Christmas Season

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

So, first let this post serve as a barometer for how quick your internet is working because if this post loads faster than thirty-five minutes, I'm going to say that you have some high speed internet.  Hahhaa, this thing is packed with photos, so sorry in advance.

We hold off on Christmas as much as we can until December 1st.  We jump feet first into Halloween and thoroughly celebrate Thanksgiving and then pump the brakes as much as possible until officially opening the Christmas season.  Because once that door is opened, yeesh, the fun (and wild) don't stop all the way until January 7th.

This year, we got in a little Pre-Christmas fun starting even before Thanksgiving with our hometown Christmas parade.  Greyson and I ran in the 2mile Santa Run that opened the parade with proceeds benefiting the Wings of Hope organization.  I'm so grateful we also ran with our cousins Heather and Albert too.  Albert was dressed up (head to toe!) as Buddy the elf and even handed out gifts on the last leg of the race to kids who were waiting for the parade to start!  Heather and Greyson ran ahead together (both of their first races!) and I was grateful to be able to hang back and jog slowly as an out-of-breath 10 weeks pregnant momma.  Grey ran the whole two miles (!) and I was so proud of him!

After the race, we stayed to watch the Johnstown Christmas parade.  Gemma walked alongside my Mom who was in the parade with Conemaugh Hospital and as my sister walked by with AUCP, she snatched up Violet and walked with her the rest of the way!  So both our girls got to join the parade!  Greyson and Caleb cheered and snatched up candy (and even got to hug the CV Bluejay!) before we all headed over to Central Park to see the inaugural lighting of our Central Park Christmas tree!  The tree lights up to music and was lit all season long downtown!  It was awesome and the kids were laughing and dancing.  It was really a citywide celebration!!  Small town living at it's very best!

Once we reached December, it was full on Christmas mode around here.  We had our cousin Gracie over before her and Grey's Miller's Martial Arts Karate Christmas Party, and I put the big kids to work on setting up our Christmas tree!  Then we all headed over to karate practice followed by the Christmas party while we enjoyed good food, good company, and the kids goofed around with their friends.

Marco the elf was back again this year and the kids were happy to see him again.  He got into some of his regular antics again like turning the milk green, and some new surprises too like making us elf-size pancakes!  He brings a little extra magic to the season and we love him.

As American mutts, we get the bonus of being able to celebrate lots of little extras throughout the season, like St. Nicholas Day.  The kids left their shoes out (Grey chose his muck boots!) and then St. Nicholas leaves candy in them on December 6th.  We had him visit a day early because mom has pregnancy brain (hahah!) but the kids didn't have any clue, so, no big deal.  

We had our annual Fioder Polar Express Party with our favorite friend Sophia and Charlie again this year.  Kate brought the kids over and they all had a picnic lunch of pizza, popcorn, and hot chocolate while they watch the Polar Express movie and then the mommas get to hang out and chat.  We found ourselves being so comfortable hanging out that we nearly forgot to take pictures of the get together at all!  Luckily, we snapped this quick pic right before it ended!

This year, for the first time, we headed out to Pittsburgh to have a 'Christmas in the city' with Aunt Kitty and Uncle Ryan.  We went out on Friday night and played with them and their pets, even taking their pup Lemon for a walk (look at no coats!  it was like a warm spring night in mid-December!)  We had a sleepover and then spent Saturday afternoon at a local playground, riding the T, and checking out the Wintergarten and ice rink at PPG downtown.

That afternoon, I sure had some cranky kids who didn't feel like walking or waiting...but we had a magical moment when Santa and Mrs. Claus came right over to us while they were skating on the rink and we got to chat for a minute and get our picture taken with them (the one and ONLY time this season we got a picture with Santa!  ugh, mom's pregnant and couldn't get it together, HAH).  Kayla and I swear it was because Violet's little ponytail is irresistible!

It is a long standing tradition with my Adams cousins to have a Christmas cookie baking day using our grandma's sugar cookie dough and boiled icing recipes; one of my absolute favorite traditions of the entire year!  But, Grey was so sick on the scheduled day (he was out sick from school for four days before the holiday break!) and so we had to pass on the event.  My sisters, mom and cousins kept the day and made the cookies together and then our family did it at home a few days later together.  We all participated in our annual cookie dough toast and cheers to our grandma though!

Being by myself with my three little ones trying to get them to roll out the dough, use the cookie cutters, use flour in the appropriate amount (ahem, Gemma), and then ice them gave me even more admiration and respect for my grandma who somehow did that with a whole group of her granddaughters and never once do I remember her getting frustrated!  She was a real live saint, because I was biting my tongue and praying to her for patience the entire time!!

After Christmas Eve mass, and dropping off cookies to our neighbors, we host a little party at our house for the grandparents.  It is another of my favorite parts of the season.  Everyone brings a little something to the meal and we all squeeze in around the table snacking and chatting.  We threw together some cookies and all sang Happy Birthday to Jesus while the adults (excluding the pregnant one, wah) toasted a shot for health and family for another year!

The kids get one gift to open (pajamas) and then we let them stay up a little bit while tracking Santa with NORAD to make sure we aren't going to risk missing him when he arrives in PA!  The kids chose their cookies and carrots for Santa and the reindeer, we all kissed Marco goodbye, and then left our magic 'Santa Key' on the outside of our front door since we don't have a fireplace for him to come in.

And then comes the big show:  Christmas morning.  This was the first year, since Grey's been alive, that he wasn't going to get what he asked for.  The only thing he wanted from Santa was a hamster...seriously, you guys.  Gemma also asked for a snow bunny (thanks Disney) and after some soul searching and a lot of mom guilt I finally resolved that there was just no way with two dogs and a cat that already try to literally kill each other, fourth baby pregnancy, and three kids that I was going to be able to also manage caring for a hamster.  It was a close one, but I resisted.

