Christmas 2020 Memories and Blessings

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Before my memories of Christmas 2020 drift away, I’m capturing them here. What a wonderful time! In years past, we’ve had a few awkward, cringe-worthy moments on Christmas Day where a family member’s feelings got hurt because another family member said something that was uncalled for. I prayed this year that that wouldn’t happen. Hallelujah! We had no such moments this year! Whew!

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I started reading aloud this book to the younger kiddos, a sequel to Christmas Jars, which I read aloud to them last year. We’re still reading it in January. Which I’m totally OK with. We read the first book in January last year. I’m excited to find out if my predicted ending comes true in the sequel.

One of my college-attending sons brought home a keyboard that supposedly was being given away at his aunt’s home. When we moved from AZ, we gave our piano away to save packing space. So I have been piano-less. I was rejoicing that we would have a piano substitute that I could play for Christmas songs that we always sing on Christmas Eve as we act out the Nativity story in Luke 2. Then said-son found out that the keyboard was his cousin’s and it wasn’t supposed to be given away. Oops. So it has to go back.

As is their custom, my kiddos played Settlers of Catan at some point during the Christmas break. It’s not my favorite game so I was happy they didn’t invite me to play, LOL.

The younger kiddos and I watched this new movie, The Santa Box, which was filmed in Utah. It’s a little cheesy but meaningful. It’s all about charity and forgiveness and the spirit of Christ. I want to give out Santa boxes, now, in addition to Christmas Jars! Yes, I’m dreaming big!
The Santa Box Poster

I decided to go out on Dec. 24 and shop for more stocking stuffer treats. Ugh! I hate buying stuff on Christmas Eve. I vow next year to have everything bought by Dec. 18, including all the stocking goodies, and even have these goodies portioned out in ziploc bags before Dec. 23. Actually I’m toying with the idea of having each kid stuff one of their sibling’s stocking, anonymously as Santa. Both these ideas will allow me to go to bed before 3 AM on Christmas Day, as is happened this year. I didn’t budget my time this year well, again. Double ugh. One of the results of me not budgeting time/planning well is that one of my planned gifts for my traditional three gifts for my adult children was out of stock. I’m definitely not perfect in the gift-giving and the pacing of Christmas prep. So I’m just now getting those ones out, after Christmas, since they are back in stock.

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I read the Mistletoe trilogy by Richard Paul Evans this Christmas using my scribd.com membership. They are good but predictable. I enjoyed them because reading them helped me relax at night and fall asleep.

I did make a smart decision though in realizing I wouldn’t be home until after 5:30 PM on Christmas Eve. So I asked my two youngest children to make lasagna. They’ve made it before so I had full confidence they could do it, even though they are 11 and 14. When I found out that my other college-attending son wouldn’t be home until after 9 PM on Christmas Eve, I switched out the menus. Usually we have our Bethlehem Supper on Christmas Eve. Then on Christmas Day for dinner, I ditch the traditional food of turkey potatoes, and gravy. Instead, I serve a non-purist frozen lasagna, baked of course, but bought at Walmart or Costco. I started doing this when we moved to AZ and had to be on our own for Christmas. (Translation: I had to learn how to roast turkey on my own and host my own Christmas dinner in lieu of going to my parents’ home and relying on them to be the founders of the feast. I decided I wanted to relax on Christmas Day too like everyone else and have my biggest kitchen job be to pop things into the oven.) One of my boys is being gluten-free right now, so I realized I would have to make a low-carb, gluten free lasagna this year. Which was good for me too so I wouldn’t eat so many carbs over the holiday, 🙂 , to maintain my weight loss.

So the kiddos made the Lazy Lasagna from the second Trim Healthy Mama book, which uses spinach instead of lasagna noodles. They made it perfectly! I was so pleased with them! My copycat recipe is here.

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Here’s what the tree looked like when the kiddos walked in on Christmas morning. It’s not a huge tree and decorated eclectically with mostly homemade ornaments. So nothing fancy or color-coordinated, but it works. We always have a star on top of it, until Christmas Eve. On that night, at the end of our acting out the Nativity, we switch out the star for our Angel Moroni tree-topper. It’s a way of pointing to the after story story of Jesus, which involved the restoration of His gospel with his angel helper Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith.

One of my boys gave me the Pioneer Woman honey pot with a cute note relating it to Winnie-the-Pooh, hearkening back to his childhood days of hearing the Pooh stories. Here I am, above, carefully opening it, not wanting to break it. I wish I had smiled for the camera but I was so focused on checking it out without breaking it. It’s the most elegant honeypot I’ve ever owned! See the photo below to see how pretty it is. I loooove it!

