Sunday, January 3, 2016

The most wonderful time of the year

I really do love Christmas!  I think it is the most wonderful time of the year with the giving, loving and family togetherness.  I love that people have Christ on their minds.  I love the lights, the decorations and the trees.  I love the food and the extra hustle and bustle.  This year was no exception!

There was a "talent" show at this years ward party.  It might be one that is talked about for years to come.  Josh did an epic "Kenny J." performance of White Christmas on a borrowed soprano sax.  I don't have a good picture, but he came out in long hair, mullet wig and played surprisingly well.  It has been almost a month and I'm still getting 2-3 comments a week at church.  Of course it is traditional to have the primary children sing. (As a side note, for the next 8 weeks I have FIVE children in primary.  It is really hard to believe that Johnny is now a sunbeam.)

Our neighborhood has an annual Christmas social and encourages contributions to charity rather than neighbor gifts.  I love the idea!  I'm trying to get used to doing it, but I think it is fantastic to fundraise for charity.  The couple who hosted the party this year planed some fun games!  Of course moving the oreo down the face, to the mouth, without touching, it is always a fun one.  Possibly funner to watch than to play!

Here the kids are pictured staking as many doughnuts as possible on their heads in a one minute time period.  It was more challenging than you might think.  Gratefully eating the doughnuts was not required in this game. 

One of my favorite traditions has become allowing the kids to sleep under the lights of the Christmas tree. We always do it on the night that Josh and I go to the Low couples Christmas party (and usually a few other Friday nights in December as well.)  I think it is fun for them to have time together, next to the Christmas tree, having a slumber party, without parents telling them what to do. 

This year we fed the missionaries on December 23rd. It was a miracle that the kids all sat and respectfully listened to the missionaries teach even with a few friends over.  

Cara got  puzzle from one of her friends for Christmas so she and Caleb stayed up very late one night doing it.  I love when they happily enjoy time together.  I also love that they are growing up and can do more mature activities together.  Josh was sure that they wouldn't be able to put together this difficult puzzle, but to his surprise they did it!!

Another favorite tradition has become doing the 12 days of CHRISTmas to count down to Christmas day.  We focus on a gift Christ has given us each day. We have a short Christ centered discussion before we open a gift that helps the children remember what Christ has given them.  Here is the basic outline I use.  Each year I switch up the gifts a bit, but attached are the gifts I gave and brainstormed this year. 

Sunday, December 13
On the first day of Christmas, Jesus Christ gave sight to the blind.
Gift: Peach Rings (WATCH New Nativity Video through Peach Ring Glasses)
Challenge: Read John 9:1-11
Today, open your eyes to truly see the needs around you, and help someone you wouldn't normally help.

Monday, December 14
On the second day of Christmas Jesus Christ was the light of the world.
Gift: Glow Sticks or flashlights or night lights
Challenge: Read John 8:12 and Matthew 5:16
Let your light shine today and use your talents and spiritual gifts to lift someone's burdens and brighten their day.

Tuesday, December 15
On the third day of Christmas Jesus Christ healed the sick.
Gift: Cute Band Aids (Boy and Girl Ones)
Challenge: Read Matthew 4:23
We cannot always heal another physically as Christ did, but we can help to heal the spirit. Today do one thing to help heal a relationship or a person in need.

Wednesday, December 16
On the fourth day of Christmas Jesus Christ gave the gift of charity, the pure love of Christ.
Gift: Peppermint Chocolate Pretzels to make and give away
Challenge: Read Moroni 7:47 and 1 Corinthians 13:1-8
Try to treat everyone you encounter today with Christ-like love. Show those closest around you how much you truly love them.

Thursday, December 17
On the fifth day of Christmas Jesus Christ made the deaf to hear.
Gift: Tickets to American Authors Concert or Head Phones 
Challenge: Read Mark 7: 32-37
Sometimes the voice of the Lord is drowned out by everyday life and we are deaf to his teachings. Take a moment to listen to the Lord and to truly listen to the needs of those around you. Listen with your heart, and act upon those feelings to do good for someone else, today.

Friday, December 18
On the sixth day of Christmas Jesus Christ fed 5,000 with 2 loaves of bread and fish.
Gift: Swedish Fish/ Bread to give away
Challenge: Read Mark 6:34-44 and John 6:35
Today give of your physical or spiritual sustenance. You could make your favorite Christmas treat and deliver it to a special person, volunteer at a food bank or you could share with someone something that spiritually sustains you in times of need. You could even write a note to someone who has sustained you during a difficult time in your life.

