A whole lot of Christmas

 With presents for such a huge group I thought maybe our wall of presents would be as tall as the tiny tree!

Lex was pretty excited about presents and wrapping and all the packages this year. (Surprisingly, he only opened one ahead of time. ) It was pretty cute to see him and his little friends all excited about exchanging little gifts. 

 Christmas was a lovely mix of chaos and calm.

It seems on every occasion or gathering or holiday I have about 25 things I had planned to do or make that I never get around to. But, the great thing about holidays and celebrations is once it's time, they happen. Regardless of how much is finished, whatever happens is usually good and just about right. All those things that didn't get done? They don't really matter anymore. It's not like work tasks or cleaning or all the other things I ignore that never disappear until you actually do them.  Celebration preparation on the other hand...as soon as the time for celebration arrives, I decide there is nothing else that needs to be done and it's time to enjoy.

Okay I don't totally forget about what didn't get done, but I do wait a couple days before thinking about how to better organize my time next time around.

Our Christmas celebration started the afternoon of Christmas Eve with Verna's 90th birthday party. She had quite a lot of family and friends at the Senior Center in Mission to celebrate with her. I hadn't seen Verna much the last few years until recently, but she really seems to be doing well. Still hanging out with Patty, playing cards, winning bingo at the Center. Seeing her always makes me remember Grandma. They were always together, doing those things Verna is still doing now--all sorts of world travels and routines of Senior Center meals and Foothills Club and card parties when they were in town.

Gwen sharing with the group one of our family's favorite stories about Verna-- Grandma's story of that first Christmas Eve she was  born.

After Verna's party, our family gathered for Christmas Eve dinner at Mom & Dad's.

Once again Mom cooked an entire, huge meal for about about 40 people. The rest of us filled in random appetizers and desserts and side dishes. We had three tables of food.
Rune made a traditional Christmas Eve dish from his country. (Ris ala Mande? I googled it...but it sounds like the right dish... ) He told us all about the prize for finding the almond and the kids became kind of obsessed with finding it. And then some of them began trying to find ways to cheat. Probably not really within the spirit of the tradition he was sharing with us, but it's really fun to have him around and learn a little bit about other ways of doing things. (The same cheating children were pretty excited to introduce him to jello over Thanksgiving.)


 After dinner Gwen organized the kids to do their annual nativity play.
The kids lined up and ready to start.
They used Bible verses instead of the storybook this year and she had all sorts of enthusiastic and uncooperative actors to deal with. One of the shepherds took a wrong turn and never made it to the Bethlehem. He ended up eating cookies half naked while the more responsible shepherds looked over the flocks. The angels were so crowded around the baby no one else could see what was going on until Gwen stepped in and reminded them to ascend to the heavens...Gwen directing angels wasn't in the original nativity story, but it fit in really smoothly. And then there was a sheep who forgot he was a sheep and came in mooing like a cow. It was all quite lovely.

Lex the shepherd... distracted by shiny packages.

The quartet of angels
Most of the nativity. Azia's doll Carissa stole the part of Baby Jesus from Paisley, but Paisley made a pretty awesome angel.

Azia the wiseperson trying to fit in the basket-manger.
After the Nativity the adult and older kids (I think we had 18 participating) did a present swap/ stealing game. Eldon stole my movie tickets and fancy black letters for which I had big plans (and which I originally took from him) but I did end up with a nice grill for our firepit or camping once it's summer again. Israel was pretty excited because he got a knife. Some dangerous weapons always makes Christmas brighter.

The little kids thought this was very exciting even though they didn't get to open anything. They liked picking presents out for everyone else. (They did the cousin present exchange afterwards.)
All the cousins in their cozy new Christmas Eve pajamas. We forgot to take the photo before Gwen's older kids left!

After we came home the kids just watched a movie before heading to bed. I also tried to take a photo of them all together, but that didn't go so well.

After all the comotion of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day is always really mellow. I like that's how it all turns out because we have very few of those slow, unplanned days scattered throughout the year.

The kids actually slept in till almost 8:00! Yesss!! (Well there was an attempt to get up at 5:15, but after that they waited till nearly 8:00.)
Israel was our Santa Claus stand-in & delivered the presents to everyone to open.
Lex wasn't quite on board with the early wake up. And he doesn't wake up happy (or really at all ) if he doesn't want to, so he slept through the first round of present opening.
and the other three couldn't wait to open their packages.

Once Lex did wake up, he was pretty excited about the whole present opening process. I think it was about the best sort of guilty pleasure he could have right now. He's been getting in trouble constantly for ripping up any stray paper of any kind he finds laying around (or seeks out). No photos are safe. DVD inserts, homework, art projects, magazine pages...they have all been torn to bits. Something about tearing things up is really, really enjoyable for him. He could hardly believe it when we told him he could actually go for it and rip off all the paper.
He was so excited he was actually panting (strange little shallow breaths) the whole time he ripped open packages. It was almost too much for him. I have never known anyone who gets so much obvious joy from the act of tearing. On top of all that ripping, the covered boxes had new stuff for him inside once he had them torn to shreds. It was probably the perfect way to start his morning.
After the present unwrapping and after the kids got to work enjoying all their new stuff, I took a long, middle-of-the-day nap. It was a pretty nice way to spend some relaxing Christmas hours.

The one problem we did run into is that I'd somehow completely forgotten to buy any real groceries for the past few days before Christmas. Day-to-day tasks get a little neglected during all this celebrating. Nothing is open on Christmas day so while everyone else was sitting down to these delicious Christmas Day dinners, I was starving. Luckily I had also run out of time and not delivered some of the plates of goodies we baked. So, mainly I ate caramel all day. The kids ate cookies. I also had the last bowl of clam chowder. I would have had more if I hadn't had to share what was left with Israel. Good thing Gwen decided to leave food in my refrigerator. Everyone else around here just empties it out.
"We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup." Buddy the Elf
Of course Lex always takes care of himself. And apparently, he is at least part elf. This explains an awful lot actually.

 That evening we headed to Missoula to the movie. The last few years we've just gone to Polson, but we decided to see Gulliver's Travels and it wasn't playing there. It's always challenging to find a movie that appeals to 25 people who have a 50 year age span. (And sometimes we don't and we split up between a few movies. Mom actually volunteered to take all the little people to the Chipmunks movie a few years ago so a bunch of us could see....well I don't even remember, but it was something that wasn't the chipmunks.)

Part of our large movie crowd

My movie goers. I think this is about five minutes before Azia went to puke and then returned right in time for the movie to start. (I think like half the gang of cousins have had this one-day flu thing going around.) And Yes, Israel is prepared in case the theater turns into a Russian ice field. You never know.
Lex and Dev back home playing with new Christmas toys.
 A pretty good Christmas.

And next year I'm going to be more organized. I'm going to start finding good scripture passages for our advent boxes now and I think Azia and I will have a Christmas craft session in July where we make the ornaments...maybe we'll take a Christmas card photo then, too. I think next year I can get it down to only 15 things I don't get done. Maybe I'll make it one of my New Year's resolutions. I usually don't really think about those till February so I'm already feeling on top of things for the new year.

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