It is overwhelming to be a mother at Christmas-time. So much to gather and prepare and so many thoughts to organize in my brain. Every year it makes me appreciate my mother exponentially more. How did she calmly and quietly do so much, never asking for praise or acknowledgement? I don’t remember any grumpiness or complaining, she just went about her work so beautifully. Every year I think about how she made us all pajamas one year, and aprons another year. How in Heaven’s name did she do that, and still pull off eggs Benedict complete with cut grapefruit garnished with a half a cherry on top cradled in our china dishes on Christmas morning? Will my kids remember me like that, loving them and quietly going about what needs to be done or will they remember a frantic, crazy lady who hangs around in the place of their real mom at Christmas-time? I don’t know but sheesh, Christmas is a doozey for mamas. We get so tired trying to keep our brains and hearts in the right place (maybe that’s just me), and we get overwhelmed because once again, we weren’t as organized and efficient as we had sworn to be the year before.

But Christmas comes along, something hallowed and slow in the air, and somehow it all comes together.

But before we get to Christmas let’s start at Christmas Eve. Because that might be my favorite.

I got up needing to get outside despite the damp, gray morning. Those are the kinds of mornings that fill me with energy in our normally sun-drenched desert life. So I talked Dave into taking a run with me, through the soggy piles of gorgeous leaves heaped on the sidewalks, made more vibrant by the rain.

We talked as we ran, and I loved it, even more when the drizzle got heavier and we were happily soaked by the time we arrived back home. Joined Abby and Grace and their China friends Abby had invited over to paint watercolor in the morning.

I loved it enough that I’m going to push to make it a new Christmas Eve tradition to sit still and create.

We went bowling:

Pretty impressed by all those strikes up there, I have to say!

Then wrapped gifts and prepared and cooked and set up, and with our traditional Christmas Eve chicken tikka simmering on the stove, scarves and dishtowels adorning our heads,

(Fun to have Abby join us for this “Jerusalem Supper” for the first time), and Lucy’s traditional table setting complete with a piece of the nativity on each person’s plate, it was time for that holy Christmas Even to begin:

For our Jerusalem supper, we do what we did in my family growing up with a few tweaks. We are supposed to be dressed as guests at the final dinner before Mary and Joseph leave on their journey to Bethlehem, discussing the gravity of their journey, thinking about how they would feel, how their families would feel to let them leave, the preparation of bringing a baby into the world, most especially, the Christ-child. We have kind of changed things a little from my family tradition and I love it all.

We sat around that candlelit table and discussed our pieces of the nativity as we put them in the stable in the middle as usual, and I want to always keep a picture in my heart of Lucy’s concentration, her eyes lit up by the candles, sitting up straight and alert with some heart-felt thoughts to add to everything everyone else was saying.

I am a tradition girl so I have to say that I was kind of proud of myself for giving in relatively easily to Dave’s suggestion that we watch the new church movie The Christ Child (here) rather than acting out the nativity this time around. Ha! but I do LOVE the way they have put that depiction of Christ’s birth together so beautifully and it certainly brought in the Christmas spirit.

Then on to my favorite part of Christmas: the kids gift exchange. Oh how I love the thick love that fills up our house as they give from their hearts and I’ll let the pictures tell that story.

Grace’s face, the giver, in this one:

Aw I love the giving!

On to Christmas pajamas:

(yes I feel you, Bo!)

Traditional T’was the Night before Christmas reading from Dave:

…tucking our last Santa-believer in bed with stars in her eyes.

I scrambled to finish up the last wrapping, my heart racing because I wanted to make it to Midnight Mass with all my heart. LOVED that I got to do that with Max and Abby at my side, that candlelit ceremony lighting up all the faces of the strangers but brothers and sisters surrounding us:

All the details of that back HERE.

Christmas is kind of a blur to me now as I look back on it, but that “8:45” on my watch when I opened my eyes is crystal clear (Hallelujah!). It was my favorite Christmas gift I think, following that late midnight mass.

The kids were all awake but hadn’t reached the singing stage yet so we joined them, Lu delighted that Santa knew all she wanted in her stocking was candy (that’s what happens when her mother was too tired to think of anything clever for the stockings).

Loved that Dave let the ripped up wrapping paper stay put for a little longer than usual and everyone got to bask in their gifts and the warmth of the fire as it POURED rain outside.

Lucy worked hard on this gift for me and Dave…excuse the picture taken from a video but you get the main idea:

Dave gave me the most thoughtful original of Les Miserables, one of my very favorite books. It is divided into sections and it is so beautiful!

I gave the kids all chatbooks from the year 2018 (yes I’m slow and behind, but hey, got them done!), and they loved them:

So fun to have Abby with us this year for the first time…(these two were on their honeymoon at Christmas last year).

The kids declared our eggs benedict the best they’d ever had (thanks to my mom’s tutorial when she was here!):

(Let’s excuse another outtake of a video up there…I was trying to cut back on pictures this year.)

Nana, Papa and Carol Lynn dropped by for a little visit:

And we just hung out and basked in Christmas until Nana’s traditional Christmas potluck with all the cousins, complete with a gorgeous Christmas sunset out front:

And then back to hot tub:

Polar Plunge:

…and play cards all crowded around our round table adding Allie and Parker and James in the mix and loving that family togetherness more than I can say.

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  1. The other man’s sky is always greyer… Except mine really is and I would LOVE some “sun drenched life”!

  2. It’d be interesting to ask you mom her thoughts on her calmness at Christmas. And maybe what your dad thought of it all too. If she doesn’t remember yelling at her kids at least once to put away their presents, take down the decorations, or do their daily chores, I don’t think I want to know her response! Now that my kids are older (19, 21, and 23), they joke with their dad about how they used to avoid me from Dec 20 – Dec 24…I guess I was a little stressed?!?

    1. I know I’ve asked her before but I need to ask her again. She was always just kind of more soft-spoken and so selfless. She still is. But she is also strong and you do anything to make her happy because she doesn’t ever ask for much. She’s the best!

  3. A few years ago on Christmas Eve I lost my mind, yelling, freaking out and I remember my son who was probably 8 saying “ fresh mom, way to ruin Christmas “.. I vowed that wouldn’t happen again. I learned some tricks on the way
    1) I buy stocking stuffers all year round. I put them in 3 separate bags ( I have 3 kids) in a tote. By December all I have to is add a few treats! My kids love stockings ! Easier or mind and wallet to spread cost.
    2) as soon as a gift comes in I wrap it. I get the kids each year to go choose a wrapping paper and that’s theirs .. then I wrap as I go not worrying which gift belongs to whom ( I also have it written on my phone)
    My friend actually hires a teenager to wrap all her gifts, she said it’s the best gift to herself !
    What was on Claire’s list this year? My girl will be her age coming up lol

  4. I love it all. What a wonderful Christmas. I agree with you that Christmas can be a brutally full and exhausting time for moms. You are not alone. It is a labor of love and worth it in the end.

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