Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas 2015 Highlights!

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Christmas isn't quite over just yet...in fact,the fun has just begun as we are in the middle of celebrating the 12 days of Christmas that started on Christmas Day!  I really think celebrating Christmas as a season vs. a day makes sense as explained in this post from my archives.

Since it's still Christmas, I thought I would share just a few highlights of our family's 2015 Christmas!  It was a blessed one and I'm so grateful no one was sick with fever like last Christmas.

A few weeks before Christmas, my sister and her family came for a visit to celebrate Christmas a little early with us since they live out of town. We had a lovely visit and I was excited to set the lunch table with the silverware stockings I made several years ago. :) 

I made a set of these simple stockings for myself, parents and friends and it's always so nice to decorate the Christmas table with them.  In the center of our Advent wreath, I placed the St. Nicholas Shining Light Doll and a St. Nicholas peg doll from the Saint peg doll exchange I was involved in a few months ago. 

One of our family's Christmas traditions is to make a gingerbread house (not from scratch, however!)  Last week before Christmas Day we spent the evening decorating (and eating) the house with candy and icing.   We never got around to making more sock Baby Jesus' as in year's past, but maybe next year!

Another fun tradition my children look forward to is adding on to our "Handy Tree Skirt" that we started in 2008.  Our littlest one cried last year when we painted on her hand, but this year she proudly held up her green hand with no problem and with lots of smiles! My children always love comparing their hand sizes each year and taking note how much they have grown through the years.  I love the expression on our 2 year old's face that I happened to capture as she watches her older sister get her hand painted first! 

Speaking of hand prints, each year I try to give some sort of creative gift to my parents from my children.  This year we went with a hand print theme thanks to Allison's inspiration at Reconciled to You.  When I saw she posted her hand print wreath on her Facebook page, I knew this would be perfect to make since I love collecting previous years Christmas cards, but I don't always know what to do with them!  With a stack of previous year's cards, my children traced their hand and cut it out.  We then arranged all the hand prints in a wreath shape.  My parents loved it!

Here is their wreath hanging in their living room against a mirror.

In November and December we saw several light displays and rode past some wonderfully decorated houses.  We try to drive around town to look at all Christmas decorations/lights on or around December 13, which is St. Lucy's feast day.  Lucy means "light", by the way.  

We found a new house to visit thanks to a friend posting about it on her Facebook page and WOW!  You can view the house from the outside AND walk inside to look at ALL their decorations!  Yep, we walked through their living room, kitchen and hallways to admire their decorations.  When we got to the kitchen, my kids were wondering how the owners ate since decorations were on the table and counters.  The owner said she just moves things around, cooks and then puts things back in place.  They start decorating on Sept. 1!  These pictures don't do it justice, but here's a few I got with my cell phone.  

On Christmas Eve, before the Christmas Eve children's mass where my three older daughters sang in the choir and my son altar served, we went to my parent's house for lunch.  Here's our gang. 

 Here's our family after the 4 PM Christmas Eve children's Mass. 

After Mass we drove around to see more Christmas lights and then I went to an 11:00 PM choral/orchestra concert at our parish with my 3 older children, then we stayed for the beautiful midnight mass.  It was all so wonderful and beautiful!

Christmas morning brought much joy and smiles...

On Christmas evening we went to my in-laws house to celebrate Christmas with them.  We only have to travel about 20 minutes to get to their home so it's an easy trip.

We decorated our annual birthday cake for Baby Jesus with the cousins.  The kids love dumping sprinkles on the cake each year!

Here's my husband's side of the family with my mother and father-in-law sitting in front.  My husband has a twin brother (far right in black t-shirt) and an older brother (standing behind my niece with the racoon hat) and they are each standing with their families.

It was a joyous Christmas celebration with family and friends!  Thank you for viewing these highlights!

We will soon welcome 2016 with the Solemnity of Mary on Jan. 1 and an Epiphany party our family will be hosting. (I don't think I can pull off another Nativity play for the Epiphany? But, miracles can happen right?)

Also, coming up on a near future blog post I'll update you on how one of my new year's resolutions is to do more jogging, maybe not so much blogging, but for exciting reasons!  So stay tuned!

God bless your Christmas season! (which hasn't ended yet remember :) )

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Our Family's Christmas Cards...Past and Present and Parents Magazine Feature!

