Some More Photos From My Christmas Photo Challenge

I’ve shared these all on Facebook, but for those of you who aren’t on Facebook, here are some more Christmas photos!

Day 16: Warmth

They’re snuggled under my Christmas blanket from Ben’s grandma! I love it that we only get the blanket out at Christmas, and that it’s a special way to continually remind us of her, now that she’s gone….

Day 16

Day 17: Tradition

Advent Calendar! (Fun in the beginning, but I must confess, I’m a little worn out with all the activities! Good thing Christmas is almost here!!)

Day 17

Day 18: Something Shiny

Day 18

Day 19: Festive

I went over to my friend Sarah’s house to get some variety for my Christmas photos! (Ironically, I think our house is on this picture – her tree is right by the window, and the dark blob to the right is probably right around where our house is down the street!)

Day 19

Day 20: Baking Fun

Peanut Better Balls! Apparently, these are delicious! I have not cheated, so I have no idea what they taste like, by some miracle. I cannot say the same for last night’s Honey Cookies…

Day 20

Day 21: Under

I lay on my back under the Christmas tree to take this one.:)

Day 21

December Photo Challenge

I came across this little photo challenge the other day, and thought it looked like fun. My friend did one last year, and I always looked forward to seeing what she would come up with each day! Plus, it’s been an awesome reminder to me to leave behind some of the heavy stuff this month, and just focus on the fun, creativity, and magic of the season.:)

Day One: In the “Mirror”

Day 1

Day Two: Furry Face

*I cheated a little bit on this one – it’s from last February, because I didn’t have a furry face around to take pictures of on the day of the challenge! I could have gone down the street, knocking on doors until I found a really photogenic dog, but this option was easier!!

Day 2

Day Three:

Day 3

Day Four:

Day 4

Day Five:

*I had NO idea where I was going to find some elves to photograph, since we don’t do the whole elf thing at our house, but Anika came to my rescue!

Day 5

Day Six: Fun

*Loads of fun happening around here, because Ben’s home after being gone for the week! Now everything can go back to normal!

Day 6


Weekend Favorites: It Has Begun!

Ben holds off on Christmas until December. The rest of us listen to Christmas music in November already, when he’s at work, and he was okay with me putting up our little Christmas village before December, but other than that, everything must wait!

So this was the big weekend! Anika is extremely excited that we can FINALLY have the tree decorated!


Kaylia and Kendra





ornamentsBen would like me to specifically give him photo credit for some of these pictures!!;) He was joking, but I was quite impressed with this last one that he took!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

Ready for a Change!

My goodness, a week without blogging feels like a really long time! How are you all?

Our family had a very nice holiday. I could easily have gone without the four-day flu, but other than that, Christmas has been great.

I have two favorites of Christmas this year. The first would be listening to Anika playing Christmas carols on the piano while Kaylia sang along, changing all the words: “Hark, my favorite angels sing!” and “Napping all the way” for Jingle Bells.

My other favorite would have to be the hot chocolate party we had by our Christmas tree, a few days before Christmas. The girls thought it was all quite magical, and we talked about why we give presents at Christmas. It was one of those moments when I kept watching our girls and wishing we could press “pause”. Right now, when we’re all cozy, warm, happy, together.

hot chocolate party

hot chocolate party

We opened presents on Christmas Day, and had a quiet, relaxing day at home.


Ben made our big Christmas dinner, and I managed to get a little bit of food down. Turns out, it was a good thing he brushed up on his gravy-making skills, because when the day came to celebrate Christmas with my family, my mom, my sister, and I were all sick.

So, Ben and my brother-in-law Wally made the Christmas meal at my parents’ house while my dad went sledding with the kids, and the ladies lay around doing absolutely nothing.

My sister was very concerned about the fact that I had no camera with me for Christmas. I told her I was too sick to care, so she supplied me with some pictures:

Christmas 030 (2)

The first day that I started feeling well, I took down all of our Christmas decorations. Anika and Kaylia were very sad to see them go, and Anika asked why they couldn’t stay up longer. I told her that this year, “Christmas” makes me think of stomach flu, and so I wanted Christmas to be over immediately.

She said, “Oh, no, Mommy, you’re never going to like Christmas again!!”

I assured her that by next Christmas, I’ll be very happy to celebrate all over again, but just for this year, I’m ready for a change.

