I just sent my children off, one by one, back to school.
All of our eyes were exceptionally blurry this morning as we realized once again how dark 6:25 looks, and it all started up again:
Scriptures, breakfast, hair manipulation, mood manipulation too.
And now the house is quiet. Not a peep except for the heat coming to life and the whirring of the refrigerator.
I finally have a moment to reflect on these last two golden weeks. Filled with family and friends, with Christ and Christmas smack-dab in the center. They were good ones, crammed with endless card games, plays, whirlwind-try-to-pull-gifts-together stress and many late-teenager-filled-kitchen nights mixed with the regular whining and fights and tempers that balance everything out.
So let's start at Christmas Eve to remember all these golden strands.
Christmas Eve is always my favorite.
Because that's when the kids give each other their gifts.
And that never fails to rope in the Christmas magic.
But first let's talk about Christmas Eve morning.
We had the opportunity this year to go to one of the largest homeless shelters in the city and serve lunch there.
I just have a couple pictures from in there, but they remind me how hard these kids worked:
...and how it felt to watch my children, a little apprehensive, making new friends.
Every time we drove in and out of our neighborhood I got overwhelmed with the beauty surrounding us on all sides (still do).
God is an incredible artist.
Christmas Eve was the day when Lucy got a letter back in the mail from Santa.
She and Claire also got a squigly letter one that must have been sent another day...needless to say, that girl was pretty excited Santa didn't forget her.
Having my parents here was great because we got to hear from all my siblings as they FaceTimed here and there.
Then it was time to get ready for the traditional Jerusalem Supper.
After the table and food were all prepped we had a little piano concert.
(The big girls had missed their recital while we were in Boston and we figured this would be a close second:)
Clearly the audience was quite mesmerized:
But Lu was pretty excited to pound out Jolly Old Saint Nicholas as many times as we'd let her this season and I loved that!
By the time we were done, my special bread was baked (bread that I've baked countless times since I learned how to make it in Boston and that I'll share the recipe for soon...)
And we got in Jerusalem Supper character.
Each person had part of the nativity to talk about for a moment before they put them back in their stable (an idea Claire came up with last year):
And then it was time for the donkey to take Mary off on her journey to Bethlehem with Joseph leading the way (Mary from the supper switched to the angel role so another Mary could take the reigns for the nativity):
With Max gone this year and Dave's separated shoulder we had a female donkey....
We had an especially exuberant angel this year:
Then it was time for the grand children-gift-exchange.
Claire started it all off by giving us each the sweetest notes she had taken quite a bit of time writing.
Seriously how sweet is that?
Years ago we used to head to the dollar store before Christmas and each child would use their hard-earned dollars to pick out something for each sibling, but a few years ago we switched to a gift rotation. Last year everyone gave to their next younger sibling, and this year they went down two younger. Which meant, with Max gone, that Grace and Lucy gave to each other and Claire and Elle did too.
On to the traditional Christmas pj's:
...and Dave's reading of "T'was the Night Before Christmas:"
Not without a few bedtime hugs:
Oh man, how is this all already over??