Christmas morning... and apparently we were all on the Good List.
The kids dove in and it was a blast watching them open their gifts.
There were many trains and Imaginext stuff for Alec....
clothes, photobooks and calendars made with pictures of the kids for Dan...
Legos and tons of clothes for Michaela...
snowball makers and snow fort forms for everyone...
new supplies for playing school, clothes, and the new American Girl doll Caroline for Jenna...
and of course the stockings. The stockings were all made by my Aunt Kathy and they are true treasures. Unfortunately, Santa keeps sending Michaela Twizzlers in her stocking (interestingly enough, the Easter Bunny also puts Twizzlers in Michaela's Easter basket) and Michaela doesn't like Twizzlers. I'm pretty sure that a big enough deal was made that Santa now knows that Michaela would just prefer the chocolate that everyone else gets.
After we got all ready, we drove down to Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Michele's house and spent a wonderful day relaxing with our family. I was a little sad that my parents were away (and as it turns out, Christmas Day just wasn't a good day for them at the hospital, either) so I didn't take too many pictures. But here are some of the Libutti kids opening their gifts:
Both Michaela and Jenna were thrilled to get Girl Scout Build-A-Bears from their aunts and uncles.
We did our traditional singing of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" with Uncle Michael as the five golden rings and Uncle Jimmy as the partridge in a pear tree. The kids go crazy for it and laugh the whole way through.
After a great dinner, we enjoyed some treats:
All in all, a lovely day.
I knew it was okay when Michaela turned to me halfway through opening presents that morning and said, "You know, Mom, I thought this Christmas was going to be kind of awful because of PopPop being sick and things being different because they're not here. But it turns out that it was a good Christmas after all."
And all the stress and worry and effort that went into the holiday was all worth it.
I won't even tell you how early we start getting ready for this crazy Mommy induced "pretend" red carpet event church service.
But for the sake of posterity, I'll tell you that the church service started at 4pm, and it was a contemporary service that was so kid-friendly that Alec sat through it still enough to make me wonder if he was getting sick. He wasn't... he was just enjoying the service.
Here are my cherubs as we were about to leave:
The hair and makeup and clothing is always a big deal, and we start planning it out earlier in the month what we're going to do. I got some fun hair accessories at Charming Charlie's this year. The dresses were secured after a bitterly disappointing scan through the Gymboree and Children's Place offerings forced me to turn to the trusty Internet. And I will admit here what I haven't admitted anywhere else: the website where I got these dresses promoted their stock for holiday dresses, bridal wear and... pageant wear. It took me a long time to get "Toddlers and Tiaras" imagery out of my head. But, I did like the dresses and they were reasonably priced and the girls looked smashing in them.
Jenna wanted her hair down and curly.
Michaela wanted hers back and in a knot to the side. I loved her headband.
And poor Alec just got a regular bath and a finger comb, like usual. But he still looked dashing in his red sweater. I loved that his sweater had a little train embroidered on it... perfect for him. I wish children's wear designers would give boys a few more options: not all kids can tolerate wearing shirts with vests over them. A few more regular crewneck sweaters to choose from would be nice. He looks so old in this picture!
Here's my favorite shot of Michaela, taken while we were waiting for the service to start:
See the blue screen in the background? That's where my parents were watching the service from on skype!
Love, love, love this picture and Alec's baby cheek in the candlelight.
Our church had lumenaries set up all around the parking lot. So beautiful to see.
After church, we went over to my cousin's house for dinner. What a lovely time we all had! Though we missed my parents and their annual Christmas Eve party, it was a wonderful night filled with lots of family and laughter and great food. We teased my cousin's wife that she should host us all every year and she laughed and said she was only hosting in case of emergency from now on.
When we got home, we gave the kids their first Christmas gifts: new jammies. Michaela rolled her eyes when she saw I snuck in matching jammies for her and Jenna (she refuses to match any more) and reluctantly wore the pajama bottoms. Then it was time to put out the snacks for Santa and Rudolph and write a letter:
And Daddy read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, just like every year.
December brought with it the requisite programs from Sunday School and preschool, all full of wriggly, adorable kids all bright and shiny, and Christmas music sung with great enthusiasm.
Michaela had a small speaking part in the Sunday School pageant- no more dressing up as an angel or shepard for her- and did her usual stellar job.
Jenna sang with the kids choir at the pageant and really belted out her "Rum-a-pum-pums" from the Little Drummer Boy. I mean, REALLY belted it out.
And then we had the Preschool Christmas program.
