That’s lot of words, huh? We had a Christmas baby-gender-reveal surprise baby shower. It was an unforgettable blessing organized by my friend Steph with a part of our foster mom support community from across the country. I had passed Steph the sealed envelope from the ultrasound tech because she offered to give us something more special than a piece of paper to open on Christmas day. (And she’s one of the most creative people I know!) She rallied the troops behind my back and they sent gifts to Steph to wrap and organize into a really unique gender reveal surprise for us. I am still so overwhelmed with gratitude that they would bless our family like this. Most of these women I’ve never even met in person, although we connect daily through social media to encourage, pray for, commiserate with and entertain each other.
The first present to open was this ornament that Steph made. It will be such a special keepsake on our Christmas tree every year.
(Please excuse my Christmas-morning-no-makeup-pajamas family.)
The first baby boy outfit we opened…
Ali got some special gifts, too.
These little knee pads made me swoon.
A teething necklace in one of my favorite colors.
A fellow chicken mama sent this one!
At some point while I was opening gifts and Jason was documenting it, Ali started taking photos with my DSLR.
These are her photos…
I am so thankful! What an amazing surprise for Christmas day, to find out we’re having a son and to be showered with so many thoughtful and adorable gifts for him.
The tree has been trimmed. The lights have been strung. The cookies have been baked…and many of them eaten. Christmas is my favorite thing about winter. The warm glowing lights. The crackling wood in the fireplace. The cozy clutter of decorations. The family time. The advent…the waiting…the anticipation. (Increased this year by the gift of discovering our baby’s gender on Christmas Day.) The dressing up in red, knit and boots. Celebrating the birth of Jesus and all that it meant when God came to walk the earth in human form. (Increased this year by the kicking baby in my belly reminding me often of Mary, young and scared, carrying the most important baby in the world.) The excitement of a small child over every element of the holiday season.
Jason’s been traveling a lot in December (but is now home through Christmas. Yay!) So Ali and I have been enjoying lots of holiday festivities together. On Saturday we went to Cheekwood Art and Botanical Gardens to see reindeer and check out the craft activities. We spent a long time making a Christmas tree our of sticks, pipe cleaners, paper, glue and beads. The cookie decorating was quite delicious!
On Sunday our church had their big Christmas program, which means special music, candlelight service, and lots of kids dressed up in adorable outfits gorging themselves on cookies and candy canes. Alianna was quite proud of her freshly painted nails.
That evening Ali and I went to our next door neighbor Elizabeth’s house for a Latke Fest. I’m pretty sure that was the first Hanukkah party either of us had been invited to and it was great! Lots of tasty treats and nice people. I brought Elizabeth a dozen eggs to thank her for informing us and helping to wrangle our chickens when they escape our yard.
I hope you’ve seen this video of Jason playing the most beautiful acoustic guitar rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen that has ever been played.
I wanted to let you know he’s also giving away copies of the whole amazing album on his Facebook page this month. All you have to do is share the video and let him know you did. He runs a new contest each week so if this week’s hasn’t started yet, check back in a day or two.
And if you don’t win but would like to buy one, you can do so through his website JasonAhlbrandt.com. We offer free shipping. They’re the same price in person and at his shows. He’s on iTunes, Spotify and other online/digital music retailers, too.
Jason’s acoustic guitar album Christmas Classics has been on rotation in my iTunes for a couple weeks already. I haven’t decorated the house yet or taken a photo for our Christmas cards, but Christmas music? Yes. I started playing it in October. Jason’s album came out last October and this year he made a couple of videos to go along with it. Here’s the first one for the song “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”
I love it so much! If you like it even just a little bit, we hope you’ll consider getting the whole album through JasonAhlbrandt.com or iTunes. And please share this video with everyone you know! 😉
OK, actually she was driven North. I mentioned before Christmas that Bee was given an unexpected family pass to spend the holidays in Wisconsin with her grandparents and extended family. We met her grandma, great-aunt and great-grandma for dinner at Chilis the Friday before Christmas to get to know them a bit more before the send off. They’re very sweet people and I know Bee is in good hands. DCS extended their permission until January 13, her next hearing date because her grandma was planning on coming back down for the hearing anyway. It’s kind of weird…we technically still have a foster placement, Bee is officially still our foster daughter, but she’s not here. Although we do miss her, it’s been a nice break, too. After Buzz left I realized the unnatural circumstances that often come with foster care where the number of children in a household sometimes decreases. An additional child is a big adjustment and then reducing back down to one child from two feels like such an easy break. We’ve been enjoying soaking up lots of time with our amazing 2.5 year old Alianna. She is such a joy and a delight. Also, we got to see Buzz again. He and his mom came to the Christmas service at our church.
