Grab a cup of hot tea or hot chocolate before reading this post. If it’s as cold where you are as it is here, I know a hot drink is just the necessary concoction to warm you up through and through. Here are some pictures from our Christmas in Virginia with Matt’s family that cover the highlights.
We arose at 3 a.m. on the 23rd to catch a 6:30 a.m. flight on Southwest, which is by far the best airline in the industry. We saved at least $200 on bag fees! We flew through Chicago going to and from Virginia, which had the potential to be very hairy. Fortunately, there were no hiccups on our way out east, and we narrowly flew out one hour before they closed Midway because of freezing rain on our way home. It would not have been pleasant in the least to be one of those families stuck on the Midway tarmac for 7 hours.
Upon our arrival in D.C., Matt’s dad picked us up and we joined Mac and Julie for a quick lunch before we made the trek to Charlottesville. We ate at a burger place that sparked tons of memories. Mac didn’t remember one iota about Henry J’s, a burger place we ate at regularly as little tikes with Gaga. I take that back; he remembered the layout of the building, but nothing of the burgers. I had this picture snapped of Brennan playing with the Trivial Pursuit cards because Henry J’s used to put the same ones on their tables. It simply provokes sweet memories to me.
Our beloved Mac and Julie! It was a treat to see them for a couple of hours. Mac is still wallowing in pity as Brennan made much ado about Julie, and him, not so much. I’m jesting a lot about Mac right now; I love that boy to pieces. Oh wait, he’s not a ‘boy’ so much as a grown, aging man who will be 30 in a few weeks <grin>!! Hahahaha!!
We had a full house! There were ten of us all together between Matt’s folks, Melissa, and Tom and Kim and their two boys. Yep, that’s right. Three two-and-a-half year old boys under the same roof for five days. It was WILD! It was our first time to meet Baxter, our youngest nephew, who is now 7.5 months old!
Our first full day in Charlottesville was Christmas Eve. This picture was taken right before we left for the Christmas Eve service. The little guy looked so handsome and thankfully, did really well through his first full church service. It even seemed as though he was listening intently to the pastor.
Brennan’s new favorite position: riding on Daddy’s shoulders.
This girl, Kimberly, was our amazing chef for most of the week! I’m talkin’ gourmet chef kinda cookin’, y’all. For Christmas Eve dinner, she made a fabulous gorgonzola stuffed chicken breast with a cherries jubilee sauce. Look at her plate; it was divine! And for dessert, she made a pumpkin ice cream pie with graham cracker crust and chocolate shavings on top. For our last night together, she made a steak with a balsamic reduction sauce, roasted potatoes and butternut squash and a salad with pomegranate seeds and other juicy fruit. I really need those recipes! And once I have the time and energy to cook like that again, they’ll be the first things I make <grin>. We ate like kings and queens!
Brennan misses eating such feasts! One thing to note about the food, was that Brennan became obsessed with clementines. He’d eat at least 6 at a meal.
Our family tradition since I was little is to open one package on Christmas Eve and it’s always new PJs to wear to bed. Here we are opening Brennan’s PJs together. That’s as close as he got to me; once he knew they were PJs, he wasn’t as interested in the present <grin>.
We three are the early birds when it comes to Matt’s side of the family. While we are in bed by 10 p.m., everyone is up till at least midnight and then they sleep in, while we’re up with Brennan around 7 a.m. So we always have the quiet mornings to ourselves. We woke up to the delight of snow flurries on Christmas morning! You can’t see them in the picture, but they were there. No one else witnessed the flurries that morning, so it was a little Christmas treasure we tucked away in our hearts.
Isn’t the tree pretty!? Ruth did such a lovely job with it and the rest of the home. She always makes me feel very welcomed.
Look at the precious family of four, all cheery on Christmas morn.
An up-close of Baxter.
This is what Brennan looked like often while in Virginia, mesmerized by a Thomas the Train video on the TV.
We opened stockings first, then had an incredible breakfast of pumpkin waffles, bacon and scrambled eggs with green onions, tomatoes and spinach. Brennan ate three waffles, keeping up with his Daddy! Here are Jadon and Brennan eating together like big boys. The Thomas the Train on the table is noteworthy. Despite having one each, they were the cause of many disputes. Those boys are passionate about Thomas. We’re obviously in a season of learning to share.
After breakfast, we dug into the presents. There were a lot; it was pretty overwhelming for little Brennan, and me for that matter.
What gifts can you recall being given that made you feel humbled and undeserving of that gift? One of the most obvious gifts such as these would be Jesus’ love for me and His saving grace. Talk about undeserved! That gift of His by far tops all others in this category. But I’m thinking more in terms of meaningful tangible gifts or acts of service that cause you to pause and recognize, “I really don’t deserve this gift.” The depth of love behind the gift is indisputable. There have been a number throughout my life that my family has given me that made me feel that way, and in turn, it’s made me extremely grateful and assured of their love for me. Amazingly, I received two such gifts during our time in Virginia. Ed & Ruth published my post called You Can Do It, Brennan. It’s a beautiful and meaningful gift! First, they recognized my love for blogging/writing. I’ve never shared with them, or anyone really, about a dream of being published, but when they said, “Now you’re published!”, it was a sweet note to my heart. The gift of being believed in. And as they said that, tears swelled in my eyes while I whispered back to Jesus, “Yes, Lord, if this is the only way I’m published, the story of the lives in the book are what will last, and that’s what I want.” Second, they know my love for Brennan and the joy I have as a momma. And that was a special couple of afternoons he and I shared together!