Here’s one of the goodies I bought on Christmas Eve, for my own stocking, in keeping with my low-carb diet. I’ve heard a lot about Lily’s stevia-sweetened chocolate. It’s definitely yummy but expensive too so I haven’t ever bought it before. Next year, I am going to for sure have my husband stuff my stocking and I’m going to stuff my husband’s. After 29 years I’m tired of not being surprised at all. :-). I heard about this idea from my friend Mindy and thought, “Why haven’t I thought of that sooner?”

We had my mother-in-law over for Christmas Day. She’s a widow living alone. No one should be alone for Christmas Day. She already had COVID in October so there were no worries about her getting out and about.

Christmas Day we had our Bethlehem Supper by candlelight. Fish, flatbread, hummus, bitter herbs, olives, dates, and cheese. Those are all foods Jesus perhaps ate in the Holy Land. Well, maybe not the hummus. We also always have rice, even though that’s not Middle Eastern food. We eat it because years ago our next-door neighbor was from Ghana. He had a mother from Syria, which is close to Israel. She taught him how to make this rice dish. He invited us over often for dinner and always fixed his specialty, a “secret” rice dish, with cinnamon, chicken broth, and pasta. So to add more bulk to the meal we fix it, even though it’s not authentic. :-). Topping the pita bread with hummus, then fish and rice is super delicious. I abstained from the bread and rice to keep low carb.

We also did our individually-picked activities. Everyone picked out something he or she wanted to do and wrapped an object representing that activity, as explained here. Except my firstborn and and my husband, who I surmise don’t care about what we do as long as we are together.

We played football (not with Grandma or my 60-something husband, haha, they were both too old and tired to play so took naps). Our new to us home has a huge front yard with not much snow so that was easy. Then it was Reverse Charades, then Studio C, and the Muppets’ Christmas Carol. That took care of activities for four people.

My son who picked Studio C added the stipulating gift that it was “Studio C Mom Edition” where I got to pick all the sketches that we watched. My mother-in-law had never seen the Muppets’ Christmas Carol before so I was delighted to show it to her. She loved it, sighing especially at the end and putting her head on someone’s shoulder next to her. That was so sweet.

The next day was more fun and games! We played Mysterium and then Monty Python Fluxx, one of the games that appeared in a stocking.

I’ve been wanting to play Mysterium for months. My son who lives out of state brought it and I’m so glad he did. It’s a combination of Dixit and Clue. It’s a cooperative game and we all lost. At least we lost together.

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I discovered Fluxx years ago and gave it to my oldest son for Christmas years ago, after seeing it in a Chinaberry book catalog. It’s a LOT of fun. We’ve acquired a few different versions over the years. This year, one of the sons got Monty Python Fluxx in his stocking. This version didn’t disappoint. The goals were funny. I love how this game can have so many twists and turns.

Then it was The Mind card game. That one’s great too. My younger daughter got it in her stocking last year. It involves reading body language to communicate and mind-reading. It’s also a cooperative game.

My baby, age 11, had originally picked watching Robin Hood for his activity but then decided he would rather play Secret Hitler. I’m learning to like it more, every year. I was Hitler in the game the first time and fooled all the liberals, everyone but one son, causing me to laugh uproariously.

It was so terrific to have Christmas on Friday, giving my husband a three day weekend off of work. On Sunday, we went to church all together. I think our family of 8 (my married daughter was missing, more on that in a bit) took up half the congregation. Most of the congregants stayed home to sleep off the post-Christmas hangover and watch the live stream on YouTube. My husband was picked to speak at Church that day so we will attended in person to hear him. Its funny, he and I spoke last year in AZ at church the Sunday after Christmas.

After church, it was time for It’s a Wonderful Life. We’ve been watching this every year since the oldest was born. I was OK with skipping this year but it was one of the family member’s chosen activities. I saw on Facebook that one of my Veggie Gal friends saw it for the first time this year. How someone can grow up on the Wasatch Front with its mainstream pop culture and not see this movie until she’s 50 is a mystery to me.

Then it was my turn to do my activity. We watched Christmas Jars. I was so excited for my three single sons to watch this movie. I encouraged them to start their own jars, since they are all living out of the nest. They replied that they never use cash. So we talked about how to do the idea without using a jar of coins/cash.

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I discovered this delightful picture book this year. It’s by Susan Gong, wife of Elder Gerrit Gong, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. I highly recommend it.

I made the Sparkling Cran Ginger that appears in the new Trim Healthy Mama cookbook, created by Serene Allison’s and Pearl Barrett’s niece, Rashida. It’s called Trim Healthy Future. I bought the book for Christmas back in early November on pre-order to get the discounted price plus the pre-order goodies. (Do any of you other moms out there buy your own Christmas presents? It’s just easier sometimes.) Review of the book is coming soon!

For this drink recipe, I put in too much ginger. Next time I will cut way back. In quadrupling the recipe I think I made a mistake in the amount of ginger, as it was a bit overpowering. Instead of being a hot wassail with cinnamon, anise, and cloves like in the recipe here, it is a cold drink. You basically cook the cranberries until they pop in water with the ginger, then cool, then add the low-carb sweetener and sparkling water and serve cold. It was good despite the too much ginger.

