Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Christmastime with Nana and Poppy

Christmas Eve! On to Nana and Poppy's house. Poppy purchased a little car for the smaller kids, and it was a special hit with 2-year-old Charlie. Charlie is obsessed with cars, trucks, space vehicles, anything of the sort and can name whatever you throw at him. Try him. He'll nail the easy ones like cement mixer and tow truck and SUV, and he'll nail the totally obscure ones like Orion multipurpose crew vehicle and articulated hauler and telescopic handler (do you know those?). He can distinguish between a bucket wheel excavator and a dragline excavator, and he can tell you just what kind of fire truck you see ahead of you - airport, pump, ladder, heavy rescue... it is quite the show.

For the bigger kids, we set up 9-square, and aside from being freezing, it was one of the highlights of the trip.

Also a highlight: talking with our family's favorite missionary on Christmas Eve.

Here we are all crowded around the small iPhone just to see her smile. The littler kids were especially excited. Riley and Lexi were not shy about saying how much they missed her, and I agreed. There is something brutal about feeling that particular heart-tug and something beautiful about feeling her absence in the crucial and beloved role she takes in our family gatherings. 

Later that night, Nana and Poppy sat around the Christmas tree and pulled out all of the presents they had purchased. Filling the crevasses under the tree with gifts for all of their children and grandchildren is a labor of love for them that takes weeks and weeks to prepare for and sheet after sheet of organizing paper. And while I'm sure my dad helps some, it's really my mom who spends the hours. She has always been careful at Christmastime to make sure everyone feels included and equal, so if I have 4 presents, so will you. If she spends $50 for this grandchild, she'll spend $50 for that one, and as her family grows, the balance only gets harder.

The kids were grateful, played with all of their presents, and eventually zonked out under the bright, little Christmas tree in the basement. But before sleep, we gathered in a small family circle and talked about Christ. Watching them sleep later that night, I knew that they were excited for the presents that would be coming that night, and I hoped that nestled alongside that excitement, there was deep gratitude and wonder for the baby born two-thousand years ago who makes their happinesses and excitements meaningful and eternal.

When the kids were finally asleep, it was time for the adults to play. At one point, I looked over and saw three of my favorite guys watching a comedian clip, laughing in unison, and I was so grateful for the dynamic that exists within my family. My dad treats his sons-in-law the same as his son, and we all feel so comfortable around each other.

My mom has crocheted stockings for her children, their spouses, and all of her grandkids, and they are beautiful! While Santa does a great job filling the kids' stockings, he tends to forget the adults, so for the second time, we adults came prepared to fill stockings for each other. It's become a favorite tradition of mine.

Christmas Morming!

Awake with the sun, we gathered around each other for a group shot before going upstairs where we found that Santa had, once again, hidden the childrens' stockings and created a scavenger hunt to find them.

Good thing we have such smart kids. 

The excitement of present opening looked much like the excitement of present opening every other year: there were hugs and wide eyes and gasps and squeals...

In the past, our kids have drawn names for each other, but this year our family did things a bit differently in an effort to teach the power that comes from thinking of others and giving. So, we had each person purchase one gift for every other person in the family. All six of us bought 5 gifts, and all six of us received 5 gifts, carefully selected by a sibling or parent. It was fun to see the personalities come out in each gift. 

I would say the star of the entire Christmas was the giant stuffed unicorn that Timothy bought for Eliza. Pictured on the teeter-totter below.

I probably wouldn't have gotten it for her because it's cumbersome... but Timothy wasn't looking at the practical side of things, and Eliza thanks him in her heart every day. It's now been 5 months, and that unicorn (Rose) is still sleeping on Eliza's bed, cuddled up right next to her.

The rest of Christmas included games and books and painting nails, and, for Charlie, trucks.

But I think every day includes trucks for Charlie.

And, of course, one of my favorite moments of the day was spending lots and lots of time on the phone with McKenzie. My parents spent some time with her, too, and seeing this picture just makes me treasure the preciousness of that time.

Because my parents have been mission leaders themselves, they have a unique perspective on her stories and struggles, and she is so wise to value their advice and guidance.

At one point while Brian and I were talking with her, Grandma called in on Brian's phone. He answered it with, "Guess who we're talking to right now!"
"YOU'RE KIDDING!" she said. "McKenzie?!?!?"
We put the two phones up next to each other so they could say hello, but something about simply hearing Grandma's voice on Christmas morning was enough to cause the lump in McKenzie's throat to swell and render her quite incapable of talking. She laughed as a few tears fell, and Grandma sensed the emotion. "Kenz, did I make you cry?!?!" she said.
Kenz laughed again and squeaked out, "A little bit..."
At this point, Brian and I looked at each other and realized that we were both crying, too, but thankfully Grandma carried the conversation for another minute, telling Kenzie how proud she was of her and wishing her a Merry Christmas. 

The next morning, against our desires, it was time to go home- so we wrestled all the new gifts into our Sequoia and promptly spent half an hour taking pictures instead of leaving. (Sad that Amber and Davey had already left.)

In our stockings, Michelle and Jake had given us temporary tattoos... of my dad's face on a knight in shining armor. The men came prepared for their photo shoot.

With McKenzie gone, there's a giant hole in the lives of the littles where she used to play. Timothy has effortlessly stepped in, and the little girls love him dearly.

My parents have created such a beautiful feeling in their family. I don't know many other people who gather like we do. When we come from Vegas, the rest of my siblings - who all live in Utah only about an hour away from my parents - pack their vacation bags and move into my parents house alongside us. It's like a big Airbnb. It works partly because their house is conducive to it, 

but mostly it's because we love each other dearly and all want to be together for as many earthly minutes as possible.

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