Life With Nine Kids

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Christmas Magic and Memories of 2015


My Grandma Smith had some elves when I was a kid. I loved them. She also had the best old fashioned decorations and putz houses. For years I kept telling myself I would buy some vintage putz houses (also called glitter houses) and some elves. I love old fashioned decorations. I also miss these 'plastic-popcorn' ones from childhood too.

Grandma Smith gave us our Elf on the Shelf with the accompanying book nine years ago and we have loved him dearly ever since. The kids named him Smith-wick. 

The elf thing is super special in our house. The kids tell Smith-wick what they want for Christmas. Lately Everett threatens to touch him just to try and get a reaction out of us. The touching the elf thing is FOR REAL SERIOUS in our house. Which is why I found this so funny:

You don't touch the elf. We are aghast if we see a picture online where someone is touching their elf, or if the elf is someplace where he would have to be touched. So for example, if the elf was on the sewing machine and you needed to use the sewing machine. Or in the blender. Or on the toothbrushes. If he hung out on any of those places we would NOT TOUCH HIM no matter what.

This year I decided to finally buy a vintage elf. The prices on ebay were excellent. I ended up with a winning bid on two elves. One elf I have tucked away for a rainy day. He's cute and nice and worn around the edges just a little bit. I have not named him yet. The other elf rides a white magical reindeer. I felt this was the most perfect thing ever to add to our fun! The deer and elf were in a vintage package and in mint condition. They needed to be introduced properly, so I patiently waited for the perfect time.
December 14th Morton the elf rode in on his reindeer, Fancy Lady. They are perfect and they brought a note and a treat.
The note reads:
Howdy Family,
I am a friend of Smith-wick. My name is Morton. My sidekick and pet here is Fancy Lady. Fancy flies like the wind. She is a nice girl. You can make paper carrots for her and at night Christmas Magic turns them real. She eats them before flying me back to the North Pole. I was hoping I could visit for a while. If you like me visiting just make Fancy a carrot every night and I will come back. We bring holiday cheer, good wishes, and good luck. You can pet Fancy, but please don't pick us up.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It scares the livin' elf daylights out of us. We brought you a treat from the North Pole...enjoy some Elf Cocoa!


Later in the day: Morton with Fancy Lady and all the darling handmade paper carrots scattered at their feet.
Morton was a lovely and fun addition to our home. It's fun to see the kids respect Morton and Fancy Lady's boundaries of being petted but not picked up. Even Everett has joined in and follows the rules. Bea is just two and already knows the game. Every morning they delight in the fun.

An old post from 2011 about our elf and Christmas tradition here 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
More Thoughts and Traditions of the Holiday Season

Big Family Outings
No surprise here, but some outings can be too expensive for big families. We have found several holiday traditions in our area that are affordable or free: Pay by the car holiday light displays, ice skating Groupons for half off ice skating, and library holiday crafts. We also have several chances to sit on Santa's lap for free at the feed store and library. (Bring your own camera.) In the city there are free horse carriage rides on certain days but we have never done them. Some churches also host living nativities with live animals, hot cocoa and plenty of community fun. There's lots to do!

Books
We utilize the local library to check out Christmas story books and winter story books. Almost every year I also read aloud our well loved and worn copy if The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, just like my mom read to me. We also read The Polar Express, just like my mom read to me. Those books were my childhood favorites!

Penelope (9) and Sebastian (7) listened to me read The Best Chrstmas Pageant Ever for the first time this year. They enjoyed it a lot. There are seven chapters in the book and we read a chapter a night. When it was time to read the last chapter Penelope said she would rather wait because she didn't want the book to be over. It was adorable and we've all been there. It's hard when a good book ends. Such a sign she is growing up, savoring moments in time like that. On Christmas Eve I remembered that there was a made for TV movie of it. I looked on YouTube and found it! So fun! Penelope and Sebastian really enjoyed watching the book come alive. In many ways it's just not Christmas Until Gladys Herdmen yells, "Hey! Unto you a child is born!" I'm so glad I'll be reading it yearly to young children for many, many years to come. I hide that I tear up at the end. I'm just so happy I get to pass reading this great story on to my kids.

