(My computer died last week. So there are no pictures for this post and I'll probably be MIA for a while as I figure out whether to focus on getting my computer running again or on begging DH for a new computer and then getting THAT one going. Luckily, I didn't lose any data.)
I love Christmas. Every year on Christmas I find myself feeling sorry for families and couples who don't have young children around to enjoy it with. The magic, wonder and excitement of watching it through young eyes makes all the hard parts of having a large family worth it.
A few memorable moments:
* We had a full week off of school before Christmas and while it was great to have everyone home, it's always easier to entertain eight kids after Christmas, when they have their new toys and games to occupy them. We set a "no media" rule except for two hours of quiet time in the afternoons and then after dinner in the evenings and while a couple of my kids claimed boredom, most found plenty to do.
* I found a nearby gym with open-play hours and we had a blast one morning, jumping on trampolines, doing their climbing wall and swinging from their trapeze (though when I say "we" I mean "they," of course. I watched). A liberal amount of foam cubes in various pits contributed to the safety of the event and though it was somewhat crowded, we still had a great time.
* The week leading up to Christmas was a hard one with Harmony. Perhaps staying up later every night contributed to the problems, but my 3.5-year-old who was easily potty-trained this summer and has almost never had an accident since, suddenly was having accidents all the time, of both varieties. She pooped on the floor in various corners of the house four days in a row, including Christmas Eve! There's a reason we don't have a dog, but at least with a dog, you know to expect this kind of thing. Angelic 3.5-year-olds should know better, right? I'm hoping getting back to a routine (and more regular sleep) will help.
* My husband and I went to the play A Christmas Carol at a theater here with some friends. There's something about that Charles Dickens masterpiece that really brings home the message of the season.
* We enjoyed our 25 Days of Christmas Stories tradition, gathering each night to read another true Christmas story and gorging ourselves on the goodies our neighbors brought. With ten of us, though, it was mind-boggling how fast those treats disappeared, though. We'd get out a box of chocolates, give everyone two or three and find the box empty. Next year, we'll have our first teenager in the house, and with the five oldest being born in five years, soon there will be a whole horde of them -- think we can keep up in the food department?
* At the dentist office a few weeks ago, I used my Blackberry to entertain Katie, finding Muppet videos on Youtube for her. Her favorite is one with Beaker singing Ode to Joy. She comes running to me all the time asking for the "mi mi mi" song. She's dragged Joey over to the computer a dozen times and had him play the video for her and every time she sees my phone, she tries to grab it and watch her favorite "mi mi mi." At least she's charming about it!
* Christmas Eve always starts for us with a trip to our favorite Chinese restaurant. They've learned to expect us and we go early enough in the evening to have the place nearly to ourselves. The food was fantastic.
* We had the best Christmas Eve program yet. Just our family. We read the Christmas story from the Bible while the children acted it out. Mary (played by Allison) was particularly reverent, though baby Jesus was a doll this year -- Katie can't sit still for more than two seconds. Without being asked, Lillian had taken the initiative earlier that day to assign parts, gather costumes, and run through a dress rehearsal with the kids.
* One of the best parts of having older kids as well as younger ones is that the older ones enthusiastically embrace the traditions (and the associated work involved) that a tired, pregnant mom is tempted to skip. My kids did almost all of the decorating, Lillian loves wrapping so she did all that, and I didn't have to do anything at all to prepare for the Christmas program.
* After our Christmas pageant, we put Katie to bed and watched "Joy to the World," a video about the Savior's birth and life produced by my Church and so touching. I had actually thought I was putting on the shorter, 5 minute video that tells just the story of the nativity (paired with an Amy Grant song on Youtube here), but what we watched was much more involved and much sweeter, as it included both the nativity as well as vignettes of Christ's life, work, mission, and death. Some of us were teary-eyed by the end, as we contemplated the real reason we celebrate Christmas and the gift of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.
* We ended the evening by opening one present each. I love how grateful my children are.
* Every year we try to keep Christmas to two main presents, one from us and one from Santa, with some little things as well. And every year, I'm amazed at how many "little things" get added -- nothing expensive, but books, clothes, stickers, little toys, etc. make everyone's Christmas haul seem enormous. We had plenty to enjoy this Christmas.
* We had Santa deliver presents to our larger great room rather than our front room this year. We've outgrown that space!
* We start with stocking and Santa gifts (those aren't wrapped). Santa brought Lillian a laminating machine and some books, Joey a large toolbox, Micheal a couple of Lego sets, Allison and Sarah remote control cars, dresses, and tiny American Girl dolls. Eliza, Harmony and Katie also got tiny American Girl dolls along with one or two other things.
* We had a lovely breakfast of butterscotch rolls, then headed to Church for a lovely musical sacrament meeting. I really enjoyed having Christmas on a Sunday.
* After Church, we headed home, changed (most of us back into pajamas) and opened the rest of the presents.
* This is not really a Christmas memory, but I'm excited to report that I now have less than 6 weeks to go before this baby arrives! I spent a good part of November and the first half of December trying not to feel resentment at how awkward and exhausting this pregnancy has become. Hardest for me is that I'm sleeping so poorly at night, waking up multiple times and having trouble falling back asleep. It makes the days tougher. But I'm happy that halfway through December, I had some experiences that gave me a change of heart and I've been enjoying the privilege of pregnancy once again. This little one is probably not our last baby, but it is likely she is our last little girl, and I want to savor the last few weeks of having her kick and move around inside me.