1. Minivan Express trip. Tickets were tucked into robes while the older ones were at school so that when we were done watching The Polar Express and sent the kids to bed (after setting the clocks ahead an hour without their knowing so we could get the show on the road!) I could rush into their rooms and have them come outside to see what that whistle noise was.
2. Gingerbread Party Our local ECFE hosted a gingerbread party with almost two hours of crafts and playtime. It was a perfect way to do all those messy things somewhere other than home. Hello flour everywhere!
3. Santa Pancakes. Can of cherry pie filling, can of whip cream, batch of pancakes, bananas....put them all together and you have a tasty dinner that looks like Santa with his red hat and white beard. Yum! Another new recipe I tried was for cinnamon roll pancakes. We love our breakfast foods!
4. Baking Bread for our Neighbors The kids really liked this one! Sam made the cards & Julia and I baked our favorite pumpkin bread. Our recipe makes 3 loaves so we gave two away and ate one when we got home from Awanas. My normally shy kids were all about ringing the doorbell to give out the bread. This one might have been my favorite activity because they really got the "It's the giving, not the receiving" part of Christmas.
5. Snow Tunnel!!!! Who doesn't remember making these as a kid? Our goal was to spend time with the kids making memories and while this activity isn't fancy or elaborate, it met our criteria and the kids LOVED it!
6. "Gingerbread" Mangers. This website is full of great themes and ideas!!! It took teamwork to get everything to stick together and quite a bit of convincing to get them to not eat their creation. (I let them eat a pile of leftover candies instead.) You only live once!
7. The Three Trees. I've read the book but hadn't seen the movie. Now I can say the book and the movie move me to tears. We also made Christmas tree ornaments out of cinnamon sticks. Epic fail. Or make that Pinterest Fail. Oh well! Can't win them all!
8. Vacation Bible School. Our old church does seasonal VBS and this year we were able to attend the Christmas edition because it was raining that Saturday so ski rentals were cancelled. We decorated cookies, made luminaries to freeze, caroled at the nursing home, and had pizza for lunch.
9. Christmas Party. We spent an evening at Grandma and Grandpa's house celebrating the holidays with our longtime friends that we go camping with every year. I made gift wrap out of paper bags, trimmings from our tree, and ribbon. Too bad I didn't notice the typo until I was all done. :(
10. Skiing! The day before it rained we got out on the trails for the first time. Elsa didn't make a peep in the Ergo! I lost my patience with Julia more times than I care to admit, Sam picked up right where he left off two winters ago, and when we all made it safely back home we warmed up with some hot cocoa.
11. Birthday Party for Jesus. I turned to Pinterest to find a Christmas-y cookie recipe that I could make using what limited baking supplies I had on hand to bring for Awanas the Wednesday before Christmas. They had a birthday party for Jesus planned and the kids did a short little program followed by carols, and an explanation about leaving a gift for Jesus under the tree. JMom does a beautiful job describing the concept in this post. Definitely a tradition we would like to carry on!
Oh, and the hot cocoa cookies? My new favorite.
12. Craft Paper Art. This one was more Elsa's speed....I drew an outline of a big Christmas tree and the kids could fill it in with crayons. It was a progressive project which suits Elsa's toddler sized attention span.
13. Picking Out Our Tree. We go to the same place every year, but never pay the same price for our tree. Cracks me up every time! One year it's $55, the next $40 for the same size tree. We love the Charlie Brown look of the 'bony' tree and the kids love the candy cane the owner hands out. We didn't decorate it the same day but pulled out the decorations and got to work setting out the few decorations we put up around the house.
14. Decorating the Tree. We get a 10-12 foot tree and trim it down to fit our 9 foot ceilings. That way the top ends up being fuller so we can hang more ornaments. It was a sparse year for ornaments though with a toddler and a kitten under foot. They didn't break a single ornament if you can believe that! The only reason is that I didn't put any breakable ones on! We drink egg nog, wear Santa hats, listen to Christmas music, string lights, add wooden cranberry garland, and then take turns putting 'our' ornaments on the tree. It doesn't take long and only a fraction of the ornaments see the light of day each year.
15. Setting Up the Nativity It would be really easy for me to put out the nativity set myself but it has become tradition to act out the Crippled Lamb story while the kids set up the pieces. One of these years a piece will break in the process but it will have been worth it!!!
16. Elf on the Shelf This is the first year an elf visited our home and it was SOOOOO much fun! When I had the kids make a list of the elf's antics they only missed one. They loved finding him in the morning and it made for some fun foreshadowing of upcoming activities. (More on that later...)
17. St. Nicholas Day. Stockings are another thing I hold off on putting up so we can do it together as a family. This year we did it on the 6th and watched the Veggie Tales movie about St. Nicholas afterwards.
18. The Gift of FUN! Instead of bringing more things into our home, Sharon brought up the idea of giving Sam and Julia the gift of an experience - the Dinosaur Exibition that was in town one weekend. That close to Christmas we wouldn't have spent the money to go to something like that but as a gift - it was a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon!
19. Breakfast With Santa. A new experience for us. One I'm sure Elsa would care to forget, but very well organized and fun. We had just gotten a bunch of snow over night so it was a beautiful morning to dine with the big guy.
20. Eating December Snow. You never know when the snow is going to melt so we took advantage of it as much as we could. Sometimes that meant catching flakes on our tongues after church or building snow forts and snowmen in a blizzard. This is exactly why I liked the flexibility to come up with things as we went along depending on the weather!
21. Dance Party! I found a random CD of Christmas music at the library that had some folk music on it. It was perfect for a dance party in our Santa hats. We laughed and laughed and I groaned and groaned as I realized how much the kids have grown; making it very difficult to swing them around now! Julia and I sported matching bruises on our knees for a week after that one!
22. Decorating Christmas Cookies. It's a long standing tradition that Josie and Elsa were able to participate in this year. Elsa didn't want to stop. The bite of cookie I let her have might have had something to do with that though! I went looking in my archives for old pictures of Sam and Julia decorating cookies and came across this sweet one. Where I found the time to rewrite song lyrics is beyond me!
23. Advent Footprint Art. The window of time where I can do footprint/handprint art with Sam and Julia is closing, but until their feet don't fit on the paper anymore I am going to do everything I can to make sure we create keepsake artwork using their precious piggies! Last year I made reindeer with Elsa's footprints. This year her foot made the manger, Sam's made mistletoes, and Julia's size 1 1/2 foot was a mouse.
What a magical ride it was!!!!!