Once Upon a December

I spent part of my snow day today, looking back on December and all that we managed to pack into it.  This December was a little different than all the others, we got back from Texas a few days into the month and that meant we only had a couple of weeks in Minnesota before we packed up again and went to Iowa for Christmas.  It was sort of a whirlwind and between the unpacking, the re-packing, a few holiday events on the schedule, Oh, and life with 3 was pretty exhausting!  

And yet, we did have some sweet times together and lots of laughs, too! I worked hard to get the house all decorated before we left for Thanksgiving in Texas and I am so glad I did.  It was overwhelming to come home to all the laundry and a busy December, but at least I didn't have putting up the tree and all the other stuff hanging over my head too.  I chose some of my favorite pictures from the month, before we went to Iowa, and the memories that go along with them! 
 I wanted to have an advent devotional this year to read along with and this one was the one I chose.  I loved the daily readings, but I really loved the mini prints that came along with it.  I hung them all in our kitchen and each day I loved thinking about what was chosen and seeing it all day to remind me.  I will enjoy hanging these next year I'm sure. 
 When we did put the tree up, I took some pictures of some of my favorite ornaments...
From L to R, Our wedding ornament; Carter's baby ornament; Ava's baby ornament; and an Angel ornament from the year we lost a baby. It was my goal this year to find a baby ornament for Walker, along with the yearly ornaments we choose for the kids.  
 Ava was fascinated by our wedding ornament but disappointed when I wouldn't let her take it off the tree and play with it, so she trumped me and made her own! Ha ha!  And we loved it.  It's Ariel and Eric's wedding, of course...any way she can work The Little Mermaid in, she's gonna do it! 
The last of my advent cards, on day 25. 
 We brought back the Jesse Tree again this year, much to the kid's delight.  They adore this tradition, more than just about any other I believe.  They ask about it every single day and this year, we were totally surprised by Carter.  He remembered so many details from each days' reading and could easily tell us what each ornament stood for and what we learned about God through each character's story.  It was amazing.  Dinners in December are our favorite times with our kids. It's so easy for the month to get chaotic and exhausting, but this time with them was a treasure.  
 There were still some "normal" kid moments however, arguments over who gets to hang what ornament and whose turn it should be.  Also, one night Trav and I could not stop laughing when Ava was trying to recount the story of Ruth, gathering "wheat" bundles in the field (which the ornament above represents) and she said Ruth was gathering weed!  Oh we about lost it, it was so funny.  I love this season of life with the hilarious things that come out of our kids' mouths.  You just never know what they're going to say! 
 Ava went to her friend Eliza's house for a fun birthday party where they made gingerbread houses and roasted marshmallows.  It was adorable and I was thrilled to cross the gingerbread making off my list for the season!  Ha ha!  Between Texie's house in Texas and Eliza's party, we got the experience and none of the mess at home!  Score!
I dressed the kids up one night and bribed them with suckers to take some Christmas pictures I could use for a Christmas card.  Wouldn't you know that Carter and Ava were angels, totally cooperative and motivated, and Walker was Mr. Stoic the entire time??  
They were both insistent on holding Walker in their rocking chair and both looked so cute doing it!
Love that toothy grin!
Such a sweetie.
And then, as soon as we put him down on his tummy, Mr. Charmer returned with a darling smile!
 This was our favorite, we couldn't believe how big Walker looked or that he all of the sudden could raise up so tall on his tummy.  I especially loved him in that striped shirt because I remember Carter in it so clearly.  
 These three are the best presents we get to unwrap and enjoy all year long. 
Love those little velvet overalls!  Not even two weeks later, when I tried to put them on him, they weren't even close to fitting.  Walker grew significantly in December.  
We always put up a tree for the kids in their room...This year was a little crowded with them sharing one space, but they loved it and that was all that mattered.  Next year we'll have to add one for Walker, I just didn't get around to it this year. 
We also always hang these lights above their window, which does make their room so cozy at night.  It's so easy to please kids, it's the simple things that they love year after year.  They were so thrilled to sleep that first night with the Christmas lights in their room!  I did unplug them half way through the night, however.  It was so bright in there a plane could have landed.  
 Trav's Mom popped in for a quick weekend visit and I got a wild hair to try one Christmas craft with the kids.  We made cinnamon ornaments for their little trees. 
 Trav was working that night, so we huddled around the table and helped Ava and Carter roll the dough and cut the shapes out. 
 Although Walker didn't join in on the fun, he was clearly happy to be invited to the kitchen for the party!
 He was all decked out in his red and green from Texie!
 Some of the fun shapes we cut out as they were drying.  
 It took almost two days for our ornaments to dry and then we decided they needed a little color!
Thankfully Travis was around for the part, it was controlled chaos for awhile but they both loved doing it.  We'll have to add this to our list of Christmas fun for the years ahead.  It was really pretty easy! 
Walker got all dressed up in his holiday plaid one Sunday and he looked so handsome, although he barely squeezed into that shirt!  
 These were my finished products for the big tree...
 ...and these were Ava's...
 ...and these were Carter and Walker's!  So cute!  I loved how they all turned out and our house smelled divine for about two weeks because of all the cinnamon.  
 This appetizer became the go-to app of the month!  I made it twice in one week and we made it again in Iowa.  It's my Mom's recipe and it's amazing.  Definitely a party crowd pleaser! I made it for Trav's staff party and then fielded texts, emails and FB messages for the recipe! ha ha! 
 We love to open some gifts with our kids at home, before we head to Iowa.  It's fun to have a night for just our family and to not haul so many things there.  I stayed up very late one night and wrapped everything in one shot.  We have not reached an age where wrapped presents can be trusted under the tree with curious minds!  We barely made it through the day without me losing my mind over all the requests and questions regarding the gifts with their names on them.  
This month I drank a lot of coffee and I pulled out my favorite stacking winter mugs.  I love them.  There are 4 bright colored mugs and they bring some happy to my kitchen and some color to our white, winter world!
I'd say this day I filled that cup to the brim, wouldn't you? 
Days before we left, when I needed all the extra time I could get for packing and to-do lists, I played a card I've been saving up my sleeve for awhile.  I broke the news that we do in fact have a wii and I taught Carter to play Mario Kart one morning, which immediately made me "The best mom in the whole world!"  Win/win for all!  He loved it.  And not surprising, he was pretty good at it once he played a few rounds!  Now it is a very special treat to play and perfect for some long winter days that keep us at home.  
The tree  and all it's splendor, or something like that!  Every time I turned around my tree was getting tweaked by lots of little "helpers" who were "just looking" at ornaments or who decided to make their own additions.  Super fun, I do love how crowded and sentimental our tree is becoming to all of us.  

