2014 Canadian Christmas Bloggers Swap

 This year was the second year I participated in the Canadian Christmas Bloggers Swap organized by two lovely ladies, Leigh and Lindsey!  I love taking part in swaps because a) I get mail that’s not bills, and b) I get to discover awesome new blogs that I might not otherwise stumble upon.

This year I was paired up with Lindsay at Strive to Stride, and she sent me the beautiful handmade ornament pictured above.   Ellie adores it so much that I’ve already had to move it three times!

Lindsay shared the ornament I sent her on her blog yesterday.  I wanted to keep it for myself but Nathan already gives me grief about the wildlife we already have on our tree, what with the birds and the bears and the beavers.

Thanks so much, Lindsay – and thanks for organizing another great swap, Leigh and Lindsey!

Slowing Down

I’ve always been better at doing than being.  I wake up in the morning and make a list of everything I want to accomplish during the day  and then I attack it.

Well, as much as I can with the help of my little shadows.

(I find it works best to make two separate list:  One of things to do while the kids are awake and the other, of things to do during nap time/quiet time!)

Christmas is no exception.

Last year I went a little bit crazy with the whole Advent thing, trying to do one special activity every singe day from the 1st through the 25th of December.  I’m not sure if it was because it was my first year at home with the kids and I was trying to make up for past years or what – but it didn’t go as well as I expected.  Topher loved it, Nathan was a good sport about it when he wasn’t exhausted from work and church and being awake half of every night with a fussy baby, and Ellie was completely oblivious to the whole thing.  I was just plain tired.  I tried to do so much that I felt we lost the whole point of the Advent.  It’s not about gingerbread houses or yarn wreaths or drives around the city to look at Christmas lights, it’s about celebrating the coming of the Son of God into the world. 

This year I decided to go a different route and spend less time planning and doing and more time just being.  We have a family get together on the 21st and another on Christmas Day – and apart from that, we have absolutely no holiday commitments.

Here are a few things we are doing this holiday season:

1.  Spending lots and lots of time together as a family. 

2. Reading.  Danielle shared a link to download a free copy of  The Dawning of Indescribable Joy, which I’ve been reading for the past week.  I think I  might try Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift next year, since I’ve heard such great things about it!

3.  Baking.  Okay, so we actually did this last year too, but it was a special request from Topher to continue the tradition.  We spent part of every day last week baking one or two things and then freezing them, so now we have quite the assortment of goodies to gift to friends, family and neighbours.  Topher loves baking, so it was a great Mommy & Topher bonding opportunity!  He’s also been thinking of other people to gift his creations to:  His skating coaches, the mailman, the garbage collector …

4. Family movie nights.  I‘ve been working most evenings but a couple of nights a week I start a little bit later and take some time to watch Christmas movies with Nathan and the kids.  Some of our favourites are Christopher the Christmas Tree (It’s a lot cheaper on ebay!), Nick and Noel, The Teddy Bears Who Saved Christmas, Dot and Spot, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Frosty the Snowman.

5.  Being spontaneous.  Sledding, skating, outdoor adventure walks in the dark, having friends over for fudge and hot chocolate.  We have nothing scheduled, so why not?

It’s been a welcome change:  A lot less stress, a lot more fun – and a lot less focus on the craziness that usually comes with the Christmas season!

What do you  and your family do for Advent?  

‘Tis the Season!

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If you’d like to receive a Christmas card from me this year, please click here to send me your mailing information.

Disclaimer:  My Christmas cards are nowhere near as awesome this year as they were last year,  but it’s pretty hard to top the Star Wars littles!

Christmas Baking Day

Saturday was Christmas Baking Day with Nathan’s family.  In keeping with tradition, the day fell on the coldest day of the season so far: It was -31 when Topher headed out for his skating lesson!  Thank goodness for (somewhat) heated arenas!

