Christmas was wonderful. We were tight on our budget thanks to all the expenses of moving, but it felt like everyone got everything they wanted and more (when your family comes from two huge families - Jared and I each have 8 siblings- there are always quite a lot of presents even if you buy almost nothing for your kids...). Plus really, the best parts of Christmas don't have to do with presents - they have to do with treats. Just kidding (sort of). The best parts have to do with being together with the people you love and enjoying good times with them while you count your blessings.
Over the past week or so, we've played tons of games, opened a plethora of presents, attended a couple nice Christmas events, had great times with lots of relatives on both sides of the family, played in the snow, fed cows, participated in a couple Nativity plays, enjoyed catching up with tons of loved ones via Christmas cards and emails, and generally had a wonderful time. Sure, there were late nights involved and sure there were a few tears (what's Christmas without someone crying?). But I think we all agreed that this was the best Christmas ever. It's been a hard, hard year in so many ways and the past couple months have been truly crazy. I guess the hard stuff makes the sweet stuff all the sweeter.
Here's the story of all our major Christmas activities in photos with a little explanation:
We kicked off the Christmas season by going to the wonderful new movie, Narnia with my parents and grandma (my dad read us all the Narnia books when we were kids so it's extra special to go with him). We all LOVED the movie. And we love that we're closer to Grandma Great now - we went to visit her in Logan a couple days after the movie and loved doing all the puzzles she made for her kids 60 years ago while talking about long-ago memories (she's lost her short-term memory but her long-term memory is great...).
Children for Children Evening
Our Children for Children evening turned out great. We had 3 families come to our house and enjoyed watching some videos about orphans in Bulgaria and in Ghana (one of the families is adopting 2 little girls from Ghana), enjoyed some great treats and all the kids pitched in money they'd earned from doing jobs around the house or selling stuff they don't use (One family had the great idea of taking extra stuff to Kid to Kid and giving the proceeds to the orphans). We raised about $100 - not a ton, but it'll go a long way in Bulgaria and help make the orphans more comfortable this winter. And it was great to see the looks of compassion on the kids' faces as they watched the videos and asked questions about these unfortunate kids. I'm so glad we made the effort to at least do something little this year and spend an evening really focusing on those who are less fortunate.
The kids got their new Christmas Sunday clothes the Sunday before Christmas.
My parents treated Liza and I to the Nutcracker at the beautiful Capitol Theater in SLC. Isaac got to tag along since we ended up with an extra ticket and since Ashton's got fun birthday stuff coming up and Isaac needed a little something extra. We went out for a wonderful dinner and then, as we walked into the theater, a group of high school kids were singing and it totally took me back to the many Christmases when I was part of various singing groups and participated in those pre-ballet lobby shows. Everything about the theater and the ballet itself was pretty much exactly the way it was when I went to see the Nutcracker as a kid. I love those moments of deja vu and it was so fun to share it all with my kids. Unfortunately Isaac got hit with aches and pains and a fever and horrible headache half way through the ballet - the flu. But at least he enjoyed dinner and the first 1/2 of the ballet! And luckily this nasty case of the flu proved to be just the 24 hour version.
Gingerbread houses - the easy way
We did our gingerbread houses. This is not my favorite tradition but the kids just can't bear to leave it undone. This year we tried making it simple by just using graham crackers and letting everyone make their own so there wouldn't be squabbles over design. But you know what? Gluing crumbly graham crackers together isn't that easy - especially when it comes to trying to get a candy-laden roof to not crash down the walls. But the kids were thrilled with the objectively none-too-artistic but very tasty results.
Temple Square Lights
We headed down to SLC to enjoy the beautiful lights at Temple Square with two of Jared's brothers and their families - we lost a kid or two plus a glove or two in the throngs (found the kids, not the gloves, oh well). So fun to be with family (although the star of the evening was definitely Connie and Bruce and Rachel's new chihuahua who was nestled under Connie's coat - the twins were SO excited about her). I was glad to see that the kids remembered going on a tour there a few months ago and it was great to hear Oliver and Silas beg to "go see the big Jesus who wants to hug us" (the big Christus statue in the visitors' center).
We had a great party with my dad's mom and sibling and all their kids and grandkids at the old favorite, Maddox in Brigham City. Lots of memories of events there as well. Such great people. Forgot to take photos. Oh well.
Then my parents came home to Ogden with us and we did our Nativity Scene - always one of my very favorite parts of Christmas. There's nothing like the loving faces of my sweet children in the light of the Christmas tree as they pass around the Baby Jesus and as we all sing our favorite Christmas carols with love and reverence.
Christmas Morning #1
The next morning, we did all the fun traditions I grew up with on Christmas Eve with my parents - the kids sang on the stairs to wake us up (Ashton added the nice touch of recorded accompaniment from the electric piano - they sounded pretty amazing!), we opened the fun presents from Grammie and Grandfather and the kids happily played with their presents while my mom and I made the traditional eggs benedict, and we had each child give their carefully selected gifts to each other (always a favorite part of Christmas for me to see kids delight in giving the things they've saved up for, picked out and wrapped on their own to each other).
Singing on the stairs:
All ready to open up their gifts!
The twins were SO excited about a set of 1700 legos! I remember my mom saying one time, after stepping on a left-out lego for the 1000th time (those legos are SHARP under bare feet) that legos were no longer allowed in our house. And here she is giving them to my boys. Not sure how much I'm going to love those 1700 small pieces all over the house but these boys love building so much it's worth it.
