Kate "got" Christmas a little more this year, knowing about Santa and singing Jingle Bells and the other kiddie Christmas songs, and—most importantly—talking about baby Jesus and Mary. She has a board book with the lyrics to The Little Drummer Boy, and knows that story well now. "He's sad because he doesn't have a present for Baby Jesus!" she'll declare, and then later in the book/song, "Now he's happy, because he can play his drum for Jesus!" She gave this summary upon hearing this song on the radio too. (Though obviously that's not a biblical story, I like that it's about a kid's experience of Jesus' birth.) After being in the sanctuary for Christmas Eve and Day services, she learned some other Christmas songs too, and when she heard "Joy to the World" and "Silent Night" on the radio in the couple days following, she announced, "that's a church song! We sang that at church!"
Our family Christmas gatherings started on the 23rd, when we went to Granna and Opa's house (a whopping three miles away!) for dinner and to open presents.
The girls' gifts to their grandparents this year were photo calendars made on KodakGallery. Kate helped me wrap them and made gift tags with fingerprint art on them. (Colorful fingerprints as light bulbs on a wire, with the greeting "you light up my life!")
Kate's gifts included several new additions to her pantry of play food: cupcakes and cookies.
Claire got some new toys and clothes as well. This is my favorite picture of her yet, I think.
Christmas Eve, the girls donned their coordinating Christmas dresses for the earlier of two services at church, followed by dinner with the whole family, including my parents, who arrived from Louisville earlier in the day, and Matt's aunt and uncle.
I tried so hard to get a good picture of the two girls together in their Christmas dresses, but it's a little tough, due to Kate's aggressive love...
... and the general moodiness and distractability of these ages!
After we got the girls in their jammies, Matt read them The Night Before Christmas before returning to church for the 11 pm service.
While Matt was at church, I made the egg casserole for the morning while Mom added the final stitches to Claire and Matt's stockings. She made my stocking, quilted fabric with a cross-stitch top, when I was a baby, and then made Kate's for her first Christmas in 2009. This year, Claire and Matt got theirs, and the row of four stockings all in the same design across our mantle just filled my heart with joy.
In the morning, we opened our stockings before church, saving the rest of our presents until after. Kate got play-doh, an Elmo book and coloring book, and a Hello Kitty bracelet in her stocking. (Three of those four items were from the Target dollar section—woo hoo!) Claire got some mary jane socks, cool giraffe-print sunglasses for the summer, and some Inchbug name labels like Kate had.
I prepped Kate before church, saying "People are going to ask you what Santa brought you, and you can show them your kitty bracelet," etc. I'm thinking we'll treat Santa as a character like Elmo, which is how Kate seems to see him now, but not make a big effort to make her think he's real or anything. Or maybe we'll talk about the real Saint Nicholas next year. Either way, we don't want to make a big deal out of asking Santa for stuff and being good to "deserve" the gifts.
Here, Kate, Nala, and I show Claire what "Santa" brought her.
We learned that Popi is a great play-doh artist, as he spent the day crafting snowman families and various animals to Kate's specifications. (Kate generally approaches art as a project manager, as opposed to a hands-on craftsman herself.)
The girls wore their pajamas to church, and since it was a more casual service, Kate was in there with us, rather than there being a nursery. She felt very clingy to Daddy, suddenly, and spent much of the service up front with him! Since she was quiet, and Daddy wasn't preaching, just reading scripture between songs, it was okay, but made me paranoid that she was distracting to others. Hopefully not!
We returned home for brunch and to open our gifts to each other. Nala and Popi gave Kate a camera, which she loved. I'll have to upload some of her photos later.
Popi has made a tradition of crafting gifts out of wood. He's made Kate a stool, a coat rack, and this year a hat rack with antlers shed by an adolescent deer. Claire got a cute little bench!
Claire also got a zebra lovey like Kate's giraffe lovey, "Raffi." We had Raffi I, II, and III, so she could have one wherever she went. I'm sure "Zeba" will be equally beloved!
We dined on ambrosia and our traditional egg casserole, plus Jesus' birthday (coffee)cake. We sang "Happy Birthday" and blew out the candles.
This was the first year we actually did birthday candles, though I've been planning on doing that since before we had kids. It's part of helping our kids understand (and reminding ourselves) that Christmas is Jesus' birthday, even if it is hard to explain why our celebration of his birthday takes on some of the forms it does—like we who already have so much getting and giving more stuff, and other non-religious expressions of merriment. (It may help that I put up decorations and plan for Kate's birthday for several weeks before Jan. 28, so maybe it makes sense that there is a month or more of hoopla leading up to Jesus' birthday party too!)