Christmas, a New Year, Much Needed Time with Family

I wasn't going to do any sort of Christmas recap, since I really haven't had the energy to review our holidays in the past few years. But then I remembered that I was sort of bummed out when looking back at old Christmas posts, because I came up empty except for a few pre-Christmas festivity descriptions. Sure, this Christmas was heavily tainted with melancholy over Kellan but it was still much appreciated and worthy of a summary post. This is going to be long, people, crazy-long. I should divide it up into multiple posts for you but meh, not sure how that makes it any less obnoxiously long.

Wednesday: Christmas Eve Eve
Nate was off work this day while I worked, and he took care of all three children by himself (super rare for any length of time)...until he called his dad for back up and golfed nine holes at the end of my work day;) Nate and I also wrapped an absurd amount of presents that night after the kids went to bed. I really am not a 'last minute' wrapper or shopper, but this year a lot of it seems to pile up at the end because I was quite distracted with Kellan's story and grieving. I drove to Walgreens this night because we ran out of wrapping paper and balled in the van several times listening to music. I definitely think I have cried more in the past two weeks than I have in the past two years of my life, so that is really saying something.

It should also be noted that I did make my sugar cookies the weekend prior but then could not get my energy level up to ice the with royal icing. So I made the executive decision to just freeze them and hope that I can decorate them in the next few weeks, or something. I probably also went a bit over board with last minute gifts for the kids, like 'yep, might as well buy this, too' when dealing with sadness over Kellan. All in all, preparing for Christmas this year felt very different and rushed but still very much put in perspective with all of the silly hustle and bustle.

We did, however, get to check a few of my other 'To Do' items off the list mentioned in my last Christmas post. Like visiting Santa and driving through Candy Cane Lane the weekend before Christmas, putting together a gingerbread house, I attended Truman's holiday party at school, and did manage a few kid crafts for gifts. Cookies fell off the list but we still got a lot of other fun memories!

CLASSIC. Truman and Cecelia have twin faces here and sweet Porter, oh my baby.
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Random that they took a family picture but it was free and a part of the package so whatever.
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Candy Cane Lane was a riot for all three kids. Cecelia wants us to get a 'blow up' for our yard next year thanks to our time spent driving through these three streets.
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My biggest boy and his beloved face paint during their party.
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A few ornaments and thumbprint crafts for this year:
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Our gingerbread house---possibly the first one we have ever made with children ? (the horror!)
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Thursday: Christmas Eve
First real day of Christmas vacation for us as a family, whoo hoo! The kids woke up and noted that this was our Elf on the Shelf's last morning with us. We ended up really enjoying Candy Cane Jane and the kids said they will miss her until she returns next year, so our first year as an Elf Family was a total hit. A few of her shenanigans as a low key, not very Pinterest-y elf:

Candy cane Jane Elf 2015 part 2
Candy cane Jane Elf 2015 part 1

We decided to take a brisk family walk to our favorite local coffee shop for breakfast, making it an annual tradition to get the heck out of the house before the kids go nuts waiting to open presents. Also it should be noted that this was the morning when Cecelia pulled out my old poodle skirt from the 80s and deemed it the best twirling skirt ever, and then we all died over the cuteness.

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Let's go for a 20 degree walk, children! Caffeine for the adults and giant cinnamon rolls for the wee ones await.
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We walked to a book store to get a few last minute gifts after our breakfast date, and then back home. Nate also made both Truman and Cecelia an hourly countdown paper chain, just like he had to do last year for Tru.
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We had all three kids nap for a bit this day and then got ready for the 4:00 Family Christmas Eve service at church. My aunt sent the kids adorable Santa beards, light up noses, and she is making the most incredible framed chalkboard quotes. I was happy to get our gift this year from her, knowing she was drawing these by hand and selling them in Texas, she is amazing!
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Best we could do for a 'mommy and kids' shot before church:

Selfie Stick!
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Church, where Porter would NOT tolerate sitting the pews and had me up walking the halls and climbing stairs the entire time.
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Nate's brother, Jon, and his fiancee Brittany flew in this day. When we returned home after church, they came over for our traditional sushi/edamame/teryiaki noodles Xmas Eve dinner. The kids are totally obsessed with Brittany and Jon and over the moon for presents (obvi) so present opening round one was quite successful. Lois always says she is going to keep Christmas more simple and not go crazy with gifts and then they always show up with a RIDICULOUS amount of presents, so much for keeping it simple!



