Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Carter Christmas

Dylan models his Christmas stocking on Christmas Eve 2014.

I wasn't sure what to expect of Christmas this year, with only two of us in the house now. Even after Jacob left on his mission and Sarah married Chris, there were still three of us because I was married to my ex, Ed, at the time. And last Christmas, after Ed and I split up, there were five of us because Jacob had moved back home and then my stepson and his girlfriend (now wife), Ryan and Shera, had moved in with us two weeks before Christmas. That was a busy, fun-filled, merry Christmas.

But two of us? I wasn't so sure what kind of Christmas that would make.

All the gifts were snuggled under the tree.

My married children, Sarah and Chris and Jacob and Danielle, had decided they'd like to have a quiet Christmas morning alone with their spouses, opening their gifts to each other privately. Then at 10:30 we would all gather at my house and open the presents we'd gotten for one another.

I asked Dylan if he wanted to do the same, or if he'd rather open our gifts to each other after his siblings came over at 10:30. He decided it would be better to wait so he could sleep later!

Santa filled Dylan's stocking to the brim. For me, he went for quality rather than quantity.
Chocolate oranges are the best!

I stayed up until after midnight, making fudge and baking a razzleberry pie, and prepping the potatoes for boiling and the green bean casserole for baking. Then I set the alarm for 8:00 a.m. so I could get up and get the turkey into the oven and complete other kitchen tasks. I was relieved that I was going to be able to sleep in a bit later since Dylan had decided to sleep in and open gifts later in the morning.

Dylan investigates the contents of his stocking.

At 7:30 I groggily came awake to a quiet sound at my bedroom door (I sleep lightly). It was Dylan. "Mom, I can't sleep. Can we open our presents now?" Groan...

"I think Santa's trying to fatten me up, " said Dylan.

So I dragged myself out of bed, combed my hair, and shuffled into the living room where my son awaited. I guess at seventeen you aren't too old and too cool to lose sleep in anticipation of Christmas morning!

Dylan with his pile of gifts.

Dylan had already received his big gift for this Christmas. The TV he once used for his Xbox went to Ed in the divorce (I never liked that TV anyway, due to its tinny sound), so Dylan suggested we replace it with a computer monitor as his main Christmas present. I agreed, so the gifts he opened this morning were pretty minor, mostly for the fun of having something to open.

Dylan opens a DVD of The Fluffy Movie, by his favorite comedian, Gabriel Iglesias.

Dylan's morning haul of Christmas loot. Notice Santa gave him some coal,
just to remind him that there's always room for improvement!

Besides The Fluffy Movie DVD, Dylan received a large bag of M&Ms for the M&M candy dispenser he got several years ago (a big refill bag is an annual tradition now); a Minecraft wall calendar (calendars are another traditional annual gift); a box of chocolate-covered cherries; a small iron skillet with brownie mix to cook up in it; and speakers to go with his new monitor.

Turkey in the oven and rolls rising on the warm stove top.

After the fun of opening our presents, I got back to work in the kitchen until the older kids arrived for our gift exchange.

A plate full of yummy, melt-in-your-mouth fudge.

Danielle brought more luscious fudge, as well as chocolate chip cookies
and sugar corn in both peppermint and cherry flavors.

Once we were all together, we took turns opening the gifts we'd been dying to open for weeks, starting with the youngest.

Dylan gets a Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare shirt from Jacob and Danielle.

Dylan bursts into laughter when he realizes that 
Sarah and Chris gave him the exact same shirt!

Danielle loves her new jewelry box from Sarah and Chris.

I missed getting a picture of Jacob and Chris as they both opened their gifts from me at the same time. Knowing how much they loved our eight attraction photos (Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, etc.) from Disneyland, I had 8x10 prints made of all eight pictures for each of the guys.

Sarah got a Willow Tree figurine from me and treble clef earrings from Dylan.
She can wear them on concert days, along with her violin necklace.

Chris got a can of popcorn, featuring Olaf, from Jacob and Danielle.
He loves Olaf the snowman, of the film Frozen!

Another fun highlight of our day was a phone call from Ryan and Shera, wishing us a Merry Christmas from Missouri. It was so good to hear from them on this special day!

Here I am with my gifts. Jacob and Danielle gave me the lovely blue nightgown.
Sarah and Chris gave me the sweet "Gracious" Willow tree figure holding a golden pineapple.
Dylan gave me the beautiful butterfly earrings and the butterfly in the jar. It's amazing.
The butterfly flutters around inside when you tap the jar, and it looks so real!
I'll keep it on my desk at school, where my students will be entranced by it.
My children know I love these types of whimsical gifts!

In addition to the gifts mentioned above, Chris and Sarah got a fuzzy wolf blanket
from Jacob and Danielle; and the DVD Just Go with It from Dylan.

We enjoyed our Christmas dinner at 1:30, and we were especially pleased to have the Elders (two young, full-time missionaries from our ward at church) join us. They stayed for 2 hours of fun conversation and food. We made sure they enjoyed some pie before we sent them on their way. It's always such a privilege to have them and their sweet spirit in our home. They were looking forward to this evening, when they would Skype their families back home in Montana and Georgia, one of only two times per year that they get to call home (the other being Mother's Day).

During dinner we were also blessed with a light snowfall of fat flakes, giving us a real White Christmas. It only dropped about a quarter-inch dusting of snow, but they say we might get 2 inches more overnight.

Jacob and Danielle's other gifts included the novel The Fault in Our Stars for Dani
from Dylan; a soft puppy-shaped neck massager for Danielle from me;
a tee-shirt and Zombie-Strike Nerf-gun for Jacob from Sarah and Chris; and
an 11x14 frame with a promise to fill it with a wedding sketch by Valentine's Day,
like the sketch I did of Chris and Sarah for Christmas last year.

Sarah and Chris had to leave us at 3:30. Chris's sister Sara had arrived this afternoon from her San Diego home, and they were having their family Christmas dinner at Chris's mom's house at 4:00. We were so grateful that they were able to spend about five hours with us first.

In addition to his gifts from Mom and the matching tee-shirts from his siblings
(notice he's wearing one and one is on the table), Dylan also got a 
Zombie-Strike Nerf-gun, which he has already used to irritate most of his family!

After they left us, Jacob, Danielle, and I fell asleep in my extremely comfortable recliners for about an hour. They are both fighting off bad colds. Me? Well, I'm just old! When we were awakened by a knock on the front door (an unexpected visit from an old friend of Dylan's), we watched a DVD together, Dolphin Tale 2. Then Jacob and Danielle headed back home for a good night's sleep before returning to work tomorrow.

Now the house is once again quiet and calm. But it's also filled with warm memories of our time together. I'm so grateful to be part of a family and to have such great kids. I feel so blessed. A Christmas of two people expanded and filled the day with joy!

Dylan with his new monitor and speakers.

I feel truly blessed to have my entire family around me this Christmas. It must be difficult for Danielle's parents, who moved to Utah after the wedding this summer, to have their little girl so far away at Christmas time. I'm aware that the time may come when my kids won't live this close, and so I intend to enjoy every second for as long as it lasts!

After all, this is the true meaning of Christmas: to give love as the Savior taught, and to receive the gifts of love with gratitude in our hearts.

Merry Christmas with love from our home to yours!

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