S: Our Very Vermont Christmas
FC: Our Very Vermont Christmas 2011
1: As my Mom and sisters and I were talking through what our new practices should look like, one of the questions we had to ask is, "What is it that we really even *want* for Christmas? Do we really want to keep trading gift cards and sweaters and DVDs and soon-to-bo-obsolete electronics?" The answer was no. What we decided was most important to us was togetherness. Participating in each other's lives. Communicating. Sharing pictures and stories and adventures. Geographically, this can sometimes be difficult. When we first started this conversation, my family was living in Nashville, TN while everyone else was in Texas, so frequent physical proximity just wasn't an option. Now, my family AND my youngest sister's family live in Vermont (YAY!!!!!), so it's even more difficult to be physically together as an entire family on a regular basis. BUT--we are a creative bunch (or so we'd like to think), and some of us are stubborn :-D, so we were undeterred in our pursuit of this goal. And this is my favorite part of the solution: Each year I and all of my sisters each create a digital scrapbook--a "yearbook" if you will--which offers a glimpse into what that year looked like for our family. Through this year, each book was 100 pages of kids growing up, family trips and adventures, holiday celebrations, etc. (but we recently discovered you can now add additional pages, so I'm guessing the books will get a little fatter next year. :-D) We work on them throughout the year (or some of us cram and frantically do the entire thing 2 days before ordering. . .), and then when they are all finished, my Mom orders 2 of each book--1 for each family and then a full set for her to keep. This is the only gift the adults receive, and it is a greater treasure to me than anything I can ever remember opening up on Christmas morning. And not just because of what it *is*, but much more because of what it *does.* For me, this practice has been a life-changer in so many ways. First, it changes the way I take pictures. Which might sound silly, but for one who is passionate about photography, this idea greatly impacts my thought processes and behavior with my camera (which I spend a LOT of time with, so that's a good thing.) I'm so much more deliberate now. Every picture bears the potential to tell a story, to draw my 2000-miles away parents and sisters and nieces and nephews into my life and the lives of my children. I love the way this shapes my thoughts toward the way we spend our time. Additionally, this has become an incredibly fun way to spend time with my sisters even when we are across the country from each other. We can all log in at the same time and work on our books while chatting together online. We can copy from each other's books, share pictures, etc. Some of my favorite conversations with my oldest sister have happened in the middle of the night (or early morning to be more accurate) as we share pictures and stories and record life events together. One click of the mouse instantly shrinks the distance between us. So awesome. And finally, these books are becoming my love letters to my children. Certainly they are filled with all sorts of silly and fun and not necessarily deeply meaningful pictures (and hopefully they always will be), but as we strive to turn our lives more and more toward pursuing Christ, I am equally hopeful that it will be impossible not to see the thread of faith woven throughout the pages. I don't mean that the fun and silliness will decrease. I sure hope not! And I don't mean there will be scripture and really bad morose pictures of Jesus on every page (since that's about the only kind you can find ;-). I just mean that Christ would be evident in the patterns of our lives. The way we spend time together and with others. The activities we choose to participate in. The pursuits that capture our imaginations and draw our attention. You know. . . . Matthew 6:21 stuff. One of these days when my girls have a stack of 15 or 20 of these to flip through, I hope they will see that we treasure Christ. Very imperfectly for sure, but I hope in such a way that leads them to do the same. And with that said...enjoy... | More Than Just Photos on a Page. . . So Much More Three years ago, my ever-growing family decided it was time to simplify our Christmas traditions. I am 1 of 4 daughters, and together we have 10 children, and we all LOVE Christmas in a way that could very easily turn to excess. So in an effort to guard against that, to be financially responsible, and to free a portion of our budget for giving outside of our families, we made some pretty big changes in 2008 which have proven to be huge blessings to us in every way we expected and even many we did not. I may talk more about the whole big picture of this a little later, but today I want to focus on just one of our new traditions.
2: I wept for hours when I got the first phone call announcing to me that my WHOLE FAMILY would be coming to Vermont for Christmas in 2011. This is the stuff that dreams are made of, and it was indeed magical. The Maywalds loaded up their truck to make the drive ALL THE WAY from Texas to Vermont, but Mom and Dad and A and her crew chose to fly up instead. (Can't say I blame them.) We didn't care how they got here. We just couldn't WAIT until they arrived!!!
