Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve we celebrated with Casa G.
We had a fabulous time.
It is such an incredible blessing getting to work with these guys.
We love them.

Being in Ecuador we, of course, left later than we were supposed to...
driving 45 minutes or so to the Douce's nephew's house
(They, the Cherris, came here a few months before we did, and he works for a US company. They come to Casa G. most Sundays, hang out, help cook and are a regular part of the ministry without the official title. They have been a real blessing).

Being in Ecuador we, of course, had two guys ride in the back of an open trailer the whole drive, even with all of the loco drivers on the road.

Yes, they really did ride like that the whole way, behind Phil's truck....

I did a lot of praying on that drive.

We purchased some great big old (well, new, actually) wooly knit stockings and the Cherris filled them with goodies for the guys.
(side note: these are really great stockings.... I'm thinking of going back to the lady who sells them and ask her if they could make a pile of them in more Christmasy colors.... then take them back to North America and sell them there. Maybe make a little money for Casa G. Any takers?).

We did a repeat of our Thanksgiving menu, since it was such a hit and so very deliciously yummy.
Eric and the boys were loading up.

One of the guy's sister, Patricia, comes regularly on Sundays as well, and also came for the party.
It is amazing to see the influence that the ministry has on not only the guys, but their families as well.

This is Maddy, Kai (the Cherri's son), Patricia and Desi (the one from Holland who came to work with the girls... and also with Casa G.)

I'm not sure if Maddy and Alejandro look nice with the flowers or more like floral monkeys....

We introduced the guys to the unwrapping game - don't know if it has a name - where you wrap up a gift.... and wrap and wrap and wrap it (and wrap, and wrap, and wrap), then the person who gets to unwrap has to first put on a hat, scarf and mitten before they can unwrap. Then everyone else in the circle rolls a dice and whomever rolls a 6 gets to then put on the stuff and start unwrapping.... until the next person who rolls a six. This keeps happening until someone gets down to the gift and they get to keep it.
It is a super fun game
(like high school but funner ..... Legally Blonde quote).

It took a minute or two for them to catch on, but then they went crazy.
It was hilarious watching them go nuts trying to grab the stuff off the other guy so they could start unwrapping.

Then we had our gift exchange.

Cade bought a gift for Alejandro.

Maddy had Juan Miguel.

Lucy had Miguel.
And Mia had Claire - one of the Cherri kids.

Mia got a gift from Jesús (yes, she got the gift of salvation from the other Jesús as well!).
Jesús was so funny when he picked Mia's name.
He looked petrified!!
He had no clue what to get for her and even when we told him what to get, you'd have thought we asked him to go and have his toe nails removed!

Obviously, he did a good job.
She was very happy with her stuff animal.

Cade got a hat (toque) and wrist protectors from the Douces.
He loves them!!
And of course look adorable in them!

And he couldn't have been more thrilled with a nerf gun.
Those never get old!

After dessert, snack bags*, laughing and talking, we were plenty ready to head back home and off to sleep.
It was an exhaustingly wonderful day.

*They hand out snack bags/treat bags here called "Navidades". They generally contain animal crackers/cookies and a few chocolates.
We didn't know this until it was too late, but kids come around to people's door, ring your buzzer and ask for a gift. Generally people will then hand out these Navidades. It reminds me of trick-or-treating at halloween. We had so many people ringing our buzzer on the 24th and asking for gifts. I didn't get it until that night when it was all explained to me! Next year we will be prepared.... although apparently once people find out that you have Navidades, they come by the droves..... So if you have them, you better have a LOT!

Christmas crafting with Casa G.

I had decided a while ago that I wanted to make something with the Casa G. guys so that they would have a gift to give their families if they went to visit for Christmas.
So we had a craft afternoon on the the 23rd.
We made glittery hurricanes like this.

First, naturally, we needed to take pictures.
We are always taking pictures of the boys.
They love love love having their pictures taken and then have me post them on Facebook.

They liked the snowman cut-out as well!

Then on to crafting.
Most of them really got into it and did a great job.

They love to make things and I think really enjoyed the idea of making something to give.
Alejandro and stars.

There was glitter absolutely everywhere.
Jesús and angels.

Lizandro and Christmas trees.

Did I mention that there was glitter everywhere?

Some of the final products.
And Lucy giving her final okay after her inspection....

We also had the guys choose two items from the stuff left over from the craft sale - mainly headbands and earrings - that they could give to sisters, mothers, aunts or whomever.
They seemed pretty excited and thankful for that too.

I foresee more craft days in the future.
You'd never think these tough, cool guys - guys who used to live on the streets, who used to be drug addicts, thieves, abusers, you-name-it, would get into glitter and candles and glass.
But they loved it.

And did I mention that there was glitter everywhere?

birthday cinnamon buns

I feel victorious.
I conquered the yeast dough at 9500 ft above sea level.

I made the dough yesterday and finished them off this morning.
Slathered in butter, sugar and cinnamon.
They rose perfectly.
And were absolutely delicious.
I didn't even find a special recipe - I just adapted my own.
Yes, okay, I am bragging.
I'm just so very proud and excited, thrilled and delighted.
And I want another one right now!

it happened

It happened.
It really did.
She did it to me..... she turned 13.

