I'm not sure exactly what it was that made this year seem so much better than other Christmases in the past, but I just know how I feel and this was about as good as a Christmas could get!
When I was a kid, we always went to my dad's side Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve and my mom's on Christmas Day. Well, we're lucky to have somewhere to go Christmas Day--since neither Eric nor I have immediate family in the area--and this leaves Christmas Eve to just our family. For Christmas Eve, Eric made shepherd's pie (a tradition he's carried on from his family) for dinner. After eating, we read the Christmas story out of the New Testament and acted it out as best we could--with Bianca as Mary, Portia as Joseph, a stuffed bear Leah for baby Jesus, although our goat (Tigger) and ox (Jillyboo) weren't exactly cooperative.
I liked how they used Portia's silkies in the costuming. Here's Bianca helping Portia after a wardrobe malfunction.
Bianca provided three musical numbers on her viola--What Child Is This?, The First Noel, and The Little Drummer Boy. The music was interspersed with reading a Christmas story (The Tale of the Three Trees, thanks Crystal!) and with pulling out the Thankful Box we kept all December and read aloud the things we've been thankful for this month. We laughed so hard when we read a couple of Portia's contributions (remember she's just learning how to write and knows mostly the letters in her own name) but I swear she had written something that could only be pronounced "poopoocity". The Thankful Box was an idea Eric's aunt Joan gave us on Thanksgiving, and I'm so glad we did it. I especially remember ending on "I'm thankful for a warm house" as we sat in front of the fire together. We let the girls each pick one present to open (from her grandparent's box that arrived a week before), then nestled them into their warm beds.
The next morning, we were up around 6:30 and began opening the presents. I was trying to cut down on the amount of actual toys this year and opted to get them other useful things they would love. Portia's highlights were the Boomwhacker xylophone (not as loud as you might think), new gymnastics leotard, lots and lots of art supplies and her Travel Turtle so she can color in the car. Bianca got a violin, a sea-turtle-shaped thumb piano, ice skates, and books. I like gifts that encourage my kids to continue on with their talents.
If you'd like to know what my favorite present was this year, check out the wood floors in the first two pictures. I love, love, love them!
We had a quick breakfast of cocoa and cinnamon toast while Eric was preparing the "Bread Pudding Quiche" to take to Uncle Bruce and Aunt Joanie's house. We're so grateful they include us in their family celebrations each year, and we always have a wonderful time. So wonderful we could stay all day. A lot of times we do! The brunch was delicious and we sat around talking, playing games and watching movies the rest of the day. This is what Christmas should be.