4: 2011 | To be here with the one's who love me...to love them so much it hurts...I have been blessed. - Martina McBride
5: Middletown Springs, Vermont
6: Very Vermont
7: So happy Vermont delivered up SNOW for all my Texas family!
8: L | est
9: The perfect place for our little crowd
12: The Wilson's Home: Reflections from Vick
13: Both Beck and Jo were gracious hosts. We were staying at the Owl's Nest, but they both made 15 trips each between their houses down the road...to make sure we had everything we needed...and a few extras that we really didn't need :) We were excited to see Beck's house since she actually got to move in full time and move her own furniture in. It is so pretty in the snow...
15: The Dickersons' Place
17: Christmas Eve and Christmas morning Jared gave two of the best sermons we've heard in awhile. Macy sang a beautiful carole, and we truly enjoyed worshiping in Middletown Springs' beautiful, historic church.
18: BTW - My sister sings "Heirloom" even better than Amy Grant.... She made us all cry with her beautiful Christmas Eve serenade... ~Vick
19: Up in the attic, down on my knees Lifetime of boxes, timeless to me Letters and photographs, yellowed with years Some bringing laughter, some bringing tears Time never changes the memories, the faces Of loved ones who bring to me All that I come from and all that I live for And all that I'm going to be My precious family is more than an heirloom to me Wisemen and shepherds down on their knees Bringing their treasures to lay at his feet Who was this wonder, baby yet King? Living and dying. He gave life to me Time never changes the memory, the moment His love first pierced through me Telling all that I came from and all that I live for And all that I'm going to be My precious Saviour is more than an heirloom to me | My precious Jesus is more than an heirloom to me...
23: Exploring with Granddad...
25: This cabin on the mountain was quite a little hike/4-wheeler ride, but the view from the top was worth every step. Josh had a fire built by the time Granddad and I made it to the top with the little ones... If we hadn't gotten hungry, we could have sat there all evening.
26: the view | After testing the ice by letting Josh throw some giant rocks and step on the edges, Vick let Anna carefully step out onto the frozen pond. Not sure I was in agreement with that decision, but she didn't fall in! :-D
28: "Tina, you fat lard, come get some DINNER!... Tina, eat. Food. Eat the FOOD!" This is Tina ...she was quite a dork llama
29: "llama, llama, RED PAJAMA" | Another fun fact about Jody and Jon's new house...it's on a llama farm...
30: Magical Fairy Houses
31: To encourage her boys to explore a bit, Jody built fairy houses and actually caught fairies. Did you know they freeze to glass when humans see them?
33: "In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln
34: This is what happens when Texas comes to Vermont...
35: Lots of snuggles, silliness, and smiles... | The front foyer looked like a laundry room...boots, coats, and gloves for 20...
37: I organized a meal plan for the week. Each family took a night and cooked for everyone. Even Josh and Leah took a turn and made a delicious batch of chicken and dumplins...almost as good as their Nanny's not-so-secret recipe.
39: Christmas | Dinner | A delicious meal with all the traditional fixin's...then Josh took orders for coffee drinks and made us all fraps or lattes to go with the triple chocolate cake that Gracie thinks no holiday meal is complete without.
40: TEA PARTY | Macy's contribution to our meal planning was a fun tea party for all the kids...she even had name tags and set the table for everyone with Jared's delicious chili. Ty made us a turkey for Christmas dinner, but "it cooked down a little" :)
42: A Christmas To Remember | A Season of Love and Laughter | ...while we wait for the real snow...
44: Have you ever had a chocolate mouse?
45: YUM!! | Emma Watson
46: Every time I see this picture, it makes me giggle. This was completely spontaneous and unstaged, but somehow Jody and I are doing the exact same thing. Crazy how similar we are sometimes. Not sure if she should be terrified or if I should be really excited. Maybe a bit of both. :-D
47: Sisters, Daughters, Mothers, Friends
48: Enjoying The Holly Days | I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas
49: Dear Jesus, Thank you for this blanket of white...just in time | A Christmas To Remember | Anna took this one...
50: Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
52: Meet Steve...the snowman
58: these times are so... | special
60: Faith and Family Is The Best Part Of Christmas
61: Holiday Memories Warm Even The Coldest Of Days
62: "I'm gonna climb you like a mountain..." | "Where's Josh?" | Dylan (who just turned 3): "Out of my way, you!"