Sunday night the kids broke out my world puzzle. I bought it years ago. We lost some pieces. Then I found a newer edition while thrifting for 99 cents. I like to put it together on General Conference weekends, like we did here. Fortunately, the thrift store version has no pieces missing. Two of the diehards stayed up past midnight to put both together.

Tuesday morning I woke up to the picture below, texted to me from my son-in-law. My daughter had her baby! She lives out of state with her husband. We weren’t expecting the baby until at least Jan. 4. She used Hypnobabies and had a fast, natural birth. I wish I could have been there! She woke up at 2 AM and then had the the baby at 5 AM. So a fast labor. I sure wish I could be there to cuddle the little guy and babysit while she sleeps!

Then Tuesday afternoon I drove to my parents’ home to take them their presents since we hadn’t had a big get-together on Christmas Day. They seemed very pleased with their gifts: an electric teakettle (because I so love mine), hot cocoa mixes, herbal teas, dried fruit, plus the book below. So they can sip warm beverages and feel cozy and have a devotional together. This book, along with the journals, were like the Cabbage Patch dolls of Christmas 1983. Or was it 1984? Anyway, I couldn’t find this book online or at local bookstores. But the angels were watching out for me and led me to find it at a local grocery store. Score!

Don't Miss This in the Doctrine and Covenants

Wednesday, I had a party with my Veggie Gals friends. It was a brief interruption from all the family time. One of them was in town for the holidays after moving to California. I had seven of them over for a potluck lunch. Oh how I love the conversation. I can’t drink it in fast enough. It’s so wonderful to have a group of like-minded friends where you can go deep, especially during this bizarre time.

For Thursday, New Year’s Eve, we did our “new” tradition. My daughter, the one who just had a baby, suggested it last year when she “holidayed” with us. After dinner, we played games, with each person bringing one to the table, which we played for 30 minutes. One of us picked Clue, above. I won in less than 30 minutes! It was Plum, wrench, study. I have a secret way of winning, without cheating, that allows me to win almost every single time. 🙂

I picked the above game up at a thrift store for only $2. Totally worth it. It’s like brand new. So it was my pick for New Year’s Eve. The game involves lots of eye signaling and everyone can play at once. Great game, especially for a crowd. Up to 8 can play.

The nest morning, New Year’s Day, we continued the games since we hadn’t gone through everybody’s choices the night before. I had to deliberately make an appointment at 9 AM with my firstborn to play the above game. It’s Wingspan, and it’s all about birds. He had other stuff going on later, including a date, and rock-climbing. This was a present he requested and I happily obliged as it looked beautiful and fun when I saw it online. Bugsy, the 11 year old, played it with us.

It took us a while to get into the rhythm of how the game works. We, my firstborn and I, ended up playing it again that night with my husband. I finally felt the momentum of the player action choices. It’s a great game! A wonderful mix of learning bird facts and strategic game play.

This was my first experience with a dice tower, in Wingspan. It’s a birdfeeder made of sturdy cardboard. I love it!
On every turn you choose if you play a bird card, draw a bird card, gather food for your birds, or have your birds lay eggs.
See how beautiful the cards are? On every one, you learn a bird’s habitat, what it eats, the type of nest it lays (or not), its wingspan, and some unique fact about the bird.
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On New Year’s Eve, we also did Labyrinth (above), a great visual/spatial strategy game. Then Disney Apples to Apples. Fun, fun, fun!

Second son delighted us with reading from Winnie-the-Pooh. Disney’s Apples to Apples inspired this.

My Christmas was topped off by reading this article mentioned over here, about Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and also reading the two books below. I gave copies of the first book to all my siblings and parents and inlaws over 20 years years go but never read it myself. I’m rejoicing I finally read it.

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This one above is the backstory to The Christmas Box. It’s a long story as to why I never read these before. Maybe I’ll share sometime.

Oh, another thing that made my Christmas great was listening to this BYU speech again. It’s my favorite Christmas speech/talk ever.

I’m so loving that my firstborn decided to give us a flat screen TV for Christmas to replace our old chunky TV from 2005 or so. This new TV has a built in DVD player. Plus same son gave us a Fire TV stick. So I’m rejoicing. The old DVD player was always skipping DVD parts. Now I can do my Trim Healthy Mama Workins DVDs without skips. He also gifted me a fire pit. I’m so excited to have parties with this!

It really is a great to have adult children giving gifts to me. What I have put out is coming back to me!

So that’s another Christmas for the books! A sweet time with my sweet family! I feel relaxed, nourished, empowered and renewed by my gifts and the time spent with family and friends. All that makes me feel ready for a new year! I’m so grateful for this time. I’m dreaming big so that next year is even better with more giving to others outside of our family.

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