it's the most wonderful thing: baby's first christmas!
we were very blessed to have bob and rae here for the holidays... or, at least, here AROUND the holidays. they both came out for about 10 days in early december, and we travelled around a lot to various places in holland and in germany, but the second half of their trip out here was spent mostly relaxing in our lovely home in hengelo.
we were also extremely touched by teresa and nick's visit over the christmas holiday. teresa is my homegirl and we go way back -- she was my maid of honor when adam and i got married, and i will be an attendant in her wedding as well this upcoming august. in other words, we're tight. and nick is her fiance', and like me and adam, teresa and nick are another bennie/johnny couple. (there is this phenomenon at our alma maters -- teresa and i went to the college of st. benedict -- "the girls' school" -- and adam and nick both attended st. john's university -- "the boys' school". and apparently there's this phenomenon which is not necessarily scientifically proven but absolutely true in that if you are a "bennie" or a "johnny" then you're pretty much certain that you'll end up marrying someone from the other school. adam and i are one of those johnny/bennie hookups. teresa and nick are another. jen and john are another. there's also joe and jj, and steve and sarah, and dominic and angela, and daman and kiyoko... i could go on. you get the point.)
that was a tangent.
anyway, we had a lot of visitors over baby's first christmas. and it was nice.
bob and adam picked up a christmas tree at a greenhouse near campus, and rode back on their bicycles with this tree strapped to the back of adam's bike. apparently it fell off "only" once, but it still needed some... shall we say... readjustments in its pot, so that it wouldn't look so crooked in our window once we decorated it.
we took several family photos, and tried to get some of gracie sitting still and pretty in her new christmas dress. but asking gracie to sit still is like asking obama to not be so awesome. it can't be done. obama's naturally awesome; gracie is naturally in motion. here are a series of pictures of her. finally we put her in a box and tried getting some photos that way, but she was too interested in the blanket and the presents that we "decorated" her with, so none of them really turned out the way i had envisioned them to turn out. what a goofball.
on christmas eve, we hosted a nice dinner here for a ton of our friends. many of our friends here are expats and were away from their homes and their families for the holidays. we thought that since our house was so big, and that since we had a family of our own, we would open our doors to our lonely wandering friends, and share our food, our family, and our fireplace with them all. we had 9 people for dinner (2 of whom just kinda' showed up! -- but it wouldn't be christmas without unexpected guests!) -- two canadians, 5 americans (including us), a dutch woman (valerie), and two people from hong kong. what a party!
we handed out some gifts, lit the fire, and drank wine and listened to christmas music. we did a little gift exchange by rolling a dice and if you got a certain number then you got to pick a present, or steal someone else's present. we did the same sort of thing for an ornament exchange. that way everyone got to go home with a little something, instead of only a few people opening presents and others leaving empty-handed. that's no fun!
here i am, enjoying my goodie bag of american stuff: a giant bottle of conditioner, boxes of american crackers (so much good cheese in this country, and not a single decent cracker to put it on!), and a (very much appreciated) bottle of REAL maple syrup! thanks, teresa and nick!
around 10:30, people started cleaning up and heading out to go to midnight mass with adam. since i got to go last year and the year before, i was okay staying home with gracie and hanging out in my jammie pants. it was so nice, relaxing by the fire with some gluhwein and reflecting on a full day of friends and food. we are so blessed!
the next morning was christmas, and there were stockings for everyone, hung by the chimney with care of course. valerie spent the night, just like last year, and brought her stocking from her dad and stepmom with her. she also brought several gifts that her mom gave her, so she had all sorts of goodies to unwrap on christmas morning. santa had heard that teresa and nick were going to be here, so he made sure to give them a stocking filled with belgian beer, chocolate, and dutch stroopwaffels (lekker!).
we ate brunch, opened gifts, and relaxed in our jammies all day. in fact, there were SO MANY presents for gracie (thank you, everyone!) that we actually began opening presents about a week before christmas. we didn't want to overwhelm her with too much activity or too many new toys all at once, so every day for about a week we would open just two or three gifts, and then stop for the night so she could enjoy the new things that she got from all of you. it was really fun, but i'm afraid we might have spoiled her a little bit. you all are too generous! thank you!
enjoy this video of christmas morning. isn't it so cozy?
12-25-2008 gracie's first christmas from amber briggle on Vimeo.
my dear friend, valerie, came out for christmas eve and spent the night, just like how she did last year too. she left on christmas day around lunchtime so teresa and i could spend the rest of the holiday together (t had only gotten here two days before -- and christmas eve was filled with guests, so we hadn't gotten a chance to really Be Together).
for dinner, we made homemade pierogies (a tradition in my family) while adam and nick assembled some christmas ornaments out of beads and wire. it was a fun, crafty activity for them to do together while we womenfolk were busy in the kitchen.
it was such a wonderful holiday, and we feel incredibly blessed to be surrounded by so many friends and family, even while we're living abroad. ESPECIALLY while we're living abroad. i know we will look back fondly on these christmases that we experienced out here, away from home. and i hope we will appreciate the traditions we have created together and the memories we have made. but at the same time, i'm also REALLY excited to celebrate christmas next year with my extended families, with the pile of shoes by the door and the potluck dinner and the white elephant gift exchange (i wonder who will go home with the moose antler next year?).