Of course part of the fun of Christmas is the things we do that build up to Christmas. At the beginning of the month we had our family party. My folks were in town for a Dr.'s check up from my dad's surgery, so we invited everybody else over from both sides of the family. We had about 28 people in the house and had a blast. After a nice lunch, we proceeded with our traditional game gift exchange. Everyone brings a gift that's worth $15 that anyone would like or that the bringer wouldn't mind taking home as their own gift. Then we play the white elephant gift game where each person takes a number, and in turn gets to open a gift or steal a gift already opened. Depending on the group size, the gift is frozen after being stolen two or three times. It's a lot of fun to play and it lasts awhile. Our family rule is that children ten and older can play. This game has created a lot of fun memories and makes it so we don't have to buy gifts for each person in the family. The younger kids also get to open a gift to play with while the adults play their game.
We finally made it to temple square this year. We figured we'd have troubles finding a parking spot down town SLC so we parked at the trax and took the train into the city. The boys were so excited to ride the train. It was quite cold even though we bundled up so we spent more time on the train than on temple square. CoolJ was quite disappointed that we didn't go into the temple since we had gone into each of the other buildings. I've since reserved tickets online for us to go through the Draper Temple Open House.
On another occasion, we drove through Riverton to see the lights people had on and around their houses. One home in particular was absolutely gorgeous. There were several large trees and very tall bushes that were all wrapped in lights, each individual branch.
The kids are starting to catch onto some of our family traditions. Rafiki mentioned a couple times that he looks forward to opening a gift on Christmas Eve because he loves getting new pajamas. This also helped Kobee and CoolJ to understand their present would be pj's and not a toy. On Christmas Eve we also read the story of the birth of our Savior together as a family. It was wonderful.
Christmas day we were snowed in. Two storms came through that day. For those of you who have not been to our house, we are on the end of a dirt lane which is a "private drive" meaning that the city does not plow our road. AND our driveway is quite long and double wide, so shoveling takes hours. Eventually the plows made it through the major roads, but two 4x4's got stuck in the middle of the dirt road. We ended up canceling our Christmas dinner so that family wouldn't get stuck trying to come down our street. This meant we baked a 22 lb. turkey to feed seven of us. Thank goodness we love leftover turkey!
Christmas day was a lot of fun. Hawkfire woke us up at 7am, which is plenty early for her to be up. Oddly enough she actually went to sleep by 10pm the night before. We woke up everyone else in the house, including grandma. Santa Claus filled our stockings with lots of fun things and left us Rock Band to go with the Wii we got for Christmas last year. Kobee and CoolJ found Magnetix in their stockings, which kept them busy until we decided to open presents.
When all was said and done, each person had an electronic device except Hawkfire, who asked for books, books, and more books. I found a great deal on ebay for a Nintendo DS, Gameboy Advance and several games (used) all in the same auction, so Kobee got the Gameboy and Rafiki got the DS. Knowing CoolJ would want something similar, we found a preschool "laptop" with educational stuff on it for him. Grandma got a cell phone on our family plan so that I don't have to worry about her so much while she's out. Church_Mouse got a Blue Ray DVD player to replace our broken DVD player, and he got me an iRobot Roomba which is a vacuum that runs itself. Amazing. I named it Angel because it cleans for me! Church_Mouse proceeded to clean corners in preparation for Angel to do her thing. For me, that's the best gift of all is having somebody else doing the cleaning.
A couple days after Christmas we hopped in the van (after a great deal of packing) and headed to Idaho to visit my folks. Even though the weather was good in Utah, it wasn't so good once we reached Idaho, so our driving time was extended from the usual 4 1/2 hours to just over 6 hours. We would have turned around if we felt it was too bad to continue north, but everything worked out fine for us to be here. Our intent was to play in the hills with sleds, which we forgot to bring, and go ice skating. While here the wind and weather has been very odd. The wind blew so hard for two days and we didn't want to go anywhere. The wind was much warmer than it had been so it started melting the snow. Of course the snow isn't gone, but it's time to go home and we haven't done what we came for. However, we have played a lot of games with my mom and visited my grandma. Mom saved the best for last and pulled out marshmallow guns for each kid tonight, which kept them busy for a good long time, laughing and aiming.
Tomorrow we'll hop in the car and head home. Then tomorrow night we'll spend the evening with some friends to celebrate the coming of another year! Even Hawkfire was amazed at how quickly this year has gone by.
The holidays have brought a lot of joy and happiness as we have spent many evenings together as a family. Good times, great memories!