Last year, I wrote a post of all the photo Christmas cards that we have taken since the Smith family was established in 1997.  This is an updated post with our current 2015 Christmas card added to the bottom of this post.

Our family has been sending out Christmas cards since the year my husband and I got married, 1997, and some years I have thought about not sending out a photo card, but I can't seem to stop the fun habit. :)

I love sending out our photo cards.  (I don't write a Christmas letter, but sometimes I wish we started that tradition back in 1997 as a great way to document a year's worth of memories)

Our family also loves getting Christmas cards/letters in the mail.  We display our cards around a kitchen door frame decorated with lights. (This is a door we don't use much.)

I also enjoy looking through our past Christmas photo cards and smile at how our family has changed and grown through the years.

I thought I would share the Christmas photo cards we have sent past and present so you can walk down memory lane with me :)

  1997 Christmas Card
( Hmmm...I wonder what happened in July of '97?  This is one of my favorite cards as it was the year the Smith family was established and I loved how our photo card had a church photo on it (that is cut off ) with the words "Silent Night". 

 1998 Christmas Card

1999 Christmas Card
This was the last year that it would be just the two of us in our Christmas photos.  We were so blessed to conceive our first child in 1999. 

2000 Christmas Card
In May of 2000 we welcomed our first daughter into our hearts and home.  What a fun Christmas it was to watch how our daughter loved listening to all the Christmas music and playing with the wrapping paper.  :)   This was the year our daughter played Baby Jesus in a living nativity at a local parish. You know when you wrap a baby girl up in warm blankets and have her wear lots of layers, no one notices who is playing the Baby Jesus.  :)  

2001 Christmas Card
17 months after our daughter was born our son was born in October 2001  My oldest daughter and son get along well as they are close in age and my oldest never remembers life without her sweet little brother. 
2002 Christmas Card

2003 Christmas Card
This photo card reads "We are EXPECTING you to have a merry and blessed Christmas!  That was our clever way of announcing our pregnancy with Smith Baby #3.  I was in the "yuck" phase of the pregnancy during this photo shoot and when I look back at this card, I remember that I was so happy to be pregnant again, yet I was trying so hard to smile through the nausea, hence the somewhat forced grin :)   
This Christmas card is special too because Parents Magazine contacted me and used this card in a post titled 17 Totally Adorable Holiday Pregnancy Announcements. If you click on the title link and scroll down to #16 of 18, you'll see this 2003 card and a small paragraph about the card.  What a fun post to be a part of!

2004 Christmas Card
Baby #3 came in June 2004 with a head full of black hair!  She found her hands fascinating as she looks down.  :)  

2005 Christmas Card

2006 Christmas Card

2007 Christmas Card
In November 2007, our 4th baby was born.  This picture was taken when we arrived home from the hospital.  I remember our older children couldn't come to the hospital to visit their new sister because my oldest daughter was sick with a strep throat. :(  

2008 Christmas Card

2009 Christmas Card
Yes, that is a wreath hanging from a tree limb in the middle of the woods.  :)  I was trying to make the woods festive :)   I laugh at this picture though because of the Christmas wreath that seems to be hanging in mid air coming from nowhere :) 

2010 Christmas Card

2011 Christmas Card

2012 Christmas Card
This picture was taken just after my sister's wedding ceremony in October 2012.  My younger daughters handed out the programs and my oldest daughter did a reading during the service.  My son was an altar server, hence his robe.   This was another "We are EXPECTING" you to have a Merry Christmas" cards since we conceived Baby #5 in November 2012.  She was born in July 2013.

2013 Christmas Card
This photo was taken in a Catholic church in PA when we went to visit my younger sister and her family for Thanksgiving in 2013. 

2014 Christmas Card
These pictures were taken in September 2014 when my family had a reunion with my parents, two brothers and my younger sister and their families.

2015 Christmas Card 
And this is this year's Christmas card.  This picture was taken in August 2015 when we had another great family vacation at the beach with my parents and siblings and their families.

I hope you have enjoyed looking at just how fast our family has changed and grown through the years because it has been fun for me to think back to the many memories and blessings from the past years since our first Christmas card in 1997.  

So do you send out Christmas cards and/or Christmas letters? 
May you have a blessed and merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Advent Feast Days 2015: Feast of the Immaculate Conception, St. Juan Diego, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Lucy and "O" Antiphons!

