December flew by and here we were, ready to celebrate Christmas.  Christmas Eve turned into a busy day, baking and cooking ahead of time so that Christmas day wasn't spent in the kitchen.  I was pretty moody, and finally realized I was struggling with not having a specific church to attend with my known and loved church family.  In tears, I shared with Jake just how much I miss Westbrook.  After 5 Christmases, this was our first where we weren't a part of planning the celebration or sharing in it with our close-knit community.  No matter where we went, we would be strangers.  This was hard.

Jake and I decided to attend a Lutheran church, one which, from its website, appeared to be similar to the service I grew up attending at my Grandma and Grandpa's church.  With my feeling of homesickness, I was sold.  Our kids were surprised at the "up and down" nature of a liturgical church.  They thought it was fun to find the hymns in the hymnal and I had to laugh as they struggled to follow the verses without them being on a huge screen in front of them.  The icing on the cake for them was definitely the candy cane they received during the children's sermon!  Still, I loved hearing them read the Lord's Prayer and recite scriptures printed in the bulletin.

When we got in the car, a Christmas station was on playing, "Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas."  Cole immediately yelled, "Finally!  Some Christmas carols I actually know the words to!"  Wow.  We really need to work on that.  I guess I've taken for granted that my kids knew the songs that are about the actual person Christmas is all about!  I'll be piping O Little Town of Bethlehem into his room for the next few months! Ha!

Before we left for church, we set the camera on the tripod and got our family photo.  It's so rare that all six of us are in the picture, so this is always a treat, even if no one else in my family agrees with that!

Whenever we get back from our Christmas Eve service, we find little packages that Rudolph has left for the kids during his routine weather check.  We weren't sure if he'd stop this year since the church service we went to was so much earlier than typical for us.  But he was here!  Laina even looked outside and said she saw a little red light over at our neighbor's house!  She said she saw it and then it disappeared into the air!  So we *just* missed him!  We were sure happy to have our cozy jammies for Christmas Eve night!  We made some yummy food and snuggled in to watch The Santa Clause 2 before we went to bed and slept with sugarplums in our heads.

 Christmas morning came super early at our house and I was so glad because even I couldn't sleep the night before from excitement!  Nothing screams excitment like an eight-year-old with an emoji pillow though!

Maurah and Hayden got their much coveted, very real cameras.

When you ask Santa for a teddy bear, he definitely delivers!

One of my favorite things we've started doing at Christmas is have the kids pick out gifts for one another, drawing names out of a hat.  Hayden made Laina a wordcloud filled with words that describe Laina and then put it in a Paris frame.  She also gave her a sweet elephant.  Laina gave Hayden a new skein of yarn in her favorite colors along with a nice new pair of knitting needles.

Cole also got Maurah a new skein of yarn and a new pair of needles.  Maurah got Cole an old-school football game as well as making him a wordcloud filled with nice words about him as well.  I love watching the kids think through the how of giving gifts - choosing gifts that the other person would enjoy, not just getting them something they would enjoy themselves.

I got Jake a record player this year and the kids contributed a Beatles and Chris Stapleton record to his collection.

And he got me the sign I've been pining after for two years!  I was so surprised and so ecstatic!

Much of the rest of the day was spent putting our new gifts to good use.  Cole built his own video games, Maurah and Hayden worked on their latchhook rugs, and Laina built her K'Nex sets.  It was a beautifully lazy, relaxing day full of love.

Later that evening, friends came over for dinner and we celebrated with good food, good games, and lots of laughter.  This 2016 Christmas was simply wonderful.

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