Merry Christmas from our house to yours

We built our house in 2004 for our two kids.  Each child has a bedroom/bathroom on the second floor and there is giant playroom on the upper floor where  video war games can be played at high decibels without interfering with adults in the lower regions.  The upper floor is now empty most of the year, ghostly quiet.  But this Christmas both my son and daughter are home to share the holidays with us.  This is a special gift because both are young adults who have many friends and active lives in other cities far from Boise.

One of the gifts of our house is it transforms into a Christmas house when we decorate. We have 20 foot ceilings in the living room and a huge gas and rock fireplace.  There is plenty of space to host a spectacular Christmas tree and hang stockings with care.  We have downsized the tree and our decorations as we have aged but even on a smaller scale the house provides a cozy, Christmas haven.

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The house also reflects who we are.  There is a large golden retriever Christmas decoration on the front porch.  We love our animals.  We had a gold lab for many years, named Annie, who we all adored.  Our wreath inside also carries on the animal theme.

I collect decorations from all our travels so I have many rare gems such as hand painted eggs from Prague and hand-blown angels from Venice, just to name a couple.

But my favorite ornaments are the ones the kids have made me over the years.  They are little tidbits of love memorialized for our tree.

Christmas is in two days, then my son flies back off to Seattle and his other life.  My daughter is having surgery for a torn ACL while skiing.  So the Christmas spirit at our house is brief.  But while it’s here, I will delight in the decorations that showcase a family’s life built on love and trust.

May the spirit of Christmas be with you this season and throughout the year.img_0202

Advent Calendars: Count Down to Christmas

The first of December is the start of the Advent season and at our house the bringing forth of the annual advent calendar.  Advent means “coming”. The idea is simple: Count down the days in December leading up to Christmas Eve. Advent Calendars come from Germany where Christians marked doors with chalk and later created special calendars to count the days to Christmas.

When I was little, we had two Advent Calendars, one for me and one for my older sister.  They were simple cardboard with pictures covered by little flaps. Each flap had a number, 1 to 25, marking the days until Christmas.  My mother kept the same two calendars for many years and just switched them up.  I’m not sure if that was because she was thrifty or because we needed to save the money.  As a kid I always felt we had plenty of funds, but maybe not.  My dad was a small businessman, selling ladies shoes in a small Wyoming town.  While we lived comfortably, we certainly weren’t wealthy. Really, the repeat calendars were great because they served the purpose of starting holiday festivities early.

IMG_0133Nowadays, I get new calendars for my kids and my husband from Trader Joe’s.  They are less than $2,  filled with little pieces of chocolate and help mark the season and remind my family that I am the keeper of the family traditions.  My husband eats all of the little candies at once.  My son misplaces the calendar, remembers the calendar half way into January and gets a late Christmas treat.  My daughter who is fastidious opens each box on the appropriate day and has 25 days of Christmas treats.

The variety of calendars is fascinating.  There are basic picture calendars like I grew up with, legos, Hershey Kisses, beauty boxes, and varieties of tea. For those who want to celebrate the Yule Tide season daily, there are calendars with little bottles of whisky, wine and beer. For families who want to build a regular advent tradition there are expensive wooden calendars and hand sewn varieties which can be displayed prominently and refilled with treats and surprises every year.

If you don’t have an advent calendar by now it’s probably a little late to find one.  But I would recommend putting on your shopping list for October/early November 2020.  You can vote for President and then buy a calendar to hopefully celebrate ushering in a new administration.

25 Years of Christmas Memories

My son, Scott’s, first Christmas, we had a professional picture taken at JC Penney’s in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  He sat on a gaily wrapped package, dressed in a little red vest, bow tie, and dress slacks.  His outfit is complete with moon boots, a Wyoming staple. He wore those boots every day his first winter walking.

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Scott’s first Christmas, 1994

Kayla, my adopted daughter from China, arrived at our Boise house in the spring 2000.  She was 8 months old.  When her first Christmas rolled around, it was easy to have her join Scott in the Penney’s photo studio for our annual Christmas photo.  The photo studio in Boise was much fancier than Cheyenne.  In Cheyenne, there was a camera set up in front of a tree background in the open store.  In Boise, there was a separate studio where 4  minions snapped pictures as a steady stream of children dressed in party clothes paraded through.  The children marched up on a stage and sat on small boxes.  Parents could choose from a variety of backdrops.

Our most exciting year, Scott and Kayla were sitting on the little stage and suddenly disappeared behind the backdrop.  Apparently, the little present had held one too many children and just gave out.  As the mom, standing behind the camera I was stunned.  The backdrop flopped back down but my kids were nowhere to be seen.  They were on the floor behind the little stage, unhurt.  This incident required me to sign a whole series of reports. I received several calls from Penney’s insurance to make sure that no damage had begotten my children.

When we had Scott’s first picture taken, I had a friend who suggested we send out the picture as our Christmas card.  Hard to believe but 25 years ago this was actually an innovative card.  Christmas cards to relatives and friends were still the “in” thing.  This same friend said she had a friend who had sent pictures for 18 years than duplicated all the previous cards when the child graduated from high school.  This crafty friend sent relatives a photo album of all the Christmas pictures. When I started on the Christmas photo project, I planned to assemble them in the same manner.  Sadly, that time has come and gone.  Scott has graduated from high school, college and now works in Seattle.  Kayla graduated from high school two years ago and is at Montana State University in Bozeman.

In recent years, I debate whether to print cards.  After all, everyone sees what you are up to on Facebook.  My Christmas list has drastically reduced as family members and friends pass or move and don’t provide forwarding addresses.

Today, I bought my Christmas stamps.  The purchase was an act of intention committing me to printing 2019 cards.   The digital world makes it so much easier.  If we aren’t together for a picture, I can go online, pick out a frame with individual shots and make it look like we are at least in touch with each other.  This year we were all together.  We went to Hawaii in May and we spent Thanksgiving together in Buffalo, Wyoming.  My husband, Pete, and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary with a trip on the inner passage of Alaska by ferry. We have lots of memories to share.

Now I have to brave the crowds at Costco to pick up the cards. Why bother in the current cyber world?  I decided to continue the tradition one more year because 25 years of family Christmas photos is really a lovely gift to my husband and me.