Cookies
Nearly every year we make rosette cookies.

photo borrowed from link above
They are Scandinavian cookies made with a fancy looking hot cookie iron.  They are crisp, light and dusted with powder sugar. The sugar falls all over you like snow as you bite into them. They are so much fun and still seem so magical to me. They are very similar to funnel cakes, but seriously taste so much better. My mom and grandma taught me how to make them when I was little. We haven't had the time to make them this year yet but I have high hopes that we will soon. I rendered some pork lard right smack in the middle of busy Christmas week in hopes that we can find time to make them during Ricky's holiday break from work. (Maybe for New Year's Eve!) Nothing fries up crisp and beautiful as with real lard. I can't wait to try rosettes fried in real lard! Interested in lard? Read this: 10 Reasons to Bring Lard Back

We make graham cracker candy houses every year. This year we had a homeschool group decorating party at a friends house. It was a lot of fun and easy for me since I just had to bring some candy to share. I appreciated the ease of it this year!

Decorations
I have a Santa collection I started nine years ago. It began around the time my Aunt Sharon bought me some Santa ornaments that were pirate themed. I cannot believe it has been nine years! My how my collection has grown! As it grows I have noticed that I get more excited every year to get my Santa collection out. It is such a neat collection to have because it is only out for a month and then it is carefully stored away until the next year. I noticed that it never needs dusting as it doesn't sit around long enough. It's also not out long enough for me to lose interest or ignore it, and it only takes up space for a little while. It is the perfect collection for me. (Putz houses collection here I come someday!)

This year Aunt Sharon sent me a new and unique item for my collection: a nesting doll Santa. It is so pretty and hand painted. Ricky bought me a talking nutcracker Santa. Also Ricky got me a Feliz Navidad Santa!
I love my new 'Feliz Navidad' Santa! He holds a reindeer pinata! Love him! He is so well made and pretty.
I played with the talking nutcracker Santa for hours, it's ridiculous how much I like love it.
                                                                   He says:
"There's lots of work to do before Christmas gets here, so let's get cracking!"
"All this cracking is making me nuts!"
"You open presents, I open nuts! We make a great team!"
"He's going to find out whose nutty or nice!"
"Santa put me on the Nutty list"

Winter Solstice
We always watch  Little Bear Winter Solstice and Little Bear Gingerbread Cookies . We make bird feeders and hang treats for the snow angels. We bake cookies, especially we bake our well loved gingerbread cookies! We actually bake those off and on year round. I have been using the same recipe for 17 years and the kids just love them. Depending on what we have going on we do other crafts and games to fill the day too.
Hollowed out oranges hung with wire, filled with peanut butter, flax, and cereal inside
 Gingerbread Cookies Recipe (no refined sugar!)
Cream together: 1 egg, 1 cup molasses, 1 cup maple syrup, 1 cup butter (I use melted)
(Tip: Lightly rub olive oil all over the inside of your measuring cup before you pour in the sticky syrups. They will slide right out.)
Mix dry ingredients separately: 5 cups flour, 1.5 teaspoons baking soda, cinnamon to taste (around 1-2 T is good, I just give the kids the shaker), ginger to taste or 2-3 T
Optional: We also add some fresh grated ginger too. At least 1-2 T in addition to the powdered ginger. It's so good! (Tip: keep some frozen ginger root in the freezer and grate it as needed! It lasts near forever.)
Mix dry into wet until well combined, add a little extra flour if needed (it is usually needed). Chill dough for a little bit. On floured surface take hunks and pat or roll out flat. Use cookie cutters to make cookies. The thinner the more crisp, the thicker the more fluffy/cake like.
Bake on 350 until they are desired crispness or until golden brown.

Stockings
Ricky and I stayed up until 2am making creative additions for the stockings we started two years ago. The stockings have something made by us out of craft felt to represent each child. We work hard on these and we have a lot of fun. We try to add a handmade felt picture of something meaningful or memorable about each child. Sage got a lock because he likes to figure out/pick locks. Penelope got a prairie girl because she loves Little House books and dressing up in her prairie clothes. Layla loves gymnastics and practices nearly all day long, so clearly a gymnast was in order for her. Ethan likes to draw and make comic books so he got a "POW!" Charlotte is a professional cake decorator and therefore got a cake. Madeline got a "M" for her first year. Beatrice got a bee hive to go with her bee from a previous year, but she also loves swings so I made a swing hanging from a tree. Sebastian loves nice sharpened pencils for drawing. He draws most of the time so he got a pencil. Last but not least, Everett got a Pea shooter and cone-head zombie from his favorite computer game Plants VS Zombies. Ricky and I did a cute job on them I think!
 
