Photo by Aunt Barb
AJ was awesome fun at Christmas this year. Four is the best (so far anyway) because she makes this face for every single amazing, wonderful, unbelievable, ohhhhhhh (inhale) my goodness! present:
She and her almost-three cousin were also great fun together. They have opposite personalities–drama girl wants the next present immediately, thinker boy wants to sit and examine the first one for a while–but know how to come together for a good ol’ fashioned paper leaf throw or horseback Papa ride.
Could these grandparents be any happier?
Christmas Eve was a nice day with all three of us plus Chatterbox (closed dorm refuge at our house during the holidays) hanging around home. We went to a big local church in the evening and then did our family traditions: AJ gets to open an ornament and new pajamas, and Aaron reads ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
Christmas morning the cookies were gone (hmm) and the stockings were full. AJ questioned everyone thoroughly as to whether we had heard Santa while we were sleeping. We had a nice breakfast and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. AJ got a new doll, a tea set, and a Wii game. We all got our stockings filled mostly with sugary delights and toothbrushes and such to counteract them. “Hygiene for the Holidays!”
Then we went over to Aaron’s parents’ house to gather with his brothers and later on aunts and uncles and so on. Traditions have changed in the last few years with the passing of both grandparents, but we seem to be settling into new ones. We do just a few gifts but plenty of food all day, and lots of just hanging out around the table or playing Wii.
A girl and her grandma!
It was a long day for AJ but she kept her energy going until the second she was in bed with lights out. The next day we had church and then a big annual Christmas party with friends and she was a champ all through that too. Monday was recovery day! But also get the tree out day, because it was the worst needle-shedder ever. We have a nice cozy new arrangement and oh the SHINY of our new TV which was our gift to ourselves from now to infinity and beyond forever and ever amen. If Aaron gets to watch the Lions win their 4th in a row on it tomorrow he may just about keel over with joy!
We’ve had a very nice New Year’s weekend too, filled with many wonderful friends and foods. I think I am in denial about going back to work 5 days next week and that Aaron leaves for his school intercultural immersion trip/class pre-dawn Wednesday. He will be in Tucson/Mexico for 10 days with a border ministry. But first we have to squeeze in just a bit more family and friends togetherness–and can I squeeze in just a little more of that good food too?
Happy new year!
Friday we found out Aaron’s grandfather had died. It was unexpected, although he had been struggling through dementia for a few years and especially since Grandma died two years ago.
(We went on the church camping trip Saturday through Monday, which was enjoyable although perhaps one of the COLDest camping nights we’ve ever braved in a tent. I lost my voice from allergies, and now–after all the days in a row of busyness with little sleep–Aaron is definitely sick with a fever.)
Tuesday was visitation for Grandpa, out in Ionia. Just about all the family were able to make it, and it was good to see them and for them to be able to see Anna. She was a trooper about hanging out in a rather boring for a 3-year-old room for hours. Wednesday just the two of us went out for the funeral. The service was a little “how I will NOT do funerals when I’m a pastor” for Aaron…but still it was good. The church provided the traditional ham-buns, etc., and Aaron ate his dessert first as Grandpa always would “in case Jesus comes back.” Then we stood on a hill in the gusty wind, surrounded by cornfields and American flags and wilted flowers marking other families’ memories and losses, and said our goodbyes.
Peace be with you, children and grandchildren of a good man.
Those not interested in holiday recaps may wish to skip this post–but check back soon for an announcement about these ducks.
For those who have not yet overdosed on holiday cuteness . . .
Our Christmas celebrations were spread out this year, starting two weekends ago when we all gathered at The Farm: the three of us, my parents, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my nephew “Tobo.” AJ and I went up early to get out of Aaron’s hair during his exam week of doom, so he missed some of the frolicking in the snow and the traditional turning of the house into a cookie decorating factory. Tobo and AJ together are a blast!
Saturday we did stockings and other gifts. AJ and Grandma have matching flannel nighties. AJ got a sweet ride for her Fisher Price Happy Family people. Ever attentive Grandma bought families of different colors and rearranged them so they look like ours (well, the mom and baby look like me and AJ; the daddy we call Denzel)!
Sunday my aunt and grandma were able to come over from the other side of the state, although for some reason I have no photographic proof of this (family members, help!).
Christmas Eve our college friend Chatterbox came to stay with us through this week. We slid over the ice to a nearby church service so we could light candles and raise our voices with the four-year-old standing on a chair next to me shouting, “REJOIIIIICE! REJOIIIIIICE! E-MA-A-AN-U-EL!” (which is the only proper response to the Good News of the Incarnation).
Then came the three Christmas Eve traditions: opening an ornament, opening new pajamas, and reading Twas the Night Before Christmas.
Christmas Day Santa brought all that had been expected (plus two light sabers, go figure): a sled, a new puppy backpack, Muppet Show DVDs, cheapo kid camera, and the long awaited and greatly anticipated–so much so that she was telling strangers in restaurants about how you get it when you learn to spit when you brush–big kid Dora the Explorer toothpaste. Best opened sitting in your sled.
Then we trekked to Aaron’s parents’ house to gather with them and his brothers and their families. Family pictures were only semi-successful but it is always nice to see the brothers together, AJ loved teasing the cat with a feather for hours, and the food was good and plentiful. Just enough fullness for one day.
Saturday night: annual party Aaron’s friend Gus has been throwing for we think 14 years. Fun times with old friends, plus white elephant gift wrapping prize win! Ain’t she pretty? (The contents were even better–who doesn’t want some ugly 1970s coasters and 2 giant bags of lettuce?)
And . . . if you’ve made it this far you deserve a hint about what has been filling my mind and days between gatherings. Ready?
