Sunday, December 29, 2013

Making Merry

I’m typing from somewhere over the southwest, our plane soaring over an ocean of smooth cloud covering and into an endless blue sky. We’re heading north from our balmy, sunny coast to a freezing winter wonderland for a second round of holiday festivities with family and friends. It has been several years since we’ve been to Canada at this time of year, and we’re looking forward to it.

Christmas Eve Day I took out my camera and took a few shots from around the house..

Olivia helped quite a bit with the decorations again this year. She put together these jars of cranberries with tea lights, and arranged some pine branches and cones on the outside lanterns.

She also helped me by labeling our platters and serving dishes in advance and setting them out on the table; it helped me stay organized during those last minutes when everything is coming out of the over and off the stove.

Christmas time was really sweet this year. It was simple in all the best ways, but festive and warm nonetheless. Christmas Eve day was spent cooking and baking in preparation for Christmas day. There were last minute gifts to wrap, additional decorations to create, and opportunity for special times with Jon and the kids in the midst of the hustle and bustle. In the evening we went to our church’s Christmas Eve candlelight service, a special time of remembering Christ’s love for us in His humility (also of vigilant watchfulness over boys holding melting wax and flame). I sincerely appreciated being with our “spiritual family” that night, then heading home to be with Jon and the kids for the rest of the evening. All week our kids were looking forward to it-- we had a simple dinner and snuggled in to watch some never-before-seen home videos recently pulled out of a box in the garage. We laughed at some scenes till our sides hurt, sometimes rewinding the tape for a second or third look. It was fun to see the cuteness and quirkiness of our kids as babies and toddlers, and fun to see their much younger looking parents. From the videos, life seemed so much simpler back then, but from my memory, those were some exhausting days.

Christmas morning always starts nice and early, and I think it’s the only morning of the year I don’t feel so groggy. There is excitement, there is thankfulness, and there is closeness. After the gifts are unwrapped, we had a leisurely breakfast together, one big enough to last us till Christmas dinner.

Apple cider 

Jack's new Christmas smile

The boys listening to Jon speak about the greatest gift-- salvation and the gift of faith-- before the gifts were exchanged.

I love how my kids label their gifts...

Andrew made me a tiny sail boat

Jon grabbed my camera while I opened the kids' presents to me.

Christmas morning favorite: French Toast Bread Pudding, served with warm maple syrup and Olivia's raspberry sauce.

The rest of the day involved kids playing and helping me prepare for company and dinner. Olivia helped shape the dinner rolls, Michael filled tea lights that had burnt down the night before, Andrew vacuumed and dried dishes, Jack made sure his things were picked up... By mid-afternoon Jon prepared the fireplaces with kindling and wood, then helped me roll my turkey roulade and combined the ingredients in advance for the gravy while I layered chocolate cake and peppermint whipped cream. This scene, this picture of everyone pitching in, is one I hope my kids remember fondly, one I hope will motivate them later in life. Eventually I ran up the stairs and took twenty minutes to change and freshen up just as our first guest arrived.

The evening was full. We had invited others like us, people who would have otherwise been on their own, and we recreated “family” that spanned several generations. Relationships were made and deepened, encouragement was given and received, and I remembered our Father in Heaven who made us into a family through his adoption. I am sure this Christmas will stand out in my memory.


I will remember this December with one more event: Drama with the Chickens. I’ve mentioned before how much my kids love our chickens (everyone except Michael, who is more neutral). Olivia loves “the sisters” and doted on them daily, earning their affection and loyalty. She simply whistles and they all come running to her, then follow her through the yard in a comical line. Jacob would talk to his girl, Blackie, like she understood. Andrew would cuddle Ginger like a little boy with a favorite stuffed animal.

Jon and I, on the other hand, love our kids so we tolerated the chickens. They seemed to be a constant issue, either by their noise or their messes.

Then one night early in the month, we were awakened by a sudden force of activity, then horrible squawks of terrified chickens. Jon rushed down and out, his pellet gun in hand, and discovered a large possum in the coop. Ginger was found laying still under her mass of golden feathers, the other three were scattered in different directions. The possum took three shots to the head before it stopped lunging at Jon, and when we saw it the next day we agreed it was more like a ROUS (Rodent of Unusual Size from the movie Princess Bride). Ginger was was badly wounded with a deep gash to the neck. Jon put her in a box in the garage to see if she would make it through the night, and the other three chickens were recovered and returned to safety.

For the next couple weeks, Andrew and Olivia carefully nursed Ginger, even fed her by syringe till she was stable and nearly recovered. Eventually she was strong enough to be reintroduced to the flock. During this time we were having trouble with more possums at night. They would screech creepily from the trees above the coop, keeping me awake at night. In the darkness I pictured them to be evil, seething hyenas. It was so unpleasant that Jon slept with earplugs on a few occasions.

Then again one night, another attack at 3:15 am. All the neighborhood dogs were barking, the chickens were bawling, and Jon ran out barefoot with gun in hand. This time Blackie was wounded and Ginger lay dead.

And it’s funny what we do as parents... I prayed for my kids because I know how sad they will be, and in the morning Jon went out with Olivia and Andrew to the corner of the yard where now a grave stone marks a burial site. Then we had the conversation where, through tears, Olivia understood the chickens needed go.

So just yesterday we moved the chickens to a new home, and to a family who earned Olivia’s approval and confidence! It is more than I could have hoped for a trio of pet chickens, and I am thankful as only a mother could be.


This was typed out yesterday, and in Chicago during our layover I was all set to post when I lost my internet connection. We're in Canada now, the kids are out in the snow and waiting for their cousins to arrive from NY. It's like another world here, and we're making merry all over again.



  1. Such a lovely post - I mean a post of SUCH a lovely family, even and especially because of the drama with the chickens. Love, Cecilie

    1. Thank you Mrs. H! I trust you and yours are well this season!


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