Monday, February 6, 2012

Home for the Holidays, Part III--Christmas

I never really imagined, several months ago when I first threw it out there, that my family would actually consider traveling from all over the country to our little house in Colorado for Christmas.  But I prayed for a Christmas miracle, and a miracle is what we got!  Apart from my two oldest sisters, everyone came here for Christmas!!!!!  And our dear friends who live just up the street from us let us use their house for lodging--what would we have done without that extra space?!?! Thank you!!! 

Not having to squeeze all our holiday events into the first half of December, pack all of our belongings in our van, worry about travel conditions, and deal with kids off their schedules was only the beginning of the awesomeness that was this Christmas.

On Wednesday morning, the 21st, the first of the crew arrived.  My dad, Julia and Nathan all flew in (from the Provo airport, how cool is that?!). It was a warm morning, with no snow on the ground. But magic was in the air.

School was out, family was starting to arrive, and a big snow storm was coming in the perfect window of time between arrivals.  The girls still needed to have a chat with Mr. Claus, after which we could all go ice skating. It was a perfect plan, accompanied by the perfect snow storm.  We headed to the outdoor shops not far from our house and found ourselves walking in a Courier and Ives painting. Dicken's carolers, ice skaters, an outdoor fireplace, the nicest, most genuine Santa Claus you've ever seen, huge snowflakes falling slowly enough that even my 3 year old could catch them on her tongue--it was truly a magical evening.

See how my girls' eyes were all lit up?  Or is that just the creepy "white-eye" that phone cameras give?
Unbundling and prepping to talk to Santa

Grace having second thoughts
Do you see the magical gleam in Santa's eyes?  the rosy in his cheek?  he was so great!!

Look at the lights, the snow, the skaters that aren't quite in this picture--love it!

Santa was so kind. As was his wife.  It was the sweetest Santa moment we've ever had with our kids.  Grace asked Santa for a "real camera and a sleigh bell from your sleigh" and Abby asked Santa for a "kids' guitar."  After both requests he said "that's a wonderful idea, I'll be sure to bring that for you."  Eliza asked for the one thing she loves more than anything else in the world--chapstick.  Not only did Santa have a hard time understanding what she was saying (she struggles with the "ch" and the "s" so you can imagine how it sounded) but when I finally repeated what it was she had said, he was so surprised and confused and shocked he didn't know what to say.  He looked to Mrs. Claus, who gave him an encouraging smile, and then muttered something like "okay, well then, ummmm, I'll be sure to bring that. And maybe something else, too, if you're a good girl."  It was quite hilarious.

When we got home that evening, Reid built me my second fire in our fireplace, completing my one Christmas wish (thanks again, babe!) We sipped hot cocoa, and watched the snowflakes fall while listening to the crackle of the firewood. And in the morning we woke up to 8 inches of Christmas snow!
My dad and Julia went for a walk in the freshly fallen whiteness
 while the rest of us stayed in our jammies all day.
 We made toffee, cheeseball, salami, and microwave peanut brittle--all of which are family traditions that my mom taught us (minus the microwave part, but we had to make do w/o a candy thermometer!).  Making toffee will always remind me of my mom, which will always be bitter-sweet. But I must say that this year felt much more sweet than last.  The bitter truly does get better with time.

We also went sledding in our neighbor's backyard, vegged and watched movies, played with sweet baby James, and made stained-glass ornaments.

