We really did not get much of a “break” during Christmas break. From the moment they got out of school December 18 till they went back to school January 5, it feels like we went nonstop. The day they got out we drove to Nashville for the start of our Christmas vacation, spending Friday night and Saturday with the Davis, Massey and Freeman parts of my family at my sister Lauren’s house.
CHRISTMAS IN NASHVILLE
Since I am from the Memphis area, where my parents and my sister Kristin (along with her kids) still live in Collierville, TN, we traditionally would have had a family Christmas there each year, but in recent years we have started a new tradition of having this family gathering in Nashville instead. It really started as a matter of centrality and convenience when we lived in Indiana. Our drive to Nashville was 3 hours shorter than our drive to Memphis, so we would all just meet there for a 1 day family Christmas. Now that we live back in Alabama, it is no longer difficult to make it to Memphis, but the Nashville tradition carries on because we all enjoy it so much. We get 3 suites at the Hilton in Brentwood, TN for my family, my parents and my sister Kristin’s family. The kids all love swimming in December in the indoor pool there, and my nephews especially love traveling somewhere outside of Memphis. My sister Lauren’s is a great hostess, and we all have a fun time at her house.
This year many of us went to see the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie on opening day right after we arrived in Nashville. The movie was incredible, but getting 3 different families there coming from different locations in Nashville traffic proved to be quite the disaster. My family was making great time, and I was going to get to the theater with Will about 45 minutes early to get seats and food (we had not eaten dinner). Then a wreck on I-65 North in Brentwood added 30 minutes to our drive, and we were rushing to get to the movie on time. We still had a few minutes to spare, so we got in a short concession stand line (only 3 people in front of me). 27 minutes later I finally ordered my popcorn and candy… worst concession stand customer service ever! We missed all the previews and got seated just before the movie started. Meanwhile, my brother-in-law accidentally went to the wrong movie theater with his kids. They went to the theater in Franklin (south of Nashville), but our tickets were for Regal Hollywood 27 in Nashville. By the time they caught the error, it was too late. They were already south of the wreck that slowed us down coming up I-65 North. So they got stuck in the wreck traffic, followed by a new 2nd wreck after that one. They rushed into the theater a couple minutes after the movie started. Next year we will probably skip the movie and just get everyone together to swim at the hotel pool.
The next day we had our family Christmas lunch and presents. The kids played outside for awhile with their cousins, and we all went on a big family walk. This was all wonderful, but it did feel a little too short. We just don’t have everyone together often enough, so we could have used a few more hours.
After we finished up at Lauren’s house, everyone there went to the TPAC (Tennessee Performing Arts Center) together to watch the Nashville Ballet’s presentation of The Nutcracker. One of my nieces had a short part in the ballet, so we all went to go see her. The dancing was incredible, and my niece did great. However, this will most likely be the only time that we all go to a ballet together. Keeping that many kids happy and awake for that long in a formal ballet setting was nearly impossible.
CHRISTMAS IN GUNTERSVILLE
We got back from Nashville on Saturday night, and we spent all day Sunday having Christmas with Jennifer’s mom’s family, including her brothers’ families, her step-dad, grandmother and step-grandmother. We had filet mignon, lobster, crab legs and shrimp… we tend to have surf-n-turf for big family meals at my mother-in-law’s house. After I stuffed myself with about 4 lbs of delicious meat, we opened presents, went to a special Christmas candlelight communion service, went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner and then back to my mother-in-law’s house to play board games. The 1st weekend of Christmas break was packed full! We spent the next couple days assembling and playing with a house full of new toys before the next round of Christmas excitement.
CHRISTMAS IN ALEXANDRIA
The day before Christmas Eve we went to Alexandria, AL for Christmas at Jennifer’s grandmother’s house on her dad’s side. This included Jennifer’s brothers’ families, her grandmother, her dad and step-mom and her aunt. This was the 2nd Christmas at her house since Jennifer’s grandfather died in 2014, and this year Jennifer’s dad stepped up and took over a new version of a tradition that her grandfather always had. Granddaddy always hid something (wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper) for each grandkid and great grandkid to find. These hidden gifts were all over the house, and each person had a unique wrapping paper to look for. He then would have some sort of devotional for everyone, which often included a spiritual challenge for the following year, such as memorizing a memory verse per week or reading certain books of the Bible. This year Pop-O (Jennifer’s dad) hid things for each of his grandkids to find, and he followed that with a scripture reading of Jesus’ birth story. One thing that is always guaranteed when we have Christmas at Grandmama’s house is that the exchanging of gifts will be centered around the story of the greatest gift we ever received, the birth of Jesus.
