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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cherished Christmas Traditions

 Our Christmas traditions begin each year with our annual trip to Penland Christmas tree farm to select just the right Leyland Cypress to adorn our home.  This was Maggie's first trip and she was quite a good trooper! Riley pretended to help cut down trees with a stick he found. He also loved the tractor hay ride, the candy cane he got to eat, the mulch pile he tried to climb to the top of, and the saddle he sat in and imagined was a horse.  It was a perfect day for tree hunting!

 Once home, the kids took a nap and we set to work on decorating our little beauty.  We have so many meaningful ornaments now and it's like taking a trip down  Memory Lane each time I hang one up.  

 Maggie was especially interested in all the bright lights when we turned it on at night, but was a little surprised to see how it felt as you can see by the picture above.  We traveled to McAdenville on the Wednesday before Christmas break and saw the entire town light up for Christmas. Maggie slept for most of this trip, but Riley really enjoyed it!

 Joining us again this year was our Elf on the Shelf.  His name is Zippy and Riley loved finding him each morning when we woke up! He usually just quietly hid in high places around the house, but every so often, he'd do something funny like replace the stockings with diapers.  Silly Zippy!

Each year Rock Hill turns downtown into Christmasville and creates tons of fun activities for the kids to participate in. This year, I held Riley and Maggie as we got our picture taken with Santa and Mrs. Clause as well as a few other special characters.  Riley truly enjoyed going to the Children's Museum, riding the carousel, and playing miniature golf. I can't wait until next year when Maggie will really be able to participate as well!

We added a new attraction to our Christmas events this year and that was visiting the Billy Graham Library.  The live nativity was amazing! You can't see it in this picture, but in addition to a donkey and a few goats this area also had a small zebra, an adult camel, and what looked like a baby buffalo.  It was neat to emphasize seeing baby Jesus and having Riley identify Mary and Joseph and reminding all of us what the real reason for the season is.  We heard some beautiful Christmas carols performed by different church groups, drank some delicious hot chocolate and cider, ate a giant gingerbread cookie, and heard a few short stories in the toddler time section.  The line for the horse carriage rides were too long, but perhaps next year we'll try those out.

Now that Riley is a little older, it makes things like decorating a gingerbread house all the more fun! Of course, I had to do most of the decorating because Riley was busy sampling all of the candy (the "raindrops" were his favorite)!

                                                                    Attending our church's Christmas Cantata and children's program were also among our favorite moments of the year! Getting the family dressed and trying to get everyone to look at the camera at the same time was more of a challenge, but still made for some precious poses! 

We were able to make it back home from Indiana and Ohio to participate in a few of our cherished Christmas traditions on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Here are some more of the highlights from this very special season:
 Here we are at our church, Philadelphia United Methodist, at the 4 pm children's service. Riley has his eyes close for the prayer before we all sang "Silent Night".  He loved going to the front of the church to listen to the Nativity story that Mrs. Linda Honeycutt read aloud to all the kids. He loved it so much in fact, he cried and Chris had to pick him up and carry him back to our pew (which got quite a chuckle from the congregation).
 After the service, we've started a relatively new tradition where we go eat at a Chinese restaurant. Last year it was Lui Lui's, but this year we tried Wan Fu in Pineville.  Riley really enjoyed the shrimp that came with my meal, but wouldn't try the pork dumplings which were Dad's favorite!
 The next part of the evening is one of my favorites! We go around and look at Christmas lights in different neighborhoods. We came across a subdivision last year that has an annual contest and here's one of the winners. The picture actually doesn't do it enough justice! There are literally hundreds of more lights around the side of the house. This year, Riley was able to stay awake for trip, but we can't say the same for Maggie.

 The final preparation for the evening is to set out some milk (or eggnog in this case) and cookies (courtesy of Aunt Penny's generous treat box!).  At some point during the night Santa arrived and put out some gifts under the tree and stuffed the stockings full! I was so relieved to be able to finish Maggie's sequined snowman stocking in time for Christmas. This labor of love was something I remember my mom doing for me and I've always loved having a handmade stocking.  Don't look too closely though or you're bound to see some mistakes (sewing is not my strongest suit!).

 Maggie and Riley really enjoyed the gifts from Santa.  Riley spent most of the morning with his "Cranky the Crane" and doctor kit. In fact, the doctor kit even made its way to the breakfast table!

Speaking of breakfast, Grandma made us a apple and cherry candy cane pastry this year and it was absolutely delicious! I did a new take on the breakfast casserole by trying it with grits and we really liked it.  Of course, Riley didn't quite feel up to deviating from his daily dose of a cereal bar and banana.  It's all could do to get him to focus on getting in a few bites before playing with his toys. The most precious part of the morning I think came listening to Riley sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus as our blessing.

We did take some more time out after breakfast to read the Christmas story.  Chris used a children's book and both Riley and Maggie were captivated! Riley especially liked the part about the angels this year.  
 After that, we got to open our stockings! Both kids loved finding their little toys and candy.

Finally, it was time to open presents from under the tree.  I made Riley an ABC book that features pictures of him to go along with each letter of the alphabet. I think he really got a kick out of it!

  He also received lots of games, puzzles, clothes, and a Playdoh set.   Maggie was content to play with her new Laugh and Learn puppy the whole time, but she also received a few games, nursery decor, outfits, and books.  

Overall, it was a very sweet time as a family of four! I feel like God has greatly blessed us with the greatest gifts of all....his Son and each other! 

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