My goal this week is to try to create a sense of tradition and a little feeling of being home with family. Knowing we aren’t with family I know it won’t be the same but making the effort anyway. Jessie was still feverish on Sunday and we are pretty sure she had the stomach flu especially after she threw up in the hallway at church. Uuugh!
First up….Shepherd’s dinner. Not a long-standing tradition and not done with extended family on a regular basis but I thought this would be a tradition that we will continue with our family even after the mission. The food goes with a message of experiencing what foods they might have eaten at the time of Christ’s birth. Though the kids didn’t really enjoy the food. Aaron and I feel it will be something that they will come to appreciate later. Lessons learned….don’t bother with fish sticks. Just use chicken tenders so they get eaten. Naan bread is better than pita bread. Not everyone eats the gyro meat (more eat it when you don’t call it lamb) but those who do love it. Don’t worry that the reading of the food symbolism is short and sweet eventually they will GET IT! We ended the evening with making miniature gingerbread houses. Miniature houses were the way to go. I pre-glued them together so we could all just enjoy decorating together. We had created a nice little gingerbread village until Izzy ate the house I had made. L Sad.
There is nothing like last minute shopping to be done. Jessie and I ventured out to shop for some gifts for Aaron. Jessie (feeling better now) was very excited to be involved in selecting treasures for her dad. She knew exactly what she wanted to buy him….a tie and a watch. In the end we found two ties (so not original), a watch, cologne, shoes and socks. We made a quick stop at the mission office afterward and then ended home for lunch and to grab the other kids. We had planned an afternoon of ice-skating at the local ice rink. This started out as a great idea but once on the ice we realized many of us don’t have skills. So I announced a family goal of each of us having to go around the rink at least ten laps before we could leave. Let’s just say Allie and Zac held me to that. At ten laps they were done and turned in their skates. Aaron took them to the mission office to help load gifts for tomorrow’s conference. Jessie had a friend from her class that just happened to be there as well so that enticed her to stay on the ice longer. However once her friend was done she was as well. Bode on the other hand was happy to ice skate until the open skate was over. So I took Jessie home and we picked up Bode an hour later. Lessons learned…..Very few of us like to ice skate. Find a new winter family activity to try. ;) We did enjoy a family Christmas movie later that night, Eloise at Christmas. It’s one of our favorites. Lesson learned…..a favorite Christmas movie can make us happy even after an epic fail (we do have ice skating stories we can laugh about now).
Next up…..was an extremely full, long day with the THSM Mission Conference on Tuesday. The Cranes, former Houston Temple Mission President and Matron, spoke with the missionaries on likening the scriptures to themselves. They had the missionaries choose what role they would have like to have played in the Nativity. We were then blessed to have five of our missionaries give talks on Christ-like attributes (humility, hope, virtue, charity, and patience) and in between each speaker we had a special musical number by one of the missionaries. We have some very talented musicians, which included violin solos, flute duets, organ accompaniment, and our missionary choir participate. You can check out some of the music by our choir on our www.Facebook.com/thethsm page. I spoke using the "I Believe in Santa Claus" book and tied it into the Living Christ. Aaron spoke on why Christmas is the greatest love story to be ever told.
The afternoon part of our conference was a lot of fun. Aaron let the missionaries watch the movie, Inside Out. They loved it! We then had a lunch that was prepared by many of our local members. They smoked and bbq'd 175 pounds of tri-tip, 60 pounds of sausage, 80 pounds of chicken and then all the sides to go with it. It is quite a feast for some of our missionaries. They piled the meat on. We then had an hour of missionary talents and that was a highlight of the day. Everything from guitar, to piano, to sining, to juggling, cowboy roping, nametag ping-pong, original songs etc. A lot of fun and the missionaries loved seeing their peers perform. We had a slideshow built of all the pictures taken the last year while they ate desert, and then we wrapped up the day with a gift exchange and played the pass along game themed on the Night Before Christmas. The conference was so much fun and it was so good to be with all the missionaries at the same time. This was a long day for the kids that I could have prepared them better for. Lessons learned…..Have ibuprofen for Bode pre-migraine and have Jessie prepare a talent so she can participate.
