Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Years with Family

We stayed home for most of the Holiday vacation and soaked in some down-time following Christmas. But we decided to finish off by throwing in a little road trip to Tacoma, WA to visit some of Bart's family and ring in the New Year with the Dickson gang.

Our first stop was to Bart's grandparents house. They were happy to see us and always welcome our brood. (The fact that they have a game room with ping-pong and pool in the basement helps to make it a successful visit with kids). Grandma suffers from Alzheimers, but we were happy she seemed to recognize us. We hope our boys get more chances to visit with Grandma while she is still happy and feeling good. But for now we got good quality time and photos with lots of smiles!
Bart with his grandparents - we can see clearly where Bart gets his bald head...errr...good looks!

One of the reasons we made the trip had to do with the coaxing Bart recieved from his cousins to come and help add depth to the Dickson flag football team in the Dickson vs Dyer (long-time family friends) first annual New Years Day bowl. So New Years day started with a frosty field and a football game...

The Dickson team started strong, but lost momentum and gave up the first year's win to the Dyers. I say it's because the Dyer team snagged my 10-yr old to play with them - he made ALL the difference! Like any friendly sports competition - everyone shook hands and even snuggled in for a group shot at the game's end. Considering no one got hurt and the new year was kicked off with a little excercise and a lot of fresh air - it was a WIN for everyone.
We are looking forward to a happy, health and robust New Year. Can't wait to see what adventures 2011 has in store.

All I want for Christmas is...

my boys - with smiles on their faces. I think I got my wish! We had a great Christmas morning - just us. The boys came creeping into our room right at 7am (as they were told no earlier than that) and the stocking-sifting and paper-shredding madness began. Grammy and Papa do their rounds to all the houses to see what happiness has been opened. This year Santa brought an Oregon Ducks hoodie for Cade, a Jaquiz Rogers (OSU) jersey for Ty, knights and a frisbee for Bo, knights for Cole (since he still says whatever his older brother does), and a ball for Luke (like we don't have enough of those!).
Mom and dad scored big smiles for getting the boys a Wii. They were not expecting it at all (since we swore we were going to be a no video-game house) I guess we got soft.

It earned us huge hugs too!
This one was still trying to wake up, but he's holding all he wanted.
This one was in knight heaven. His new love. Papo knight company was loving our house this year.

For a little boy, Christmas morning is simply magical. While we try to make sure our kids remember the real meaning of Christmas - I remind myself to just enjoy this morning and all of the surprise and elation.

We spend a lot of time making sure the Christmas season focused on Christ and giving. We have family nights reviewing the symbols of Christmas and their true meaning. We pick a family and do the 12-days of Christmas where we leave a surprise gift of the doorstep every night leading up to Christmas. We deliver lots of goody trays to friends and neighbors. We read scriptures and stories - I buy a new Christmas book each year. This year I found a favorite in "I Believe in Santa Claus" by Diane G Adamson - A childs Christmas story teaching of Santa and Christ.

We did a couple of new things this year that really added to our Christmas fun - We used the money from the advent calendar (quarters that Grammy puts in each drawer to go along with a candy for each day) and the boys picked out gifts for each other at the dollar store. (An idea I got from a friend's blog) It was a great outing to help fill one of their Holiday vacation afternoons. But it was also really fun to see how much thought and care they each took trying to find the perfect present for each other. They went up and down isles stewing and thinking - it was cute to see what they finally decided on - and cuter to see them try to keep their baskets secret from each other and hurry home to wrap each item themselves. Since it was so inexpensive, I was able to totally refrain from my controlling nature and let them do it. They made sure I knew that they want to do this every year. A lot was added to Christmas morning when each boy got to feel more personally the joy that comes from giving. I also borrowed a "tradition idea" a friend once shared with me - each boy got a box of their favorite breakfast cereal (the ones I will never buy during the year except for camping of Black Butte trips). They were so excited to eat breakfast, we had to remind them there were still presents to unwrap. It was just another simple way to make Christmas memorable.

We spent the rest of the morning skype-ing out-of-town family. Then we headed up for Grammy and Papa's for a huge brunch and huge round 2 of presents. The day was filled with cousins playing, parents visiting and napping. Then we finished off with eating all the yummy left-overs from Christmas Eve dinner. After we were stuffed full and tired, we traveled home happy and filled with the Spirit of Christmas. It truly is the best time of the year.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eves have settled in the nice same scene year after year for us. That is part of what makes Christmas so great - the Traditions - the same wonderful events, constant warmth, consistent love and enjoyment that never grows old. I am lucky to have all my siblings and their families close by - so on Christmas Eve afternoon, we all head up to Grammy and Papa's. You can feel and smell "Christmas" from the driveway. The kitchen is all a bustle as the women pull together the finishing touches for the feast. Kids run and play with utter excitement to all corners of the house. This one was caught LOTS of times, doing this...
We gather together and Papa, in his choked-up voice does the same welcome/gratitude speach we all love. Then we "try" to enjoy a beautiful, peaceful dinner. With so many little ones it's usually more like mahem - spilled drinks, laughter and usually some tears - but beauty and peace can come in lots of packages.

After dinner, the kids get costumed and perform the Nativity as Papa reads from the scriptures.
Each year there are new cast members to add to the performance. Cole-the shepard guards the manger until everyone is ready to roll.
Some of the new cast members aren't as eager to participate...
The older kids still love it as much as the little ones
By the end of the Nativity play, it usually looks like this...but it is a work in progress.
The kids all help carry up the presents from downstairs to arrange under the tree (or more like around the room) - Our grammy has perfected the art of gift-giving. Then everyone opens one gift, which is always Christmas pajamas. Even the parents and guests get a new set of pj's - but we don't make them pose for a picture.Then for the evening wind-down, someone plays the piano and we all sing our favorite Christmas Carols. As you can see, the winding-down part wasn't successful - it turned into more of a dog-pile/wrestling match. Poor Aunt Haley on the bottom.

Then the parents have the job of getting their kids home, to bed, and eventually asleep - So Santa can come!

Every year, as the kids get a little older, the feelings of Christmas seem to change. The traditions are the same, and the scene looks identicle. But there seems to be more excitement, more anticipation, more gratitude, more LOVE. I remember it being great when I was a kid. The best part is that is seems to keep getting better!