CHRISTMAS EVE IN GADSDEN
Christmas Eve did not include a Christmas party, but we did get together with Jennifer’s mom and brothers’ families in Gadsden, AL for a noon movie and a late lunch. We saw the new Alvin & the Chipmunks: Road Chip movie, and while it has some of the lowest ratings I have ever seen on IMDB, the kids had a blast and were often seen dancing in the aisles of the movie theater. This included a couple hours of driving, but it was a fun, stress-free day. When we got home from Gadsden, Santa had come to our house a few hours early!
SANTA CAME ON CHRISTMAS EVE
Santa must have known we would be out of the house for a few hours and wanted to get a head-start on his gift deliveries because he brought our kids’ presents while we were gone to the movie on Christmas Eve. This led to another night of assembling gifts, playing games and helping the kids figure out how to use new gadgets. The loudest thing Santa brought them were microphones with stands and loudspeakers. The microphone stands each have a place to set an iPad or iPhone for karaoke. The kids had fun singing loudly in these, but they really spent most of the night, and every free moment since then, playing on their brand-new iPad Mini‘s that Santa brought them! Santa must have heard that their old Google Nexus 7 tablets were getting very slow and would not keep a charge anymore, so he decided it was time they have Apple devices like their parents. Besides the dozens of games on their new iPad Mini‘s, Sam was very excited that he can now FaceTime everyone in the family!
THE GREAT CHRISTMAS FLOOD OF 2015
We had decided to spend Christmas Day at home as a family instead of going to another Christmas party. If we had gone to a Christmas party that day, we would not have been home to save our house from the flash flooding that came with incredible strength and speed. You can read about that and see the pictures and video in my other post by clicking here. Needless to say, we had an eventful Christmas Day at our house!
Aside from spending half of Christmas day dealing with flash floods, we did still have time to give the kids some presents from us, their final set of many gift-openings this Christmas season.
CHRISTMAS IN MEMPHIS
The day after Christmas, the kids went with me to my parents’ house in Collierville, TN (Memphis suburb). All our Christmas parties were over, and all the gifts had been exchanged. This was just a chance for my kids to go to their grandparents’ house for a couple days. While there we relaxed a bit, but we also went to see our 3rd movie of Christmas break. This time we saw The Good Dinosaur, and Pixar once again did not disappoint. The next day we went to the FedEx Forum to watch the Memphis Tigers beat Tulane in basketball. We try to squeeze in a Tigers’ game whenever we get the chance! We left after that to come back to Alabama because Will and I had to get up early the next morning to drive to Birmingham for Memphis Tigers football.
THE BIRMINGHAM BOWL
I took Will to his 2nd Memphis Tigers football game (click here to read about the Memphis vs Ole Miss game) this season (and ever), thanks to my parents who bought tickets for my dad, me, Will, and my sisters’ families. The Memphis Tigers were playing the Auburn Tigers in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl, and with the game being so close to home, we had to go. My sister Lauren graduated from Auburn, while my sister Kristin graduated from Memphis. We all grew up watching the Memphis Tigers, so there was a great deal of family interest in this game. While Memphis had a better regular season than Auburn, Memphis (without its coach who just left for Virginia Tech) and its star quarterback Paxton Lynch (projected to be a NFL top 10 draft pick) did not show up to play in Birmingham, while Auburn did. In the middle of the pouring rain the Tigers from the plains kicked the butts of the Tigers from the land of the Delta Blues. We got wet from the rain and frustrated by the game, but we still had a blast and enjoyed that time with family.
I would say we did quite a lot during the kids’ 17 day break from school! It did feel like we were always on the go and not relaxing much, but we did a ton of awesome stuff and made great memories with so many different family members. This Christmas break was a huge blessing, especially since the last couple years when we lived in Indiana, it was always difficult (or impossible) to make it to all the different family Christmas parties in Tennessee and Alabama. God has been very good to us this year!