It's time for the post-Christmas wrap up. Daddy-O and I were reflecting on how much we enjoyed our Christmas this year. That's not to say that we don't normally enjoy the holidays... however, I'm sure you can all relate to the stresses of extended family cohabiting in cramped conditions. I can honestly say that this was probably one of the best Christmases we've ever had. I think there were many factors which contributed to this. It's a mixed bag of blessings, though, to be sure.
Daddy-O and I set our holiday schedule before we even got married. I've seen too many family feuds erupt over which grandparents would get to host baby's first Christmas, etc and wasn't about to fall into that trap. So we agreed to spend Thanksgiving with his family and Christmas with mine, then switch it off the next year. This way we can project where we will be on any given year. This year happens to be our year to spend Christmas with my family in northern California. The typical clan has always included Daddy-O, Ben, Danny & I; my mom & her partner of 25+ years, Ival (Papa); my sister, her husband and 2 boys; and my grandparents.
Many things were different this year. This was our second Christmas home with out Papa. He passed on Valentine's Day 2006. I always miss him particularly at this time of year. He was a very difficult person to buy for. One year (about 18 years ago) I hit him just right with his gift and got him something he truly loved and appreciated. I tried unsuccessfully every year after to recreate the magic. I do love a challenge.
We were also without my grandparents this year. Grandpa Jess had a small stroke around December 16th. Thankfully, he's going to be fine after some intensive rehabilitation. But he will be 90 years old in January and he scared us half to death. At any rate, obviously they couldn't make to trip from Hemet with Grandpa in the hospital. So our family unit was shy three on Christmas morning.
Since my grandparents stayed home their dog, Coco was also absent. As was Simba, Mom's very large Golden Retriever and Lady, Papa's Australian Shepard mix. Both had to be put down earlier this year. All sad things, to be sure but also made for six less large bodies in a small house over-full of gifts in bad weather.
Another change this year is that Ben is medicated for his ADHD. This is no small matter. In fact, this may have been the single biggest contributing factor to the Christmas Calm. We actually had to wake the kids up at 7:00 to open presents. And it took us an unheard of 4 hours to complete the process. Ben was awesome! He was calm (but properly excited) and completely appreciative. Best of the best.
Poor Danny was very overwhelmed as usual but Daddy-O and I agreed at the outset not to stress on the whole conforming to traditions with him. Open a gift then wait. Wonderful. I didn't care if it took him the whole day to open them all. I just wanted him to have a good time. And he did. Santa brought him the moon he'd asked for. He was pretty much done at that point. He just wanted to go back to bed with his moon and listen to music. Such simple, simple needs.
Santa brought Ben a Nintendo DS Lite and no one has had a conversation with him since that has lasted longer than 5 minutes.
Even though we didn't go smaller this year (at least not in quantity) with the gifts, there was certainly more thought put into them and much less fluff under the tree. And that alone made for a high Christmas satisfaction rating.
Most importantly, those of us that could be were together. We all have jobs in this economy... even my 18 year old nephew who is still learning how to be a good employee. With the exception of Grandpa Jess, everyone's health is great (and his could be so much worse). What is not to find pleasure in? Life is good.
I'll leave you with three last pictures that sum up our Christmas day.