Christmas 2009 in Something Larger than a Nutshell

With all the craziness and turmoil of the past month, I never took the time to tell you about our Christmas! Despite some beyond-hard goodbyes, there was still much fun and joy to be found. Grandma would be happy to hear that, I think :-)

It all began with a hunt for the perfect tree. We were invited to a tree lot to choose a fresh tree and cut it down ourselves. It sounded like a fun adventure, so that's what we did on cold and blustery December Sunday afternoon.

Samantha thought it sounded like a fun adventure too, but she was concerned. I listened in on a sweet conversation she had with her Daddy that morning.

"We're going to the forest to choose a tree today, Sammy. Won't that be fun?!"

"A forest? But will there be animals in the forest? Will there be....LIONS in the forest?"

"No, sweetie. You don't have to worry about lions in the forest. There are just trees and maybe a squirrel or two."

"Well, okay. As long as there aren't any lions!"

We parked the car and ventured out to find our tree. There was much running around and debating the merits of each kids' favorite tree.

You will NEVER guess what we found in that little lot of was a real live LION. No kidding! All of Daddy's reassurances from that morning went right out the window when another family showed up to choose their tree, and on of their boys was dressed in little more than his favorite lion costume. I absolutely could not believe it! :-)

We finally settled on one of the most beautiful trees that I'd ever seen. It pained me to cut it down - I so wished we could have planted it in the yard instead!

Everyone had their chance to help cut it down. Clara's rear-end while she cuts:



We finally got the enormous tree strapped to the top of our car, and we were on our way! You should have seen the stares and points we got as we drove around like this:

Before we could say "Jingle Bells", it was time for the annual round of school holiday programs. I was so proud of my brave little Clara when she signed up to be a "toy" dancing around on stage for her program (in the karate uniform):

See the prettiest girl in the whole room? That's my girl...

Sammy also had a Christmas program. It took every single ounce of courage she could muster up to walk up on stage and chew her fingernails bloody. My poor little nervous girl...NO red reindeer nose for her...NO singing for her...NO hat for her...NO dancing for her. In fact, she locked eyes with me once with such horror in her eyes, I was certain that she was going to dash off the stage and into my arms. Instead, she took encouragement in my smiling "thumbs up". I sang with her and clapped like a doofus....and before I knew it, she was actually singing too!

Whew - school was finally out.

We had a mysterious invitation from my sister and her hubby. We were just supposed to be ready to go at a certain time, and they'd come and get us.

Come and get us, they did!

We got a call around the time we were expecting them, "walk out your front door right NOW", was all she said. We walked outside to find a 15 passenger van blaring Christmas music, decked out with lights INSIDE the van, and two giant thermoses of hot chocolate ready for us. It was quite the scene! First, we stopped at McD's for $1 cheeseburgers and fries, and then we were off to see all the best holiday lights in the Boise area.

These guys...there is no effort too great...if it's fun, they make it happen. I feel so blessed to live close to them :-)

After several days of lighting and decorating the tree and house, we were finally ready for Christmas. The gifts were tucked away in the closet, only needing some paper and bows, and the stockings were hung by the chimney with care (poor Thomas, making a matching stocking for him is definitely a priority for me this year):

And the tree was the most beautiful tree we'd ever had. It didn't hurt that it was about 15 feet tall!

I had fun one evening with long shutter speeds and our tree lights:

And then, Christmas 2009 was defined in a whole new and painful way. My wonderful Grandma. Gone. How is it possible?

We decided to circle the wagons, and headed to Wisconsin for Christmas. I wanted to be with my parents, I wanted to help, I wanted to be near my Mom who was suddenly without her own mom for the first time in her life. I wanted to show up with a car filled with joy and gifts and chaos and love...I wanted the joyful shouts of my children's voices to help fill the void for Mom and Dad. And, I was missing Grandma. I wanted my Mommy and Daddy :-)

Before we left, we wrapped up the "big" gifts from us, and gave them to the kids (couldn't spare the room to get them to WI along with the 10 full suitcases we already had - no joke!). It was nice to have a little bit of Christmas under our spectacular tree after all.

Ben got a motorized-marble-maze-contraption- thingy that took him (and his Daddy who has an engineering degree) roughly 8 hours to assemble. It was right up his alley :-)

Clara got her very own sewing machine, fabric, and sewing box filled with notions. She and I promptly made a pillow and blanket for her favorite stuffed animal (and last weekend we made a new stuffed animal that is so cute - I'll try to remember to show you soon):

And Sammy- our little performer - she got a kids' keyboard that has a little recording device and microphone attached. She can record what she plays, and then she runs around the house listening to her "iPod" for the rest of the day :-)

Where's my picture of Thomas' gift? Thomas got a train set that he we set up for him every single solitary day. All he has to do is point to the living room and say "whooo whooo", and we know what he's after :-)

We also got a gift for all the kids - a little air hockey table that sits right on the floor or the kitchen table. We had a great weekend of sewing and building and singing and playing!

And then, on Christmas Eve (I always SWORE I'd never be one of those people dashing around and traveling on Christmas Eve!!), we piled the kids, ourselves, and 10 giant suitcases onto an airplane and headed to the Chicago airport (I also SWORE to never fly United into Chicago again), then we rented a 12 passenger van and drove 3 hours to my folks' house.

