Christmas 2015

Wendy and I have been excited to celebrate Christmas for the first time here on Utrecht Laan. Wendy got to work early getting Christmas decorations up this year, which inspired a desire for changes and additions next year. Let the after-Christmas sale shopping begin!!

Having said that, Christmas itself was a reminder of the transitional phase of life we are in. Suzanna has been home working on Christmas break, but she headed to Ankeny on Christmas Eve day to spend the weekend with Mom and Dad Hall. So we opened gifts with her before she left.

Wendy is so cute to individually wrap all of the various knick-knacks in the girls’ stockings. She is right that it feels a little bit more like Christmas gifts when you have to unwrap the roll of Scotch tape, but the girls all seem to love it. Suzanna decided to identify each item before unwrapping it like the Carnac the Magnificent (here’s a video for those of you too young to know who that is). I think she batted a thousand.

That left the house relatively empty for Christmas Eve as Taylor was in Des Moines with family. So, Wendy and I attended the 4:30 pm. Christmas Eve service at Third. It was a really nice service. I don’t think I made it through a Christmas carol without tearing up. It is said that Jesus “takes away your heart of stone, and gives you a heart of flesh.” The older I get, the softer and softer I find my heart becoming. As I stood there during O Holy Night with tears streaming down my cheeks unable to get the words out, I thought to myself that if this keeps up, by 65 you’ll be able to find me simply by looking for the perpetually blubbering old guy in the corner of the room! We ran into Cyndi and Megan in Fellowship Hall after the service and got to chat with them for a bit.

Knowing that we were going to be home alone on Christmas Eve, Wendy and I planned a special meal just the two of us. We have a recipe for Filet Mignon in a red wine sauce that we pull out for special occasions. I took care of the steak and Wendy maee her sweet potatoes. We opened our very last bottle of 2009 Warburn Estates Barossa Shiraz, an Australian favorite of ours that is no longer available in the States. It was a wonderful meal.

I pulled the guitar out after dinner. I haven’t played in a long time, and serenaded Wendy as we relaxed. Taylor arrived home later in the evening and we received a visit from her friend, Andrew, who is home from California. The four of us enjoyed a drink in the pub downstairs before the two of them headed off to midnight mass.

Madison is flying over the holidays. She had to arrange her schedule as a flight attendant so that she could be off most of the first half of December to study for, and finish, her finals. That left her putting in a lot of hours over the holidays.

Thus, it was just Wendy, Taylor, and me on Christmas morning. Wendy made her traditional Christmas breakfast. We had French Toast this year made with her homemade bread along with eggs, bacon, sausage and the typical fare. Delicious and delightful as always. There had been just a dusting of snow on Christmas Eve so as to make the landscape outside the dining room windows frosty. We stoked the fireplace and enjoyed ourselves.

We opened gifts after breakfast. Madison joined us by FaceTime and we got to watch her unwrap the AA batteries in her stocking before she headed out to take care of passengers in the friendly skies.

While the girls cleaned up I took one of Wendy’s Dutch Letter Cheesecakes over to the church. Our church does a big community meal for anyone and everyone every Christmas and Wendy donated one of her cheesecakes. When I took it in and revealed it to the volunteers in the kitchen you should have heard the “oooohs” and “aaahs.” It was really sweet.

We cleaned up and headed to Des Moines around noon. My parents moved into a retirement community earlier this year. They live independently, but the facility provides them with great community, a meal day, and proximity to the help they need when they need it. Dad’s chemo has done its job, keeping Multiple Myeloma at bay. The treatment is on-going, however, and takes its toll on dad’s body in other ways. We’re still very thankful that he’s doing so well. Mom’s Alzheimer’s is still in the early stages and continues to progress (she hadn’t forgotten how to beat us all at cards!).

Dad reserved the community room in their building for the afternoon on Christmas Day. Everyone brought goodies to share, though it was a rather small gathering this year. My brother Tim and his girlfriend, Kumi, were up from Texas. Jody and Emma joined us from the Keithley clan along with Wendy, Taylor and me. It was a quiet afternoon. We ate, chatted, and exchanged gifts before settling in for playing a few card games together. The three of us headed back to Pella around 6:00.

Christmas with the Vander Hart clan was at our house this year. It took place on Sunday afternoon. Wendy, Taylor and I went to the 11:00 service at church. Wendy was mobbed by multiple people telling her that her Dutch Letter Cheesecake had been a huge hit at Christmas dinner. She was thrilled. After church we high-tailed it back to the house in time for the VH brood to arrive. They were, as usual, almost all early.  More and more goodies (ugh! Sugar overdose!) and conversation flowed. We were so excited to see Becky, Court, and our darling little niece, Lydia. It had been way too long.

Christmas 2015 - 36 Christmas 2015 - 37

On Wednesday night we headed to Ankeny to celebrate Christmas with the Hall clan. Luke’s fiancé, Brooke, joined us for Christmas for the first time. It was a fairly small gathering, however. Beck, Court, and Lydia were there with us and Lydia was the center of attention (though I’m not sure she was thrilled with all the attention!). We had lasagna and soup along with the requisite spritz cookies for dessert. We opened gifts after supper and then enjoyed spirited conversation about the presidential race along with the family enjoying reminiscing about their memories of living in Albia and Norwalk.

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