I'm none too happy about it, but I guess I'll have to deal.

For birthday breakfast she wanted cinnamon buns.
That means yeast.
And they turned out!!!
And they were yummy even.
I'll have to blog about that later.

We went to church, and I'm so glad - it was a message I needed to hear.
After church it was present time.
The girl wanted a hair straightener.
Eric thinks her hair is straight enough.
But she got one anyway
because her mommy loves her.

Then she got "The Book".
Well, she got the draft of the book.
There are still a few letters and pictures that I am waiting for, so I couldn't do the real book.
I just printed off all the letters that everyone sent and put them together.
It is so amazing what everyone wrote to challenge and encourage her.
I was so touched.
And I think she was as well.

We splurged and went to T.G.I.Friday's.
Yes, there is one here in Quito
and it was GOOD.
Extremely pricey
but GOOD.
My littlest (okay - well, youngest, but she ain't the littlest!) and my biggest.
We took the Casa G. boys, who didn't/couldn't go "home", along.
(It was an eye-opening experience having them along. Two of them were very overwhelmed by it all - how expensive the food was, they type of food, the amount of selection, the environment.... They were very cautious not to get anything too expensive. After lunch we debated whether it was good or not having them along. More than anything it made me realize how extravagant our living can be and how paying for one meal with 9 people is more than money than some of these boys have ever really seen.
This could be a whole long blog in itself, so I better stop now, before I really get started.)

Moving on...
Of course there was singing - even in English (kind of - as Maddy said!) and even the regular complimentary birthday cake.
Maddy had the best seat in the restaurant.

We were going to go to the TeleferiQo - a gondola thingy that is supposed to be pretty cool.
But we were all so pooped - even Maddy said that we shouldn't bother going.

By the time dinner came, none of us were hungry yet - so we went straight for the cake.
But first...
I gave the three kids each a can of spray string to attack the birthday girl.
The fourth kid, pictured below, got a hold of one of the cans too.
Maddy was able to make herself a lovely birthday bonnet with all the string.
Yes, okay - only eight candles.
Once again, I stink as a mother.
The birthday girl.
My teenager.

I am blessed.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

a teenager

My baby.
Almost thirteen years ago (minus about 3.5 hours) my labor started to bring this girl into the world:
And my world was never the same again.
I remember the day I gave birth to her I thought
"I will never not be a mom again"

I just finished tucking in my 12-year-old for the last time.

Tomorrow she is 13.
A teenager.

She's my baby still, you know?

I tucked her in,
prayed with her,
and started bawling like a little baby.

I can hardly write this as I can hardly see the screen through the tears.
(at least my fingers know where to go)

People tell you that all the time:
"the years go so fast"
"cherish them while they are young"
"they'll be grown up in no time"
And they are usually telling you that when you child is kicking and screaming because you stopped them from pulling off everything on the shelves in the store.... and all you wanted to do was quickly run in and grab a few things.
You (okay, me) almost want to punch those people in the nose when they say it, 'cause you're (okay, I'm) thinking - "I can hardly wait until they do grow up!!!"

Even then, I knew they were right.
And often I worked hard at cherishing the young years.
And I still do with the younger ones.
But it really does go too fast.
(okay, okay, I know she isn't moving out of the house and getting married... but it is still a teeny bit traumatic for me, alright!?)

She'll never be a child again.

So yes, I am grieving.
Besides, I'm too young to be the mother of a teenager!

Christmas evening

The kids are alseep.
I'm blogging.
Eric is playing Wii.

I thought we got Wii for the kids....
I may now be a Wii widow.

This afternoon consisted of playing Wii - until the power went out (again....
we were Santa in the dark last night... stuffing stockings, wrapping presents, preparing food and washing dishes - by candlelight).
Then we worked on a puzzle.
And then played Wii again.
And worked on yo-yo skills.
For lunch we went for Eric's traditional Christmas Eve meal from childhood:
Bratwurst and Potato Salad
(potato salad was a lot more like egg salad with some potatoes thrown in....
all in the family like egg, few like potatoes)
Glamorous Christmas meal, I know...
Notice the fine china, silverware and crystal?
And check out the serving platter for dessert....
We had chocolate log roll - taken from my childhood family tradition.
To me, it would not seem like Christmas if we did not have chocolate log roll.
Eric accidently put his pepsi bottle on top of it so it got a little smushed.
It wasn't the best ever....
a little tough this year instead of light and spongy.
I blame the altitude once again.

At 4:00 we went over to some friends for dinner.
They had a whole whack of people over.

We were just about to leave when José Luis, William and Ricardo showed up.
(We had sort of debated inviting them to go with us, but felt a little shy about it - after all, it wasn't our party.)
We called our friends and they said - with a little hesitation about possibly not having enough food - they should definitely come too.
So we packed up our leftover turkey and stuffing from last night, threw in a bunch of leftover sausage from this afternoon, and hauled the boys along.
Apparently we also made them carry everything, too!

