A new year.
The last year was full of change for our family. New house, job, cars. It was also full of adventure and new friendships.
By Christmas time we were ready for a break.
A chance to breathe. A chance to relax. A chance to get straight.
Jeremy's parents were here for a couple of days after Thanksgiving so as a thank you for having our kids for us (more about that another day) we took them to see 'Elf the musical' at a local theatre. It was fun and bright and full of the cheesy comedy you'd expect! We all really enjoyed it and it got us into the festive spirit.
We also took them to see the lights being turned on in Bronson Park downtown and to the Christmas barn in Vicksburg to pick out our tree and have a look round their shop. It's one of my favourite places to go in the run up to Christmas. The barn is full of pretty ornaments and festive decorations. It was so nice to have been able to take the there and think about them when we are there next Christmas or when I look at the ornaments on the tree that we chose together.
Because we can't just take a normal photo!
This year we went to the Union to decorate gingerbread houses with our neighbours. There were 3 families and 6 kids between us. The restaurant did a great job and the kids loved it! Ours decorated their house within about 5 minutes but friends, lunch and Santa kept them amused the rest of the time. I really hope we get to do it again next year!
What was I saying about family photos?!
We also went to the Church near the library for their live nativity. It is so much more than just Mary and Joseph and some animals. They transform their basement and take you on a journey through Bethlehem telling the story of Christmas with kids and adults acting out scenes as you move through the different areas. Our kids' favourite bit is the angels singing 'Gloria'. Such a great way to teach the kids the story of Jesus' birth.
Charlotte and I went to see Excel Dance's performance of the nutcracker. They only do it every two years but she is already practicing, hoping she can be in it next time! I downloaded some of the music and she has been dancing around the house saying "Mummy is this the flower song or the snow flakes?" She is such a little performer.
This year our Church put on a performance of 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'. Growing up I remember watching Snoopy cartoons on the tv but not taking too much notice. Here, Charlie Brown movies are popular at Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I had no idea what Charlie Brown had to do with Christmas and Church but it all became clear as we watched the show. Our kids loved it and were so sad when it all finished. Charlotte now says it's her favourite Christmas movie! I wish they had recorded the show or at least the songs. The arts director wrote a lot of them and they were so catchy - Charlotte has been singing them all holiday.
It was a scramble to get the Church ready in time. We moved buildings in the weeks leading up to the show and the whole place had to be repainted / furniture etc moved and everything rearranged. It was fun to be a part of it and the kids got involved too. Amazing that it all came together the day of the first performance.
This year Charlotte was able to be a part of the Gagie school 'A Christmas Carol' (we were away last year) and I have to say that we were blown away. We love the emphasis that the school puts on music and so does Charlotte. Her kindergarten class did a great job on such a big stage (the show was at the Miller Auditorium - a 3500 seat theatre) and the performances from the solo musicians on stage before the show started, to the singing, acting and dancing of the whole school, was outstanding.
The Kindergarteners on stage
Post show celebratory donuts!
Toby's show was also really cute. The last preschool Christmas show for us - he'll be at the Miller next year! He was very proud of his new blue tie and wanted to make sure everyone could see it - a smart dresser like his Daddy!
We also did the annual 'lights drive' around Kalamazoo with the addition of a lights show at Gull Meadow Farms. Well worth a drive up there and we came home with a big bag of apples as their market was closing and everything was half price.
Jeremy and I also went out for dinner and drinks with a group of friends from the end of our neighbourhood that we lived in when we first moved to the US. It was so nice to be included and have a kid-free few hours to catch up and celebrate together.
And then we all caught a virus and had to take it easy. It was hard to say no to a couple of party invites but we were grateful it didn't take us out too badly and we were able to enjoy Christmas Eve, Boxing day and New Years Eve with friends.
Life in Kalamazoo really has changed for us over the last few years.
It is really does feel like home now.
It doesn't have any of our family but our door is always open to visitors and technology brought them into our living room on Christmas day, which is the next best thing.
And so to a new year. 2015. A quiet one I hope. I am so ready for some stability. I know a few people who share that feeling. Christmas serves as a reminder of what we have lost but hopefully joy in looking forward to what is to come.