Holiday Roundup 2023

December felt like the longest month I’ve had in quite a while.

It started out pretty well, with a trip to WV for “early Christmas” with JC’s family. We always enjoy this time to connect with all of them! One very special treat is that our niece Elsie, who has been in treatment for neuroblastoma for over a year, was healthy enough to spend the weekend in the middle of all the cousin chaos. We even got to celebrate her fourth birthday with her!

Littlest cousins—Lizzie (L) and Elsie (R)

One fun thing is that we usually have tacos on the Saturday night of that weekend and JC’s younger sisters create an elaborately themed tablescape. This year, the theme was “home peas,” and everything, from the crayons to the Christmas crackers, was green.

And then we came home and just a few days later was when the Camry met its untimely end, which kind of up-ended a lot of our plans for the month (We’re lucky! Nobody was hurt! The insurance people were very easy to deal with! We just got a new car! It’s fine! But still, it’s not what anybody wants to be dealing with).

We still managed to get some fun Christmas-y stuff in. Like admiring the window decorations at the library, making various crafts, and lighting our Advent wreath, featuring greens from many church friends.

We convinced a bunch of friends to come to the lantern tours at the Frontier Culture Museum with us. We hadn’t been since before the pandemic, and we enjoyed traipsing around the museum in the dark. Every minute we spend with these families, I’m grateful all over again for what wonderful friends we have, and what lovely people our children are growing up with.

Petra worked hard at making a lot of gifts for people this year. I didn’t get photos of all of them, but here are the ones for me—a bunch of moths for a future Silk Moth Stage sign, and a little jar with a belly-up hedgehog on the lid.

She also drew portraits of each of our cats (including Lyra) for JC. I helped her frame them and put them on the wall. We added some origami paper to make them pop a bit more.

I did a little bit of making, myself, although not as much as I usually do. My biggest project was finally updating our photo wall. My kids had been after me to do it for ever (it’s been nearly six years), so this was sort of a gift to the family. Here’s the before and after:

As tradition dictates, we celebrated jolabokaflod (“Yule book flood”), although we did it a night early. Everyone was excited about all the books they got, although the biggest hits were clearly Good Tickle Brain’s Hamlet, Pop Sonnets, and Daisy: The LIttlest Zombie,

On Christmas Eve, we took my mom, stepdad, and a couple friends to do an escape room at Worlds Away Escape. It was a super fun activity for all of us to do together, although JC and Petra were clearly the MVPs. We beat the room with over 14 minutes to spare!

Alex flew in from Colorado. It was a 30-hour adventure, but he made it. Because he was coming, Mom and Gary decided to do a Star Wars theme for our celebration, which included lots of light saber battles, a Star Wars White Elephant, and stickers. Not pictured—one of Alex’s gifts for Silas was the Jedi robe I made him when he was 13. I can’t believe that thing has survived all these years!

We have a bit of a tradition of going to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley for a ramble on Christmas day. Even when the main gardens are closed, we can walk on their extensive trails, which wind past all kinds of art, some of it interactive. There’s always some new area to explore.

The next day, we went to see Wonka at the Alamo (and LOVED it), and then Mom and I hit a few thrift stores…and then we came home.

And that was Christmas.

I’m already thinking about next year, though. I definitely want to do more handmade gifts next year. I also need to get on my Christmas Outfit game. I have a bunch of holiday socks, but this was about the best I could do beyond that:

Theme is Christmas Dad

I bought myself this Magnificat panel by Ben Wildflower, and I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate it into a holiday dress. I’m thinking of getting black fabric with like…holly or something cute on it, and then having this panel right in the middle.


Aili Written by:


  1. Lois
    December 31, 2023

    What a lovely Christmas journal! I had fun even reading it:, Petra is a good artist! It’s so good to see the kids reading and being creative. It looks like you had a lot of GOOD TIMES!! Your pictures of the frontier museum brought nostalgia to mind.

    • Aili
      December 31, 2023

      Thanks! Both of my kids are really taking off as artists.

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