Saturday, December 26, 2015

The best gifts don't come under the tree.

Who doesn't love the Grinch once his heart grows 3 sizes?

For kids, it's often all about the presents and for adults it mostly about the people, and as I glance into the future I see the way our holidays will swing back and forth over the coming decade as we search for that perfect mix of presents, people, and memories.

This year the tree was very kind to our crew. I've heard from Katherine that her gifts were well-received, and our tree (though it appeared to be "sparser" than "normal" - seriously, I don't even want to think about how many packages, boxes, or bags were under there) held surprises for all.  There's always a favorite gift, though the term favorite is a bit harsh, and this year's was the PS4 for the boys. Rebecca's were a gift card to Sephora and a portable iPhone photo printer. Mine is a brand new camera. My little Canon started acting up while we were in Moscow and now I'm the proud owner of a Sony (never had a Sony before), Alpha a6000.  It has so many buttons!! So many instructions to read! But I'm hoping that by having a middle camera, better than my pocket Canon and way lighter than my Canon DSLR with its 40lb* telephoto lens (which I LOVE but simply cannot carry on a regular basis), I'll actually become a better photographer. I know it's all in the angles and lighting and such, but I'm so excited!

*estimated weight after carrying for more than 10 minutes

A very close second for me is the Norpro Pasta Machine, the Walking Dead inspired gift from Jonathon.  He kept saying "It's Walking Dead themed" and I couldn't for the life of me think of what it was.  The others suggested such helpful things as perhaps a severed head, but as soon as I saw it, I got it.It makes lasagna, tagliolini, and fettucini, so if you have a great pasta recipe, please pass it on. He's a great kid with a great sense of humor, shaggy hair and all.  

Yes, we're Walking Dead fans.  My boys have the idea they'd be part of the survivors.  I know for a fact I'd be one of the first zombiefied.  It's OK, I'm cool with that.

Thinking back to the summer, the other gift that really surprised me was seasons 1-3 of The Big Bang Theory from Ian.  Apparently there was a marathon of Big Bang Theory on BBCsomething when we were on R&R in the UK. Any time the TV went on, there it was.  I haven't watched a TV comedy in so many years, I can't actually recall the last one.  They just aren't funny.  But with nothing else on except cooking shows, we surprised ourselves laughing at BBT over and over again.  Ian ordered all the seasons from and they never made it to post, so reordered from amazon and now we have the first seasons.  Totally psyched for this, really!

There were lots of fuzzy gifts, especially from my parents.

It's actually funny how the kids look forward to socks and underwear and PJs and other necessities now.  Nicholas received a stack of tshirts, the one thing he gleefully commented on at the end of the unwrapping. Becca received a stack of warm jackets and pullovers and PJs and announced this year a Fuzzy Christmas. Jonathon opened a Lootcrate of some game with a Vault 111 theme (please don't ask me) and wore the hoodie jacket the rest of the day.

Don't have a tree skirt?  Use a Keffiyeh.

I think I enjoy Christmas more now with my kids older than I ever did when they were tiny. They appreciate things more now. They don't insist on staying up until midnight or waking up at the crack of dawn, but prefer to take their time and relish the days. We spent Christmas Eve watching Star Wars episode 2, playing 4-player Diablo III, building the gingerbread house sent by grandma and grandpa, then watching Amadeus - a fitting tribute to our time in Vienna. Christmas morning was crepe-making time for brunch. 

Nicholas's side

Ian added festive light sabers
Presents were opened one at a time, thanks said, oohs and aahs issued.  After presents, while the mess remained in the living room because we all know that once you clean up the holiday feels finished, Becca and I played LEGO Star Wars and watched "Elf" while the boys set up the PS4 and tried it out. A ribe eye steak dinner and a Buche de Noel (made entirely by Rebecca from my mom's handwritten recipe) completed our holiday food. Becca and I jumped into playing LEGO Lord of the Rings (what can I say, we really enjoy our ancient LEGO games).  Today we'll put together some LEGO Dimensions and give it a whirl.  Ian also bought the Dr. Who Expansion for LEGO Dimensions, so... if you're looking for me, you know where I'll be.

It's been a great holiday. My kids gave me the best gift they could over the past week and that was the gift of their time (not that they had too much choice in that while in Vienna) and their cooperation with each other and with us. Were there moments that one family member (sometimes me) wanted to strangle another family member? Absolutely.  But they weren't the norm and they weren't constant, and everyone put their best foot forward and made the choice to let (most of) the annoyances go. There are times when our kids make us downright angry, and we do the same for them, but this holiday, those moments didn't overshadow large swathes of time. There's no price tag for that. 

My family is a wonderful family. I'm blessed and I know it. Not just now when I'm happy and caffeinated and sitting quietly in the kitchen conveniently forgetful of all the times I want to run away screaming from the insanity that is a house with 3 teens and a husband with quirks of his own (who CRUNCHES that loud on everything??), but even when those times happen. When my kids stand up for themselves, even against me, I seethe and yell and eventually reach the conclusion that while I may hate it at the time, they are really interesting and strong individuals with minds of their own that will generally serve them well. It's a lovely thing to behold.

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Find your blessings and hold on to them tight.  They'll last far longer than anything wrapped with ribbons and bows, and are more valuable than the stars.

Hugs and love from all of us here in Jordan.