I was a little nervous about this one because I wasn't there... I left the morning of the program to go out to MA to be with my mom and dad for my dad's surgery. I left lots of instructions about his outfit, shoes, alternate outfits, alternate shoes, don't force him to wear a jacket (Alec hates coats of any kind), etc, etc, etc. Turns out Dan is the Sensory Boy Whisperer and not only got him into his Christmas outfit, he even got Alec to wear his new black Christmas shoes. Victory for Daddy!
All the three year olds wear "singing crowns" which is fine gold garland wrapped around their heads and only serves to make each and every child look even more like a literal angel and moves most parents to tears. Having watched Michaela and Jenna both enjoy wearing their singing crowns, and having seen Alec's shoulders shoot up any time anything foreign touches a hair on his head, I was fully prepared to not see the singing crown adorn Alec's head.
So imagine my surprise when our Pastor, who was kind enough to skype the Christmas program to my parents' iPad in the hospital room so I could be part of it, brings the image of the kids up onscreen and there is my little boy, properly dressed, standing in front of the church, AND WEARING HIS SINGING CROWN. This may not seem like a big deal to most, but this was a true victory in my eyes. I was so proud of him, I almost cried. Even his teacher was surprised and happy for this development.
I was proud of all my munchkins this Christmas season!
We kicked off Thanksgiving celebrations with the annual Parent Snack at Alec's preschool. The kids create the invitations and all the parents show up and share a snack with the kids (on the menu: popcorn, goldfish crackers, applesauce, and apple juice) and are gleefully entertained by their perfectly adorable children wielding sticks. Rhythm sticks, of course, which, I was very seriously told by Alec, "are not for hitting our friendth." The kids also can chose to wear their Indian headress if they so choose. Alec, of course, chose to not wear his. But he killed it on those sticks... on the beat and really into the performance. He never ceases to amaze me how he can be so particular about some things but can suck it up and really come through when he knows he's supposed to.
Love the tongue sticking out with concentration. His dad does the exact same thing.
Alec did his headdress on while eating the snack so I was able to grab this picture of him. I love that kid.
Next in the celebrations was our Thanksgiving Baking Day. Michaela and Jenna each had a friend over to "help" (definition: hover around until it's time to eat frosting) and we made sugar cookies and cupcakes.
The girls are really all so sweet that it was fun to spend time with them and watch them decorate the goodies. Here are Jenna, Nata-lee, Isabel, and Michaela.
Some of our finished product (can you see the cookie that's been taste-tested?)
Then it was on to the real Big Day: Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday.
The kids and I devoured our traditional cinnamon rolls, served on our new Thanksgiving plates. (Mommy does love a theme.) We drank our hot chocolate and watched the Macy's Parade.
But not Daddy. Dan was running his first ever 5K race that morning, the Delmar Turkey Trot. The weather was cool but fair and he was more than ready to run. He had a goal of finishing in under 30 minutes... and achieved it!! We were wicked proud of him.
I was planning on walking it but my plans got seriously sidelined when I told the girls our change of plans for Thanksgiving morning and they both freaked out. I guess carefully cultivating a Family Tradition for 11 years and then changing it isn't such a hot idea.
A few days before Thanksgiving I told the girls that I was changing my plans and would be staying home in the morning after all.
Michaela's response: "Oh, that's too bad... you should have just told us to suck it up, Mom. We would have been fine."
Jenna's response: "Good."
We were treated to a visit from my dad on Thanksgiving morning while we were enjoying our cinnamon rolls, and he read to Michaela a beautiful passage called A Desolate Wilderness, which is excerpted from the journals of the actual real Pilgrims as they describe the difficulties of leaving all that was familiar and comfortable to set off for the New World, and forging a brand new life there out of essentially nothing. A beautiful lesson of sacrifice, courage, and standing up for your true beliefs. He reads it every year on Thanksgiving and it is always so moving.
Then we moved onto gifts... the kids each get a little present on Thanksgiving to help kick off the holiday season. Plus I love to buy them presents. Jenna got a new Rapunzel ornament and Michaela and Alec both got new DVDs.
After a bit we got dressed and headed over to my parents' for the day. It was quiet and special and relaxing and wonderful. We played games, colored tablecloths, watched football, ate tons of food, and generally spent lovely time together. My mom put together a wonderful traditional feast that we all enjoyed.
A picture-perfect day.
The next morning my mom and I did some shopping and hit awesome sales, and then we put up one of our Christmas trees in the afternoon. We bought a new taller tree for the family room and moved our old tree into the living room so you can see it from the street. No real-tree-falling-over fiascos this year! Here's our decorated living room tree:
And here's my favorite picture of all from Thanksgiving: my three greatest blessings!