As you might recall from this post, Christmas was a bit different for me this year: I finally got a chance to celebrate the holiday and all of its wonder with my husband's family. While their traditions were a bit different from the ones I grew up with, the holiday love and joy of Jesus were still very present. Reflecting back on that week with John's family, I've come up with my favorite memories of Christmas 2013. Listed in no particular order...
A new puppy!
The in-laws very recently welcomed a new puppy into their home. He's an adorable black lab named Cholmondeley (pronounced Chum-lee) Samwise. While he was as cute as can be, he was also in the biting phase, which apparently goes along with his teething. Everything was biteable to him. The wooden furniture? Gonna bite it. Your Christmas tights? Gonna bite 'em. Your barefoot toes? Gonna bite 'em. Despite all the biting, he was absolutely adorable and fun to play with. I loved shouting his name (which he doesn't quite know yet), running and sliding around the hardwood floors in my socks, encouraging him chase me around.
On Christmas eve, I treated my nails to some sparkly prettiness. Gotta love golden glitter! It ended up being a perfect color pick because every time I looked down at my nails, I felt festive. I felt the Christmas love. From my nails. Weird, I know. But pleasant. And wonderful. And glittery!
Atop the stairs.
Can I tell you a secret? I love, love, LOVE giving gifts! I just love the thrill of finding that perfect, thoughtful gift for a loved one. And I just love seeing them experience the joy of receiving something special, a symbol of how much you care for them. It's my favorite!
This year, we waited until Christmas afternoon to exchange and open gifts, once all the family had arrived at the house. Just like my family, we opened gifts one at a time, experiencing the joy with the gift receiver as they revealed their gifts. It made me smile a lot.
I received so many generous and thoughtful gifts this year. We really, honestly don't need anything, aside from gifts people can't wrap up in a box and give you on Christmas morning (ahem, like a baby, or fertility, or a lifetime-of-happiness guarantee). And I know Christmas is not about the presents. But I would still like to mention the gifts my sweet family and in-laws shared with me this year. Because overall, gifts are a reflection of love the gift-giver feels for you. And love is what Christmas is all about.
Some of the sweetest, most thoughtful gifts I received this year were...
A robe! Because I love being lazy in warm things. Thanks, husband!
Delicious smelling candles from Anthopologie. I'm obsessed with candles! Thanks, husband!
These earrings, which I've worn pretty much every day since. Thanks parents-in-law!
This bar for our apartment. 'Cause before this, we were storing our liquor in a plastic tub in our overflowing, catch-all closet. A very thoughtful gift, indeed. Thanks, sister-in-law!
Games! Liars Dice and Munchkin. You know us too well. Thanks, sister and brother-in-law!
This thermometer, because before owning this, our chicken was always dry. Thanks, parents!
And these cool coasters. Putting drinks on wooden surfaces never felt so stylish. Thanks, brother!
Unexpected Christmas guests.
I have to be honest, I was pretty happy that Christmas with John's family was going to be a baby-, toddler-, and pregnancy-free Christmas. I was a liiiiiiittle nervous about my sister-in-law announcing a pregnancy, not because I thought she was, only because I didn't know how I would react. Though suspicions were quickly squashed when she drank a delicious alcoholic beverage the first night we hung out. (Side note - this is typically my special trick for "announcing" to everyone that we're not pregnant. I drink some sort of alcohol as quickly as possible and in front of as many people as possible when hanging out with crowds of family or friends. It helps stop the "is she pregnant?" stare at my belly pretty much instantly.)
Anyway, it was looking to be a baby-, toddler-, and pregnancy-free Christmas until a few days before, when my mother-in-law announced that she invited a couple from church to celebrate Christmas with us. A couple with a toddler and a baby on the way. Sigh. So much for those plans.
I was pretty bummed and a little peeved (though, deep down, only at myself and my sad, baby-less state). I thought, of all the people that would be invited to join us for Christmas, does it really have to be a pregnant couple, Lord? But, as it turns out, they had moved to the U.S. from Africa only a year or so before. They were strangers in a foreign land. And my mother-in-law was just being a kind, loving person, taking them in on Christmas day, when they likely had no where else to be and no one to celebrate with.
Their stay ended up being short; they actually did have another party to attend. But I enjoyed every minute hanging out with their little toddler, Maria. She was cute as a button! And the couple was so sweet. So, even though I was dreading hanging out with a pregnant woman on Christmas day, it ended up really lovely. Silly infertile heart.
Have you ever seen the show Chopped? It's basically a cooking competition where professional chef competitors are given 3 to 4 random ingredients and then have a short amount of time to come up with an appetizer, main course, or dessert featuring all the secret ingredients, plus any other ingredients they find in the well-stocked pantry. My sister-in-law loves this show. And I thought, wouldn't it be fun to have our own Chopped Challenge? 4 secret ingredients, one appetizer, 45 minutes (I decided to be generous with time, as they only get 20 minutes on the show to make the appetizer). I told her about the idea and she loved it. So I headed out to the store and bought these 4 secret ingredients: pineapple, sweet potato fries, jalapeno, and coconut milk. And then I revealed the secret ingredients, they (my SIL and husband) cooked up a storm, and I taped the whole thing. My parents-in-law were the judges. The whole thing was a blast. And the results were delicious.
I'm so happy we were able to share this special fun with her on her birthday.
Oh, btw, my brother is editing my video footage from this as we speak! I'll link up to our Chopped Challenge video once it's done so you can take a look at just how much fun we had.
Games, games, games.
When we didn't know what to do, we turned to our stash of board games and played to our hearts' content. From Liars Dice to Munchkin to Farkle to Set to Agricola and Dixit, it was a great way to spend many hours with the in-laws.
A new-to-me Christmas movie.
The last night with John's family, my mother-in-law asked us all to watch a Christmas movie with her - Millions. I had never seen it before, but his family loves it and (I think) watches it every year. It's about an adorable young boy who sees and talks to Saints. One day, he randomly happens upon 1 million pounds, and the rest of the movie is about what he does with the money. I wasn't sure about it, going into the movie, but I can now say that it's great! Fantastic! If you're like me, and you've never seen/heard of it, go ahead and watch it with the fam next Christmas. I bet you'll like it too.
As you can see, though I wasn't with my Rhode Island family this Christmas, I had a wonderful time experiencing Christmas with my Tennessee family. And as I was hoping, I picked up on a handful of the in-laws' traditions that I'd like to share with our kids some day. And though I may be late with this, there's no such thing as spreading too much Christmas joy, so Happy Christmas!! I hope yours was as merry and bright as ours.