Our 2012 Christmas Story

Written Christmas Eve Day, 2012

Introductory Note: Christmas is not through, BUT OUR MAD RUSH is behind us now. Whew! We are very blessed to have more family parties and gatherings still to come: Christmas Eve Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Day too. We are excited about the love and excitement that is yet to come, but breathing is easier now that Gigi and GDaddy’s Christmas festive family function is finished for another year. Preparing for our crew of seventeen is QUITE a job but a great privilege we wouldn’t want to skip.

As I write, it’s mid-afternoon, Christmas Eve 2012. Dennis and I are empty-nesters. Our family has now multiplied beyond our four children, into a family of seventeen, including eight grandchildren. Christmas is behind us. Yes, our BIG Full-Family Festive Christmas celebration was Sunday, December 23, 2012. This writing is the story of our Christmas 2012 planning, preparation, presentation and post-party period.

Our most important gift preparations begin YEARS prior to their appearance in stockings from Gigi and GDaddy. Turn the clock back to Christmas 1999 when my preparations for the details of Christmas 2010 actually began as I started collecting state quarters. We try to present gifts different from the commercialized Christmas advertisements for our grand ones. We share a story-time explaining the history of the gifts as we give them each Christmas. For example, our gift of completed State Quarter sets began in 1999 because that is the year these state coins began to be distributed. I collect coins in the spirit of my paternal grandmother, MamaGrandma, who collected coins for me. I began to collect state quarters from all fifty states and fill coin books to be given to each grandchild after they were completed. MamaGrandma and my daddy collected coins and filled many books for all of us through the years of my childhood and I wanted to continue this family tradition. It took me ten years to fill the quarter books and they became special gifts to show our love that had been constant, deep and true over these many years. An added blessing from doing this project is that I learned to appreciate my grandmother’s deep love, dedication and perseverance. By creating the coin books for my grandchildren,  I appreciated my coin books more than ever before and enriched my own story to share with our grandchildren as these ten years of collecting passed one by one.

Another time we gave all of the grandchildren beautiful sea shell collections that we gathered on a very cold, wintertime, thirty-degree, Florida day on Sanibel Island. We collected them one February, then cleaned and placed the sea shells in monogrammed glass jars, wrapped in sparking cellophane, tied up with brightly colored curling ribbons. The work we do to bring these various gifts to our grandchildren and the stories we can tell accompanying the gifts excite the grandkids thus giving them memories of their grandparents and family Christmas for the rest of their lives. By creating these memories, doing things differently, we have achieved our main goal.

This year, as in every year, the final step to finish everything for presentation of seventeen Christmas stockings is a madhouse and our family room looks like a cyclone stuck it! See the first picture gallery to see a picture of the huge mess we created as we laid out every stocking stuffer from our year of shopping. This final step of preparation is  probably the hardest part of our gift-giving cycle. I have never spent any time thinking about how I could make this step easier BUT since our family continues to grow, maybe I SHOULD spend some time thinking about how to better organize these gifts along the way! With the new technologies I enjoy, MAYBE a new app I began using this year entitled “Santa’s Bag” MIGHT be a big help in going from shopping bags of gifts mixed all around into seventeen neatly stuffed stockings all organized by person. I HOPE So! I will think about that next year!

For the special gifts for this year, we began three years ago when my mom, the Great Grandmother, and I designed, created, handmade and began individually monogramming handmade Christmas stockings for everyone. I have worked on them for hours at various times over these three years and finally finished them just a couple of weeks ago. Each stocking took about four hours to make. I have made seventeen so far. At our festive family function, I shared the story and showed them exactly how we took the many pieces of fabric, trims, red fleece and canvas to build each stocking. Creating teachable moments for my grandchildren is one trait I carry within me from my years of teaching and presenting professional workshops. The grandkids seem to love it so these are traditions we will continue.

We told them that these stocking gifts would be the gift that would keep on giving until we could not do it any longer. I explained that eventually these stockings would become theirs to have as keepsakes of all of the Christmases with Gigi and GDaddy. I have explained we wanted to give things that they could have for many years even when Gigi and GDaddy are no longer here. There were sad faces at that moment yet having lived this life for more than fifty years, I know time will pass faster than any of us can believe.

Back to the preparations. At about 3:00 am in the wee morning hours of the twenty-third, I was exhausted, sweating and HAD to take a break!! While I sat for a moment in my family room chair, I noticed what a diaster the room actually was. I enjoy sending timely text messages so I took a picture of the huge mess to send to all of our kids. I wrote and sent a text to accompany the picture of our diaster-ridden family room.

After several more hours of work, Santa’s job was done. At 9:30 am on the twenty-third, five hours before our party was to begin, I still had to prepare our food! Yes, you read that correctly – I did not make it to bed at all! To make sure everyone came, I followed the first text with a picture of the nice neat family room. BEFORE and AFTER pictures are both included in this post. We had a wuuunderful Merry Christmas party!

The night of preparation made our family room look more like a cyclone than Christmas.

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The Christmas presentation is ready for all to arrive, nice and neat, at least for a little while.

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We made ‘Family Group Pictures’ as everyone arrived: Shannon, Olivia and our newest grandbaby, Alana

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Family Group Picture: Seth, Crystal, Colton and Sawyer Darnell

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Nathan and Emily Ellis

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Matthew Ellis and his children, Keenan, Madison, and Carter

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Great Grandma Alma Ellis and Kaylee

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GDaddy and Gigi: Dennis Ellis and Sue Darnell Ellis

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GDaddy, Gigi, and the 6 Ellis Grandchilden: Keenan, Madison, Carter, Olivia, Kaylee and Alana

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We always have a big meal with “The Kids Table” and “The Adults Table”.

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Gift Presentation Time: 6 of the grandones with their one-of-a-kind monogrammed Christmas stockings.

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Colton loves the song, “Oh How I love to eat Marshmellows!” and he got a special chocolate covered marshmellow.

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Opening Gifts: Craft boxes and Creatology sets; Keepsake Boxes; and Blessing Baskets.

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Afternoon Activities: Playing Pool

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Kids making some crafts with their new art and creatology sets.

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Post Party Calm

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