63: She especially loves to play with Josh...and he not only tolerates but enjoys her attention. | Dylan...our sweet youngest. She gets to boss us all around because she has adorable dimples and gives really good hugs.
64: Dear Santa, Define Good
65: Believe In The Magic Of Christmas
67: Family Is The Best Part Of
68: Paramount Theater | This theater, built in 1913, has a quaint, beautifully historic feel. They were showing "Elf" the week that we were there, so we decided to take the kids. Fun...
69: Dance Partay!!
72: Cozy Winter Wishes | Snuggles
73: Warm Memories
74: ALL BUNDLED UP
75: AND BEAUTIFUL
76: Even Granddad joined in on this game... that is quite an accomplishment ...unless it's a golf game. | After everyone told Jon his answer was a good guess, Dad said: "How is that a good answer? It was wrong!" | Jon: "Don't be surprised at my smart-ness." | Jody: "These questions are easy." Dad: "No, they're not easy. They're hard. I'm just smart."
77: In response to the following question, "What microsoft plug-in delivers high quality audio and video to web browsers?" Mom: "Extension cord." | Amy (somewhere in the neighborhood of 184 times, but I lost count): "I'm sorry. What was the question?" "Ummmmm. . . . . are you new?" | Becky: "That's not Pi. That's Stone Henge." | When Dad said he didn't know the answer to the question, "What playwright wrote Romeo and Juliet?" Amy verbally assaulted him and said, "And you have a college degree?!" To which Dad very calmly replied, "Yep. In petroleum engineering. Shakespeare never came up." | Game Time
78: FAMILY | "It isn't how much time you spend somewhere that makes it memorable: it's how you spend the time." - David Brenner | GAMES | Josh to Leah, while we were playing a game during which the object is to accumulate the fewest points: "Leah, you have more points than the combined total of everyone else playing this game." | Mom: "Funk and Farkle." Becky: "MOM! That sounds dirty and inappropriate. It needs to wait until later."
79: PUZZLES | LAUGHS | Jody found an old school "Concentration" game and got it for mom for Christmas. We enjoyed playing together just like old times. | We ran out of game pieces... | Peyton: "I can't believe y'all are actually playing a game you have to *think* about."
81: Ran out of chairs... | Tradition
84: Special Gifts... | Dad's cigar box guitar from Jody and Jon...made just for him by Ty's principal
85: Mickey brought Jody and Jon a special surprise for Christmas. When they moved, they had to leave a few things behind. The poker table that they had built together was one of them...it was broken, and just too bulky to fit in the moving truck. Mickey fixed it up even better than new, and delivered it all the way to Vermont. It was fun to surprise them...
86: Not A Creature Was Stirring Not Even A Mouse...until we got there...:) | Me and my tiny little nephew, Josh. :-D
89: It's the little things that make life beautiful. | "Good times are even better when they are shared"
90: Since Amy and Neil weren't arriving until Christmas evening, we wanted to wait to open gifts all together. In order to make the waiting time more fun, Josh and Leah did an incredible job writing clues for a scavenger hunt...find all the gifts and put them back under the tree before Neil and A arrive. | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
91: 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14
92: 15 | 16 | 17
93: 18 | 19 | 20
96: It's never as much fun to pack up and go home... We will miss the family time and the "Quoteable Quotes": Jody: "Daddy, you do you." Vickie: "Jody is the one who's always singing ridiculousness." Jody, in response to Leah's less-than-thrilledness at being up late: "Leah! Go to bed, Raincloud!" Amy: "Guys, I hate to be needy here, but does anyone know where I can find a pillow?" Jared: "Wait. Is that like Methvin code for some kind of female problem?" Vickie, to her two oldest children: "Why are y'all sitting so close together? It's weird." Leah: "Y'all are more fun with margaritas."
97: Becky: "Dad is quite the tidy-er."
98: Thank you, Lord, for TOGETHER
99: I don't recall a single Christmas in my lifetime that I would consider disappointing or even less than awesome, but I'm pretty sure this year topped them all. There was something so special about having the whole family together in the snowy mountains of Vermont with no agenda other than to love and laugh and enjoy each other's company. It was nothing short of magical. I'm so grateful for my family. For how much love we share. For how heartily we can laugh together. For the way the lines are so blurred between families because we love each other's kids like they're our very own. And for the fact that not only do we dread family time--we CRAVE it. I know this is a gift from God and not something any of us earned. I'm so grateful he made us family, but even more grateful he made us friends.