goodbye Christmas, hello New Year

This morning we took down our tree and packed away the nativity sets and other decorations.  Ahh, Christmas time.  Such a warm and cozy time, even with the chill in the air, there's just a warmth about Christmas that can't be matched.  We returned home yesterday after spending a little time with Joe's side of the family in the redwoods of the Santa Cruz mountains.  Our hosts, Joe's sister and her husband, are some of the most generous and hospitable people I've ever encountered.  I love them so so much and am so happy we're family.  It was a quick visit, but we had a lot of fun.  With the rest of the family visiting from Colorado, in total we were one grandma, three sisters-in-law, three brothers-in-law, ten cousins, three dogs, one cat and 5 or 6 chickens.  There was a lot of loving and a lot of laughing (plus some healthy doses of playing and eating too).

Last week we got together with my side of the family.  At Thanksgiving, the kids all drew names for their secret santa gifts.  The rules:  $10 limit or a handmade gift.  There is so much talent in this family.  I love to see the gifts the kids create, and it's so meaningful because they're focusing all of their efforts on one cousin (we always make sure that no one gets their own name or a sibling's).  My sister, who is a clown by trade, started a tradition several years ago that I hope will last for a long, long time.  In fact, maybe this will just last forever.  Maybe by the time the littlest cousins are getting too old for it, the oldest cousins will start having babies.. and she'll continue the tradition for them.  Weird to think about any of our kids having babies.  But the oldest is 16, and the youngest is not yet two... so it really is possible that Auntie Claus will keep visiting us for years and years.  Each year, Michelle disappears for a while because she has a headache or something to do in another room or.... I really don't know why she disappears.  But inevitably while she's gone, Auntie Claus comes to visit.  She carries a sack and always has something for each of the kids, but really what brings the most joy is simply her presence.  She really is hysterical.  We never know what outift she'll come out wearing, or just what accent she will have picked up on her most recent travels.  She always makes us laugh until we're doubled over, and we always look forward to her visits.  Seriously so much fun.  You can view more of our Christmas photos from this year

here if you like

.

Tomorrow is the last day of 2009.  Woohoo!  I'm so looking forward to a new year!  More soon!

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