Monday, January 19, 2015

Dinner At The Inn

Every year on Christmas Eve we begin our Christmas celebration by having our "Dinner at the Inn."  One of Andy's family's traditions was to serve beef noodle soup each year on Christmas Eve, so we just expanded on the idea...and created a meal similar to one that we imagine a group of humble shepherds may have eaten the night that the Savior of the World was born.

The kids really look forward to it...I use our most humble place settings and tablecloth...and we serve homemade beef noodle soup, homemade Challah bread, olives, cheese, and milk.  We love it.

Afterwards, we get all dressed up to do our Nativity play!  This year, Matthew wanted to be Joseph again...His Jedi costume came in handy...

and a leopard headwrap was perfect...

Rachel wanted to be the Angel again...

And me?  Well I was going to be one of the shepherds with Lainah...but first I started getting silly with my scarves and Andy just couldn't resist snapping some pictures.

Taylor, who likes playing the wisemen (yes, all three) was so excited to have some real Frankincense this year.  Usually we just use a cologne bottle and fake it.  This year we were "legit."

And here he is...the wiseman...he had me laughing all night long.  There are no words...

Here's our beautiful angel! 

Joseph kept "sleeping" on the job.  Apparently keeping watch over Mary got a little tedious at times.

And Brooklynn wanted to be our Mary yet again.  I think its funny how each of the kids have tried all the parts and have kind of settled into one that they really like. 

And well...little Emma really didn't have a say this year.  She got to play the best part of all, baby Jesus, complete with a mechanically swinging manger.  And a binki.  Too cute!

When everyone started to gather around her, she just had this look on her face that said, "you guys are so weird."  It was too funny!

And Addy was a shepherd with Lainah and I...she really does look "sore afraid" of Rachel the Angel. 

This year, Lainah chose our flocks.  A purple dolphin, a pink teddy bear, a pig, and a puppy. 

They might be strange sheep...but they were very well-behaved.

Okay so Rachey really likes to get into her part.

Andy was our awesome narrator again...keeping everyone in line, and trying to keep us all on task.  We tend to get side-tracked really easily around here.

Then he jumped up to be a wiseman with Taylor.  I love that they are both using swiffers as staffs.  The funny look you see on Tay's face is because I asked Andy to say his lines using his awesome Scottish accent.  Taylor decided to join in too.  Apparently to speak Scottish Tay has to grimace.

And apparently Tay isn't the only one.  Andy really got into it.  Next year, I may have to make them kilts...or at least buy some plaid fabric to drape around them.

By the time the wisemen finally made their long journey to Bethlehem...the babe was out of the manger and onto Mary's lap...and very interested in grabbing the gifts they were offering.

You'd think that with all of this laughter and "organized chaos" that the spirit of the story would be lost.  But no...part of the narrator's part is to bear testimony of Jesus Christ and His divine mission on the earth, and as soon as Andy started to talk about his love for the Savior...everything got quiet, and you could feel the spirit in the room.  I love this tradition. 

I wrote this nativity play a few years after Andy and I were married.  I quoted directly from the scripture accounts of the Savior's birth from the Bible, and added in Hymns and primary songs in appropriate places, and also added in the part at the end where the narrator bears testimony to the group of the Savior. 

It has been a special part of our Christmas tradition to start out each year with our Dinner at the Inn and Nativity Play...I love feeling the spirit of Christ in our home on Christmas Eve, and enjoy watching the children change and grow each season.

A Clearwater Christmas

Finding a "free night" to hold our dental office Christmas party this year was so difficult!  It seems like after Thanksgiving, everything is in fast forward and every night has been called for by one activity or another!  But I'm so glad that we put forth the extra effort to find a night that would work for everyone.  It was so great to spend a few relaxing hours together chatting about life in general, eating delicious food catered by Goodwood, and watching our kids play together. 
And this year...Clearwater had a couple extra special visitors join us for the party!  Santa and Mrs. Claus came to see us!  Addy wasn't quite sure what to think about the whole thing...

But she sure was happy with the candy cane!

Lainah had a few extra items that she was hoping for, so she had written a revised Santa's list and brought it to the party just in case he showed up.  She was SO excited!  Santa and Mrs. Claus were so sweet...they knew each of the kids by name, and even remembered a few things about each one!  They remembered that Lainah loves to dance and wanted some ballet shoes and a ballet dress for Christmas...the look on her face when they mentioned those things was priceless!

Lainah could talk of little else for the next couple of days...she just loved visiting with Santa.

A few years ago, Matthew sat on Santa's lap and Santa exclaimed, "Well Matthew!  Have you been eating bricks!?!"  We sure do love our big hunk of a kiddo.  

Santa and Mrs. Claus remembered that Matthew loves to read science books and likes they asked him a few questions and had a good discussion with him about different kinds of spiders.

Mrs. Claus was excited to talk to Brooklynn because they share a common hobby...knitting!  Brooklynn asked for some more yarn for Christmas, and she was talking to Mrs. Claus about it all while Santa listened.

And they both had Rachel laughing after a few minutes...they congratulated her on making the cheer squad...and for setting her goal of straight A's for the semester.

Santa was so awesome with Taylor!  He reminded Taylor that he had set a goal to be finished reading the Book of Mormon by June...and getting his Eagle Scout by June...and finishing up with his Duty to God for his age group by that he could get his drivers license.  Love that Santa! 

