Somehow in the two and a half years we've been a parents (yes, it really only has been two and a half years!), we've managed to bypass a family Christmas every time. The first year, the cards just weren't in our favor. I was pregnant, we all got sick, and we had a group of college kids in town visiting. Between runny noses and busy schedules, we barely even put up the tree. Last year, we were on an airplane returning from Texas to China. Because of our visa situation, we had to get back in country as soon as possible, and Christmas Eve happened to be the optimal day. So amidst bags to pack (and then unpack) and more colds, my attempts were again feeble.
But this year! This year was different. There were decorations. There was turkey. There were parties. There was family. There were presents. There were little boys who are starting to grasp the significance of Christmas beyond all those things I just listed. So I'll give you a quick rundown of all the Christmas fun we had.
Albeit the most ghetto Christmas tree of all time, we put up our tree. There's just not much you can do to make it any better. So I put cute little boys in front of it to distract from its bare branches.
My friend Amy specializes in baked yumminess, so come Christmas you can usually expect a gift along those lines. But she knows me well enough to know that sweet treats just don't really whelm me. So instead she baked and constructed gingerbread houses for us to decorate. A fun experience with my kids, an opportunity to get some priceless photos...yup, that wins more points in my book than a batch of cookies.
Some little decorators just wanted to eat the candy though.
Make that two little decorators. Daddy finished up the second house while Sam finished off the M&Ms.
At least we had one kid who was committed to the task.
We spread out the gifts over a few weeks, so they wouldn't be bombarded with stuff all at once. It definitely came in handy to bring a few when had to spend the morning at the visa office.
I found a really excellent set of dinosaurs at a local market, which will come in handy for the project we have coming up in January (you'll see more of that on the blog!). Shopping in local markets is kind of like a treasure hunt. There is so much chintzy junk that when you find something quality, you feel obligated to buy it just because you found it. The dinosaurs definitely fell in that category.
On Christmas Eve, the other Peeks trained into town. Christmas had a less than stellar start to it when Micah got pummeled in the head by a Duplo. Enter neon green bandaid in all our Christmas pics. It's a lively time when all the cousins are together.
Aunt Sarah brought homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast. Sometimes I'm pretty convinced that Kevin got the short end of the stick when it came to finding a wife.
Stockings were never a tradition in my family growing up, but it was a big deal in Kevin's. So I figured I'd better figure out how to jump on the stocking bandwagon. Especially since Kevin's mom has cross stitched beautiful stockings for all the grandkids. It ended up not being difficult at all to fill 'em up!
A yearly tradition we did have in my family was the Christmas Legos. All other presents would go to the wayside as we sat down to construct that year's newest set. I introduced Micah to his first set, and Uncle Chris was kind enough to sit down and help him put it together.
Around 11 AM, we let all the kids open the presents under the tree. I was actually quite surprised that they let us put it off until that late, but they were really so content to play with each other and the stocking stuffers.
Speaking of amazing market finds, I found a Little People nativity set for Jonathan & Nora. Definitely couldn't pass that up!
I was only a little excited about giving these finger puppets I made for Nora.
One thing I was surprised by when it came to Christmas shopping was how fun it was to buy things for my kids. We usually consider ourselves a pretty frugal family, but between local markets and the rising availability of online shopping options, there was no shortage of things that I knew my kids would love. Plus, when you have the cutest niece & nephew ever, it's hard not to spoil them too.
They got a few special things from others as well. Aunt Sarah bought Hudson a Band in a Box. Before you judge her for being the cruelest sister-in-law ever, know that I asked for it. Also know that it has a special place on top of the shelf for special occasions only. Because what little boy doesn't like jamming out on a harmonica? With a little help from his brother of course.
A sweet family in Mississippi that we met in Thailand last year bent over backwards to get this little Bible for Hudson. It's by the same author that wrote one of the kid's Bibles that we read to the older boys but has sweet rhymes & poems for a younger audience. Plus, some of my favorite artists put the songs to music, so I can sing to him as well as read. He's just getting to the age where he'll sit to read, and it's been fun to introduce him to our library.
While I got Christmas dinner started, Sarah held superhero story hour. In attendance were Superman, Batman, and a fairy. (Not a superhero, I know, but close enough.)
A lovely, import turkey graced our table that evening. It might be expensive, but since we can only buy turkey once a year here, it's so worth it. And it's the gift that keeps on giving--I'm still eating turkey sandwiches and have more in the freezer!
One of our favorite things about being here during this time of year is getting to explain the real meaning of Christmas. More than relaxing, more than gifts, more than family--it's Jesus. We "performed" a Christmas skit at Micah's preschool's performance. I say we "performed" in jest because it was more or less a complete disaster. Try putting three kids who have not gone to bed on time in three days on stage and expect them to recite lines that you've only practiced once. Throw another little Chinese girl up there who keeps trying to grab the microphone out of your hand and then add her toddler baby cousin for extra pizazz. Upon finishing our Oscar winning performance, we were interviewed on TV. Again, try controlling your three tired children during an impromptu interview in another language. At one point, two of our kids had run away and I had know idea where they were. Surprisingly, we all made it home that night.
Only on the coattails of those kinds of evenings could I say that the parties we hosted at our house were less crazy. Parties that turn a bedroom into a coatroom like this:
We had around 20 people at one party and over 40 at another. Normally when people come to your house, they either take off their shoes or wear shoe covers so that outside street grime doesn't get tracked in. I ran out of shoe covers one night so I just flung open the door and let the shoes roll in, grime and all. What else could I have done? (Besides mop after it was over.)
Our kids love having people in our house. Especially Micah. And especially when Chinese friends usually give them candy. Now that all the Christmas bustle is passed, he is very disappointed when I tell him that we don't have any friends coming over that day.
But the kids aren't the only ones that enjoy relationships with local friends. We feel so privileged to live here and get to know so many sweet people.
Merry Christmas to all and happy New Year!