Saturday, December 25, 2010

Here was today's Advent Calendar prize. Jack was all too happy to place him in our manger.

Blessings to all!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Traditions on The Ranch

I have been meaning to write several posts in the past few weeks, and those weeks FLEW by.  I cannot believe that we are only days away from Christmas! 

Now that the boys are getting a bit older and wiser, and because we were home for the holidays this year without any travel plans, I really focused this year on making sure we were creating some holiday traditions that would grow in our little family to be well remembered and cherished as the years pass.  Cory and I are very conscious of creating our family "identity" these days and there is no better time than at the holidays when he is not traveling as much and everyone is in a pretty joyful mood to capture that spirit.

When I was growing up we had an advent calendar.  It was a square piece of felt with a simple felt Christmas Tree and 25 pockets across the bottom.  Each year Mom hung it in the kitchen and filled the pockets with the 25 little ornaments that had velcro on the back and each day leading up to Christmas we took turns picking out of the pocket (you never knew which one you'd get!) and attaching them to the tree.  The last one though was always the same, Baby Jesus in the walnut shell.  Last year my mother sent us a wall advent calendar.  No tree, but 25 pockets to fill.  I wish I had thought of  just putting 25 ornaments and letting the boys put them on the tree, but I wasn't that brilliant so early in the year.  Instead we have our own elf, well one that actually requires some imagination as ours is too shy to actually see (that Elf on the Shelf guy kind of freaks me out!).  Our elf comes each night when we are sleeping and tucks away a new treat for that day.  This year we've had the usual chocolate kisses, chocolate gold coins, PEZ, and even some of the cereal that the reindeer (Corn Pops) and elves (Lucky Charms) eat.  Let me tell you, the prospect of a chocolate candy at 6am on a school day really jolts my kids out of bed.  We've never been out of the house faster all year long! 

The real fun of it though is their imaginations coming out.  Jack regularly goes to the fireplace (that's where the elf comes into the house, just like Santa) and tells the elf thank you, and occaissionally gives him suggestions on what might be a good treat for the next day.  And on a few occaissions when he hasn't particularly liked what the elf brought on a particular day, it's served as a learning lesson of how to be appreciative to receive something at all.  We even had a morning that the elf "forgot!" - the stinker was at a Christmas party the night before and was headed to our house very late (or early) the next day and since Mommy and Daddy were already up and having breakfast he didn't want to come in since he's so shy.  So Mommy told everyone to go back up to their room with Daddy while she turned off all the lights and put the dogs in the garage for 5 minutes while he snuck in.  WHEW!  That is one smart elf! 

I'm really excited for Saturday however, because we've been talking and looking at our nativity quite a bit and why there is a crib with no baby in it.  Pocket #25 will hold our Baby Jesus for the boys to lay in the manger.

And speaking of the true meaning of Christmas, we have been talking non stop about Christmas being the celebration of Jesus' birthday and that all the excitement is really for that big event.  A wonderful friend of mine from church, Mallory Carrington (who's dad was a former Packer by the way), gave me a fabulous way to tie in Santa's gift and Jesus' Birthday.  Each child receives 3 gifts from Santa, just as Jesus received 3 gifts from the wisemen.  I know some people don't participate in the Santa tradition at all as the topic was recently very eloquently discussed by one of my favorite bloggers Mom-101, but for us, we enjoy watching the kids believe in something they can't see just for the innocence and hope it creates in their heart.  Isn't that the basis for faith?  And I believe that someday as long as we continue to do our daily devotions and create a heart for Christ in our kids, they will not be confused but understand that there shouldn't be separation between the life they live between Sundays.

We've been doing all the other fun stuff, singing Christmas carols in the car - I LOVE my children for liking the Rat Pack over the regular versions, spotting Santa all over town (Duke is not so big a fan this year), the Polar Express train, ABC Family Christmas specials and even a great new one sent in by Grandma - a Christmas countdown!  They sent one home the first of the month from school, a picture of Santa Claus with the instructions to paste a cotton ball to his beard for each day to count down to Christmas.  The boys liked what Grandma sent to them better...and they don't look nearly as pretty four days before Christmas.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Big, Little Man

What a month, and what a way to cap it off with a couple of birthday celebrations!

I would be remiss if I didn't at least post (very quickly) that my better half has entered another milestone, yep, 40. And he did it well, without pomp and circumstance (which is the way I think he wanted it).

However, I believe we both have a desire to just fly past this next birthday and go on to better things, like the fact our baby boy is now 3! And this blog would just not be complete if I didn't take a post to include pictures of how our several celebrations turned out for Duke.

