I know I’m not alone in my mixed feelings about the month of December: it’s chaotic and stressful, but also the most wonderful time of the year! This year, baby obligations mandated that we tone down the festivities in our home, and it resulted in one of my favorite Decembers in memory.
// READING LATELY //
I read a handful of Christmas-centric books this month. A couple were entirely forgettable, but this book was cute, and I was drawn to the unique epistolary format of this one. Luke and I read this book along with his men’s leadership group, and though it gave us a lot to think about, we are not on board with the problematic theology it presents. I also read two books from Lisa Jewell and though they were very different, I enjoyed both.
I loved this lovely tribute to books and reading and, after months of waiting for my library hold to come through, I finally got my hands on this book and it was everything I hoped it would be and more. Because I track my reading on a December—November calendar, this will be under my 2020 reading umbrella, and though it seems strange to be calling out 2020’s favorites before the year has even begun, I can’t imagine another book topping it in the coming year. If you are a fan of literary fiction, of books about marriage and faith, or simple of beautiful writing, you simply MUST read this one.
Charleston and I spent the month reading through our dozens of Christmas books—some from my own childhood, and many that we’ve accumulated in recent years. His favorites change each year; this year he was really into Mickey’s Christmas Carol, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, The Night Before Christmas (we own several versions), and the Christmas Look and Find book that was his Christmas Eve book this year.
// WATCHING LATELY //
Klaus ~ This Netflix-original Christmas film begins when Jasper, a postal academy flunkie, is banished to a postal station in a remote town above the Arctic Circle. While there he encounters a reclusive woodsman named Klaus who is known for making toys. Care to guess who this mysterious man goes on to become? I was a little skeptical of this Santa origin story heading into the movie, but our whole family ended up loving it! (Well, Kali nursed through it but even Sully seemed to enjoy it, ha!). I enjoyed the creative animation style (a unique take on traditional animation) and loved the vocal performances and quaint European setting. The tale is humorous and heartwarming, a wonderful addition to the Christmas cannon and one I hope our family will continue to enjoy year after year.
My Rating: 4 Stars.
Happy Merry Whatever ~ Luke and I are barely able to keep up with the few shows we watch, yet the holiday theme and Dennis Quaid combo of this show lured us in. The show documents a week in the life of a very close family who have gathered together for Christmas. The four adult children and their significant others are each dealing with their own issues: Emmy is bringing her boyfriend home to meet her dad for the first time; Patsy is struggling with infertility; Sean is in the midst of a mid-life crises; Kayla is grappling with her sexuality after her husband leaves her; and the in-laws are just trying to keep up with the crazy clan they’ve married into. Meanwhile, their extremely conservative police officer dad is trying to honor the memory of his late wife through the holidays, while also developing feelings for someone new. This is a fairly straightforward sitcom, but Luke and I both enjoyed the characters, the lighthearted approach to some challenging themes, and the seasonal vibe. I’m really hoping for more episodes in the future.
My Rating: 4 Stars.
Noelle ~ As the daughter of Santa Claus, it’s no surprise that Noelle loves Christmas. When her father passes away, it’s up to her brother to fill his shoes as deliverer of toys, and Noelle is determined to do whatever it takes to help him succeed. Unfortunately, Nick Kringle has no desire to become the next Santa and instead runs away to Arizona. Desperate to save Christmas, Noelle goes after him and her first foray into life outside the North Pole is filled with all manner of surprises and some valuable lessons, too.
This was obviously meant to be an updated, female-centered spin on Elf with a Santa Clause twist, and while it doesn’t quite live up to those classics, I found it darling. Anna Kendrick is perfect in her role as the chipper Kringle daughter and I thought the rest of the casting was spot-on as well. The North Pole scenery is completely over the top in the very best way, and I adored all of the silly puns and jokes. It is very culturally relevant (possibly agenda pushing) in this feminist movement we seem to be in, but the pro-woman sentiment is tasteful and not at all demeaning to men. Such a fun, family-friendly movie to enjoy for Christmases to come.
My Rating: 4.5 Stars.
// LOVING LATELY //
Christmas Cards ~ I almost didn’t send out a Christmas card this year as we had just sent our birth announcements in November. But I couldn’t bear to have a gap in our display of annual Christmas cards, so I ended up using photos from our newborn shoot for this year’s cards, and I was thrilled with the results.
