to pull one over on them. They are getting smart to my ways.
The kiddos save most of their pent up energy for Mac. Thank goodness. So when he gets home from his shift at the fire house, one of the first items on the agenda for the day is to wrestle with daddy. They get plenty of horsing around with mom; but it just isn't the same. Although the candid shots are funny, I thought I'd post some of the more "freeze and smile" shots. Poor daddy didn't get much sleep that night but was nice enough to play along anyway!
Tank wanting in on the action...
I always love to hear how the kiddos plan their secret attacks to try and take daddy down. No matter how tired, he still always wins. I wonder how long it will be until the tables are turned?
Little Miss proud of her attempt to tickle daddy.
It still unnerves me watching them get tossed around like rag dolls imagining their heads smacking the coffee table and calculating how long it will take to get to the hospital.
The kiddos had a planned snow day today. Yes. Even homeschool families love and take adavantage of snow days. Our goal: to do only those things we deemed fun. The only caveat: we had to clean up after our messes, feed the animals and wash sheets. It started with Krispy Kreme doughnuts. We moved quickly to cutting out snowflakes. Then they decided they wanted to go sledding which quickly became, "Hey, mom, will you pull us on the four-wheeler?" That definitely sounded like fun so I jumped on board.
Next on the agenda was building a ginger bread house.
Complete with Santa on the roof, snowmen on the lawn and a goat they found in their toy box.
We did some more "sledding" via the ATV until we destroyed their sled. We played Life and Mexican train (dominoes), sat around the fire, had cocoa and generally enjoyed our day. Yes. The house needs to be picked up and there are dishes in the sink ready to be washed. But I must say, all in all, it was a fun, relaxing, non-schooling snow day with my kiddos. The BEST!
Have you seen this little nativity set? I bought this one about four years ago and it is still the highlight of my kids' Christmas experience. I think it is less than $20 and comes in a nice little compact box. I think you can find it at Walmart or Hallmark. You can also order it online at http://www.familylife.com/
It provides a box you can open starting a week before Christmas. It also comes with a booklet with some Bible verses to go with each figure found it the box.
At the end of the week you have an adorable (and durable) nativity set for the kiddos to play with. The last box is a surprise and I won't ruin it for you. It is what God really wants for Christmas, of course.
If you are looking for something that brings the focus of Christmas back on Christ, this would definitely fit the bill. It is also simple and understandable for the youngest in your family. As my kiddos have gotten older, I've had them start reading the Bible verses and little poem found in the booklet. I hope they never tire of this little tradition of ours.
Disclaimer: This is not my photo. This was found on google images.
Now that I got that out of the way...
Mac and I were on our way home from Christmas shopping the other night. It was about 5:30 and getting dark. As we headed up our driveway, we rounded a corner and saw two little mountain lion cubs in the middle of our driveway. I think they were about 2-3 months old and cute as a button. They even still had their spots. I wanted so bad to jump out of the truck and get a better look. As I put my hand on the door handle, Mac reminded me that mama was probably sitting on the rock outcropping just above my head watching and waiting. Was this a trap? Surely no! They were so cute and I wished that the kiddos were with us to see them. As soon as we got home, we told them all about it. They were excited until Ike remarked, "Great. Now we have to watch out for THREE mountain lions right by our house." They wanted me to show them what they looked like and I found the picture above which was the closest to size and look. I'm guessing it was the mama I saw right by our house a few months ago. You can read about that here in Exhilirating and Terrifying. I don't know how common it is to see mountain lions, much less a baby, or a set of twins. I have to tell you, though, seeing twins, the mama, the bear, the mountain goats and then the moose all add up to a very memorable year!
