I always love the anticipation of Christmas morning and seeing the excitement from all of my kids as they sit at the top of the stairs waiting to run down and see what Santa brought them. Although we only have one little kid in the house, it is still so much fun as the older kids still get excited. This year none of the older kids had any idea what they were getting which made their excitement more intense than usual. All Madeline wanted was a robot dog and Santa delivered big time. Her face as she turned the corner from the stairs was priceless. The older kids were so excited by their big gifts too. Andrew got a subscription to Hello Fresh, Emma got air pods and a new Garmin running watch that is similar to an apple watch but does so much more, and Abby got an epic vocal recording system. Everyone was thrilled. This year I found the little pickle, so I got to be the first one to open up a present. Even though we had 10:30am church, we ripped through the present opening so fast. The kids all got things they needed and also wanted all in one. Madeline got a new matching lunchbox, backpack and water bottle, books, a princess Lego set from Mike which she loved, a Toniebox and Disney princess characters to go with it, an art easel with paint markers and a new apron, a set of instruments, and some new clothes. Abby got new shoes, new clothes, new paints, an everywhere belt bag from Lululemon which she loved and a new necklace from Albion. Emma got new shoes, new clothes, a GHD curling iron, and a necklace from Albion that she kept stealing from me. Andrew got new lunch boxes for school, new clothes from Kuhl and Vuori that he would never buy for himself, new skis, and his mission scrapbook that I finished and had printed for him. Mike and I bought new clothes for each other, mostly from Vuori, Kuhl and Lululemon which are our favorite stores. Mike also got a new work messenger bag and also his traditional Lego set. This year I decided on the Child from the Mandalorian series. He loved it. Of all the presents we received, the best was getting on the phone with Peter that afternoon and hearing his cheerful voice. It really put things in perspective hearing his positivity knowing that things weren’t much better than the day before but seeing how a good night’s rest can change one’s mood and outlook on things. I was immediately humbled and blessed to be able to have the most wonderful conversation with Peter. We sure did miss having him in person on Christmas but video chatting with him was pretty great. Family really is the best gift anyone can have on Christmas morning. I hope that our family never forgets that.
Reading Santa's letter thanking the kids for the cookies and milk and carrots for Rudolph
Mom found the pickle first
Everyone kept stealing my favorite white water bottles so Mike bought me more
This Christmas Eve started out like every year. I headed down to the kitchen after sleeping just a little bit to start on the Christmas dinner. One of these years I will learn to do the pies the day before. I started on the pies and had lots of good helpers in the kitchen. Mike is the designated peeler, slicer, and cleaner of dishes. With his help and the other girls at various times we were able to get most of dinner prepped quite early. I tried something new with the apple pie this year. I did a lattice top instead of the boring top I usually do. I loved the way it turned out. I also was able to get the cinnamon rolls done earlier in the day instead of doing them at 10pm. It was still an all-day affair to get everything done but between prepping dinner, I was able to enjoy watching the girls play the Wii together amongst other shenanigans. Mike put together an amazing charcuterie board for lunch and we gobbled that down pretty fast. I pulled out the Christmas pajamas early and let everyone wear them all day. I mean why not, right? This year I made custom shirts for everyone with my new Cricut machine. I had loads of fun picking out what would go on each person's shirt. In the afternoon we were able to talk to Peter and I wish I could say it was the most uplifting call, but he was really struggling and had been sick the week before. It was so good to see and talk with him, but it left us all missing him and sad for the situation he was in. We all ate our dinner in silence and after we had scripture study Emma gave the most heartfelt prayer for Peter. It actually made us all tear up a bit. There is nothing more real on Christmas than having to rely on the very person for whom the season is focused on. The only way we would get through Christmas this year was by having faith that God would watch out for Peter and being grateful for a Savior who knew exactly what we were all feeling.
Twas the Night Before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring...except for the parents who were diligently putting things together for Christmas morning!!!
