Merry Christmas from our home to yours! This year we were blessed to celebrate Christmas in Fresno with both sides of our family now that my parents, Doug and Maria Lazo (better known as Papa and Nana) live just a mile up the road and Ericlee's parents, Chris and Larry Karlyn (Grandma and Grandpa) still live in a condo less than a mile the other way. Paul and Michelle (my bro and sister-in-law) drove up to Fresno with their beagle Buster. We fought over Paul and Michelle, cooked up a frenzy in the kitchen, played games, read the story of Jesus' birth in the Bible, opened gifts, ate, caroled and did I mention eating?
Papa and Nana hosted Christmas Eve this year at their new house. They served our traditional Italian Fish Soup with some fabulous appetizers. Meilani is a big fan of "sooop" - and pretty much anything Nana makes.
Grandma Chris aka Mrs. Claus came armed with presents for everyone to open. Meilani's Christmas Eve gift was this fabulous kid vacuum. She didn't give one iota that she was dressed up. She got right down to business "vacuuming" Nana and Papa's front room. This "toy" even makes the vacuum sound. She was quite the little homemaker in her sparkly skirt and sweater.
Ericlee and I were thoroughly blessed this year as we were surrounded by friends and family. In years past, Christmas has felt quiet but this year we embraced the bustle and the noise. Since Ericlee coached Cross Country in the fall and now is coaching basketball before Track in the Spring, our quality time together is the best gift of all.
Christmas morning we hosted at the Gilmore Casa. We made our traditional cinnamon rolls - this year with a healthy whole wheat, honey and raisin twist - to add to the brunch table. Auntie Michelle managed to keep Meilani occupied until 8:30 a.m. when Nana and Papa arrived. Then she made a beeline for the first gift - a new little table with bright blue chairs and a stool. She didn't even notice the enormous pile of presents near the tree. She sat right down at the table and started coloring with Nana.
We have learned our little girl is quite content with even the simplest of gifts. This quacking duck sent by our friends, the Ziermanns, in Chicago was a big hit. She was happy with this little guy for a while before she tackled the present pile again. She's a pretty fortunate kid to be in the center of eight smiling adults. Let's just say our house now looks like a tornado of toys just erupted.
Grandpa Larry, who loves all things weather related, got his annual Weather Calendar from Paul and Michelle this year. He's got action to cover the whole year!
Ericlee and I were practical and creative with our limited Christmas funds this year. We got each other some useful gifts like athletic shorts, a CD holder and desk set. Ericlee surprised me with a devotions book for busy moms and a hand-held recorder for interviews and other inspirations. This was my favorite gift, especially because he recorded "love messages" for me on each channel. So thoughtful!
After a walk through our neighborhood caroling and delivering cookies to our neighbors, we set to work on the traditional Christmas ravioli. Paul, Michelle and I did the work for this year's ravioli first course. We have a homemade pasta roller and a little cookie cutter tool to shape the ravioli. This is a fun family activity and probably the only time a year we make fresh pasta. We served it as our first course with a marinara-alfredo sauce mix. Yummy!
Uncle Winston (my dad's brother) joined us for our Christmas dinner. We were surprised and blessed when he showed up on our porch. We enjoyed our ravioli and then had a curried turkey, couscous and green bean casserole made by Grandma Chris. I even got to try out my new rotating 3-tier appetizer tray. Fancy schmancy.
Whenever Auntie Michelle and Uncle Paul are around, we find ourselves playing lots of games. We Lazo-Gilmores are a competitive bunch. This year we had a "game tourney" and the overall winner got a prize. We even convinced Dad (who is usually the pro dish washer after the feast) to play a game of Scrabble with us. Uncle Paul raked in the most points in the tourney and won the Starbucks card.
The morning after Christmas our festivities continued. Michelle's parents drove down from Oregon and stopped in Fresno for brunch at Nana and Papa's new house. We dined on Mom's Chicken Tetrazzini and caught up on all the news from the Irvine family before Paul and Michelle continued home to L.A. with them. Meilani was very sad to say "ByeBye - dogggy - home" to her new best friend, Buster. We're pretty sure Buster was excited for some alone time.
Once again we were reminded of the center of Christmas: time celebrating Christ's birth and quality minutes with family. More than all the gifts and all the hype, this is what we will remember about Christmas 2007.