Bee all packed and ready to go. Have you ever seen a foster child come with such nice luggage?!
Two of her three Christmas presents from us. I opened them the night before she left.
We soothed ourselves with ice cream after the send-off dinner.
Ali showing off a gift from our neighbor, pocket babies.
I started listening to Christmas music back in early October thanks to Jason’s new album. (It’s seriously fantastic. You should buy it!) The Sunday before Thanksgiving we put up our new-to-us Christmas tree and the rest of our decorations. It was so much fun to have Alianna’s help this year. She’s old enough to leave the fragile decorations alone for the most part, too.
My Granny’s Shiny Brite ornaments from the 1950s get a special spot up on the kitchen counter.
The rest of my Shiny Brite and Trim Time collection of vintage ornaments go on the aluminum tree in the dining room.
I made a stocking for Bee (on the left) similar to Alianna’s stocking, out of an old wool sweater. I still don’t know if she’ll be here for Christmas but I can take off the initial and reuse the stocking in the future if she’s not.
The past few years we’ve only done the mid-century silver tree and vintage ornaments but Jason suggested a more traditional tree this year. I’m really loving this giant tree with it’s warm lights in the corner of our living room. The crackling fireplace makes it all just heavenly.
I know, I know…It’s only September. I used to work at a Michael’s craft store and I was always amazed when the boxes (and boxes and boxes) of Christmas decorations would arrive the first week of October…three weeks before Halloween. It just felt wrong. But I have a very good reason for bringing up Christmas in September. For several years my husband Jason has been dreaming and planning on recording a Christmas album. If you’ve been a blog reader for a while you probably remember when he released a lullabies album in February 2012 called Acoustic Lullabies. He’s had the idea for a Christmas album well before that but put it on hold to create a CD of beautiful guitar music dedicated to our daughter Ali, and the sales of that album helped fund her private adoption. Well, he’s finally finished with the long-awaited Christmas album. I’m so excited about it! It’s really wonderful. I’ve seriously had to resist the urge to set up the Christmas tree because overhearing some of the recording process and then listening to the almost-finished product has really brought on the Christmas spirit at our house. In September. Jason’s not just any average guitar player—he’s been obsessed with the six-stringed instrument for 20 years. He is trained and seasoned in classical, jazz, rock, country, finger-style guitar and you’ll hear all those influences on this album. I’m a big fan.
So anyway… producing an album is an investment. There is an initial expense and then money is gradually recouped through sales. His lullabies album was successful and worth the risk but we despise debt. We decided to try something different this time. Jason set up a Kickstarter campaign to fund the initial expense for mixing and duplication (recording is already complete) through pledges for pre-orders of the album. At the base level a $15 pledge results in Christmas Classics shipped to you when it releases in October. Higher pledges have various rewards like autographed or gift wrapped CDs and bulk discounts. If he doesn’t reach his goal (which covers the cost of mixing and a minimum initial order of 1000 CDs), he doesn’t get any money and the pledges are all voided. It’s an all or none situation. Would you consider pledging money to pre-order this CD? I guarantee you’ll love it. You’ll love it so much that you’ll want to give copies to your kids’ teachers and soccer coaches, your best friend, your hard-to-buy-for-music-loving brother, your chiropractor, your insurance agent, etc.
On Jason’s Kickstarter page, you can also watch the silly video we made to promote the project, and hear one of the songs. It was late at night and we may have thought it was a little funnier than it actually is…but all is redeemed by Ali’s incredible sweetness at the end.