Christmas 2018 Un-Bucket List
Okay, I know I JUST said that I was glad that we did a Fall Bucket List (read about it) because it forced us to get up and get out of the house and make special memories together as a family of 5. While I still wholeheartedly agree that was good added pressure for the Autumn season, I chose not to do our traditional Christmas Bucket List this year. I really wrestled with it because my kids get so excited and because it was Judah’s first Christmas, but ultimately I decided that we did not need any added pressure in THIS season. I love, Love, LOVE Christmas and everything the season entails, but December is already packed with parties and recitals and family gatherings and events. Add in 3 kids and things get a little more unpredictable with winter sicknesses and temperaments driven by high sugar and little sleep. ‘Tis the season, y’all! If we aren’t careful, the season can become about everything except it’s true meaning.
Honestly, even though we didn’t have a Bucket List, I think there were times that I still clung tightly to too many traditions. As I reflect on the season, there are instances where I wish I would have let go of my mental bucket list too. Next year, I want to turn down the remaining whispers of my ‘traditional Christmas Bucket List’ and fully embrace the joy of receiving the best gift ever given - the gift of Jesus. I read this quote and it hit home with me, “Loosening my grip on traditions has helped me pick up a giant cup of grace and enjoy each season for what it is, not what it’s supposed to be.” So here’s to loosening grips and soaking in the moments while celebrating Immanuel, God with Us.
Even though we didn’t do a “Bucket List,” we still enjoyed the magic of the season, and I still wanted to document it here on the blog. I love to look back on these posts and remember the sweet moments we shared as a family. I keep hearing that time is a thief and my babies will be gone before I know it, so I will keep writing it all down and treasuring it up in my heart. Disclaimer: Of course there’s plenty of sour mixed in with those sweet moments - temper tantrums, tears, too much yelling, and having to ask for forgiveness - but when we look back, it’s the sweet that I remember: the excitement in their eyes, the giggles, the screams of delight. I no longer remember how long it took to get them dressed for the snow or how long the line was for Santa or how many snacks we had to feed them to get them to stay still for that photo (and if I do, I can usually just laugh about it). As I write about the fun that we had, it is my hope and prayer that my children will remember and embrace the idea that the birth of Jesus was God’s ultimate gift to us - the sweetest gift, the most humble gift, a gift of sacrificial love.
Here are a few highlights from the season:
Playing in the Snow-
After several years of “light dustings,” we finally got some real snow in Kansas City this year! One of the memories I will cherish forever happened on the first snowy night of the year. I heard excited whispers coming from downstairs. When I walked down the stairs, I saw the girls dressed in their coats, hats, and gloves. Hattie said, “We’re going in the snow!” while Eliza giggled, “It was Daddy’s idea!” I briefly thought, “It’s 7:30 PM - bedtime!” But I quickly pushed that thought away and let them go have their fun. Who needs a bedtime when you can build a snowman with your daddy in the dark? Oh my heart, I can still hear the shrieks and giggles coming from the backyard.
I stayed inside with Judah during the nighttime snow excursion, but he got to have his “fun” a few weeks later when a big snow storm hit. This time we dressed all 3 kids in full snow gear, knowing that it might take longer to get them dressed than the time spent in the snow. Being from tropical, Southern India, Judah had never seen or felt snow before. He was intrigued at first, but that quickly turned to feelings of loathing toward the snow. Poor warm-blooded baby. We snapped a few photos, took him on a brief sled ride, and got him back inside where it was warm. I “sacrificed” (Judah takes after his mama in his feelings on snow) by going into the warm house with him while Marcus stayed outside with the girls. They had their snowman kits ready to build an epic snowman, but the snow was powdery and wouldn’t pack, so they built a “flat snowman” (drew circles on the ground and added the features from their kit) and thought it was absolutely hilarious.
Candy Cane Hunt -
This was so simple, but it entertained them for HOURS. My mom brought them little Christmas baskets and candy canes, and we had an (as Eliza put it) “Easter Egg Hunt with candy canes!” Everyone took a turn hiding them, and even Judah got so excited each time he found one, even though he’d never seen or tasted a candy cane before. Once he tried it, he was definitely all in! Of course, we found undiscovered candy canes around the house all season long - just a reminder of the fun we had playing hide and seek with candy canes!
