Ahhh...what a fun and relaxing week it has been. My last business event was December 11, and we've been finished with other social outings for a week now. It's just been fun family time together this week. Now that we have children and I've been properly mellowed out (ha!), I've learned to keep my expectations realistic, simplify, and just enjoy the season. We're spending another Christmas with just our family, no visitors, and I've tried to keep things memorable but low-key. Being 6 1/2 months pregnant has slowed me down somewhat, so it's nice for a built-in excuse to not do too much. :-)
Ted came home from work early a couple of days this past week, and he's off Christmas Day and Tuesday as well, so we're enjoying the extra family time. We continue to enjoy our daily advent calendar that we got last year, and the kids are so excited to be able to put Baby Jesus in the manger tomorrow morning! We love this tool from Desiring God ministries, and it has already become a firm family tradition. In the evenings we continue to read and open the doors in our Advent Book, and now that both Charis and Tobin are fluent readers, we take turns (mostly) with the readings, and it helps them feel more involved. (Of course, I must admit that nightly scuffles over who gets to open which door are also a part of this family tradition...)
Our final batch of Christmas cards and letters went out yesterday. Our mailing list seems a bit out of control--158 addresses! Hope they're all current! I do my best to keep our database updated, but every year a few are returned. We'll see how many come back this year. I found I was 6 stamped cards short of my total, so my apologies to the 6 people who are receiving only a letter this year. :-) After living in 5 states in 9 1/2 years of marriage, our mailing list just keeps growing and growing. I refuse, however, to resort to e-Christmas cards/letters. I understand the temptation, and I've received some (thankfully with pictures attached!) from dear friends, but personally I feel that one time each year is not too much to send a first-class card/letter to people who have been so special in our lives. We keep in touch with so many people via email on a regular basis, so why not take the extra time (and yes, money) to mail an actual letter?! No other time of year do we enjoy going to the mailbox nearly so much! It makes me happy to think we can bring a smile to people's faces when they see a hand-stamped Christmas card with a family update included. I just wish I had the mental fortitude to keep on top of everyone's birthdays and other holidays as well! Ah, well. Perhaps someday that resolution will become a reality.
Our Christmas cookies, peanut butter balls, Chex mix, and chocolate-dipped pretzels have gone on to a better resting place, and the fudge is soon to be laid to rest as well. I purposely refrained from making any more desserts, partly because, well, we've obviously indulged quite a bit already this season, but partly because today we are making Jesus's birthday cake to have for our dessert tomorrow. (The kids decided that Jesus wanted a strawberry cake with pink frosting...again, in the simplification mode, we chose to get a box mix with canned frosting.) We made a birthday cake for Jesus 3 Christmases ago when we were in Ohio. We didn't the following year because we traveled to Montana to be with Ted's grandparents and family, and last year we didn't, either, though I'm not sure why. Probably because I was happily busy making our traditional Christmas treats and of course had to do pies to complete our meal, and since it was only the 5 of us, we were definitely in dessert overload. So, this year, we made our goodies early and munched our way through them, and I am not making any pies since we're not sharing our meal with anyone else. So, now we can do a birthday cake again! I think it's a fun tradition, and of course we'll have candles lit and sing. The kids are already excited about it.
Another great thing we've been doing is lots and lots of reading! We had some errands to run on base yesterday, so we decided to stop by the library and pick up some new books to enjoy over the next week or two. Our family was probably half of the number of patrons in the library that day, so we enjoyed having the children's room all to ourselves. I found a few Christmas books, and we began reading Christmas Sonata by Gary Paulsen last night over Candy Cane tea (from Celestial Seasonings--yum!). The kids are currently spread out, each absorbed in his/her own reading project while Ted snoozes in front of a football game. :-) I love that we are a reading family! We've been reading aloud books from The Littles series (by John Petersen), books I enjoyed tremendously when I was a kid. I re-discovered them on our bookshelves, having forgotten that my parents had saved them and given them to me along with a number of other boxes of childhood books. Ted and the kids have also come to enjoy these books as well. I finished Stephen Lawhead's Hood, and Ted is working on one of the Dune books. It reminds me of Christmas vacations when I was growing up and I got to read for fun as much as I wanted! My dad always made sure I got a new book or two for Christmas as well, so I was usually absorbed in reading projects all through the holidays.
So, all in all, it has been a wonderfully relaxing week! I have even managed to get some workouts in--not necessarily relaxing, but something I wanted to be doing more regularly and wasn't able to do the first couple of weeks in December when things were so crazy. My next project is sketching out an outline for the Commission 2007 Bible study. Our theme this year is freedom in Christ, perfect since the Beth Moore study I just finished is called Breaking Free! It will be exciting to see where God leads me in this area of study for the teens. With no other obligations on my plate until January 11 (my first 2007 Stampin' Up! workshop), I'm hoping to get a great start on the writing, since our baby will be born about the time I typically begin writing the Commission Bible studies.
Whew, this post got long and rambly. I'll quit for now and get to work on my outline! The kids are still quiet, and now I hear Ted trying to coax Arden to lie down on the couch with him. :-) I am loving life right now! What a blessing it is to be home with family. Thank you, Lord, for such precious gifts.