We also received more Christmas cards than ever this year, so I was glad we had a convenient spot in our playroom to display them all. Seeing the faces of our friends and family filling our wall makes me SO happy, I want to leave them up until next Christmas (but will probably take them down soon so that Charleston once again has a spot to display his artwork).
Mascara ~ We had a Favorite Things gift exchange at our MOPS Christmas party earlier this month. I brought a pair of these earrings as my personal favorite thing, and I came home with this mascara (which was actually the Favorite Thing brought by more than one of my MOPS pals!). I’m a sucker for a good mascara find, and this is one of the best I’ve tried! It’s lengthening, volumizing, AND curling, and it doesn’t flake or clump over the course of the day. It’s pricier than a drugstore mascara, but worth the price tag. I’ll definitely be repurchasing once my gifted tube runs out.
// DECEMBER VERSE OF THE MONTH //
I found myself plummeting into a shame spiral a few weeks ago. During some very dark moments, I chastised myself for being a subpar wife, an inadequate mother, and an all-around failure of a human. Thankfully, the Lord met me in my sadness and reminded me that my worth does not lie in my roles or my performance, but in who I am in Christ. This verse from Jeremiah reminds me that God loves me despite my failures and shortcomings. He has wrapped me up in His loving kindness and His love trumps all feelings of insufficiency and shame.
// MONTHLY CHARLIE-ISMS //
I can hardly wrap my head around the fact that Charleston will be FIVE in just a couple of weeks! He has matured so much in the last few months, and I am so proud of the smart, kindhearted boy he is becoming. Many of our most humorous or memorable conversations lately have been too complex to record, but here is a glimpse at some of the funny things he’s been heard saying lately.
+ Me: “Who is your very favorite person?” Charleston: “It’s the bestest, strongest, powerfullest, hopingest, lovingest person EVER! You know who that is? JESUS!” (This was NOT the answer I was expecting, but of course I loved it!)
+ “Should we invite Santa to my birthday? Maybe not because I don’t think we will have cookies. And Santa really loves cookies.”
+ Charleston: “Isn’t the world so beautiful with all these decorations?” Me: “It is! I kinda wish they could stay up the whole year!” Charleston: “But then don’t you think it wouldn’t be so beautiful, ’cause you would be used to it?”
+ To Luke (who is notoriously forgetful): “I hope Santa brings you a new brain for Christmas. I don’t know how to put brains on people though. . . that’s the only problem.”
+ Discussing the possibility of going to school next fall: “Will the teacher ask us questions? If she does, I can handle them all. Because I have super powers and I’m extra smart. Probably the smartest kid in the whole class!”
+ While reading a book about the body, when we came to a section about the heart: “That’s where all my love is, right? And Jesus, that’s where Jesus is, in my heart.”
// HAPPENINGS AND HIGHLIGHTS //
At the start of the month we took the kids to the mall to visit Santa. Charleston had been really excited about the visit, scouring catalogues to decide what he would ask for and talking about seeing Santa for weeks beforehand. He was less enthusiastic when we got to the mall: he ran right up to Santa and sat on his lap and talked to him, but he wasn’t too happy about having to take pictures. He also got nervous and forgot what he wanted to ask for, and I think he was embarrassed that he needed to ask me to remind him. The twins did surprisingly well with the visit, they had both been asleep when we got there and there were no tears at all while they sat on Santa’s lap! There was nobody in line behind us, so we got to spend quite a bit of time with the Big Guy. Santa said the youngest baby he had seen at the mall was a 2-day-old whose parents stopped by on the way home from the hospital!
We didn’t make it to as many Christmas events this year as I would have liked, but one event I simply couldn’t miss was the Christmas Stroll in the nearby town of Georgetown. We go every year, and it’s so much fun! There is a Bethlehem walk and living Nativity, several vendors, plenty of food, and crafts for the kids. Charleston is never as interested in the Bethlehem activities as I think he will be, but he loved playing at All Things Kids (pretty much the cutest toy store ever) and building a wooden truck at the Home Depot craft area—it was his first time using a real hammer and screw driver, and he was a total pro!
We got to see Santa a second time at a fun MOPS gathering. The kids got to play at the park with Santa and he read them a story between taking pictures with each family. Charleston was very worried he would forget to tell Santa what he and the twins wanted (even though I told him he didn’t need to do that since he’d already told him on our first visit) so he asked me to remind him of their requests, then walked up to Santa saying, in his most serious tone, “I would like a fort builder and the babies want a play mat.” He did well with the pictures and was helpful with passing the twins off to Santa, but didn’t want to interact much with him. Later, Charleston told me he was just shy (really I think he just wanted to go back to playing with his friends!). It was fun to see all of my friends’ kids interact with Santa—some were enthusiastic, others tearful, a few outright defiant—and we even all got a Mom pic with the Santa!
