This year, we have our six children ages 18, 17, 14, 12, 11 and 4 years old at home. No longer is everyone clamoring to wake at the crack of dawn to open presents on Christmas Day, especially now that we've added a Chilean-style evening meal and later night on the 24th. Instead, Owen asked if he could play video games should he be up before us and several of the kids actually had to be called from bed to start our morning celebration!
As per tradition, Christmas morning breakfast is chocolate chip oatmeal bake. Two full 9 x 13 pans, both of which will be absolutely bare by the next day at the latest! Unfortunately our growing number of children and their love for this dish means that Daddy's favorite (egg bake) no longer fits in the oven. We joke that it will be back on the menu when our family size decreases, but it is a bittersweet thought because next year that reality begins with Eva's departure to the States to study. This was never far from my mind as Christmas approached, and caused me great consternation when we were seemingly unable to find the kids' six matching stockings with their embroidered names on her "last" Christmas at home. But Ian and Alec saved the day (thanks to some encouragement from Dad!) by digging into the bodega and finding these sentimental treasures.
Normally I would have all the stockings filled and lined up on the couch the night before, but opted to wait for morning since Isabel had loaned her room to Tia Cata and was spending the night downstairs. She and Ian were my observers as I lined up six bags of gifts with their corresponding stockings and wondered if I shouldn't just leave them that way. But they eagerly urged me to take the time to put each wrapped item into the stockings even though they would just be returning to the bags again, because tradition! and fun! So I acquiesced and finally they were all stuffed and photographs were taken of the six stockings and six children as we began our celebration by reading together the Christmas story from Luke 2.
Inside the stockings, Do-It-Yourself slime and bouncy balls were a hit this year with the boys, and the girls seemed to enjoy their grown up wallets (especially Isabel's whose design was her own trademark cheetah!) The trademark triangular shape of a Toblerone gave itself away before the wrapping was even torn. I grew up with the tradition of every stocking gift being individually wrapped so as to make the unwrapping more fun, and Pedro humors me by helping me with this tedious task (times six!) But I did catch him trying to wrap two Skittles packages in one this year!
Usually we would pause after stockings and sit down together to breakfast, but our later morning meant the oatmeal bake was not quite done. So instead we designated Silas as official gift deliverer and allowed him to hand one to each person in the room before we took turns (sometimes by birth order, sometimes randomly) to open them. Another tradition in our family is for us as parents to give three gifts to our children in recognition of the number of gifts given by the wise men to Jesus. One is usually bigger or more expensive than the others. As our kids get older, these decisions get harder (and more costly!) This year's gifts included a "go-pro" style camera, a (deeply discounted) cell phone, a video game controller, a mechanical keyboard, and a couple of gym memberships. Always in my heart I hope our children feel both loved and also content. I know that our three gifts may be less in number or cost than what some of their peers receive, but living on the mission field I also know that their three gifts may be much more than other children will see on Christmas. We have even met believers in Chile who purposely do not exchange gifts because they wish to focus solely on Christ, so I am sensitive to this as well.
Thankfully, contentment seemed to be an overall sentiment as the nine of us gathered for breakfast and quietly scattered to enjoy the novelties of the day. Silas was overjoyed to have a very patient Tia Catalina helping him to figure out and/or build his toys. When lunch rolled around, Pedro had created a delicious turkey soup from leftovers. In the afternoon, I chauffered a friend whose car was malfunctioning to a lunch activity at the home of missionary friends. And in the early evening, we video chatted with my side of the family who were all gathered at the Fishers' playing a life-sized Jenga game and enjoying a Christmas meal together. It was a delight to see great-niece Josie at eight months standing and smiling!
Our night ended with a trip to the theater for our older boys to see the new (and last) Star Wars movie as part of their gift from Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop. Since Pedro preferred not to potentially fight crowds on Christmas and Tia Cata is a film fan, she and I got to accompany Owen, Ian and Alec to the 9 p.m. showing (which turned out to be quite uncrowded after all!) Instead Pedro and Silas, Eva and Isabel enjoyed a funny family movie at home. The boys and I dropped Tia Cata off at her place and drove carefully home, avoiding the oceanfront drive at Cavancha due to tires burning at a manifestation there. We discussed the movie and the manifestation, finding paralells in having to be alert to potential danger on dark downtown streets and also alert to dangerous ideologies hidden in Hollywood movies that are contrary to God's Word. I love impromptu conversations like these and always hope they plant seeds of wisdom in our children!
It was a Merry Christmas. It was full of fun and family. I am thankful for the birthday of Jesus. And I am thankful for His great gifts. Foremost, salvation. But also, family. May these written memories serve as a reminder of sweet times shared.