Thanksgiving is a big holiday in the Rath family.  It's the one absolute certain time of year that the entire family gathers in Tennessee at Grandma's house to celebrate the holidays, both Thanksgiving and Christmas and since three of the family have birthdays that fall that week as well, it's birthdays too - Cory on the 26th, my nephew Kevin on the 28th and Duke on the 30th.  This year that meant #'s 40, 17 and 3.  Wow.  And grandma always comes through with plenty of sweets.

The funniest part of the approach to Duke's birthday this year is that about 3 weeks ago, Cory made an off-handed comment about how his birthday was "coming up".  Of course, in 3 year old speak, that usually means sometime before the next major meal he's going to have.  I remember it clearly, it was a Sunday and on the way to church he kept saying "It's my Birthday!" to which Cory would reply, "Not yet Duke, it's coming up soon."  I didn't think much of it, until we were on the way home from church and again it came up a few times, "It's my Birthday Mommy!".  Slowly it became clear, this kid seriously thinks that today is his birthday.  Uh oh.  Yep, that afternoon we had an actual birthday party to attend for a sweet little friend of Jack's, however as we prepped to leave the house the "It's my Birthday" turned to "We are going to My Party!" and "I get presents!".  Uh oh.

So after a few rounds of trying to reason with my 2 year old, soon to be 3 year old - not really a reasonable possiblity, and I must add he gave his #1 fit thrower brother a run for his money, we got in the car.  I figured at worst the child would finally figure it out when the birthday cake showed up in front of Sophia to blow out the candles.  If there was a fit to be had at that point, I'd just deal with it then.  But just like he always does, Duke came through and suprised me when I least expected it.  As we drove to the party, slowly he started to reason things out himself.  If there was a way I could have bottled that day, I would have. 

He started the trip with "It's My Birthday!, Daddy said so Mommy!" in a bit of a shout - I'm serious, he pulled out the "Daddy knows more than you do Mommy!" attitude - can you believe it, well actually I can given my rank in the house between this kid and his dad.  Nonetheless, I reassured him that his birthday was coming in a few weeks, it wasn't today, but soon.  Slowly the rant changed to a question, "It's my Birthday Mommy?" to which I responded, no, not yet, but soon, in a few weeks.  And that's when a magic mom moment hit - "It's your birthday when we go to Grandma's house!"  And there became my savior, Duke now had a moment and place in time he could relate his birthday to.  It got real quiet in the car for a bit, Jack had conked out and I had assumed Duke had as well since there was not a peep out of the back for at least 5 minutes (that's like an eternity in my world).  Then all of a sudden, in a near whisper from the back seat came

"Mommy, it's not my birthday today."

It was as if he was resigned to the fact and finally acknowledging it to himself.  And in that moment, he shined.  Duke has always been quick to figure things out.  He's lucky as he has a big brother that's not so much bigger that he can follow along with.  But in spite of that advantage, he's always interpreted situations so quickly.  It's a quality in him that is quiet but when you see it in action, you know it's special.   And by the time we arrived at the party, my sweet, strong, quiet amazing 2 year old was sharing with everyone that it was not his birthday, YET, but it would be his birthday when he went to Grandma's house!

So, in the spirit of Duke's birthday, it was a big bang the first night of our trip to Tennessee with a cupcake cake by Grandma, in the shape of a 3, with Darth Vader to cap it off (Duke's favorite villian!)

But the fun didn't end there for our birthday boy.  Upon returning from Tennessee we would be remiss not to continue our tradition of waking up our little guys on their birthday with a cupcake lit with a candle in their bed - so Monday a.m. in walked Daddy and me with a cupcake, lit up with candle in the dark and a shiny new vintage Darth Vader figure for him.  A day early, yes, but because of some required arranging of Daddy's travel schedule and the fact Duke shares a birthday with one of his school friends we opted to have his party at school on the 29th rather than 30th.  And I'm sure Duke approved moving up the opening of presents by a day had he known any better.

How's this for a smile at 5:45a.m.!?

All of it was wonderful - the Star Wars cake at school was a hit, the party hats, Duke's being bashful (!) as his classmates sang Happy Birthday, opening his presents, it was all a part of such an amazing day.  But nothing can quite express how fabulous it was as much as Duke himself!

Happy Birthday my little big man.  You make my heart smile everyday in ways I can't express.  I just know that someday you will be the one that holds Mommy's heart in his hand bigger than any other.