It’s usually just the ladies that do the baking but this year the entire family got involved:  Grandpa helped Grandma make antipasti in the morning, Papa supervised the cutting of the pears for chutney and preserves and then helped Nana decorate the jars,  Zac and Lindsay made fancy butter tarts, and Nathan jumped in to help with  my chocolate sandwich cookies and cinnamon sugar cookies when I over-chilled the dough and it turned into a crumbly mess.  I’m grateful that my husband spent several years taking home ec in high school – he’s a much better baker than I am!

Even Topher and Ellie helped out:

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Taking a break from filling chocolate sandwich cookies

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Ellie’s latest sentence? “Mama, cookie peas!”

This week we’re starting our little family’s Christmas baking.  We usually spread it out over a week and freeze things as we finish them, then make up tins for friends.  On our list this year:  Peanut Butter Cups, Chocolate Chip Snowball Cookies, Sugar Cookies, Peppermint Meltaway Cookies, Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies, and my personal favourite:  Toblerone Fudge.

Do you do any Christmas baking?  What’s your favourite recipe?  

Real Life

When it comes to my little blog, I always have the best intentions.

I have all the supplies to make a “blog editorial calendar” a la Elise and a book crammed full of ideas of things to write about (my “pensieve“, if you will!) – but more often than not, I find that real life gets in the way.

Real life as in the writing that pays the bills taking priority over the writing that doesn’t, like at Halloween:

I had most of a post drafted on how and why we celebrate Halloween, since I’ve had more than one person ask why we do since we’re Christians and Halloween isn’t exactly a Christian holiday.  I was waiting until nap time to finish editing and add a few pictures of my adorable little fox and elephant, but it was such a nice day that I decided to take the kids for walk beforehand, thinking that maybe the walk would tire them out so they would sleep better (longer!).  We were almost back at our front door when I realized I didn’t have my keys.  I don’t have a cell phone so I couldn’t call my husband. We ended up walking to a bank to get money to take the bus to the mall , which is the only place remotely close to us that has pay phones.  Nathan was at lunch and I only had enough money for one call so I ended up leaving a panicked message with his mom at her work, asking her to try to get a hold of him so he could pick us up at the mall, drive us home, and let us in.  By the time all that happened, there was no time for nap time and thus no time to finish my post, since we were going trick-or-treating right after dinner – and I spent the rest of the evening working.

Or sometimes real life as in motherhood:

I had a post partially written for Remembrance Day.  I was going to share a few pictures of my grandpa, who fought in World War II, and share some of the stories he told me before he died.  I was going to write about how hard it is for Topher to understand Remembrance Day, and how different his concept of the day is than mine was growing up.   My grandpa organized the Remembrance Day services in our community.  We attended every service, every year, and laid wreaths at the cenotaph.  The veterans were honoured and respected members of our small town.  But now there aren’t any left.  I have no idea how to express the importance of Remembrance Day to a four-year-old who really has no idea what the day means.

My grandpa in 1944

But we decided at the last minute to visit my sister and her family in Calgary.  The kids had a great time playing with their cousins, but Ellie got sick on the way home and I spent the majority of the three hour road trip sandwiched between the kids’ carseats, holding a garbage bag and trying to catch her puke.   She threw up for a couple of hours after we got home and of course she didn’t want to sleep anywhere besides Mommy’s arms – so Nathan got to use the green machine to clean the car (in the dark, in -15*!) while I snuggled my little girl.  She was feeling better yesterday but today she’s back to being listless and just wanting to sleep, so I’m letting her rest.   Fortunately Topher hasn’t gotten sick yet – he’s at his preschool “Fruit of the Spirit” party with his grandma right now, so I have a few minutes to myself while Ellie naps (in her crib instead of my arms! A small victory!).

I feel like I should be finishing one of the posts in my drafts folder instead of rambling on like I am right now but my brain is completely fried and I don’t think I have the ability to write anything more complex or in depth than an account of why I’m not writing more, except to say that I love my “real life”, puke-filled garbage bags and all, and as much as I enjoy writing here, real life will take priority over blogging every single time, no matter what my editorial calendar says.

And with that being said – I think it’s time for a shower.  I honestly don’t remember the last time I enjoyed such a privilege!