Andi, Tory, Aden and I spent Christmas at our lake cabin this year, and it was absolutely wonderful. It's something we've wanted to do for years, but weren't sure how to make it work without upsetting family. Bucking tradition can be a tricky thing, and past practice had us alternating visits with my family in Nebraska or celebrating with Andi's family in Minneapolis. Fortunately, everyone was supportive of our decision to try something new this year, and our Christmas celebration turned out to be everything we'd wished it to be.
Our family of four arrived at the cabin on Wednesday, December 23 and were pleased to find a fresh blanket of snow on the ground! The weather stations were abuzz all week as to whether Minnesota would have a white Christmas, and fortunately the weather changed from rain to snow as we drove over the Wisconsin border. I'd pictured snow-covered trees surrounding us on Christmas Day, and happily it was as beautiful as I'd imagined.
On Christmas Eve (Thursday), Andi and I bundled up the kids and took them for a walk in the woods. Tory was in absolute heaven in the snow, and promptly dropped into snow angel position the first chance she got. Aden, on the other hand, wasn't a big fan of the white stuff. He had a hard time walking in his bulky snow suit and boots, and cried the minute wet snow touched his bare hands (but wouldn't leave his gloves on either).
Later that morning, we FaceTime'd my parents, sister and nieces so they could watch Tory and Aden open the gifts my Nebraska family sent us. I'm sure it felt strange for them to sit on the other side of a computer screen and watch Tory and Aden rip through gift after gift. There was the typical chaos of wrapping paper flying through the air and kiddo screeches as they excitedly unwrapped each box. Still though, I was thankful for the opportunity to share the experience with my family. It made the 10 hours of distance between us feel a little smaller.
Andi's parents joined us at the cabin later that evening to celebrate Christmas Eve, and together we attended church at a little country chapel down the road. Before we left, I carried forward one tradition from my own childhood: Andi and I gave Tory and Aden each one small gift to open before church. When I was a kid, we'd unwrap a piece of jewelry or a watch and it seemed oh, so special! Tory felt the same way as she opened a silver necklace with her initial T on it. She immediately put it on with her Christmas dress. Aden loved his Melissa & Doug Water Wow book to use during the service.
Then, a Christmas miracle! Tory and Aden slept in longer than the adults on Christmas morning. Janie, Jim, Andi and I had breakfast in the oven and cups of coffee in our hands by the time the kids woke up to see what Santa Claus had left them. Tory was super excited to find a princess castle, a carriage and a yoga mat among other smaller things. Aden received a Little People City Skyway, a bike helmet, a frog umbrella and galoshes.
This was the first time (at age 4) Tory really understood the meaning of all the parts of Christmas. She expected presents under the tree on Christmas morning, and excitedly dumped her stocking out onto her new workout mat to see what Santa had left her. Aden (at age 2), on the other hand, wasn't sure what all the hubbub was about. He fixed himself on the biggest present - the racetrack - and ignored the rest. When Tory finally convinced Aden to look in his stocking, he pulled out a new package of pacifiers and exclaimed, "Ooh! Paci's!" Apparently, that was a gift he could get excited about.
Trying out the new paint sets Santa Claus left them in their stockings was mandatory, obviously.
Around lunchtime, Andi's sister Lindsay and her husband Kyle arrived at the cabin to spend Christmas with us. I felt so appreciative of Andi's family who agreed to travel to us at the lake so our kids could wake up in their own place on Christmas morning, and not have to rush off somewhere the minute they received their gifts from Santa.
Our intimate group of family enjoyed Christmas Day together without a pressing agenda to keep. We relaxed, ate, talked and took a walk in the woods. Janie arranged a fun, social meal for us - raclette - using a special Swiss pan she'd purchased. Similar to fondue, it involved melting special raclette cheese in trays under the pan and cooking meat and veggies on the top griddle. She served chicken, shrimp, beef, diced vegetables, gherkin pickles called cornichons and boiled potatoes. It was delicious, and so fun to sit around the table together as a family. The whole process took several hours.
After lunch and Aden's afternoon nap, we opened gifts. This year, we decided to dial things back and exchanged names amongst the six adults. Less presents for us meant more of the focus was shifted to the kids. My very favorite present was a pot holder Tory (with Janie's assistance) made me. She was excited to give it me, and I loved seeing how proud she was of her efforts.
Janie, Jim, Lindsay and Kyle stayed overnight at the cabin Christmas Day, so we capped off the night with board games (first the Dazzling Princess game with Tory, followed by Mexican Train Dominoes after the kids were in bed). How many nights of the year allow the chance to sit around with family and play games together? To me, it's one of the best parts about the holidays.
We finished our Christmas celebration the morning of Friday, December 26 with crepes made on the same raclette griddle used the day prior. Janie brought the making for sweet crepes with fruit, nutella and whipped cream.
It was the perfect low-key Christmas celebration -- our first at the lake cabin.