First of many packed table experiences over the last week.

Notable gifts: this was the year of the flannel shirt as nearly everyone received a new shirt or three. Nate got some 'cool Patagonia stuff', gloves, and coffee and beer related items which are always on his lists. I got some silicone baking sheets that I've been eyeing, a new pretty throw blanket for our couch, and a long necklace and a long open cardigan (yessss). I was obsessed with Etsy and got Lois a sweet grandma necklace with the kids' birthstones, and I got Brittany a ceramic ring dish that I always wanted for my own ring. There were many blankets for all, sleeping bags for the kids, a rolling suitcase full of baby doll paraphrenalia for Cecelia, Skylander guys for Truman, and a cat keyboard for Porter. I really cannot even list all of the smaller things we all received, but suffice to say it was a grand celebration. Porter stayed up until about 9:30pm and the bigger kids lasted until nearly 10pm, totally wired from just a little bit of candy as seen here.





I think I'm collecting snow globes now, just so you know.

Nate and I were super tired but we did manage to bring up the gifts for the next morning, and Nate took one for the team by chomping on the reindeer carrot and cookies for Santa. I love my new plate to use for this occasion, found at none other than my favorite Michaels.

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Nate and I woke up to Truman and Cecelia's little voices in their bedroom, saying 'Do you think Santa came? I can't wait to go and see!' They both came into our room at 7:30am when we had their Tot Clock set to release them, and they had the biggest smiles on their faces when they said, 'Merry Christmas!' Seriously, the magic of Christmas through the eyes of our kids is indescribable. I freaking love it. Porter ended up sleeping in this day until almost 8:30 so that gave the big kids plenty of time to tear through their numerous gifts. Then Porter woke up and opened his measly three gifts (balls, sippy cups, and a hooded towel) to complete the process.









Wrapping paper shot 2015





Notable gifts: Cecelia got the ever-popular tiny trampoline with a bar for an adequate indoor-energy-burning-winter-activity. She also got her requested 'pretend curling iron and hairdryer, but not a real kind' and also Elmo underwear (which she has wanted forever now). We found an acceptable 'purple tricycle' for our girl that can zoom around our house without pedals, another solid request from CC that never wavered throughout the Christmas planning. She also got about a million new chapsticks including giant, chunky, Hello Kitty chapsticks and now her collection is up in the 90s I think. Truman got the new Skylanders game for his Xbox, a Kindle, a sweet Ninjago Lego set, and underwear like daddy (dry fit material).  I might make underwear a yearly gift for the kids just to see when they start to hate me for it;) Both of the big kids got Admirals shirts from Nate, since he works a lot of those hockey games. They both got new winter jackets, and winter boots and a ton of activity books. Seriously, both big kids have enough maze books, coloring books, and Truman has cross word books to last a lifetime. ALSO, card games were a big thing this year for Truman. Oh, and Connect Four plus a few other Sklyander board games. I think Connect Four is his new favorite game! Nate got me some sweet ski pants to wear sledding and if/when I ever go skiing again, plus two of my ultimate favorite Capri Blue candles from Anthropologie. I love these candles so much and it's been too long since we had one in our home! I got Nate a Patagonia puffer vest that ended up being too short for him, but he has already exchanged it for a longer one. We both suffer from the same plot in life of needing TALL clothing, and we rarely learn our lesson with buying regular stuff, I'm afraid.

ANYWAY, didn't mean to turn this into such a detailed post.

After we opened gifts at our house with our little family of five and played for good while with the new gifts, we decided to head over to my in-laws for brunch. Originally they were all going to come over here but they were moving much slower than our house so we drove the whopping 1 mile to see them instead. Somehow we were able to tear the kids away from their new toys and then we enjoyed a delicious breakfast full of omelettes, potatoes, poppy seed bread, fruit and an absurd amount of coffee. Truman stole my camera for a bit and actually got a few great shots and we all enjoyed chatting with Jon and Brittany even more.