Christmas morning continues to be so much fun in our house. We still grace the older kids with Santa gifts, and we will do that as long as we can because it is so much fun to see their reactions to gifts they weren't expecting. The best gift this year to our kids was the anime drawings of our family that we commissioned someone to do for us. It truly was the center of everyone's attention first thing in the morning...except for Madeline who was only interested in her new toys from Santa. Some of the big presents given this year to the kids were a wooden bakery with miniature food items for Madeline, roller blades for Abby, a new iPhone 13 for Emma, a ski backpack, hiking polls and tools for Peter, and lots of cash for Andrew to buy new skis. One of the funniest gifts hands down went to the Danny DeVito sequin flip pillow that Mike bought for all the kids as part of our inside joke. The kids decided they are going to take turns with the pillow and pass it around over the years. We were pleasantly surprised to get a fantastic gift from Peter who spent his own money and bought us a National Parks board game! We are super excited to learn how to play it. Most of the other gifts for the older kids were things they needed and wanted such as clothes, socks, shoes, new cookbooks, and of course a big LEGO set for Peter and for Mike. This year we got Peter the Apollo Saturn V lego in keeping with the spirit of him wanting to pursue an aerospace emphasis in Engineering. It took him all day to build it. It was a glorious day of being in our pjs, eating cinnamon rolls and leftover Christmas dinner, enjoying our new treasures and spending time together.
I usually never get to exercise on Christmas Eve but this year I went out and did a track workout and some last-minute grocery shopping all in the morning before I started cooking our Christmas dinner. Peter and Emma went and delivered a few gifts while I started on the dinner. Mike was awesome at peeling and chopping and keeping the kitchen clean for me. We spent most of the day cooking, eating, laughing, playing music, playing games, and decorating sugar cookies to give to Santa. Mike had the older kids read his outline for the book he is writing, and the kids had some awesome pointers to give him. I loved listening to each of the older kid’s opinions on his story. It was fascinating to listen that conversation. I loved watching everyone enjoy being together on Christmas Eve. We were even blessed with an afternoon snow shower!! With how little snow we have gotten this fall, it made us all jump for joy! Instead of dressing up for our dinner, I gave everyone their Christmas pjs and we ate dinner in our pajamas this year. That was a ton of fun. Then we read from Luke, said our family prayer, and everyone played a card game while I made the cinnamon rolls for the next morning. We had all anticipated watching a movie after putting Madeline to bed, but we were all so exhausted. The big kids were banished to their rooms while Mike and I set up the stockings and gifts from Santa. Madeline’s bakery was a little tricky to put together (thanks Santa for not putting it together for us). Mike and I didn’t end up going to bed until 11:30pm. Although most of our kids are older, I still had a hard time falling asleep with good anticipation for the next morning. I just love Christmas.
Decorating the Christmas Tree
It is usually our tradition to put up Christmas decorations and decorate the Christmas tree during Thanksgiving break. Since we were headed to Utah this year for Thanksgiving, we decided to do the tree before we left. I spent the day decorating the house with all our Christmas décor and making our traditional poppyseed bread. When Mike got home from work, I gave the girls their new Christmas pjs and let them decorate the tree. Emma and Abby were the most excited to continue to tradition to put up the Danny DeVito ornament. It is now a huge inside joke in our family that started when Andrew and Peter put Danny DeVito’s picture in one of their framed ornaments one year. They put it on the tree and waited to see how long it took me to find it. When I realized what they had done I just laughed. Now Danny DaVito adorns our tree every year. While the girls decorated the tree, we listened to Christmas music and enjoyed eating the poppyseed bread. Although, I must admit that we have already been listening to Christmas music for the last two weeks. We just love Christmas in the Wilhelm house.
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.
North Pole Breakfast
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.
Decorating the Tree
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.
North Pole Breakfast
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.
Decorating the Christmas Tree
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 the Christmas Tree
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.