After having our home filled with our entire brood last year, Wendy and I knew that this year was going to be a stark contrast since neither the Scottish crew nor the South Carolina crew, were going to be making it back to Iowa. Thus, we begin this holiday edition of The Latest with Halloween, which we had to enjoy vicariously from across the pond. Taylor gets the great mom merit badge for Milo’s awesome firefly costume.
Meanwhile, down across the Mason-Dixon line, Madison got into the festive spirit at work with her amazing Poison Ivy make-up design.
Late autumn felt a lot like late summer this year. The weather has been unseasonably warm. It’s Christmas Eve day as I type the draft of this post and the forecast high is 59 degrees. We have a trip to San Diego scheduled next week to enjoy some “warm” weather and escape the “frigid” Iowa winter. The forecast high while we’re in San Diego next week? 59 degrees. 🙄.
Meanwhile, Wendy and I stayed busy in November. I delivered a keynote address at the fall conference of the Iowa Communication Alliance. Wendy continues to keep me on track as the “Senior Director of All the Things” for Intelligentics while also helping to manage “all the things” for Selah Studios. I also continue to serve the teaching team at Third Church, and I preached three of the five Sundays in November. Wendy and I also enjoyed, once again, being a part of Pella’s annual Tulip Queen Announcement Party again this year. Wendy is serving a multi-year stint on the committee and acts as the Director of the evening program. I was Master of Ceremonies again this year.
Wendy and I continue to feel honored to help her Grandma Vander Hart, who turned 94 this year and continues to live independently in her apartment. Wendy and I check in with her regularly and make sure she has what she needs. Some days we get to read the daily devotional for her, along with running errands and helping with odd tasks around her apartment.
Grandma Vander Hart joined us for Thanksgiving at our house, along with my parents, who drove down from Des Moines. It was a relatively quiet affair compared to some years, but we loved hosting these three. We had a traditional Thanksgiving meal with turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and gravy. The afternoon was spent lounging and chatting.
We were also honored this fall to play host for a long-standing family rivalry. My nephew, Sam, grew up a Green Bay Packers fan. Misguided as that is, he mustered the wisdom to marry a Vikings fan which only fueled the friendly rivalry we’ve enjoyed his entire life. Sam brought his family, and our niece Emma, down to Pella for George’s pizza and the Packers-Vikings game. Vikings won this time, which was a rare treat the way things have gone in recent years.
Our place at the lake tends to sit empty from November through March, but this year my friend Matthew and I headed south for a personal retreat over a long weekend in early December. The weather was amazing with temps in the 70s and 80s. It was 75 degrees one evening as I grilled some steaks on the deck, where we were also blessed to enjoy lunch a couple of the days.
Our grandson, Milo, celebrated his 4th birthday in early December, and we had to celebrate via FaceTime. What we weren’t expecting was the present that Milo had for us. He donned his “Big Brother” t-shirt to announce the pending arrival of another grandchild next summer!
We also got to celebrate the 2nd birthday of our niece, Anya in December with a birthday party at her house. It also gave us the opportunity to hang with our newest nephew, Owen.
Last year at Christmas we held the inaugural family Christmas Cocktail Contest. The kids wanted to make it a tradition, but we had to do it this year via video call across three weekends. Not as fun as being in person, but we certainly had had fun connecting online and sharing a drink and a chat together.
Christmas without the kids in town ended up being a fairly low-key affair. With the unexpected passing of our dear friend, Shay’s, mother, Wendy and I spent Christmas Eve visiting the VLs who had driven through the previous night to return from a Christmas ski vacation. We then walked home (did I mention it’s unseasonably warm this year?) where “ma in her kerchief and I in my cap” both settled in early for “a long winter’s nap.”
Having headed to bed early, I was awake for the “night watch” and enjoyed praying, reading, and some extended quiet time in the darkness before dawn until Wendy rose for the day. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and opened gifts between the two of us. We even snuck in a FaceTime call with Milo to let him show us his Christmas haul as we were getting ready for the day.
Wendy and I hosted anyone from our families who wanted to come for a charcuterie spread on Christmas Day. The guests began to arrive late morning. Covid worries and seasonal viruses prompted some last-minute cancellations, but we had a wonderful constellation of loved ones including Wendy’s sister and her family from Denver, my brother from Boise, our parents, and Grandma VH. After eating, there was the sharing of gifts. My dad and sister made a stained-glass Santa ornament for us. My mother’s favorite color is purple, so Wendy and I gave her the most purple robe we could find along with matching slippers. About mid-afternoon, the entire VL crew walked over to join the festivities. Amidst the din of Christmas revelry, we enjoyed a Zoom chat with Madison, Tay, and Clay.
By evening, all guests had departed. Wendy and I cleaned up and then had a quick FaceTime call with our friends Kev and Beck to open their gifts to us which were still under the tree. After that, we settled in on the couch to watch the Guy Pearce – FX interpretation of A Christmas Carol (it’s amazing, trust us). Other than an emergency V-Dub Pub to-go order, we enjoyed a quiet evening before retiring together with our hearts, heads, and tummies full.
Today, we head to Ankeny for Christmas with the Hall Clan.
Merry Christmas, friends.
“God bless us. Everyone.”