A Markel Family Christmas

Our traditional Markel Family Christmas was a three-day affair this year!

Because Christmas Day fell on a Monday, our church schedules were a little complicated this time around. There wasn’t a large enough break at home on Christmas Eve for our traditional “pick out dinner,” so I decided we’d have it a day early. But before we got to that, our day Saturday started in a most pleasant fashion…the first snow of the season, and Christmas Crunch for breakfast!

And then the best dinner of the year. I love how it’s always a little bit the same as the previous year’s feast, and a little bit different! This year, in addition to the standard summer sausage and crackers, cheeses, buffalo Chex mix, and sausage squares, we also had Greek spirals from Trader Joe’s, meatballs, Rotel dip and jalapeño popper dip (both served with festive red and green tortilla chips), deviled eggs, pizza rolls, mozzarella sticks, Ranch dip with assorted veggies, and Dino Nuggets. As always, there was way too much food, which is how we like it, because we can enjoy the leftovers for several days!

As it turned out, we were fortunate that Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday, because if it hadn’t, we wouldn’t have been able to attend our regular church at all. Even though it was still technically Advent, I wore my new Pinup Girl Clothing ornament print skirt:

The children’s blue Christmas outfits fit right in with Advent 4 (and the snow falling outside!), though, and I was able to get our annual pictures at our church…including one where Bunny insisted on giving her youngest sister bunny ears!

After lunch and a little downtime at home, it was time to drive into St. Louis so Ryan and the four oldest children could sing in their respective choirs. I wore my standard Christmas Eve dress, but I added some Splendette bangles to give a more retro look:

Of course I had to get another picture of the Fab Five:

Bunny sang the first verse of “Once in Royal David’s City” solo, and she did an amazing job!

I always love hearing the children sing Stille Nacht:

Back home for even more pictures:

And Jesus’ birthday cake:

And everyone opened their one Christmas Eve gift…new Christmas jammies!

After stuffing the stockings, Ryan and I played Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, as we always do…and I was once again a poor sport when I won, repeating last year’s victory lap around the kitchen table. For what it’s worth, I did apologize for my bad behavior.

A last look to make sure everything was ready before bed:

We were up extra early this morning, to make sure there was time to open the stockings before driving back into the city. For some reason, I rarely get pictures of the boys that early in the morning…it may have something to do with the fact that they’re always annoyed with me for waking them!

We also managed to find time for our traditional Christmas morning cherry coffee cake:

I had to wear my ornament print skirt again, because it’s so gorgeous, but at least I styled it a little bit differently this time!

I’m a sucker for pictures of the Fab Five!

Only the adult choir (of which Ryan, Turkey, and more recently, Bunny, are members) was scheduled to sing, but some of the children were also recruited to fill out the soprano section. “See in Yonder Manger Low” was my very favorite piece they sang!

After church, we even managed to find time to get a picture of the whole family!

After lunch, we opened presents. I am so thankful that everyone was thrilled with their gifts!

The aftermath was…something:

I spent what felt like an eternity in the kitchen preparing our very festive meal. The dinner table was a little low-key this year, but it still looked nice:

We had a very nice spread this year. The star of the meal was new for me…Beef Wellington. I think I did a pretty good job! We also had two kinds of potatoes (mashed and roast), two vegetables (carrots and Brussel sprouts), a shrimp ring, cherry Jell-O and dinner rolls…it was delicious!

And for dessert, an Oreo truffle Christmas tree!

This Christmas season has seemed especially hectic, and the last three days were no exception. But we had a lot of fun, and hopefully made some happy memories in the process, so all the work was worth it!

Chickadee Thursday

We stopped by church today, so the children could get a chance to help fold the bulletins. While we were there, Chickadee got to help Ladybug put the numbers on the hymn board for Sunday!

And a bonus picture from yesterday. Since Moose had a 1/2 day of school, we all went to visit IKEA in St. Louis. Chickadee and I had been there once in June, but the rest of the children were waiting to get their turn. So we made an afternoon of it, and walked around the whole store before having an early dinner of Swedish meatballs. Chickadee saw this picture of elephants while we were exploring, and made a beeline for it…after all this time, elephants are still her favorite animal, and she loved it!

Chickadee Thursday

It’s Vacation Bible School week at our church! Chickadee has been having a great time with her Sunday school friends…and with Hubert the Hound, who has been making appearances during the lessons. Today she got to paint a clay cross she made earlier in the week, which was a lot of fun…she’s been looking forward to getting into the paints ever since she found about them!

