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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas in Pictures (and a few words)

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During the days leading up to Christmas the kids and I made cookies. And yes I only have on beater for my mixer. I have no idea where the other one got off to...

Please forgive the dark, grainy (and occasionally unfocused) pictures from Christmas morning. Or any of them really. The kids woke up before the sun and despite turning on lights it was still dark in the living room. We have horrible lighting in our house anyway and I despise using the flash on my camera. So there you have it.

My favorite picture from Christmas morning hands down is the one of Reuben opening his gift from Lily. For the first time this year we had each child pick out a gift for each other. Lily chose a "football"' for Reuben. Soccer balls are footballs thanks to the British children's TV show The Hive...aka Buzzbee around our house. He played with it in the store and did not want to give it up so she knew that he'd love it and kept telling me exactly that. Can you see the excitement in her face? Pure love and joy right there.

New shoes for Christmas. They were put on immediately and declared a perfect fit. I was worried when I purchased Lily those sneakers. The last pair she had lit up and these new ones don't. Also they aren't all pink which in her book makes for a good shoe. But I forget that she is genuinely happy with any gift she is given. I love and really appreciate that about her.

We had a visitor show up mid Christmas morning. The kids and I were trying out the new wagon outside when a little puppy came running up to us dragging his chain behind him. He must have escaped his owners as he had a collar and was well taken care of. He was a cute little thing but way too hyper for the kids and we had to separate him from Toby our dog so we chained him up in our yard and kept Toby on the screened porch. We had no idea where he came from and since we live in the middle of town there was no way to find out. Several hours later though his owner found him after searching all morning and took him home. Good thing because I was wondering what we were going to do with him for the night.

Andrew had a few helpers while potting a few fig plants that he's attempting to grow.

We went out Christmas night to look at lights. We drove around a local retirement village and visited the city circle where we let the kids get out to check everything out. It was a nice way to end the day.

Picture(s) not included but worth mentioning is that Andrew gave me a 35mm 1.8 lens for my Nikon camera that I bought used many, many months ago. I haven't been able to use it until now as I bought it body only. I'm switching from my Sony A55 to a Nikon D7000 and so far I'm very happy with the swap. I still have a lot of studying to do though, the learning curve for the Nikon is much steeper than for the Sony. I'm thinking of starting a project 365 in the new year to help in learning my camera as well as getting better at photography. Could be a lot of fun and could be a big hassle too. We'll see.

All in all we had a pleasant and relaxing holiday here in the Eroh house. Just how I like it.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

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From our family to yours, we wish you a wonderful holiday season.

Love, Andrew, Hannah, Lily, Reuben & Baby #3

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday Emotions

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I have a lot going through my head on this warm and supposed to be stormy Christmas Eve afternoon. I've always loved the magic of the holiday season. This is probably my favorite time of year. The decorations, lights, music, smells, time spent with family, remembering The Reason we celebrate...and yes, the presents. And that last item is what started me thinking. Well that and something else that opened my eyes recently.

This year, for the first time ever, Lily has been making requests for Christmas gifts. She handed me a pen and paper one day and told me to write down her wish list. I wish I'd taken a picture of it. It had three items on it: dollhouse, scooter and new shoes. She came up with those ideas all on her own which is a little random because I had already asked a friend of mine who runs a woodworking business out of their home in Maine if they could make her a dollhouse. The scooter isn't happening but I took her up on her idea of new shoes. She does need new sneakers as hers are a tad bit small for her now. For the past couple of years, around this time, I randomly bring up the question of why we celebrate Christmas or what's so special about Christmas. She's always answered "Jesus' birthday!" and I knew that our efforts were paying off. For the first time last week though, she answered "presents!" and to be honest I felt like I'd had the wind knocked out of me a little bit. I try very hard not to bring up the topic of gifts in front of the kids and I've never asked them what they want for Christmas. I do most of my shopping online while they are sleeping so they aren't bombarded by advertisements and stuff when we go to the store as I don't need to go anywhere near the toy section (or craft, clothing, or even the housewares section...Lily's easy to shop for as she loves a wide variety of things). Maybe its inevitable that she realizes that the rest of the world doesn't all adhere to the calm, non-commercialized way we celebrate the season. I suppose at almost 4.5 years old she's realizing that its fun to receive things and that there are a lot of "things" to be had out there. I've long been a believer that the best memories are not made up of things and I want my children to take that to heart. As one of the ways to instill that in our children, we lightened the gift load this Christmas. We've never gone overboard with gift giving but last year showed us that we could cut back even more. This year they are each receiving three gifts. One large item that they "want," a book, and one item that they need. Last year just buying them three books each proved to be too much. Reuben's books sat unopened till later that evening while he played with everything else.

