Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Magic

 This weekend just became my very favorite Christmas ever. Brad and I have been plotting since September. We decided that our Christmas gift to the kiddos would be a night at the Biltmore, and we managed to keep it a secret from the kids!

 When they woke up Saturday morning, we told them to get dressed in the clothes we laid out and hop in the van, which we had decorated:

 It was hysterical. They were so anxious as first. They truly had no idea where we were going. They finally put the pieces together when we were about 30 miles away from Asheville. We started the weekend at our favorite crepe place in Asheville, and then we checked into the Village Hotel on the Biltmore estate. The hotel was absolutely beautiful and the whole thing smelled like pine and gingerbread. Every single person we met was unbelievably kind, including the staff member that stepped away from her counter to take this picture for us:
 Issa loved all of the owls in the trees, and I am so grateful for the picture since our selfie game was not strong:
 We spent Saturday afternoon exploring the Village. We found a few new wines we loved at the winery and joined the wine club, and we played many fun games from the turn of the century. The kids also wanted to take the traditional pictures with the statue of Cedric, the family dog:

 The kids were most excited about making their own Christmas poppers:
 After a fabulous dinner at Cedric's Pub, we were able to tour the Biltmore home by candlelight:
 The pictures just don't do it justice. I spent half the evening teary. It truly is magic and beautiful and perfect. Watching the kids' eyes light up as they saw the giant trees was amazing:

 There are 62 trees throughout the home:

 The mantles were all stunning, and seeing them in the firelight was remarkable:

 And the trees on the front lawn were not to be missed:
 The kids loved exploring among the trees:
 And we were all swept up in the magic:
 The next morning, we had a lovely breakfast at the hotel and then went back to tour the home in the daylight. Issa actually kept a tally of the trees. We found all of them! We ended our time on the estate with brunch at Deerpark. It was an incredible buffet. The kids were delighted by the peel and eat shrimp, and Brad was thrilled to find prime rib. We are still trying to figure out how they made my herb-crusted turkey, and the stuffing was quite possibly the single best bite I've ever put in my mouth. Except for maybe the peppermint s'mores pie.

On our way home, we stopped by the Grove Park Inn to see the National Gingerbread Competition winners. We have watched the competition on tv, but to see it in person was super cool. This year's winner was very impressive:
 I loved the reindeer piece:
 And we are all still trying to figure out how they made this poinsettia:
We are very glad we saw all of the gingerbread--once. The crowd was insane--especially compared to the Biltmore.

This was one of those weekends that defied the rules of time. We were only gone one night, but we made so many memories. The kids thanked us over and over for the best Christmas ever, and we all agreed it was truly magic. The lights and the music and the time to just be--to soak it all in. Christmas perfection.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Holly Jolly-ing

In the midst of everything else, we are really enjoying the Christmas season. Our elf brought us all footy pajamas to snuggle in as we do all things Christmas-y, and my very sweet husband took to posing ours:
Even our jammies kind of life each other. They really are some of the softest, coziest, loveliest pajamas:
 Evan is so hoping for a pajama day at school soon so can be a wookie all day.

Issa and I also decorated the tree last week:
 Our little table top tree is working pretty well for us! And we hung garland above the windows to hold all the lighter ornaments:
 I also love all the pine cones in my pineapple serving tower:
Last weekend, we finished our shopping and went to see a great community theatre production of Elf! This weekend, we will celebrate Christmas as our little family of four, and Brad and I can't wait to surprise the kids. More on that next week...

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Legacy

"What is a legacy?
It's planting seeds in a garden you'll never get to see..."
--Lin Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

I've been very quiet the past week and a half because I haven't had words. It takes a lot to truly leave me unable to write, but the Wednesday after Thanksgiving heaven gained my granddaddy, and I've been trying to find a way to live in a world without him in it.

Everyone keeps asking if his death was unexpected. Yes and no. He was 94, and although his mind and wit were as sharp as a tack his body was betraying him. That said, when we saw him at Thanksgiving we had a marvelous visit, and when I said I would see him at Christmas he nodded--no speech like there had been so many times in the past. No last words or wisdom. No last sage advice. No last "Heather Ann." So when I got the call, I was shocked.

Granddaddy is my hero. He was the first person I wanted to call when I was accepted into each of my degree programs. I waited to hear the pride in his voice when I called with good news. And when things were going wrong, I called my mom for comfort and my granddaddy to get it together. I've been struggling to find the right words to commemorate such a man.

Last night, the words that opened this post entered my mind, though, and I finally found the words. 

"What is a legacy?
It's planting seeds in a garden you'll never get to see..."

Those lines have always resonated with me, but last night I realized how very wrong they were about Granddaddy.

You see...I believe he saw his legacy. He wrote it--physically and metaphorically.

Physically, he wrote the book. After years of my nagging and threatening to come sit in his study until he told me every family story for me to transcribe, he gave us the greatest gift and wrote his memories. Each short story teaches not only about him but also about life. Who to be. How to live. It's a guidebook. It is a legacy of wisdom that I pick up when I'm lost or just need to hear his voice because it is in every page and every word.

He also saw his legacy grow in his family. These pictures of him will always be some of my most treasured:

The memories the kids have of the years of talking with him. Seeing him beam at them. Issa will always be his princess and Evan will always be his little man. Just as I am his legacy so are they. We learn from his example and his words and his love. We carry all of that forward with us and through us.

We have talked about him a lot the past two weeks. I was pretty deep in grief when Issa looked at me and said, "You know what Granddaddy would tell you: suffering builds character."

Yes...but the rest of that story is suffering builds perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope, and it is our hope which does not disappoint (Romans 5:4). And so we move forward in hope.

And we move forward as his legacy...knowing it is very much a garden he planted, saw grow, and will continue to watch and guide in the years to come...