In the last post, I described our family’s Christmas decorating family night that we have each year. Today I would like to share our photos–the first time that we have documented most of the evening with pictures! Thanks for joining us!

We started this year’s family decorating night with a family photo shoot…yeah, the pics above show just how difficult it is to get eleven “adults” cooperating all at the same time! We have this tiny problem with all the married couples (Mom and Dad included!) kissing more than smiling for the camera! Added to this was the fact that it was supposed to be an outdoor photo shoot, but it was sleeting, so we had to move inside. Our downstairs areas (excluding two bedrooms upstairs) total around 900 square feet–not enough space to photograph eleven people….so just creating a blank wall was a challenge in itself.

And…we have a good one! Well, pretty good … everybody’s eyes are open and nobody is kissing…we can’t ask for much more than that!

Next came family story reading. Watch future posts for suggestions–but the one we started with this year is a family favorite–“If You’re Missing Baby Jesus.” (The girls had prepared the appetizers (store bought, mostly) and the guys carried in the boxes prior to this, so everyone was eating as I was reading.)

Next, we all chip in to clean, move the furniture around, find coins under the sofa, etc. etc. One year we found somebody’s missing i-pod. It’s sort of like a treasure hunt! LOL! Dad always leads the way in family work–we learned a long time ago that the best way to teach kids anything is by example.

Some of us set up the tree while others cleaned up the meal, baked cookies, carried out empty boxes, etc. “Many hands make light the work”!

The moment the kids all wait for–passing out of the ornaments. For nearly twenty years, we have only decorated our tree with ornaments made by the children through the years. Talk about memories: “Remember when Mom threw the cinnamon sticks across the room on this one?” “Remember this one–the box said ‘5 minutes an ornament’ Ha!” “Remember how many times Mom tried to starch those angels–but they never stood up like the ‘sample’ one did!” On and on and on…we laugh until we cry. We are not very artsy (except for our artist daughter-in-law), so the ornaments are not “Better Homes and Garden” style–but we love them anyway.

Our ornaments are not too fragile–thankfully, since they are in three boxes all mixed up. But that makes for some of the fun–when Dad and I pull an ornament out, nobody knows what it’s going to be! 🙂

These are a few of our favorite homemade ornaments–notice the “wilty angels” and “stressing cinnamon sticks” are not here! Some years we have used kits (like the first pic–a simple, place-the-pieces on a plastic, color-coded frame, then iron them to melt them together) and other years we have modeled after other home made ornaments we have seen (like this latter one).

We didn’t get a shot of the entire tree (or the dozen-plus nativities we collect) for some reason. Here’s a partial shot of the nearly-finished tree.

And ready for the star…one benefit of being the youngest–you get the put the star on practically forever! 🙂 Jacob is here asking everybody to lift him up to the top of the tree–notice the puppy dog eyes! Works for him though! 🙂

Then came the “sibling exchange drawing” time. I could write an entire blog on the fun of this–each person draws a name and gets that person gifts for Christmas (as opposed to buying for all, which we had to end a few years ago when the kids started in college and had too many expenses to buy for everybody). Everybody loves it–and the antics and extremes they go to try to trick each other concerning who has whose name adds to the fun!

Then comes our singing time. I love it more than ever now because I get to hear Kara or Cami on piano–something I don’t get to do that often anymore! This year we used our “Sing Through the Christmas Story” songsheet that Cami made for our family a few years ago. (I will post it in its entirety in another blog.)

Several years ago when the three “little boys” were truly “little boys,” Kayla made them all wise men costumes, and they each learned a different verse from “We Three Kings” and sang it (dressed in their costumes) whenever we could talk them into it. Anyway, Kara (our drama queen) decided to help the boys resurrect their verses–complete with her own dramatic interpretation. She keeps us all laughing, that’s for sure!

Next came cookies and conversations. Kayla made her infamous homemade chocolate chip cookie dough earlier in the week, so we baked a bunch up for our party night.

Finally, more snacks, games, talking, and fun to end the evening. Some of us stayed up late playing table games. The marrieds went home. And I praised God for the incredible, wonderful family he has given me and the grace and strength to raise them in His ways.

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