Our Christmas…a Poem

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Christmas stockings, Christmas lights
Christmas music played at night,
Angel ornaments made by (great) Gramma
(no we don’t believe in Santa)

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Dancing on our living room floor
Snow falls just outside the door
Taylors come to celebrate
And all the presents are homemade

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Cookie cutter biscuits, those are neat
Hurry up, it’s time to eat!
Exchanging gifts is so much fun
We made something for everyone.

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A calendar made with Lydia’s hands
so Grandma T can keep track of plans
Grandpa got some special tea
Grown and homemade by Mommy

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Too soon it was time to go
So no one gets (too) stuck in the snow
Goodbyes are always very sad,
but there was more fun to be had.

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Christmas morning is coming quick
The roads are getting pretty slick
Christmas eve we head out the door
because we need just one gift more.

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Christmas morning comes at last
The night did not pass all to fast
Except for Mom, hope she’s not crabby
She was up with hungry Abby

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Christmas pjs, pretty dresses
Lots of wrapping paper messes
Candles in the morning dark
The party is about to start!

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Lydia can’t believe her eyes
A big girl bed! What a surprise!
Now Daddy reads some from God’s word
Stockings are second, presents are third

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Abby’s gift: to be snuggled all day,
She wouldn’t have it any other way
Mommy got a pretty coat
Daddy got some workout clothes.

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Christmas came and Christmas went
But the best gift was still heaven sent
Baby Jesus come to earth
We love to celebrate His birth!

Meaningful Traditions and Christmas Noise

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On Saturday night I was sitting on the couch holding Abby and looking at our Christmas tree. I was remembering the message brought to the shepherds by the angels on that very first “Christmas” night (of course, I have to include this in the KJV. Thanks to Charlie Brown, it’s hard not to believe these were the exact words spoken by the angel, in English and everything.)

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

What triggered my thoughts about those angels and their message? We had just celebrated the Taylor family Christmas with Dan’s parents, brother and sister-in-law. In addition to their own gifts they had brought gifts from Dan’s grandparents. And every year Dan’s grandma makes each of her family members an ornament. A lot of the ones on our tree are angels, and those special ornaments had started my Christmas reminiscing.

In the background we had an “all-Christmas, all the time” radio station playing. And at that moment the song playing had nothing to do with shepherds, angels, or Baby Jesus. It was probably either a love song or something about Santa Claus. To me, right then, it just sounded like noise.

There is a remarkable difference between the deep and true story of Jesus birth, and special traditions that help us remember it, and the emptiness of Christless traditions.

A couple of years ago I became slightly obsessed with starting some Christmas traditions…meaningful traditions. I asked families in our church what they do, I asked Dan for ideas, I even searched online. And slowly we have started our own traditions.

We have our Christmas moose. There’s nothing especially Christmasy about him except that he promotes a lot of family fun and laughter.

We put up our tree and decorate as a family. And we take out the ornaments one-by-one and remember the story behind them. Most of our ornaments are those special one stitched by Dan’s grandma. I’ve also taken a page out of her book and combined it with an idea from my dad and cross-stitched an ornament each year to symbolize something significant that happened.

No, these traditions don’t directly tell the story of Jesus birth. However, the love and joy our family shares are only possible because He came. I’m still developing some even deeper traditions to instill Christmas truths in our kiddos.

One of the traditions I’d like to start is one that a friend does with her family. Each December she wraps up 25 children’s Christmas stories. Every night the kids pick out a book, unwrap it, and read it together.

I’d like to ask for input from some of you readers. I’m hoping that, in the next year, I’ll be able to start our own Christmas story collection. However, I want this tradition to be something that will instill honorable qualities and Christmas truths in our kiddos. Top-notch books with good pictures too. Any ideas?

And, just for fun, I’d love to hear what Christmas traditions you enjoy most or enjoyed as a child. Opening pajamas every Christmas eve? Swedish meatballs and pickled herring Mom’s oreo ice cream dessert at Christmas dinner? What were and are some of your favorites?

Taylor Christmas Letter 2013

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Hullo there,

Let me introduce myself. In the summer of 2008, Justine was a counselor at Lake Ann Camp. During the last week of the summer, one of her sweet young campers gave Justine a stuffed moose from the camp store. That’s me. Not much happened in my lonely life until two years ago when Justine went crazy decorating for Christmas. Between the tree, the green blanket on the couch, and the plaid stockings on the wall, she decided the home looked a little like a lodge, and she threw me into the mix. That happy year I was renamed “The Christmas Moose”. (Although I’m pushing hard to become an all-year moose, as the 11 months in a box aren’t too exciting).

Well this year, I’m proud to say, the Taylors have given me the honor of writing their Christmas letter. So, here I go!

It’s been a year full of changes for the Taylor family. Can you believe it was only a year ago that they were living in their little apartment on campus at Eastern Michigan University? Dan was working many hours as he held an internship while taking classes toward a Master’s degree. The little munchkin (she’s since been upgraded to “the Big Girl”) was much more of a baby as she had little hair, very few words, and she still army crawled everywhere.

Early in the year Lydia pleased everyone by walking for the first time, just the night before she was scheduled to start physical therapy because she wasn’t walking! Because she was wearing a purple layered tutu from her Aunt Steph at the time, the tutu has been dubbed “the power tutu”. You can watch her first steps here.

Lydia has come a long way since those first steps. She has learned many new words, begun memorizing her first Bible verses, and developed her signature Munchkin Laugh. Lydia is a sweet helper, and awesome big sister, and cute beyond words. See?

