It really is the most wonderful time of the year

Christmas came, Christmas went… no snow.

I know all you Tennessee friends are laughing at me right now, but I really believed there was a chance! I mean, the weather looked very promising, and if I’m telling the full story, we did see snow flurries on Christmas Eve for about 45 seconds as we were driving up to Spring Hill, so I’m going to go ahead and count it as a half point.

With all the craziness of the holidays, I know you readers are busy and distracted, but I’m sure you’re also just DYING to know how our first Christmas on the farm turned out!! With all the build up about Mary and Jesus, and then which traditions we would continue, start or stop… I’m sure you’re just waiting on baited breath for the play by play.

Well, here it is.

On Christmas Eve Eve- yes, the night before Christmas Eve- a new tradition was born! I bribed my kids with ONE present so that they would not just half assed clean their room, but really, REALLY clean their room. Yes, I’m a briber when the circumstances are right. And on the dawn of a toy rush, I felt it necessary for everyone to get their crap together so a small mess didn’t become an anxiety attack for mom!

I chose the present, of course, and I chose for each child to open a book that was label to them from ‘Mom and Dad.’ We don’t want anyone confusing OUR presents with Santa’s presents (which of course had not arrived yet). Each book was a Usborne book, because 1) I support my friends for goodness sakes and 2) because network marketing allows money for a better product! The books are so unique and the shopping experience was easy peasy. I told the consultant how many kids I had, their ages, and their interests, and she sent me a list of recommendations. I chose 2 per child and checked out and never had to get up off the couch, or change out of comfy pants- two wins in my book (Note: my ‘book’ is not a Usborne book).

Cadence opened a book about fairy ponies. Can you imagine? Fairy ponies for crying out loud! It’s a 6 year old girls dream scenario. And although it was her first chapter book, she basically insisted on reading the entire thing that night. Mom did not think that one through.

Merit opened a ‘shine-a-light’ book, which I happen to know are his favorite kind of books based on previous Usborne book purchases. They’re super creative and my two year old will actually sit through the entire book, so you know it’s good. Each page is meant to have a light shined behind it to reveal different surprises. This one was about a construction site, which was very fitting. About a year from now, all the tractors  described in the book will be destroying our yard as we build our new home!

Gage opened a ‘lift and peek’ farm book. As we walked through the pages, there were different chances to find and lift up different flaps to try to discover where ‘Henny’ was hiding. We were also looking for farm animals and farm equipment. And wouldn’t you know, all the farm animals were always located in their pens. You can imagine how confused my children where by this (don’t expect to get this joke if you’re not a normal reader).

Sidenote: Both Thomas and I first read the name of this chicken as Henry, until we discovered the chicken was a girl in the book… so tip to Usborne, maybe consider a different name. Or maybe Thomas and I should just practice reading. Not sure which.

We spent the rest of the evening, reading and snuggling. Although I hope bribery doesn’t make it into our yearly traditions, I will say that the reading and snuggling was a treat. And it was amazing to see how much they savored and truly enjoyed that ONE present, as opposed to the slew of presents that were to come. Note to self: Less is often more.

Christmas Eve (real Eve), we woke up and headed up to Church.

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I have to say that morning service on Christmas Eve was a first for me. I realize that it was awfully convenient that Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday and so it was business as usually, but for someone (me) who is used to a big, Christmas Eve night church tradition, it left something to be desired. It felt regular. It felt too normal. Don’t get me wrong, the message was on point, but it definitely opened up a conversation for Thomas and I…

LifePoint Church- our ‘home’ church in Nevada- does a spectacular job of bringing people in. They are always thinking up ways for us church goers to bring friends and family to church. They pass out invites and encourage strangers and new comers. And on Christmas Eve… a day where I literally GOOGLED Christmas eve (evening) services to attend, there is such an opportunity for us to share the good news with people who are not usually the church going types. It’s a celebration, right? We should do something big and exciting!

Either way, this is a topic for another blog I think, because I’m still stewing on it, but needless to say, I’m glad I got to go to a service on Christmas Eve, but I wish it was a little bit more tradition worthy.

After church, we went to Mexican food. Yes, us Californians are on the hunt for actual, real, even kind of authentic Mexican food in the south. So far, not so good. Is it a fruitless pursuit? I don’t think so. Because I figure for one, we’re discovering a bunch of places that we no longer need to check out again, and two, we’re realizing that there is an INCREDIBLE opportunity here. Do we want to get into the restaurant business? Not exactly. But could we blow these people’s minds with what we know about Mexican food existing in the way it does out west? Um, yes. Yes, we could. In the meantime, we venture on, exploring the oh-so-many Mexican food joints in and around Middle Tennessee with our fingers crossed.