We came back home and did nap time, then dinner that night we had Tony, Lois, Jon and Brittany come back over to our house for homemade pizzas. Jon and Brittany are both vegetarians and Brittany eats gluten-free (just like my mom!) so we always have to get kind of creative for meals when everyone is visiting. The pizzas were freaking amazing though, trust me. My brother, Michael, drove in from Missouri this evening so after the kids went down we could chat the night away with him. He slept on an air mattress in our basement this time around and said it was quite comfy, which is good because my parents joined him on another air mattress a day later. Have I mentioned that I love our finished basement so much?


Saturday: December 26

My brother played with the kids quite a bit in the morning, Nate went with Jon and Brittany to Costco, and then I picked up my parents from the airport around 2pm. Nate somehow got all three kids to nap a bit while I was away so they could stay up late that night for Gift Opening, Take Three. I came back from the airport and the kids were still sleeping, so Michael and Nate and I got to chat with my parents before the chaos hit. Once the kids woke up they were all so excited to see my parents and warmed up to them immediately. We made everyone a big Mexican dinner this night and were shocked that the kids could handle NOT opening their gifts until after they ate dinner. They really surprise us sometimes!

After dinner it was on, though. Heavy hitters included a birthstone necklace for my mom and a new gray sweater, Cecelia's double stroller for her baby dolls along with GoGo-made diapers/bibs/pillows/and blankets for dollies, more Skylanders for Truman and a giant maze book, and Porter's ball popper thing. Nate and I got awesome new clothes (tunic flannel for me from Lands End, LuLuLemon quarter zip for Nate), we gave my brother a lot of Colectivo gear, and my dad got a new Adidas jacket. Plus plenty of other little items I'm forgetting...






Mom's necklace is like this but with the three kids' initials and birthstones, really love it from this Etsy site!

Possibly my favorite picture from Christmas break, just because it really tugs me back to reality and what is important in life (i.e. family). And my mom is so incredibly loved by this family, the kids are seriously obsessed as am I.

I can't remember how late we all stayed up this night but probably pretty late, the kids loving their newfound later bedtimes!

Sunday: December 27

We started this day with a french toast, cinnamon roll casserole bake that Nate made---seriously delicious. This was also the day Nate and I went suit shopping with Jon, Brittany, Lois and Tony for the big Oregon wedding in July! We then showed Jon and Brittany the beauty of Crate and Barrel for a wedding registry, played plenty of Connect Four, and then the entire big crew ate Lasagna and salad at our house that night.

Note that the children will all be in the wedding, and note the adorableness.
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Connect Four and our over-the-top, Christmas Card explosion buffet.
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Dapper dudes.
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Now that is a lot of people around our table! Twelve including Porter! Love it.
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Mom wanted a picture of Nate, the kids, and the 'original four' of our family. Not good lighting at all but still acceptable, I suppose.

Monday: December 28
This was a work day for me, so my mom and dad and brother watched the kids for us. Milwaukee got hit with a horrible, nine inches of snow and ice this day. Of course it came down really fast on a day I was working and there was nary a snow plow to be seen. I spent a majority of my day white knuckling it between patients and praying that I wouldn't get into an accident like so many other cars I saw stuck in a ditch somewhere. It was definitely the worst driving conditions I've experienced in my eight years as a Wisconsinite!

When I finally got back home around 3:30pm, Michael was shoveling our driveway for us (yay, Mike!) . I made chili for everyone and Nate had to work a hockey game so he didn't get home until 11pm. Which is when he couldn't get up our driveway and had me assist him in retrieving our snow blower from the basement so he could snow blow in the middle of the night. Super fun for a reminder about real Wisconsin Decembers. Gag me.

Before I left for work, those hunkered down and having fun indoors.
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Awesome road conditions in the beginning of the day before it got scary-bad. Not a single snow flake seen before 9:00 am, by the way.
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This is me walking into an apartment complex at the end of my day, seriously so windy and snowy and disgusting.

