>> the best christmas

For no outlandish reason at all, this was the best Christmas ever. Just like a little kid, I slept so lightly the night before in anticipation of this special holiday. I probably freaked my husband out because as soon as his alarm went off, he opened his eyes to see my crazy face excitedly smiling at him. A few times, he'd drift back off to sleep then open his eyes again to my eagerly awaiting stare. 

First things first, we read the story of Jesus' birth from the Bible. Then we let Simon open his stocking, which contained a new bone, as usual. He is always so sweet on Christmas morning. He plops himself down right next to us and chews on his new bone as we open our gifts.

After our morning ritual, we got ready to go, loaded the truck up with presents and headed to Siloam Springs for Christmas with my in-laws.

Like always, we started at Nanny's house with extended family. After stuffing ourselves on delicious food and pie, we sat around the living room and opened gifts. Then we went across the street and opened presents with my husband's immediate family. I feel like every time I talk about my in-laws I have to stress how blessed I am by them. They have truly embraced me and treat me as if I'm their daughter. In the family picture above, I asked them to get together with the boys for a picture, and my mother-in-law told me to join in, too. Our time with them is always precious and we literally never want to leave once we get over to their house. But we had to cut the visit a little short this time because for the first time ever we were celebrating both our families' Christmases in the same day.

So to my sister's house we drove, truck loaded down with presents. I was thankful once we arrived that all my family members had stuck around and waited for us even though they had already opened gifts from each other and enjoyed a Mexican-style lunch.

I loved watching my nephew open his gifts. His face lit up for the toys, and he would scowl and throw down any cloth item, i.e., clothes or hats. The Veggie Tales DVD we gave him was a big hit. He had to watch it right then while the rest of us opened gifts. It was sweet to get to be a part of both my nieces' first Christmases too. They pretty much just ate and slept their way through it, but they sure were pretty doing so.

My favorite part of the night was when my mom surprised the boys with beanies she had crocheted and fingerless gloves for the girls. My favorite gifts to give were the monogram frames that hubs and I made together for my sister and brother.

This day was so special and just felt so full. Getting to celebrate with both our families on the same day was busy but perfect. Starting the day off with the focus on the birth of our Savior and a prayer really set the tone for a day where the blessings surrounding me were evident and in the forefront of my mind. I soaked in the laughter, I was more intentional with how I hugged people and I let the excitement of such a magical holiday light me up from the inside out.


>> cookie exchange party

Today I am having one of those days when I just can't get down about anything because I'm way too aware of all my blessings. Sometimes I catch myself having a secret little pity party because of the things I don't have. (Apparently, with all the undeserved blessings I've been given, a sense of entitlement has come along too.) I have to mentally put a stop to these thoughts as soon as they enter my mind.

This morning my church had a Christmas celebration. There was a full band and choir up front, so the music was absolutely beautiful. I looked around the theater (because we meet in a movie theater) and felt so blessed by all the friendships surrounding me. I can honestly say I love so many people in my church. My heart is full, but never runs out of room. 

I say all that to get to the point: I am blessed in so many ways -- especially in my friendships. I treasure my friends at this point in my life because growing up, I never had true, lasting ones. This is the first time in my life I've been fully excepted and included by such an amazing, supportive group of women.

We got together last night for a cookie exchange party. It doubled as an excuse to see my friend Chrissy's new house. Each of us brought individually wrapped cookies and enough recipe cards for everyone. As with any other gathering with these ladies, there was so much laughter and great conversation. We each brought an appetizer and spent a good while eating and catching up with each other. Then after a good long tour of Chrissy's house, we each got a gift bag and filled it with cookies and the recipes that went with them. My sister came along and brought my baby niece with her, which was an added bonus!


>> ho ho homicide

Last night we braved the icy roads to go to our friends' annual Christmas party. The theme this year was a murder mystery. A couple of weeks ago, we got the invitation along with the description of the characters we would be playing. I had never been to one of these parties before, so I was super excited.

The name of the party was "Ho Ho Homicide." Our host friends were Mr. and Mrs. Claus; there was a mailman named Holiday Wishes, and the rest of us were either elves or reindeer. Hubs was Dasher, and I was an elf named Jangle.

It was hilarious to watch everyone stay in character all night. At one point, the lights went off and an elf named Jingle fell down to the ground. That was when the "murder" took place, and we were all handed an envelope. My envelope revealed to me that I was the killer but I had to keep it quiet and focus my attention on accusing everyone else. I must have played my part pretty well because when it came time to vote on who we thought the killer was, only one person suspected me.

It was definitely another awesome Christmas party for the books. The first few years, we always celebrated with an ugly sweater party. Then last year we did a cheesy game show theme followed by this year's murder mystery theme. They just keep getting better and better. Next year, we're already planning a Christmas Vacation theme, where we all come dressed as characters from the movie.


>> i love snow days

We got our first snow of the season! It started yesterday with sleet that turned to snow later on. By the time it stopped snowing this afternoon, we had close to 9" in our back yard.

It's times like these where the big kid comes out in me and I want to run around outside, build snowmen and slide down a hill in a cardboard box. But these activities are awkward to partake in all by yourself, so I enjoyed a quiet day spent mostly inside.

Wearing my cuddl duds and one of my husband's shirts, I cozied up on the couch and indulged in some of my favorite classic chick flicks. I could watch old Meg Ryan movies all day long. It's weird, but the way I feel when I watch movies like You've Got Mail or When Harry Met Sally could be equated to the way chicken soup warms your soul. For me, it's about as quality as "me time" can get.


>> deck the halls

Yesterday I hauled out my over-abundance of Christmas decorations and got to work decking the halls. This year, I stuck to subtle colors and lots of burlap for a simple woodsy feel.

When it comes to home decor, I've always liked bright colors. But I literally woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago and wanted all the bright colors in my house to be replaced with olive, gray and burlap textures. So in keeping with my new-found obsession with all things neutral, I spray painted our silver JOY stocking holders with a dark oil-rubbed bronze.

Even though I'm still really proud of the stockings I made for us last year, there's a small part of me that's bothered by the bright red chevron. I'm wishing they were lined with a dark olive and I'm actually debating making new ones - something I swore I'd never do again. Stockings are not fun to make. And who knows what I'll like next year. There's going to have to come a point where we use the same stockings year after year for the simple sake of tradition. And don't even get me started on Simon's flashy stocking. I am literally going to make him a new one. It's just time.

I love the warmth Christmas decorations add to our home. I always wish they could stay up year round, but I guess if they did, they wouldn't be as special.