After lunch, we headed home. It was comfy clothes time! I did a work out (consistency!), while the kids watched a Christmas movie and the little guy took a nap. I’ll be honest, it was strange not having anywhere to go! As much as I didn’t like it, I also liked it very much. Again, I would have LOVED to have been home, at church, with my family… but because that’s just not the way it was going to go this year, I embraced comfy clothes and wet, uncurled hair.

Around 4:30pm, we got in our matching jammies**…

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…and pulled out the hand full of presents that were from Mom and Dad from underneath the tree. Because I figured Santa could use some more space under the tree, I decided we needed to get some of those presents opened. I always remember opening presents on Christmas Eve night with my family when I was a kid. That’s when I celebrated Christmas with my dad’s family, so it felt like a perfectly wonderful time to start the present opening. Each child had two presents to open. Again, this was the second lesson in less is more. They enjoyed and savored the opportunity to open and really receive each gift.

Thomas made non-paleo Reuben sandwiches. That might not sound exciting for you, but have you ever eaten a Reuben sandwich your kids would also eat? We’re talking sauerkraut here, people! You know, that thing has GOT to be delicious if a two year old is eating every bite. This meal, although quick and easy, and served on paper plates, was a total win and absolutely tradition worthy. I don’t know where I will find myself with the ghost of Christmas future, but I sure hope that their are Reubens on Christmas Eve from here on out.

With Reubens on board, we headed out to look at Christmas lights. This was Thomas’ idea. I say that because nothing Christmasy, or unnecessary is ever Thomas’ idea, but he is absolutely embracing the Christmas magic for his wife and kids, who happen to LOVE Christmas magic. I hope his Christmas spirit becomes the strongest tradition of all!

So we headed towards Spring Hill (a good 45 minute drive), although Thomas was willing to drive all the way to Franklin (another 20ish minutes more), which was a Christmas miracle. You see, being new to the area, you’re just never sure how far is too far when you don’t know the caliber of the lighted street you’re heading towards. Well, I don’t know if Franklin was too far to drive for their advertised lighted streets, because we didn’t make it past Spring Hill. But Spring Hill was too far to drive.

Their was one guy who was obviously super into lighting up his house, and it looked like he tried to bribe and maybe even put up lights in some of his neighbors yards. But it was pretty clear that there was only ONE spirited person on the street that was advertising year seven of however many lights and counting. Poor guy is really stretching his moment. I can’t be sure, but it might have been the same guy selling hot chocolate at the end of the cul-de-sac in front of his neighbor’s houses who wouldn’t so much as turn on their porch lights. Either way, it was a bit of a let down.

Save yourself the drive next year, here ya go:

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Because we felt a little unfulfilled by the lighted house (rather than lighted street of houses), we were torn as to whether or not we should continue the magical adventure even further away from home. Santa was getting tired, and the kids showed no sign of slowing down, but I just wasn’t quite ready to call it quits. We stopped at Target to grab a Starbucks, and honestly this might have been the highlight of my night. Two adults, and three adorable kiddos in matching jammies on Christmas Eve… it was pretty special to see everyone’s faces light up as we tornadoed through the store.

After the coffees and kids hot chocolates, we headed back to the car to make the final decision as to whether or not we would continue on in pursuit of additional lighted houses. Despite the full throttle caffeinated coffee, I decided to head towards Columbia (between Spring Hill and home) to see if we could see a few more lighted streets. I couldn’t quite call the whole thing off, but I wasn’t ready to go to Franklin either. But we were diverted shortly after leaving Target (and Target’s bathroom) because Merit suddenly and most urgently needed to go number two. As the other kids and I waited in the car at the gas station on Christmas Eve, I decided that maybe we’d better just head home.

And so we did.

We wound up at home around 8:30pm and the kids were very quick to put out their Santa cookies, milk (lactose free just in case he and Cadence have the same tummy trouble) and reindeer carrots, before heading up to bed.

Later that night, once Santa’s cookies were eaten and the presents had arrived, I had the great pleasure of watching a live stream of the magnificent service put on by LifePoint church back in Nevada. Worship was lead by one of my favorite power couples of all times- the Hein’s- and a powerful message about the gift of Jesus delivered by my all time favorite pastor- Mrs. Sunny Cain. Yes, you heard that right… Christmas Eve service delivered by a MOM! How fitting, don’t you think?

Then bed.