The second gift such as this I received was from Tom and Kim. Kim spent hours working on publishing a cookbook with all of the recipes I’ve posted on the blog, or made reference to, with pictures and snippets of my writings that went along with each recipe, noting the memorable event and faces that were a part of that moment. Wow, it’s incredible! As I read through it, I was flooded with priceless memories and precious faces of loved ones that have been drawn together by these recipes, some favorites from other cookbooks and some timeless family recipes. She knows my love for cooking and my love to make events special for others.
I had no idea they were working on these projects; I was completely surprised. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the best in-law. That can be a post for another time, but their extravagant love of time and creativity poured forth into these gifts left me humbly and wonderfully staggered with affection. And the sober realization their gifts are very undeserved. I’m grateful! The beautiful books now take up permanent residence on our coffee table, and Brennan loves reading our story.
Christmas Day is also Ed’s birthday, and this year happened to be his 60th! Usually we have a big extended party on Christmas night, but we moved it to Sunday evening so we could leisurely enjoy Christmas and have a special evening for Ed. Actually, Ruth’s 60th birthday is the end of January, so we kids plotted the evening to be a combined birthday celebration since we were all together. I was in charge of Christmas dinner and made crostinis topped with pesto, sundried tomatoes and feta to start off; Pioneer Woman’s lasagna; garlic bread; a salad full of goodies; and chocolate Texas sheet cake. For the parentals’ gift, we managed to arrange a getaway trip later in the year to a beach near Destin, FL as a special 60th birthday family celebration.
Full plates=full tummies.
Jadon and Brennan helping blow out the birthday candles.
On Sunday the 26th, we spent most of the day getting ready to host just over 30 people for a dinner party! We needed the whole day! We took a break to take Jadon and Brennan sledding. You saw Brennan’s picture in the last post. He was not crazy about sledding. Nor the snow. Nor the cold. A true-blooded Texan he is <grin>. But Matt and I love the cold and the snow, so we’ll help him adjust. That means more trips to Colorado <grin>! Jadon, on the other hand, loved it.
The fresh snow we woke up to on Sunday morning.
Right before the house exploded with people and became very chaotic, we took a calm family photo <grin>.
The first batch of first-cousins and spouses who were at the party. This picture excludes all our offspring (and there are a lot!) who were running around playing. I was so thankful for Tom, who could relate to me and desire to find a quiet corner in the house to escape the crowd. I say all this very light-hearted because it is a fun party. Those of us who happened to marry into the family, however, acknowledge that it is a tad overwhelming <grin>, so we do our part to try to have meaningful one-on-one conversations while stationed in a quiet part of the house.
On Monday morning, Melissa treated the boys to a special outing at Bounce-n-Play. I stayed back to rest a bit, but it looked like an incredible indoor play area I wish were in Austin! Brennan was most fascinated by the kitchen.
Matt’s Grandpa wasn’t feeling very well and didn’t attend the Christmas Eve service nor the party, so we stopped by on Monday afternoon to see him. Our visit with him, while brief, was a highlight for me. You have a keen sense of the gift of grandparents and the treasure time is with them when you don’t have any grandparents anymore. My heart was tender toward this 90+ year old man who told Matt that at the beginning of the new year, he was going to write Matt a letter detailing his involvement in World War II, which included serving on D-Day. Like most veterans, he hasn’t shared much about his experience despite our questions. But he has remembered our interest throughout the years and said he would give us this gift for us to save and make copies for other family members. I really, really hope he writes Matt this letter.
I don’t have any pictures of our evening, but another highlight was going out with Tom, Kim and Melissa on Monday night! What a treat it was for Ed & Ruth to babysit our three boys. We ended up doing a progressive dinner with appetizers at a tapas bar and then the main course at a lovely restaurant where most of us ordered filet mignon. It was the best night of conversation all week <grin>!
For their Christmas, birthday and anniversary presents (ha!), we gave Ed and Ruth a family photo shoot appointment with a great local photographer, Eric Kelley. It happened to fall on the prettiest and warmest days of our visit, which was a huge blessing. Being the type-A person who planned this photo shoot, I was very anxious about it going smoothly. So it didn’t help matters that our child was the only one who was having a fit, who was uncooperative, crying and had his paci in his mouth for the first half of our shoot. I was flushed red with embarrassment and at a loss for what to do, trying to roll with the punches as much as possible. Of course, loosening up helped <grin>. We had the pictures taken on the UVA campus and I’ll share the link of pictures with you when they’re ready. I hope there are some good ones!
The second batch of first-cousins and spouses who weren’t at the party but who came over for a visit Tuesday afternoon after our family pictures.
What a fabulous Christmas! It was full of fun and full of crazy at the same time. Anyone who shares holidays with kiddos can attest to the craziness. Next time we’ll all be together, we’ll be sitting in sand instead of snow.
And that’s a wrap, folks! You best go refill your hot drinks. I’m going to get mine soon; in the meantime, our fire is keeping my tootsies warm. Love to y’all!