Sunday, February 1, 2015

Christmas Time Was Here!

Merry (belated) Christmas from the Merrills!

We spent the holidays in Utah with Keith's parents and brother Shawn. We had an absolute blast and when the time came to go back home we weren't ready. Even now Charlie will occasionally ask if Uncle Shawn can come over for dinner. I love these times when family comes together, three generations and sometimes more. I love seeing our kids fall in love with the people who we love most.

Our Christmas Eve went a little differently this year. We knew that Charlie wouldn't enjoy, or even have the patience, to sit and listen to the Biblical account of Christ's birth and the surrounding events. So we simply used the kid nativity that Bonnie had set up in the basement for the kids to play with to act out the story. Charlie listened intently and asked questions but it wasn't until Christmas afternoon that I realized that he had really understood any of it. I saw him playing with the set. He took Mary and Joseph to the inn and upon arriving there he had Joseph say that they needed a room and the inn keeper responded "Sorry. No rooms left." At which point he had them continue on to the stable.

After acting out the nativity story with Charlie we moved to the couch and sang Christmas songs together and Granny B enjoyed getting Jane snuggles. The traditions of telling the story of Christ's birth and singing those sacred songs always puts me in the right mindset to remember the real reason for Christmas the next morning. It also fills me with gratitude for all those in the story that had the faith and courage to do what was needed to bring this all to pass. Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, wise men, Heavenly Father and Christ who, knowing beforehand what would be required of Him, came to earth and atoned for each of us.

We woke the next morning to a white Christmas. It was almost too perfect to be true. The big picture is of a tiny hummingbird nest. Grandpa Joe (and I vicariously through his pictures and videos) greatly enjoyed watching the hummingbirds this past summer and is hoping that it will be reused this next summer. Fingers crossed!

It was SO fun to watch Charlie open his stocking and pull out the various items inside. The little construction machines were first and he was as excited as, well, a kid on Christmas morningx10. We put them in so he could use them in the kinetic sand table that my parents shipped to him. It was cute when he got down to the traditional orange, apple and can of olives that he was still jumping up and down with excitement as he pulled out each one. "Look! Look! I got olives!!!"

Jane was also excited about the oranges. So much so that she promptly started munching on one of them before we could get it peeled.

The picture on the right really should have gone with a different set of pictures but oh well. It is Keith's favorite Ansel Adams photo and he wanted it for his office at work. It was Shawn's gift to him.

Charlie was incredibly excited about the tool set that Keith's folks gave him! It came complete with safety goggles (of course), drill with interchangeable drill bits, skill saw, jigsaw and chain saw. He used the chain saw to help Grandpa Joe take down the fake Christmas tree later. Charlie was on a chair pretending to saw through the top of the tree when Grandpa Joe popped that part off. I can't even describe the expression on Charlie's face when the top came off as if he had really cut it off; it was a mix of shock, excitement, confusion and pride.

As per tradition each grandchild also received a Christmas tree ornament from Granny B. This year they were from Germany where Granny B had recently gone to visit Paul and Jenae and their family. The ornaments are lovely in the details that went into them.

Poor Shawn came down with the nasty flu bug, that we had accidentally brought to Utah with us, on Christmas morning. The sweet guy still wanted to join in on the festivities and did so laid out on the living room floor most of the time. He had recently traveled to Mexico with an aid group he had worked with before. He brought us all back wool sweatshirts and a little Mexican doll for Jane (which she LOVED and still will sit and play with it's little ribbons between her equally little fingers). He also gave me a nativity set made entirely of agave plant fibers. The skill and time that must have gone into making it makes me love it all the more.

Shawn also got an agave plant fibers nativity for Bonnie. For Joe, and his love of birdwatching, Shawn got him a pair of Mexican birds to hang in his office. Shawn's gifts were both really thoughtful and generous.
You probably have noticed the random mountain pictures. It felt SO good to see mountains again! Unfortunately though, we didn't get to take a drive up into the canyons due to weather.

We gave Jane a cute little book called "Peek a Who?." She seems to like it. I see her occasionally sit and flip through it and then when she reaches the last page with the little mirror she giggles and puts it up to her face. Super cute.
What was really fun to watch was her squeals of excitement when she unwrapped the doll that Granny B and Grandpa Joe gave her. I caught it on video but it decided to not record the sound! Grrr. That was the best part. The pictures still make me smile though as I remember her holding it up to show us.

