This year for Christmas, we were careful to include only that which was of most importance.
Focusing on being present in the midst of those things we considered most important, made every minute a special one to hang on to.
We put the manger made special from a dear friend in Africa in the middle of things. I stopped worrying about it's delicacy and watched it soak in as much love as it was created with.
It's very presence was a reminder of all that is important in life.
And it's characters certainly saw a lot of action.
The last days of school and finals were accompanied by holiday spirit and Annie created her own version of an ugly holiday sweater.
I thought it pretty darn cute rather than ugly at all.
We spent an evening celebrating the season with our 4-h friends and took some semi-healthy treats with us.
Man O man, did these exuberant helpers love those things. I think we ate dozens of them after the fact.
Our good friends held a gingerbread house making party. It's a holiday tradition and I love that they are so willing to hold such a gathering even though their children are no longer little.
Our creations endured the top of our piano for as long as Charlotte would allow them ;)
I gave Newel an early Christmas present and we danced our cold nights away.
Oh my goodness, did we ever wait for college finals to wrap up so we could get this girl on an airplane home to us.
Celia came right in and snuggled into my bed for a long winter's nap just like she was my little three year old all over again.
I have to send her back tomorrow and though I'm sure she's ready, I am not.
Okay ... yes .... this happened. And it was ever so lovely!
My theater enthusiast willingly dressed everyone in costumes for our annual Christmas Eve nativity. She's come so far from those days when she would sit with glasses on the end of her nose cuddling whomever was the baby at the time.
They all have but I sure adore that they are still willing participants.
I went to bed Christmas Eve and lay awake realizing how quickly the days have flown since those children who are now so big used to awake at three in the morning giddy with anticipation.
I thought when I was in it that it might last forever.
I lay awake wishing for it all to stop.
Nothing could stop the sweet excitement of Charlotte and Eliza, though, and my heart was so full watching older children revel in their thrill at everything.
My favorite tradition is our trip to our local retirement home before present opening.
It's always amazing to me how it brings us even closer on Christmas morning.
We visit the same home quite a few times in the year and it was bitter-sweet to learn of the passing of some of our dearest resident friends. Their sweet spirits will be missed but we enjoyed sharing our fondest memories of them with the health care worker who served and loved them so diligently.
It made for an incredible morning.
There's always such a feeling of love coming away from that place, we nearly forget there are any gifts to exchange.
But not for long.
Charlotte had spent what felt like weeks upon weeks, waiting and waiting and waiting to open something from under our tree.
We started with our sibling gift exchange. There's as much anticipation in the giving as the getting. Both parties nearly burst.
Charlotte could hardly stand it, she had to help her Secret Santa ;)
These two have been in these pj's every day since.
And Celia was thrilled at the prospect of tuning out dorm noise while enjoying her new pet.
In the dark of Christmas eve, I found one, lone, last-minute package left on our door step and mindlessly brought it in to sit by the tree.
Inspecting it in the morning, we found it to be all the way from our foreign exchange student in Germany.
It was the icing on the cake and a true reminder as we remembered all of those throughout our year whom we had loved and missed and thought about often.
Lending true meaning to our holiday season.