Santa left a note instead thanking the kids for taking great care of Marco and explaining that having a pet is a very big responsibility, and that he only brings live animals to kids that are old enough to be able to take care of them all on their own.  So, he instead brought some 'big kid' gifts that he will see if they can use and take care of them appropriately and if they can, he might consider live pets for future Christmases.  So, Christmas morning went on with joy and elation and all was well in the Studer house.

After our house, we had brunch at Gigi and Pappy's house - Mimi was there too! We opened gifts, enjoyed lunch (seriously, Studerbaby4 and I ate four ham sliders!) and celebrated, including another Happy Birthday Jesus cake!  After an Easy Bake Oven mishap, Gemma needed a wardrobe change from her Alice & Ames ballet dress into a dress-up bride costume, which she could not have been more pleased about!  Although, this was right about the time that her fever started to creep in, so we gave her some tylenol and told her to hang in there (as we still had two more stops left!) 

 Next was on to my Aunt Darlene's house for lunch with our Adams family.  We got to see our cousin Becca (home from training in FL with the US Navy!) and also get to spend time with our cousin Kara who was preparing to leave for Costa Rica for 6 months in the beginning of January to teach English!  (she's there now, here's her blog: )  We had great food and company and then a big surprise arrived as we were almost ready to leave when our cousin Michael came and announced that he and Johnna got engaged the night before!  In a house full of three aunts and eight girl cousins:  there was an absurd and hilarious amount of screams and squeals happening.

Michael and Johnna!

 Then it was off to Abba and Chum's house for dinner and an evening of gifts, weird games that Chum, Kitty, and Uch make up, and so much laughing.  We snacked on cookies, pizza, and chips while the kids ran around playing with gifts and teasing their aunts and uncles.  Grey received an air rocket from Aunt Uch and it transformed into a wild game of shooting it across the room and blowing air into unsuspecting faces.  It just would not stop being funny and so we just could not stop doing it.  Gem though was slowing going down hill and eventually both she and Violet fell asleep in my lap.  We got home around 9:30p that night and subsequently all fell fast, fast asleep.

The day after Christmas, we stopped by to visit with Taryn, Dobber, and baby Claire while they were in town for the holiday.  Gem still wasn't really on the mend, but it brightened her little spirit so  much to see Claire.  Then, it was quickly over to my Uncle Sam's annual Christmas Party with our Uzelac side of the family for an evening of A LOT of hugs, karaoke, and delicious food.  We are always happy to get a chance to see our cousins the Burghs at Uncle Sam's party.  But it was especially great this year to check in as Stef and I are both expecting in June this year!!  I am Stef's daughters godmom (Mallory) and Stef is godmomma to our Violet - plus, we've been friends for our whole lives and so having babies due in the same month this year feels magical and lucky <3 nbsp="" p="">

Stef and Tab

THEN, the next day (Sunday), we headed out to Mimi's house to celebrate Christmas with our Studer family!  We had delicious dinner and cookies to no end thanks to Mimi's amazing baking skills.  The kids opened gifts and Grey was thrilled to get to spend the day playing with their cousins Morgan, Ariel, and Grace.  Violet chased around and stole toys from cousins Lainey and Ben like a little bully, and all the while, our poor Gemma Rose was STILL sick - even throwing up (mostly mucous) right in the middle of the room during gift opening - I pulled a total Mom-Move and reached out and caught it in my hands and wrapping paper!

Bud headed off to basketball practice afterwards and I took the girls home to toss them into bed and get some rest myself.  Grey got to stay at Mimi's with Morgan to keep playing and he was so happy to spend time some extra time with her.

We took a few days off after that, just laying about and literally letting gifts lay around the house and not even caring whether or not the house looked like a disaster.  We got in some New Years Eve celebration with our besties Jon and Lindsay.  They came over to our place, we chowed down on hot dogs, pork, and sauerkraut that night, and we facetimed with all the family that we weren't celebrating with - including cousin Reid in Harrisburg who Grey was so happy to talk to!  Violet stayed up until about 10pm, Gemma made it to 11pm , and Grey beat both Linds and I and stayed awake with the boys until almost 2am!


We closed out the Christmas season by celebrating Orthodox Christmas on January 7, as we are lucky to have two sides of our celebrate the holiday.  Gigi has Russian Orthodox blood while my Mum and our Uzelac family have Serbian Orthodox heritage.  As tradition, the big kids get to 'camp out' under the Christmas tree on Orthodox Christmas eve and then they each receive one small gift from 'Orthodox Santa' that morning.

Later in the day, we headed over to my Uncle Rich's house to celebrate the holiday with our Uzelac family.  It was so great to see so many of the great uncles and aunts together (there were originally fourteen of them!) and know that my Grandma Irene was there in spirit (along with the other brothers and sisters who have passed on; Pete, Millie, Dino).  It was a beautiful evening and kind of the perfect ending to a very long, but blessed Christmas season.

The point of this post is really two-fold, first a blogger should not wait this long to talk about her holiday events to limit the size of her post...because SERIOUSLY, you guys.

Secondly, it is a busy and wild holiday season for us, there is no doubt.  but anytime that I feel like I'm getting overwhelmed with all of plans and rushing about - I just remind myself that there is no place in this world for griping about having places to go where you are loved.

We are so very blessed to be able to celebrate in so many ways with so many people who love us.
Hoping your holiday season was filled with love, togetherness, and happiness.

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