christmas bells are ringing!

how was everyone's holiday times?
mine was so busy my head is still spinning...
but it was wonderful and i wouldn't change a minute of it!

let's just pick up where i left off.
we got back to austin after thanksgiving to find a very very fat squirrel
had been taking advantage of our absence.

he began nibbling away at my little orange pumpkin.
the funny part was that he took a few bites out of all the pumpkins,
but the orange one was clearly the tastiest.

though thanksgiving was now officially over,
and i knew it was time to trash the ol punkins,
i held out for the fat little squirrel's sake.
who am i to deprive him of a food source just as the temperatures start to fall?!
 the days grew colder and mr. squirrel grew fatter.
toby did NOT appreciate this kind of brazenness!
after a few days of torture, i gave in and let toby chase away the squirrel.
then i trashed my pumpkins.
goodbye fall!
it was officially christmas time...
 i have always loved decorating for christmas.
i light a million wintery smelling candles, fire up some hot cider,
and put on the dolly parton and kenny rogers christmas album.
it's the only way to do it, if you ask me.

but to my dismay!
sir golden tree was missing a strand of his lights!
i checked everything i could.
wiggled the bulbs, plugged and unplugged everything in sight.
nothing worked.
i left the scene in frustration, asking myself
how am i going to find another gold tree??

when suddenly...

he fell.
scared the christmas spirit right out of little toby.
i came running in- only to find
 somehow the fall jostled the lights back into action.
and the little tree was lit once more!
this might have been his final season, but he did good.
later, a chilly cold front whipped into austin.
we all stayed in our jommies as much as possible.
one night i was cooking a squash when
my oven exploded.
not sure how this happens, but it did.
kitchen aid definitely owes me and santa an apology.
(santa because this prevented me from baking any christmas cookies)
 christmas was fast approaching,
so we loaded up our packages, boxes, and bags
and headed for dallas!
it never really feels like christmas until i get to dallas.
finally arriving to warm houses full of decorations and hugs really makes it feel like it's here!
 we went to andrew's parents house first.
toby made himself right at home.
 we cooked a big dinner and then sang along to andrew's guitar.
 and, of course, played skip-bo.
 this is a gill family tradition.
 another gill family tradition is the girls winning...
go us!
my sleepy boys passed out early
(sugar plums undoubtedly dancing in their heads).
monday morning, the 22nd, i awoke to the most wonderful news!
my cousin (dearest friend, and favorite human) kristen popped out baby number four!
what a christmas gift!
 her name is
Olive Shea Barstad
(she will go by Shea, but they had to make it the middle name
to avoid the initials S.O.B.) 
for more photos and the sweetest story of all time, check out
on Celebrate Always!
 the bummer of baby shea's timing was that she came on the same day
as the annual cousin christmas party.
it was a bummer to miss out on all the barstads, but we kept them updated
with tons and tons of photos.

it was such a fun night!
andrew gave guitar lessons to the boys:

 and we had so much fun seeing all the cousins!
 kristen was one of four pregnant cousins.
one down, three to go!
 we made bead necklaces and did cousin secret santa!
 another really successful night.

 bailey was the bell of the ball.
christmas eve night we prepared a huge feast and sat down with the whole fam!
 and then christmas morning!
 so many presents we just couldn't believe our eyes.
 and we got new ski goggles.
 merry christmas to all!
 alex and i popped some champagne.
 and there were mimosas all around.
 we neglected to put up the star on christmas eve night
(which was a halbert tradition)
so alex did the honors christmas morning.
 then we went over to andrew's parents house and exchanged presents there
and ate ANOTHER feast!
yikes. lots of food.
(oh and andrew got a little ukelele!)
 that evening we hit up another annual holiday fiesta
at the home of an old friend from high school!
all my oldest friends were there and it was too much fun.
 the highlight of the evening is a game in which
this log:
sits on a blanket,
 while we beat him with sticks and sing christmas carols,
 which frequently turn into punk rock songs from the late 90's.
the log then poops out presents,
and everyone is happy.
 (yay presents!)
 usually there's a dance party at the end.
you mean you don't do this on christmas?
well it's a thing.

and so concludes christmas 2013!
i hope yours was as fun as mine!
from start to finish it was filled to the brim with love, friends, presents, parties, and joy.
thank you to all that made my holiday so special!

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