I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to get to a lot of our Christmas traditions this year, but we managed to make them all happen. On December 23, Charleston and I made cookies for Santa. He wanted to make M&M cookies (unfortunately HEB was out of Christmas M&Ms so we went with regular) and butter cookies (as in, chocolate chip cookies with butter spread on top—I convinced him to make peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip instead!). While our cookies were cooling, we piled into the car to go look at Christmas lights, which was a hit with Charleston, though he was sad that the neighborhood we visited wasn’t giving out hot chocolate this year as they have in the past.
On Christmas Eve we went to church as a whole family for the first time! We dropped Charleston off in Waumba Land (the preschool area) and Luke and I each held a twin through the service. They both did great, sleeping through the hour, and it was a fantastic service. Between the candlelight and the beautiful carols and the poignant message of Jesus’ birth, Christmas Eve is my favorite time of year at church, and it meant so much to me that we were able to make it this year. Holding our babies through such a lovely service, while reflecting on Mary and her baby boy, was a sweet moment that I won’t ever forget.
When we came home from church, we had lunch while watching Noelle, and then it was time to put together our gingerbread house. The twins were having a fussy afternoon, so I held them while we supervised Luke and Charleston’s house decorating. They did a great job!
Another of our Christmas Eve traditions is opening one present—pajamas and a Christmas book. It was so exciting to be giving THREE books and pairs of pajamas this year!
Before bed on Christmas Eve, Charleston set out milk and cookies for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer. Charleston set out nine carrots, one for each reindeer: he isn’t sure if he believes in Rudolph, but he left a carrot for Rudolph too, just in case. Charleston had a lot of questions about Santa this year, so I have no idea how long we will be able to keep the Santa magic alive, but I will do my best to keep it going as long as possible.
Luke slept in Charleston’s bed on Christmas Eve night to make sure that he stayed in his room until we were ready to get up Christmas morning. At 7:30, after feeding the twins and getting them into their Christmas jammies, I put them on the couch in the living room and went to wake Charleston (who was already awake and chomping at the bit to get the morning started). Charleston dashed out of the room and into the living room, where I was sure he would be ecstatic to see whether or not Santa had come. But instead, he was entirely focused on greeting Kali and Sully and smothering them with hugs and kisses. I think we all recognize that they were our real gifts this Christmas! But that’s not to say that we didn’t enjoy the presents under the tree. In addition to Santa gifts and stocking stuffers, each of us got our traditional Want/Need/Wear/Read gifts—and for what will likely be the only time in his life, Charleston got to open every one of our presents, as Luke and I were holding babies, haha! Charleston was a good sport and as excited about everyone else’s gifts as much his own. His favorite gift of the morning was a kid’s camera that came in the mail (after doing some sleuthing, we discovered it was from my aunt and uncle).
After cleaning up our own Christmas morning, we headed to my in-laws’ house for lunch and presents with Luke’s parents and his sister and her family. The day saw a Christmas miracle when the kids discovered that Tom and Grace’s chickens had laid their very first egg! Other memorable moments of the day were opening the handmade quilts Grace had made each child and the doll that she had made Kali, which made me cry because it reminded me that I finally have a DAUGHTER who will soon be able to play with dolls. While all of the gifts this year were very much appreciated, Charleston was most excited about his new Buzz Lightyear doll and Hot Wheels Go Kart, and I was especially touched to receive a necklace with the three kids’ initials—a reminder of my very favorite gifts of all.
Last Saturday, Luke and I celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary. We had such a wonderful day together! My in-laws babysat while we went to a local coffee shop to exchange gifts and talk (something it seems like we rarely get to do these days). Then, after coming home for a quick nursing session, we headed to The Domain (an outdoor mall in Austin) for a late lunch at Yardhouse. We were able to reflect on this past year together, share our goals and dreams for each other, and simply enjoy being together and remember why we like each other. I am so thankful for my amazing husband and for the eleven years we have had together.
Tomorrow I’ll be back with a recap of 2019: the highlights, the memorable moments, and a roundup of all of my favorites from the year.