I always look forward to the new year. It all feels so fresh and new and wide open for any possibility. This last year has been quite wonderful – not because it was always easy, but because I think I’m finally old enough to realize that “good” doesn’t necessarily mean “easy”. We’ve had exciting challenges, and satisfying growth, and I am ready for another year of it.

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas, and can look to the new year with great anticipation.

Making a Big Deal About the Little Things

The year Anika was born, we did not have a Christmas tree.

She was only two months old at Christmas, and I felt a little overwhelmed about facing the holidays with a new baby.

On top of that, my family was going through a rough time, and it was sucking all energy, motivation, and Christmas cheer right out of me.

So we skipped the Christmas tree.

And Christmas still happened.

It was possible to have a pretty good Christmas, anyway.

But I don’t want to go without a tree again. I know that Christmas isn’t about the tree, and the presents, and all that stuff, but as a kid, there was so much magic in all of those traditions. My mom was always great with the little details.

I have so very many memories of all those fun things we used to do at Christmas – pink popcorn, my Grandma’s fudge recipe, decorating our extremely color-coordinated Christmas tree, our wooden manger scene.

Now that I have children of my own, I have two goals each Christmas:

1) To teach them exactly why we celebrate Christmas.

2) To fill their lives with as many magical memories as I carry with me from my own childhood.

gingerbread house

My magical memories all have to do with the little things – the traditions that were special for our family, and all the little details that made it feel like home. A candlelight fried chicken Christmas dinner from Chicken Delight, accompanied by my mom’s favorite instrumental Christmas music…. Opening presents on a Sunday, and ONLY once it was dark outside!

Ben and I have our own traditions now, and our Christmas looks a bit different. I love that. Our way of celebrating is unique to our family. Everybody has their own way, and it doesn’t seem to matter much what the traditions are, just as long as they get done each year!

December 2012 020 edit #2


It isn’t the big pleasures that count the most; it is making a great deal out of the little ones. (Anonymous)

gingerbread house

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

The Poor With You This Christmas

Our family spent a lot of time with a bunch of potatoes on Wednesday.

It was a new experience for us. We volunteered at Winnipeg Harvest as a family.

Ben and I have worked there a number of times before, when we were leading a youth group. We’d take the whole group out to Winnipeg Harvest for an evening, and sort potatoes or package non-perishables.

As a couple, we’ve often talked about “someday” when we would volunteer at different organizations as a family, but the thought didn’t occur to me that it could start now already, even though Kaylia is only three.

But last year, I came across this blog, which is written by a couple who spent a year traveling around the United States with their kids, volunteering at a wide variety of places. They have two young girls, one who is the same age as Kaylia.

As I read about their adventures, it became clear to me that little kids can be part of a whole lot more than what I had originally thought.

So we went to Winnipeg Harvest this week.

And it was great! Peak of the Market had donated hundreds of pounds of potatoes to Winnipeg Harvest, and our job was to sort through them, filling boxes to bring to the different food banks around Winnipeg. Anika and Kaylia stood on crates, and were legitimately helpful in filling the boxes with good potatoes, and throwing out the rotten ones.

In two weeks, Anika and I are going to help package food and toys for the Christmas Cheer Board, and we would love to visit Winnipeg Harvest again in January.

These things are on my mind this Christmas for a few reasons.

1) Our uncomfortable Sunday School class.

We doing a study called “Justice for the Poor”, and it’s making me squirm. But it’s really good, and making me feel like getting out there and doing something.

Sorting potatoes will not solve world hunger, but if we all do a little bit, it will make a difference.

We have so much. We sit in our comfortable house, eat our plentiful food, and plan for our bountiful Christmas. Sorting some potatoes is the least we can do.

 2) My trip to Ottawa this summer.

As my sister was driving me around, giving me a tour of the city, she explained to me how Ottawa has chosen to spread the low-income housing throughout the city. The politicians’ mansions are a few blocks away from the rundown homes of the less-influential citizens of Ottawa.

By spreading out these pockets of poverty, Ottawa has managed to keep the crime rate low. No specific area of the city is overwhelmingly filled with poverty and desperation. It keeps trouble from brewing.

But it means that when you drive to the mall, you’ll have to pass by a bunch of homes which remind you how much you already have, and how blessed you are.

It reminds you that whatever you are going to buy at the mall, you probably don’t NEED, in light of what some people have.

