We had a lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and now we are having a great post-Christmas time. Three kids are away playing with cousins, one is home being a scholar catching up on work he should have been doing on days he decided not to be a scholar, but be in core phase (he is in the “practice scholar” phase), one is asleep, one is at his job to support his living expenses for being a scholar at college (see http://gw.edu), and one is out shopping with Grandma for a present that got postponed to after Christmas sales.
These photos are from our trip to go ice skating on Christmas Eve. We usually go sledding on Christmas Eve, a tradition we picked up from my husband’s sister’s family. By “we” I mean, the kids and my husband. Usually I stay home and fix food while a nursing baby sleeps and I also wrap a few presents. But this year my baby’s in that stage where he’s growing out of being a baby and wants to be part of the fun. If I don’t have to hold a baby or sling a baby in the snow then I want to go have fun too. (Not that I have never done that. I remember taking Venture to the Winter Olympics in 2002 when has 7 months old in a sling.)
We have a traditional Christmas Eve Bethlehem supper that I learned about doing from Linda and Richard Eyre back when I did Joy School with my firstborn, who now goes to college. We have fish and flat bread and olives and cheese and grape juice, things that people ate back in the Holy Land when the Savior was born. We always have rice too because we got this recipe from a neighbor when we lived in Provo. He was born in Africa but his father was from Syria so we considered this recipe “Middle Eastern.” I actually don’t know, however, if our neighbor made this recipe up or if he got it from his father. Now those neighbors live in California and are divorced so I don’t know if I will ever find out.
Anyway, every year it is stressful for me to make because it takes chicken bouillion cubes, which I normally don’t stock, and vermicelli. Every year I have to remember to buy those ingredients right before Christmas. To make this recipe You have to brown the pasta in oil until it turns dark brown, then add water quickly before the whole pot doesn’t burn, then add the rice. Then because we use brown rice it takes 45 minutes to cook. This year I finally got smart and said, I don’t want to make that rice this year. Whoever heard of rice in the Holy Land? They probably didn’t eat rice there back then. Before I decided that though I had started making a chicken dish in the crockpot the day before so i could get the chicken juices from the whole thing to make chicken stock. I tend to be indecisive on big things like this and wait until the last minute to decide, a trait I think I get from my mom. Anyway, since learning more about Nourishing Traditions and Weston Price I have slowly been transforming our eating and kitchen habits. Now I won’t want to or need to every buy chicken bouillion cubes.
I found this recipe from the Large Family Logistics web site here. http://largefamilylogistics.blogspot.com/2011/12/cranberry-pork-roast.html (The title says “Cranberry Pork Roast” but scroll down and you will get directions for making chicken stock.) I like the simplicity of making chicken in the crockpot for dinner and then throwing the bones back in with water to simmer over night to make stock. The maker of the recipe at Large Family Logistics doesn’t mention using vinegar, but the Nourishing Traditions people recommend putting a little in to help leach the minerals off the bones into the stock. Just use a tablespoon or two. One time I put way too much in and my whole family had to gag the resulting soup down, it was way too sour! Another one of my infamous oops in the kitchen. I’ve had several, trust me.)
My firstborn Valor was able to drive home from college on Christmas Eve morning thanks to his roommate loaning him a car after said roommate flew out of state to go home for Christmas. We are so thankful for that! He would have come home sooner with friends who live around here but Valor had to work at his new job up until the Friday before Christmas Eve and then get back to work Monday afternoon so we got two precious days with him. We weren’t really sure if he would be coming home for Christmas even because for a while he didn’t even know if he would get Christmas Day off.. I was ready to drive us all down to his condo to have Christmas with him somehow but when we talked with him the Sunday before as we had a mentor meeting with him over the phone we learned of his plans to come home.
Venture at 10 years old was so excited to make a banner for him that said Welcome Home. I love seeing him being at an age where he leads forth to connect with people and have some drama. He didn’t just want to hang the sign up, he wanted to have Valor drive through it. But then my other son pulled a trick and went down the street and intercepted Valor and they went around the block and parked and came home through the vacant lot.. He ran through the banner instead of driving through it. After hugs and greetings and some unloading we had a nice lunch with him with the chicken broth I had made into homemade chicken noodle soup and then we went ice skating. Usually we go sledding but our sleds are somewhat broken and there’s not much snow this year. We decided instead of buying new sleds we would go rent some ice skates.
The ice skating was so much fun. The little community of Huntsville, Utah has an ice sheet in their city park that the city maintains. I love that small town community spirit of people pitching together to create something that everyone can benefit from. Anyone can skate there for free. A little restaurant across the street from the park rents ice skates. This is my kind of town! The LDS church is also across the street and it has a bell that rings every hour and half hour. I love the sound of bells! I am very grateful that my friend KeeNan who is also one of my La Leche League Leader friends told me about this place. She lives in Huntsville and invited us up a few winters ago, with the offer of using ice skates she has collected from D.I. That’s what I call keeping the Christmas spirit all through the year. She could have not told anyone about this great recreational opportunity and kept it to herself, but instead, she spread the news and also started stocking sizes of ice skates for people besides her family. It makes me wonder, what are the resources I know about that I could be letting people know about.
