Monday, December 24, 2012

Took some effort, but it feels like Christmas around here...

I've been terrible about updating our family blog. It's been such a whirlwind year with so many comings and goings and changes and craziness that I simply haven't been able to keep up on everything. I think I feel paralyzed by the idea of playing catch up on the blog so I don't do anything on it and it just keeps getting farther and farther behind. I need to just start back up and keep at it, without trying to catch up on the events of the past months. Hopefully I'll be able to back track a bit and fill in some gaps, but in the meanwhile I need to just live in the moment and move forward.

We're in a rental house here in Louisiana. Three months ago we found out that the house we're in has been foreclosed and is now owned by the bank. We found this out when the bank rep knocked on our door and handed us a "cash for keys" offer trying to get us to vacate the home within 30 days. We simply couldn't do that in the time offered, and instead we're riding out our legal right to reside here for 90 days from the time they notified us that we need to leave. Our 90 days is up on December 29th. So 4 days after Christmas, a little less than 5 months from the date we moved into this house, we'll be moving again.  It's getting old. It's getting old fast. But it is what it is, and we feel fortunate to have found another home to rent within the boundaries of the kids' schools so they won't have to be uprooted once again so quickly after our big move this past summer.

Moving so close to Christmas time posed a real dilemma. We weren't sure if we wanted to be in a new place before the holiday or move immediately after. We opted to stay put in our current home so we were able to put up a few decorations and try to get in the spirit of the season. When we were deciding what things to bring with us from Hawaii to Louisiana, we had to make some hard decisions about which Christmas decorations to keep and which to let go. We kept all our special ornaments. We kept a few other special decorations. I had to let go of some large stuffed carolers that I'd had since I was a little girl. Willy and the kids hated them. They were content to see them go. But I cried when I opened the two measly boxes of Christmas decorations that moved here with us and remembered that I'd left my long-time, memory-filled Christmas carolers decorations behind. It didn't feel like Christmas without them and without so many things that I thought I was comfortably letting go of in Hawaii, only to realize on this end how important they had been to me.

We didn't have a tree. And with the costs of a move upon us we couldn't really afford to buy a new one. But most of our treasured Christmas decorations are ornaments and we needed a tree to hang them on! I had kept one lighted garland as box filler when we packed up our ornaments and so I thought maybe I could hang the ornaments on the garland. But I really wanted a tree. I saw an idea on Pinterest and got it in my head that since we had moved plenty of books with us to Louisiana (media mail is cheap!), perhaps I could pull off a personal version of the Book Tree I'd seen. It took me four builds and rebuilds before I got the dimensions correctly resembling a tree. I feel like it was well worth the effort. It was a fun way to start getting in the Christmas spirit!

Well worth the effort... we love our special Christmas tree!

Despite loving the Book Tree, I found that we couldn't realistically hang our special ornaments on that one strand of garland that wrapped around the tree. We NEEDED a Christmas tree. Fortunately someone on Freecycle offered one up and I snatched it quickly! It's a simple 6' artificial tree, but it's pre-lit which made things easy and our ornaments fit on it perfectly. It felt like a wee Christmas miracle to plug in those lights and see our ornaments on display.

Not as clever as our book tree, but this one holds our special ornaments
and that's helping us enjoy the holiday!

Next, I excitedly opened a box that I'd wrapped at the end of the last Christmas season. It was our box of wrapped Christmas books, ready to begin our December tradition of opening one book each night and reading it as a family. Because I re-wrap all the books at the end of each season, busting out the books and kick starting our annual tradition required no effort at all. Gratefully, as expected, when we opened the first book on December 1st, we started to feel that itty bitty excitement that comes with the holiday season. Admittedly I've gotten weepy a few times as we've read some of our favorite books collected while in Hawaii (The Christmas Gift of Aloha, The Hawai'i Snowman, etc) but the continued tradition helped us enjoy the beginning of the season and has carried us through the month. Tonight we'll read The Forgotten Carols and listen to some beautiful music as we prepare for Christmas!

We open one wrapped gift each night starting on December 1st. The gifts are all Christmas books that we read
as a family each night leading up to Christmas.

Finally, I decided to tackle a loooooooooooong overdue task. As a child I had an amazing Christmas stocking made by my mom. It was an advent calendar of sorts with 24 little pockets on the front that my parents would fill with candies or trinkets. Years ago my mom gave me my stocking as well as stockings for Willy and the boys! She knew I enjoyed cross stitching so she didn't put their names on the top, leaving that little labor of love for me to handle. A few years later Molly joined our family and for Christmas that year my mom gave her a stocking as well (with her name stitched on it.) For the next three Christmases Molly's and my stocking were the only stockings with names on them... I'd never gotten around to stitching the boys' names on theirs. It was embarrassing each year to hang the stockings, fill the pockets, but not have them identified by name. I finally decided that in order to help me feel more satisfaction in this Christmas season, that it was time to tackle the task and stitch those names on once and for all! I'm happy to say that the stockings have been hanging WITH names this year... and I was only a few days into the month when I got them done :) I'm SO happy to see them hanging COMPLETED by the fireplace this year!

The COMPLETED stockings were hung by the chimney with care!!

We did add one new fun decoration to the mix this year and it makes me grin every time I see it! It's a nearly lifesize burlap wall hanging of the "Major Award!" from A Christmas Story, which is one of our favorite movies to watch as a family each holiday season. My local friend here made it and I LOVE it!

So, it took some effort, but we're officially in the mood for Christmas! We went and saw a beautifully decorated square in town, we saw Santa, we attended a holiday party at church, we watched Elf, we went to church yesterday, and tonight we're hosting the sister missionaries in our area for dinner and Christmas Eve festivities. I'm so grateful for traditions that have helped us feel some sense of normalcy this holiday season. I'm excited about our Christmas Eve tradition of opening new pajamas (for ALL of us this year! Even Willy and I!). We'll watch A Christmas Story as a family. We'll enjoy the excitement and anticipation of Santa. And in the morning we have a whole bunch of other traditions to enjoy! I can't wait!

Merry Christmas!!