This was the first Christmas in four years that we did not spend almost two weeks in Iowa, and probably the first Christmas season since we were married that we were not with family. Since we knew we would not be travelling this year, we decided to put up a real tree again. Funny, Seth didn't remember even having a Christmas tree. He was just turning four when we moved to Michigan. Because of that, it was a lot of fun to watch his excitement. Caleb did most of the decorating which was totally fine with me. (What will I do without him next year??) We did not have a fireplace mantel for the stockings this year, but we found the kitchen wall to work fairly well.
The first Christmas activity was the church Christmas program on the evening of Dec 14. Russ continued his "Advent from Genesis" series preaching from Genesis 22. The words of the children's songs matched his sermon perfectly and it was an incredibly rich service.
The following Tuesday the women's Bible study had their annual Christmas Tea. Since Anna and Lydia babysit on Tuesday mornings so women with young children can attend, they were also invited. We all chose a hat as we came in and just enjoyed a time of fellowship and good food. We had a wonderful blueberry fruit dish followed by scones, tea sandwiches, and other goodies. All the youngish ladies brought food so the hostess wouldn't be overwhelmed. After stewing for days, I managed to finally combine a few recipes and make little tomato/dill sandwiches on bread with herbed cream cheese.
|The kids were so impressed with the tomato rose I made. No need--it was super easy.|
|The little gift the girls and I won for doing well on a game.|
The older boys finished up their last finals on Friday the 23rd. Both were fairly sick with bad colds and coughs. They were happy to put their school books on the shelf for awhile and enjoy quality game time with their siblings and also to read books for pleasure! It was good to see Nicolas back in a chair or corner of the couch with a book and some type of hot/cold drink concoction.
On the Saturday before Christmas we arranged to play Christmas songs at a local nursing home where a couple from out church lives. We played in the early evening (before Lawrence Welk at 7:00!!); the boys played cello/violin duets and the girls each played a few Christmas pieces. Seth feels a little left out, but hopes he can join us soon. The old ladies always fawn all over him, so he isn't completely neglected.
|Gifts for the music teachers. Thanks for the toggle buttons, Mom!|
On Christmas Eve Russ finished up his "Advent in Genesis" series by preaching on Genesis 50 and Luke 1: "God Visits." We also enjoyed beautiful music from the church choir and from some handsome brothers who accompanied on the cello and violin. Those same brothers also provided the music for the prelude and offertory. It did require several hours of extra practice with the pianist and the choir, but they had the time once school was out. The kids loved that it started to snow while we were in church and ended up snowing a little over an inch. This made it official--we would have a white Christmas!
|View from my bedroom window on Christmas morning|
After spending a relaxing Christmas morning at home we went to Dan and Kim Van Grouw's for a Christmas ham dinner. I brought a fruit salad, rolls, and dessert. We didn't stay too long since Kim's parents flew in from California around 5:00 and they needed to get to the airport pick them up.
The Tuesday after Christmas the girls were invited to an American Girl Mystery party. They had to dress patriotically, (or in a Halloween costume), so I think it was a Molly mystery. Anyway, I stayed and visited with the other moms that had brought their girls. It was good for the girls to have a little social time and get away from their little brother for awhile!
That evening we were invited to the Ribben's home for paella and games. Paella is a Spanish/Basque dish. Some was made with chicken and some with shrimp; the shrimp was awesome! (The chicken was great too, but I found I really do enjoy shrimp). The kids played a few games on their own, but then we all got together and played Cranium. That game is always good for a bunch of laughs!
|Chocolate fruit fountain for dessert. Katie did a great job setting this up for us!|
On New Years Day an elderly lady from the church invited us to her daughter's home for a meal. She is pretty much wheelchair bound and lives with her daughter. Her daughter and husband bring her to church, but they are actually members of another church. We had great time meeting three of their eight grown children. They were fun to talk to and the kids loved their sense of humor and story telling. Besides the great company we appreciated a wonderful prime rib dinner. When we arrived back home we Skyped my family as they were celebrating their Christmas. We were able to participate in the mystery gift opening, watch the cousins open their books, and Dad and Mom open their gifts. Best of all...we were able to see the faces and hear the voices of those that we love so much.
Friday, according to Russ, was another national holiday--his birthday. This year he asked if he could celebrate with a game night at the church with the church family. He sent out an email earlier in the week and we had an awesome turnout. I made a chocolate cake and two of Russ' favorite strawberry cakes. We added lots of other food--veggies, fruit, chips/dips, bacon wrapped wienies, etc. I think everyone had a great time and Russ just might make it an annual tradition!
I think that pretty much sums up most of our Christmas break. We seemed to keep busy on the other days too. Russ and the boys went to the Hobbit movie one afternoon, and he and I went on a date to see Unbroken another afternoon. I met Julie and Marilynn Ribbens for lunch one afternoon and tried sushi for the first time. (It was shrimp and tasted great:)! CJ had several violin rehearsals to prepare for scholarship auditions, but took time to paint the downstairs bathroom and reorganize the Christmas decorations. We also took time out to clean a few closets (things were just thrown in when we moved and needed to be sorted out), and rearrange the homeschool room upstairs. Nicolas spent a day shadowing a small animal veterinarian and also had a few outings with school friends.
|Seth collects nutcrackers so we try to get him one each year. This year we bought him a kit to paint and decorate his own. I think he did a great job with the help of his brother Nicolas. I guess he still needs his beard or something, but I wanted to post what we had thus far.|
|Lydia crochets, Anna plays solitaire, and now Seth has something of his own to do during read-alouds. Loves his latch hook!|
Did we miss family over Christmas? Absolutely. Did God fill our days with productivity and fun
and allow us to enjoy the love and warmth of our new church family? He did. We feel truly blessed.
|One of my favorite quotes of the holiday season. Caleb: "I love all this food on the counter. It looks just like Grandma's house!" The church family blessed us with many goodies!|