I admit, I still think of Randa and KK as babies. I even call them babies sometimes…

But they are not. They are 5 and almost 4, and they are big kids. They know their letters and numbers. They speak in sentences that are sometimes more complex than mine. They can strap themselves in and dress themselves. They can drink out of regular cups (this still blows my mind a little). They have their own thoughts, ideas, and memories.

As a result, Life is becoming less baby-proofed, and that includes our Christmas decorations. We have a lot of surfaces in our new home, begging to be adorned with snow globes and candles and musical-thingies, and we have set them out, instructing the girls on what is decoration and what is toy.

As you can see, we have our share of Christmas-themed playthings as well. When the lights and garland and ceramic pie dishes are unpacked, so are the mounds of Christmas books and plush toys and the all-time favorites, the Mickey Clock Shop (on the coffee table this year, rather than the mantle) and the musical Advent calendar.

All of these things are set up mainly in one of our extra spaces. We have two in this house, both annexes of the living room. This particular room is probably supposed to be a dining room, but if we stay here for the long haul, the hope is to make it a parlor…teehee, by putting a piano in it. Right now, though, it’s pretty much empty and therefore perfect for the Christmas tree.

It is then also perfect for the girls to turn into their own toyland. KK sits amongst the pile of books, turning the pages and making up her own rich stories. Randa rocks the babies and stares at the clock shop or the Christmas tree like a little JCPenney catalog girl.

And then there’s the calendar.
I love this calendar. It was a Crackerbarrel purchase. When each little door opens, a different Christmas carol is played, lights go on, and Santa dances. The girls love it, too. They spent hours this weekend opening and closing the doors, dancing to the music, and making up their own games to go along with it.

To be fair, I have to add here that KK calls it ‘The Chocolate House,’ clearly drawing on the 2 or 3 additional cardboard, candy-filled calendars they were gifted last year. And Randa told me on Saturday that – just for pretend – Baby Jesus crawled out of the manger to the North Pole.

…so even though we have a non-chocolate daily Advent lesson planned, even though we will read the Christmas story and bake a birthday cake for Jesus, little minds obviously need time to wrap around the many different aspects of this season. And grown-up minds do, too.

We have done a lot of thinking and talking this year about how we keep Jesus’ birth sacred, how we discern and separate the secular celebrations of Christmas (most of which are rooted in traditions far from Christianity), and how we preserve the special wonder of having babies little kids at Christmas for as long as we can.

We will continue to teach KK and Randa what God did for us in giving the gift of Jesus. And we will continue to enjoy the twinkling lights, sing silly songs about reindeer, and watch Eloise at Christmas every other night. I know there is a lot of ‘buzz’ about keeping Christ in Christmas. I prefer to think we are keeping Christ as the center of our lives, and Christmas is a ritual that is part of our lives. That way, we will always see “the forest” – the truth of God’s precious gift – through the tree.