Bringing home our Christmas Tree!

Christmas in our home is usually a very pleasant event. Each of our families are kind, loving, and gracious, and although we lead a pretty simple life, (the three of us as a family,) there will always be a few fun spoils under our tree. We have more than enough and are never truly in need or want. Sometimes, however, even knowing that can’t stop the drive and heart of a compassionate giver… or givers.

Let me tell you about this year’s amazing Christmas.

This hangs very conspicuously from a cupboard in our kitchen. (But Andrew never peaks.)

As usual I make my ‘Super Secret Christmas List’ several months ahead, working on personalized gift ideas for various people. I start shopping sales and usually have all of our gifts bought before Thanksgiving. Andrew and I don’t usually spend much of any money on each other, instead I shop for a couple of presents what we as a family can enjoy. For instance, last year we got candle making supplies because Nathan likes burning candles at night when we play cards together. We pick out stocking stuffers and a few fun toys for Nathan, but we also know that he is going to receive gifts from out-of-state relatives, then again from both mine and Andrew’s family in what will basically amount to 3 more Christmas’. And then, go figure, his birthday is just 2 months away. So that is were the ‘simple’ and ‘have more than enough’ come into play.

Getting to add the star for Jesus is always a favorite for Nathan.

This year was no different. I purchased a couple ‘big’ gifts, and Andrew added some fun things. After the Thanksgiving name draw we picked out and made gifts for the extended friends and family in our life. For three weeks we trudged daily through all the holiday crowds at the Fred Meyer across the way. We played, stuck inside, for many dark and rather cold days with the daycare children. I, however, was harboring a secret. And it will killing me inside!

You see, a few weeks before Christmas I had received a phone call from a very generous sponsoring group for the Lost Lake Run. We’ve mentioned them before, Figarelle’s Fitness. They wanted to spoil Nathan (and us as a family) this year for Christmas, and I’m telling you, there was no changing their minds! But Nathan and Andrew didn’t know anything about it, so, as you can imagine, I spent three weeks completely emotionally wracked about the idea of this even happening, AND I couldn’t talk to pretty much anyone about it!

FINALLY! Finally! Finally! The Friday before Christmas came, and finally! Finally! FINALLY! The daycare children had all been picked-up. I’d been pacing around the house like a nesting first time mother for hours. I was pretty sure if I stopped, in my anticipated state, I would probably throw-up!

When the knock came during dinner, Andrew rolled his eyes and groaned thinking, for sure, that it must be the neighbor friend wanting to come in and play. I opened the door and just stepped back while 5 full grown adults spilled into our small cramped apartment living room with boxes and boxes of wrapped gifts! I wanted to explain what was going on, but I couldn’t talk. Seriously and literally.

This is not a very good picture, (it’s a terrible picture!) but it shows Andrew’s honest wide-eye confusion about how to take in what was happening.

My options were to either blubber and sob like a total idiot, or attempt to simply breath. Breath. I chose breath. All I could do was to point at them and mouth the words, “They brought us Christmas,” hoping dreadfully that he would recognize them and clue into what was going on. And then of-course I cried. …but only just a little. Andrew, as I had been during that phone call three weeks prior, was completely flabbergasted with no clue what to say. That’s okay though. Good ‘ole Nathan was very quick to put on a show. Just what you need, right? A wild and unruly child when people are there to express how much they care and love him.

*Andrew later explained that the music from the marching scene in the Robin Hood Cartoon was playing in his head as he watched, in utter amazement, all of these people just keep coming in and out in a circle piling more and more gifts under our tree. He thought for sure there were at least 7 people*

We did it. I had made it through the three weeks of anticipation, and we had all made it though the moment of surprise. With nothing left but our actual Christmas to wait for we were finally able to settle down for the night and rest until the big next day.

Nathan found Geoffrey’s hiding place above the stove.

Ah, Christmas day! (Well for us it happened on Christmas Eve.) Andrew and I were tired. Just plain tired. Andrew was just barely recovering from being sick and with children all week, and I had been up for a couple hours during the night. You see, I had gotten up to use the restroom, but I found Geoffrey (Our resident Squatch-On-The-Watch ‘elf’) out in the living room, eating the apples and peanut butter and completely surrounded with presents and wrapping paper, but with not a clue where to start. Let’s be honest, he was having a breakdown. I decided I had better help Mr. Squatcher if there was ever a plan for our own family presents to make it under the tree. So when morning came, even Christmas morning, we were in no shape to just jump out of bed and start running. And it killed Nathan!

