Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas 2012

On Christmas Eve, I wrote about how I was feeling ambivalent about Christmas because it was the first year we wouldn't be gathering with my extended family. It's been a challenging year in many ways with the loss of both of our aunts (Barbara and Gena), our pastor and beloved friend has been battling breast cancer, Mike's sister has been having marital problems, my mom and our dear friend Annette have both faced more health problems, and then I've had my own aggressive ear tumor and "leaky brain" to deal with. Many of us are looking forward to 2013! At the same time, I continue to be incredibly thankful for all of the blessings in my life and hopeful that all the health problems will resolve. 

In spite of my ambivalence about creating our new Christmas traditions and my concern about how I would hold up through all the festivities, Christmas turned out to be wonderful. We went to our own church for Christmas Eve services, the first time ever (because our family dinner always occurred at the same time), and it was so inspirational and moving! We have a gifted jazz pianist at our church (Jonathan Swanson), and he brought in a friend of his (Andre St. James) to play string bass. Our friend Brad played drums, and Coleen McMahon, who is a singer based out of southern California, led the singing and played piano for the Catholic Eucharist. So the music was fantastic. 

My nephews on Christmas Eve
My boys
Many people were surprised to see me (and a few people lectured me, too!), and the highlight of the service was seeing our pastor, who had her last day of radiation that morning. During the Lutheran communion service (led by another pastor who has graciously filled in for us often over the year), I got to sit next to our pastor, Laurie, which I told her was wonderful and weird! (Usually she is up offering communion.) I found the entire evening to be highly meaningful, and now it's hard to imagine going anywhere else on Christmas Eve. It also made me realize how much I value the community at our church--I feel closer to many of my friends there than I do to my extended I felt totally okay about substituting the service for the extended family Christmas. After church we went to my parents' house for an Indian stew. 

Family photo

The cousins! (The height difference looks like Gandalf with the hobbits!)

With my honey on Christmas Eve
Kieran and Nicholas ready to open up stockings and Santa gifts
I was feeling really proud of myself because I had all my gift buying, making, and wrapping done before Christmas Eve and didn't have to stay up late getting ready. In fact, I seem to have won the gift procurement race this year--I beat my mom, sister, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law, many of whom were shopping up until the last minute. I felt that I had to get all of my Christmas gifts done before my surgery on December 12. The only people who were ahead of us were Mike's brother and sister-in-law in Australia--they are incredibly organized. At any rate, I think our lack of harriedness getting the gifts ready helped us to enjoy the holidays more.

The next morning, our kids slept in! Amazing and unheard of! (They did owe us one after they fought in the minivan on the way home from my parents' house on Christmas Eve, which did not help my stress levels!) We had to wake up Chris at 8:30 a.m. to join us for opening of the Santa presents.

Doing the Christmas morning King Tut dance

Santa brought Nicholas a Hogwarts castle

Chris and Nicholas starting to put together the castle (brother bonding!)
We went to my parents' house around 11:30, but we didn't start opening gifts until 1:30 or 2:00. No one seemed to be in any hurry...they were all having fun with their Santa gifts.
Ryan helped Nicholas finish the Hogwarts castle

My brother and his girlfriend Trisha (modeling her new hat and scarf)
Opening up his "Book of Mormon" ticket
Chris had a musical Christmas--he received a cowbell for his drum set, a large stack of books about various bands (Springsteen, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Coldplay, U2, The Killers, and a DJ book), nice headphones, and a ticket to see "The Book of Mormon" with us.

Kieran had a theatrical Christmas--he received books of scripts, several DVDs (Oliver, West Side Story, PBS series on Broadway), and three Wii dance and karaoke addition to a lap harp (like a zither).

Nicholas--our toy lover--received mostly toys...Lego, Indiana Jones toys and books, a Lego minifigures sticker book, Batman toys, and an Irish tin whistle.
With some of his DVDs and games
My brother made handcrafted bows and arrows for the five young boys...the bows are made out of bamboo, and the arrows have Nerf tips on the end to keep them safe. Such a COOL uncle!!! The boys all loved them, of course!!! And I think about how our parenting views have changed...when we were new parents, we never would have imagined we'd allow our boys to have bows and arrows...or swords...or anything like that. We still draw the lines at guns. Somehow bows and arrows and swords seem a little less violent. Ha!
The boys and their bows
As I was recuperating, I made jewelry while I was watching DVDs...even while recovering from surgery I was multitasking. I just can't help it. I hadn't done any beading for years, but I made four bracelets and seven pairs of earrings.

Bracelet I made for my mom

Bracelet for Trisha

Bracelet for Nadine

Earrings for Nadine
I received many wonderful "experience" gifts this year...a night at the Hotel Modera (downtown Portland) from Mike--scheduled for late January...a gift certificate from my parents to the Columbia Gorge Hotel...and a gift certificate to Goldstar (which often has theater events on sale). I also got some lovely jewelry and a Pink CD. I gave Mike some Shakespeare books and tickets to the Keane concert.

After we played "Spin the Bottle" and opened all our gifts, we ate a turkey dinner and played some games.
Trying out the new "Life" game we gave our nephews
 (after we spent 1/2 hour putting it together!)

My partner Nicholas
All in all, we had a great Christmas...and I didn't feel sad at all about having different traditions this year. I felt tired at the end of each day, but it was manageable. On Boxing Day (today), I went shopping with my mom and of the presents I gave them was a gift certificate to my favorite resale shop, Katelyn's Closet.

It's hit or miss with resale shops, but we all found some good stuff today! Then we went into Multnomah Village and continued our shopping. Nadine and I both tried on some hats at Topanien (one of my favorite stores, which had a great after-Christmas sale today). Neither of us are hat people. I bought a hat for after my surgery in case my hair didn't cover my scar adequately enough, and I took advantage of it in the hospital when I couldn't wash my hair for almost a week. But for the most part, I do not like the way I look in hats, at all. But we each found a hat we liked, and we talked each other into buying them!

My new hat--with beaded flower on it
My beautiful sister in her hat
With my sis
After shopping we went to Marco's for dinner. Thanks to our great husbands for watching the boys...who had fun with their bows and arrows! Everyone was worried about whether I would be up for shopping, but I told them that being out and about with two of my favorite women would be way less tiring than being around all the loud boys!! My dad also fixed our hot water heater while all this was going on--he is AMAZING!!! By the time we were halfway through dinner, I was starting to feel tired though.

I am definitely getting better, but I still have a ways to go. I get worn out when I'm around a lot of people for awhile, and I'm sensitive to noise. I'm starting to taper off on my pain meds today..have been taking 15 mg of oxycodone every 5 hours, and am cutting back to 10 mg over the next few days. So far it's going okay. I see my neurosurgeon on Friday for my first post-op checkup, and I'll see my ear surgeon in early January. I'm so glad I've felt well enough to enjoy Christmas!
With my wonderful mom, who did not buy a hat!

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