On the Saturday before Christmas we gathered at Grandpa Dean and Grandma Jeanne’s for Vander Well Christmas (part 1). Taylor and Madison were with their mom, so it was just Wendy braving the oncoming snow storm on the drive to Des Moines. Terry, Bonnie and Ellie were in town from Chicago, and we got to meet their new puppy, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Daisy.
We had a wonderful lunch and opened gifts before Wendy and I had to high-tail it back to Pella before the weather got any worse. As always, there were plenty of gifts to go around. Grandpa and Grandma decided to give us kids some special heirlooms from the Vander Well family. They gave me the Dutch family Bible that belonged to my Great-Grandfather who came to the states from the Netherlands in the late 1800s (very cool). Jody kept Grandpa Vander Well’s head warm with the cap she knit for Grandma (see picture).
On Christmas Eve day we were expecting to travel to Iowa City where Wendy’s brother and sister-in-law, Jesse and Heidi, were expecting thier first baby. God granted Heidi’s Christmas wish and little Sophia Parker came a week early. Rather than put Heidi through hosting all 15 of us in their three bedroom apartment, everyone came to our house!
Of course, little Sophia was the center of attention. The little cutie got passed around all day long and never fussed a bit. We had more great food (ugh!) and plenty of laughter as the family stayed all afternoon. We loved having Heidi’s parents, Miss Ann and Mr. Fred, join us from Louisiana!
Christmas Eve was a quiet one for Wendy and me. After a day full of food and family we waddled over to sit on the couch – just the two of us – to watch a movie (that ever-sentimental holiday classic – Live Free or Die Hard).
Christmas morning was just the four of us exchanging gifts in our home. In an act of extreme, sacrificial love, Wendy gave me the 23-hour documentary Baseball by Ken Burns (Wendy hates documentaries). I on the other hand, gave Wendy a hand-mixer, mixing bowls, a double-boiler and a book of chocolate recipes. Anyone who’s had Wendy’s cooking – especially her cheesecake – will immediately realize that I am going to personally benefit from these gifts, but she did ask for all of it (okay – most of it – I swear I remember her saying she wanted mixing bowls!) 🙂
Speaking of Wendy’s cooking. We usually like to have a nice, big family breakfast – just the four of us – on Christmas morning. We opted to skip it this year. Part of it was that we knew we’d be eating very well in just a few hours. I also realized that, were I to go swimming that morning, I would easily be mistaken for a small, off-shore island.
As far as the rest of the gifts, the girls, being teenagers, got what they wanted: cash. Cold, hard, cash. Dinero. Dough. Jack. Bones. Moo-la. Greenbacks. Samoles. Scratch. I’m sure it will go towards clothes, though Madison did use hers to buy a new nano video iPod. I must note that Taylor, prompted by the Holy Spirit, was instrumental in raising cash (read: hundreds of dollars) from among her teen-aged peers and donating much of her own money to a needy local family. What can I say? The girl’s a class-act.
By noon on Christmas Day the four of us were back at the Vander Wells for Christmas part deaux. Tim was back from his trip to Europe and the girls were anxious to see their cousins (see picture). More (urp!) food, followed by more gifts, followed by more food, followed by games.
Wendy and I took a break to buzz over for a Christmas visit with the Van Tuyl family (Wendy’s relatives – though not by blood – you see Wendy is….well, it’s complicated…just trust me, they’re family). It was a great visit and we received this really cool little toy guitar that sounds real and is easy to play. Madison’s been having fun with it!
We went back to the Vander Wells and enjoyed some more conversation before Aunt Jody talked Grandpa Dean in to making eierflensjes. This is a thin Dutch crepe (sprinkled with sugar, honey, or jelly then rolled up) that has been a rare family treat through the years. My "Grandpa V" used to make with my Dad for family gatherings when were kids. We still try to have them once or twice a year. So, Dad whipped up a bunch, which was a good thing since we’d certainly HADN’T HAD ENOUGH TO EAT!
That’s probably more detail than you wanted. Wendy and I have commented at what a blessing it is to gather with all of our various mixtures of family, and to thoroughly enjoy the time. There was no fighting. There was no bickering. There was no tension. There was a lot of conversation. There was a lot of laughter. There were special moments. There were tears of joy. There was prayer and the holding of hands.
…and plenty of food 🙂