First he crawled in and laid quietly in our bed. Then he began to wiggle. Finally, after an hour, he decided he would just have to get up without us, so he played in the living room for a short while before he came back in begging for someone to get up with him. Andrew was sick so I took ‘the early shift.’ “Can we open presents?” “Nope. We have to wait for Dad.” At this point it was almost becoming a hilariously twisted form of child abuse.

“I tell you what, I’ll do CPT while we wait, and we’ll make it a super short version.” Usually we do 5 minutes each, on 5 sides, with double clappers. For a ‘short’ session we cut it to 4 minute sections. For me to do 2-3 minutes on each side was definitely a super short version. We, of-course, were not going to skip a session. Not even on Christmas. In sticking to my torturous scheme I didn’t even let him turn the TV on. I just didn’t want to ruin the Christmas morning mood!

Andrew woke-up shortly after (finally at 11:30) and Nathan’s 2 hours of torment were over. It was Christmas and we were opening presents!

We always take our time. First we open the stockings and Nathan gets to eat chocolate for breakfast. I made another fun game this year, ‘Deez Nutz Roulette,’ in which Andrew rolled dice to opened one of various little packages of nuts with the attempt to guess how they were seasoned. Next we opened each present that we had received from the gym one-by-one. I kid you not… it took us an hour and a half! We were completely blown away with the generosity of this team of people.

Nathan received so many great toys, especially Legos which he has been nonstop at everyday since! He decided the firetruck would be the first one to do and did the entire thing, all 217 pieces, all by himself in the afternoon. After that he wouldn’t let it go and even took it to his bed. I had to come in during the night and rescue his precious fragile friend from a near certain death. He was also given an entire package of purple poweraide (his favorite) to which he stated, “I can drink them for eight days!” and then he opened an entire case of Kingsize Reece’s cups (96 cups total) and said, “I could eat them for like 9 days!”…and you know he’d do it if I’d let him!

Andrew and I received some absolutely beautiful equipment and personalized items to use when we cook and blog. We were also completely lavished upon with every manner of gift card to the places we frequent most. An abundant supply to surely last us though the next year. Nathan’s big gift was a gift certificate to the trampoline place near us. He will be able to bounce and bounce and bounce ….and bounce some more! We are even making plans for a trampoline play date with his sister, Miss M, (our foster daughter from last year).

And then we had a prime rib to roast for our Christmas dinner! It was fantastic! It came with a homemade danish big enough to feed a whole family… and then some! We first coated the rib completely in bourbon, then made a rub using apple wood smoked salt, sea salt, ground pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic, and let it roast all afternoon. I made some fresh cheese (whole milk and lemon juice recipe) with lemon thyme and chervil for crackers, and for a vegetable we came-up with a recipe for green beans, classically paired with bacon, but herbed with tarragon, both giving our dinner a French flare. Our final side dish was wild rice, gifted to us from Minnesota, seasoned with chicken broth, crimini mushrooms, and garlic. It was an amazing dinner!

Not only where the members of the gym so generous this year, but our families were as well. Nathan was loved on and received even more Legos, car tracks, and goodies. In addition to our private Christmas we also had three other separate dinner visits with family and got to see cousins, aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, and Great grandmas and grandpa, too! Even Miss M got to stop by for a short visit.

They sure do love each other! So excited for a visit together!

When I say it was an amazing Christmas I truly mean that. It really was amazing.

So what do we do now? Well, rest, for one! That was a seriously exhausting 4+ days! But there was one item that we got for Christmas. An item that was hard to disguise when the group arrived with gifts last Friday. A dumb bell set! (8s, 10s, 15s, and 20s) I know that it sounds a little cliche to receive weights from a gym group, but it was actually something that Andrew and I have been wanting. We have a single curling bar with interchangeable weights, but that is really inconvenient when we both want to work out. He uses all the weights at once while I still need something for basic lifts. Not to mention that the flat loose weights by themselves are not very good for most lifts. It’s also a concern when working out around young kids… of which we have a plethora. The last thing you need is to stumble over a child with 95 pounds of weight in your hands. With the dumb bells we can pick up a set and do some easy lifting at anytime, even during daycare hours, and without having to waste a bunch of time changing the weights around. Nathan can use these, too.

