Monday, December 30, 2013

Ho-Ho-Holy Christmas

My girls never sat on Santa's lap this year.
And, to tell you the truth, I'm kinda glad.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, I asked Aubrey (nonchalantly) on the way to school, "What are you most excited about when you think about Christmas?"
Preparing myself for the "GETTING PRESENTS!" response, my 5-year-old shocked me by saying, "Getting to eat birthday cake on Jesus's birthday!"
"That's great! What else are you excited about when you think about Christmas?"
"Getting to decorate my very own Christmas tree in my room!"

I thought about turning the car around and driving back home.
This child must be ill if she didn't even mention gifts or presents when asked twice about Christmas.
But looking at her in my rear-view mirror, I could see that those two things made her literally light up. She was downright giddy just thinking about it all.
Right then and there I decided Santa was going to take a backseat this holiday season.

I also decided I wasn't going to totally outcast Jolly Old St. Nick.
I was just going to wait and let Aubrey be the one to bring it up.

By the way, I had to make a vow with myself to not to play the "Santa's watching..." card.
I didn't utter that magic little phrase one time during the holiday season.
Not once, I tell you!
(I'm pretty sure this means I get an award, right?)

In fact, Aubrey only brought up Santa one time.
I was cooking dinner, and she came up to me and asked (totally out-of-the-blue), "Mom, did Santa bring Mina gifts when she was in China?"
Caught a bit off guard with her big blue eyes looking earnestly at me, I answered, "No, honey..."
And off she dashed not saying another word about it.

Another thing that made this holiday season seem a little different was the fact that we left 98% of our Christmas decorations in storage back in Kentucky.
Apparently Daniel knew this and thought I did as well.
I did not.
And when I realized that I would have to tell Aubrey that her second favorite thing about Christmas wasn't going to happen this year, I wanted to cry.
Luckily, two mini trees had weaseled themselves onto our moving truck and were discovered in the garage. I bought some pink lights from Big Lots, and gave Aubrey her ornament for the year. (A princess cat bride -- the absolutely purrrfect ornament for this girl.) She used random things she found around the house to drape on her tree, and -- despite the lack of ornaments -- she loved every inch of it.

I tried to coax Daniel into taking us all on our first Christmas Tree Farm excursion, but he wouldn't go for it.
I couldn't bear the thought of Christmas without a tree in the living room, so instead of finding the idyllic evergreen we found ourselves in the fake tree display area of Walmart. Twenty bucks later, we were driving home with our 6 ft. tree in a 3 ft. box.

The next day I showed Aubrey how to make snowflakes out of coffee filters, which found their holiday home rather quickly...
My favorite moment was when Aubrey squealed, "This is going to look SO great for Jesus's birthday party!" I had never thought of it as decorating our house for His birthday, but it sure made an impression on me and how I'll decorate our home for Christmases to come.

As luck would have it, the Advent calendar I made many Christmases ago was mistakenly (providentially) packed in with the girls art supplies. I plan on doing a post in more detail about our Advent calendar before next Christmas because it really opened up some amazing conversations with Aubrey. She loved coming downstairs and seeing what the letter / word was for the day and all the while trying to guess what the message was spelling out. After the first week, it had revealed the words, "Jesus Is" and Aubrey started guessing what the rest of it was, which melted my heart. Seriously, ask your child the open-ended phrase, "Jesus is..." and see what they say. I couldn't help but get choked up hearing Aubrey shout, "Jesus is...AWESOME! Jesus is...GOD'S ONLY SON! Jesus is...THE BEST IN THE WORLD! Jesus is...THE KING FOREVER! Jesus is...ALWAYS WITH ME!"

So, despite the fact that our house didn't look much like Christmas, the only "Santa" we saw was the Chick-fil-a cow dressed up, and there was never an Elf to set on a shelf -- the girls had an extremely fun time leading up to Christmas Day.

We actually never set foot in a mall throughout November / December, instead we took advantage of all the things going on at our church. Because -- seriously -- as a Christian, shouldn't the church be the BEST place to spend your time getting pumped up about our Messiah's birth?

We let the girls stay up past their bedtime to go to the Christmas concert. It was incredible, and we all left that evening full of the Christmas spirit.

Mina's Sunday School class had a birthday party for Jesus. Her teachers said she danced the first half of the class while singing the Happy Birthday song. My goodness, I love her so much...

At home, the girls successfully broke nearly every piece of our glass nativity. 
I've since ordered a plastic one for safety reasons. :)

On Christmas Eve we went to the Candlelight service at church, which has become one of my favorite family traditions.

On our way home from the candlelight service, I asked Aubrey if she was excited about it being Christmas Eve night. She responded, "Why?" I realized that due to our lack of Santa build-up, she didn't realize that tonight was THE night.

Now let me just say, I loooove Christmas Eve. 
To this day I have hard time going to sleep. 
There's something magical about it. The anticipation. The excitement. Ah, I love it.
(See, I promise I'm not anti-Santa!)

When we got home I asked her if she wanted to put out cookies for Mr. Claus. She was super excited to set out the ones she had made earlier in the week with Daniel  -- along with some milk, of course. 
She also wanted to open the fireplace doors for easy entry.

After getting into jammies and reading some books with Zubie (who came and celebrated with us the week of Christmas!) and Daddy, it was time to say g'nite!

Aubrey said, "I think I'm going to stay up and try to see Santa coming." to which I responded, "You know, he only comes once you're asleep..."
"Then I need to go to bed NOW!"
And that girl was asleep before I shut her door.

By the way, we have a deal with Santa that he only brings four gifts per child:
Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.

So for Aubrey it went like this:
Want: Scooter
Need: Electric toothbrush
Wear: Heart-locket / necklace
Read: Jesus Calling Kid Devotional

For Mina:
Want: Mini shopping cart
Need: Backpack (for church and when she starts a MDO program one day.)
Wear: Backpack fell under this category too (Santa realized this as he sat it all out. Oops.)
Read: The Pet Dragon

Christmas morning was full of smiles, squeals, and laps around the house...


Opening more gifts from mom, dad, and other family members...

We had our birthday dessert for breakfast.
This year, Aubrey decided she wanted to have chocolate mousse instead of cake for Jesus's party.
A treat fit for a King, I'll say! :)

I realized that since Santa played such a small role this Christmas, Mina didn't really know who he was.
I laughed so hard, when she came up to me while I was watching an interview with Phil Robertson, and asked, "Swanta Cwaus?!"

I must admit that it made me pretty happy, happy, happy.

Our Christmas was very different this year.
I think for once it was balanced the way I've always wanted it to be.
The main focus was Jesus, with a fun little Santa sideshow.
We didn't go overboard on decorating or gifts.
We savored the season by making memories and reflecting on God's promises.
It was truly a Merry Christmas.


  1. Sarah (Mobley) BerryhillDecember 30, 2013 at 11:30 PM

    This was our second year to use the same 4 gift system that you used. It has worked great for our family!

    And I love the picture of Mary Alice reading to the girls. Mina is enthralled! What a sweet Christmas season for the Riherds!

  2. Your posts never fail to evoke an emotion in me--whether it causes laughter or tears! I'm glad your Christmas was so....calm and bright.