Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

 It was the best Christmas ever.

Baby Ben arrived shortly after Thanksgiving - what a gift. And we were so blessed to celebrate Christmas in our home with both sides of our family -- Ning, Poppa, Sandie, Tom, Nicki and her boyfriend, Mike, were all here.
On Christmas Eve, Charlie and John wore matching ties and sweater vests, and Madeline made a rare appearance in a sparkly tulle-skirted dress. She looked breathtaking. Sandie and Nicki kept the Christmas dinner preparations going and stayed with John, who had the flu, while the rest of us went to church for the early service. Everyone in the packed congregation had a costume (camel hats, wise men, sheep, angels....) and helped act out the Christmas story in a touching and truly funny kids service.
We came home to a feast....and letters Santa left the kids with reindeer food (thanks, Poppa)! 
Towards the end of the convivial meal, there was a knock on the door. When we went to investigate, we discovered that our elf, Tinsel, had come back from the North Pole to drop off Christmas pajamas for everyone (thanks, Ning)!  We promptly changed into them and the dance party began!!! The children each got to open one present before they went to bed. Then the grown ups exchanged ours that night.
And the next morning, we were off to the races! Stockings and presents galore! What JOY!
Up early and ready to see what Santa has delivered!
John received a sleeping bag to match the big kids!
The apron Aunt Andi made her!
The aftermath
Madeline's learning to sew on her first machine!
I made the kids a Fort in a Bag with lanterns, flashlights, clips and sheets

Friday, December 13, 2013

Saint Lucia Day!

This year, we started a new tradition! December 13th is St. Lucia Day -- I have vivid memories of singing the St. Lucia song and parading around my school in a white gown and red sash when my family lived in Sweden. Every year, I pull out our Swedish Christmas ornaments, Dala horses and straw Jule goats -- some belonged to my family and have made their way into my Christmas bins; others I've bought during IKEA visits or from specialty catalogs over the years. Nevertheless, having lived in Sweden has a child, and with my grandma Madeline being 100% Swedish (she served us homemade Lutefisk one Christmas, which is a gelatinous aged fish dish that those Scandinavians love), I have always felt close to that part of my heritage. In fact, Rob's grandpa was part Swedish, and Geneva, where he grew up, has a Swedish festival every year. Last year, I actually wrote "incorporate Swedish traditions" on my To Do list.

This year, we did! A new friend here in Whitefish Bay inspired me. The day before St. Lucy's day, Madeline, Charlie, John and I made homemade Pepparkakor (Swedish gingersnaps) and St. Lucia buns. After the kids went to bed, Rob helped me roll the dough into the traditional bun shapes that we found online (but only after he made a couple of hand grenades and candy canes for fun).

That night, I laid out the kids outfits -- Madeline wore an angel costume out of our dress up bin, with a bright red sash and a crown of candles. Charlie and John were Starboys, wearing cone-shaped hats decorated with golden stars and carrying a star wand. I'd never heard of Starboys growing up....I read it's a newer tradition so boys can be involved too.
At 2am, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. Madeline was dressed in her full St. Lucia outfit, ready to go. I put her back to bed, but 45 minutes later, she came back in wondering if it was finally time now? She was so excited!
At 5:59am, she came in once again; I told her it was finally time. Then, if you can believe it, I fell back asleep (since I'd had trouble sleeping after the earlier wake up calls). About 20 minutes later, the most magical thing happened. Quiet as mice, Madeline, with her crown lit up in the dark, followed by Charlie, feeling so important in his Star boy costume, came into our bedroom carrying two coffees and St. Lucia buns in a tray with handles. I never imagined they would do it all by themselves! They ran back downstairs, grabbed a couple of buns for themselves, and we all ate our breakfast sitting in bed by the light from Madeline's candles. When Maple jumped up too, Rob said, "Hey Star dog!"
Tonight, my dad and Ning are coming over for a repeat performance -- Madeline wants to deliver pepparkakor to the adults in the living room. This time, we'll play the song too. Then we'll have a festive dinner of Swedish meatballs -- Ning's bringing the glogg (spiced wine)!
It's so fun adding new traditions -- I've picked up a few others this year, which I'll write about in the coming weeks. I'd also love to introduce the kids to other parts of their ancestry -- Irish, Czech and Italian too!