A magic set for Ashton - he's put on about 10 pretty impressive magic shows for us so far.
Tech decks for Isaac (who wanted a skateboard or rip stick from Santa and is so into this sort of thing). He played with it for like 3 hours straight and found that the ramps work great for launching monster trucks and Hotwheels cars as well.
A fabulous magnetic paper doll set for Eliza.
The kids worked for like 2 whole days on this special book they made for Grammie and Grandfather. They each wrote about some of the special activities my parents do with them, drew illustrations and then we got some photos to go with each section to further illustrate the fun and wonderful things my parents are always doing with them. They were SO excited to give this gift to Grammie and Grandfather. And Grammie and Grandfather were thrilled and had each kid read their parts to them.
Mom and I made the Eggs Benedict - or cholesterol extravaganza as my mom likes to call it. Worth those calories though - yum, yum, yum. Made me appreciate my old large kitchen but we made it all work in this lovely little new kitchen.
The kids so carefully picked out thoughtful gifts for each other with their hard-earned money at the dollar store.
The heart-felt "thank you's" and hugs are so beautiful.
Liza used all the points she earned for doing well on stuff at school to "buy" this special book for Oliver called "Ollie's New Tricks" - she was SO excited that it said his name on the cover and that it was an easy reader so he could read it himself. She just couldn't hold back from helping him open it.
My parents gave us the very exciting gift of a Kindle! I'm excited to be able to indulge in one of my favorite activities a lot more without having to find the time to get to the bookstore or library to get books.
After opening most of our presents, we packed up quickly and headed up to Ashton, Idaho to be with Jared's family for a lovely Christmas Eve dinner, another fun Nativity scene with cousins, and all the fun of Santa presents and stockings the next morning in the beautiful winter wonderland of Ashton (after all the blizzards when we first moved in in Odgen, there wasn't a bit of snow for Christmas so we were glad to get up here and have the white Christmas we'd been hoping for). The kids were delighted with their presents from Santa. Sadly, one of Silas's presents from Santa fell off the sleigh on the trip and it'll hopefully be waiting for him when we get back to Odgen. There were a few tears shed before we successfully redirected Silas to the exciting train set he and Oliver requested from Santa. I guess with all those presents Santa has to transport, there's bound to be a few casualties. Silas was really pretty understanding about the whole thing.
A fun Nativity play with cousins in Ashton. So great to do it all again with new people.
Christmas Morning #2
Ready to head up and see what Santa brought!
Ashton got a "totally totally awesome dune buggy that can go 0-60 in just a few seconds."
"Best stocking stuff ever"
Oliver got his own pet pug that never has to be fed or taken on walks. He promptly named him "Puggy Huggy" and kindly shared him with Silas who only cried for a few minutes when he saw Santa's note explaining that the stuffed chihuahua that was meant for him had fallen off Santa's sleigh and would have to be delivered to Odgen in a couple days.
Since Silas's own chihuahua didn't show up, the twins were extra glad to have Lilly to play with - that sweet little dog was so patient with them!
Santa brought Isaac the rip stick he'd been dreaming of - and he's already almost mastered that tricky thing - even though he could only practice in Grandma's kitchen thanks to all the snow.
Eliza got the very Madame Alexander doll she's been admiring and named her Susan. She hasn't left her side since Christmas morning. I love that I have a sweet little girl who enjoys dolls just like I did when I was little.
The twins got the train set they've been talking about for months and all the little boys played with it practically non-stop for days.
Lots of fun with cousin Logan's new DS:
The girls heading out to see the movie Tangled with Aunt Michelle (and others who wouldn't get in the picture!):
The kids did lots of snowmobile riding and playing in the snow. We were so glad to get ourselves a white Christmas! Crazy that after being dumped on like crazy when we first moved to Ogden, there was hardly any snow to be seen on Christmas Eve there.
Along with the Santa gifts, the kids got to open their presents from Grandma and from the cousins who were here with them. They got some really great stuff and all the cousins had so much fun playing all day with all their new things. We ate tons, played games, I downloaded lots of exciting samples on our new Kindle and had a great time helping the twins put together cool stuff with the new building toys they got. I love just playing, playing, playing and being right down on the floor with my kids.
A big highlight was heading out to feed all the cows. It's a Loosli family tradition to take care of all the feeding of the cows during the holidays so that the farm hands can have a break. We sit on top of huge hay bales on a trailer pulled by a tractor and toss out chunks of hay to all the eagerly following cows. Wow, it's beautiful riding out over those fields. And the deep red of the cattle with their nice furry winter coats is so pretty against the snow. Yeah, we all get covered in hay dust which isn't totally pleasant, but it's all good.I'm so very glad we've got this farm to come to!
Here in Ashton, we've eaten tons of good food and played lots of great games. Everyone played "Minute to Win It" together until late last night and we had some great laughs watching people try to do everything from stack cups to get a bunch of jingle bells out of a tissue box strapped to their rear end by dancing around like crazy. The Loosli family sure knows how to have a good time.
Here are Michael, Liza and Bruce trying to move a cookie from their foreheads into their mouths using only their facial muscles - good stuff.
Winter is beautiful. White Christmases with loved ones all around are beautiful. Life is good.