I grew up with these exact ornaments on our tree.  But, being in the younger half of the family, I  wasn't a part  of making the ornaments.  So when I found this kit at a consignment shop I snatched it up!
Abby, Grace, Julia and I each made one.  Abby was mostly frustrated by it, Grace absolutely loved it.  Of course, I don't have any after photos.
The next evening, Jared, Kristie and baby Alia arrived.  Grace and Abby spent the remaining 10 days playing make-believe, with James and Alia as their baby dolls.  Very cute.
The two babies were pretty much disinterested in each other, but the rest of us were extremely interested in them!
Don't you think they look alike?
Julia, James, Alia and Jared

Kristie, Alia, Jared and James.  We didn't even plan the matchy-matchy action in this picture

On Christmas Eve we delivered gifts to a young family we all "adopted" through a local Adventist's program.  It was a highlight of the season.  This sweet family has been out of work for months.  It was so nice being able to fulfill their extremely modest wish-lists.  Because this was so last minute, most things we got for them were purchased from a store (I know, how conventional of me) but we did find someone to donate a bike for the 5-year old boy.  The girls worked for over 30 minutes on wiping it down and cleaning it up for the little boy.  I was really proud of them for sticking with it till it was done.  They did a great job!

It was so fun unloading the gifts from the van and watching their little boy's eyes light up.   It was also fun for all of us adults to brush up on our Spanish.  My dad, a retired Spanish professor, was either extremely proud to hear all of his kids using their best Spanish skills, or extremely embarrassed to hear all of his kids using their best Spanish skills.

Later that evening we had a nativity.  Grace missed out 'cause she was having a melt-down in her room.  I was too distracted to get out my camera and take any real photos, so I only have one not-so-great photo.  But i do want to remember how much I loved being Mary this year, and holding my own baby boy!!  I maybe even cried a little bit.

Kevin arrived late Christmas Eve--which meant that everyone was here!  We stayed up late playing games (everyone else) and sewing last minute gifts for the girls (me and Kristie).  By "late" I mean 2:30am. Needless to say, Sunday morning came bright and early.  

We had told the girls that they'd get to "open" their Santa gift before church (Santa doesn't actually wrap his gifts in our home, but just leaves them on the couch by their stocking), and do the rest afterwards.  They were, thankfully, totally okay with this.  

Abby is in love with her guitar

Grace was amazed by how legit her real camera was.  Santa loves craigslist!

Santa brought Grace a sleigh bell from his sleigh, and two more--for her sisters.  I told you he was kind!
And Eliza loved her chapsticks more than you can possibly imagine.  She honestly didn't really care about a single other thing that day.  The house smelled of raspberry creme all day :)

The rest of Christmas morning was filled with a wonderful meeting at Church with beautiful Christmas hymns,  yummy gifts imported from NC and CA's Trader Joe's, homemade creations, donations to Heifer Int'l, and me, saying over and over just how thankful I was to everyone for traveling from all over the country to come to our house!!  It was absolutely perfect!
James loved his little cars.  They're the only gift he got.  And I didn't even buy them.  My friend, Kayleen, gave them to him when he was born, and I wrapped them up and gave them to him for Christmas.  I should really be embarrassed by that, huh....
Okay, James actually got TWO gifts this year.  My friend  Laura got him this aodrable shirt.  You better believe I put it on him as often as it gets out of the dryer.  So cute!
Grandpa with his adorable grandkids

The next evening we had the truest Christmas miracle of all.  My dad read us some of his and my mom's old love letters--letters they wrote to each other when they were dating long-distance.  It was so sweet.  Hearing him read my mom's words truly made it feel like she was there.  And then, through skype, we had Cynthia and Melanie in the room listening to the letters, too.
 I'm pretty sure this is as close as it gets to having us all in the same room.
 It was, for me, the single greatest moment of the whole holiday.
My dad with all seven of his kids (two on skype)
Thank you all for making this the best Christmas ever!!!!!  

Friday, February 3, 2012

Winter Advisory

We interrupt our scheduled "Home for the Holidays" series for this important announcement.

If you sleep with your pajamas inside-out and put a spoon under your pillow,

 the next day school will indeed be cancelled due to a huge snowstorm!

 And since this boy isn't a huge fan of his insanely adorable red snowsuit....

he (and working-from-home-Reid) just stayed inside and played with his toys while the rest of us made snow angels, snow caves, snowballs, and chocolate snow ice cream