The kids had their gift exchange with each other on Christmas Eve morning. I love how they really think of each other and take time thinking of what to get! Everett was all smiles especially. Nice to see him be so into giving.
Christmas Eve
Many years ago the kids wanted to shop for each other but of course taking them to get each other gifts would be insanely expensive. After a couple of years of them asking we realized that telling them they didn't need to get each other anything was only dismissing their desire to give to the people they love the most. Of course they didn't need to give presents.They want to, and they do it with such joy! Christmas is about giving.

We started taking them to the dollar store a few years back to pick each others presents out. It has been a great and well anticipated addition to our holiday traditions. They now start asking when we will go shopping when November hits. The dollar store doesn't sound all that exciting but there is a lot to choose from. The dollar store has to sometimes make you super creative, especially if you are buying for older siblings. Sebastian (7) couldn't find a pocket knife for his brother Sage (16), so he used his creative brain and got him paperclips instead. Why paperclips? Because Sage likes to try and pick locks. What a smart thinking kid! Sage really appreciated the thoughtfulness and how cute that was. Penelope (9) got Charlotte a calendar. Charlotte was thrilled to get one, she hadn't gotten one for 2015 yet. Beatrice (2) got Sage (16) some silly string. It was a random gift she just picked up and told me it was for Sage. She didn't even know what it was. Sage later took her outside and sprayed it with her. They had a load of fun. It was so cute.
Christmas Eve 8 weeks old
Ricky was home Christmas Eve and we had a lovely day of family and fun, so much so that I didn't get much else done (or presents wrapped) all day. Aunt Christy (my sister) sent us a big package of goodies. I never thought about it before, but a package of fun items to play with on Christmas Eve is such a good idea! We also especially loved our sunglasses and umbrellas Aunt Christy sent.



The beautiful assortment of playful toys to share kept us busy for hours. We love group gifts and this had an assortment of awesome fun! We did some spin art, snap circuits, made crazy straws and more!

The kids went to bed pretty easily knowing the fastest way to get to Christmas morning is to just go to bed! So they had their last advent Chocolate, brushed teeth, and said goodbye to Fancy Lady, Morton, and Smith-wick until next year, then they went to bed.

We were sad that elf season is now over. I asked Ricky why I feel like I'll miss the elves so much. The pressure is now off and I can stop waking up at 1am and thinking 'oh no I forgot, I have to move the elf!' (Three times I forgot and Layla (11) moved them for me!) He said it is because our kids love it so much. It's true. Which reminds me, things have been insane lately (mostly with Everett) and I don't know how we do it or sometimes how we'll keep doing it. I asked Ricky when life will quit being so crazy and he said, "Someday. But then we'll just miss this." I'm glad he knows that. 

So, on Christmas Eve everyone went to bed easily except five year old Everett and baby Madeline. Everett wanted to wait up for Santa. He was the most adamant kid we've ever had about it. Finally at 11pm he fell asleep. Very unlike him! While he is a busy, wild, hyper nut most of the day, he at least is usually a good sleeper. Madeline, who is in the middle of a 8 week growth spurt (which means extra nursing, extra awake time, and extra fussy at times) was up and down a lot but checked out around 11pm too. Thank goodness! We didn't get done with everything until 2:30am. Every year I am adamant about not having to wrap a million presents on Christmas Eve, but every year we have to anyway. I would love to have it done early one of these years!

Speaking of Madeline:
Baby's first Christmas 6 weeks old
She is so precious and she is such a perfect addition to our home. I know, I know, I say that every time! But only because it is true every time! We love them so much. Thankfully I am getting enough sleep. She has been easy to care for and is so laid back. She is smiling and recognizing her family a little bit more each day. Everything is fine and some what the same except I have a baby in my hands and I have to juggle making meals around her sleeping schedule. We thought Bea was easy, but this peach is really easy. So far. They all get hard at some point!