Morning came right on time, 7:30am- thank you Lord. I know my kids are still little enough where they don’t automatically wake themselves up with anticipation, but I know those days are numbered. I’m sure next year it will be 6am or worse. So I was so very happy to hear their tiny feet and then voices, as they came down the stairs to discover their treasures. The gasps and the hushed exchanges were precious. And then the silence was broken by our sweetest baby Gage, who wakes and yells at the top of his lungs from up stairs (and loudly on the monitor), “DAAAAADDDDDDYYYYYY! MMMOOOOOOOMMMMMMMYYYYYY!”

Once we were all up, can you even believe that we made it all the way until 9:30am before we opened a single present? Well, unless you count stalkings- and I guess you should. Thomas made ‘sweeter’ pancakes, which are Swedish Pancakes- think sweet crepe- and bacon. We sat down as a family and had breakfast BEFORE presents this year. It was kind of magical, and I think it absolutely should make the ongoing tradition list. I think it’s the absolute best way to instill patience.

Just before we sat down to eat, we read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible. That was a first for us, but certainly not a last. I’ve never read it myself, although I’m quite familiar with the story. I’m glad we were able to successfully insert Jesus into his own birthday party. #win

After breakfast, there were presents. Yes, many. And it was a free for all. I had my mom on FaceTime and I couldn’t quite keep the child who was currently opening a present on the screen. Although we continued to prompt one at a time, the kids were maniacs. Going to be re-assessing this craze come next year. It was so interesting to see how they responded and reacted to ONE present vs several. These are the things I’ve never quite paid attention to over the years. And now that I sit in the parent seat, I’m eager for a little appreciation and less consumerism. But again, another blog, another day.

Once the presents were opened, and some even assembled, we got dressed in our Christmas coziest, and we headed out to the movies! Yes, we decided to bring back the Christmas day movie tradition after all. We saw Ferdinand and it was Gage’s first movie in the movie theater and he did splendidly.

Thomas and I were reflecting on our kids first movie going experiences only just a few days before this. For Cadence, she was just over two and the movie was Frozen. She loved it, ate popcorn, never got out of her seat and didn’t ask for a thing.

With Merit, it was a little different. He too, was just a few months past two years old, and as it turns out, we were in the final few days before he was to become a big brother. It was the week of Thanksgiving, and we went to see Charlie Brown’s Christmas. Not only could Merit tell you exactly zero things about this movie, because he refused to sit in the seat, I don’t remember it myself because I was attempting to prevent him from eating popcorn off the floor most of the time. And I was very pregnant. If it weren’t for my quiet, patient Cadence one seat over, we would have most certainly left mid-movie.

Gage fell somewhere in the middle. He sat on my lap most of the movie. He thought an endless container of popcorn was basically the best thing ever, but towards the end of the movie, he couldn’t decide if he preferred my lap or Tom’s. And so it was back and forth and back and forth. I can handle that. At least he was quite about it.

We got back from the movies with very little time to cook the large meal we had planned for dinner. And by ‘we’, those of you readers who know me, know I clearly mean Thomas. Not long ago, we harvested two of our own turkeys (stay tuned for the next farm blog) and Thomas deboned one (meaning he took out the bones but left all the meat as one big piece) and then made a turkey roll. We cooked this with all the fixings of a Christmas/Thanksgiving feast, which means we ate around 8pm.

Luckily, the kids had plenty of time to play with all of their toys BEFOER we ate our dinner, and so afterwards, they were basically ready to read, brush teeth and go to bed.

Thomas and I sat quietly in the Christmas aftermath, once everything was cleaned up and put away (for the most part) and smiled. We had pulled it off! Would we have loved to have been with the family that we chatted with multiple times over FaceTime? Of course, without question. Will we do things differently in the future? Probably, but who knows what the future holds. The Bible tells us in James 4:13-14 “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Touchè, Bible. Touchè.

We are but a mist that appears for a little while…

Kind of like the Christmas season, wouldn’t you agree? Once the kids are in bed Christmas night, it’s over. It’s done.

And boy was it this year. We woke up on the 26th, and breaking all Christmas records in my family, I put away Christmas. Tree came down, decor was put away, house cleaned, gingerbread house thrown away, and I even went through every single toy in the kids room and thinned things out. Donations went to Good Will, and broken and missing toys went to the garbage.

It’s always bittersweet to say goodbye to another year gone by- as they go so fast. But this year, I look eagerly towards what’s to come. I’m ready. Bring on another year of blessings, challenges, decisions, growth, stretching, opportunities and even heartbreak. Because I haven’t walked through a single year without each, and I don’t think I’d want to, if I had the choice. So here we go people!

I’ll see you in the new year!

**It took us 38465 tries to get this picture.

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