Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It Takes a Village . . .

Given how I feel about sugar cookies, I'm a little fuzzy on how the decision was made to make homemade gingerbread cookies.  I know it wasn't my idea.

Usually we buy one of those gingerbread house kits which the kids love to put together on Christmas Eve.  But this year, since Shaggy has been on a financial overhaul mission, we didn't buy one.  Cash is king, credit is dumb and all that witty wisdom from Dave Ramsey.

But, whatever.  That's fine.  I didn't really care if we bought a kit.  I figured we could just make gingerbread . . . as in cake.  I happen to have a nice little house shaped pan that would have been perfect.  Even picked up the candy in the bulk isle of the grocery store.  Mixing up batter and making frosting.  Fairly simple and not too time consuming.

But my idea was hijacked.

Somehow it turned into ultra-time-consiming-made-from-scratch-roll-out-gingerbread-cookies-for-building-a-gingerbread-village.  Yeah, try just saying that out loud.  Guaranteed to make you tired.

Making the dough was pretty easy--especially because I didn't help with it at all.  Aunt N took charge of that with K and S as assistant chefs.  I took it out of the fridge, sprinkled some flour on the table, and had Shaggy take a picture.  Then B started wailing, so I had to drop out of the project for a while.

Good thing N and Shaggy were around, because if they weren't, something tells me the dough would have stayed in the fridge until it was unusable and then tossed out.

The plan was to make and decorate a gingerbread house on Christmas Eve.  But because it took so very long to actually bake the cookies, we had to shelve it for several days.

The first problem was a fussy, high-maintenance baby.  The second, third, fourth and fifth problems were the other four overexcited kids vying for attention.  The sixth problem was the time consuming nature of roll out cookies.  The seventh problem was trying to figure out the shapes and sizes to make the cookies so we could actually assemble a gingerbread village.  And the eighth problem was too many people with too many conflicting opinions.
But somehow, all the dough was baked that day.

Luckily it was just the fun part left, which is probably the only reason we came back to the project at all.  We whipped up some royal icing and got out the candy.  Which caused the above mentioned second, third, fourth and fifth problems to come into the kitchen swarming like flies.

Everybody helped.  There were no casualties, though there were some tears and a meltdown or two.  But we helped the kids to raise a village.  I know it's supposed to be the other way around, but I'm still waiting for that part.

Christmas Magic

It doesn't just happen on its own, you know.  Which explains why this Christmas was the most exhausting one yet.  Poor Aunt N, she had no idea what she was signing up for, coming to stay with us the week of Christmas.  Crazy, with a capital C.  But, she took the baby's wailings in stride.  And J's screeching.  And his mantra, "Don't look at me!"  And R's meltdowns.  And K's moodiness.  And S's questions.  And Shaggy's clowning around.  And my emotional highs and lows.  She just jumped aboard and rode the roller coaster that is our family life.

Yeah, she can come visit us again . . . IF she ever recovers enough to want to. 

We played games.

We made fudge and educated the youngest family members in the joys of chocolate.  We'll have to have a follow up lesson on that when she's older since the tast of a chocolate wrapper doesn't really do justice to the taste of chocolate.  But what does she know?  The paper was mighty exciting.

We wrote a note to Santa and left him a treat.  Notice that they are chocolate chip cookies.  Which I pulled out of the freezer.  The kids were a little concerned about that, but I reassured them that they would, indeed, be thawed by the time he visited our house.  According to the Norad Santa tracker, he was in Nova Scotia when we set these out.

We managed to somehow tolerate all the energy generated by five (ok, four) kids waiting with baited breath for Christmas morning to come.

Although she LOOKS like an adorable little elf in this photo, she actually made it extremely difficult to keep up with all the family traditions we've build up over the years.  Not very helpful to Santa at all, really.  If we had managed to catch Santa with his sack open, we might have sent her to the north pole for an extended visit.

We didn't, however, catch him in the act.  But he definitely visited and got all the presents wrapped and the stockings stuffed.

We rifled through our stockings and had our traditional sugar cereal for breakfast Christmas morning.

Then we gathered for the gift extravaganza.

Two of us got all they wanted for Christmas.

Some of the kids asked Santa for one specific gift.  J even complained to me that his present wasn't going to be a surprise, even though he thought it should be.  His belief was that sure.

K didn't ask for anything, just wrote to Santa saying that he could bring her anything--something he thought she would like.  Yep, she's a pre-teen.  And yep, I realize how lucky I am that she is so very UNmaterialistic.  I think she approved of his choice in gifts.

R was all into the Christmas magic this year.  She learned how it all worked.  She was extremely thorough in sprinkling the reindeer food around our front yard.  She didn't want any of them to go hungry.