Saturday, December 19
On the seventh day of Christmas Jesus Christ gave the gift of selflessness.
Gift: Wrap presents and/or shop for our Christmas eve family
Challenge: Read Mark 10:43-45
Minister to someone who may feel lonely or forgotten, and give something to someone that only you can give. Remember that Jesus Christ was always concerned for the one on a personal level and try to emulate this today.

Sunday, December 20
On the eighth day of Christmas Jesus Christ gave the gift of baptism.
Gift: Dove chocolate
Challenge: Read Matthew 3:13-17
Reflect on what it means to be baptized. Today commit to change one thing in your life that will help you come closer to the Savior, be reborn, make amends if needed, and immerse yourself in goodness.

Monday, December 21
On the ninth day of Christmas Jesus Christ gave the gift of the Holy Ghost, the comforter.
Gift: Hot Chocolate maker and treats or blankets or warm cloths
Challenge: Read John 14:26
Many times the Lord blesses the lives of his children through us. Be a comforter to someone today.

Tuesday, December 22
On the tenth day of Christmas Jesus Christ made the lame to walk.
Gift: Socks
Challenge: Read Acts 3:2-8
Walk in someone else's shoes today, and try to see this person as God sees them.

Wednesday, December 23
On the eleventh day of Christmas Jesus Christ clothed those in need.
Gift: Clothes for our Christmas eve family
Challenge: Read Matthew 25:34-40
Donate some old clothes to goodwill or DI, make a blanket or article of clothing for someone in need or for the homeless, or donate your time sorting clothes or other items at a clothing charity.

Thursday, December 24
On the twelfth day of Christmas Jesus Christ gave his life for us so we can live with him again.
Gift: Forms to write “My Gift To Jesus” and cool new pens
Challenge: Read Matthew 26:36-75, 27, 28
Commit to become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ and to remember the sacrifice that he gave for us that we might live. Write your testimony of the Savior and share it with a family member or friend, or write your testimony in your journal.

This year my family didn't get together on Christmas eve so we had the unique experience of being home with just our family.  It was nice.  We had some friends over in the day and then in the evening my mom and Josh's parents came for dinner.  We gave the kids a gift of going go EVE the new years eve celebration in Salt Lake along with some goggles for the trip.  They were SO EXCITED! 

One of the highlights of Christmas is shopping for a family who is struggling in one way or another and then delivering Christmas to them on Christmas eve.  The kids know that Josh and I get them very little for Christmas and that we don't help Santa as much as other parents do because we spend that budget on another family who has more needs than we do.  The kids LOVE delivering Christmas to the family.  It really is one of the highlights of Christmas for all of us.  I love taking them shopping and having them pick out things they would love to have and then buying it for them to give away.  I think it is a fantastic experience for all of us!!

As you can see my children get plenty for Christmas!!  This year they got seven gifts each to be exact. The were so grateful and excited!  Their excitement was so fun to take in!

Not all of the seven gifts were big.  It was some of the smallest gifts that were the favorites!

The tree looked extra full since the children each received a bean bag chair.  

Ali's favorite present was this microphone.  She has been serenading us and dancing ever since she got it.  She sang all through Christmas dinner and LOVES to show off her skills!

Cara wanted a girls Nurf Rebel Gun.  She might not look like a warier, but she is!

The girls also scored some awesome Barbie dresses!

The boys made a hall on lego guys.  They may have more lego super hero's and guys than they will ever play with.

Andy was most excited about these remote control battling robots. When they punch each other their heads pop off.  What more could boys want!

Caleb got his first iPhone.  We will see if we still like the idea in a few weeks, but he has been thrilled with it!  Texting his friends and now not only begging me for things in person, now begging via text message. 

Ali can no longer sleep without her new big eye pet Roxie!  Yes, it is the little things!

The day after Christmas my family got together for our big celebration.  My mom TOTALLY spoiled everyone as always.  She goes all out with gifts, games and food.  She planned some really fun minute-to-win-it games.  Andy is wearing the ring toss hat.  I wish I'd taken more pictures, but it was a little wild with 16 grandkids under age 12!  Plus my cousin Lampee and his family always comes.  It is a madhouse of pure Christmas crazy!  I loved celebrating with my family the day after Christmas.  It made the holiday last three full days! We are so fortunate!!

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