We blocked out the entire day on the missionaries' calendar about 6 weeks ago. Have I mentioned how much we love these two Elders?? This is how they showed up at our door at 8:30 on Christmas morning. So cute!
Craig was in charge of Christmas breakfast. Hot chocolate bar, orange rolls, and his mom's traditional Swedish rice pudding.Have I written anything about rice pudding before?? Probably not, because we've never actually tried making it. Whenever we spend Christmas with Craig's family, though, his mom makes a giant pot of this and we have it for breakfast with orange rolls! My parents tried making it for Craig once when we spent Christmas with them. But we have never actually made it in our house…until this year! Craig texted his brother, Mark, for the recipe, because Mark is the rice pudding expert these days. And bright and early Christmas morning, Craig woke up to start cooking. (Can I just tell you how shocking and wonderful it is to write that someone else woke up bright and early on Christmas morning and started cooking??)
Here's the fun part about this tradition: Just before everyone is ready to eat, all the bowls are set out on the counter. Into one of the bowls, Craig's mom sneaks a blanched whole almond. And then a scoop of rice pudding is ladled into each bowl. They are randomly distributed to the family for garnishing, and whoever finds the almond has good luck for the upcoming New Year. We modified this slightly because Megan is allergic to nuts and we used a chocolate chip.
Every year that we celebrated Christmas with Craig's parents (and there were several) Savannah ended up with the almond…Every.Single.Year. We made sure this year that it was an equal opportunity chocolate chip, that none of the kids were even in the kitchen with us when we served the rice pudding, and that everyone randomly grabbed a bowl and didn't stir it (since that chocolate chip melted almost instantly and would have changed the whole color of the rice pudding.) But despite our best efforts, guess who ended up with that lucky bowl of rice pudding?? Yup…Savannah! That girl never ceases to amaze us…for lots of reasons, but the rice pudding thing is becoming a bit of a legacy in our family. I'm not sure what we would actually do if someone else got it one year??
6 C whole milk
1 1/2 C long grain rice
4 oz butter
3/4 C sugar
Put all ingredients into a large stockpot and let it all come to a boil. Turn heat to low and stir constantly while mixture simmers and thickens. About 45 minutes. Serve with heavy cream, cinnamon, and nutmeg.After breakfast, we asked the missionaries to take our annual Christmas picture on the stairs. It's been awhile since the whole family was in this picture. Nice to have impromptu missionary photographers available on Christmas morning.
And then we moved on to the presents!
(yep…the paint test colors are still up on the dining room walls. I decided that I can't decide, so I'm just going to wait until the pain meds have worn off, the holidays decorations are put away, and the dust settles a little. And then maybe I'll be able to make a decision. For now, it's kind of a fun conversation starter. )
I always feel so much pressure to make sure everyone gets everything they ever wanted, or wished for, or subtly hinted about during the year. But that's so not what Christmas is about. This year, since I was distracted, the kids really put a lot of time and thought into buying presents for each other and for the missionaries. They weren't huge, impressive presents, but they were sincere and thoughtful, which made it so much more fun for everyone. Each time someone opened a gift, the person who gave it to them would be riveted to their reaction. And these kids know each other really well. Megan used money from one whole babysitting job to pay for a lava lamp for McKay because she knew he would love it. And he did! McKay got Emma princess shaped Spaghetti-O's (because this is the year of the mermaid around here) and Emma was thrilled.
The girls spent an entire afternoon shopping at every dollar store in town to make sure the missionaries had plenty to open on Christmas Day. They got scripture markers, little book lights for late night scripture reading, Christmas ties, and boxes of crayons. We all had a really great Christmas Day.
After presents, the missionaries asked to have about an hour of quiet time to study the life of the Savior. Again, I love those guys! What a great example for all of us to see these two 20 year old boys stop celebrating and read their scriptures for an hour. I used that time to be still and catch up on a little rest before heading into the rest of the day's festivities.
Megan has a cute friend from church whose family had planned to go to AZ for the holidays, but at the last minute got sick and had to change their plans. They had already had their Christmas and opened all of their presents. Matt was lamenting to Megan about how it was going to be such a boring Christmas and that they had nothing to look forward to, so I called his mom and invited them over for a super casual dinner and games afterward. They arrived around 3:00. Craig had a ham in the oven. The girls made mashed potatoes and rolls. And Emma helped make two pies on Christmas Eve. Matt's family brought drinks, a giant salad and green bean casserole. It was a bounteous dinner, for sure, and I didn't have to do a thing.
After dinner the kids played Just Dance 2014 and the adults played Settlers of Catan. We ended the night with a huge game of Scattergories with the whole group.
I am so grateful for the awesome day that we had. I'm grateful for a house that comfortably holds a lot of people. I'm grateful for the awesome friends and family that surrounds us, for an abundance of food, and for lots of helping hands. And I'm especially grateful for this beautiful and sacred season that draws all of us together.