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Christmas 2017

The last Christmas we spent with our kids was in 2010.  Last year, 2016, we were in the USA for Christmas, so we did celebrate Christmas early with our kids, but it's just not the same as actually celebrating Christmas.  We do love our Christmases in Niger, spent mostly with friends at church, but there's sure nothing like spending the day with your kin.

Suz, Theo, Tera, Hezekiah, and "Heavenly" (a nickname for our foster grand-daughter) arrived Friday afternoon (they started their trip around 3 a.m.!).  They and the two little ones took naps in the afternoon while John and I played "Seven-Hand Rook" and Chinese Checkers with Heavenly.  We also watched a show on tv before everybody finally got up and then we all went for a walk before it got dark. Daniel and Kelly with Levi and Everett arrived late that night.

On Saturday some people slept in, but that's a bit hard to do when there are kids in the house.  I spent the morning making three pies for Christmas dinner and three quiches for our Christmas Eve potluck lunch.  After lunch, Suzanne and I went out to buy food for our Christmas Eve 'hors d'ouevre' supper and to get a surprise for John.  When we got home, I made 'tigadaga hoy' or groundnut stew if you'd like the English word for it.  It's a family favorite from Niger that everybody likes.  After the little ones were in bed, the adults and Heavenly played a game with SkipBo cards called "Golf".

Behind the scenes of all that I am describing, you need to add in such scenes as playing with babies and little children, changing babies, feeding babies, silencing crying babies, getting babies to nap (what do you expect with three babies in the house!), working on puzzles, playing games, and cooking and cleaning in the kitchen.

Theo and John taught Heavenly how to play Heart and Soul and Chopsticks, and she couldn't get enough of it!  She is taking viola lessons at school and doing well and has recently started picking out songs she knows on the piano.  So this gave her a good chance to quickly learn a song that sounded good.  Also, being a very social child, she just loved the time with Peepaw or Theo.  Also, please notice how she holds her hands.  My piano teacher was forevermore yelling at me to curve my fingers.  Heavenly just does it naturally.

Sunday was Christmas Eve Day, so we all went to church.  It was amazing that we got everybody bathed, clothed, and fed in time, especially since we only have one bathroom!  I didn't get any pictures of church, but it was fun to fill up a pew with our family.  The three babies went to the nursery, but there were still eight of us.

After church, we had a potluck lunch with our friends, the Andrukitises and Salaverrias, and another friend of Dan and Suz's from youth group days.  We say we helped rear each other's kids.  It's amazing to see them all, grown up with responsible jobs and most of them married and with kids.  Among us adults, there are now 13 grandkids!  We consider these two families our family-away-from-family.

I wanted to do something to celebrate John's accomplishment of getting his doctorate degree.  His research has been on the music of the Songhai people, so I ordered a cake in the shape of djembe.  The shape is a little off as the top is normally wider than the bottom, but it would also be really hard for a narrow bottom to hold up a wider top when it comes to cake.  I also made all these arrangements by email and phone.  Considering that we never got to discuss this in person and look at pictures together, I think the bakery did a great job.  (Creative Cakes & Desserts in Clarks Summit, if you're interested).

In the evening we all went to the candlelight service at church.  That was a real blessing, even though it was a bit chaotic with all the kids in the service.  I love having the room completely dark and then it gets brighter and brighter as we light the candles.  To me it is one of the most meaningful times of Christmas, seeing a picture of the Light of the World being passed from person to person, chasing away the darkness and bringing hope.  We also got to see some more people we haven't seen in years, so that was fun.  

When we got home, Suz and Kelly put together the hors d'oeuvres, I made sticky buns for Christmas breakfast, and the men chose and set up for a Christmas movie (more complicated than you'd think!).  We had our supper and watched Home Alone.  (Sometime in there the babies got put to bed.)

We were so happy to wake up Christmas morning to find that it had snowed in the night.  Having a white Christmas made an already wonderful Christmas a super fantastic Christmas.

When everybody got up (some people actually had to be woken up!), John led us in a Christmas carol and a short telling of the Christmas story.  Then we opened gifts.  Heavenly got the privilege of passing them out.  She gave us all a gift and then we opened that round of gifts.  Of course, the children had more gifts than the adults.  And Heavenly and Tera probably had the most gifts because they are at an age where they understand the fun of gifts.  The babies didn't really care that much.

I love the mess of Christmas mornings, but I sure can't let it stay messy for long!

While everybody played with their gifts, I started working on Christmas dinner.  I made a roasted ham with a home-made cranberry glaze, cranberry sauce, potatoes au gratin, roasted winter vegetables, and green beans.  We also had the three pies I had made Saturday.

Heavenly got these jelly beans with good beans mixed in with gross beans.  But a good one and a gross one will look alike and you won't know until you taste it what it is.  So there might be, for example, a coconut and a sour milk that look exactly alike, but one is disgusting.  This is her spitting out the gross one into a plastic bag, with much drama, of course.  Suz and I eventually made her, Theo, and Daniel quit before somebody actually barfed.

That afternoon we all played Monopoly and that evening after the kids were in bed, the adults and Heavenly played Ticket to Ride.

Tuesday we all got up bright and early and once more we managed to get us all cleaned, dressed, and fed and in the cars by 8:00 a.m.  We were off to Great-Meemaw's house in Connecticut!  She had such a great time with her great-grandbabies.  She had never met Tera or Kiah or Heavenly and the last time she had seen the twins, they were only two months old.  She showed us around her retirement center.  She wanted her friends to see her great-grandbabies and these two enjoyed taking a ride on great-grandma's walker.

From there we went over to John's brother's house.  All of their sons and their families were there, except one.  It was a fun, but crazy afternoon with 10 kids, and only one of them over four!  Suz and Theo had to get back to Ohio, so they left from there.  Dan and Kelly spent the night.  John and I took mom home and then headed back to Pennsylvania.

Dan and Kelly stayed with us the rest of the week.  We watched some movies, but it was pretty low-key since Daniel wasn't feeling great.  We did go over to the Salaverria's house.  Their daughter and her husband and four kiddos are preparing to go to the Zambia as missionaries and wanted to pick our brains about life in Africa.  And then Friday night we were at the Andrukiteses for supper.  

We tried to get Levi and Everett's eight-month pictures while they were here, too.  I'm tellin' ya, baby photographers work hard to get good pictures!

The only thing that would have made Christmas better would be if my parents could have been there.  But this Christmas will definitely be filed away under "Best Christmases".