Christmas 2011 & Happy New Years!

I've heard that Christmas "feels" different when you have children.  I didn't expect that "feeling" to actually feel the way it did...

We celebrated Christmas in Kansas City this year.  Since it would be the last time we'd be celebrating Christmas at my parents house in Kansas City, we went up several days early.  My dad, who is working in Dallas during the week, flew Cale back to Kansas City with him, so that he didn't have to make the 9 hour drive.  That benefited Adam and I greatly - we were able to have 9 hours of uninterrupted conversation - something that was MUCH needed!  
As Adam and I drove, we found ourselves talking about what we wanted Christmas to look like in our family.  It seems as though Christmas is becoming a secular holiday in our world, even though Christmas is celebrating Christ's birth, which is not a secular concept at all.  Christmas is a time to rejoice in the hope that God has given us through the birth of His son.  It is a time to reflect upon the irony of Jesus, the son of the Holy God, being born in a dirty, cold barn, with rags for his clothing.  It is a time to remember that kings from afar traveled great distances, just to admire Baby Jesus - for they knew the great gift that had been given to them and the rest of the world, that night.  It has become so easy to get caught up in the shopping, and parties, and food, and Santa, and presents, that we forget what WHY we are celebrating.  Adam and I do not want to lose sight of that.  We want our children to be filled with wonder and awe as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior on December 25th.  Of course, presents are a part of the celebration, but we want to be careful to not make that the focus of Christmas.  As Cale gets older, and we have more children, God willing, we plan to anticipate Christ's birth for the entire month of December by having an Advent wreath in our house.  We want to use an Advent calendar to count down the days until Jesus' birth.  We will read the Christmas story, and set up a nativity set for our children to look at and play with.  And we will celebrate with presents...minimally.  It is so easy to go overboard with gifts - especially when it comes to buying for children.  I found myself hard to control this year, even though I knew that Cale does not understand the idea of a gift yet.  I did manage to constrain myself.  Adam and I have set boundaries for what we will spend and what types of gifts our children will receive.  
So, as I prepared for Cale's first Christmas, and my first Christmas as a parent, I became excited with anticipation to watch Cale open presents, but even more, I gained a better understanding of God's love for His people.  As I watched Cale open gifts and squeal over some new toys, I felt full of joy and contentment...and then I realized that that was probably the feeling that God felt when His son, Jesus, was born into a sinful world.  For He knew that He had just given all of His people that greatest gift they would ever receive.  A gift that would bless them for eternity.  A gift that would close the gap, which sin had created, between God and His children.  
The "feeling" I felt this Christmas season was of indescribable gratefulness.  If I can love Cale as much as I do, how much more does God love me?  His love is perfect.  It's unconditional.   It's unfathomable.

Back to Kansas City...
We arrived Tuesday night to a house decorated like this...

It was such a treat to walk into a house "decked" for Christmas, since I didn't put up any Christmas decorations this year.  Because we were gone for Thanksgiving and Christmas, it was hard for me to be motivated to put up Christmas, just so I could turn around and take it down a few weeks later without even being at our house to enjoy it.

The day after we arrived, we went on a family outing down to the Plaza to eat dinner and take a carriage ride to look at the lights.  Cale LOVED the 30 degree weather and loved looking at the lights.

In the days leading up to Christmas, we spent a lot of time lounging around the house and visiting friends.  My parents kept Cale several times so that Adam and I could meet up with friends or go shopping.  
Cale enjoyed learning how to use his walker and climbing the stairs...

By the end of the week, Cale was a pro at the stairs!

Finally, Christmas Day arrived!

It all started with a yummy breakfast of cinnamon toast, raspberries, and yogurt.

After breakfast, we positioned ourselves in the living room, and awaited the grand entrance!

As soon as Cale spotted his toys, he made a bee-line to them!

He just loved going through his stocking!

It didn't take long for Cale to spy the presents under the tree....

He loved opening his first few presents!  He unwrapped his gifts, played with each toy for a minute, and then moved on.  Then, he helped everyone else open their presents!

Once he found my mom's new cup with a straw, he was occupied for a while.  
He is very into straws right now!  

Mickelson had fun unwrapping presents, too!

The morning of the 27th, we loaded up our car (it was a VERY tight squeeze), and headed to Northwest Arkansas to visit some of our very best friends.  Cale did great on the trip, napping for a good chunk of the way.  Once we got into town, we unloaded our luggage at the hotel and then loaded back up to head over to the Bradley's house.  

Unfortunately, this is when we had a change of events...

Of course, Cale was fussy when we put him back in the car to head over to the Bradley's, since we had already been in the car for over 3 hours.  I gave him a DVD case to look at while we made the 5 minute drive to the house.  When we pulled in the driveway, I got out and started to take Cale out of the car seat.  That is when he started choking.  We was coughing and gagging, and it was obvious he was having a hard time breathing.  We tried to help him cough it up, but things were not looking good.  I went to the Bradley's front door and told them what was happening.  Chris came out to assess the situation, and we decided we needed to get Cale to the ER before his airway was completely blocked.  I jumped into the back seat with holding Cale, while Adam drove and Chris gave direction from the front seat.  Cale continued to get worse, so Adam turned on his emergency flashers, laid on the horn, and inched his way (safely) through intersections.  When we got the hospital, we jumped out and checked in.  Immediately, the nurses checked his oxygen level, and thankfully, it was at 98%.  Because he was choking, and not turning blue, the nurse ordered x-rays, but we did have to wait.  About 15 minutes into our wait, Cale finally calmed down.  He stopped choking, and stopped crying.  Soon, it seemed as though nothing had even happened.  I called Allison to have her confirm what I was suspecting Cale had choked on.  The DVD case he had been playing with had the sealer sticker still attached.  Somehow, he managed to chew a 1/2 inch strip off of the case, and swallowed it.  I'm sure it was stuck in his throat and took a while to to down. We ended up not needing x-rays, but the doctor did listen to Cale's breathing and had him drink some water.  She told us to be watching for that piece of plastic tape to pass within 48 hours....don't worry, it did. :)  

As you can imagine, after spending 2 hours in the ER, we were exhausted!  What a way to start our visit in Arkansas.  We went to the Bradley's for dinner, and called it a night.  The next morning, once we were a little more rested, we went back over the Bradley's and played for a little bit.  
The kiddos adored Adam, as you can see...

Later that afternoon, we headed down to Fayetteville to stay with the Hunters.  Cale LOVED playing with the older boys.  He fell in love with Stevens (5), and Stevens was so great with him!

We woke up the morning, had yummy breakfast sandwiches, and hit the road.  It ended up taking us about 7 hours to get back to Dallas (a lot of stops are required when traveling with an infant and dog!), but we finally pulled into our driveway at 4pm.  As much fun as we had on our 10 day excursion, we were so thankful to finally be home.  

As we quickly approach 2012, we look forward to the new year and all that it will bring.  2011 was a year full of rich blessings, and we are grateful for the Lord's faithfulness in our lives.  

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