Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The longest Christmas-time post ever.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Ok, so this will finally be the end of the end of the end of my Christmas posts. And I'm laughing as I just typed that sentence, because I keep thinking surely THIS will be the end, and then I don't come to the end of my pictures... But for real this time, it may be one hundred pages long, but I will finish Christmas. Gosh darn it!

I do love this time of year. I always feel like "the most wonderful time of the year" starts on my birthday at the end of September, and just continues all the way to the New Year. It's like three months of overeating, festive lights and singing, lots of annual traditions, indulgences, decorating, desserts, entertaining and spending time with family and friends, hugs and smiles and parties and gifts and days off of regular activities. I love it. And it is so good. 

This year we rocked the annual Christmas party with friends. Below is our beautiful hostess with the mostess. I must note that if ever there is some kind of fancy meal to be served at my house or a birthday party that I am hosting, I can be found minutes before people arrive, slapping on some make-up, and wondering if my Tshirt and jeans really look "that bad"... I am always so impressed with this gal's "put-together-ness".

She even cooked a turkey, which just seems so intimidating to me.
It was beautiful and delicious.

The kids had such a fun time doing Christmas crafts. They made a reindeer hat and two ornaments.

Double Trouble! 
(But so very, very cute.)

While the mamas worked on crafts with the kids, the guys... well, they sat around chatting.


The next day, we got to celebrate this sweet friends' 7th birthday at the park.

On this card was the first time that Lilly actually signed her name by herself, so of course, it had to be photographed. It helps that her name is just a bunch of straight lines.

That evening, Bryan's parents and sister and her baby came to watch The Sanford Christmas Parade with us. This year Bella was in the parade on a float with her dance studio, which was extra special.

It even "snowed" right where we were sitting.

There she is!
Yey, Bella!

This year the PACU girls from where I used to work had a little Christmas lunch at Crave in Orlando. They were so kind to invite me to come along, and I loved getting to see them again.

We celebrated Christmas with my side of the family early this year. My sister and her family were heading back to Denmark a few days before Christmas, and we weren't really sure that Grandpa would still be with us on Christmas day.

We have a family tradition of wearing ridiculous hats/headbands during the opening of presents. It's good fun.

The kids picked this Christmas card out themselves for Grandpa. It played the chicken dance when it was opened, and they were sure it would make him smile. I love Lilly and Grady's expressions. They are just waiting for it.

And there it is. Priceless.

Grandpa was able to make it out to the living room to join us for the opening of the gifts from him, and for one last family picture. I am SO very glad we could all be together for his last few days.

Grandpa gave Bibles to all of his great grandchildren. He chose "grown up" Bibles for my kiddos, complete with their names on them. They were so excited, and sat for quite awhile just looking through them.

I love this silly picture!

This is probably the last picture taken of this sweet man. 
Oh, how we loved him. How thankful we were for him.

We took a girls trip to see The Nutcracker at Bob Carr. Bella and Lilly had never been to a ballet, and were so excited to get all dressed up and go to a show. Lilly was a little bored with it, but Bella enjoyed it so much.

After the show, Becky, Jens, Ines and Alba came home and stayed with us. We played and ate dinner outside, we roasted marshies over the fire, and the next morning we ate Jens' famous pancakes and went to Blue Springs Park to see the manatees.

Every year, a few days before Christmas, we make cookies at Bryan's parents house. After they are baked, we have a decorating contest, complete with judges.

This year, Bella insisted that the judges would be dressed up in a special costume. She got to wear a crown and lei and carry a wand. The boys had to wear Curious George monkey masks with dinosaur mouths...

After way too much sugar, jammied kids sat on Nana's lap for story time.

Another annual Christmas tradition is the gathering of two families for a celebration. It started in high school with four friends. Two dating couples, that one day married, had kids, and now have seven grandchildren between them. And every year we get together for a fun little party.

On Sunday, December 22nd, we all knew that Grandpa's time here on this earth was coming to an end. I was planning to leave that evening for Melbourne, just to be there with my parents and grandpa. My dad called around 3pm and said (after a day of almost no speaking) that Grandpa just said "Heaven is coming, happy, happy, happy". I threw a few things together, jumped in the car and left.

That evening my mama sat beside him reading the Bible, praying with him and encouraging him. I sat in the recliner next to him and sang. At 1:00am on December 23rd, he breathed his last. And then he smiled. And we stood beside him holding his hand.

There is nothing pretty about death. It's ugly. It looks so inhuman. It's so painful for those that stand watching and weeping, knowing that what is "best" has just happened, yet it feels so very wrong. And when death has come, it's obvious in mere seconds that this body of ours is but a shell that contains a soul. And when the soul is gone, only an empty shell remains. A shell that suddenly only slightly resembles the sweet, generous, loving man that it once held.

And so we wept. We cleaned him and dressed him, because it just seemed wrong to send his body out of the house in a way he wouldn't normally choose. We spent that day planning and arranging his Memorial service. We made phone calls and shared our sad news, and then I went home.


The next day was Christmas Eve, and though we mourned, we celebrated the birth of Jesus. Bryan's family came over for lunch and gift giving, and it was good to share in the joy of the season. It was sweet baby Elise's first Christmas, and we had so much fun watching the children open their presents.

We enjoyed a delicious ham meal (because I am afraid of cooking a turkey). 

When we were finished, Bailey got a Christmas present of his own. 
(No, we did not let him finish that whole thing!)

Since he had eaten all of that delicious ham, he had special dog super powers, like riding a bike. 
Goooo Bailey!!
(The above photograph may or may not have been slightly photoshopped.)

We spent some time playing outside and enjoyed a beautiful and cool Christmas Eve day.

Bella is a writer. She just enjoys writing everything that comes to mind, so she was super excited to receive her own journal. She also received a pair of binoculars which came in handy when the neighborhood eagle took his place in the tree.

That evening we went to church. We really enjoyed being together with our church family. There were carolers singing, and hot chocolate to drink, there was fun stuff for the kids, candlelight and Christmas songs, and a great message. 

(This is Ms. Winnie. We love her!)

This year, our Christmas day was spent in a way unlike any other we have ever had. We opened a few presents with the kids in the morning, and then prepared for our trip to Pennsylvania. In the past, I have always been eager to pack and plan for a trip. This time was different. It's not nearly as much fun when the plans include planning for and attending a Memorial service.

I didn't want to come home from our trip to a house needing to be cleaned, and a whole bunch of Christmas decorations waiting to be boxed up and sent back to the attic, on top of the normal laundry and unpacking we would have to do.
So on Christmas day, the tree was out on the curb before noon, the decorations were all returned from whence they came, every stitch of dirty laundry was laundered, the house was cleaned and our suitcases were packed. How's that for unusual?!

And now from our family to yours, a very late "Merry Christmas"!

1 comment:

  1. How sweet and precious - the Bibles from Grandpa for Christmas. What a special legacy he leaves for you and your children!