Christmas by the numbers

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Merry Christmas from Graceland!

On this, the twelfth day of Christmas,¬†I’m totally on board with keeping Christmas going all through Epiphany. Not only does it appeal to my natural slacker, but the longer celebration provides an antidote to the inevitable disappointment when events don’t follow your vision for the perfect, beautiful Christmas morning. We’re not perfect; that’s fine. I wrote a reflection for my friend Elizabeth’s blog about the angels and the shepherds and what it meant to me to rejoice not because things are perfect, but because God has come near. You can wrap up this last day of Christmas by reading it here.

We had a wonderful—not perfect—fun, old-fashioned family Christmas (name that movie!) in Memphis, with Israel’s and my families combining forces for an epic Christmas Palooza 2K14. Mama Rote compiled the stats:

16 people
12 adults
4 girls 3 and under
6 Ortegas
5 Rotes (+  1 soon to be Rote)
4 Slakases
7 days
1 birthday party for a 1 year old
4 gallons of milk
10 pounds of corn tortillas
7 dozen eggs
3 gallons of pozole
3 high chairs (+ 1 booster seat)
3 cribs
3 strollers
countless diapers
50+ loads of laundry
30+ plus dishwasher loads
1 Grizzlies game, complete with overtime
14 rolls of paper towels
5 dozen tamales
1 1/2 gallon of vegetable beef soup
1 ping-pong tournament
1 Chinese checkers tournament
2 aerobeds
2 dogs 
1 cat
FOURTEEN, yes, FOURTEEN cases of a nasty tummy bug.**
*Some numbers estimated
**Will says that a positive thing is that, in the aggregate, we gained less weight as family due to ‘the circumstances.’

It was so fun to be together, despite the tummy bug. Now we’re back at home, watching Downton Abbey and maybe White Christmas one last time! In Mexico, children receive gifts from the Tres Reyes Magos on Epiphany, so last night Mary Tobin and I put shoes out in the hall, with pine needles instead of hay for the camels as the wise men came through, and this morning we found one last Christmas treat. Today we’re packing away the decorations, and I hope I can convince Israel to burn our tree in the fire pit in the back yard tonight . . . wouldn’t it be beautiful and symbolic, like the light in darkness, the star leading to the Christ Child?? OK, I love fire. I’m a pyromaniac.

If you’re packing up today, too, here’s some free advice¬†I picked up from my¬†Aunt Kace. She has pretty Christmas frames with photos from family Christmases in years past that she stores with her decorations (but too many embarrassing middle school ones, Aunt Kace!!). So now I’m keeping an eye out for Christmas frames at post-holiday sales and trying to tuck away any good photos¬†with the ornaments. I haven’t found many frames that I like, but we brought¬†out pictures and subbed¬†them into our usual frames for the month, and I love the nostalgic effect!

 photo 8759CC53-AD8D-458D-8785-D1D36FC356BE_zpslzyzsgs3.jpgIn looking through this year’s pictures, I spotted a bit of a theme:
 photo B1011067-3F3A-484B-8E4D-6C3C6F0F0153_zps8dnbgm9l.jpg  photo 37E2C393-8BF9-4352-9558-B3B0AE079C2F_zpsnnevrhnu.jpg Just offering Baby Jesus what we can. (Food is our love language. I would probably take the chocolate, but the tamales are also really good.)

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Not technically lateРtoday is Dia de Reyes (three kings day)/Epiphany/the Twelfth Day of Christmas!  With that in mind, and just to catch up, I give you 12 recommendations:

1РChristmas in NYC.

If one must leave the nest, it’s best to find a second family that lives somewhere wonderful.¬† It’s how I managed to survive my first Christmas without watching White Christmas with Mom, delivering meals with Dad, and¬†Will’s grumbling about it.

2– Tamales.

I can’t endorse all tamales everywhere, but I loved the ones made para mi suegra, Sara, on Christmas Eve.

They even resemble tiny Christmas gifts, wrapped with ribbon!  Is that beautiful or is that beautiful?

3– Gone With The Wind

Margaret Mitchell’s¬†classic book provided my entertainment this summer. ¬†I’ve been meaning to write about it since, but this one simply can’t be done justice. ¬†Mitchell is a masterful story-teller– I was captured by the drama of both the war and the individual characters’ struggles within it, and then during Reconstruction. ¬†And how unique to follow a heroine with such obvious flaws. ¬†Selfish Scarlett will have money at any cost– and I went back and forth on whether you can really blame her. ¬†“I’ll think about that tomorrow.” ¬†Loved it.

4– All Over But the Shoutin’ is the memoir of Rick Bragg, a Pulitzer-winning New York Times journalist whose people are poor Alabama “white trash.”

Bragg’s style is unique;¬† somewhere between a novel and an essay. ¬†I found it touching and thought-provoking, and he struck me as extremely honest with his feelings and introspection.

5– The Blind Side has it all: humor, pathos, drama, and some good old-fashioned light-hearted SEC football rivalry. ¬†I haven’t read the book but I LOVED the movie, and I love the real story, which began at my alma mater. . . inspiring.

6– Invictus has some themes in common with The Blind Side— race and class reconcilation, sports, triumph through adversity– but felt very different to watch. ¬†It’s like the grander, historic version. . . Nelson Mandela rather than Leigh Anne Tuohy. ¬†Izzy and I both enjoyed it.

7– The Pioneer Woman Cooks

I’m addicted to Ree Drummond’s blog with step-by-step cooking instructions and accompanying photos. ¬†She makes creating delicious things simple and doable. ¬†And now I have her new cookbook in my hot little hands. ¬†Signed by PW herself! ¬†Can you believe it? ¬†(Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

8РThe Domino Book of Decorating.  Another stellar Christmas gift.  Dig it.

9– The Bishop’s Wife

Classic Christmas movie, featuring David Niven and Cary Grant. ¬†I don’t think Niven really gets to shine in his role as bishop (Candleshoe is better!), and Cary Grant actually frustrates you as the angel. ¬†But, that’s his intention, and it’s a worthwhile holiday flick. ¬†(Keep it in your back pocket for next year!) ¬†There’s also a professor whose bottle of sherry never empties, which is nice.

10– December

Here are six great songs, free as fresh fallen snow (huh??) from my friend Danielle and her bf. ¬†That’s BOY friend not best friend. ¬†(“Their kids will love the CD!” says Elizabeth.) ¬†You’ll love her version of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” ¬†Go ahead and download, and keep ’em in your i-tunes back pocket for next year.

11– The Brothers Karamazov is beautiful. ¬†I read it my last year of college, and it moved my heart. ¬†I’m hoping it wasn’t so moving only under the guidance of the best TA in the world, and so¬†I’m picking it up again for the new year. ¬†Just wanted to recommend Dostoevsky, for the record.

But if you don’t want to go Russian (Russkies. ¬†Reds. ¬†Commies.), my brother John also highly recommends the movie Fantastic Mr. Fox. ¬†Or, a good one for today would be Twelfth Night, written by Billy Shakes for just this occasion! ¬†Netflix tells me that the movie involves cross-dressing and gender confusion. . . a reliable recipe for comedy.

12– Tidings of comfort and joy!