Friday, January 17, 2014

Christmas Eve

Dallas and I made the hard decision to not travel to our family's home for the holidays.  Flights are double the cost around the holidays, we could run into weather difficulties since both of our families come from areas with snow, and Dallas had a lot of work and not a lot of days off.  We decided instead to plan a big vacation during the summer where we could see both sets of families, costs would be cheaper, no weather issues, and he would be able to take more time off.  Although we knew it would be very difficult to not spend the holidays with our extended family, we made the most out of our situation.  We made a list of several different things we wanted to do on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, some traditions from our families and some brand new.
I have to admit we had an amazing holiday and, although we missed loved ones, we thoroughly enjoyed creating new traditions together as a little family.

Christmas Eve morning was a lot of fun.  We had planned to have all six of our ward's missionaries over, so the morning was devoted to cooking.  I LOVE our kitchen!  It has so much space and a gorgeous island for everyone to sit around.  Daxton loves to "help" with everything lately and loved helping us make cookies.  I found a fun recipe for chocolate cookies where you put a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in the middle of each cookie.  I had Dallas and Daxton on unwrapping detail, but Daxton literally ate every single peanut butter cup he could open.  He was loving the holidays and treats!

It was so much fun to have Christmas music playing and be surrounded by my little family while cooking in the kitchen!

For as long as I can remember, my family has had the missionaries over for Christmas eve.  They are some of my most favorite memories growing up.  As a family we would eat dinner, wrap presents, deliver to families in need, and then have a spiritual lesson with music, scriptures, and (when we were younger) acting out Christ's birth story.  It was fun to include the missionaries on each of these activities throughout the night.

When Dallas and I decided what traditions we wanted to do with our little family this year, we both wanted to make sure we kept Christmas Eve with the missionaries.  I have five brothers (all of whom served 2 year missions) which make for 10 Christmases that mom and dad prayed for the safety of their boys in the mission field.  I know this is one of the reasons they've always had such love and care for those serving; they knew what it was like to hope that their children were being taken care of.

Since the church is growing so rapidly here in South Florida, we have three sets of missionaries just for our ward (Creole/French, Spanish, and English speaking.)  It was so much fun to have them all over for lunch and help celebrate Christ's birth.  It was also great that the lunch fell right in the middle of Daxton's nap time, so we were able to eat, talk, wrap presents, etc without the distractions of a little toddler.  Don't get me wrong, we love our little man, but it was nice to be able to focus on company and not having to fight with Dax to eat his food!
 We set the table with goblets full of different kinds of M&Ms and presents for each of them to open.  Our dinner was a bit on the shabby side, since we overcooked the ham, but the missionaries were so sweet about it and gobbled everything up regardless.  We also had roasted potatoes, rolls, corn, and a yummy spinach salad.

Dallas and I had gotten a name of a family in need for the holidays.  Daxton and I went shopping for all of them the day before, so we were organized and ready when the missionaries were done eating (all organization ideas passed on by mom and dad!)  Everyone helped with the wrapping and we were able to get all the boxes of toys and groceries ready for delivery within a half hours time.  It's always so fun to watch the missionaries wrap presents.  Everyone was excited, we were all telling stories about favorite family Christmas traditions, and laughing.  It was a wonderful afternoon!

Busy wrapping elves!

Elder Krikava (from San Diego area) and Elder Brakey (from Riverton, Utah)

 Elder Brockbank (from Woodland Hills, Utah) and Elder Felkins (from Roosevelt, Utah)

Sister Merrill (from Hooper, Utah) and Sister Daines (from Centerville, Utah)

We loved having the missionaries in our home.  Since it is a family tradition of mine, having them on Christmas Eve also helped alleviate a lot of the homesickness I had been feeling as well.  They all have such amazing spirits and excitement for the service they are doing.  What a blessing they are to us and our ward family.  I love the picture below, which shows how happy they all were to help with our secret Santa gifts...that, and to eat yummy cookies and M&Ms...
After we were done wrapping and the boxes were all organized, we handed everything off to the elders to deliver.  In the past we would usually drop, knock, and run, but that's not the safest idea here.  So the elders were gracious enough to make the delivery.

After everyone left, I called each of their parents.  I know that might sound silly, but I remember my dad calling or writing emails to missionaries families that he would meet randomly throughout his travels or in the stake.  While he was stake president, he would also make sure to visit "his" missionaries while on business trips if they were in the area.  I always thought that was so cool on how closely he cared for each of them and wanted to make sure they were ok.  I wanted to do the same.  It was so fun to briefly talk with their parents and assure them they were doing well and how happy they were.  Not everyone was home, so I left messages at homes in that case.  It was such a wonderful afternoon and we loved the company and reminder of Christ in our lives.

At the last minute we decided to take Daxton to see Disney's Frozen.  We had heard amazing things about it and already loved the music.  Plus we figured there would not be a lot of people at the 4pm showing on Christmas Eve in case he decided to be a crazy toddler.  We ended up loving every minute of it!  I brought LOTS of snacks for our little man and his special blanket, which was great since he got a little restless half way through.  He did really well, though, and either watched the movie, ate snacks, or crawled all over daddy.  It helped that there were so many fun songs and he LOVES snowmen.

Daxton's first time in a movie theater!
 As we were driving home from the movie, we remembered that we had given all our leftovers to the missionaries and that we had no food in the house.  Since Daxton was still in good spirits, we ended up at Olive Garden for Christmas Eve dinner.  We laughed at ourselves for the random occurrence, but figured we were on our own for the holidays anyway, so what did it matter where we ate?

When we got home we opened our Chirstmas Eve presents, which are always a new pair of pajamas and a book (another tradition from our families we wanted to keep.)  Daxton loves the Disney channel right now and was super excited about his "Jake" pirate pjs.  We were simply in love with his chubby belly!

Dallas was in charge of our "PJs" this year.  He got us a couple super soft tshirts, perfect for sleeping.  Daxton had a blast helping us open both of them.

 We just couldn't resist...

After putting out little guy to bed, Dallas got fast to work on Daxton's train table.  It was so much fun taking over "Santa" duties.  I was super impressed with how quickly Dallas put it all together.  Within an hour the train table was finished, stockings were stuffed, and house was ready for Christmas morning.  We made a great team!

I forgot to turn the Christmas tree lights on for the pictures below, but I thought it was pretty funny it shows how we had to decorate the tree this year...all ornaments safely out of reach from an inquisitive toddler!
I have to admit I got a little weepy when everything was set up.  I wish I could put into words how grateful I am for the life I have.  I have the most amazing husband.  He takes such good care of us and is so loving and understanding.  We have the most amazing son whom has become my best little buddy.  We live in a beautiful home and area and are so happy for life's choices that have brought us here.
Simply put, we feel blessed.
It was a wonderful Christmas Eve and the first on our own as a little family.

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