On our last free night before we left, we put the kids in the bathtub and got all ready for our Christmas together.  
Walker was bracing himself for all the fun, I believe? 
 These two could barely stand the anticipation!  
 Next year I predict Walker will not be quite so stoic! 
All that work and it took them all of 5 minutes to get through all their presents!
 Carter couldn't even bring himself to look at me, he was so excited about that lego truck!
 Outfits for school are a hit with Ava these days...
 ... and Planes, Fire and Rescue was the name of the game for Carter this year! 
 This little sweetie surprised her Daddy and I with a wrapped gift she brought home from Art class at school. 
 She painted the cutest little ornament and we loved it!!  She was so proud.  
 We put a few gifts in front of Walker, although he just looked at us like, "What now?" 
 He was considerably more impressed with the gift inside! Can't you tell??  LOL! 
 We managed to sneak one little date night Christmas party in before we left town.  We almost didn't go, the kids were melting and we still had much to do, but we decided to go anyway and it was refreshing break!  We haven't had much time alone or any dates for way too long now.  I'm so glad we had just a little breather.  We need to remedy our lack of dates, but having an infant really throws a wrench into most of our plans.  At the end of the day, dates on our couch seem so much easier! 
 I soaked up the glow of the tree in the middle of my packing...
 ...and also some other things that I wanted to remember from this year.  Like this basket of Christmas books that our kiddos love!  We put them away all year and pull them out for December, so they are like brand new favorites each year. 
 Walker's stocking got added to the mix and I loved seeing three of them hanging this year! 
 Each year we buy an ornament for the kids and this was what I chose for Carter...
 ...For Ava...
 ...and for Walker. 
 This was his "official" baby ornament with all his stats.  
 And again, after her last day at school, Miss Ava came home with the sweetest gift for us! 
Homemade stationary that I think is perfect!  I adore her family portraits of each of us! 
This was a new addition to our walls this year, a sweet gift from a friend, and it is one of my favorite things to look at each day.  
"A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices"  
Isn't that true?  This world and our lives can make us so weary, but Jesus is our thrill of hope and He is where our true joy is found.  This year was very full, and yet I let more things go that I just couldn't get done.  But I do feel like we chose the best things to invest our time and energy in and I'm just convicted every year that a simple Christmas really is the best Christmas.  I can't believe December has come and gone already but I'm grateful for all the Lord did in my own heart and in our family.  We longed to make much of Him and to remember that He is our true gift and the One we want to focus on and celebrate.  We had lots of fun together and I do pray that the seeds of truth we planted will take root and grow in Ava, Carter and Walker's hearts!

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