Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Grateful Christmas

I heard the remark several times at church on Christmas Eve, "Christmas must be really exciting at your house!", and I wasn't exactly sure what the person meant.  Did they mean because we had "a lot" of little kids that would be up at the crack of dawn jumping up and down, begging to open piles of presents?  Well, that's not exactly how it happened.  We have lovely children who wait until a reasonable hour to rise and gave us until 8am until we meandered our way downstairs.  Sweet little darlings. I am sure it helped that they were up late the night before so they slept in. 

We had a nice hearty breakfast of chocolate eggnog, bacon, egg and cheese muffins and a big glass of carrot juice to wash all the grease down.
Maybe those people meant that mountains of wrapping paper and trash all over the floor was exciting.  I don't really think it is.  But I was grateful.  We had really planned a very simple Christmas with gifts I actually purchased at a rummage sale that I knew the kids would love but didn't cost much.  We were pretty strapped for money since we just had to put out a lot recently for Patrick's move so the simplicity was more out of necessity.  However 2 weeks ago we came home from church and were surprised to find a big pile of wrapped presents with all our children's names on them which, although they had no "from" label, we are positive came from our church.  Now we certainly didn't need them but it was such a blessing to feel so loved and thought of in that way since we had just been though a very difficult time.  Needless to say, the kids were very excited since we had prepped them that it would be a very simple Christmas.  We hadn't even planned on buying a tree, yet 3 weeks ago someone else gave us a gorgeous 8 foot tree that had been unneeded from a local business office.

So lots of fun presents were received with much thanksgiving.
Clothes that had to be put on right away.
 P.J.'s from grammy that are always just a "tad" too big.
A new little train set for Asher.
Even simple handmade gifts from the siblings to each other were much appreciated.
The most exciting gift this year was a large set of Playmobils from the grandparents.  The kids have loved playing with these toys with their favorite babysitters and were very excited to have some of their own.  I know they will get hours and hours of use.
To be honest, Christian and I had just as much fun putting them all together yesterday as well.  I love how these types of toys encourage the use of their imagination.

Thanks Grammy and Pop-Pop and Grammy and Granda.

So yes, I guess it was an exciting morning at our house!  We have much to be thankful for.  The least of which are the presents the most being our loving family, caring friends and church and the greatest gift of Immanuel, God with us.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Caroling

We got to do one of my favorite Christmas activities again this year.  It's been a few years since we were able to go since it really wasn't feasible given our situation the last number of Christmases. 
A sizable group from our church split up into two groups to visit local nursing homes and private dwellings in the neighborhood to bless them with song.  At least I hope we blessed them.  But judging from the smiles, tears and hugs I am pretty sure we did.
Our group did 3 nursing homes and 5-6 homes of older folks from the church who were living alone, those without family nearby or those who were shut-ins because of health issues. 
After walking the halls of 3 nursing homes our legs were sore but it was worth it.  This man told us how 80 years ago he used to do what we were doing and now he was the recipient of the caroling.  He said it was his best Christmas ever but I am not sure if he really meant that.  :)
Some of the folks were in bad shape and it was all I could do to hold back the tears and keep singing.  
It is sobering and really evokes a spirit of gratitude.
 We would always ask if they had any requests and they all said the same thing, "Oh anything, I love them all!".  The homes were very simple and simply decorated.  Not much to speak of for decoration except a simple nativity set and a "Jesus is Lord" sign over their door and a few pictures of family.   Kind of makes you think about all our accumulating of stuff, especially at this time of the year.  When we are at the end of our life what really matters?   We get so caught up in getting the latest thing but before we know it we will be 80+ and living alone or in a nursing home or near death and what will we want to be remembered for?  I loved hearing our fellow carolers saying about various people, "oh, we are going to Mrs. ____'s house?  I love her!  She helped me with my school paper or makes me feel so special or has been such a blessing to the church."
These experiences, while wonderful for the recipients are much more of a blessing for the givers.  I am so proud of my little carolers for going strong for 3 hours, singing, giving hugs and warming many hearts with their smiles.  I am also thankful for the opportunity we can give our children to give back to the older generations and be involved, even a little, in their lives.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Beautiful California

When we were originally planing our trip out to California Christian and I made big plans to visit all these national parks and do all this driving around but we figured, who's kidding who here?  We aren't going to be there that long and it might be better to stay closer to Patrick's new family so we could drop in more and in case there was a problem.  We are glad we did for many reasons and we found out that there was plenty to see just locally there in Orange County.  I think if we had known how beautiful it was out there we would have tried to get out there sooner.
I mean really.  All you have to do is drive up and down the Pacific Coast Highway.  It isn't exactly like driving on the turnpike around here.
Plus Christian got a killer deal when we got to the airport on upgrading the cheap economy car we had rented to a convertible.
Yeah, we are sooo So. Cali.
Except that everyone who really was from So. California would never drive around in 63 degree weather with the top down.  They all thought it was freezing cold and had their mittens and hats on.  No kidding.  :)
And of course we had to keep stopping to take pictures.  We wouldn't get very far before we just had to stop and get some shots.
And of course we had to stop at cute little diners overlooking the ocean in Laguna Beach to get the Laguna Omelet Special with avocado, bacon and cheese.  Yum!
We also had to take a million pictures of funky looking trees that we couldn't even identify because trees on the West Coast are totally different than the East Coast.
Of course we know what palm trees are though and there were plenty of those.
We drove around the rich neighborhoods oohing ahing over the amazing architecture.
I am thinking that door costs as much as our house.
 Is that one crazy roof or what??

We had fun exploring the tidal pools and looking for star fish, sea anemone and sea urchins.
And we watched the surfers.  There were lots of them.  I guess if you live in Southern Califonia you just have to do it.
Between the surfboard Hanukkah Candles, Santa in surf-shorts with a surfboard, and surfer statues I am thinking that it is a pretty big thing around there.
We also took lots and lots of pictures of wildlife and flowers.  The hummingbirds loved these aloe plant flowers and were covering them like bees. 
We had no idea what a lot of these plants were but they were so pretty and it was December and weren't used to seeing flowers this time of the year.
 Cosmos.
Water Lily
Bird of Paradise.
 
 Can you see the seals on the rock?  There were also a bunch of cormorants out there and pelicans flying by.  Really cool.

We visited San Capistrano to see the first Mission built in California in 1776.
We also took lots of pictures of each other.
I guess that is what happens when the kids aren't around. :)
And we thought.  Wow!  What must it be like to live here?!
 I don't know if I could take the threat of earthquakes though, especially with my house perched up there like that.
 It's still gorgeous though.  It's amazing how different the two coasts can be.
Can you tell that we got a new camera?  We were so glad to have it for the trip.  We took so many pictures and I really tried to pare it down for this post.
We also visited my cousin Heidi and her family in Escondido but for some reason I didn't take any pictures that night. We had a yummy dinner though of some special "California cut" steak and a great time visiting with them.  Thanks guys!
We had such a great time and we are trying to figure out how we can afford to take the rest of the kids back sometime for a longer trip.  They would love it.
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