It doesn’t matter how old you are because Christmas morning in our house is still a blast. Even Peter who is getting ready to head off to college next year was still excited to run down the stairs to see what Santa brought him. Everyone’s reactions to their big gifts were priceless. Peter couldn’t believe that he got a 3D printer, Emma was so surprised by her turntable and vinyls of her favorite artists, Abby was so happy with her new electric piano, and Madeline was just happy as could be with her new rainbow teepee and all the chocolate in her stocking. Everyone actually had fun on Abby’s piano and thought that was the coolest thing ever. After eating some chocolate Madeline saw that Santa had eaten the cookies and left a note. She tried reading it by herself. Then we got a call from Andrew from Germany. We each took turns talking to him and those that weren’t talking to him were in the kitchen eating cinnamon rolls. The kids were getting anxious to open up presents so we finished our conversations with Andrew and headed to the family room to open up all the presents. It was a mass of presents being opened left and right. Abby got to open up the first present since she found the pickle ornament first. The thing I love most about Christmas morning is watching the kids’ excitement every time they open up a gift. One of my favorite moments was when Mike opened up his gift from Peter. It was really more of an inside joke and we all loved watching Mike’s face when he opened it up. Mike had previously told the kids about how his dad bought him a plastic boat for the bathtub when he was 13 years old and how ridiculous that present was. So, Peter and I found a similar boat online and wrapped it up for Mike. It was such a fun moment to watch. Some of the other fun gifts that people got were the Nintendo Classic Lego Set for Peter, Diagon Alley Lego Set for Mike, Studio Ghibli DVD’s for Emma, Calico Critters Department Store and hand-knit animal dolls for Madeline, a Japanese heated toilet seat for Sara (oh yes), and LED rooms lights and Audio Technica headphones for Abby. It was a rather bounteous Christmas for everyone.
Christmas Eve in our house is usually a day spent cooking and playing games, very similar to Thanksgiving. Mike, Abby and Madeline helped a little in the kitchen which was very nice. Madeline loved helping me with the pies kept sneaking the apple slices meant for the apple pie. Apparently, she likes green apples better than red apples. Who would’ve thought? After most of the morning cooking was done, Mike played a quick game of Life with Madeline before we all got together to play Monopoly. I forgot how long this game can take to play. Poor Emma was not having much luck in the game and kept landing on everyone else’s properties and didn’t have any of her own. I ended up bailing out of the game after about an hour of playing and it was just Mike, Peter and Abby left to finish the game. Of course, Mike won the game not without a total upset by Peter who really thought he was going to win. After that game was over and done with Mike and Peter headed into the dining room to work on Mike’s Lego from last Christmas…Stranger Things. It ended up being one of the coolest Lego’s we have ever seen. As dinner time drew near, we were all excited to stuff our faces full of good food. Our dinner consisted of ham, sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, jello, homemade rolls and sparking cider. For dessert we had chocolate pie and apple pie, although we were so full that none of us ate any of the pies on Christmas Eve. After dinner was all cleaned up, I went to work on making our cinnamon rolls for the morning and Emma made the sugar cookies. The rest of the crew went back to the dining room to finish The Strangers Things Lego set. While the cinnamon rolls were rising, we got our pajamas on and read the scriptures. After family prayer, we grabbed “Twas The Night Before Christmas” and sat with Madeline while the story was being told by Grandpa Al who pre-recorded himself reading it several years ago. She liked it so much that we listened to it twice. Then it was to bed for Madeline. The older kids sat in the dining room chatting it up and laughing with Mike until the Lego set was finally finished. Then it was off to bed for the older kids so they could dream away at what would be waiting for them the next morning near the Christmas tree.
Oh, how we love our annual North Pole breakfast. The older kids were really excited for the elves to come this year because they knew that Madeline would be really excited by their silliness. We ate a fabulous breakfast of buttermilk pancakes, berries, bacon, and powdered donuts. We told Madeline that she couldn’t touch the elves but could only whisper in their ears. She was super curious, and it was fun to watch her excitement. and she was really curious to know what their letter said. After breakfast she went off to play and when she came back downstairs, she saw that they had moved. They were being silly in the fruit basket and she just thought that was hilarious. She talked to them throughout the day, telling them little secrets and things she wanted for Christmas. It was just too cute.
It is always fun to start decorating for Christmas and we are always eager to do it the weekend after Thanksgiving. This year we decided to give the kids their Christmas pajamas on the day we decorated the tree. It is a slight change from our original tradition of opening up Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve but everyone loved getting their pajamas earlier so I think we might stick with this new tradition. As always, I make our holiday poppyseed bread so we can enjoy it while we decorate the tree. My mom always sends each of the kids a new ornament every year so before we started decorating the tree the kids opened up their new ornaments. Peter and Abby got swimmer ornaments, Emma got a cute blonde runner ornament and Madeline got a unicorn ornament...all were so fitting. Madeline enjoyed decorating the tree more than anyone else. It is so much fun to have a little one in the house to witness the pure joy of the season. The older kids printed out a picture of Danny DeVito and put it on the tree in remembrance of Andrew. It is kind of an inside joke but in a nutshell, one year Andrew replaced one of his picture ornaments with a photo of Danny DeVito and it took me a long time to notice it. When I did, I laughed then I changed the photo back to my sweet boy. Unbeknownst to me, Andrew changed it once again. It became a running joke in the family to have Danny DeVito on the tree.