Besides receiving a gift from Santa, she also got some great presents from the attic fairy.  You know that nice fairy who stores toys when children outgrow them and give them back when younger siblings are ready for them.  She's a very nice fairy.  And handy to have around for Christmases and birthdays.

B slept through half of our gift extravaganza, which no one complained about, least of all me.

And we were able to give N one of those great, meaningful gifts which are the very best kind to give.  The ones you can hardly wait for them to open.  The ones that are more exciting to give than they are to receive.

We did a lot of assembling and playing.

And we made a giant mess.

We had a nice Christmas dinner and learned about some English Christmas traditions.  Crackers!

B wasn't very impressed, but the rest of us enjoyed them.

In short, we had a fabulous Christmas.

And I am so VERY glad the next one is a year away. 
I think it will take me that long to recover from this one.


Doing the nativity play on Christmas Eve has got to be one of my favorite Christmas traditions.  I love the creative flair that the kids throw in.  And it's always a bonus when we have a guest angel and a live baby Jesus.

J opted to be a tech guy this year.  He helped Shaggy create the set, complete with lights.  He also refused to let me take his picture.


Mary is on the left, riding her rocking horse to Bethlehem.  Don't mind the leopard print, the thanksgiving indian pillowcase tunic, or the purse.  It really is Mary.  Although if you asked her, she would have said that she was a mommy bird.  But don't let that fool you, it really was Mary.

On the right we have a shepherd, with more leopard print.  It must have been popular back in the day.  And we have a shepherd of the German variety dressed up as a sheep.  It's must have been on its way to a beauty pageant since it was wearing a tiara, however unwillingly.  And the gorgeous girl in white is the angel, of course.

Here's Mary after giving birth to a screaming baby (hmm, sounds familiar somehow), and after shedding her leopard skin.  She looks a little put out by the screaming infant in the basket.  I can't blame her.  Mickey as Joseph is completely useless.  He just buries his face in a blanket and pretends like he can't hear a thing.  Then again, maybe he can't.  He's been our Joseph stand in every year and he NEVER helps with the baby.  Typical.  Those blasted stuffed animals are totally useless when it come to childcare.

The screaming baby was graced by a visit from a wiseman . . . I mean wisewoman.  She was wearing pearls, after all!  Even has a jewel on her turban.  Too bad the baby was unimpressed by the gifts she brought.

I definitely think the show was better with someone else to perform with/for.  And the costuming was certainly more fabulous than ever!

And we were even graced with some Christmas music in our first annual Christmas concert.  No, they didn't play together, in case you were wondering. 
Merry Christmas Eve!!

Snow Day

Yep, this would be the money shot.  My absolute favorite from this day.  Maybe even the whole week.  And forget what I said about never editing my pictures before posting them because I did for this one.  I just had to. 

I love this girl.  I love her baby blues (my other kids, except for B so far, ditched the blues in favor of green or hazel).  But hers are here to stay.  I love her freckles and her smile.  I love this scarf.  Too bad it had to go home with Aunt N who came to visit us.

Aunt N and her fabulous scarves were a total hit. 

We took advantage of the time we had her and the time Shaggy took off work and went to have a snow play day.  We were grateful that the snow was not thigh deep like last year.  And that there was already a good sled run in place so we could just jump out and play.  And the snow boots the kid got as an early Christmas present worked wonders because I didn't hear a single whining complaint about cold feet.  Wonderful!

Even little B cooperated by falling fast asleep soon after I took this photo.  And she stayed asleep until we packed up to leave--even when Shaggy and I passed the sling back and forth.  I suppose she does have her good days.  Then again, maybe she just fell asleep as a defense against that big ball on her hat.  We sort of forgot to bring a suitible hat for her, but luckily this one happened to be in the van.  We also forgot to bring a change of clothes for her which we discovered as we took her out of her carseat and found that she had pooped through everything she had on.  YOU try packing for 5 kids without forgetting anything.  Not so easy.  But all's well that ends well . . . she didn't freeze.

It was actually pretty warm that day.  The snow was melting and sooner or later, everybody shed their outer layers because they were too hot.

Fun was had by all.

But no one had more fun than J.  That's his mischevious smile.  The one he uses when he's trying to get away with something that he figures he probably shouldn't do but wants to do anyway.  Guess where that snowball was headed.

J's only regret of the day was that the door to this excavator was locked so he couldn't climb inside.

I'm not sure why R was looking so sad and forlorn.  She had fun building a snowman with Aunt N.  Actually she had fun telling N exactly where to put everything on the said snowman.  And N was quite obliging of all her orders.  Have I mentioned how great Aunt N is with kids?

Maybe because she grew up with Shaggy. 
Who, to this day, is the biggest kid of them all.