Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Our James - Gang Christmas

James Gang - 24 (really 25!) and counting...
All of my brothers and their families gathered from their far-flung homes in Tulsa, Alpharetta and Bozeman for a Fort Worth family Christmas. So far our little group weighs in with 24 members, and it'll be 25 this summer with Luke and Julie's new little one.

Thanks to Daboo's clever Christmas gift - we knew what order to open gifts in!
The grandkids' names on these t-shirts are listed in order from oldest to youngest... besides our four kiddos, all ten of the other cousins are younger than Esther, most all between two and five years old. It's a fun, never-a-dull-moment, high-squealing, lotsa-highchairs-and-pack-n-plays kinda par-tay.

Some highlights from our week:
- Thank goodness Aunt Julie didn't get around to making cookies for Santa before they left Tulsa, because it meant the rest of our families got to make cookies for Santa! Julie is quite the Christmas cookie expert ~  everything from scratch, with a streamlined assembly line of cookie cutters, soft dough, and colorful baggies of icing.
Aunt Julie - the Christmas cookie master
If only Daboo was having more fun
Just when you think Esther's serious, take a peek at Aunt Julie in the background
Ready for Santa (unless Uncle Trey accidentally samples it again)
 - Daboo's brand-new electric scooter. She's accumulating grandkid toys as well as Granny did for us

- Hours and hours of attic play ~ a perfect playground for the kids. And even a little nap-time tabata workout with Aunt Crystal, Basden and Essie

- A girls' afternoon ~ water aerobics and La Madeline ~ very fun to steal away for a couple of hours

- Cappy lining up a JSF tour for all the grown-ups, while Daboo and a couple of moms kept hopping with kids at the trampoline park

- Campisi's, Rio Mambo and Granbury Babe's ~ and the fact that each could fairly quickly assemble a table for 24 (!)

- Losing 2-year-old Brantley, and finding him in Cappy's closet. With the door closed. And the light off. Cool as a cucumber.
Cappy later whispered to little Brantley, "I understand."
A few good (very good) men... Chris, Corbin, Luke, Trey
The power of Youtube
Bran's welcome shadow of little Marshall all week
Ashlyn and Scarlett weren' about to miss out on Bran's attention
- Christmas eve and opening gifts. We implemented cousins drawing names a few years ago, so each kiddos has a "secret Santa" with just one gift to open... surely a cut to national holiday spending (!), this tradition simplifies our family celebration

This year especially, as the kids are getting older, they are enjoying each other and getting to know each other better
Basden was very grateful that Julie's boys are Vera Bradley fans
Really doesn't matter whose gift needs to be opened ~ everyone jumps in to help
Trey-s guac ~ why we invite him to Christmas
Luke and Brantley - the two babies (but not for long, Branley!)
Christmas morn stockings
Sweet Ashlyn, her pretty and consistent smile
Luke, Brantley and Cappy
A foyer full of princesses
Broderick and Bogan - Tulsa boys checking out their loot

Hud and Uncle Chris
Amy, me, Daboo
- Christmas day ~ Playing in the creek and climbing the cliffs behind the house. Perfect for getting outside to play, but staying close to the house for little ones' naps
Basden and Ashlyn
Who knows what these two are up to??
Uncle Luke ~ surrounded!
Uncle Christian and his girls
Joy Taylor with Uncle Corbin
Trey and his mini-me, darling Brenna
 - Who wants to take a spin in the airplane?? Cappy in his element
A gorgeous day for flying

Cappy taxying from the driveway to the runway with Marshall and Aunt Amy
The rest of us on our way to watch
How many James kids can a golf cart hold?
- Pretty Christmas weather for playing outside, park dates, and even a little fishing
I think they use those fishing pole covers to pretend they're really wielding light sabers

Basden was in heaven with all these little ones - absolutely giddy

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
Already looking forward to Thanksgiving 2014... thanks, all, for sweet Christmas memories!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Marshall's Advent Baptism

My brother Trey's name appeared on caller ID a couple of months ago, but when I put the phone to my ear it was six-year-old Marshall's sweet voice on the other end.
And he got right to the point.
"Aunt Tonya, Jesus is in my heart."
"Whoa, whaaat? Marshall ~ I'm so excited for you! Tell me about it."
And he did.
He said he had been laying in bed the night before, thinking about his sin and that Jesus died on the cross for him. He called his mom and dad into his bedroom, and after reading a Bible verse together, Marshall prayed and asked Jesus to come and clean up his heart and be his Lord forever.
And then, he finished, "I cried tears of joy."
Which made this auntie shed a few tears of joy as well.

Trey and Amy asked Cappy if he would baptize Marshall while they were in Fort Worth for Christmas, and Marshall started our Christmas out with a bang. Well, he and Cappy together, I suppose. The Sunday morning of Christmas week we got to be a part as Cappy assisted Marshall in the public proclamation of his new faith.

Our group after church ~ Chris and Crystal were caught up on their delayed flight from Montana (via Florida), and Hudson stayed home sick. But thanks to facetime, Hud saw the whole thing while wrapped up in his blanket cocoon on the sofa.

We celebrated after with lunch and CAKE over here. After all, Marshall says it's officially a party if there's cake involved.

Oh what fun to have the cousins together!
It was absolutely freezing outside, but the kids found a way to stay warm. This pic was snapped with me inside the house. 
Marking this special event ~ can't tell whether Amy or Marshall's grin is brighter

October 15, 2013 - Marshall's "2nd birth" day
What Trey and Amy read with Marshall the night he accepted Christ:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Rom 10:9-10

One of my highlights - the way Marshall's face lit up when he saw this
And so through Marshall's baptism we relished Advent - the Coming - beautifully realized in a young heart made ready for His sacrifice and love and grace.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for these abundant gifts, and your legacy that continues to run its course through the generations.  

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles...   1 Chronicles 16:11-12