A California Christmas

Christmas 2019 was filled with all of the places and people (and food!) we love.

It began with the Christmas Eve service with our friends at First Baptist College Station. Christmas morning, we headed to the airport to catch our flights to California.

Last year, we flew from CA to TX on Christmas Day. This was the week I met Josh's parents for the first time!

Whichever direction we're headed, it seems a McBrunch is involved.

 2018 in Orange County

2019 in Houston

We arrived in Orange County Christmas afternoon and headed straight to my Papa's where my aunt Gina, cousin Thatcher, and Papa were relaxing after a big breakfast and gifts with Gina's boys. They welcomed us with open arms, a big lunch, and lots of stories from the last few months. It was the perfect start to our week.

From there, we met my Dad and brother for dinner. I wish we'd thought to take a picture, but it was pouring rain when we left, so we said quick goodbyes and ran to our cars. My brother bought me a hilarious Spice Girls coloring book filled with fan art. I was in tears at the table laughing at these terrible sketches someone collected and is now selling.

The following morning, we headed to Bagels and Brew to meet Sammy and her kids. Sammy runs Precious Kids Center, a home for kids with special needs in Kitale, Kenya (also my very favorite place in the world), and was just about to head back to Kenya a few days later. I was so glad our stays overlapped!

Josh and I took turns snuggling Ayla, talking to Zion about his toy train, and asking questions about the PKC world. I'm really hoping next time we'll be catching up over tea in Kitale.

Zion was super chill through all of our breakfast, but as soon as he saw the sign for the Dollar Store, he lost all interest in conversation or photos... he just had to get in that store! (Also, Ayla was not sure what to make of my laugh.)

After lunch, we drove up the coast and back to my mom's. We wrapped presents and prepped for the family Christmas while waiting for my mom and Dave to make it home from their trip to Vegas. (They were caught in a freak snowstorm on the drive home and nearly spent the night in the middle of nowhere!) Fortunately, they were able to get home in time to share a huge order from Big Chopsticks. When I lived in Irvine and Costa Mesa, I'd order from this Chinese restaurant all the time. Finding out I was outside their delivery radius was one of the saddest parts about moving to South County... luckily, we have family in the delivery zone! It was just as good as I remembered.

Friday morning, we headed to Dave's dental office before I met Cathi and Emily for lunch. (Incidentally, if you're in the SoCal area, Dr. David Lester, DDS is the man to see. Sure, he's my step-dad, but he's also a fantastic, honest dentist.) 

That night, we headed to the Hays. The boys gave us a tour of their new trampoline, showed us their tree climbing skills, and told us all about their friends and projects at school. And, of course, made sure their bearded dragon was included in the group photo.

I made sure to give Cohen plenty of zerberts to make up for lost time.

I have so many memories around this table. In other houses, with a wide variety of friends, with first one, then two, and now three Hays boys. It is one of the safest places I know. We've shared laughter and tears and dreams and hurts around this table. (I also had a hilariously terrible second date around this table years ago, but that's a story for another time.)

Being away from these friends--this community--is one of the main reasons I was hoping God would move Josh to CA instead of the other way around. And while I'm thankful for technology... and the commitment these friends have made to connecting frequently from afar, I'm also really, really thankful for the handful of hours we had together, face-to-face, that night. 

Saturday was a jam-packed day. It started with pancakes (Dave wanted to treat Josh to his first Dutch Baby at The Original Pancake House) and ended with our DiLallo Christmas extravaganza. (With three fillings in-between.) You can read more about our Family Christmas traditions here.

Sunday morning, we met the McCaskills for breakfast. Josh and Josh have been best friends since 8th grade and met Shawnda shortly after! Josh was the Best Man at our wedding. They'd had a house filled with guests for a week before we arrived and Shawnda was getting ready for an overnight shift at the hospital... We're so grateful they were willing to sit and catch up with us when what they both really needed was a nice, long nap!

Sunday night we were treated to a delicious dinner at Mastro's. Fish, steak, lamb, Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes... my goodness!

But we weren't done yet! Monday morning we met Taffy and Sue back at my favorite California eatery, Bagels and Brew, for breakfast sandwiches and stories of the previous months. One of the first things Taffy said when he met Josh--when we were only dating--was, "If you hurt her, I'll kick your butt!" and then shook his hand, laughed loudly, and sat down to eat with us. So Josh knew right away Taff was going to be a dear friend for life.

We finished off the day--and our trip--with dinner and games at the Maguires. For over a decade, the Maguire's have been like family. Going from a nearly weekly dinner to months in-between visits was definitely jarring... I don't think I'd let myself feel just how much I'd missed them until we were back in their living room eating homemade cookies and playing card games. As soon as we got in the car, Josh said, "We gotta figure out how to live near them again someday!"

I was really, really nervous that spending a week in California would stir up some long-repressed homesickness that made me want to convince Josh to pack it up and move back. While I loved our time--and was reminded of how deeply I love my people--walking in the door when we made it back to Texas, I was grateful to feel at home. 

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