We have a tradition of “pumpkin pictures”–our family in front of our house with our pumpkins in the fall. I don’t know why, really. We just do. (It started with the dog, boo hoo.) But this year we got punk’d by our own punkin’ laziness–forgot to take pictures before we left our pumpkins out on Halloween night, not caring that they’d get smashed because then we wouldn’t have to carry rotting pumpkins to the dumpster. (Don’t you know my motto? “Above all, I’m lazy.”) So all we had left was our little ones.
Not my favorite family picture, but not bad. But I think this one is more natural.
Her future’s so bright . . . it makes up for her crooked face?
Ironically, this tradition rather resembles the dreaded Porch Step Pictures my brother and I and our two cousins were annually forced to endure. AJ’s cousin had better steer clear of here in the fall.
We don’t have a dog anymore. Not just not living with us–anywhere.
We got him as a puppy in 1998, an accessory to our first house and yard, rescuing him from living in the ghetto in a garage and rusted-out car body with about nine other dogs. He was the same size as our cat then, and so at first seemed to think they were the same type of creature, but we knew he’d get big, being a black-lab-plus-whatever. So we named him Fezzik after Andre the Giant’s character in The Princess Bride. It turned out to fit him perfectly: big, dumb, and friendly.
He was never a great dog in terms of obedience–though this mostly falls on us as clueless non-trainers–but he was a great companion, at least in terms of always wanting to be next to you or underfoot. He got to be in our yearly family “pumpkin pictures” (well, until baby girl came along). He moved to Oregon with us, and he moved back to Michigan and went to live on my parents’ farm, where we thought he’d be very happy. But he had to be tied up, and he barked a lot, and then he decided he had to protect the place and bit one of my parents’ friends, and my poor dad had to break it to us. They can’t have a dog like that, and who wants to take a twelve-year-old dog that bites? His age was catching up to his health and it wasn’t going to get better. He couldn’t stay there anymore, I told my daughter. He had to go away. He’s gone.
So we remember the good times, like running around on the beach and introducing me to the concept of sneaker wave.
And the funny times, like when our friend Jeff, a known anti-dog person, threw a three-pound stone bocce ball in a long, high arc . . . directly onto innocently wandering Fezz’s bony head. I can hear the thunk! in my mind to this day. Poor dog had no idea what happened–thought the sky was falling.
And the why-do-we-have-pets? times, like when he ate a half a bag of chocolate chips, a half a bag of peanut butter/chocolate chips, and an entire bag of butterscotch chips without showing any signs of sudden death (or remorse). However, he then spent all night wandering around panting like mad, tweaking from all the caffeine, until at 6:30 a.m. he puked the worst thing I have ever seen in my life: a two foot in diameter pile of chocolate with peanut butter swirls which filled the house with a smell that can only be described as burnt Reese’s Pieces mixed with something a CSI found in a dumpster.
Maybe we’ll get a goldfish next.
Farewell my fuzzy Fezzy friend. We know that if dogs go to heaven, you’ll be there licking the carpet when we arrive.
Okay, they got married already, but that’s how the song from The Muppets Take Manhattan goes, and that’s very popular around here, especially the “Frog! Pig! Wehhhhhhhddinnnnng!” at the end. But the Joygirl now loves her new auntie even more than Miss Piggy, although I expect she will be deeply disappointed if Auntie T. is not wearing a long white dress next time we see her. So, as promised, a few photos from the family wedding a couple weeks ago (none of the actual wedding or bridal party, though–I was too busy trying to keep a two-year-old from coloring in hymnals or yelling “HI DADDY!” at those moments).
The groom and his parents with AJ.
(Yes, he is their natural-born child. His other nickname is Recessive Gene.)
Smootching Daddy outside at the reception:
The Joygirl learning to twist and shout. Aaron says he can’t dance, but that’s a lie. The truth is he can bust it with the best rest of them . . . but apparently only when wearing a tuxedo, because that’s the only time he ever does. It’s like his superdancerhero cape.
Joygirl’s hairdo is called a veil style. It turned out really cute with the colored bands and that dress.
This picture is psychedelic and blurry but I like it because that’s how celebrations should be–all light and motion and freedom and joyous disregard for the usual boring rules.
Joygirl really would have danced around in circles with her grandma and the older girls who were there and whoever else she could grab hands with all night if we’d stayed. I don’t know if she’s got “moves,” exactly, but she’s definitely got good rhythm and a love for music and motion. We’re so glad she’s such a fun, social kid.
And they lived happily ever after.
As promised, here are a few photos from our trip to the beach with family.
Lake Michigan is a bit different from the Pacific Ocean we formerly knew as our local beach. First, it’s further from our house (a whole 15 minutes. I know. Cry us a river!). Second, the water is maybe 65 or 70 degrees, which is quite an improvement upon 55. Third, the air in summer is most definitely warmer–this day was a perfect 83 with a bit of a breeze. Perfect for jumping at the water’s edge with your uncle.
Lake Michigan beaches are a lot more crowded too, and due to the aforementioned warmth, much of the scenery is composed of bodies in various states of exposure and fitness. See: bikini butt, bottom right. (Hey, if I had to notice, I figure you should too. Bottoms up.)
The Joygirl actually was not so sure about going into the water at first. She was wary of the small “waves,” which is ironic since on the ocean where they were actually dangerous, she always wanted to run straight in. But after a while of her daddy holding her and help her “jump over” the waves (lifting her up enough that she didn’t take it in the face…very much), she started to like it. And once she learned splashing was legal? She loved it.
My nephew Tobo was a bit young for the water, but he did his share of dipping his toes, and the cousins sat together on the shore and dumped sand into their clothes and hair. Some of which is still in AJ’s hair, I think.
That’s what you call a great day at the beach.