Look at all that chocolate! Must be from those chocolate Advent calendars...there's Kieran with the requisite bunny ears, which he makes for every damn photo nowadays...
Nutcracker-obsessed Kieran with a few of his nutcrackers and nutcracker artwork:
Christmas was weird this year...on Christmas Eve sunny-dispositioned Marie was fighting off the blues. Aunt and cousin in hospital and hospice, another aunt battling melanoma, and my brother in a deep depression, which caused him to stay away from my family entirely this Christmas. As I was running a few errands on Christmas Eve day, I found myself fighting off tears. Later on my mom reminded me of all the bittersweet Christmases I've survived, which could contribute to my emotional state. When I was a child, we were in a bad car accident on Christmas--fortunately we all survived but it was very scary. A very difficult Christmas as an adolescent after a deeply traumatic, scarring experience. Emotional Christmases spent away from family when I was in Japan. The Christmas right after bringing Chris home from 117 days in the NICU--a joyful one, to be sure, but emotional as well. A few years ago when we were in England for Christmas, I felt very melancholy to be away from my extended family. I suppose I idealize Christmas and it makes me emotional if it's not perfect. But when is Christmas ever perfect?
We attended Christmas Eve services at a nearby Lutheran church--we are never able to attend our own church because their services are at the same time as our family dinner. It was packed to the brim, and the music was beautiful...and even though my parents left early (so they could visit my mom's sister in the hospital and take a few food boxes to leave outside of my brother's door) and I was sad that my sister and her family were not there, I decided to focus on how blessed I am with my own family and not dwell on the people who were not there. At least I didn't light anyone's hair on fire this year!
After church we drove to Oregon City, to the home of my uncle and aunt (the one who is fighting melanoma). We were all worried about the toll it would take on them to host Christmas Eve, as they always do, but it seemed to be something they were determined to do.
Nick fell asleep on the journey from church to Oregon City--and continued to snooze a bit until more people started to arrive:
We were shocked, because our family was the FIRST to arrive at the Christmas Eve gathering. We have never been first in my entire life. In fact, when I told one of my aunts that we had been first, she had to sit down to catch her breath! :)
Grandma and Grandpa arrive, and Nick continues to doze--on his favorite shoulder:
It was wonderful to have new babies at our family gathering! Drew and Cayden, sons of my cousins (Drew with his grandpa, my Uncle Ed, and Cayden with his dad, Cameron):
Again, with those bunny ears (or raindeer antlers?):
My cousin Gary's wife Kelly (who is a true baby magnet) with Drew--she was making him giggle really loud!
Like mother, like daughter--Kelly's daughter McKenna with Drew:
This boy is the SPITTING image of his father (my cousin, Scott)!
A bunch of second cousins:
A bunch of second cousins:
Cousin Gary (Kelly's husband) with Drew...clearly, they need another baby!! :)
Nicholas with the little reindeer puzzle that he LOVED and didn't want to leave behind:
Sisters and mom to baby Drew (and uncle):
With my cousin Becky:
Chris and McKenna:
Christmas morning, opening Santa gifts and stockings:
Opening his big present from Santa--a ukulele (the only thing he requested for Christmas):
Mom and Dad joined us for brunch, and later on, turkey dinner...
Mike in his crown:
We made a true effort to cut down on "stuff" this year. Mike and I decided to make a significant donation to an organization that provides cleft palate surgeries in developing countries. We chose Interplast instead of Operation Smile or SmileTrain, because I discovered that Interplast spends far less per $ donated on fundraising. In addition, the founders of Operation Smile and SmileTrain have an ongoing feud with each other, which truly turned me off. Nonprofits being competitive or nasty to each other--very tacky. I am very cognizant of the fact that if I had been born in a different time or place, that child with an unrepaired cleft palate and lip could have been me.
In addition, in lieu of more "stuff," the big gift we gave to Chris and Kieran was tickets to see Rain, a Beatles tribute band. I wasn't sure how they would react, but were both pleased and are very excited. Neither of them seemed to have anything they were desperate for this Christmas and were grateful for all of their gifts...which I truly appreciate. Nick, of course, is in seventh heaven over his ukulele.
In spite of these "experience" gifts, Christmas still makes our house look like a tornado has hit.
My sister and her family are in town this week, and we continued our Christmas celebrations yesterday with more gifts exchanged and a very spicy pot of mulligatawny! The cousins are having a blast hanging out together. That is the best part of Christmas--family time.