Rae is gone with Ava & G today, Ruby and Rosie just went down for their naps, and JP is working in his shop. I think this is finally the moment I'll have time to tackle the monster Christmas blog!
I hope and pray your holidays were blessed, relaxing, and healthy. Ours was blessed indeed, relatively restful, but not healthy. Still, we thank God for sparing us from the dreaded flu bug that has been making its way around social circles, as well as RSV.
Our Christmas celebrations began the weekend before Christmas as usual. Each year we spend that weekend with JP's dad & step-mom (Grampies & Gammy) so that the actual holiday is not quite so hectic. It's a trade-off to be sure, since we haven't seen them on Christmas Eve or Day in years, but the return is more time spent together. That's why we consider it a good trade.
Gammy had so many activities planned that we didn't even get to fit them all in. We started out with baking brownie cupcakes for Jesus' birthday party. Ruby was cracking me up, as usual. Check out her pan:
Later that evening, the kids all participated in a scavenger hunt. Seven little presents, numbered one through seven, were hidden around the house. Each child searched until they found a gift, but weren't allowed to open it yet. After all the gifts had been located, Grampies began to read the Christmas story. When he called out their number, they got to open their present and place the little figurines inside on a nativity set. Ruby was excited that she found the baby Jesus.
Grampies reading the story
The last box contained something special -- it was said to hold what Jesus wanted for Christmas. The kids could hardly wait to find out what was inside. When Grampies opened the box, they discovered a mirror. What Jesus wanted for Christmas...was them! It was a sweet way to make the Christmas story come alive and remind the children just why Jesus came to earth.
Other activities included a Bible trivia game in which a correct answer earned each child a shot at "fishing" behind the counter (with a string on a stick) for a present, decorating personalized "coffee" mugs, and making Christmas cookies. Rosie especially liked the sprinkles.
Another special part of the weekend was spending so much time with Nana, JP's grandmother. This was the first Christmas since Papa passed away last January, so it was bittersweet for all of us.
On Christmas Eve, we drove down to JP's mom & step-dad's home (G & Bompa) for our annual Christmas Eve brunch with them and JP's sister's family. G & Bompa always put together the most delicious brunch you've ever tasted, and I always end up eating until I can't possibly eat another bite.
Rosie is fully concentrated on her gift!
G & Bompa had a very, very big surprise for us this year. In addition to loading us up with good food, countless toys, overwhelming gifts and their precious tradition of personalized Christmas tree ornaments, they knocked our socks off with another amazing gift. Need a hint?
Those Disney princess ornaments are symbolic. The real gift was an all expense paid trip to DISNEY WORLD this spring! I guess Jiminy Cricket was right -- dreams really do come true!
Most of you know that G's mom, Grandma Dellas, passed away this summer as well. G told me that one of Gram's only regrets in life was that she didn't travel more; take her family to see the world, and make memories along the way. With the years passing as quickly as they are and the children growing so rapidly, they decided there's no time to waste -- we need to make memories now, while we can. This trip will certainly be a family memory we won't ever forget.
The Bottolene Family with the Disney Poster G made for the kids to remind them of the trip.
The celebration was meant to continue the next day at JP's uncle's house, but two of our children woke up sick on Christmas Day, and despite our efforts to pull things together, we failed to make it there. We're thankful for the beautiful time we had together on Christmas Eve, though, and for G & Bompa's memory-filled day.
G & Bompa with all six grandkids
One of Bompa's gifts was to finally have a photo with his grandbabies, and it turned out so cute!
On Christmas Eve night, we decided to stay home and do a small gift exchange with the kids, which is something we've never done before. We knew they would be receiving plenty of amazing gifts, but we had a couple small, special things we wanted to surprise them with. First up: something they had been requesting for months since they first saw the TV infomercial. Gyro Bowls!
According to the infomercial, the gyro bowl is supposed to prevent spills by remaining upright no matter which way you tip it. I did my research, and every single review I read said these things were pieces of junk and didn't work for squat. I knew the looks on their faces would be well worth whatever money we spent on them, and I was right. The girls thought it was the most amazing gift ever.
Almost immediately, Rae jumped to her feet and started giving us the whole pitch. "Dad! Do you know what the best part is? It's DISHWASHER SAFE for Mom! And look! It has a stay-fresh lid! And if you have nuts and bolts and stuff in your workshop you need to organize, you can use this! And Mom can take it into the office and use it to hold push pins and paper clips and stuff. You can take it wherever you go, however you get there!" Hilarious. She was only slightly dismayed when she tried dropping the bowl on the ground (like in the commercial) and her cheerios spilled everywhere.
JP and I weren't supposed to get each other gifts, but I couldn't resist when I found this sign for him at Cabela's a few months back. He hung it out on his workshop that same night.
Like I said before, Christmas Day started rough. Both Rosie and Ruby woke up sick, and Ruby was especially whiney. Still determined to go to our next celebration, I bathed the kids, got them dressed, did their hair, and cooked a potluck dish. Things kept getting worse and JP and I started getting really frustrated at each other and at the kids. The tension was high and Ruby was begging to take a nap, so we decided to let her rest and just arrive late. By the time she woke up, it would have been a two hour drive for an hour or less at the celebration, so we ended up staying home.
My side of the family celebrated the day after Christmas this year because my sister and her family were in Wisconsin for Christmas Day. My Dad's birthday also happens to be the day after Christmas, so we had reason to continue to celebrate anyhow! Mom prepared traditional Swedish potato sausage (one of my FAVORITE Christmas traditions) along with a huge and amazing spread for brunch. When my whole family is together, there are 12 adults and 11 kids under the age of six. All participants must be able to deal with high levels of noise, distinguish which diapers various smells are coming from, and carry on a conversation with someone across the room amid numerous distractions. If you can do all of those things, you'll have more fun than you ever thought possible. If you can't, you'll need to keep the aspirin handy! :)
I kid, but truly, it was a wonderful time. My brother Micah and his family were in town from their new home in Kentucky. Little Jeremiah had grown so much since I last saw him that I started crying when I saw him for the first time. It was a bittersweet reminder of how quickly they grow and how much we miss being so far away.
The kids all had so much fun playing together (with the exception of Ruby, who was still so miserable). At one point most of us went for a walk down by the creek. The kids threw sticks over the bridge, and Micah...well, he threw a Special Forces sized stick.
Nate and his girlfriend, Jenny.
While the kids were napping, the adults played the dice game. Rolling doubles means you get to pick a mystery gift out of the center of the circle. Once they are opened you play a second round, except this time doubles means you get to steal someone else's gift. It's funny...nobody seemed to want to steal Joe's winnings, but Nate was willing to model it for us. ;)
That was pretty...umm..."special," but perhaps the most special moment was when Mom sat us all down to read the Christmas story. She bought a beautiful book that was voice recordable and had Mee-Maw record her voice reading the book when she was last in Memphis. It certainly brought tears to all of our eyes and warmed our hearts.
Christmas is always a special time of year, but every year I'm reminded more and more of how blessed we are to have a Savior who made himself like us and suffered through this world along side of us, then defeated death so we can be with Him forever. No other false god has ever done that, or ever could. These song lyrics sum it all up:
How many kings step down from their thrones? How many lords have abandoned their homes? How many greats have become the least for me? And how many gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that is torn all apart? How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only One did that for me.
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