Uncle Mike got in on the bedtime action this night and Henry also partook in the fun.
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Tuesday: December 29

I went for a run this morning and made a mental note that running on snow and ice is really the opposite of fun. Then Michael and I went sledding with the two big kids as my parents watched mister Porter. It was seriously so much fun, I haven't actually been sledding in a few years since I'm usually on baby duty.

Found these two in the dog crate with balloons that in the morning, you just never know where you will find them.
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Ready to play in the snow!!
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My little snow angel---I couldn't help but choke up when seeing this photo later in the day. Something about Cecelia looking like an angel while her buddy is an actual angel in heaven. We miss him so much. There still aren't words.
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Sledding on the best hill in town!
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Sledding videos here and here and here.

Michael then drove back to Missouri this afternoon, I made a big dinner of chicken quinoa casserole for everyone, and became more and more anxious about Kellan's visitation.

Nate arrived home from work around 4pm and we headed over to the service shortly before 5:00. There were hundreds of people there and we were able to talk to Brad and Becky more than I expected. I won't go into more details but it was absolutely the saddest, hardest visitation I have ever attended. I was emotionally shaken and exhausted when we returned home, and both Truman and Cecelia were quite sad that night at bedtime. They really do understand more than what we are telling them, and we gave plenty of extra hugs and kisses that night before bed. Cecelia seemed extra clingy to me when we returned home saying, 'My mommy! My mommy is home again! Don't ever leave me, mommy.' Sigh.

I want to remember this sweet quote on the back of Kellan's card from the funeral home. He loved super heroes so much, like many three year old boys.
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Wednesday: December 30
Another work day for me, and the big kids went to a movie with Jon and Brittany for a special treat. Cecelia actually sat through the entire thing too, which is a first! My mom and Dad watched Porter (and the other two when not at the movie) this day for me, score one for amazing grandparents! When I got home from work my mom and dad and I took the three kids to Culvers for dinner. Did you know that they have excellent gluten-free buns? My mom is a big fan and all of the kids devour the chicken tenders like nothing else. Plus a bit of custard for dessert never hurt anyone. No pictures from this experience, but it was fun from what I remember.

Nate showed some leg exercises to my dad when he got home from work, and I hope dad will do them to become a little stronger and not in so much pain from arthritis. Then Jon and Brittany, Tony and Lois came over to our house after the kids went to bed and brought more custard to enjoy. Ah, Wisconsin custard, you are the best.

The only picture I have from this day is actually a picture Brittany sent to me, but look at their 'thumbs up'. <3
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Thursday: December 31

Nate worked until 2pm this date, so when I woke up with the children I got them started on breakfast and once my parents were awake I went for a run. At 10:30 am I picked up Jon and Brittany and we went downtown so I could take engagement pictures for them. I was pretty nervous about it since I am NOT a professional but we are all super happy with how they turned out! Plus it was a ton of fun, despite the cold weather. Adorable couple alert!






We had our annual 'fish tacos' NYE dinner with everyone and it was beyond delicious. Then once the kids went to bed the adults stayed up and played Catch Phrase, Telestations (like Pictionary but more fun), and then Apples to Apples. We all stayed awake for midnight, hugged and kissed, and then everyone went to bed at 12:01 am as it should be;) 2016, here we come.
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This game! I have so many pictures of random drawings, love this one of a dude eating a donut.
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Friday: January 1

The kids have been waking up at 7:30 am every day, by the way, but Porter has been sleeping until 8:00 or later. This morning was no different except that Nate also slept in pretty late and then my parents came upstairs around 8:00, too. I made poppy seed bread and eggs for everyone and wish I had pictures, it was that good.

Then I started to take down the ridiculous amount of Christmas cards hanging above our buffet and couldn't stop there. I ended up De-christmasing our entire house and it Every decoration came down and is stored in the attic, and later this day my dad helped me take off all of the ornaments on our tree, too. Nate took the tree to the curb and we vacuumed the pine needles away. Then all of a sudden our house felt large again and de-cluttered. YES. I love Christmas and the decorations but I also love when it is over.

