This is the gingerbread house I made for Lizzy's 18th birthday. She spent her birthday 1700 miles away from home at college studying for finals. I've made her a gingerbread house every year for her birthday since she was born. She tells me it made it to Pennsylvania intact.
Thus began our epic December, with five family birthdays, Advent and Christmas to celebrate, as well as getting our eldest graduated from college and the three college students returning home for the holidays.
Maria graduated from the University of Northern Colorado (the other UNC) on December 12th, Summa Cum Laude (is that right, Maria?) with a degree in Physics. Even though she took a ninth semester to finish up her degree, she still managed to graduate at age 21 in 2009.
Yay, Maria! We are so proud of you!
She is now waiting to hear back from five different grad schools where she has applied to study Medical Physics. Her first choice? MIT.
(Note to homeschool skeptics: Maria would be the first to tell you that she didn't get all her smarts from her mom, but through perseverance, hard work and motivation. She also got some from her dad. Okay, she got a lot of smarts from her dad. When she was born he told everyone, "Let's hope she gets her looks from her mom and her brains from her dad." I didn't think it was a compliment then, nor do I now, but I'm glad she didn't get her looks from her dad. Oh, did I say that? Anyway, I'm not sure at what point, we homeschooled parents are permitted to declare victory, but I think #1 has done a pretty awesome job of her life so far and we are very proud of her.)
We finally had everyone home together as of December 19th, at 7 pm, when Lizzy's flight arrived (sans her luggage) and we could all hug and kiss one another again. The last time we'd all been together was the Sunday before Memorial Day weekend. Such times come fewer and farther between as your kids grow up and move away. Hug them close while they're little!
This is our attempt at a family photo. It's extremely difficult to get 12 people and 2 dogs to sit still and keep their eyes opened. I really wanted to try another day, but we were never able to pull it together. Oh, well. Thus it becomes our family photo for Christmas 2009.
Now they sit still.
On the 21st of December we loaded everyone up into 2 cars (okay, one monster van and one station wagon), with 2 dogs, food for 13 people (Maria's beau came with us), food for 2 dogs, winter clothes, including ski pants, ski parkas, ski gloves, goggles/sunglasses, long underwear, warm socks and boots, 2 cots, 2 sleeping bags, extra blankets, towels, cookware, sleds, Christmas presents and Christmas decorations, laptop computers, games, craft supplies, Christmas cookie baking supplies, wine, beer and eggnog and departed for the beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains. Our destination was Snow Mountain Ranch, the YMCA of the Rockies retreat center near Winter Park.
Let me tell you, it was so worth it. Despite the agony of hauling all that junk up to the mountains (after all, we had yet another birthday plus Christmas to celebrate), it was worth it. We practically had the place to ourselves, as most people, evidently, like to come the week after Christmas.
Our first day there, the kids got to go sledding with Santa. Yes, Santa. It was beautifully sunny and the sledding hill was awesome. (Even mom tried it a few times. What a rush!)
Other days were spent ice skating and cross-country skiing. I would have taken more pictures of the outdoor activities, but my camera actually froze at one point. Yes, it was quite cold. But we had a roaring fire in our cabin to look forward to each night, with a nice glass of wine. It was bliss.
Even the kids got into the spirit. At first, when we told them that we were going to spend Christmas in a cabin, they were upset. "It wouldn't seem like Christmas," they complained. I objected to hauling decorations and gifts up to the mountains. We had enough to haul with the dogs and the winter gear. But my kids persisted and I'm glad they did. The decorations made the cabin (and our attitudes) very festive. The kids did all the decorating. It was great!
On Christmas Eve, Santa came to our cabin bearing gifts. It was quite a sight! He had a big bag full of gifts for everyone. Later that evening, we went to the YMCA's candlelight service, as we found out there was no midnight Mass at the Catholic church. (It seems there is only one priest, but he has to say Mass at four locations over Christmas). We sang carols and listened to a sermon and stayed in our seats for the communion service. It looked like we must've been sitting in the Catholic section of the chapel because there was a whole row of folks who stayed in their seats. My husband went up to them afterwards and asked of they were Catholic. They were. So we told them about the Christmas day mass that would be held the next morning in Granby.
Christmas morning, we got up fairly early and went to Mass at Our Lady of the Snow Catholic Church in Granby.