- secret elf. first of december we draw names. everyday of the month we do small acts of service for that person and make a serious attempt to direct extra hugs and smiles and well wishes their way. buy a present for them to be opened christmas eve, hopefully encouraging serious brotherly love. (or brother/sisterly love. zoe drew jakob this year. they are either best friends...or not even close. zoe asked if she could trade. john paul said, "nope. that's going to be the best thing for you.")
- after we decorate the tree we have a giant family slumber party in the living room and smile with excitement until dreams of random things dance in our heads. (we eventually kick the daddy out. he snores, you know.)
- gingerbread houses. my fam did this every year. we each got to decorate a house and then choose who we gave it to. i have to admit that i have been known to buy a pre-made kit at the grocery store, but it's not the same. the house doesn't smell like gingerbread and the candy isn't as stale. i love stale candy canes. seriously. (there's no telling how old our gingerbread house decor was.)
- typically, every friday we have family movie night. it's the one night a week we get to watch tv while we eat! (exciting, i know.) it rotates who chooses the movie, the meal and the treat. but this year we are also doing christmas movie night. starting the kids last day of school we will watch a different christmas movie every night until christmas. i have to decide if we will get to eat dinner in front of the television, at least the treat will make it's way in front of the grinch and george bailey and the charming muppets in a christmas carol. (i hope someone will actually sit through it this year.)
- we are eagerly adopting the "three wisemen gifts" this year. we are giving each child 3 presents from us. santa will hopefully come through and bring an amazing one, we'll expect lovely and thoughtful gifts from grandparents (they always deliver), and we'll cram their stockings to full capacity. but we are really hoping to focus on the birth of our savior. and shying away from mounds of toys will help us do that. they always end up adoring 3 or 4 presents anyway. the rest is just filler. very expensive filler.
we rely heavily on the tried and true stand-bys. blaring christmas music and dancing around the house. baking cookies and dipping anything and everything in chocolate. we read the classic christmas books and the new. and we're working on our very own living nativity. (we enough kids, geez.) john paul makes his own delish hot chocolate that the kiddies and i top it off with soft and fluffy homemade marshmellows. we love going for drives and looking at the christmas lights. and finding a family to help have a merrier christmas. i'm so excited for my house full of monkeys to rip open their presents. and grin at my husband when they keep screaming with delight "oh me oh my!!! this is what i've always wanted!!" i guess riley's the only one that really does that. jakob does get all excited and yelling, but it's usually more like, "YEEEESSSSSS!!!!! YEEEESSSSSSS!!!!!" zoe has never had much of a reaction. if she is absolutely in love with a gift, she kind of quietly says, "oh. wow." we'll have to see how the little man is. it doesn't matter. i'm excited. excited that for 2 weeks school won't interrupt our days. excited that i have some things hidden away that i know they'll love. excited that they're excited.