A Very Merry Raphael Christmas

I’m sitting here sipping hot apple cider and reflecting on the last couple of weeks.  It has been such a wonderful mix of Christmas merriment, relaxation, QT with my family, and getting some items knocked off my always-too-long to-do list. As much as this holiday has served to recharge us all for the first quarter of 2015, I think we’re going to struggle to get back into the swing of things (What do you mean I can’t sleep until 9a and wear my jammies all day?,” says every member of the Raphael family … well, except Chad, who actually went to work for a few days last week.).

Here are some of our photos from the holiday. I hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday season like we did!

The Raphael kids on Christmas morning

The Raphael kids on Christmas morning (best I could get)

Campbell loves to help in the kitchen -- here she is making Christmas cookies

Campbell loves to help in the kitchen — here she is making Christmas cookies

Decorating Christmas cookies

Decorating Christmas cookies

Cleaning the carrots for the reindeer (can you tell she's a little excited?)

Cleaning the carrots for the reindeer (can you tell she’s a little excited?)

Carrots!

Carrots!

Santa came!

Santa came!

Campbell and the Barbie 4-wheeler

The playhouse

Campbell deemed the new playhouse “the condo.”

 

Baby 4-wheeler

See saw

Caroline and her little wagon

Caroline and her little wagon

Delta wants Santa's leftovers sooo bad

Delta wants Santa’s leftovers sooo bad

My sweet niece, Sadie

My sweet niece, Sadie

Thomas getting some good cuddles from Uncle Joe

Thomas getting some good cuddles from Uncle Joe

Lots of eating happened...here is Caroline eating Granddaddy's Christmas cake

Lots of eating happened…here are Caroline and Sadie eating Granddaddy’s Christmas cake

We also had a great family date on New Year’s Eve! The Raphael Five went to dinner and then came home to play games, watch movies, and ring in the New Year together. Campbell and Thomas even made it to midnight!

Girls ready to go to dinner

Girls ready to go to dinner

New Year's Eve games

New Year’s Eve games

A Frozen New Year's Eve

A Frozen New Year’s Eve

Merry and Magical Christmas

We have had the merriest of Christmases in my home. As sappy as it sounds, I feel like I will carry the magic of this Christmas with me for the rest of my life. It was THAT great.

Christmas Eve with my baby girls

Christmas Eve with my baby girls

Lots of stockings across our mantle now

Lots of stockings across our mantle now!

Let’s be honest – Christmas can be a lot of work and stress. It can be hard to balance all the holiday prep with the everyday responsibilities of taking care of a family. In my book, it’s worth it. I love the Christmas season, and this one didn’t disappoint. There are so many reasons I feel this way. Here are just a few.

Baby’s First Christmas: There is something so sweet about introducing a baby to her first Christmas. I’m so grateful that we had another little Raphael to spend Christmas with this year. Now, I know Baby Caroline didn’t understand what was going on, but that doesn’t matter. Her first Christmas gave me such special moments to store away in my memory bank.

Christmas 2013 165

Christmas 2013 176

My little elf helped me wrap gifts

My little elf helped me wrap gifts

Christmas 2013 023

Even Elfie was thrilled to have Caroline around to celebrate Christmas with us this year. He spent a little time in her stocking on Christmas Eve before flying back to the North Pole.

Even Elfie was thrilled to have Caroline around to celebrate Christmas with us this year. He spent a little time in her stocking on Christmas Eve before flying back to the North Pole.

The 5yo and Santa: This was SUCH a fun Christmas for Campbell, and it was awesome to watch her experience it. She’s been singing in the church choir and got to be a part of a Christmas concert. She has been enamored by Christmas light displays, big and small. We’ve been watching Polar Express, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Disney’s A Christmas Carol over and over and over again. She is old enough to truly understand the joy of giving and has been making special crafts for us all season. She unquestionably believes in Santa, and it was just so fun to believe with her. This girl brought the magic of Christmas into our house in a big way.

Campbell is such a big helper now. She helped me decorate the tree this year!

Campbell is such a big helper now. She helped me decorate the tree this year!

Decorating Christmas cookies

Decorating Christmas cookies

Reading Twas the Night Before Christmas with Daddy
Reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ with Daddy
Santa brought Campbell a HUGE dollhouse!

Santa brought Campbell a HUGE dollhouse

She got an American Girl doll that looks like her. A big hit!

She got an American Girl doll that looks like her. A big hit!

The 2yo and Magic: Speaking of magic, I think Thomas is a magical little boy. He is so full of life, love and joy. I am thankful for him every day of my life, but that feeling of gratitude is magnified at Christmastime. I am so lucky to be living life with him. I don’t know how he does it, but he managed to bring so much additional joy into our home during an already joyful time of year. My favorite “Thomas story” from Christmas: We had A Christmas Carol on the TV yesterday (see above about our viewing frequency of this movie this year). He is practicing walking around holding one of my hands instead of both (he’s getting good at this!). Ebenezer Scrooge’s image pops up on the TV. Thomas pauses his walk to look up at the television to wave at Scrooge. This boy loves everyone…even ol’ Ebenezer Scrooge. Cannot even begin to describe my love for him.

Handsome guy on Christmas Eve

Handsome guy on Christmas Eve

Santa brought my little buddy a train/car track set and garage. He loves it!

Santa brought my little buddy a train/car track set and garage. He loves it!

See...he loves it!

See…he loves it!

Very busy...

Very busy…

Enjoying Christmas dinner in his jammies

Enjoying Christmas dinner in his jammies

Chad: I’ll keep this short and sweet so as not to completely embarrass him. Let’s just say I married well. Chad is loving, thoughtful and very family-focused. I know all these things about him, but Christmas was a sweet reminder.

Campbell LOVES her Daddy

Campbell loving on her Daddy on Christmas Eve

Daddy and baby at Christmas dinner

Daddy and baby at Christmas dinner

Family: We were lucky enough to share Christmas with my mom and dad, as well as with Chad’s mom and step dad. This is the first year we’ve had both these sets of grandparents with us at Christmastime. Very special. {We missed my brother, SIL, and niece. They are soaking up the sun in Mexico.}

And, last but certainly not least, Health: I had a health scare recently. I’ll spare you the extreme details, but I had to have a complete thyroidectomy. I had two nodules on my thyroid gland – one very large and the other much smaller. I had the large one biopsied a few months ago with benign results. Because the nodule didn’t decrease in size over the course of a few months, the doctors recommended having my entire thyroid gland removed to ensure  no cancer was present (supposedly a biopsy is not definitive when a nodule or mass is larger than a certain size…which mine was). I had the surgery as quickly as I could schedule it on Dec. 9 at the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center at Centennial Hospital. It was surreal. How could there be a chance I have cancer? I’m young. I have three very young children. I have my whole life ahead of me…and the lives of others.

The results came back benign. I am beyond relieved and oh-so-very thankful. But, the situation was very scary. As I’m sure many of you did, I saw the viral story about the photo shoot a young dad and his daughter did where the photos mimic the wedding photos he’d had made with his wife. The wife passed away from a rare form of lung cancer at age 31. Tragic. I totally broke down when I saw this. Others have not been lucky like me and received a clean pathology report. Don’t take anything for granted, folks. As you can imagine, absolutely every sweet thing that happened this Christmas brought tears to my eyes.

Clearly, I am overflowing with gratitude this Christmas. As I listen to my children in the other room playing with their new toys, I have a feeling of peace and happiness that I know will last well beyond the holiday season.

And...even Delta got a Christmas treat! See...we don't ALWAYS forget about the dog.

And…even Delta got a Christmas treat! See…we don’t ALWAYS forget about the dog.