It serves as an excellent visual reminder of how out-of-balance life is.

In the Bible, there’s a verse which talks about how “…the poor you will always have with you…”

Except that we don’t.

They are far away, and easy to forget about. Conveniently out of sight, and therefore out of mind.

I would like to get the poor back into my mind.

I would like the poor to be in my girls’ minds, as well.

I would like us to remember that we have done absolutely nothing to deserve this life we enjoy. We are no better than those who have nothing.

We do not have our extra money to spend on ourselves. We have it to share, and to pass on to those who are in need.

The other night, I came across this passage:

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time, your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written, ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gather little did not have too little.'” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15)

We are nowhere near reaching equality. My comforts are still at the forefront of my thoughts. I need to learn to share (as was made clear by my scarf experience!)

I have a long way to go, but we’ll start with potatoes this Christmas!

Christmas Favorites

Frying some Christmas eggs.

Doing some Christmas tube sliding.

Unwrapping some Christmas presents.

So far, our Christmas has been full and fun. We have three more days of activities before we head back home to camp, so it’s feeling a bit like a marathon, but I’m trying to embrace it.

Funniest Christmas moment would have to be my gift from Anika:

Yes. That would be my very own “Fortieth Birthday Count-Down”. Put it up on the wall, and take a number down every year on my birthday, so that I know exactly how many years are left until I turn forty.

What?!! I’m thirty-three. My thoughts had honestly not turned towards the 40 year mark yet. But now they will on a daily basis…???

So with life rushing by at the speed of light, you’d better get off the computer, and go enjoy some Christmas family time!

Hope it’s a good one! It’ll be over before you know it….

The True Color of Christmas

My grandma always, always made pink sugar popcorn at Christmas.

My mom always made it, and now we make it, too.

Pretty much, in order for it to truly be Christmas for me, there must be pink sugar popcorn.

What’s that you say? Pink is not a Christmas color? Pshaw.

Who has the authority to say that Christmas is red and green?

I say it’s pink. And it’s Grandma’s fudge, and her animal cookies.

Every time I make treats at Christmas, I think of my grandma. And I always, always remember a certain story my mom used to tell me.

My grandpa died shortly before Christmas many years ago, before I was born. My mom wished so much that we could have known him, so she told us stories and little tidbits to make him seem more real to us.

And she told us about that first hard Christmas without him, about how Grandma rolled out her Christmas cookie dough while her tears rolled down her cheeks.

To me, that mental picture of Grandma crying while she baked, that sums up Christmas.

Our culture bombards us with the “meaning” of Christmas. Even in spiritual ways, I feel this pressure to feel a certain way, to do certain things and act a certain way, because this will make Christmas come alive. I will apparently feel joyful and peaceful, and there will be wonder and love at Christmas.

Those are very wonderful things, but the truth of it is that Christmas does not make real life disappear. And for a lot of people, Christmas still means there will be pain and suffering, and disappointment and loneliness.

I completely believe that the message of Jesus enables us to rise above all of that.

But I also know what it’s like to feel so beaten down that it’s just plain hard to rise anywhere, and to feel connected with that message. Or even to connect with Jesus.

And there are people who don’t feel joy or peace or wonder or love. Sometimes Jesus feels far away.

But there’s this: Emmanuel means “God with us”. And I believe that He’s with us whether we feel Him there or not. He is there even when we don’t feel connected, and when we don’t “feel” Christmas-y.

He was there in the pain and the sorrow of that sad Christmas for my Grandma as she went through the motions of making things special for everyone else, even when she probably didn’t feel like it.

We’re told that the colors of Christmas are red and green. But I say the color of Christmas can be pink. It’s the memories of my strong, brave Grandma, and it’s real life.

Sometimes we go through the motions today because we have hope that things will be better tomorrow. And sometimes we have to do that even at Christmas.

Ben always says, “It is what it is.” He is always reminding me to accept things the way they are, rather than trying to force emotions, or force things to happen the way I want them to. We take what life hands us, and we do the very best that we can, and then we offer all of that to God.

And then He comes along, and He heals, comforts, forgives, restores, and He is with us.

Peace, love, joy and wonder are definitely possible at Christmas. But crying some tears, and feeling tired under a heavy burden is a reality, too. And that’s okay. Because we’re working on it. We’re learning how to find the peace that passes all understanding. I was working on that in November, I’m working on it in December, and I’ll be working on it in January. Christmas does not always feel miraculous and magical.

