Sunday, January 04, 2015

Our Mostly Wonderful Christmas

I may have mentioned before that all the children were going to be home for Christmas.  All of them.  How miraculous is that, how full of joy upswelling in this mother's heart at the very thought?
The Smucker Six
Have I ever mentioned that things never manage to follow my perfect script?

First of all, Matt was flying in late on Christmas Day, so we'd technically be together after, rather than on, Christmas Day.  But that's ok, really, we can adapt.

Ben was flying out two days later.

Two precious days with all my beloved chicks in one nest.
We rented this house near Seal Rock.
"Oh!" said Ben on the day before Christmas, when we were already at the rented house at the coast.  "I figured things wrong when I got my ticket.  I guess I leave early Saturday morning instead of early Sunday morning."

Only one day all together??!!  My dreams shattered like an English Spode teacup on a concrete floor.

If anyone thinks I am a paragon of patient, understanding motherhood, you should have seen me then, muttering under my breath about brilliant engineering students who can't even read an airline schedule.

"Um, you wrote about this," said my sister on the phone.  "About just rolling with your adult kids' decisions and the stuff you can't control.  It's in your last book. In fact, it helped me chill out about our family Christmas and things not going according to my script. I thought you had, you know, learned this."

Well!  Just because you learn something and write it in a book doesn't mean you don't forget to actually practice it now and then!

Ben eventually had the good sense to act regretful, and I had the good sense to forgive him, because what else can you do when it costs at least $230 to begin to change a ticket, and there was no sense ruining our single precious day with an attitude?

And then God blessed us by cramming so much good stuff into one day, you'd think the sun stood still in the sky for a while like it did for Joshua.

We began with Paul's traditional pancakes for breakfast.

We opened gifts.

There's one in every family who waits until the last minute to buy gifts, then pulls them
out of a bag, wraps them quickly in a pillowcase, and hands them out.
But they were awfully nice presents.
Amy gathers coffee cups, Emily tries on her new sweater, Matt deflects incoming
laser beams with his new crock pot lid from Steven, Paul listens, and
Jenny wipes a happy tear from her eye.
On Christmas Day, Jenny said there's one gift I have to open, even if all the others wait until Matt arrives.

All right then.  So barely ready to face the day, I joined the kids by the pellet stove.

I opened a big box that said "To Dorcas From Fred."  Fred is my brother.

It was a doll.

A doll that walked and talked.

I am serious.

When I was little, for years on end I always started my Christmas wish list the same way:
1. Big doll
2. Little doll.
3. Walking doll
4. Talking doll

Bear in mind that we were so poor that we hardly got gifts at all.  One year I got a few goodies like oranges and candies from Mom, plus a dot-to-dot book that I had finished before the day was over.

A walking, talking doll was The Ultimate Heavenly Cool Rapturous Astonishing Impossibility.

Utterly impossible, but dreaming was free.


Fred remembered.  Somewhere, he saw this doll for sale, and he remembered that little sister's Christmas list.

And bought it.  And brought it along last summer when he came to pick up Dad.  And slipped it to Jenny for safekeeping.


My nefarious daughter Emily was less reverent about the gift than I was, deliberately setting up this scene.  Would you believe the doll actually turned aside from the treacherous obstacle in her path?

Good for her.

And we had a big dinner.

Family-dinner selfies don't work the best.  And for those who will
worry, the bubbly stuff is non-alcoholic.

Of course we played lots of games.

That nice blond guy not only played games with his kids but also gave me
that big bouquet in the background.

I am one of those very bad moms who hates to play card and dice games of every kind.  I get either bored or frantic when I'm waiting for my turn.  I never feel free to talk because someone is always concentrating.  The tangle of rules makes me feel like I have spiders climbing up and down the nerves in my arms and shoulders.  I constantly hop up to make hot chocolate for everyone.

But I tried to join a few games anyhow, and to act enthusiastic, and my bravery was rewarded when some of the kids willingly played Boggle with me.

Steven surprised us all with his skill, because he almost never plays Boggle.  From this tray he produced "boneless" and lots of gasps from the rest of us.

And, best of all, we even got our family pictures taken.  We crossed rushing streams, climbed jagged rocks, raced the incoming tide, and stood on wet sand that slowly swallowed our feet.

