Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Celebrations!

The Alston Christmas was nothing short of eventful this year! Christmas eve started off as always with a combined Alston/Joyner MexItalian feast. The food was SO amazing. I feel like I say this every year, but there really is nothing better than ceasar salad and ravioli with spanish rice, beans and tamales. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of the food because we were too busy eating :) Jon also made a homemade butterscotch bread pudding for dessert. So delish!

 Beth and I played a flute duet of "What Child Is This?" to start off the Christmas program after we ate. Hopefully the video will load, in which case you can watch it here:

The children all dressed up and acted out the Nativity story as narrated by Allen Norton. It was so cute! Unfortunately we didn't get any pictures of that part.

Haley serenaded everyone with her recorder skills:

 And then the partying started!

Jake, Morgan and Jon Joyner sang a rad version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" 

And Jon also led everyone in a rowdy group sing-a-long of Adam Sandler's Hannukah song

There ended up being about 40 of us there with parents, children and grandchildren all together.

After the music died down, Beth read The Night Before Christmas to all the kids. And who do you think showed up at the end??? SANTA! (Sadly, I didn't get pictures of this either. Santa was very camera shy this year.)

It was probably one of the best Christmas Eve's I can ever remember :) Good food, good friends, lots of laughs. The testimonies of the Savior and the spirit felt was so awesome, and it was just so great to look around and feel like everyone there was our family!

Christmas morning I woke up around 7. Jon had already been up and was ready to get a fire going. We opened stockings and made homemade apple cinnamon coffee cake before church :)

Margo couldn't wait to dig into her doggie cookies from Santa!

Jon LOVES his pomegranates!

Mint chocolate foil bells! I always loved getting these as a kid. You can tell that I just woke up, look at all the hair in my face! haha, I didn't even notice :) 

Margo got to open her present first. She has gotten pretty good at tearing up paper! 

It's a... It's a... 

Striped sock monkey! She loves this thing :) 

Daddy and Margo with her new toy!
(She really was not excited for this picture, she just wanted to play! haha)

Jon got a fantastic new striped orange and teal tie from me as well as an Epic Mealtime BACON STRIPS shirt from Margo. Ah, bacon.

Jon got me a fantastic new scarf! It's so cozy :) Handmade by a lady who sells her handknits through a small art gallery in Sacramento. Well done, Jon!

Christmas church services were AMAZING this year! I wish I'd gotten a picture of us in our church clothes, but I was too cold after church and changed right back into my pajamas! The primary children sang two songs as well as the ward choir singing and the congregation. It was a very music filled day - my favorite! We are blessed with so much musical talent in our ward. Brother Scott Seamons sang a solo arrangement of "O Holy Night" and it was absolutely stunning. I was so touched. That was probably my favorite part of the day! He and his wife gave brief talks also. It was so nice to have simple sacrament meeting services centered on our Savior. It really made Christmas a nice balance for me. Too often we forget on Christmas day to talk about what Christmas really is about. Having church made Christmas morning really humble.

We headed to my parent's house for breakfast with Margo after church.

Jon was very excited about getting new tires for the Explorer: 

Me with my new scarf:

My dad with Margo:
(literally 30 seconds before she threw up all over his leg.) 

My mom with her new Corningware baking dish! 

Michelle all dolled up for church: 

She made her own poinsetta hair clippies with supplies from my Beverly's :) So crafty.

Jon and I were thoroughly spoiled this year and I felt so blessed! My mom even got me this bracelet making loom :) I love that it's all pink and purple. It makes me feel like I'm 6 years old... basically how I feel all the time anyways. I made a lime green and purple friendship bracelet for my bestie, Breanna! Later in the day we got to visit with her and Ben. She got me a fantastic vinyl tile that says "I loved you too much to just be your friend, so God let me be your Sister" awww :)

Mom, me and Michelle by the Christmas tree:

In the afternoon we went to Jon's parent's house and opened presents with them and had dinner. The food was delicious! One of my favorite gifts was from Jon's mom. She had put together a family history book for all of us on Ancestry.com which has pictures, information and census records for the past 5 generations. Totally cool! My sister-in-law Jackee also got us a beautiful set of picture frames that have the temple and The Family Proclamation in them. I can't wait to hang them up!

Unfortunately we didn't get ANY pictures at Jon's parent's house. Jon's dad took so many I just figured I would bum some off of him, but he's a little slow with uploading them to Facebook. ha! ;) Ah well, it seems like I always miss some pictures during the holidays. At least the memories are there.

Also, I tried to be more crafty this Christmas with presents. I made a cookie jar for my in-law's dog Shasta (which I forgot to take pictures of...) and I also made these earrings for my grandma! They are angels (she loves angels!) At least I remembered to get a picture of these :)

I am so grateful for the wonderful Christmas we had this year and the time we were able to spend with family and friends. It was definitely one of the most touching Christmases I've had in a long time. As Beth would say, it was "tender". Thank you to everyone for making it awesome!

Oh, and I have been really behind on sending out Christmas cards this year, so if you haven't gotten yours yet, don't worry. It's probably just in the mail :)

Stay tuned for New Year's and our upcoming theme of 2012!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I really couldn't come up with anything more interesting for the title of this post.
A lot has happened so far this December! Work is really picking up as Christmas is getting closer, and both Jon and I have finished our classes for this year. Granted, I was only taking one institute class, so Jon had it much harder than I did! Next semester will probably be the best ever. I am taking another institute class, as well as psychology, and Jon is taking one class - his last EVER!! He will be graduating with his master's degree, and unless he decides to start a PhD program in 2013, he will be done for good! Next stop: real life after college.
We have also been decorating and getting ready for Christmas. As always, it is coming up way too fast. We finally put the star on our tree today, and we had our ward Christmas party last night! I was also able to go to the bridal shower for one of my past YW yesterday (wow!) and Christmas cards are slowly but surely being put together. Check out our good looking family!!
And finally, but especially most important this month, was the passing of my dear friend Aly's 4 month old son on Monday, December 5, 2011. Aly and I were co-workers at my last job for 4 years, and when her first son Gabriel was born in July, we were all so elated for her! Gabriel lived a total of 19 weeks, being perfectly healthy as far as we knew. After a tragic accident that kept him on life support all last weekend, he peacefully passed away Monday afternoon, to the heartbreak of all friends and family.
Aly and her husband Patrick have asked that in memory of Gabriel, anyone interested can donate to INova Health System, which supports local community hospitals and child care in Virginia (where they live). I know that during Christmas, many of you may already have charities and places that you like to support. If not, this may be the perfect time to start! Either way, I felt like it was important to let you know that it is available. And also for Aly and Patrick to know that Gabriel will never be forgotten, even though his time on this Earth may have been brief. I am so thankful for our Heavenly Father's eternal plan of happiness and the blessing that we all have to know that Families can be together forever. I know that I am eternally grateful for mine.
Merry Christmas to all far and near who read our blog. We are so glad to have you in our lives!
Sincerely, Steph & Jon
INova Health System FoundationChild Life
c/o Jamie Gentille
3300 Gallows Road
Falls Church, VA 22042