This Hexbot Jellyfish was one of our favorite gifts. You see, because of CF and bacteria concerns Nathan isn’t supposed to have any water animals or reptiles, (and we aren’t doing birds or spiders because of daycare, or dogs because of our house size, or cats because of allergies, or any mouse-like critter because Andrew can’t stand them…) so this life-like swimming pet was perfect because it doesn’t poop! No bacteria! Nathan can actually play with this pet! And it’s just really cool.

But that isn’t the only healthy habits gift we received. While most gifts were anonymous Steph and Lala Figarelle personally gave us the book “You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises” and I love it! I’m reading it cover to cover. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to a good work-out. (We’re just a little estranged right now.) I love and appreciate both the strength and cardio benefit of free weights. I love the calorie burn of the stair-stepper. There are just two things that I lack to go about it the way I had before: time and/or space. I say time, not that we don’t have a little bit of time to sneak out, but that I simply do not want to prioritize the time it takes to drive to and attend the gym, (for what, my vanity?) over spending time with my family. (I used to love spending 2 hours+, several times a week with my previous training routine. I’m just not going to do that right now.) That, and we have kids in our home for 10 1/5 hours every weekday, so yes there is a time allotment issue. Second was space. We have no place for a treadmill or even an exercise bike. By that I don’t mean, “It would be ugly in our living room. I wish I had a work-out room,” type thinking. I mean we don’t have space. We barley have space for the curling bar, which had lived disassembled under the TV stand for a long time, but when we began to use it more regularly it got moved and left assembled in the children’s closet. Andrew had been working out in there after the room was shutdown for the night so that there would be no children underfoot, but then you are isolated (kind of lame) and it’s totally blocking access to my toy storage. Just one more thing to move or rearrange before getting to whatever project or thing you are actually needing. One more thing to tell the kids to leave-alone. (That list in this house goes on and on… a less than ideal space for everything we do and aspire to do!)

He has done Legos, and Legos, and Legos, and Legos… We finally had to take a break for a few days and he still has a ton more! He works very hard at following the directions and does them pretty much all by himself. We also bring small new Lego kits to clinic quarterly so he has something to do while stuck in the exam room for 3 hours.

Long story short a simple set of dumb bells fits easily in the ottoman under the window that the kids like to stand on, are right in the living room, and are ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ With the 125 equipment free exercises (plus variations) listed in the book, weights that are easy to get to and simple to use on a whim (even during daycare down times), sound nutritional thinking, and the motivation to get a little healthier as an amazing way to thank all those incredibly gracious folks at the gym….

In fact, I’ve already done my first 3 work-outs! Now, I’m not going to shoot for a ‘model’s body.’ My weight is just topping over the ‘exceptable’ weight limit for my height, and I’m sure that I can bring that back into a better range. I’m shooting to start with a short routine (literally around 15 minutes) that I can get good at and efficient enough to actually enjoy, (past that terrible totally exhausting and ridiculously sore part,) 2-3 times each week. Then I can increase it to 4 times each week with tougher exercises. I want long term  success here. Long term habits, not a ‘get-thin-quick-scheme.’ I look forward to trying out different body weight exercises and getting to extend into the variations as I get better at each. I’m even looking forward to the possibility of participating in the burpee challenge this year. (And now that I’ve put this out for the world to see I guess I will have to stick too it or face public humiliation!)

Christening one of our beautiful new pans! They are soooo nice!

I know, it’s a little ironic that it’s happening at the turn of the year (along with everyone else who makes plans for better health), but at least we won’t be having to fight crowds or dish out big bucks to do it. We can spend time together, get healthy, stay healthy, live better, be happy, eat good food…. and share it all with you guys here in Semiserious Chefs!

2016 was a good year. I think 2017 is going to be even better!

Thank you everyone who helped to make this Christmas just an absolutely amazing one! Thank you all for loving us, encouraging us, and believing in and helping to support our dreams!

Happy New Year From the Duleys!

One comment on “An Absolutely Amazing Christmas”

MeMaw says:

I want to know more about bourbon soaked prime rib!

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