It was, mercifully, a very nice and uneventful trip. Except for a bit of barfing on the plane. Really though - it was an easy trip. Well, except maybe for the little barfer :-)

And it was all SO worth it! There's just nothing like Christmas with Yaya and their cozy warm house...with their gorgeous tree...and the amazing cooking.

After a round of gift opening from Santa in the morning, my mom's side of the family came over for food and fun (and a few tears...missing Grandma). I love getting together with these folks. This is so...where I'm from.

Oh Grandma...

Then, after a power nap on the couch for me and....I have no idea what for everyone else because I was drooling on the couch...we headed to a party with my Dad's side of the family.

Oh boy. An entire day filled with beautiful, fun, and funny people. AND unbelievable food? That's my family. God was awfully sweet putting me where he put me in this big old world.

There were lots and lots of people there, but one in particular stole my heart.

Does anything say "Merry Christmas" like a sweet little chubby-cheeked munchkin in a pretty dress? I think not.

I don't know though. She's terribly unloved.

And neglected.

No one really likes her much at all.

I almost had to take her home with me to spare her a long life of abuse and suffering. Can't you see? She's miserable without me hugging and kissing her...

After the business of Christmas Day, we settled in to play with the Christmas goodies and enjoy our time with Yaya and Papa. A couple of days after Christmas, my other sister and her family flew out so they could be there for Grandma's funeral. We hadn't celebrated Christmas with them (officially) yet, so we piled more...and more...and MORE gifts under the tree for an evening of extravagant abundance also known as "celebrating Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa". They spoil us all rotten :-)

But then on the day when we were to do our gift opening, my little nephew wasn't feeling well. He had a pretty bad cold with sore throat, and all of a sudden...a very painfully stiff neck. Did I just hear a collective gasp of terror from fellow moms out there? Yeah, we were scared.

His mom and dad whisked him to the ER immediately. From there, the good doctor at the ER transferred little Trevor by ambulance to Milwaukee Children's Hospital. He stayed there for 3 or 4 days on IV antibiotics and fluids. Thank goodness, he didn't have meningitis. He had an infection at the back of his throat that was causing his throat to swell up. It was getting to the point of threatening his airway, so they acted swiftly to get the kiddo on some heavy duty drugs. We were all thankful that he didn't need surgery.

While he was at the hospital, we prayed.

And we did our best to wrangle our two year old AWAY from this marvelous scene:

When Thomas discovered that the tree had seemingly magically been re-stocked with another load of gifts, we heard the most impressed "OOOOoooooOOOOooooOOOOOooo" come out of his little mouth :-)

Somewhere in there, Thomas snuggled up next to me to "read" his book while I read mine:

Papa tried to sneak a picture, but he was spied.

Also, somewhere in there, we had one of my hardest days ever. We said goodbye to my sweet Grandma. It just doesn't seem like the world should keep turning, you know? Death is just so...wrong.

A couple of days before her funeral, someone asked me if I was interested in saying anything at the service. I didn't know. I hadn't really planned on anything. I went to bed that night and asked Luke to pray for me about it. I prayed about it. I asked for Him to make it clear to me if I should speak, and to give me the words. I woke the next morning and simply HAD to get on the computer to start writing. He gave me the words alright!

So I had the honor of speaking at my Grandma's funeral. It felt good to do something for her. It felt good to celebrate her. It felt good to share what I knew of Grandma's faith. It felt good to share Grandma's hope...her God, with the people she loved most.

And it was positively terrifying! I was honored to do it, and thankful that I had the opportunity. But man, it was so hard! It was certainly the Lord himself holding me up, filling my trembling lungs with air, and giving me the words.

I'm so thankful for HOPE. I'm so thankful that the God I know and love conquered death itself. I have such a tremendous day to look forward to...even in death. I can't wait to see Grandma again!


Finally, little Trevor was good as new. He came home and we got to open those marvelous packages!

So that's it. Our 2009 Christmas. After a New Year's Eve feast of melt-in-your-mouth steaks, homemade french fries, and the most gigantic lobster tails I've ever seen, we reluctantly piled ourselves back in the car for the long trip home. It was a mere 6 hours of travel, more oh-so-joyous experiences with missing the motion sickness bag on the airplane, and we were finally home again.

Does someone have a name for me? I want the name of the person who is responsible for the design of the airplane's motion sickness bags. Four square inches at the opening? Really? I might not know your name to write you a letter, but I know you're out there.

Dear Mr./Mrs. small bag designer: the water proof lining inside the bag was a good idea, but it does NO GOOD if the bag is so small that the 4 year old can't manage to actually aim the unpleasantness enough to actually get it IN the bag. Thank you. That's all I have to say about that.

PS. I hope that the stars align properly one day so that you are sitting next to one of my barfers on our next flight.

PPS. You owe my husband one pair of pants.

Fran Babij  – (1/20/2010 10:11:00 PM)  

So sorry for your loss over the holidays. I just recently discovered your blog and enjoy your writing as well as your photography. If you get a chance stop by my blog and say hello.

Hampers  – (1/21/2010 03:05:00 AM)  

Nice blog. Glad to see that you had a great time on Christmas. May the spirit of Christmas reside in our hearts and souls all year round.

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