Surprises, joy + blessings galore: Our 2011 Holidaze

85 mph. That’s our family’s pace. And we wouldn’t have it any other way! The only time for our family Christmas photo was 10 minutes on a Sunday evening in our living room. More indelible moments of this magical season…

Mistletoe?! Our family Christmas photo outtakes are, ahem, interesting.
(almost) all the Hansen cousins pyramided up during Christmas in North Dakota.
In mid-December, our holiday baking peaked with 18 dozen cutout cookies. I baked, Julia and her friends decorated! (I'm still finding decor on the floor.)
Julia and her awesome friends. They also went caroling (sorry, neighbors.)
Kind family cousins at Seasons Christmas dinner theatre, compliments of my tradition-loving dad. We've been there 14 straight years. Thanks, Grandpa Jerry!

  Best part of the season: MUSIC!

Caroline’s music concert
Matty's choir concert
Our angel Caroline at the church Christmas Nativity pageant.
Caroline and her singin' teacher, the amazing Ms. Jansen. She is surely one of the greatest gifts to us this year. Lucky little Cara and her classmates!


Our Nutcracker tradition continues....

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, our hearts sang with music from the historic organ, piano, trumpets, trombone and bells at Messiah in Fargo. Welcome to the world, indeed, Baby Jesus! 

A Vegas wedding! 

Vegas, baby. The Bellagio water show was the view from our hotel room.
They Do!
Dare you to not catch Christmas spirit amidst Vegas' decorations. This is my fave, the Wynn.

 Christmas in North Dakota 

Cousin Dale's restored home decked out in true style! | photo credit: Kayla Hansen
Dale's fireplace room. Much better with Jim's eggnog in hand.
Rare get-together
It’s been at least 7 years since most of Greg’s family has been together. We were close this Christmas, with only 4 there in spirit only: Newlywed Derek, Ill Mike, Workin’ in Arizona Mathew and Jon, in heaven. Kayla was not supposed to join us, but she and Adam drove over to surprise everyone on Christmas Day! Adam, you’re gonna fit in just fine to this clan.
Kayla even surprised her mom and dad with her Christmas Day arrival.
The whole Hansen clan (almost...)
Grandma and her Granddaughters | photo credit: Dave Hansen
Grandpa and his Grandsons (except Newlywed Derek, Workin' Mathew and Jon, in Heaven)
The "'89ers," recreating the photo taken the year they were born {Josh, Kayla, Michael}
Here are the cousins IN 1989.
Nothing is ‘just a game’
Outdoor hockey, indoor Just Dance dance off, board games and other competition galore. No grudges lasted too long…

For the record, Jules Ruled
 Other memories:
– Sneaking out for breakfast with my sweetie while our kids slumbered on
– Hockey, hockey, hockey – great tournament action, hockey parent parties and teammate sleepovers
– Sickness struck the kids and I a few days before Christmas (lesson = do your elf duties early)
– Greg spent Christmas Day ill in bed; Matt came down and detailed dinner to him  
– A bittersweet funeral in Grand Forks for Greg’s buddy Todd’s beloved mom; her husband’s heartbreaking + heartwarming eulogy
– Julia in two soccer tourneys, scoring goals, playing goalie and back in action
– A photo I choose to forget (MRI of my torn up ACL and knee cartilage); surgery 1/10
– Quiet moments with all those I hold so dear
And, of course, the unchanged blessing of Jesus’ arrival.
Hope your holiday memories are joyful. Now, hello 2012. Let’s do this!

Mary Christmas

It is the greatest story of all time. Last night, our youngest took her stint in our church’s annual Christmas pageant. My greatest hope is she got something meaningful out of it. I know I did.


Performed by the second-graders, all three of our kids have now had their roles. That’s Julia, mangerside.

I always wonder if an ANGEL talked to me, would I follow a star like the WISE MEN? Would I have MARY’S unblinking faith? And I now know each of our children fills a different role in our family.

Dec 2011

Tonight, Caroline was an angel. She is an angel, our Caroline. Sweet, quiet, quick and witty, cuddly and yet independent. And can she sing! She doesn’t remember it, but at 4 months old, she was Baby Jesus in another pageant.

Dec 2003

Matthew was one of the three wise men. He does follow stars. He’d have been first to the manger to check it all out–and he’d be content to take a different route home. Our Matty is also smart, funny, sporty and very generous. And he does like a little bling.

Dec 2007

Julia was Mary. Amazing women, those two. Julia is brave, serenely lovely, feisty and intelligent. 

Dec 2006

Mary is my #1 mentor, and always impresses me. She gets a visit from an angel (!) who tells her she’s going to have God’s Son. And she signs on!

My favorite Bible passage in The Christmas Story is “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke, 2:19). I love how it shows her using her memory, affection and intellect. And grace.

Everyone else is blabbing all over the countryside about the arrival of Baby Jesus. Not his mom. She’s quietly reflecting on becoming a mother (Mother of God, no less). She knows that every person’s history is first written on her or his mother’s heart. It’s a uniquely inner experience, and in a tiny way, I relate.

I often wonder if an angel approached me with a request, What would I do? Fully open my heart and truly listen? Have faith as deep as Mary and sign on?

Then I realize angels do approach me often: their names are Julia, Matt and Cara. And hopefully like Mary, I sign on with unblinking faith. I do know I ponder things in my heart.

Merry, Mary Christmas!