I got a late start this morning. MacGyver had today off and we didn't have to jump out of bed and attack the world. My morning coffee was about 9:30 in fact. But when I bundled up to go out to feed the horses, I was shocked to find that it was already 52 degrees outside and was instantly surprised and excited. We've been putting off getting our tree for several reasons. We've had a hard time lining up several things...time, lack of snow and freezing temperatures, Mac's days off, time (which seems to be short these days), and no agenda or kids' activities. Today seemed to be that day. I almost pushed Mac out of bed. He didn't seem to want to budge. So this is how much I packed into today from about 9:30-7:00. Got breakfast, cleaned house, did two loads of laundry, made 2 roasted chickens, spent 2 hours putting 5 rim joists about twenty feet into the air, wandered around the property and found 2 Christmas trees (will explain below), spent an hour locating and digging out our Christmas trunks from the storage shed, cut and stacked several trees, finished dinner, made dinner for the next night and spent an hour cleaning up that mess. I just sat down to listen to some Christmas music and eating some of my leftover gluten free pumpkin pie which happens to be delicious. The kiddos are playing with the Christmas train and setting up the track. MacGyver is trying to see which of our lights work so he can string the tree. Whew! What a day.
So, the 2 Christmas trees. Our goal was to cut one tree. Unfortunately, the first tree we cut was perfect except for one fatal flaw...the pine needles were just that...needles. Four of the fingers on my left hand were stabbed trying to hold it while Mac cut it. It wasn't until it was cut and loaded on the truck that I began to question the sanity of such a sharp tree when nobody would want to get within 2 feet of it and I wasn't sure it would ever get decorated. Therefore, we continued the hunt for the perfect tree. This time we set out for the touch test before deciding which one was "the one". True to history, we cut a 40' tree and had to cut it down to a size that would fit in our tiny cabin. We cut the rest of the trunk, and some other brush that was evidently bothering my hubby, and he decided to keep going and spent another hour cutting up some of the other wood in our pile. We're planning on cutting up the razor tree for firewood, as well. The second tree is truly beautiful.I think it might just be might favorite one so far. Full, round and soft. Very soft. What more could a girl want?
Being so patient waiting to go cut our tree
Both trees and some extra greenery for the front porch
Cut down to size
Izzy all excited to put the tree up
Ike trying to play it cool
So, dinner. I'm trying to go completely gluten free. I'm pretty certain I've got gluten issues. Izzy, too. I picked up 2 whole chickens that were on sale and decided to roast them so I could cook them at the same time. Normally, I would throw them on the rotisserie in our dual function toaster oven. This is my favorite way to cook a whole chicken. But I knew I wouldn't be around to babysit it. I had places to go, things to do. Plus, I love my retro roaster I picked up for something like $13 at a local antique store, The Barn, in Castle Rock. Love that place! I just love the design on the bottom. Isn't it cool?
Anyway, I tried some new gluten free garlic risotto and made some parmesan green beans, cranberry apple jello and sweet tea. Have you ever made that jello? I stole it from my MIL and I crave it this time of the year. It's just lemon jello, cranberry sauce and diced apples. You can throw in pecans or walnuts if you feel crazy. This stuff rocks. I've seen it with strawberry jello, as well. Good, too.
Obviously, we had a bunch of chicken left over (my plan). I pulled the chicken off the bone and put some of it aside for another dinner and finished boiling the bones to make some more broth. And then I looked at all the leftovers I had, the report for snow tomorrow, and all that chicken I just made and that leftover ham from Thanksgiving. And I started thinking about Brunswick Stew. I start craving that, as well, in the fall and winter. Ever had it? I'm a Georgia girl. It was a staple growing up. It is a barbecue based stew that we used to throw in a crockpot with whatever leftovers you have. I'm sure at some point in my childhood squirrel or rabbit found its way into the pot. I personally have never chosen to eat or cook either of said wild game. This is basically what I put in it but can be substituted with whatever leftovers you have (even squirrel or rabbit if that is how you roll).
Pork or Ham
Lima beans (not my favorite)
(*or bbq sauce instead of the previous four if this scares you or you don't have)
Salt and pepper to taste
I cook it all day and then blend it up sort of chunky with my submersible blender but that isn't necessary. I make a big pot of it and freeze it for another day. Like chili, it just gets better and better. Add some creamed-corn cornbread and you've got a meal made for a...Georgia Girl. Not many people in Colorado have ever had or even heard of such a dish. They just don't know what they are missing! Yum!