This is where I spent most of my day today catching up! It was glorious!
So back to the beginning of the month.
On Dec 4th Rich and I flew to Las Vegas on our way to visit Jeremy's family in California. We stopped in Vegas to see Mike and Rosy. (my brother and his wife) They have been in Vegas for a year and a half, but we haven't seen them since August of 2010. That's just too long and I was too lonesome for them. What a busy life they have serving as the mission president in the Las Vegas area. We had a wonderful evening visiting over dinner and catching up.
The next morning when we got up Rosy had been gone several hours. She was at the hospital with a sister missionary who needed emergency surgery. We didn't see her again until we returned two weeks later. We were able to serve the zone leaders lunch and it was fun to be there to help.
Here are the missionary shoes in the foyer of the mission home. Such a cute picture.
One of the sister missionaries ask me if President Neider was as good a man as he seemed. I told her,
"Yes, he's that good a man!" He is!
Mike and Rosy will gather all of their children and their families for the wedding of Natalie, daughter number five on the 29th. They are busy busy. Thinking about the Michael Neider Family today altogether. Wish we were there for the celebration.
On to Fresno
We rented a car and drove to Jeremy's home in Fresno. Rich and I love a good driving adventure. We made it to Jeremy and Shelly's with the kids noses pressed against the windows waiting for us. So exciting to see them. We had a great great visit with Tanner, Carsen, Emery, Chase, and of course Jeremy and Shelly.
This little guy met Grandpa at the door with arms outstretched.
Chase really won our hearts. He is such an adorable one year-old.
It was fun and exciting visiting in CA for almost two weeks. We don't get to see enough of this cute family. They are beyond busy.
We had a lovely dinner at Shelly's parent's home, Uncle Dean and Aunt Laurie Witt stopped by with cheesecake one night. Shelly and I got to shop - not enough tho'. We saw two of Tanner's bball games. The kid is a natural athlete. Took Tanner and Carsen shopping for birthday gifts. So fun. Grandpa told stories every night. Had lunch at Sweet Tomatoes - Rich's favorite. Visited Christmas Tree Lane. (an entire neighborhood of homes with extensive Christmas lights) Very impressive.
I really love Fresno, Ca with the beautiful trees - sequoias, and the tall skinny cedars. What I really love tho' are the Crowley kids who live there. They are a beautiful family.
Grandpa and Tanner shooting hoops. I wonder who won? Jeremy said this bball stand is the best investment he has ever made.
Carsen beaming with his new star wars guys.
Tanner in his new bball socks. Once he got them he wouldn't take them off. He even wore them to church. That was his birthday gift. Then for his Christmas gift, he wanted two more. He is set.
Shelly's beautiful centerpiece. The Christmas decorations in their home were beautiful!
Grandpa is the favorite. Here's Em and Chase.
What a cute family -- they just live too far away from VA. After we made a few Christmas goodies, made a quick trip to the Honey Baked Ham store - and yes ate the ham at a fun dinner, it was time to head back to VA. Gabe picked us up on Charlottesville and I could have slept for days. I actually did sleep until 10:30 the next morning. What a great trip.
Back in Virginia
We got home in time to add a few more decorations for the Christmas celebration. We listened to Christmas music nonstop. It was so peaceful. Rich and I found this beautiful Nativity in downton Culpeper before we left. I love it. Their faces are so sweet. I put it on the high table to avoid little fingers.
I love decorating my tables. This is in the dining room.
These Christmas treasure come out every year. Andrew, Matt and Jeremy made these when they were in grade school. Matt made the little green tree, Andrew the candle and Jeremy the Nativity. These are special treasures and I can see the beaming faces so tickled with their gifts when they were given to Rich and me.
After saying I would not buy one more Christmas decoration, Shelly took me to a beautiful shop in Fresno and I fell in love with these trees and had to have them. I brought home four of them in my suitcase. They are stunning. I love trees.
