On Christmas Eve morning, we pick names for a family gift exchange. The gifts are opened that evening. We have three rules for our gift exchange:
1. You have to make something special for the person whose name you draw
2. You can't sneak off to the store to purchase anything (this one doesn't pose a problem for our family, because our oldest child is only 5)
3. You have to keep your gift and the name of your recipient a secret until gifts are exchanged
We do this in one day because our kids are young and it's difficult for them to a keep secret for too long. Okay, it's difficult for me, too. :)
My kids thoroughly enjoyed this last year. My husband and I made sure we offered help to the little ones. They were bursting with excitement when it came time to exchange gifts. And, after working very hard to make a gift and to keep a secret all day long, they were much more interested in giving than receiving.
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow..."
~In the Bleak Midwinter
The Northwest has been hit pretty hard with recent snowstorms. We've been trying to keep the kids busy here inside. Little ones can only play out in the snow for so long, you know! Here are a couple of things we've done in order to weather the storm:
There's something wonderful about a boy and his dad setting up the electric train to go 'round the Christmas tree.
Sunday: Light the Angel candle on our Advent log, read "The Eighth Day of Christmas" from the book, The Real 12 Days of Christmas and attend our church's Christmas play
Monday: Read "The Ninth Day" from The Real 12 Days of Christmas and make angels with the kids' footprints and handprints
Tuesday: Read "The Tenth Day" from The Real 12 Days of Christmas, read about the wise men giving gifts to Jesus, make gifts-in-a-jar to pass out to our neighbors, go caroling in the neighborhood and pass out the gifts we made. I love this quote from Lisa Whelchel's book The ADVENTure of Christmas, regarding the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh..."Who would give such strange gifts to a baby? Wise men would."
Wednesday: Light the Christ candle on our Advent log, read "The Eleventh Day" from The Real 12 Days of Christmas, do our homemade-gift family gift exchange (more on this later), and place Baby Jesus in the straw-filled manger under our Christmas tree
Thursday: Each child will receive an invitation to a special Christmas dinner, which will be lit by all 5 of the candles on our Advent log and we'll read about the final day, "The Twelfth Day of Christmas" from The Real 12 Days of Christmas
Makes 36 bars
- 1 1/3 cups (2 sticks plus 6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-by-1-inch baking pan, and line bottom with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add salt and vanilla, and beat to combine. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, beating on low speed until just combined.
- Press dough into prepared pan, leveling and smoothing the top. Using a dough scraper or the back of a knife, cut dough lengthwise into nine strips, each slightly less than 1 inch wide. Cut the strips crosswise into thirty-six 3-inch bars. Using the tines of a fork or a wooden skewer, create a decorative pattern on the surface.
- Bake shortbread until evenly pale golden, but not browned, 70 to 85 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool. Invert pan, and remove parchment. Turn shortbread over, and carefully break, or cut with a serrated knife, into bars. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
Here's what we'll be doing next week to celebrate the Christmas season:
Sunday: Begin reading The Real 12 Days of Christmas ("The First Day of Christmas"), and light the Shepherd's candle on our Advent log
Monday: Read "The Second Day" in The Real 12 Days of Christmas, read about the legend of the candy cane, and make candy cane reindeer
Tuesday: Read "The Third Day" in The Real 12 Days of Christmas, read about the star that the wise men followed and make glitter star ornaments
Wednesday: Read "The Fourth Day" in The Real 12 Days of Christmas and read The Tiny Star
Thursday: Read "The Fifth Day" in The Real 12 Days of Christmas, read about the shepherds in the Christmas story, pray for a missionary family, and make sheep with cotton balls
Friday: Read "The Sixth Day" in The Real 12 Days of Christmas and drive around to look at Christmas lights
Saturday: Read "The Seventh Day" in The Real 12 Days of Christmas and bake Christmas cookies
Here's what we'll be doing next week to celebrate the Christmas season:
Monday: Open the second box of What God Wants for Christmas, and make ice cream cone Christmas trees
Tuesday: Open the third box of What God Wants for Christmas, and read A Little House Christmas
Wednesday: Open the fourth box of What God Wants for Christmas, talk about the true story of Santa Claus from Lisa Whelchel's book The ADVENTure of Christmas and hang our stockings
Thursday: Open the fifth box of What God Wants for Christmas, watch Santa Claus is Coming to Town while drinking hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows :)
Friday: Open the sixth box of What God Wants for Christmas, make snowflakes to hang in the window and watch Frosty the Snowman
Saturday: Open the seventh box of What God Wants for Christmas, and make gingerbread houses out of Graham crackers, frosting and candy (here's another fun site for ideas)
Ah! The perfect morning! Then something happened, as it usually does. Somebody grabs a toy from a sibling. Somebody screams; somebody hits; somebody runs away and won't come when she's called. Now I'm a frustrated mommy still in my pajamas at 11:00, and it doesn't seem quite so cozy and fun as it did earlier in the day! My latte is cold and everyone is on edge. But then the Lord brings to mind the beautiful Advent Scripture my husband read last night after dinner:
9 You who bring good tidings to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
"Here is your God!"
10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
and his arm rules for him.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
Monday: Make candles out of toilet paper tubes to display in the window (this is to go along with lighting the first candle on our Advent log).
Tuesday: Read The Pine Tree Parable
Wednesday: Make apple cinnamon ornaments
Thursday: Make green Corn Flake Wreaths
Friday: Read The Three Trees
Saturday: Watch The Three Trees
In keeping with the theme Preparing Him Room, this year I've decided to leave the manger of our Nativity scene empty until Christmas Eve. I've cut small strands of raffia to use as hay. Each of my children will place one strand of hay in Baby Jesus' manger every night before bed. On Christmas Eve we'll place Baby Jesus into His nice, soft bed.