Looking Like Christmas

We tried to make the most of our Christmas but I would be lying to say there wasn’t a constant nagging that someone was missing.  There were lots of prayers throughout our festivities and we managed to have fun and make memories.  Thankfully, we had some dear friends who were in Y’s country and they arranged to have a gift mailed to our brave one while we wait.

DSC_4029 A fun time at the lights.IMG_20151225_062535582The kids finally realized that they could get up early this year and wake us up too.  And so they did.  When we get up, we read the Christmas story before heading downstairs to open gifts.DSC_4352 Already for Christmas!  This year was the first year since the kids were really little that we actually wrapped presents before Christmas Eve.  It was fun watching the kids try to figure out what they were getting.  Then again, Frodo the Cat ruined the surprises by opening up a couple of gifts.  DSC_4356 She knows where her gifts are!DSC_4357 Traditional picture in front of the tree.  Malachi has a matching shirt but it “was too big.”  We pick our battles around here.DSC_4367 Burying the Malachi in presents.DSC_4374 He broke free.DSC_4380 DSC_4386 DSC_4397 DSC_4401 A box.  Woo-hooDSC_4408 DSC_4411 DSC_4412 Fuzzy blanketsDSC_4414 DSC_4417 And something for Bitty Baby to ride in.
DSC_4433 DSC_4442 This wasn’t really a gift.  Our mixer that we have had since we were married started to go bad.  We had a friend who was able to fix it, but we started talking about the need for a larger mixer.  The holiday deals meant we could get a larger mixer for less than one like what we already had.  It’s proven to be a wise investment.
DSC_4448 Mark decided a few years ago that he wanted to get me something every year that we could add to.  He knows I love nativity/creche sets and so he researched.  After some time, he settled upon the Fonatanini sets.  I received Mary, Joseph and Jesus and then the wisemen (an inside joke on why they had to be second), he told me they needed some shelter.  I look forward to these each year.DSC_4459 After all the gifts and a yummy brunch, Mark needed a nap.DSC_4461

Even Frodo the Cat got a gift.


He also enjoyed the kids’ gift.

Christmas Visit

We love having birthdays and Christmas all rolled in to one month.  No, really, we do.  It means we get to visit more with family!

Papa and Grandmere came down before Christmas to celebrate Zoe and Liam’s birthdays.  They got the added bonus of participating in some of our Christmas traditions.DSC_4302 Dipping pretzels. And opening gifts.DSC_4318 DSC_4328 DSC_4330 DSC_4332


And goofing around with Papa.

To Granddaddy’s House We Go

Before Christmas, we were able to make a run to Ge and Granddaddy’s house that didn’t include a trip to appointments for Emmie!  Yay!  DSC_4197 We also celebrated our December birthdays with them and enjoyed cake.DSC_4200

This was a couple of days before we officially had a teenager in the house.

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DSC_4205 DSC_4221 Candid moments before the gift opening began.  Ge had a great idea this year that we would watch everyone open their gifts.  It was perfect because usually all any of us see is paper flying everywhere.DSC_4268 This time we were able to get pictures.DSC_4266 DSC_4264 Seriously, most appropriate shirt for our Liam!DSC_4257 DSC_4251 DSC_4243 DSC_4237

My boys are super happy about Lego!

The most anticipated reaction from all of us was when Emmie opened her gift from Ge and Granddaddy.  I have to say that she did not disappoint at all.

Emmie Meets Bitty Baby pt 1 from justabunchofcharacters on Vimeo.

VID_20151219_131528021 from justabunchofcharacters on Vimeo.

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We absolutely love spending time with our family!

The Perfect Tree

IMG_20151127_132358283_HDR We’re those crazy people you see with the tree on top of their 12 passenger van.  Oh yes.  We are those people.


We loved the tree farm we went to for a couple of years but when we saw a different tree farm advertised and the prices they were promoting.  Well, we had to go.  The selection was not wonderful but I almost convinced Mark to get a 12 foot tree for $30.  So, the price was just right.  The people that ran the farm were super nice too.

While we didn’t get a 12 foot tree, we got the next largest.


It was so big ya’ll!


We put the tree in our two story entryway so we have room.  Mark, however, had to do some trimming on the bottom and the big tree wound up being a good size but not too large.