I loved decorating the railings. Shelly's mother, who is a decorator extraordinaire had this in her home and I wanted to try it. It turned out beautifully. So thanks Nancy! And yes I had to get the mesh ribbon for the railings that is 21 inches wide.
This really tickled my heart! I know, I'm a little crazy.
Okay I bought these beautiful sparkling ornaments too. (the round ones) They came home in the suitcase too.
In the middle of all of this we received a call in California to ask Rich and I if we would speak in sacrament meeting and deliver the Christmas message. After we were home we realized the humbling responsibility of the task. Rich has spoken many times at Christmas, but this was my first Christmas talk. In making preparations it brought me to my knees several times seeking inspiration from the Lord as to what would be meaningful for our congregation. We had just laid to rest two very dear members of our Ward and with the slaying of innocent ones in Connecticut, I felt especially humbled, saddened and emotionally very raw.
This was a tough assignment for me, but as I told the story of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's tragedy and writing of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" and the scripture story of Samuel the Lamanite preaching to the Nephites to repent and follow the righteous traditions of their fathers and his prophecy of the Savior's birth,I felt the love of the Savior for all of us. I also tied that feeling of love representing Christ to some of our own righteous traditions, I felt the talk coming together.
I quoted Martin Luther King at the end. MLK stated, "The moral arc of the universe is long, but bends toward justice."
WE are the benders of the arc. All of our righteous acts can help overcome the evil in our world. So I made it through the talk -- broke down several times, but I felt like it went pretty well. Rich's talk was (as usual) amazing. The study of the scriptures for the talk and feeling the closeness of the Spirit and love of the Savior -- especially this year -- left me with a greater appreciaton of Christ's sacrifice and understanding of our pain.
We had a pretty low key, early Christmas Eve dinner with Matthew and Andrew's families. Everyone helped with the dinner. Gabe plated the ham beautifully with parsey, orange slices and cherries. (no pic -- darn) Rich made delicious mashed potatoes, Melanie made green bean bundles! Matt did the drink and Andrew set the table. Wonderful dinner.
We had the kids open a gift from Grammie and Grandpa and our kids found what was in their stockings.
Here are Nathan, Jocelyn, Charlotte, and Audrey waiting patiently to open their gifts. You can barely see them all huddled in anticipation.
Nathan gets a digger with rocks!
Nathan opened first and then he was done with the rest of us.
What sweethearts these girls are...there is always excitement when they are around.
And here is Harper trying to be part of the group, but too young to know what's happening.
We had a fun Christmas Eve with the gang. After the families left Rich and I watched a movie, made sugarlump bread for morning, cooked up the sausage links, and one more batch of popcorn balls. Busy little elves we were.
Christmas morning Gabe called us at 8:45 to tell us they were ready for us to come over. Ha Ha she woke us up. That has never happened to me in my entire life on Christmas morning. Read it and weep all of you so tired parents. Sleeping later than 8:30. It finally happened to us, but you have a few years to wait.
Our morning with Matt and Gabe was fun. We had our sugarlump bread, sausages and orange julius. Oh, and Matt scrambled some perfect eggs. Santa came to their house and Charlotte and Nathan were having so much fun with their new toys. Then later in the day we went to Andrew and Melanie's for Christmas dinner. The little girls were so excited to see us and show us the new toys Santa had brought. Melanie and Andrew had three crock pots cooking our dinner and it was a perfect day.
I think Rich and I were the only ones who were able to sleep in on Christmas morning. Our kids were all tired.
Best Gift I've ever had!
The kids gave us this fabulous picture album of the adventures of the Crowley Family this year. It is fantastic! Thanks Crowley kids.
Here are some of the wonderful pictures.
Our Christmas season has been amazing. Fun and festive and now quiet and peaceful. No set schedule. So relaxing. The real world starts soon. What new adventures await us? We'll soon find out -- Now on to 2013! Oops, I forgot, I still have to blog about the fun August we had. It's still coming. Hopefully before 2014. (A Neider/Hansen Reunion and my class reunion)