Married to Medicine

Married to Medicine

Friday, January 1, 2016

A Murakami Christmas

I've been so terrible about capturing our family memories lately... yikes.  I want to briefly capture everything we did for Christmas, since my kids were at such great ages for it (3 and 5).

Traditions are really important to me.  I believe that annual repetition of religious and/or cultural food, decor, and events is part of what tethers us to our own lives and our own stories - and can ultimately sustain us through the more difficult periods we encounter.  I have been dreaming of the Christmas traditions I'd have with my own children for decades.  Unfortunately I didn't use my camera much in December, but someday when my kids (and their kids?) ever look back at my blog, I want to document what we did in 2015:
  • Advent.  I'm pretty much as excited about advent as I am about Christmas itself!  I've blogged before (back in 2011!) about how I've dreamt since childhood of having a beautiful advent calendar to do with my kids - inspired by my own grandmother - and how I snagged ours on clearance after drooling over it for months.  My MIL also sends advent gifts and the kids are SO excited every morning of December.  Hopefully next year will be the year that Claire is old enough not to open presents early when I'm not looking!
LOVE IT.
  • Christmas Cookies - and a Cause.  I want to teach my children that Christmas is ultimately - religiously and historically speaking - a commemoration of the birthday of Jesus Christ.  And whether or not you believe He was divine, I think it's indisputable that honoring His (arguably) biggest message - to give to and help others in need - is a really great way to keep the original meaning of Christmas in the holiday and to help our kids celebrate and partake in more than just gifts and family (also worthy, of course).  This was our third year baking cookies to raise money for International Justice Mission - a top-rated charity that rescues victims from the worst and most violent forms of oppression, like child sex trafficking.  We bake about 7 batches of our top 5 favorite cookies and ask for a $35-50 donation per box, locally.  We then keep a few leftovers of each kind for our own Christmas Eve together (and Santa).  My son started catching on last year (4.5 y/o) and had lots of questions.  Of course, I didn't fully explain the cause we raised the money for... we just had a lot of talks about how some people have everything they need, and others don't even have enough food, so those whose needs are met have a duty to help others in need.
I list and describe each cookie, with links to the recipes, HERE.
Please!!  It's not too late - help me rescue children from sex slavery by donating HERE.   EVERY bit counts!
  • Angel Tree.  Also along those lines, each child picked a same-aged same-sex child card off the angel tree at our YMCA.  We had fun (well... I did!) picking out new outfits for each child; one had asked only for a t-shirt, the other for a dress.  Buying the gifts and putting them under the tree gave us further opportunities to talk about the meaning behind the holiday.
  • Santa.  After searching extensively over the past few years, I'm SO glad I waited.  I found the PERFECT milk and cookies set for Santa this year .  It's ADORABLE; my kids went crazy for it!  The plate is actually a chalk board so the kids can leave a message for Santa and then he writes one back(!!!).  I loved capturing the good they'd done this year and having Santa "notice" it.  We even put carrots out for the reindeer!  
LOVE this.  Find it HERE.  
  • Tree.  We picked out our tree from our favorite local farmstand, and thankfully Daddy took a few hours off to decorate with us!  
Totally forgot to take a pic of the tree this year, so here are the stockings.
No chimney over here, Santa uses the window!

  • New tradition:  This was our second year of going to see the 4D showing of Polar Express downtown at the Museum of Science - just me and the kids.  It's SO cool - you can even smell the hot chocolate!  


  • Missed tradition - we totally missed going into Four Seasons to check out their Christmas Village setup, which is amazing.  Boo.  It just never seemed quite right because it never snowed.  Next year!
  • Email to Santa:  We had to let Santa know to come 1 day early since we'd be gone in Chicago by Christmas Day.  Thankfully, Santa was happy to oblige.

Cheating with a pic from last year - forgot to take one this year!

  • Chicago!  We hit both families every year, and I actually love it.  Especially now that both kids sleep through the night.  We started in Chicago since it was a Murakami year for the "real" Christmas.  Mark's mom and her sisters are Swedish (like 3rd generation or something, but heritage-wise totally into it) and every year they put on a HUGE Christmas Eve Smorgasbord with everything you can possibly imagine and more.  They then do another one for Christmas morning brunch.  It's really quite incredible.  But the best part is that my husband comes from a huge family (I counted 23 sleeping in his house and 14 more hanging around every day) so there is no end of people to chat and catch up with.  I could actually cry when I think about how much I've come to love and appreciate my husband's family over the years.  2001 was my first Christmas with them so this was #15!  I know it's a rare thing to feel truly accepted and to truly like your in-laws, so I consider myself beyond blessed at this point.  I have *eight* siblings-in-law in our generation (and counting!) and they are all some of my favorite people to talk to, ever, in their own ways.  Each one of them.  Add to that at least one cousin our age also present (sometimes more!), and her husband, and our Rwandan (originally - but they've been here since childhood) friends Rachel and Rita who have been coming to these Christmases as long as I have ... there are at LEAST 12 people in my own generation, each one of whom I could chat with for hours.  WHILE my kids are all but unheard of, off with their 5 billion cousins ... It is a TOTAL blast.  
Cheating with a pic from last year again.
This is just SOME of us.

  • American Girl Place.  I've been dreaming about having a daughter to bring here since I first went with my nieces, which was just a few days after I found out I was pregnant with Matthew.  Done!  WHAT a blast!
It was everything I had ever dreamed it would be!  Wait... was this supposed to be for my daughter?
LOVE LOVE LOVE.
Throwback to 2009, I had just found out on Christmas Day that I was pregnant and I hoped that someday I'd get to come back to AGP with a daughter of my own!  Crazy to think that my two nieces on the left are now in HIGH SCHOOL!

  • Train ride!  It feels really magical and Christmasy to take the train from Chicago to Madison, through a snowy countryside.
Cheating again - this was last year, when there was snow (so much cooler).
This year:  Post-cousin exhaustion.

  • Madison.  No better way to wind it down.  Aaaaaaahhhh.  So quiet and relaxing, and we kicked it off right with a huge snowstorm.  The kids and I always stay a few weeks.  It helps me reconcile living so far from my parents, and I know my kids benefit from all the extra attention.
One last cheat from last year - I missed seeing all these guys this year.

There you have it.  With some older pics.  That's what "A Murakami Christmas" means so far.


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