The low-key first part of Wisconsin

On Sunday night, our crew drove back to Wisconsin to stay at my folks’ home. There we spent some delightful, low-key days, primarily just with Grandpa and Grandma (although we had some extra special days with Auntie Sal, too) We had a little bit of overlap time with the whole family the first part of that week, before my siblings headed out to spend time with their in-laws — in Michigan and in Chicago — for the Christmas weekend.

We played a lot of games – Codenames, Pinochle (which my mom used to play a lot and re-learned on the computer before teaching us), and Saboteur. It was funny to see how difficult it was for the boys to ever believe anyone could be bad in that game. Such sweet, trusting guys they are!

There was a lot of artwork done. Some cooking with Grandma. And lots of reading and relaxing.

On Christmas Eve, we worshipped together. Then we enjoyed our annual shepherd’s meal celebration. We did this inside this year since it was a little rainy. I think we’ve all decided inside is lovely. =D And then Mike and I watched “Scrooge” (aka A Christmas Carol) “with” my parents. This is a Christmas tradition (that Mike was apparently unaware of, despite being married to me for 15 years…). I grew up watching this black and white movie with my fam every year since it’s my dad’s favorite. The new tradition is to watch it while they sleep in the chairs surrounding us. Very memorable for all. =D

On Christmas morning we stayed in our jammies for a long time, ate delicious apple pancakes, and eventually watched the Packers game all snuggled up together.

Next up: more time in Wisconsin with the whole fam.

Christmas Reunion in Michigan

Our crew flew into Grand Rapids on Friday afternoon, grabbed some dinner to go and then drove about 45 minutes to the CRC conference grounds where we met up with the rest of my extended family (on my Mom’s side) for a weekend of fun at the cottages.

The set up here is absolutely lovely. We stay in one cottage with my bro and his family. My sister and her family stay with my folks in another. And the rest of the Fennema clan stay in four other cottages all in a row. Our boys can roam from one home to the next visiting people all weekend. We always spend a few hours all together in a large rented room for meals, games, and opening gifts. (Yes, this is the time we sing at least 32 rounds of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” so that each person is wished a Merry Christmas from the whole group.) We also usually get out for a hike at least once. It’s one of our favorite parts of the Christmas season.

Here’s a look at life in the various cottages. Eddie (3) sang two verses of “How Firm a Foundation” while strumming away on the ukulele. Tears.

Auntie Lauren worked with the kids in our cottage to make our Christmas gift for my dad: a new jammy t-shirt with handprints from all of his grandkids. She worked with Salina when we were back in Wisconsin.

Hiking to Lake Michigan:

A few pics from the conference grounds:

Pics from the whole crew together:

And the formal pics for the year with my Grandpa (95):

This special time was definitely a highlight from the couple of weeks we spent with our fam in the Midwest. It was especially sweet since it didn’t happen last year. Wisconsin is up next…

Presents at Home

A couple of nights before our trip, we opened presents as a family. One of my favorite (albeit incredibly silly) things to do each year is to make up some code for the Christmas tags and not tell anyone what it is. I tell them who the first couple of presents go to and they have to try to figure it out. Micah spent much of the day trying to figure out who got which present. Mike finally figured it out halfway through our present-opening. I just laugh and have a grand ol’ time watching them guess. =D

Micah had each of us sit in the circle of love in order to have us sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (a Christmas tradition from my side of the family) to that person before he/she opened his/her first gift. I think the boys really enjoy giving gifts just as much (if not more) than they enjoy getting them.

We had a lot of fun that evening! And the boys even played us some carols before the festivities began. =D Mike especially liked his new handmade blanket.

Advent Activities

As you probably know, Advent is one of my favorite seasons. I love the anticipation and the waiting. I love thinking about the long-expected Jesus’ birth and also His second-coming. I’m thankful for the intentional season to prepare for Christmas.

Throughout the Advent season we usually go through a book and do a little something fun each day leading up to Christmas Day. This year has felt a little disjointed (we’ve missed a few days or had to put a few activities all on one day), but we’ve had some fun nonetheless. We are reading “Prepare Him Room” by Marty Machowski this year. And we’ve done many of our usual activities including: making Christmas cookies, having a family sleep over (we did this on Micah’s birthday) in matching pjs (a ridiculous splurge I did this year that made us all laugh a lot), Christmas wrestling match, caroling with our church family, driving around to see Christmas lights, red and green dinner, breakfast for dinner, picking up trash in the park with friends, participating in their piano recital, and watching home videos from 2021 while enjoying ice cream sundaes (on a Sunday, of course).

Enjoy Ethan playing Breath of Heaven. Watch Micah play God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, his first piano recital piece. And enjoy Micah playing Rainbow Colors, too. You can also watch videos of them and other pianists recording at their piano teacher’s home.

Playing Catch Up

The Advent season is upon us and I have yet to post anything from most of November. So, this will be a bit of a hodgepodge post, but it will serve to catch us up to Advent and Christmas pictures.

My dad snapped a couple of pictures of the boys and me before they left back in early November (Mike was on a work trip).

We’ve been using our new deck table and chairs as much as the weather has allowed. And our neighborhood lights have been put up, so I took Micah on a night walk to go see the big tree. We’ve also enjoyed a few Packer picnics. Note the new handmade Packer napkins and the Christmas decorations (that one is from after Thanksgiving).

Micah-man got vaccinated and was given a cute polar bear we fondly named Vax.

Thanksgiving was a blast! We were fortunate to be able to travel to see Mike’s side of the family in Arizona. It was short, but oh-so-sweet. It was lovely to get to stay at Mike’s brother’s home. We enjoyed a great Thanksgiving meal out by the pool, but even better company! We also managed to sneak in an afternoon visit at a park with Mike’s sis (and her party of five), his mom and his grandma. How nice to have the chance to see all of his family in one visit!

We’ve enjoyed doing CC outdoors each week of the semester except the last two. The weather prohibited outdoor learning only once this semester, but my class opted to meet indoors for our final meeting so that we could use the table to finish Blue Book assessments. What an awesome experience that was! I am SO impressed with their knowledge. You can see pictures of them drawing the Western Hemisphere and Europe, some from memory, others using resources. That day the younger class joined us for an outdoor Christmas party as they had finished week 12 the week before. Can you tell how much Ethan loves it when I snap pics of him? =D We are now officially on break until January 3! Phew!

Krav Maga continues to be a favorite weekly activity. Both boys graduated to orange belt this month. See Ethan breaking his board here and Micah breaking his here.