We didn't overdo it on the gifts this year. Everyone got some useful items, some fun items and some silly items. We only had a couple "oops" gifts, like the dress shirts for Ian that are a size too big. Oops.
It was a lazy morning. A very lazy morning. Somehow the kids got up well before I did (what was it? 10 a.m.?), Rebecca had made herself some eggs, the boys played with their new toys, the Jungle Fury Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (from grandparents). I put together a lego tank properly (from one brother to another) because Jonathon insisted there were parts missing and the kit had to be returned which it didn't, and we put batteries in a couple nerf disc shooters (from the neighbors). It sounds like a violent holiday, doesn't it? That's all boy related and you'll notice that none of it came from us! It's what they played with first, so it was all well-received. We opened our gifts at midnight last night, when traditionally we would open them after Midnight Mass. Since we didn't go to Mass yesterday (the "midnight" Mass in English here is at 9:30 p.m.) we went to the friends&family dinner party at Sparky's where the food was amazing and completely off menu, watched "The Muppet Christmas Carol" at home, then opened gifts right at midnight with Nicholas as our Santa.
Books, games, and clothes for the boys and girls. The girls received stacks of clothes, so it's a good thing we recently went through their clothing drawers. Grandparents sent the girls fantastic earrings (Rebecca better hide hers, they are so pretty) and Katherine even received a red streaked bob wig. She was so excited about that one and has plans to wear it the first day of school. I have to say that everything was well-received. Pajamas were a huge hit, a Dunder Mifflin t-shirt brought out giggles, guitar ornaments for the Guitar Hero fans in the family, down to the much needed underwear and socks for the boys. I can only recall one instance of "I hope this isn't...." and it was, but that was by a boy who was up at 1:30 a.m. and wasn't managing it too well by then. He made up for it today, taking a further look into the coolness of a new dinosaur fact book, and reading When Dinosaurs Came with Everything by Elise Broach with me. What an adorable book. The kids also received an assortment of new movies and activity kits. Tomorrow we'll be busy cleaning old Roman coins, something Ian has always wanted to do and the kids are excited. Who knows what treasures await! Next week they'll have friendship bracelets to make, rocks to paint, sushi to attempt, and cross-stitching to start. Yes, even the boys. The best part of all the kid gifts for me... 6 batteries, total. For the most part, these aren't things that beep or talk or move. I like that.
There were several group gifts as well. The full Apples to Apples crate, Trivial Pursuit for Kids, Frog Juice card game (still figuring out the rules on that one), and a fondue set (from Ian's mom). I really like having everyone share the Christmas goodies.
Our neighbors were generous as well. They spent the past week in Bali and Kuala Lumpur and brought back gifts for the whole family. Katherine has a beautiful silky scarf, she's very into scarves lately (and hats, and shoes, and hair and...), Rebecca has a Miss Chatterbox tshirt (while her best friend, the neighbor's daughter, has a matching one), the boys are now annoyi.... uh, entertaining... us with bongo drums, and Ian got a "Balinese Burger" tshirt. The idea of a Balinese burger is an entire suckling pig on a bun. It's hilarious. But I was the luckiest of the bunch. I now have a wonerful set of Balinese decorated woven covered basket boxes, along with a necklace and bracelet set I never would have picked out for myself but will really enjoy wearing. Isn't that a great thing about gifts? Giving an item you know someone would never choose themselves but would enjoy nonetheless.
I actually was the luckiest all around, in my opinion. I'm sure the kids would argue that they had the best time of anyone, but they're wrong. In my opinion only... of course. Continuing the idea of something I'd never buy for myself but consider lucky to have received, was a dressy Citizen EcoDrive Lobella watch. My daily watch is also a Citizen EcoDrive, but this new one is for those occasions when something a little more is called for. It's gorgeous. I needed a new set of pajamas and my parents sent a fuzzy one that will finally keep me warm in this perpetually air conditioned home, along with a full length velour robe from pajamagram.com, also from my lovely husband. I felt like a cozy princess today. Rebecca had created two fabulous projects at school, an embroidered pillow and a clock. A real clock. A clock that needs to be framed so it can go on the wall, it's that good. It took her all quarter to make in art class and it's impressive. I need to take a photo of it. But even beyond the watch and the clock, you know what the most touching gift was? A poem written by Katherine. A piece of paper and a pen and I couldn't help but cry. She has come so far.
