We always celebrate Christmas in stages, one with my husband’s family, one with mine, one with just us, and usually a few others thrown in for good measure. This year, we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my husband’s family (arriving at their house just as an ice storm hit).

(Yes, technically, these are Easter icing colors, but the kids chose them.)

The kids really enjoyed the time there, and being surrounded with family members was very comforting for us. The kids were so excited that we couldn’t help but enjoy them.

My niece wore her Christmas dress on Christmas Eve since she was too sick with stomach flu to wear it to church on Sunday. Our kids, on the other hand, wore their pajamas. I think my niece was envious!

At my in-laws’ house, we celebrate with a big family party on Christmas Eve, and everyone opens gifts from each other. Santa brings the gifts we open on Christmas morning.

We have told our kids the Santa story, but as a story. We prepared them for Christmas by saying “Let’s all pretend that Santa is real, just like when you guys play pirates or super-heros and you pretend that you really are pirates or The Hulk.” This way we kept the story alive for my niece. I think our kids got into it so much they forgot we were pretending and really believed. It was really cute to hear Big Boy look at all the presents on Christmas morning and say, “I guess Santa is real!” I think we’ll do it that way from now on, since Big Boy almost spoiled it for his classmates at school!

Scott’s grandma came to Christmas Eve, and Little Boy immediately sensed a softy. He mooched quite a lot of Chex Mix from her before dinner started! (That’s his semi-bald head behind her hand.)

The other kids caught on quickly as well. It gave them something to do with their mouths besides inquire, “When do we get to open presents?!?” or “Can we eat yet?”

I wasn’t as sad as I thought I might be. I thank God for helping us to not only enjoy the children He has left in our care for now, but to remember why Jesus was born in the first place. We have hope for the future because of His Son.

I received a very special gift this year. It’s a Mother’s Necklace, with the birthstones of each of my four children on it. At a time when I feel like some of the tangible signs of Elli’s life are beginning to fade away, I love to see her birthstone hanging with the others’.