After Christmas day (I don't remember when exactly) we took Charlie to his first basketball game! He was impressed at the size of the arena, confused at what everyone was so excited about and unsure about the loud sounds (as you can tell in the picture on the right.) What you can't see is the huge grin he also has. He would clap when everyone else clapped but I don't think he understood much of what was going on. BYU was playing Gonzaga and we were almost guaranteed to loose, which we did, but not nearly as badly as we thought we would. It was my first BYU basketball game as well. I had never gone because I had always thought they were as long as football games and I am done with football games generally by halftime. I was pleasantly surprised to be proved wrong.

The day after Christmas (I think) we had a big get-together with the Lowe (Bonnie's) side of the family. It was so nice to get to meet people we haven't seen in years. Grandma and Grandpa Lowe have found their way into a special part of my heart. Every time I see them they ask about how I am doing and how my family and siblings are doing. It is clear that it is more than just polite conversation; they genuinely care and want to know. They are truly good people.

Grandpa Merrill came for dinner the Sunday after Christmas. He had barely sat down when Charlie began enthusiastically showing him how his new tools worked. He can understand a bit of what I had experienced because he had a hematoma in his brain which required a surgical procedure to fix. So we got to swap brain surgery stories over dinner. Fun stuff.
As somewhat of a side note, the idea of four generations being together all at the same time, multiple times, is really somewhat of a new concept for me. None of my great-grandparents (to my knowledge) were still alive when I was born. I love looking at these four generation photos and thinking of Charlie and Jane looking at them someday. For some reason, that extra generation in there just makes family history become a bit more real to me.

At least according to Charlie, Granny B and Grandpa Joe have the funnest toys! Charlie loved, loved, loved the marble tower with its spinning wheels, winds, and funnels. He, Keith and Granny B all joined in on the fun as well. Granny B treasured every bit of time she had to snuggle with Jane (with Charlie too, his snuggles are just a whole lot shorter).

Grandpa Joe loved the Jane snuggles (and playtime) as well. I love the picture of Jane with her paper and pen. She is always very serious when she pretends to write.

Clockwise from the top left: Wonderful Becky and Liam, the kids at the earthquake table (it was pretty fun), Jane in the wind "tunnel." The girl LOVES wind. She was made for Fargo.
A trip to Utah just wouldn't be complete without a visit to Dan and Becky! This go round we got to see them three times! One night after the kids went to sleep we went over to their place and had fun visiting without the kiddos around. Ya know, just the adults. As fun as it is to get everyone together, it was nice to sneak out and visit without the kids being the wiser. They also came over for Charlie's birthday celebration (another post) and Becky and her kids came with us to the Museum of Natural Curiosity. We went there before but only saw a fraction of it. This time we saw more but still haven't seen the entire place. It is huge! It was really fun to go with Becky and her sweet kids. It is always neat to me to see how quickly kids make friends with each other.

Keith explaining to the kids how the oil is refined with the hands on display. I like that it looks like little Jane is explaining it to everyone: 'the warm water goes way up!" The picture on the top right was of a bouncy table in the physics (motion) section of the museum. I forget what it was demonstrating but Jane sure liked the bounce! Also in the physics section of the museum was a pedal powered light. It would get brighter the faster you pedaled. Hannah and I were rockin' it.
The entire trip was wonderful. It really was. Let's do it again!

P.S. There are more posts coming about Charlie's birthday (I can't believe he is four!) and Keith and my special three-day get away...


Bonnie Merrill, aka Granny B said...

We love you Katie! As always, this blog post made my day! We had so much fun having all of you here for Christmas! The time just went by too fast...yet you captured the wonderful feelings that we all shared during this special time of year. When my arms start aching for Jane and Charlie snuggles, I will come back and look at the photos you posted here. What a gift! Thank you!

beckstarr said...

Yay I loved being with you guys, even on vacation you listen to inspiration to reach out, and I needed your steady sense of carrying on and positivity! We loved being with sweet Charlie and beauty Jane! We miss you and want you back from Fargo!