It’s been a slow, slow Christmas, and I can’t remember one that I’ve enjoyed more.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m not trying to take care of Christmas details in the midst of final exams.  Maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by joyful elementary school students on a nearly daily basis.  Or maybe I’ve been actually taking my own advice and slowing down, letting go, and doing only the things that really bring me joy.

Despite the dark news of late, for my children and I, this has been a delightful holiday season.

Shelves and shelves of awesome craft supplies.  I have always had a teacher’s heart.  These make terrific homemade gifts.

The tree was chosen right after Thanksgiving and promptly trimmed by a very thorough and efficient Harper Lee.  Isaac is not into posing for photos right now.  Can you tell?  Notice the purple goose egg on his head from the face plant into the plate glass window at Thanksgiving and the remnants of a chocolate chip cookie around his mouth.  Such a boy.

My lovely storytelling friends.  Lee Piscorz, who was also a student in the class and a fascinating character and Elizabeth Ellis, our amazing teacher– these people are the BEST, and this place is truly one of the most incredible places on earth.  I’m not kidding when I say I would like to live there.

Paper angels over the window in the Keith House Community Room at JCC Folk School.  I took photos of all the decorations so I could attempt to copy them when I got home.

This is a simple paper star and circle garland with red ribbon and greenery that I actually DID copy when I got home (in my own style).  I love the folk art look.  So many ideas and plans for art projects in 2013.  What an inspiration this place is!

The Folk School’s motto is “Sing Behind the Plow” so this is a Christmas take-off on that slogan.  I love the flags and would like to make some of these as well.  I think I’ve found a purpose for my dyed paper bags I made late this summer. 

We left the Folk School a day early so I could get back in time for the Rosy Cheeks 5K in Mt. Airy.  My girls from G-Force were competing that day, and it was a great success.  There were several PR’s in the group, and every girl finished under 38 minutes, my fastest group yet.  I’m so proud of them!

Harper Lee ran a huge PR and had a really good time for a good cause.  You can’t see it, but her t-shirt, under the bib number, says “A Fit Girl is a Powerful Girl.”  Heck yeah!

Isaac ran the Fun Run.  He only stopped briefly to say hello to Daddy, but then he kept on truckin’! 

And then there was a parade.  Small town Christmas parades are the best.  Notice the big Eagle Scout in the back?  I think Rob is having as much fun as the boys.

When I asked my kids to list out their top 5 favorite Christmas activities, one of them was our annual Christmas party with old friends.  It’s on my top 5 list as well.  Here, the men have somehow found their way to the “kids’ table”.  Appropriate, no?

We made a lot of our gifts this year– homemade Russian tea, rosemary oil and vinegar with herbs from our garden, tye-dye bandanas, chocolate chip cookies, and homemade cards.  These are my favorite kinds of gifts.

Homemade Russian Tea
1 c. instant tea powder
2 c. orange flavored drink mix (Tang)
1 3oz. package of lemonade mix
2 c. white sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and store in a sealed jar.

To make, add 2 to 3 heaping teaspoons of mix to hot water and stir. 

This is my copied paper star garland.  I was afraid they might burst into flames on our mantle, so I hung them from the lights over the dining room table instead.  I like them.

In the meantime, we are counting down the days until our family and Santa Claus comes to town.  Harper Lee even choreographed a reindeer dance in honor of this special time of year.  And me?  Well, I’m just taking it all in.  How can I be anything other than joyful when I’m surrounded by such love?  We are truly blessed.

May we remember to share those blessings with others.

May your days be merry and bright!