She also loves learning all the songs and the signs that go with them…she’s really good at remembering and doing the signs!

Kantorei Kamp 2017

For the third summer in a row, “The Bigs” attended Kantorei Kamp at Hope Lutheran Church in St. Louis. It is definitely the highlight of June!

The sang for three different services at three different locations for camp. On Thursday, they assisted with chapel at Concordia Seminary St. Louis, where they sang a verse of “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word,” in addition to other pieces:

On Friday, they assisted with chapel at the LC-MS International Center, where they sang some  of the pieces they had done at the Seminary, and some they hadn’t. My favorite of these was “Lord, Thee I Love With All My Heart.”

Another of their pieces, “For You, O Lord, Have Delivered My Soul From Death,” is based on Psalm 116.

They also sang Cantate Domino, which they have sung in the past:

They worked on a sung version of the Choristers’ Prayer at camp, although they didn’t sing it publicly. I got to hear it while I was waiting for them to finish up one day, though!

They sang all of the pieces they did for both chapel services for the Divine Service at Hope this morning, and they also sang a verse of Hope’s 100th anniversary hymn, “As Stone on Living Stone Is Set.”

And they even got to play “Lord of All Hopefulness” on handbells!

It was a fun week for everybody, even Chickadee, who got to spend a lot of time with just me this week. And she turned into something of the camp mascot…she even got her own T-shirt!

This is the last year all four of “The Bigs” will get to participate in Kantorei Kamp, because Turkey has aged (and voice-changed) out of it. The rest of the children are already looking forward to next year’s camp, though!

Three Churches

During the course of Holy Week, we had the opportunity to worships at three different LC-MS churches. Palm Sunday and Good Friday found us at our own church, Trinity, Millstadt, which is where we attend the Divine Service most of the time. On Holy Thursday, the children sang with their choir, as they do about once a month, at Hope, St. Louis. And we celebrated the Great Vigil of Easter on Holy Saturday at Bethany, Fairview Heights, a church we visit exactly once a year for that specific service.

I was struck by how different the three churches are architecturally. Built at different times and in different styles, there is no mistaking one for the other. Despite the differences in their appearance, however, I can count on each church to have a pastor(s) who faithfully preaches the Word and rightly administers the Sacraments. We are blessed indeed not only to have a home church that preaches Christ crucified and offers us the means of grace, but also churches that we visit regularly that do the same!

Blessed Easter!

Every Easter, I take pictures of the children by the baptismal font at our church…either they’re getting taller, or the font is shrinking! I can’t believe how different these pictures look from when I started taking them!

Easter 2017

Blessed Easter!

Our Easter observance really began last night. As we do every year, we made our family Paschal candle:

And took it with us to one of our sister congregations, where we lit it for the first time during the Great Vigil of Easter. This is my favorite service of the church year…I love how it begins with firelight outside at sunset, and ends with the full lights on inside the church as we celebrate the Resurrection!

We were at our church very early in the morning today, for the sunrise service. Bunny, Moose, and Ladybug participated in the outdoor reenactment prior to the service…the rain stayed away, and it was a beautiful morning!

After the first service, and a delicious breakfast of biscuits and gravy, we took pictures (much to my family’s chagrin), and attended the Easter Divine Service, which is probably my second favorite service of the church year. I love the abundance of Alleluias!

We’ve had a low-key afternoon at home since church, but the big Easter dinner feast is yet to come!

Confirmation Day!

Today was Moose’s Confirmation Day. He has worked so hard on memory work and sermon reports for the last two years, and has attended class faithfully every Thursday after school. We are so proud of him, and it was very exciting to see him confirm the faith that was given to him in his baptism, and receive the Sacrament of the Altar for the first time this morning!

In addition to being Confirmation Day, it was also World Autism Awareness Day. We made sure to have plenty of blue at our party, from the cake to the table runner, and even the plates and napkins. Many of our friends and family were able to join us, and it was a very fun time!

Moose was child number four to be confirmed…we’ll only celebrate this particular milestone one more time!

Chickadee Thursday

Another one of Chickadee’s favorite things about going to catechesis with Moose on Thursday afternoons is erasing the white board after class is over. She is very proud of herself for helping, even though she can barely reach the whole board, even with the help of a chair!

Over the weekend, we stopped at Target, and Chickadee had to take a picture with Lego Batman. She is a huge fan of Batman, and Lego, so this movie is tailor-made for her…she can’t wait to see it! In the meantime, she has an awful lot of “Batitude!”