Tuesday, December 29, 2015

12 Days of Christmas Challenge

This is what is currently posted on our refrigerator.  Some of the ideas I shamelessly stole from other such lists, and some I adapted for our family.  I'm calling it a "Challenge" because it's the best way to get this gang even slightly motivated.

I'm thankful that the traditional 12 Days starts December 25 because we seem to have much more time to focus on things like this after Christmas rather than before.  So today we're on Day 5, and even though I'm getting a small amount of pushback (as happens with any initiative I try around here), generally everyone is participating.  It's been a good way to focus on ending one year and beginning another.

(Day 1 was particularly good because my reluctant huggers had to hug 20+ people since we saw a lot of people on Christmas Day!)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Day

Irony:  Making it all the way through the Advent season with fire-obsessed kids wildly wielding lighters around highly flammable wreaths, daily experimenting with diverse ways of extinguishing flames with body parts and random objects, physically fighting over who got to blow out which flame when, and running around lighting a multitude of Christmas candles in every room of the house over and over and over ----- only to have the fire in our kitchen this morning be actually caused by the heating element in the oven popping and splitting into 2 pieces.

This was really our second breakfast catastrophe of the day.  Every year I make homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning, so yesterday I had spent (it felt like) all day making Cinnabon-style ones.  But due to a few different events which I will not go into now (but include a rush getting ready for company for Christmas Eve, a late-ending church service, an early-arriving Russian student, a forgetful baker, and a mud room), I ended up having to throw both pans away.  Sad.  Pete made a different breakfast instead -- or attempted to anyway.
Christmas Eve food
So our Christmas Day started with a fire -- and ended with a lizard running loose through the dining room -- but the middle parts were quite good anyway.

Watching the kids open their gifts this morning was truly delightful.... they were all grateful and excited and content and all the things we wish them always to be.  We heard things like, "A dream come true!' and "This is the best Christmas ever!" and "I LOVE it!!  I'm not sure what it is..."  and "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

Then, when all the unwrapping was done and the excitement was starting to subside, we told them we wanted to take a family walk (in this lovely 70-degree weather), so we gave them some specific instructions of some chores to do before we left. ("Strider, go take the laundry out of the dryer," "Rayna, go get the mop to do the floor," "Cole and Miles, go to the sock box and match up some socks.")  They, for once, all completely obeyed, and when they got to those spots, found that they each had one additional present!  (Well, actually Rayna found that the mop hadn't been put away where we thought it was, so she actually started mopping the floors before we realized it.  We finally diverted her to the closet where she found her gift.)

We had, of course, saved the best for last, so now we got to hear things like, "You just made the Best Christmas Ever even better!"

Couldn't ask for better reactions.

We had originally planned to go to Mom and Dad's for a big Christmas event, but Mom was sick, so we decided to go to the Clarks' instead.  We roped in John and Keiko and their kids as well, and they brought Mor-Mor over, so we had a nice little afternoon playing a game and letting the kids frolic.  And because whenever 2 or more Wrays gather, there the Dreschers will be among them, we also got to visit with them as well!  It was almost a complete sibling party... only Dan and Amy and their kids didn't make it.

BUT, on the way home we got invited to come have dinner with them!  This was such a treat -- not just because it meant we got to see the whole Wray clan in one day (minus Mom and Dad), but also because they made a totally awesome meal and it was WAY better than we would have been able to come up with with our busted oven!

So it was a very good, complete, happy day -- fires, lizards, and all.

The Wray Christmas Lake Days: Outdoor Antics

The first morning of our stay the rain held off long enough for us to get in a large Family F3 workout.   Just about everyone, from age 3 to age 69 participated! Many of us were FNG's (Friendly New Guy/Gal) but the F3 regulars guided us along.  General Chavez was in charge, barking out the orders and telling us what would and would NOT be acceptable.  Grueling!!

Not ALL of us attempted this
Then, to top it all off, some of the crazier folks among us thought it might be fun to do a polar bear plunge into the lake.   Yes, the water was VERY cold.


Then Dan got helped in.

After everyone had had a little dip -- or heartstopping swim ending with a rescue -- these guys had a better idea:

The next morning the wet ground made us move the F3 workout into the large garage -- followed by a run/walk for some.  No more polar bear plunges, though!

The Wray Christmas Lake Days: Indoor Activities

Much of the time at the lake house was rainy, so we were thankful for all the indoor space that we had.  It was never quiet!  (The few minutes that the kids were all quiet were, coincidentally, the very same moments that the dramatic music from the Star Wars movies was blaring.)

(You may notice that many of these pictures include an adult or two drinking alcohol.)

Some of the highlights were...

Making "veggie lodges" -- supposed to be an alternative to gingerbread houses.  But this was another case of "what looks too good to be true on Pinterest IS."  The structures didn't work at all... but the kids were undaunted and went ahead and made their own designs.

 Meanwhile, Poppa had all kinds of games to keep both the adults and the kids busy....

 .... and Nonna had crafts and stories for the kids.

The kids played games during the day,
 ... and the adults played games after they went to bed.  Still not sure how the kids stayed asleep through our raucous games of "Word on the Street!"

 And between all of the Secret Santa activities and Nonna's Big Grab Bag Game, there were plenty of gifts to give and receive!

3 Days, 28 Wrays...

... All in 1 house!

We had to travel clear over nigh unto Virginia to find a place that would fit us all, but it was worth it.

The 16 grandchildren kept us entertained...

....  and awake...

 .... and drinking.

 We had a good time enjoying each other for hours on end.  It was heartwarming to see everyone getting along so well the whole time!

The extra-special bonus for me was that I got to celebrate my birthday with everyone.  It's not many 40-something-year-olds that can hear the Happy Birthday song sung by 27 people -- and can celebrate with all 27 of them all day long!

Thanks, Mom and Dad!  It was a great trip!

3 Days,
28 Wrays,
The Lord we praise!