Our Christmas Eve Eve morning tradition is normally done with the Meyer family, breakfast at Jeremiah’s. I’m not sure how many years we have been doing it but it used to be Christmas Eve morning but with the family gatherings that happen in the evening we switched it to Christmas Eve Eve morning. So going with tradition we headed out for our breakfast at Egg and I. Definitely not the same especially when the next day Jessie comes to tell me that we forgot about our tradition with the Meyers. I had to remind her that our breakfast at Egg and I was in honor of it. Her reply “But nobody was with us like the Meyers”. My reply, “I know….” L Star Wars was next in line for family Christmas fun. Everyone enjoyed the show but the highlight was watching Jessie’s face during it. Her cute smile would ease onto her face, as the main characters obviously liked each other. She is a sucker for a love story. ;) Aaron had arranged for a sub for Santa family so Jessie and I went to do some Christmas magic. Jessie is becoming my sidekick shopper. She really enjoyed looking for toys and clothes that would make the kids happy. Plus she found some slippers she really just had to have. J We went home to wrap the gifts while watching Lampoon’s Christmas. A great Christmas classic. Although I did rely on the Hallmark channel for a cheesy Christmas movie to finish up the wrapping until after midnight. Uuuugh.
I started wrapping family Christmas gifts during the day on Christmas Eve which is a first for me. Yes, I usually wait until after we get home from the Wade Family Christmas Eve party which means I am up way, way too late. During the day Jessie and I made sugar cookies for Santa and to decorate like we do at our family party. In honor of the Wade Family Christmas Eve party, I made little smokies, ham, potato soup, rolls, artichoke dip and caramel popcorn. I wanted to get all the fun snack food but what I had made was already a lot for the six of us. Regardless it was good food. After dinner, we Skyped my family to share in the “original” Christmas Eve festivities. We then loaded our gifts for our sub for Santa families. Aaron had called the bishop of the local Spanish ward and he gave us two families from El Salvador that live in the same home. A husband and wife with three kids and a single mom with three kids but two are still living in El Salvador. All very humble, live in a trailer, and work seven days a week to survive. The single mom is seeking asylum, as she's been the victim of abuse back home. As we made our way to their home we found out they were actually going to be at another members home celebrating with a total of 12 kids and all their parents. We thought it unwise to bring presents to just a few kids so we showed up at the party and Santa was a pleasant surprise for everyone. The Hall kids had never seen so many little kids excited for Santa, they loved the experience. We gave them all a candy cane and they each got a turn to visit with Santa, too much fun. Before we left we were able to pull away the two families, put the presents in the back of the car and drive away. It was nearly 80 degrees and a Santa suit with the wig and beard is a little too warm, but all worth it. We might as well been in Central America, dirt roads, very little English; can't wait to do it again next year.
Christmas!! We love to celebrate this time of year. To honor our Savior for all He has given us. We are blessed. The kids were not disappointed one bit with their gifts. I think we actually surprised them with a few things. After gifts we had German pancakes and Grandma Judy eggs (eggs made with loves of love and fat). Aaron and I went for a 22 mile bike ride because the weather was just too nice not to. The boys enjoyed a great, sweaty game of capture the flags at the Morton’s house afterwards. A Morton family Christmas tradition that they were invited to join in on. Later that afternoon we Skyped the Hall family for Christmas gift exchange. It was great to see and visit with the family. In trying to bring some of Utah Christmas traditions to Texas, we enjoyed Tamales. Meant for Christmas brunch but without a crowd it was going to be too much food so we saved them for dinner. ;)
After spending a wonderful Christmas at home, we all felt like getting out and about by heading south to Galveston Island. The plan was if it was too windy to ride the rides at Pleasure Pier that we would head over to Moody Gardens that has an aquarium, rain forest, Imax theatre, Ice Sculpture exhibit for Christmas, Zipline and Ropes Course. Once down by the pier we just had to get out to enjoy the sunshine even if it was breezy. We bought ride passes for the kids and walk in passes for us. The rides are more carnival like than Lagoon quality but the kids enjoy them nonetheless. A little short lived in my books but we were all drawn to the beach. We watched surfers as we walked along it. We headed towards home and stopped for Torchy’s Tacos. YUM! At home we started getting the kids stuff together to head to Utah. We took a small break to take advantage of the nice weather and enjoyed a quick dip in the pool and hot tub. The pool was too cool for my liking so I stuck with the hot tub. Today was a great! It was a fun way to spend it before the kids leave for Utah tomorrow.
First slide show of our family activities for the week. Second slide show of the Christmas Mission Conference.