So, yes, this is my favorite time of year, but why? Do I unintentionally place a lot of emphasis on presents and do my children notice? Andrew told me one evening recently, when I was trying to finalize what to get Reuben for his large gift, that I talk too much about presents. I'm assuming he meant I talk to much about it to him and I wasn't aware that I did. Maybe I do without realizing it. I know I worried a lot this year about what to get them. Well, maybe worry is a strong word. I thought a lot about what to get either of them as I wanted it to be perfect. Then I came across this the other day. Could we do that? No presents but plenty of giving away to those truly in need? Now that sounds like a wonderful Christmas to me.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Its Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

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The past few weeks have been full of activity but now we're here, those last few quiet days before Christmas, settling in for some relaxing time just our little family here at home.

Our Christmas tree has been up and decorated for a couple of weeks. Reuben even got his own Christmas tree this year. Lily picked one out at the store last year as well as the decorations for it so I thought it was only fair that Reuben got his own this year. He had help from Mama picking out his ornaments because he was a little obsessed with the train ornament Lily found for him. He did pick out some adorable little penguins though. He loves penguins.

The kids have been making all sorts of snowmen pictures to hang on the wall. Lily requested that we buy them again this year and I couldn't agree more. Its fun to design your own snowman and I'm surprised Reuben put some of the pieces in their proper place. Not all of them obviously. But they've been having a lot of fun which is the most important part.

We went to a Christmas party at a friend's house one Saturday night. I think we've attended for at least 3 years in a row now. We always have dinner and a white elephant gift exchange. Everyone brings something from home that they don't want/have been meaning to get rid of. Its an inexpensive way to have a good time and everyone has a good laugh at some of the items brought. The kids even bring gifts to exchange although we change the rules so that once a child picks a gift that's it, no stealing. You can trade later if you want to.

Last Thursday evening before we settled the kids in bed, we all sat down and made candy canes for the tree. They're non-edible which is perfect for us. Notoriously we buy the real kind, put them on the tree and then they get thrown away after the tree comes down. What a waste. So this year (and for many years to come!) we're going to be able to enjoy looking at something handmade and remembering the time spent together creating as a family. If anyone wants a tutorial its really quite simple. All you need are green pipe cleaners and red and white plastic beads. Make a knot in one end of the pipe cleaner (I just twisted it around a few times) and start "stringing" your beads. Andrew, Lily and I did ours in a red-white-red-white pattern but Reuben decided to take a different path and made his in a group formation. When you've strung all your beads and you're almost to the end, make another knot to make sure the beads don't fall off and then make a hook to form the cane. Hang on your tree and you're finished! I was thinking we'd only make one or two per person but Andrew and Lily took off with this project and used up all 25 pipe cleaners I had in the bag. I'm glad they did because our tree is full of them and the red, green and white really complete the look. I hadn't planned on a color scheme but our tree over the years has taken on a red/green/silver theme.

In that photo above where Lily is handing a candy cane to Reuben this is the short conversation that went with it:

Lily: Here you go Reuben.
Reuben: Thank you.
Lily: Its a gift. To know that I love you.

I love seeing the love they have for each other.

I had all of these plans to take the kids on a Christmas hayride, a walk through of the nativity and lights display (we went in 2011 and 2013) and a few other out of town holiday events this year but Andrew mentioned, and I've been thinking about it too recently, with a few much needed big ticket purchases coming up soon, maybe we should curb our spending starting in the beginning of the year? I thought why not start now? So we'll be staying local and checking out the lights here in town in the next couple of days.

Who else is having a relaxing Christmas? Or do you prefer a season full of activity straight through New Years?