|Daddy with all our kids on Christmas morning|
As seems always to be the case this time of year, the weeks of December fly by in a hectic haze. In Chile, not only are the holidays upon us but also the end of another school year with its accompanying final exams, class parties and registration for the year to come. At church, children's practices have been in full swing under the careful guidance of two young ladies who bit off the challenge this Christmas. It is a fun, full, but often frantic time!
In addition to all this, we have a newborn at home. After nearly two months of enjoying Silas' presence in our family, I can still walk past his crib and feel startled with happy surprise that this has really happened. In many ways, a newborn makes things even busier! A friend jokingly called babies "little dictators" because their schedules seem to run our lives. It's true that at times I look at my watch and think, "Again!?" when Silas makes it clear his next mealtime has already rolled around!
Yet being forced to stop and be still while a sweet baby slowly sucks his bottle is not a bad thing. Couldn't we benefit from more built-in pauses in life? Instead we are swept along in the tyranny of the urgent and often lose sight of the treasures around us - even our own kids. For that reason I am thankful we were able to escape our normal routine to catch our kids this Christmas (a few days prior, to be exact.)
For reasons that less than a week later I can hardly recall, my special outing with our girls didn't happen until 8 p.m. on the Monday night before Christmas. The three of us picked up Isabel's friend and headed into the mayhem that is Avenue Heroes de la Concepcion in Iquique. We snaked through slow traffic until reaching the mall, whose underground parking overflowed into an illegal lineup along the boundary wall and made me feel claustrophobic behind the wheel of our minivan. By God's kindness we stumbled upon the perfect available space amidst hundreds of unavailable ones! Our stop was relatively brief and a stepping stone to the next, crazier chapter of our outing.
Stop #2 was Iquique's famous Christmas bazaar, a conglomeration of tightly connected tents full of everything from wrapping paper to brand-new American toys in dented boxes to knock-off clothing produced just across the border. Parking was first-come, first-served in the surrounding neighborhoods and we pulled halfway onto the already crowded sidewalk of a narrow street several blocks away. All three girls asked me to carry their wallets, so I only half-jokingly told them they had to serve as my bodyguards as we pushed shoulder to shoulder through aisle after aisle of the feria. It was nuts! but fun, and we made memories staying past midnight and finally collapsing into a sliver of a stand which offered freshly made fruit juices to give us energy to make it home. You can't put a price on investing time into our children's lives, and I think (hope!) this was time well spent as Eva and Isabel both expressed their gratitude for it.
In comparison to the girls' adventure, thankfully the boys' was much simpler. On the Tuesday before Christmas, I took Ian and Alec out for KFC and a movie. I had read Tricia Lott Williford's thoughtful remarks on The Good Dinosaur, and found it playing in Spanish at the one theater in town. I was armed with the knowledge that we would have to break down some points afterwards (i.e., millions of years and cavemen people) and be prepared for an emotional storyline. But even so I was touched when I looked down beside me and found my eight-year old son wiping away tears mid-movie. Later I reflected that though he might not be able to put it into words, it is likely he identified with the little dinosaur often making mistakes and getting himself into trouble without meaning to. It is a reality of his life with ADHD, cognitive challenges and a family that still struggles against their sin nature (read: learning and failing at patience and grace.) Again I was thankful that taking time to catch my kids and do something different with them gave me a glimpse of their hearts and connected us through fun and flights of fancy.
Finally, Daddy took Owen to his long-awaited and much-requested viewing of the new Star Wars movie. In order to find it on a screen in English, they had to wait until 9:50 PM but they both enjoyed it - and their own subsequent visit to the Christmas bazaar for late-late-night fruit juices - very much. Pedro said he was reminded of the very first movie we ever took a littler Owen to see (Kung Fu Panda) where he reacted out loud and excitedly from the edge of his seat! He had to remind him that there were other moviegoers around them as well. :) Still, it is sweet to witness one's son so enraptured by a story with timeless themes of man's courage and sacrifice.
So for an hour here and an hour there, we caught our kids this Christmas. In so doing we also caught a glimpse of what brings them happiness and even sadness at their current stages of life. It is our joy to discover them and cherish them at Christmas and all year long. I hope they know how much they are truly loved.