And sweet little Emma had just fallen asleep before our visitors from the North Pole had here she is, her first picture with Santa and Mrs. asleep and snuggled up in her carseat! 

After visiting with each of the kids and before they left...Mrs. Claus read "Twas the Night Before Christmas."

These two are wonderful...there couldn't be a better Santa and Mrs. Claus...
And we loved having them visit the Clearwater team and families for Christmas!

Full of Life

Is there anything more exciting than a Kindergartener at their very first Christmas concert?  Well, a few of those kids in the picture don't look too thrilled to be there...but my Lainah, she couldn't be more excited to finally be in the program rather than sitting and watching! 

I had a hard time making it through Lainah's concert.  She was just so cute and bubbly, and full of little girl excitement with her rosy cheeks that I couldn't help but think about that terrible week two years ago, when her little face and body were so listless and void of life.  So there I was in the middle of her joyful concert, thinking of holding her in the hospital two years ago and praying that she would make it...praying that I would be able to bring my sweet little one home again.  As my mind would go over all of the details of those terrible few days and nights, my eyes and ears were seeing and listening to this beautiful little girl singing and dancing with all of her little girl heart, and I was filled with gratitude that her life had been spared and that I was sitting enjoying her Kindergarten concert. 
Crazy how the mind can take you places at the most random times.

Matthew also performed that night, and he just made me smile and chuckle over and over.  Mr. Bradshaw, his music teacher told me that Matthew has a "signature head bob" that he does during class.  I saw it at the concert, and it was hilarious.  Whenever the music came on with a good beat...Matthew's head would start bobbing back and forth.  Just a subtle little bob...what a cool dude.

And I think that any teacher who gets a group of 2nd grade boys to enjoy music and to do actions and dance while they sing deserves an award.  These boys were awesome!

During the last song, the 1st graders and Kindergartners joined in...and as you can see, Lainah was still super animated!  There wasn't anyone more bright or excited to be there that night!

Matthew loves second grade and really likes his teacher, Mrs. Weiskircher, who is standing right behind him in the red sweater.  She gives out Boise State Football posters for good behavior, and Matthew has quite a collection growing down in his room.  He even has a pair of orange pom poms that she gave him after the Fiesta Bowl.  She is too cool, he loves her!

These two have always been buddies, ever since Lainah could crawl.  Lainah really, really missed Matthew last year when he was in school every day all day and she was still at home.  He is such a good big brother, and waves "hi" to her when he sees her in the lunchroom or in the hallways.  For the past two years, Lainah would watch out the window for the bus to drop off "her guys" at the end of the day. Now, she's finally one of the "guys" and it's Addyson's turn to wait for "her guys" to come home from school.
I love these two so glad that they can still be buddies, and that Lainah has such a great big brother to look out for her while she's away from home.

Brooklynn's Christmas Concert

One of my favorite things about the Holiday season is going to my kids' Christmas concerts.  This year did not disappoint.  We had a busy week with three nights of concerts, but as always it was so fun to watch the kids perform.  Here is Miss Brooklynn in her very last Elementary School Christmas Concert.  Hard to believe that next year she will be a 6th grader in middle school!

The kids' music teacher, Mr. Bradshaw, is so awesome.  After these concerts, there was no question why all three of my elementary school kids LOVE music class.  He was up front dancing around, and each one of their songs included a lot of body movement and actions...not just singing.

Brooklynn is such a beautiful girl.  She is enjoying the 5th grade with all of her new friends, and she adores her teacher Mrs. Mennsen.  Each day I hear about all of the amazing things Mrs. Mennsen is doing.  I'm thankful for good teachers. 
It's so good to see Brooklynn so happy...a very clear indication that our move was the right one.

Tree Trimming

We were late getting our tree up this year because of the flooding in our basement.  It took forever for the insurance company to get the claim settled so the restoration could be completed.  The flood happened in August...and our basement was finally completed on December 12th!  We went right out and got our tree.  The kids could hardly wait to get started...
As tradition goes...Andy put on the lights...

While I chose a comfortable spot on the floor and handed out ornaments for the kids to put on the tree.  I love how every year they are so excited to see their hand-made ornaments that we've accumulated through the years.  Every year we have to poke a little fun at Taylor.  Being the oldest...he does have the most little picture ornaments on the tree.  Lainah was SO excited because this year she got to put up her very first school ornament with her Kindergarten picture on it. 

Emma was just super happy to be kicking and rolling around on the floor.

Addy got bored with ornaments after a little while and wanted to ride her "horsey"...aka...Rachel.  I'm so glad that Rachel is such a good sport.

There's something magical about babies...Emma has a way of outshining anything around her and I love watching how the kids all gather around her.  There's really nothing sweeter.

Taylor was getting her to do her cute baby belly laugh by making her chubby baby legs "run."

She is such a good sport about it all.

Each of the kids have had their own little "thing" that is unique to them.  Emma's is that when she smiles really big she sticks her tongue out as far as she can.  It gets everyone laughing every time.

It's also tradition that one of the littlest ones gets to help Daddy put up the star.  This year it was Addyson's turn.  She thought that was pretty awesome.

Phew!  Lights and ornaments on!  A success! 

And as tradition goes....
Mom adds the ribbon and rearranges the ornaments the next day while everyone's at school.