It was full of holes.  Bare on the bottom.  Not perfect by any one’s eyes.  But when we put it up and threw our memories on it…well, it was just perfect for us.


Our decoration was slow.  I was lagging the whole season as the reality that Y was not going to be home by Christmas sunk in.  And then we were creeping closer and closer to Emmie’s appointment to discuss surgery.    But we had some really precious moments…


Emmie had to stare at the nativity (that my grandmother had painted a lot of years ago).  She loved pointing to Jesus and saying, “Baby.”  Those precious moments helped my sad heart to make it through the season.

New Year’s Day

As hard as this is, I still want to share our awesome experience with Y the Brave (more on why we call him that later).
New Year’s Day is a big deal where Y is from.  So, we celebrated with a gift for each child and then driving an hour to a lake house to spend time with our Bama friends.

 Soccer ball…what almost every 8 year old European boy loves to have.  Y was thrilled and any smidge on it was a cause for concern.  We also got a pump (which he wanted to use constantly) so we could deflate it for the trip home and he could inflate it there.
 I think Ace was more excited than Liam!
 Ace got a practical joke gift set-that explains the maniacal face he is making.

Apparently, 12 year olds do not want to have their picture taken when opening a gift.

 They don’t do Santa Clause as much as they do Father Frost…nonetheless, Y knew all about Santa and thought his Santa sack gift was perfect to go with his hat!

Merry Christmas!

I’m just a bit sick when I think about these next pictures.  We realized at the end of January that we have some how deleted a lot of pictures.  All of our Christmas day present opening chaos pictures are gone.  We had a tinsel fight after we decorated the tree.  Those pictures have disappeared.  And, even sadder, Liam’s birthday pictures are gone.  So from here on through almost the new year, most of these pictures are from our phones so please be patient.

 Zoe and I not only made pants for all the kids, Zoe wanted to make pants for her and Ceili Rain’s American Girl Dolls.   She did an amazing job!

 Christmas Day!  I was so excited I got to make some cute embroidered shirts for everyone too!

 We finally did it.  We got Mark a coffee maker!  And it’s a pretty red.  It has definitely been used quite a bit since then.
Christmas Breakfast and Y’s first time eating hot fruit compote and my homemade biscuits.  He approved.

 Meal time is always quite entertaining in our house.
 We got Y a rubber band bracelet hook and bands.  By the time he left he had over 15 bracelets made and they almost made it to his elbow.
 We found out pretty quickly that Y LOVES cycling!  He would have been riding every single day, no matter the weather.

Okay, we worked hard to make sure Y not only tried a lot of American food but that he had some that was rather familiar to him.  He did not like borscht even though his brief description said he did.  But cucumbers and radishes and any kind of meat…that was perfect for him.  A veteran hoster had mentioned a blog called Natasha’s Kitchen and testified that her recipes were pretty authentic for Eastern Europe.  Every time I made one of her recipes, Y was super excited and would quickly give me two thumbs up.  For Christmas supper, I made meat piroshki.  Oh my, we won’t even discuss how unhealthy these things are all fried up.  But the taste.  Ahhh, they were amazing!  This may be our new traditional Christmas supper.

Looking a Lot Like Christmas!

 Traditionally, we purchase our Christmas tree the week after Thanksgiving but since Y was coming, we wanted to let him in on the experience.   So, we waited.  It proved beneficial.  He really enjoyed seeing  the trees and  hiding from us and jumping out saying, “Boo!”

 Thankfully, Mark was able to explain what we were doing when the guy came to cut the tree down.  There were plenty of times that we forgot to explain what we were doing or going to do and he was so confused for a bit.

 Decorating ornaments for the tree.  I love how I caught Emmie cheesing for the camera.

 Our gingerbread train.

 I finally ran out of the fabric I had purchased for stockings some years ago.  Since I needed two new stockings, we decided to do new ones for everyone.  I absolutely love these and the pattern was so easy and beautiful.  They are fully lined and took less than 30 minutes to complete.  And, my combo machine meant I could embroider all of our names on them. I loved seeing all these stocking lining our fireplace, er, I mean, where our fireplace used to be.  Christmas season was the perfect time for us to start converting our “fake” fireplace in to an actual functional gas fireplace.

And the front yard decorations this year!