Amy would set up the tripod, situate the camera, push the self-timer, and scamper over to join the tribe.
Jenny, Ben, Paul, Dorcas, Steven, Amy, Matt, Emily

Jenny and Matt

You can see more pictures on my facebook album here.

And you can read Emily's version of events here.

It was a relaxed and happy holiday.

Then we came home, where Matt spent hours fixing everyone's computers, Amy cooked good food, the girls went to their first slumber party that had a policeman knocking on the door*, and the Ducks won the Rose Bowl.

*Just a slight mixup, thankfully, although you really should ask Amy for the full story.

A good 2015 to everyone.

Quote of the Day:
"She said she really likes your books and your blog.  It's like, so weird, when someone who's like, my age, reads my mom's stuff!"


  1. Loved reading this - especially the "doll story." My oldest brother was the kindest person ever and I can imagine him doing something like that. He's been in heaven now some 19 years...

  2. I love your family picture! You guys look like a catalogue, which makes me laugh, because I know how un-model-like you view yourself. :-)

  3. your family pictures are some of the best I've seen in a while!!! Inspiring. I wanted family photos this Christmas (doesn't every mom?) and they did not Get Good.

    My husband feels the same way about games that you do. I adore them, coming from a traditionally competitive family where that's how we established the pecking order. Wonder how my little family will end up. . .

  4. That's a great post and wonderful photos! And just a few years there will probably be daughters-in-laws and sons-in-laws and grandchildren. It'll make taking a family photo even more complicated and even more fun!

  5. Me too!! I hate games that use playing cards or dice or STRATEGY---just no good at them. Too many rules. BUT I love games like Boggle or Scrabble!! And your family picture is great. I got myself your book for Christmas---today may be the day to start it!

  6. Thank you for "inviting us inside the family circle" to share your Christmas through delightful stories and pictures. I loved your lists, too--the longer list in your last post of categories for organizing your life as well as the list of the four kinds of dolls you wanted during childhood!

    I just thought you might like to know that I got nine cutting boards for Christmas. Yes, nine. I've never really had a "decent" cutting board in all of my 52+ years of being a wife and mom. Mostly, I've just used a discardable paper plate placed on top of a piece of wax paper. Hey, it worked for me.

    But when our older son was helping me cook on Thanksgiving Day, he asked me for a cutting board. When I handed him the only beat up one I had, he remarked about it and I said, "Well, it's all I've got." Then a couple of weeks later I was helping my daughter in her kitchen. She handed me a very thin, flexible little "plastic-like" item to use for chopping vegetables. "Oh, isn't this nice!" I said. She smiled and said, "I've got three of those. They're from Pampered Chef. They come in a set, and they're very handy and they go in the dishwasher."

    So now fast-forward to our family gift exchange on Christmas Day. From our daughter I got a set of those Pampered Chef
    cutting "boards" as well as a large, beautiful wooden board that would be any woman's envy. From our son I opened a sturdy, sizable white board, (dishwasher-safe), as well as a set of four smaller, thin, color-coded, flexiboards which were similar in concept to the ones by Pampered Chef, but from a different company. I don't know how I'll ever use nine cutting boards, but ironically, I don't want to give up any of them!

  7. I positively love it! You do family photos just the way we do, only yours turn out better, by all appearances! We just got back from a "Mostly Wonderful" Christmas trip. Going over the credit card statement to make sure everything adds up caused a huge desire to return to arise in my soul (strange as that may seem); that would mean the good outweighed the bad! Blessings to your lovely family!

  8. Your family photo is great! If you planned your clothes for the event it was a great choice. If not planned (though not likely), it was still a wonderful combo. Not a lot of random distracting combinations of colors, and designs! Glad you had some time together!! Marland

  9. Looks like some good times! The family photos are beautiful!

  10. Loved this post and the pictures! I am the same as you about games especially the games our adult children play that are all strategy and having to think way too hard. Hubby and I like to play old people games such as dominoes that still allow us to visit with others at the table.

  11. I'm not sure I've ever met anyone who dislikes games as I do. You described it perfectly, and help me feel not so odd. I too prefer word games, but I've come to actually enjoy Black 7, since it's fairly straight-forward, and not too much brain-killing strategy. I'd love to play Scrabble with you!

  12. Such a handsome, happy family.
    Thanks for sharing.

  13. I enjoyed all your comments and Ruby, you will need to do lots of chopping but I totally understand not wanting to give up any of the cutting boards.