It is what it is.

So if this Christmas, you’re not “feeling” the way you’re “supposed” to feel, I want to offer you some encouragement. God is with you, even if you don’t feel Him.

He will give you the strength to keep going, and it’s okay if you haven’t gotten everything figured out by Christmas.

There’s no right or wrong way of doing this, or feeling this, because it is what it is.

Your Christmas might be pink, or purple, or orange. And it will be good, as long as you remember that He is in it.

Gingerbread House: To Eat or Not to Eat? That is the Question…

Anika: “Mommy, can I pleeeeeeeeease have another jelly bean?

Kendra: “Anika, I don’t want you to keep begging for more candy the entire time we’re trying to do this.”

Anika: “Okay, I won’t. I might just sneak a few.

Quick tip: For those of you who read this post, you will know that Ben does not particularly look forward to our Christmas tradition of building a gingerbread house. He’s a good sport (most of the time!), but he would be fine if we would leave this tradition out.

However, this year we tried something new. We weren’t able to buy one of those little kits, so we made our own…And it worked out fantastic! The icing is super easy and quick, graham crackers are cheap, and we used up all the Christmas and Halloween candy the girls had received. Win, win, and win.

It was much easier to assemble than the bought kits, and it was more fun, because we could make whatever we wanted to. (Although I did really miss the pre-cut evergreen tree…Kaylia had her heart set on a tree. I tried my best….)

I think a new tradition was born last night!

Advent Calendars!

So on the topic of Christmas traditions…

We got our Advent Calendar going yesterday! I love Advent Calendars.

I remember only having one as a kid. It wasn’t something that we traditionally did, but that one wonderful year of the Advent Calendar always stayed with me. I can still clearly remember the thrill of opening up all of those little doors… (And no, Mom, I am not writing that so you will feel bad for not doing it every Christmas! You baked Animal Cookies every year, and I do not. It all balances out!)

I decided an Advent Calendar was a tradition we needed to start in our little family.

We used to buy the chocolate-filled calendars at Superstore, but a few years ago, I found this beauty at Winner’s:

Actually, I don’t really like how it looks. I wanted to paint it, and make it fit our holiday decor a bit better, but the thought of painting all of those little doors was a bit daunting, so I’ve decided to just leave it alone.

Anyway. It’s what’s inside that counts, right? 🙂

Other years, I filled it with treats to eat, but this year, I decided to fill it with slips of paper. Each one has some kind of Christmas activity or tradition for us to do every day.

Curious what they say? Here’s my list:

1. Read our Advent storybook.

2. Make a wreath, and read about why we decorate with wreaths.

3. Set up the Christmas tree!

4. Get out our Nativity Scene.

5. Buy a new Christmas CD.

6. Make paper snowflakes.

7. Bake Christmas cookies.

8. Write Christmas cards.

9. Decorate a gingerbread house.

10. Choose an item to buy from the Compassion Christmas Catalogue.

11. Watch a Christmas movie.

12. Learn about the true story of Santa.

13. Decorate sugar cookies.

14. Go Christmas shopping for your sister!

15. Make a snowman craft.

16. Have a hot chocolate party.

17. Make pink popcorn.

18. Act out the Christmas story.

19. Wrap presents.

20. Read Christmas books.

21. Make roasted Christmas nuts.

22. Have our family Christmas.

23. Go tubesliding.

24. Go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for Christmas.

25. Go to other Grandma and Grandpa’s house for Christmas!

Maybe I’ll stick some treats in for Christmas day.

There are so many fantastic ideas out there for Advent Calendars. If I were a little bit more motivated, here are some of the ideas I would love to try:

Snowflake Christmas Countdown (Simple As That)

Clothesline Advent Calendar (The Anderson Crew)

25 Little Boxes (Dear Lizzy)

In the meantime, my very simple version will work just fine!

And let me just add that although this may look like I have my Christmas act together, and it may seem as though we will bond over these activities in “perfect family” form, I have already been given a reality check: Kaylia screamed through half of the Advent storybook yesterday, because she was sick and grumpy, wanted to read Curious George instead. (Which we did, afterwards.) So there you go. You can plan all you want, but it doesn’t always turn out the way you pictured it…. But it’s good to keep trying, anyway!

Have any Advent traditions you’d care to share?