It was another disappointing conclusion drawn in early November when I emailed the Riley side of the family and it became clear that we wouldn't be able to have everyone present at one time to celebrate Christmas. I think, next year, that even if we have to plan our get-together for a weekday night, we make it happen to be able to accommodate Jeff and Laura's unconventional work schedules.
We did our best with the disappointment, though, in recognizing we had a little bit more freedom in how we celebrated with a smaller group. Last year, Mary Beth and the girls had dropped a few hints in showing an interest in attending a Christmas musical program [at our church], so I bit the bullet and threw it out there as an option for us to consider, along with breakfast at their favorite "Original Pancake House" following.
They were all in favor of the idea, so by nine, there was a row of ten of us seated at First Baptist Church. My parents had chosen to come too - and then there was our family, and then Leona, Mary Beth, Alex, and Andie. The program was one I was genuinely proud to bring guests to - which I'm very grateful for. It was there that I first heard this song done in a duet....which became my "song of the season" (seriously, I played it over and over and even pulled out dance team moves learned in high school as I leaped and worshiped in an empty kitchen!)
We didn't get any pics at the church, because Mikayla and I skipped out a little early to drive across town to put our name on the list for seating at the always-busy restaurant. We took a selfie and Mikayla took some decor pics while we were waiting.
And, then, the gang appeared. TERRIBLE pics with the light streaming in from the windows behind - and not asking them to look my way.
After a most delicious breakfast, we headed back to our house to exchange presents. First up, gifts for all the kids from Leona with a definite UofO theme... they all loved them and the change she traditionally gathers up each year with their birth years on the coins....
I had put together a calendar with pictures Mary Beth had posted on Social Media through the year along with our own pics and gave it to Leona and Mary Beth...
We also got Leona a Ducks jacket, that, I'll admit, I kind of coveted....
One of our gifts to Andie was a onsie that she had requested. Mikayla pulled out the one she got last year and posed with her.
John spent some time bonding with Andie - she's such a spunky one....those two could get into a lot of trouble together!
Alex and I bonded over our love for reading - I recommended a young adult series I had loved to her. Where Andie is a bit of a spit fire, Alex tends to be a little more introspective and analytic. Definitely the people pleaser, and, as is often the case, the worrier. I can relate to that.
And, then there's Brayden ;)
A family time together wouldn't be complete without the group pose for the camera.
While I definitely missed Jeff and Laura, I really enjoyed the mix up of eating out and attending the Christmas service together. It's hard to believe that next year Alex will be a senior (we're doing our best to gently encourage the UO as an option!) and Brayden will be a junior. (Andie and Mikayla will both be 8th graders). Pretty soon, it won't just be the adults' schedules we'll have to take into consideration.....YIKES! All the more reason to savor the time together while we still have the chance!