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I just love that little Munchkin.

Well, anyway, Dan was gone a lot at the beginning of the year and we all missed him. Yes, even me. Even with that little Munchkin army crawling around, then walking on her knees, then on her little legs at last. In the spring we were all thrilled when he graduated with a Masters degree in Math. That’s right, he is now a master of mathematics. Feel free to call him for help with your math problems or your kiddo’s homework.

With the end of Dan’s college career, the family packed everything else up (I was already in my box) and we moved to a big condo in Ann Arbor, right next door to Dan’s new job. The company he has been interning for hired him full time and he has been working there ever since. We loved living so close to work! Dan could come home for lunch, and was still home for an early dinner.

It was a good thing too, because Justine wasn’t feeling too well at the time with another munchkin on the way!

Lydia spent a few days in the hospital after coming down with some sort of stomach bug, but the whole family got sick after her hospital stay and didn’t seem to get better. Finally it was determined that the place was moldy and was making everyone, but especially Dan, sick. The family quickly packed up again (who am I kidding? The family didn’t pack up at all, but the ladies from Bible study came over and packed everything up. Sweet ladies they are too.)

It was off to Plymouth for a lovely, flowery summer home. The place was already fully furnished and the yard was landscaped with constantly changing flowers and plants. There was a park nearby and the Munchkin and her Mommy enjoyed the playground almost every day.

Everyone had warned Baby Number Two not to come until after the summer ended, because the home was only a short-term solution and there was another move planned in September. But that little Munchkin didn’t listen and she surprised everyone by coming even earlier than her sister. But you can read all about that here if you haven’t already.

Well, you all know what the next three months held, so I won’t repeat it here. The family was apart and gone a lot while our new baby, Abigail spent 82 days in the NICU of two different hospitals.

And you know what happened because of all that? I didn’t get taken out of my box until nine long days after Thanksgiving. I guess I won’t hold it against them, because it sounds like they didn’t want to stay at the hospital that long.

Well, now we’re together again, me included. And we love it. There is a lot of smiling and laughter. There is a lot of Christmas music and dancing and spinning around the living room (“swimming”, as the older Munchkin likes to say). And we all are going to be together on Christmas and for a whole week afterwards too (Dan gets the time off work).

We do love to be together.

So that was our year, in a long nutshell. As I wrap this letter up I just want to tell you all to take the time to enjoy your togetherness this holiday season. It’s a gift not everyone gets to enjoy. Don’t forget that we’re celebrating the birth of another baby, Baby Jesus, who came to be the savior of the world. And, if you talk to Dan or Justine anytime soon, put in a good word for me so that maybe I’ll get upgraded to the all-year Moose.

Merry Christmas to you all, on behalf of the Taylors.

Labor Day Adventures

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Dan had the day off for Labor Day on Monday, and we were able to enjoy our first day-off as a family without traveling since Dan graduated! The day started with some sleeping in, a late breakfast, and then plan-making for the rest of the afternoon.

We decided to check out downtown Plymouth, since we’re planning on moving soon and had never gotten around to spending some time down there. It’s a lot like downtown Traverse City (where we grew up), but bigger.

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We walked the streets, looked in the windows, and pushed Lydia in her stroller. Eventually we came to the fountain, and took a nice break there sitting in the shade and watching kids walk around the edge of the fountain and then sneak in when their parents weren’t looking.

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After a while, we continued our walk, touring all the streets of downtown Plymouth. We ended up in a historic area, where we gave Lydia a history lesson on the American wars. Dan and I remembered an embarrassingly small amount of information about any of the wars. So much for straight A’s. Dan’s side of the family is somehow related to Abraham Lincoln (17th cousins or something like that) so we were sure to get a shot of Lydia with Abe. See any resemblance?

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It was pressing in on nap time and we still hadn’t eaten lunch, but we made another stop at Starbucks to get some free drinks (story to come later…). Dan got an iced coffee and Lydia and I shared a smoothie as we headed back to the fountain one last time. However, just as I was about to take a picture of our smoothie-sharing, I realized my camera was gone!

We retraced our steps back to Starbucks. No camera. Then we went all the way back to Abe, where I thought I may have forgotten it on a bench. But there was the bench, and no camera. Just than a tall man ran up and asked us if we had lost our camera! This kind gentleman (Jerry) had turned it in to the police station. So after a while of knocking on doors and snooping around the station (which was pretty deserted), Jerry found us an officer who located our missing camera. That ended the trip on a very happy note and we headed back home for lunch and naps.

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The weather was absolutely perfect, so Dan worked on his computer outside and, after a long nap myself, I joined him. When Lydia woke up we all headed to the playground, where Lydia mastered the tunnel-slide, and then went down it 13 times, insisting that Dan follow her down every single time. We spent a good long while at the playground and, when everyone was satisfied, made our way back home for dinner. After a couple innings of baseball (our current Monday night tradition while Lydia gets ready for bed), we tucked Lydia in.

Then I gave Dan his first violin lesson, which went really well. I’m thinking of giving violin lessons from home starting sometime after Baby is born, but I’ve never taught before. Dan has very little music education, so he is a perfect first student. And so far, he does great. We’ve had two lessons in a row and he’s been practicing in the mornings.

So, after mastering the “D string”, we watched a little more baseball, and stayed up far too late talking. (Dan really is a happy camper on his days off) Eventually we had to call it a night. I can’t remember ever having a more full and happy Labor Day.