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Merry Christmas, With Love*

A smell of the season sends greetings from my kitchen, a batch of our official “Doug and Holly” triple-ginger cookies freshly-baked and waiting for a taste-test. While I know we live in a peppernut community, these delightfully seasoned, moist ginger cookies are our family’s Christmas cookie of choice.

Our stockings are hung--from our stair-rail--and the tree is decked with eclectic ornaments from seasons past: Hallmark Frosty Friends that I received from my grandparents each year growing up; baby’s first Christmas circa 1982, 1983, 2008, 2010, 2012; ornaments representing the yearly likes of my kids gifted from my parents; and a few ornaments that once decorated the trees of my Grandma Emma and my husband’s Grandma Johnson. A couple years ago I purchased a vintage-looking star that reminded me of my Grandma Helen. Her ornaments were never found in her belongings after she passed, so I was thrilled to find the star. The purchase was a no-brainer!

My Willow Tree nativity holds its traditional spot, the wisemen traveling from afar. A hand-carved angel, given as a gift from a family friend that was carved by his mom, holds a place of prominence on a living room shelf. A vintage ceramic lighted tree provides ambiance in the basement den and Jerry the penguin greets guests at our stoop.

Christmas is coming and we’re ready. The kids are counting down the days until winter break but also to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Each day I’m met with at least one child begging, “plllleeeeeaaaaasssse won’t you wrap more presents, Mom?” While their faces are sweet, it’s fairly easy for me to procrastinate on this particular venture. I guess I’d better oblige in the near future. 

As far as procrastination goes, a few years ago I realized that’s what I did in regard to what I then considered the obligatory Christmas card. Even though I enjoy receiving them, the pressure to send them stressed me out, not to mention the cost of having a large stack printed and mailed. The year I realized I didn’t have to was a freeing moment. I’ve since realized that writing a family Christmas letter and publishing it in the newspaper is more my speed, so without further frills, the 2020 Just Family Update:

Gracelyn is a remote seventh grader this year. It’s hard to believe our firstborn will be a teenager in a few short months! While she didn’t get to participate on the swim team over the summer (thanks COVID), she did get to play middle school volleyball for the first time this fall. Her goal was to play libero--a defensive specialist--and by the end of the season, she earned her white jersey! Gracelyn is currently learning to play another band instrument, switching from clarinet to flute. It seems to be a good fit for her, and she has picked up the new skill quickly. She enjoys reading, drawing, video games, Legos, watching Evan and Katelyn and playing dodgeball with the neighbor kids. 

Jemma is a remote fifth grade student this year with Mr. Schmidt as her teacher. Jemma’s favorite subject is not math. She has enjoyed a recent poetry unit and always looks forward to art day with Mrs. Siebert. She is in beginning band this year, playing trombone like her dad. He practices with her sometimes, and it is so sweet. (Loud, but sweet). She continues taking gymnastics from Coach Rylee at The Core, and even though there were several months without class (thanks COVID), she picked up right where she left off. She’s currently learning to connect her back handsprings into a back tuck. Jemma also enjoys reading, writing, Minecraft, Legos, watching Evan and Katelyn and playing dodgeball with the neighbor kids.

Case is a remote third grader, under the instruction of Mrs. Dick. He agrees with Jemma: math is not his favorite subject. He definitely wishes art class with Mrs. Siebert was every day. He loves to read comics and also write/draw his own. He is currently working on one called “The True Story of COVID.” Case enjoyed taking an obstacle course class at The Core and especially loved the race portion. (Maybe he will excel on the track?) His speed also comes in handy playing tag with his sisters and friends. Case also enjoys video games, watching Evan and Katelyn, reading, Legos and playing outside with the neighbor kids. 

In May, Brad will mark his 10th anniversary working as the USD 410 director of technology. (My not so humble opinion is that he is great at what he does!) Last school year he got laptops ready for two “starts” to the year: one in the fall of 2019 and another in the spring of 2020 for remote learning (thanks COVID). You can occasionally spot him playing trombone in the high school/community pep band or in renovation photos I post on social media. 

I am in my 12th year writing Lipstick & Pearls and since I share a lot of my heart with you every month, it almost feels silly to do an update. However, here is something I rarely write about: I was supposed to coach middle and high school long and triple jump last spring for my ninth season, after winning a coaching award from the Kansas Cross Country and Track and Field Coaches Association in 2019. However, the season didn’t happen (thanks COVID). I am looking forward to trying again in 2021, and am especially excited that Gracelyn will join me as a first-year track and field athlete.

Now that you’re up-to-date with some Just news, we hope you find joy and merriness in this season, celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, and curling up with cocoa and your cookie(s) of choice.

Merry Christmas!

With love,
Brad, Malinda, 
Gracelyn, Jemma and Case

*Originally published as Lipstick & Pearls for the Hillsboro Free Press, Dec. 23, 2020; republished with permission.


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