Rudolph the Musical-
You may know by now, but we are big fans of the productions geared toward kids at the Coterie Theater. We haven’t been to any of the other plays, but I’m sure they’re great as well. Every other year, the Coterie does the musical “Rudolph” at Christmastime. 2 years ago, I put it on my list, but tickets sold out so fast that we were unable to go! So this year....I bought tickets in early October to make sure that we wouldn’t miss it! My husband might have thought I was a little crazy, but it was worth it! Eliza loved every minute of it. Hattie enjoyed it all except the parts where the abominable snow monster came out on stage. She stood up (right beside the stage) and announced to the audience “He’s not real! He’s not real!” and then proceeded to cry hysterically anyway. So, she sat on my lap instead of the children’s area up front for the rest of the show. Judah made it through over half of the show, and then his daddy took him to get some Topsy’s popcorn while we finished watching Rudolph get his happy ending.
We went back to Crown Center to see ol’ St. Nick this year. It helped that we were already down there for Rudolph the Musical, but we would have made a special trip even if we hadn’t gone to the show. Last year, we tried somewhere else, and it just wasn’t the same. Go on a weekday and Crown Center has no lines. Photos are always free, or (if you’re not as frugal as us) you can buy fancy ones from them. Plus, everything is festive and provides some great photo ops. Here’s the Santa recap: Eliza sat on Santa’s lap, but she wouldn’t really talk to him. Hattie agreed to stand next to him...but not too close, although she did ask him if he got her letter. Judah cried about the whole affair. We counted it as a win, though, because Judah doesn’t always exhibit “stranger danger” feelings. It was a loss for Santa, but a win for bonding! We’ve had a Mackey kid cry on Santa’s lap for 3 years in a row now. Maybe that streak will end next year.
Christmas Outfits -
Seeing my three children in coordinating Christmas outfits brought so much joy to my heart and tears to my eyes. Last Christmas we hoped and prayed - oh how we prayed - but 1 year ago it just seemed impossible that Judah would be home by Christmas 2018. But God....his timing is not dependent on human timelines, and we are forever grateful.
We were able to go to church together as a family of FIVE on Christmas Sunday and on Christmas Eve, putting the true meaning of Christmas at the forefront of our minds. It was impossible to keep all 3 kids quiet during the service (and we apologized many times to those around us), but we believe that just making an effort to be present was an important tribute to our Savior’s birth.
After church on Christmas Eve, the kids opened up their traditional Christmas Eve gift. Of course, it included matching footie pajamas (because, really, is there anything cuter!?) and a Christmas book. Then we watched “The Star,” which was actually something on our Christmas Bucket List from last year that never got crossed off the list! Our girls now think popcorn and hot chocolate are a MUST during our Christmas Eve movie night, even though I think that combination sounds a bit gross. After the movie, we were able to tuck three kids into bed. I rocked Judah Mahesh just a little bit longer as I praised God for allowing us to enjoy another first holiday with our son.
This was the first year that we traveled to both sides of the family for Christmas. We drove down to Branson, MO before Christmas to spend a couple of nights with my family. The kids got to open gifts, make cookies, play games, watch movies in a theater room, and try out mini golf for the first time. Then we headed back to Kansas City to spend Christmas at home.
The day after Christmas, we made the long drive to Abilene, TX. It was our first road trip with all three kids, and Judah’s first ever road trip- although we spent about as many hours in the car as we did on one flight from India with him! They did pretty well, but we had to break out the DVD player a few times in order to survive. In Texas, more presents were opened, more laughs were shared, more games were played, and Judah was able to meet some extended family members for the very first time! We also played dartball for the very first time. (Look it up. It’s fun!) We are thankful to have so many people who love our kids and support our family.
Judah’s first Christmas-
One of the highlights of the season was celebrating it as a family of 5. We had dreamed of Judah’s first Christmas home for 5 Christmases, and we finally got to celebrate it with our son. It was Judah’s first Christmas too, as his Hindu orphanage does not celebrate Christmas. He was old enough to enjoy the magic and excitement of the season, and we all treasured seeing his reaction to things like Christmas lights. His wide eyes and the ooos and ahhs that he let out upon seeing the Christmas tree lit up for the first time will not be forgotten. It was also his first time unwrapping gifts. He thought it was hilarious to tear the paper. In true toddler fashion, he broke a few ornaments this year and preferred boxes and tissue paper to gifts. His favorite present, though, was his bubble machine. He clapped and danced and squealed in delight. Oh, thank you Father, for allowing our son to celebrate with us and his sisters this year.
Christmas 2018 was one for the record books.
'Cause when we're together
I have everything on my list
And when we're together
I have all I wished
All around the Christmas tree
There'll be dreams coming true
But when we're together
Then my favorite gift is you
*lyrics from “When We’re Together” from Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (This DVD was Eliza’s favorite Christmas gift this year. And- just for the record- Hattie’s favorite gift was a Moana ornament.)