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Last week was a big week for celebrating some fun and faith-filled feast days during this Advent season.  We haven't always celebrated so many feast days during this time of year or other times, but for the past 15 years we have gradually added new liturgical feast day celebrations as our family learns about them or if I feel inspired to "copy" fun ideas. :)  Sometimes we have celebrated with other families and friends, while many times it is just with our family.

On December 6, we celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas, which is always a fun tradition for our family.

On December 8, we celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This is the day in the liturgical calendar that we celebrate when Mary was conceived without original sin in Saint Anne's wombMany are mistaken and think this is the day Jesus was conceived in Mary's womb, but that is not correct.  It is 9 months from today, September 8, when we celebrate our Blessed Mother's birthday in the Church.
We had a "white" themed lunch in honor of Mary's purity. This is a tradition we just started last year.  We ate our chicken alfredo (bought from Costco), salad with Ranch dressing and vanilla ice cream during my husband's lunch break so he could join us and because we had a busy evening with Mass and choir practice for my daughters.  On our Advent Tree we hung the 3-D ornament of St. Anne holding Mary in her womb made by Lacy at Catholic Icing and Kristen at Drawn 2B Creative and we also hung our Advent ornament of the Immaculate Conception that I printed out and made from Jennifer at Catholic Inspired.

We also watched a favorite CCC of America DVD called Bernadette-The Princess of Lourdes.  
See below for an explanation from the CCC of America website about the graces this beautiful young girl received from God and our Blessed Mother in 1858...

It’s February 11, 1858. Three girls from Lourdes, France, gather firewood in front of a grotto. Suddenly one of them, Bernadette Soubirous, 14, drops to her knees, gazes ecstatically at something beautiful only she can see, and starts to pray. Soon the town buzzes: Has Bernadette, poor, sickly, and always behind in school, really seen a Lady from Heaven? The police chief is angry, the pastor busy, and the crowd amused, but Bernadette is calm and brave. Then a spring bubbles up from nowhere and withered arms and sightless eyes are cured. At last, the Lady tells Bernadette her name: “I am The Immaculate Conception.”
BERNADETTE, THE PRINCESS OF LOURDES, is the exciting true story of a visit by the Queen of Heaven that left all the world a source of health for body and soul.

Here is a short video with Father Barron talking about Saint Bernadette and the Immaculate Conception while visiting Lourdes, France:

December 9 is Saint Juan Diego's feast day, the peasant man who received the miraculous image our Our Lady of Our Lady of Guadalupe on his tilma.  More about him and St. Juan Diego resources on my post from 2014. 

December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is another fun feast day we try to celebrate each year!

To learn more about this miraculous event that happened in December 1531, there are many resources to use. One DVD that I just discovered is Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message.  Watching this DVD is a great way to start learning more about Our Lady of Guadalupe.   Be sure to check out my review that I posted about the film.

On the evening before December 12, I set up an Our Lady of Guadalupe poster, candles, Our Lady of Guadalupe book, Our Lady of Guadalupe Shining Light Doll and our Wandering Wisemen and camel stopped in.  We left this display up during the day on December 12 and enjoyed reading the Our Lady of Guadalupe book that my children got on St. Nicholas' feast day

Then in the evening on December 12, we had a Mexican potluck dinner with friends at our friend's home. 

We were able to see our parish decorated with the Our Lady of Guadalupe image, beautiful roses and lit candles on Sunday.  We didn't get to the early morning Mass and procession on December 12, but maybe one year our family will take part in the festive occasion!

December 13 is the feast day of Saint Lucy and we hung our St. Lucy ornament on our Advent tree and cooked a pastry filled with cream cheese (that was a frozen bread) and we read Lucia: Saint of Light, which is a beautiful book!  

Whew!  It's been a whirlwind of feast days this past week and celebrating them in simple and fun ways is a great way to focus on the Advent season as we prepare for the celebration of Christ's birth!

December 17-23 are called the "O" Antiphon Days as explained by Jennifer at Family in Feast and Feria.   A few years ago we made an "O" Antiphon Lapbook with my children to learn more about these special days leading up to Christmas Day.  We'll be pulling out these lapbooks to use for this year.

May the rest of your Advent season be blessed!


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I'm Tracy. I love my faith, family and on most days, homeschooling my 5 blessings. When I'm not busy baking cakes for my family or making memories in real life or dreaming I had a housekeeper or professional chef, I enjoy documenting a slice of Smith life in blog land.

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