This was one of those days… (by Kathy)

Of great holiday relaxation! It was delightful. I’m trying to think what made it such a nice day. The weather is lousy here in western WA–has been raining for days–so it’s not the bright sunshine that is making me cheerful. We didn’t do anything elaborate or exotic. We didn’t bake Christmas cookies or make gingerbread (although we have a beautifully decorated gingerbread). It was just one of those peaceful, ‘holiday spirit’ days. We don’t get many of the peaceful type around here with 3 boys and 2 girls ranging in ages from 12 to 3 running around with no outside play readily available.

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Our gingerbread house–made by G’ma and decorated by the kiddos.

Yesterday we went to see The Chronicles of Narnia (it was great!!). Joshua is so excited because he gets to see it again next week with his R.O.C.K. group (Really Outstanding Christian Kids) from church. I got a sitter for the two little ones and took the older three to a morning matinee. I’m always fascinated to see how little boys are so definitely ‘men.’ Rachel hid her head for most of the climatic battle scenes whereas Joshua and Daniel came out of the theater saying, “The battle was AWESOME!” I was glad to see that Rachel knew her limits and went into the back (actually through the first set of exit doors) during the stone table scene.

Today we didn’t have anything exciting planned so I told the older three children to be prepared for a half day of school (with absolutely no fussing allowed). This week so far, we’ve been on vacation. When I got up this morning they were all downstairs working on their math. I told them the computer would be off limits today. For some reason all five of the children, yes, including the 3 and 4 year old, have been begging to play computer games all week, and it’s been driving me crazy! The behavior, in general, has been less than exemplary and we needed to make some changes.

After some morning school, the rest of the day was spent so pleasantly. The big kids played several games of Payday, a round of Jenga, and entertained themselves in their rooms. The little two played for a long time with their Playmobil toys. At one point David, Sarah and I had the Lincoln Logs out and were building houses on the floor in the living room. Joshua had to come in and teach me how to put the doors into our building (can’t believe I’ve forgotten how to use Lincoln Logs). We ran out of pieces, and I had one of the other kids go out in the garage and find us another bin of logs. Who would think it would be so engrossing?

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The kids gather to open one of our many Advent calendars.

Late in the afternoon I let the children watch a movie in the garage while I wrapped presents in the kitchen. I put on a movie for myself and we all spent the next two hours happily entertained. Rachel went to play at a friend’s house for part of the time. I got ALL of the stocking presents wrapped. Yay!! My mom always wrapped our stocking gifts (down to the toothpaste and gum) and I can’t resist continuing that part of the Christmas fun. I wrapped Tim’s presents (found all sorts of odds and ends treasures at Lowe’s this week) and even got his stocking things wrapped and labeled.

We added a twist to our gift tag names this year (started it last year and went all-out this year). Several years ago we came up with the idea to assign each child a secret reindeer or Christmas name at the beginning of the month and then use them for their presents. The names aren’t revealed until Christmas morning–it keeps everything extra special secret and fun for the children. It also prevents the kids from comparing their pile of presents to their sibling’s. Everything is terribly mysterious as the suspense (and the piles of presents) build up.

This year the children were Elf, Snowden, Dasher, Rudolph and Frosty. Tim was Mr. Incredible (I couldn’t resist) and I was Dancer (not indicative of anything, I’m afraid). I decided to mix up the names a little bit (usually we just stick to the 9 reindeer names) because I was worried the kids might use their powers of logical reasoning to narrow the possibilities down and figure out their secret identities. I can just hear Joshua, “Let’s see last year I was Blitzen and the year before I was Donner so that means I must be one of the following….” Really, some children have TOO much time on their hands. Shouldn’t that boy go write a book report or something?

I had even toyed with the idea of repeating a reindeer name from last year to throw them off the trail. Have to win the battle of wits whenever you can! Or at least put up a good fight.

This year we livened it up with fun character names as the gift giver. It gets a little tiring to write Mom and Dad on all the presents and we don’t really ‘do Santa’ in our home. So now the packages come from all sorts of interesting individuals. I think one present is To: Elf — From: Spiderman. Another one is To: Snowden — From: Buzz Lightyear. We added in King Peter and Queen Susan after seeing the Narnia movie. The kids get a huge kick out of seeing who all the presents are from and Tim and I are entertained in thinking up creative names. We try to throw the kids off the trail by occasionally giving the boys gifts from female characters like Snow White and Little Bo Peep while the girls receive presents from King Arthur and other assorted knights.

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Daniel and Sarah sledding in the Duckabush.

I overheard Rachel on the phone, the other day, telling her friend how much fun it was to look over the packages and see the different names written on them. Hee, hee. I think we’ve started another tradition. Of course, Tim wonders if we really need more traditions — I try to ignore those kind of comments. Joshua is old enough that he can enjoy some of the more unusual characters, when we can think of them. It’s been lots of fun. We do like celebrations here in this house.

I’m so pleased to have all the wrapping done (as far as I know). We usually sleep downstairs in the living room on Christmas Eve (another tradition from my childhood). One year we had to hang up a curtain separating the kitchen/family room from the living room so we could wrap presents in one room and have the kids in the other. It was busy and festive but certainly not quality family time. This year we can enjoy Christmas Eve together because we’ve done most of the work ahead of time. We’ll spend Christmas morning relaxing and opening presents — the kids have requested quiche and sweet rolls for brunch. Yum! We’ll have dinner with Tim’s parents.

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See what happens when the kids play inside.

All in all it was a good day of vacation. I think one of the key factors was keeping the children OFF the computer and the complaining/fussing OUT-LAWED! I would like the kids to spend more time playing board games together, reading and just generally engaging in creative play. I don’t mind a little bit of computer time but when all five children want to play at the same time and fight over computers it gets a little crazy. I need to be more proactive about the recreational choices myself and bring out some of our board games during free time. Often it just takes a little time and instruction and the children run off to play the games themselves. It’s truly a wonderful thing to see the kids enjoy each other–a lovely benefit of a big family.

Just wanted to give you a little glimpse of our day on this eve of Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas!


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