It's hard to believe Christmas has come and gone. With the busy-ness of the season, I'm yet again much later in posting than I wanted to be, but better late than never, right? :-)
December started off with decorating the cottages - inside and out. For the record, boys do not think decorating is a fun activity.
We got to go to a local tree farm and cut down our own tree, which is a first for me. Here's a shot of our group "claiming" our tree:
Funny how you can find the perfect tree outside, but when you bring it in, it's not quite so perfect. Ours ended up being too tall and probably a bit too wide. And after spending a great deal of time getting it into the tree stand and putting the lights and decorations on it, it fell over. One of the boys came to the rescue and it's been standing tall since, albeit a bit crooked.
Elianna also celebrated her third (THIRD!!) birthday on December 10! Where did that three years go?! She's no longer a baby...she's so animated and funny. She keeps the boys (and us) laughing, for sure. We celebrated her day by going to the children's museum in Winston-Salem, NC and then walking around Old Salem Village. We came home for dinner, cupcakes and presents. It was a fun way to celebrate our little "Na-Na" as we affectionately call her.
We also experienced our first "storm" here. It really wasn't much, but there was some ice involved so we had to stay home from church. In lieu of a sermon from our pastor, we watched Billy Graham's My Hope America. The boys seemed to enjoy it and didn't make a sound for most of it, which is a minor miracle for them because they talk through most movies. We had some good discussion about it afterward, too.
One funny story - We got to experience our first "intruder" here this month, as well. One of the boys came to our upstairs apartment door one evening while I was getting the girls ready for bed. He asked if I would bring Tonka (our dog) out so he could play with him. While I was getting the dog, the boy yelled "Hey, we have a bat!" I ran to the door and asked where. He pointed to this little black creature, clinging to the side of the fireplace (right next to our apartment door.) I screamed, ran into the apartment and slammed the door shut while the boys scrambled to see it and decide what to do with it. Jason came to the rescue and scooped it up (in his Batman hat, no less) and took it outside. He said it must have come because it knew Batman lived here. I don't care why the little bat came, I just don't want to see him again! Oh, and for the record, the bat did live.
Joy Ranch has some annual events around the holidays, one of them being a trip to Barter Theater in Abingdon. Normally, it's scheduled on the same day as a church visit, but because of the ice and having to stay put, we didn't get to go. They were able to reschedule the theater visit though, and we got to see a production of A Christmas Story. The boys seemed to enjoy it and even our girls sat through it, mesmerized. It made for some quotables around our house, like "You'll shoot yer eye out!" and "I have to go wee-wee!" I never was able to get a picture of the boys together, looking all daper. When I tried to take pictures, they all covered their faces.
The next annual event was the Live Nativity. I've never experienced one and from things I'd heard, I just thought it was some people standing in a stable, dressed like Mary & Joseph and you just walk by and look and them and walk on...But here, it's a drive-through event. And it ended up making the front page of the local paper - how cool is that? (I saved it for my keepsakes.) We have staff and residents at different stations, acting out the different parts. Jason was the prophet at the beginning, prophesying the birth of the coming Messiah. The next stop was the entrance to Jerusalem, where you were shaken down by guards and told to pay your taxes. Next came the shepherds, tending their flocks by night. This is followed by an angel choir, singing of the Savior's birth. After that, you're told by the innkeepers that there is no room in all of Bethlehem. And of course, the last stop is the lowly stable where Mary & Joseph proudly show you the newborn King.
Another way we celebrate this special holiday is with some Christmas parties. We had a staff Christmas party the week before Christmas. We shared some delicious brunch food and enjoyed some rare time together just having fun. It can be a challenge to get to know the other staff because of our responsibilities within the homes, so when we do get together, it's a good time. We played a neat game which involved everyone bringing $5.00 gift cards...we picked pieces of paper which said things like "trade with someone in the room who likes to read" or "trade with the person you think has the highest IQ." It made for a lot of laughs and we all ended up with gift cards at the end. It was neat - a game I'd definitely play again. The kids also have a Christmas party. Several churches/organizations provide Christmas gifts for the kids and we gathered with them in our gym for some pizza and presents. They read the Christmas story to us and shared a few thoughts on Christmas, then let the kids open their gifts.
And then, Christmas break was upon us. Some of our guys left on Friday night, some on Saturday, another on Monday and two more on Christmas Eve. As I write this, our cottage is empty and strangely quiet. I must admit, I'm not a fan of that. I miss our boys, but am so very glad they all have somewhere to spend Christmas. They will trickle in over the next week-10 days. It will be a strange week, but it's good to get to spend time with them on a more individual basis, too.
And on that, note, here is wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful start to 2014!