The neighbors came over bearing maple nut rolls and they baked while I put together a roast in the crockpot for dinner. I'm having to do a lot of dishes without the housekeeper around, so a crockpot is a great way to avoid unnecessary pots and pans. Seeing as Ian didn't get up until nearly 12, we ignored lunch and just had a healthy dose of breakfast rolls. The kids played around, collected limes (into the mop bucket of all things, they definitely needed a bleach soak... the limes, not the kids), showed their friends the tent we pitched outside, then opted for swimming and some Indiana Jones Wii. It was a completely relaxing afternoon with just-right Chennai temperatures. I even finished my book, The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. I highly recommend it. I especially liked page 114:
"We can never hope to plumb the mystery of God's mind. Bad things happen to good people. Idiots and geniuses, saints and sinners - we all die. The best we can do is try to appreciate the great things God has given us - food, drink, the pleasure of honest work. We should follow the commandments, but we should do so with no guarantee that they will pay off in this life"
and page 268:
"Greenburg says that God is like an artist who is constantly revising his masterpiece. Sometimes He nearly erases his whole work, as with the Great Flood. Other times, He listens to what humans say. Moses, for instance, argues with God and convinces him to spare the lives of the complaining Israelites. "It sounds strange to say it," the rabbi says, "but in the Bible, God is on a learning curve."
Greenburg tells me, "Never blame a text from the Bible for your behavior. It's irresponsible. Anybody who says X, Y, and Z is in the Bible - it's as if one says, 'I have no role in evaluating this.' "
The idea that we can work with God to evolve the Bible's meaning - it's a thrilling idea."
This is a book I think I could read again. Some of it is humorous (to me at least, I'm sure there are plenty out there who do not think of a Creation Museum as humorous, those on both sides of the fence), some of it is touching, much of it is thought-provoking.
Now I'm moving on to Benazir Bhutto's autobiography, if my neighbor can find her copy *ahem* otherwise there's a dozen other books on my waiting shelf, while I finish up Spook and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I'm on a non-fiction kick.
The kids watched "Kung Fu Panda" while I did dishes again, we wished my parents a Merry Christmas on Skype, ate our pot roast dinner, and had church. We've been doing church via TheSundayMass.org and today's Mass had a wonderful Christmas homily on Faith and expectation. I'm not keen on the new music format, previously they had visiting choirs each week and now they have the same four voices that do an odd Gospel mix, but it works. Church no longer involves Ian driving Indian roads and getting irate in the church parking lot, the kids ask questions as it goes along and we can pause and talk about the readings or what this or that part of the Mass is about. It's been a blessing to us. It's not perfect as there is no substitute for attending Mass in person, and though I look forward to going to a real church again, as do the kids, right now this option fits our family's needs. There's the belief that attending Mass isn't for what we get, it's for what we give, that we shouldn't look for comfort or contentment or ease in Mass, but rather accept the difficulties in attending at any cost with the understanding that it's all for God. I'm at fault for not having my children at that level of belief and there is no excuse but my own weakness in Faith.
The growing pains of a strong Faith. We'll all get through this, with God's help of course :)
Now we head into the 12 Days of Christmas. The 12 days are the days after Christmas until Epiphany, when the wise men follow the star and finally reach Bethlehem. Each day, the kids will have a small task to accomplish. I'll let you know how it goes, it should be fun. Just so you know, I like the Christmas season even more than the Advent season (you know, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day).
It's 1 a.m., we're watching Casino Royale, and my vision is fading with sleepiness, but there's one more thing to consider: Ian's off work all next week, the kids are still home. Anyone have any suggestions??
And with that.... Merry Christmas Everyone!