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Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Merry Christmas to all...

Whew! What an amazing Christmas week we had! We were so blessed to have the boys for the week before Christmas to do all kinds of fun and adventures! Here's just a snippet of what we did!

Jason, Olivia, and I went to get the boys on the 16th. We headed to downtown Fort Worth to take some Christmas pictures with the gigantic tree in downtown and in front of this massive collection of LED trees. It was cold and Olivia refused to wear socks but we got some great family shots. Jason's become an expert at the taking of pictures with the giant tree. Thanks to this, we were only outside in downtown for a short time. We warmed up by looking at Christmas lights and heading home for some hot chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. YUM!

Saturday, Andrew had practice at church for the performance the kids department would be doing in the service the next day. After he got home, we watched Christmas movies! He had a sleepover that night, so while he was gone, the rest of us watched one of MY favorite Christmas movies "The Christmas Toy". Yes, it's corny and outdated, but still one of my favorites!

Sunday, we all headed to get Andrew and then on to church! Andrew did an awesome job in the performance and even got to be one of the prop holders! It was so much fun watching him sing! We headed to a thrift store after church to get the final pieces of the costumes for the murder mystery dinner theater that my family would be doing later on in the week. It was actually a hilarious trip because during our searching through racks, someone actually came over the loudspeaker and asked if anyone knew if they had a Ouiji board! I certainly hope they didn't! That afternoon, we headed over to Dallas to celebrate my niece's 1st birthday party. Since my sister and her family live in Virginia, we weren't all able to go to her actual party, but this gathering was an awesome substitute. Jacob and Andrew really enjoyed hanging out with my brother in his fabulous Lord of the Rings/Star Wars/vintage Nintendo office.

Monday, I had to work. Thankfully, of all the days the boys were with us for Christmas, this was the ONLY one I had to work! Hooray for a job that gives me time off to be with family! Jason, Jacob, and Andrew headed out to play golf with my dad while Olivia hung out with my mom for the day. They ended up getting rained out on the 10th hole, but still had fun in the process.

Tuesday, we piled in the car and headed to Jason's mom's house in Denison. She had a Christmas dinner waiting for us and the kids were able to open their Christmas presents with her. It was a quick trip, but still fun and the roads were thankfully not too crowded there and back. After we got home, everyone was pretty tired so we played it low key for the rest of the night. Jason went and played "Santa" and picked up all the multitude of presents we had wrapped the previous week and were storing at his dad's house. The boys were both asleep when he got back so they were able to go to sleep with no presents under the tree and wake up in amazement at the collection!

Wednesday was our Christmas with the boys. The precious angels waited EVER so patiently until 8:30AM (hey, I could NEVER have waited that long...I have no idea how they did it!) to wake us up! We opened presents as a family and got to be a part of two very excited boys! Olivia was a noisy observer and mostly was intrigued by the red tissue paper! Jason's step mom came over with her presents for the boys and the Christmas fun continued! After all the opening and the eating of yummy breakfast, the boys were itching to spend their Christmas money. We headed out shopping and did find a few good deals. Jason made a full Christmas dinner complete with ham, dressing, corn, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes. YUM! We were stuffed!

Thursday we headed to my grandma's house in Wimberley! This was one of the things I had been itching to do since I met the boys. I just knew they would love roaming about the woods and seeing all the awesome stuff in my grandma's house. Her house is filled with treasures from all over the world that my grandparents collected during their time in the military. Olivia did amazingly well on her first long car trip and we made it down there without too many distractions. Olivia met my grandma for the first time and it was love at first sight.

Friday, we woke up nice and early (I mean, it's the country...it's just what you do!) and the boys were out the door to explore the woods. I kept seeing flashes of them and their Nerf guns go by. They were outside for several hours, even though it was FRIGID! They helped Jason and my dad with some "grandma chores", but were able to explore the entire 17 acres. We anxiously awaited the rest of the family's arrival. Michael, Jen, Kim, Evan, and Aubrey rolled in around 3 or so. My cousin Cory was the last to arrive around 5. Connie, mom, and I had been working on dinner items for the murder mystery dinner. Andrew and I made 2 pies (he's the best helper EVER!), a pecan pie and a pumpkin pie. SO fun! Promptly at 7, the festivities began and my family emerged from their respective dressing rooms clothed in 20's garb for the murder mystery dinner. One word: hilarious. My mom and sister in law were in full flapper regalia complete with fringe. My husband, father, and cousin were gangsters. My brother in law was a booze dealer. My sister was some sort of lounge singer. My brother was a crooked police chief. Andrew was a movie producer. Jacob was the mayor. I was the speakeasy owner. My aunt was the private investigator. SO MUCH FUN. Jacob and Andrew were a little nervous going in, but caught on REALLY quickly. They both did awesome.