We let Madeline dictate when we started our Christmas morning. Lucky for us she slept in until 7:00am. I made the kids sit on the top of the stairs like I do every year before coming down so I could get a quick photo. It really doesn’t matter how old you are because Christmas morning in our house is such a party. There were probably too many presents under the tree this year and some fun gifts that Santa left out for the kids that were scattered across the family room. This year from Santa Andrew got a ski backpack with all the safety tools he would need as well as a gift certificate to a 3-day Avalanche course. He also got a really nice suitcase for his mission. Santa brought Peter his Letterman jacket and both Emma and Abby got apple watches. Madeline was so excited to see that Santa brought her a brand-new doll with a doll stroller and a doll blanket to match her own blanket. The kids got a variety of other fun things such as new swim bags, games, extra apple watch bands, little Momiji dolls, stretch Armstrong, mini deck of Uno cards, books, new clothes and shoes, fun socks, stress balls, toys, Legos, sunglasses, and DNA kits. Probably the biggest surprise gift for the kids were their new AWAY suitcases and a surprise trip to Germany. They did not see that one coming. They were beyond excited. Of course, Mike outdid himself again and got me a fun big gift. He got me an American Beauty octagon barrel Henry repeating arms 22-gauge lever action rifle and a 9mm Ruger semi auto handgun. The rifle was absolutely gorgeous. I was so surprised and excited to try them both out. This year for Mike’s big gift I got him a turntable with some classic vinyl’s such as Pearl Jam, Weezer, AC/DC, and Queen. He absolutely loved it and was really surprised that I finally got him a clever and fun gift. We all had fun opening our many gifts, eating cinnamon rolls, and listening to Mike’s new vinyl records. It was a perfect Christmas morning!
Christmas Eve is always an exciting time and even though most of our kids are older they still enjoy the excitement of it all. Emma made the sugar cookie dough this year and it was so delicious. It was hard to not keeping eating the dough. Madeline loved picking out different cookie cutters and cutting out cookies to put on the pan. The girls got really creative this year with the icing and made some pretty cute cookies. With all the baking that was going on today it was a nice break to stop and let the kids have fun with the Christmas cookies. We had a fabulous dinner of ham, stuffing, deviled eggs, sweet potatoes, jello and rolls. After dinner I handed out everyone’s new Christmas pajamas. Madeline was so excited to put on her new Frozen nightgown. There is just something so fun about new pajamas on Christmas Eve. The kids turned in relatively early after some reading in the scriptures and family prayer. I’m glad that the anticipation and excitement is still there with the older kids. They still get excited for Christmas morning and that is a good thing.
Every year at the beginning of December the elves come to visit, and we celebrate by having our annual North Pole Breakfast. The kids still look forward to this fun tradition even though most of them are all older now. It was tempting to not do the elves this year since Madeline is the only small kid left in our family, but Abby insisted that we do it anyways. This year instead of doing it on the first Saturday of the month we decided to do it for dinner one night while Grandma Anne and Grandpa Franz were visiting. It was fun to share one of our traditions with them. Everyone had a great time stuffing their faces with Mike’s famous buttermilk pancakes, bacon, berries, and powdered donuts. There is never a shortage of powdered donuts during our North Pole breakfast. It is usually one of the only times during the year that we eat this white powdery goodness.
The day after Thanksgiving we got the Christmas decorations out and started decorating the house. This included setting up the tree and putting up the Christmas tree lights and ribbon in preparation for decorating the tree. On the last day of November after dinner, everyone got their PJ’s on and helped to decorate the tree. Decorating the Christmas tree together after Thanksgiving has become one of our traditions and one in which we look forward to. I made Grandma Candace’s lemon poppyseed bread again this year. We listened to Christmas music, ate yummy bread, and picked out our favorite ornaments to put on the tree. The kids were good about helping Madeline reach the top part of the tree. We let her put the star on the tree again this year and she was finally able to do it by herself. The only help she needed was Mike lifting her up to the top of the tree. She was so proud of herself.
Decorating for Christmas is one of the greatest things you can do after Thanksgiving. There are so many reasons to love Christmas, and decorating really brings into focus the joy of the season. The boys did a great job getting the tree ready by removing the old lights that didn’t work anymore. Mike hung the lights, and Sara put up the ribbon. Watching the kids, in their pajamas, get the ornaments out of the box and put them on the tree is a wonderful moment for parents. Even the surliest of teenagers can’t help but smile as the decorations are put up and the Christmas music plays in the background. It’s hard to imagine that this is the last Christmas where Andrew will be a permanent resident of our house. It’s a special time. The kids may not realize it, but we do. Having all of our kids gathered together in one place is nostalgic and wonderful. We hope that there will be many more years of kids gathered around the tree, putting up ornaments in their pajamas.