Christmas Day 
Christmas morning Charlotte (19) kept most of the little kids quiet while we dozed off a little more. She is the best! Most of the kids stayed upstairs with Charlotte, peering down in excitement. If that's not one of the most exciting times of childhood I don't know what is. I was the oldest of five siblings. The waiting on the stairs together is firmly planted in my head as one of the childhood bests. Around 6:45am Everett woke up and there was no stopping him. We had a fun morning of presents and then a lazy, play-filled day. I needed a nap with the baby after presents and skipped breakfast. I was later awoken by my husband with breakfast in bed. He made me a delicious breakfast casserole. (He brought me breakfast in bed three days in a row actually! He is the best ever! One day he made me Eggs Benedict! I must have been really good this year!)

I got five new vintage style dresses, new shoes, some snow gloves, and the cute Santa figures already mentioned above. I got Ricky some new beer brewing supplies, snow gloves, and a vintage dictionary that is SO cool. (He likes reading dictionaries.) He loved it a lot!
Huge 1940's vintage dictionary filled with tons of cool stuff!

We got the teen boys (16) lovely Carhartt coats and some other goodies.

Charlotte (19) got a cell phone and some other goodies. (We use basic cell phones without a lot of frills. But it's still nice and it is her first phone!) Santa brought the family a keyboard and Layla has already learned how to play "America The Beautiful" on it! The kids have all really, really enjoyed it already! We also got a new castle for the kids. We have a huge assortment of Schleich and Papo castle toys, knights, mutant animals, mythical beasts, and fairies. We have been adding on to our collection for at least nine years. Our wooden castle finally broke a couple of years ago and the little boys have been asking for a new one. We bought them a Schleich castle this time and it is even better than the pictures show! We are very happy with it and so are they. Schleich doesn't make junk, and their toys are a softer plastic. The teens said they wish their castle growing up was as cool as this one. Sorry teens! :)
Beatrice got a new soft dolly we named Mary and it so so cute to hear her say, "Where's my Mary?" and "Oh there is my Mary." She even will say "Hi my Mary." I just love that she calls her 'my Mary.' She also got a new baby doll stroller. She loves them and played with her other one so much last year that it wore out.

Penelope got some magnets she enjoys building with, a prairie doll outfit for her doll (it is SO cute!), a new bonnet, some Lego friends and some other goodies. Layla got gymnastics stuff galore...

cute shirts, a hair band, some gymnastic rings to hang off our playground, support gloves and a hand grip to strengthen her hands and wrists. She is entirely self taught in gymnastics and completely obsessed with it. It is not unusual for her to spend two hours watching instructional videos online and four hours a day practicing. She's passionate and it is amazing to watch. She has taught herself and trained herself to do: the splits, back flips. handsprings, back walkovers, some scorpion thing, and many other things with gymnastic sounding words thrown around in them that I can't remember. She uses hand weights daily. This kid is athletic! We are very impressed! She will be starting much anticipated classes at a gymnastics place in the next several weeks. (We wanted to wait until spring but we may get her in before then.) Sebastian's favorite thing he got is a magic set he loves and has been watching a DVD to learn the tricks. He is really taking to it! It's great to see him learn something new, follow the script they teach to be entertaining, and use multitasking to perform tricks! Really cool! This is very good for him. Everett got a some Legos, a fishing game, a magic hat to perform with his brother if he wants to, and some other goodies. He got a white knight and says it is his favorite toy. Everett also got a whole bag of Plants VS Zombies toys and Charlotte colored him a game board for him.

Weird thoughts in the middle of the night
There are really cute ideas online for making a crafty  edible Nativity.  I was thinking we should do something like that with the kids, but we were all done shopping and staying home through Christmas. No more store trips! Half asleep I was brainstorming in the middle of the night thinking and wondering what we could make one out of...and so the half-awake dream began. I have plenty of potatoes I thought to myself. We could use potatoes. Three wise men lined up as potatoes, a Joseph and Mary Potato... and a very small baby Jesus potato. In my sleep I thought this was the best idea. Then I wondered how we would get the potatoes to stand up right. I dozed off and came up with a piece of cardboard with nails or screws poked up through it. We could stick the potatoes down on them. I woke up the next morning laughing at myself. How do I come up with such things? The kids thought it was funny and weird when I told them. We didn't have time to make our potato nativity this year. But there's always next year...

Since every idea has already been done by somebody my curious mind looked online. And sure enough... well, see for yourself.

Merry Christmas!