Hello! Today I'm posting some photos from our Christmas season!
We celebrated in lots of little ways this year (or last year technically...?). One of my girls' favorite traditions is coloring their advent ornaments - each day has an ornament and an abbreviated story from the Jesus Story Book Bible - which leads up to the birth of Jesus.
Just to keep it real... we don't actually get this done every day. But the days we do - the girls have so much fun!
We always do Christmas baking - though this year we simplified things a lot. We made a couple batches of candy cane - and m&m cookies (we made up the recipe and were very proud of how they turned out - bonus was Rufflebum loved getting to crush the candy canes!).
And we made a gingerbread house. It was even uglier than the picture shows... and I thoroughly enjoyed my glass of wine afterwards. ;)
Burrow discovered a love for orange peels. Here she is working her way through an entire mandarin orange... skin and all. She did not get this weird trait from me. But Mr. SA isn't claiming it either... so....
During December Rufflebum and I had some fashion adventures. We learned that I can not be trusted to shop on my own (my sister was quite appalled that I actually paid for the sweater below... though once she saw it in person she agreed it looks better up close - ha!!! - and I thought it was super fun!).
And of course here is Rufflebum in all her fashion glory - Christmas dress, lime green striped socks and purple shoes.... I want to complain but then I picture my sister's face at my sweater choice above...
A couple weeks before Christmas Mr. San Antonio took Rufflebum on her first official camping trip. She was freezing but had a blast. He was so stinking proud of her.
And for Christmas the girls got new bikes - a tricycle for Burrow.
And a big girl (no training wheels!!!) bike for Rufflebum! It took her only two days of practice, and now she is a pro! (Side note: I think she adapted to the big girl bike so quickly because she had practiced with this: balance bike)
We also spent some time with cousins - though because I am a lame picture taker - this is the only picture I have... and of only half the crew. Ugh!
Our biggest Christmas adventure was flying to California to visit my dad's side of the family.
Here is a picture of my immediate family! They are the best. Seriously.
Here is Rufflebum with her cousin... though you wouldn't know it was him with his face covered! The story behind their outfits... As our family has gotten bigger over the years my parents have started renting vacation homes instead of hotel rooms when we travel together. For Christmas we all ended up staying in a house about a mile from Disneyland (spoiler alert: we did NOT go to Disneyland while we were there - how weird are we??). But the house obviously gets rented by a lot of people heading to the theme park and all the kids rooms have Disney murals on the wall - and the girls' room had a closet full of princess dress-up dresses!! Since Rufflebum spends about 97% of her time at home in a princess dress - she was in heaven! Her cousin's boy room was decorated like the movie Cars and he had his own race car driver costume he got to wear too!
We got to see my grandparents for Christmas (they hosted us in their beautiful home), and all my aunts and uncles and cousins on my dad's side! It was a special and rare time for us all to be together. I don't have the digital version of the big group family photo - but imagine the above picture with twice the number of people all wearing red and green. :)
We also got to visit with a very special lady named Amanda. Amanda lived with our family for several years when us kids were really little. My mom says Amanda literally saved her from insanity (my younger siblings are triplets and my dad travelled all the time when we were young because he was working hard to support all of us!). So needless to say the extra hands and loving heart were invaluable to us and we all consider her family. The picture below has some of my family and some of Amanda's kids and several grandchildren!
I had expected Christmas to be an extra emotional time for me this year, but it wasn't. I was going along smoothly for a few days afterwards too but then New Year's came and *wham* out came the emotions!
The year didn't end the way I wanted. The year didn't go the way I planned. My "goals" weren't met. My hopes and expectations, were not met. We were supposed to have found out the gender right before Christmas and should have been celebrating and planning on New Years. My stomach wasn't supposed to be flat and empty. I wasn't supposed to be putting baby clothes back in the attic. And right there on New Year's Eve I finally got to the angry part of grieving.
And I started asking all the wrong questions. Like, "what did I do wrong", and "why us, why me". They aren't bad questions - they just aren't helpful questions. The answers are "nothing", and "join the club - everyone endures crap during their life".
Even knowing my questions weren't helpful - they still thundered around in my head and left me with a pile of tissues and a grumpy attitude toward my family. Slowly though, some better, richer questions started pressing on my heart as well. Questions like:
Where do I see God at work in the middle of this?
How can I glorify God as I work through the process of grief?
What does it look like to continue to hope for good things?
How can I ward off bitterness and cling to joy?
How do I stay vulnerable and keep my heart open to fiercely love those around me?
And to answer those questions is going to be a long process - in fact I think it might take the rest of my life to fully figure some of those out - but that's the point right? God wants us to lean on Him, to trust Him, to know that when we are weak He is so very strong.
[All this said, I know our story isn't unique. Many of you have reached out to me since I last posted and bravely told me of your own walks down this road. I have so many dear friends who have wept over infertility struggles and have mourned babies they've never gotten to hold. I've been fortunate to have friends walk with me through this, but I also know many of you have had to walk through this alone. So I share glimpses into our journey of grief and healing to let you know that you aren't alone. There are many people who understand (even people who look like they have a "perfect family" on the outside - you never know how many years and tears it took them to get there, and how many lives were mourned along the way, how many dreams seemed like they would never come true). So know that today you are loved. There is a God who made you and weeps with you and longs for you to find your hope in Him. If I can pray for you please send me a message - I'd be honored to walk alongside you too.]
Thankfully, I have a husband who is patient with me and understanding of my deep emotions and always brings me back to the truth - that God loves me, that my life isn't actually mine or even about me, there is a greater story being written where God redeems all the brokenness of this world, that Jesus came and died and was resurrected to give us life and hope in the midst of sadness.
And then the next morning I woke up to two of the sweetest gifts I've been given. I hugged them close and told them my prayer for them: that no matter what happens this year (happy things and sad things) that they would always know how deeply they are loved.
May you know that too.
The Pampered Bird