Jon and Brittany came over around 11:00 and went sledding with Nate, myself, and Truman + Cecelia. Same sledding hill as Tuesday but MUCH faster! {sledding video of the day}

After more De-Christmasing and chatting with my dad during nap time, Tony and Lois/Jon and Brittany came over with dinner. We had 'Hopping' Johns' for dinner which is the traditional black eyed peas soup and really amazing, especially with the corn bread that Lois made (and Ritz cracker + Rolos + melted chocolate dessert!). We started our first puzzle of the vacation and finished the 500 pieces in 1.5 hours, seriously ridiculous. We had a fire burning this night and it smelled so amazing, really made me feel reflective about how lucky we are to be surrounded by such fantastic family.

Sledding crew.
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Puzzle time!
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Saturday: January 2

Nate and I went for a 3 mile run as my parents watched the kids in the morning, then we started a new puzzle. Another 500 piece deal and this time it took a little more than 1.5 hours but not by much. Nate, my dad, Truman and Porter all went with my in-laws and Jon and Brittany to a coffee shop they wanted to try. Mom, Cecelia and I went to get our nails done and it was MUCH needed, my toes were in a state of distress like none before. Cecelia got a 'polish change' and found a Hello Kitty brand nail polish, so she was in heaven. She sat on my lap as mom and I got our toes done, then loved every minute of her fingernail painting.

We all met up back here and had lunch (pizza!), worked on the puzzle, and visited. We said our goodbyes to Jon and Brittany, then shortly thereafter I took my parents to their airport as well. Why are goodbyes always so hard??

Sister looking entirely too big.
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I surprised the kids with McDonalds for dinner on my way home from the airport and despite being crazy-spoiled for the past week, they were really excited about this treat. We did baths, Nate worked a hockey game, I did bedtime, and then worked on this post all.night.long. Seriously.

What a fantastic Christmas and New Year we had. I'm sad that it's over and also really looking forward to finding our groove in the routine again. I have a feeling that the kids might be a total disaster tomorrow when we adjust back to our more-quiet and low key household but that's okay. As I told them tonight, it's okay to miss our family that lives out of state: that just means that we are lucky enough to love some really amazing people we don't get to see every day.

Congratulations if you made it to the end of this most-mammoth post. Bonus if all of the pictures loaded for you. ;) Our holidays were pretty awesome!


  1. What a great post! Loved all the fabulous pictures! Happy 2016!

  2. Weirdly, your pics are all loading fine on feedly but then when I clicked over here, a ton weren't loading..... ugh flickr. Anyway - you look super young in your pic with the kids on Christmas morning! Also super glad the skin tight pjs made a repeat appearance on Nate this year!

    So glad you had a great holiday, and now you don't have to recap everything in an email to me ;)

  3. I made it through the post and all of the pictures loaded for me. ;) Your holidays sound like they were very fun!

  4. Love these massive obsessively detailed posts. Looks wonderful. So amazing to have your family all basically come to YOU! Though that can be exhausting as well, with the hosting and the cooking and the staying on top of Christmas clutter. :)

  5. That looks like a great holiday! I love all of the family time! And 100% agree about Christmas decorations. I love to get them out but it's so nice to put them away!

  6. What an undertaking - but like you said, you'll be so glad you have this!! So much happiness. Christmas truly is magical! Glad you had such a wonderful time with family, despite the sadness that hung over the season this year.

  7. So jelly of your snow fun! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you guys!! XO

  8. I can't imagine all that snow. I think I would be beyond miserable, ha. It was in the upper 40s here a lot and I wouldn't go outside! Looks like y'all had an amazing time! Ours was great too and I agree - enjoy the heck out of it and then put it all away. I try to do it before New Year's since our daughter's birthday is 1/2. I used to wait until New Year's or even a few days after, but I want to really separate the holidays from her birthday as much as possible. So we went from Christmas trees to Minnie Mouse decor!

  9. I LOVE that your ENTIRE family could spend so much time together! Both sets of grandparents - uncles (and soon to be Aunts!). Seriously, so magical for your children!!


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