Saturday, we opened the Russell Christmas presents since we were heading back to Fort Worth that afternoon. After the opening, we packed up the car and the whole family headed to town. We adopt a needy family in the town every year and we were so blessed to deliver the Christmas gifts to them. It was a single mom and her three children who were SO very thankful. What an amazing way to show the boys the true meaning of Christmas. It's always one thing to talk about it, but a completely different thing to actually follow through. I think they enjoyed seeing the family so happy! We all went to town to eat lunch and then our family headed back home so the boys could be with their mother for the rest of Christmas Eve and Christmas day. It was very hard giving them up after having them for that amount of time. Olivia actually cried after they left. She loves all the attention they give her!

On Christmas, Jason, Olivia, and I spent the morning together and then headed out to his dad's house to a family dinner in the afternoon. His step mom was GLOWING as it was the first time she'd had all her kids for a Christmas dinner in several years. We deemed our Christmas traveling complete and spent the rest of the evening just the three of us in front of a warm fireplace.

Can you see why I started the update with WHEW? Jason and I keep talking about how much fun we had and how BLESSED we were to be able to share the days with the boys and the rest of our family. We were able to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior. What an amazing experience!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Christmas spirit

I love Christmas! I always have. I think you have to be silly to not love this time of year, yet it always amazes me how many people don't. To me, the spirit is contagious.

Christmas was always a big deal growing up. My siblings and I usually had some sort of countdown going, most often represented by one of those red and green paper chains. Our family took one whole Saturday to get our tree (always a real one!) and decorate the house. We would get SO very excited watching my mother unwrap all of our favorite ornaments each year. To this day, I still have my favorites: The glass Smurfette (of course we have a smurf. We're children of the 80's!), the miniature German figurines, Pinocchio (the German one, not the Disney one), and the one of me as an angel (don't laugh, I look precious!) are some of those. Michael, Kimberly, and I would always fight over the setting up of the nativity, most specificially whose camel got to sit up on the balcony of the stable. Yes, I realize it sounds silly, but it's tradition. Of course, no one would make a big deal out of switching their camel...it was more like a covert operation. Those were the days before DVR when you had to scour the TV guide (oh my gosh, the one on actual PAPER!) for the Christmas specials and you waited eagerly for Charlie Brown Christmas, Garfield Christmas, The Christmas Toy (a Jim Henson special...it's AWESOME), the Grinch, and It's a Wonderful Life to make their appearance.

This past weekend, Christmas has exploded into our house. There is literally NOT a space in the house that doesn't scream Christmas! The tree, the mantle, the bookshelves, the DVD cabinet, the bathroom counters, etc... Jason and I set up most of the apt on Thursday and eagerly awaited the boys weekend arrival to set up the tree. On Saturday, amidst the horrific cold and rain, we hiked out to get our tree. Yes, it was frigid and wet, but that didn't matter. We were successful and brought our tree home for beautification. Jason and Jacob hung lights, while Andrew decorated his miniature tree complete with lights and ornaments. Olivia pretty much just hung out and squirmed around on the floor (her new favorite pastime!) On Sunday, after the tree had all the water it wanted and the branches had fallen out, we went into decoration mode! It took quite a while, but at the end of the evening, we had a fabulous tree that took everyone's breath away!

The boys will be with us starting on the 16th and going through Christmas Eve. We have lots of fabulous plans! We'll be taking them down to the beautiful Christmas tree in downtown Fort Worth. Last year, we got some amazing pictures in front of both the massive Christmas tree and the menagerie of LED trees. Hopefully, Miss Olivia will decide to behave for pictures so we can get some good family shots! We've also got LOTS of Christmas movies to watch! It's always so much fun to snuggle up in blankets and air mattresses for the nightly movie-thon. We're also planning cooking baking and painting! Thursday morning, we'll pack up the car and head to my Grandma's house for a few days of merriment. The majority of my family will be there and I'll get to introduce Jacob and Andrew to the fun of Grandma's house at Christmastime. We'll head back home on Christmas Eve afternoon so the boys can spend Christmas with their mother. Jason, Olivia, and I will spend the day celebrating Olivia's first Christmas and preparing for the after Christmas decorating sales! We are not planning to be in the apartment next Christmas, so we're gonna need more decorations to revel in the merriment.

As the time gets closer, I get more and more excited to share the Christmas season with my husband and kiddos. Celebrating the birth of our Lord is such an amazing experience to share with family. I know Olivia won't understand any of it this year, but I still see the way she looks at the Christmas tree and it makes me very happy!

This weekend, we'll spend getting things finalized for the kiddos Christmas fun. I've got a wonderous grocery and Costco list going, so I'm sure that will be in the plan. Besides, I LOVE Costco during the holidays...so why not! :)

I hope your Christmas season is going as wonderfully as mine. Remember the true reason for the season...the birth of our LORD!