618. Opening up an advent book each night to reveal a beloved book we haven't read since last December. All these nights at home, talking about kindness and doing a lot of projects. A messy kitchen table, letters to Santa, and Mila's sweet hand-written name.
619. Dance practice nights. Cruz packing his bag full of things to keep him busy and Mila's hiphop moves to Away in the Manger and Rudolph.
620. Downtown Cedar Falls and their Holiday Hoopla extravaganza. We spent the first Thursday of December down there for the first annual 'Elfie' night in honor of our own town's amazing volunteer Buddy the Elf. It was warm outside, we sang loud on the trolley, decorated cookies at Scratch, and made maple syrup candy spaghetti at Main Street Sweets, with Buddy the Elf himself! Mila held my hand and said, "I'll keep your hand warm, Mommy" and the two of us skipped down Main Street together, full of childish wonder and cheer. There are few people who love this holiday season more than me and Buddy, and we were afraid we just might break the camera getting behind it together.
Family picture! ;)
622. Visiting Grandma's library in Allison for our first Santa encounter of the season. And all the kids wanted to do was check out books and play on the computers!
623. An afternoon of coloring and board games with Grandma Mary on her birthday. And Scratch cupcakes.
624. Our home at Christmastime. Turning the trees on in the morning and again when we get home from work. My oversized knit stockings and balsam fir candles that smell up the entire house. Morning devotions in a quiet house, with nothing but the glow of the Christmas trees.
625. A Saturday night at home. Mila in her "professor pjs". Green minty milkshakes and the Grinch. Their silly and sweet way with each other.
626. Boone and his silly antics. And one creative husband who comes up with all the good ideas.
627. My Hearth and Hand centerpiece that works as the perfect advent calendar.
628. Impromptu brunch after church. Little outings that sort of feel like vacations faraway from home.
629. Preparing for our last life group of the semester. Secret Santa gift exchanges and cozy socks for each sweet girl that's blessed our home this year. And Beau's funny comment to Brenda just as the camera snapped. :)
630. Petrie's annual Christmas party, Jamie's holiday punch, and a 36-person white elephant gift exchange that ended with a dance party and Santa thong.
631. One of my favorite days of the year - Christmas in Walnut, a Christmas partnership with our church and Harvest Vineyard in Waterloo. Between the 2,200 gifts purchased by families in the community, the 300 volunteers that pitch in to make it happen, and the sweet community that forms each year, it's impossible to not feel full of love after a morning spent here. As Dave Bartlett says, it's pretty neat to play a small part in a miracle. Especially when it involves wrapping presents with these wonderful women.
632. Another one of our favorite Christmas events - Christmas with Oakridge, this year at the beautiful Candeo Church. There was a real life Elf on the Shelf, the real deal Santa Claus, a horse-drawn trolley ride, and hot cocoa and cookies for the taking. Beau was out of town, so Grandma joined us for the adventure, and we enjoyed butternut squash soup and apple pear pie after the kiddies went to bed.
633. An afternoon of puzzle building and cocoa sipping with our favorite Pinhole Press puzzles. And those little snowflake marshmallows that look so cute in a cocoa mug.
634. Snowman homework...most definitely beats math homework.
635. The way their faces glow by the Christmas tree lights.
636. Another Christmas movie night. We watched Home Alone 2 and ordered a delicious cheese pizza just for ourselves. The kids laughed their way through the entire movie, I decided a trip to New York City next year at Christmas time should definitely go on the bucket list, and afterwards we made s'mores on the stovetop before bed.
When I put Cruz to bed tonight, he smiled with his eyes and said, "Mom, there was a lot of laughter today." And then he said, "When I laugh, I feel like a little kid." Me too, buddy. Me too.
637. The start of my winter break and a shopping day to finish up. And when I came out of Target, the biggest snowflakes were falling and the ground was covered in white. It only lasted for a half hour or so, but it sure was pretty.
638. For someone who claims to never win anything, Christmas came early when I discovered I was the winner of a beautiful Rustic Leather Tote from Noonday Collection. I have eyed this bag for a long time, and it looks pretty darn good hung up in my house.
639. Cruz at the piano before school. That piano and the Christmas music played on it is one of my favorite gifts of this year.
640. Peanut butter jelly sandwiches and a picnic by the Christmas tree. Daddy was supposed to work late, but his appointment cancelled and he joined us instead. I turned off all the lights and we sat and ate in the dark together. And Beau said as weird as it was that we were all eating our dinner on the floor in a dark house, he loved these little experiences as a family. The glory years.