We took Bugsy’s booster seat and chair and pushed him around on the ice. Everybody had fun! The little ones got tired and more cold before the big ones did so my fun got over sooner too. We piled them in the car to get warm and I drove around town. Here’s a photo of President David O. McKay’s home in Hunstville, a few blocks away from the ice sheet.
Of course I was just itching to know if KeeNan had her baby. She was due with #6 on Dec. 18. I didn’t want to call her to bug her because I hate that when people call me when I’m overdue with a baby to see if I’ve had the baby yet. I decided to swing by her home to see if there was a sign up announcing the birth. Turns out, her husband and kids were in the front yard as I drove by and shared the happy news that the baby had been born a few days before, at home, as planned. I was so happy for KeeNan.
We came home and had our supper by candlelight and then cleaned up. I also served pumpkin pie (long story as to why I had it be dessert for a Bethlehem supper). As luck would have it the dishwasher had broken that morning, but the normal kitchen cleanup people for Saturday night hand washed.
We built our fire in the fireplace and acted out Luke 2, with me playing the piano while we sang to accompany some of the story. Then the little kids got out carrots for Santa’s reindeer and a piece of pie for Santa and we tucked them into bed with one page of me reading aloud A Christmas Carol.
We broke with tradition this year and let the older ones stay up and help Santa. It was nice to go to bed before 2 AM because of their help. The next morning we went to church at 9 and then came home and started the festivities. It was nice to have church to help me focus my thoughts on the Savior. During the passing of the sacrament I had this overwhelming feeling of love come over me. It was a special witness to me of how much God loves each and every one of us, as manifested through his baby boy, Jesus Christ. I thought of KeeNan’s recent baby being born and just marveled at the gift of life we each have.
Cowboy and Princessa each got a bike. They were super happy about that! I tried to do the three gifts of the Magi this year for each kid (the gift of wonder/gold, the gift of need/myrrh. and the gift of frankincense/meaning) but it didn’t quite work out exactly because my husband wanted to get the kids who needed bikes bikes and I had other plans for the gift of wonder. So I guess the bikes were gifts of need, but I had already picked something for the gifts of need. Oh well. So far nobody has stopped to count how many presents each one got. Every year I learn to somehow strike a balance between what I want and what my husband wants, and between planning way ahead of time and waiting for surprises to happen, like getting some gift cards anonymously given to us that would allow us to get a bit more. Of course, some planning and work has to happen or no gifts would appear.
I made Christmas a lot simpler a long time ago by not baking much or doing neighbor gifts or getting tons of stuff to fill the kids stockings. They each get a clementine, candy, nuts and one gift in their stocking that is not a trinket but something useful. Eventually I want to get to the point of having each child draw names and fill that person’s stocking so that each person gets to be Santa to someone else, and keep it a secret. That’s what my friend Michele does in her family. This year I decided that each sibling would just give to one person by drawing a name. In the past my husband has insisted they each experience the joy of giving by giving to all the siblings. I appreciate his desire. I feel like though it makes it hard for me to help all the little ones pick out something that is useful, not just junk, and the shopping with all the kids can be a nightmare, so I started doing it all for them, with their consultation, online. I would love to help them each make handmade gifts or buy them at KeeNan’s holiday marketplace she does with her daughter. We are slowly transitioning to that I think. It just takes more time and planning ahead, which is something I am still working on. Big surprise I know.
Later in the day we had Christmas dinner at Dan’s mother’s home with one of her other sons and two of her friends. It was supposed to be the year we have Christmas at his mom’s home and Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ home, but because of a long story, we had both dinners both times at his mom’s home. We also had a supposed-to-be-Christmas-Eve-dinner-but-it’s-really-the-22nd-of-December dinner at her home. So three dinners at my inlaws but none with my side of the family. I kept the grumbling to a minimum by reminding myself that we have almost monthly Sunday dinners with my side. It would have been fun to linger longer there and delve into the dinner table conversation topic of the Crusades and the Muslims but the kids were itching to go to my side of the family where they would have cousins to play with.
So we went to my parent’s home and got to open presents there and play with cousins, until we peeled ourselves away from the fun at 9:30 PM. It was a lovely day. Not a perfect Christmas day (there were still parts of my house dirty, it was stressful as usual to have lunch, clean up, and fix food for dinner later on basically at the same time so we could leave for the hour and fifteen minute drive to the family dinner. I also didn’t give all the gifts I had planned to give) but lovely enough. Happy Birthday Jesus! Thanks to Thee I have my life, the promise of peace in this life and eternal life to come, and many more Christmases, I hope, to give more of the gifts I want to give. And one of these years I think we will just stay home and actually relax on Christmas Day.