It was an absolutely beautiful day.
It would have been considered nice normally, but since it has been so stinking cold and raining for so long, the blue sky and warm air was a very welcome Christmas surprise.

The kids got to enjoy the weather by playing on the trampoline!
Cade was, of course, doing flips all over the place.
Yep, it looks like he is going to snap his neck...
but he didn't
(otherwise I most assuredly would not be sitting here writing this).

There was one issue with the trampoline....
Nice feet, Lucy!

It has been a great Christmas.

A Merry Huggy Christmas!

The kids are busy, nicely taking turns playing their new Wii (thanks Mommy and Daddy.... purchased in California in June....snuggled through three countries and hid for six months) Mario Karts (thanks Uncle Brent and Auntie Glenda).
Soon they are going to try out Mouse Trap from Family Game Night (thanks Uncle Chris and Auntie Val).

I just finished making potato salad (Eric's tradition) and we have, for the second year in a row moved meat fondue (my family's tradition) to Maddy's birthday - tomorrow.
I think that just might be our new tradition.

I listened to Amy Grant's Christmas Album (my personal fav.) while peeling eggs.

Sleigh Ride came on and I started laughing, thinking of my sister Kim.
I always think of her when I sing or hear that song.
"... as we pass around the vodka and the puuump-kin pie"
I don't remember why we started singing it that way, but it makes me laugh every time.

Then Heirlooms came on and I thought of my sister Jann.
We sang that song at church and family gathers I don't know how many times.
Then I started crying.
Not just tearing up - but crying.

Miss my family.
I know I am with my family, but I miss my family I grew up with type family.

In spite of my current sadness and missing-them-ness, it has been a wonderful Christmas so far.
Like never before I have been experiencing what it really means to be the mom and cook until you drop to try to make Christmas special for everyone.
And I love it.
I'm exhausted, but I love it.

Now, however, I am blogging, and relaxing and enjoying watching my wonderful kids and husband play their little hearts out.

Opening gifts was a hug-fest.
Love that.

Whether it be with a new stuffed animal....

or a sibling......
everyone was so grateful and sweet.
Lucy was a little put out that her only gift from us was a family gift of Wii....
that is, until she started bowling.
Then she rapidly changed her mind.
She's a good little bowler!

The kids, of course, discovered their stockings
(notice Cade's "coal"?)
and gifts from Santa
before we (Eric and I) were awake.
But we heard the enthusiasm.

Santa hung their new boogie boards (perfect timing for our beach trip on Monday) from the curtain rod.
That Santa's one crazy dude.

Their stockings contained:
glow-in-the-dark yo-yos
silly putty
a beach/sand shovel
lip gloss for the girls, plastic animals for Cade
a notebook
a personal jar of Nutella.... yup, one for each child!

Even not being with our family and friends
even with being in a country where the prices are ridiculously expensive
even with out the snow
Christmas is wonderful.

Perhaps that is because no matter who we are with
where we are
how much or little money we have
what the climate is
Christ is the Same.

He still came.
He still saved us.
He is still with us.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

naughty boys get "coal"

First, my star for my tree.
I get my own tree.
The problem is that I haven't been able to make too many decorations for my tree.

This is what I was talking about - how Cade's teacher taught me how to make these star-snowflaky things.
Pretty hey?

We just made them with white paper, but I had some beautiful shimmery bronze paper, so I made it into my star.
But much more importantly:
While eating dinner tonight, I started singing
"You'd better watch out,
you'd better not cry,
you'd better not pout,
I'm telling you why.....
He sees you when you're sleeping,
he knows when you're awake,
he knows if you've been BAD or GOOD,
so be good for goodness sake....."
(emphasis was place in the actual singing of the song where the emphasis is placed in the typing of the lyrics, if you know what I mean)

I've warned the kids a few times in the last little while about the possibility of coal in their stockings.
It could happen.
You never can tell.

So when things started to go unfavorably at meal time, this little ditty served as a reminder.
Immediately after dinner this is what happened!!
Cade volunteered to wash dishes.
In fact he got frustrated when I tried to pre-rinse some dishes for him.

Nothing like waiting until the last minute.

Hilarious kid.
But I'll take it.
He did a great job, too.

After Cade and Lucy were in bed, Eric, Maddy, Mia and I were talking and somehow coal in the stockings was brought up.
I had thought I would make some fake lumps of coal and put them in Cade's stocking, but I've just plum run out of time.
Eric said, "We should just shove Cole (our neighbor from upstairs) in his stocking!"
"Or a picture of Cole!", I said.

All four of us looked at each other, grinning, thinking the same thing.
We grabbed the camera,
ran upstairs
and took this:
This picture of Cole will be put in Cade's stocking.

And the great thing is, although we ask Cole to make a grumpy face, it wasn't a struggle for him.
He looks like that a lot.
He's a hilarious kid, too.

Tomorrow (hopefully) I will blog about today.
It was a great day (other than shopping and traffic!).

Now I will go to bed and hopefully not dream about the fumes from all the chopped onions (for stuffing) and roasted garlic in the fridge contaminating my yummy chocolate mousse pie.

Nobody wants onion and garlic enhanced chocolate pie for Christmas.
No one.