This was our 4th Christmas far from home. I think we can all agree that there is something about Christmas that makes you want to be back home, where you grew up, surrounded by family. I was homesick multiple times throughout December, and I was actually kind of worried that I'd have a major meltdown on Christmas day and ruin the holiday for everyone. Thankfully, that didn't happen, and I couldn't have asked for a more lovely Christmas.
Let's begin with Christmas Eve. I like to think of this as The Longest Day of the Year. Generally, all the shopping is done by then, you are ready for the holiday, but the holiday hasn't quite come yet. We have our Christmas Feast on Christmas Eve, but the whole day is spent moping around, eying the presents under the tree, asking if it's time to go to bed yet. We decided that this was less than desirable, so we headed to the Museum of Science and Industry that day.
Good. Gravy. That place is HUGE and EXCITING! Our whole family had a wonderful time. The science nerd in Clark was in Geek Heaven. I kept finding little things relating to my newest obsession: The Chicago World's Fair (It's all because of this book. I found it fascinating. Go read it. You'll be glad you did. And then come visit us to see where it all went down!). Ella adored the baby chicks, and while watching the eggs in hopes they would hatch, she was heard to say, "I could do this all day." Julia thought the submarine was really cool, and has recently asked to "learn more about machinery. Like the farm machinery at the museum." This was definitely the perfect activity to occupy minds and wear out little bodies on the day before Christmas.
We got home somewhere around 3. I put the ham in the oven and started working on the other components of The Feast. Julia and Ella were sent upstairs for quiet time, where they decided instead of being quiet they'd like to have a pool party. Swimsuits were donned. Blankets were spread across the floor to act as the pool. Turns out the bed is the perfect diving board. And why not, I say? Why not have a pool party on Christmas Eve, while it's snowing outside? Those Blockburger girls. They are brilliant.
Post Feast, we read the Christmas story, lit the angel chimes, and ate birthday cake, in honor of the Babe of Bethlehem. I think we did a pretty good job of sending the girls to bed full of the Spirit, understanding why we celebrate this day above all days.
Christmas morning was AWESOME. 5 and 3 are the perfect ages for Christmas. Everything is magical. Everything is exactly what they wanted. Here's a video of their first reactions. Ella, in response to her Jake and the Neverland Pirate boat, is saying, "What? What?" Julia finds her Princess Teaset and says, "How did he know?" because she forgot to ask Santa for it in person, even though she wanted it so much. Magic, I tell you. Magic.
We took the approach of letting the girls play with whatever they wanted. There was no schedule to the day, we could take our time opening the presents. This helped with the Cinnamon Roll Fiasco, wherein I didn't realize until Christmas morning that the cinnamon rolls we wanted to eat for breakfast need to rise for 2 hours before baking. I felt awful for about 5 minutes, and then? Nobody even noticed. We spent all that time opening presents and enjoying the day.
Then we Skyped with my family and phoned Clark's, and spent the afternoon relaxing and playing and generally doing nothing. It was glorious. I was not homesick for one minute. I was just grateful for my little family, and for my Savior, who made it possible for us to be sealed together forever.
No school today. Too cold. The high today is something ridiculous like -14, with windchill down into the -40s. RIDICULOUS. But, if it's cold, you might as well step outside to vaporize some boiling water. (I really didn't know if it was going to work, and was worried that the boiling water would be blown back into my face. Thankfully, that didn't happen.)
We tried to blow bubbles too, but the wind was too strong, kept blowing them away. But hey, no school tomorrow either! We can always try again!
I'm not sure whether to write that 2013 was good to us, or that 2013 was rotten. Unemployment was miserable, and our bank account is pretty pathetic right now, but I feel like we witnessed miracles for our little family. We were blessed in a million small ways, and I came out with a more firm conviction that God hears and answers prayers, and that He has a plan for me. So can I really call that a loss? I don't think so.
Last year I made a few resolutions. I'm pleased to report I wrote something I'm grateful for in my journal every single day of 2013. It was a year of thankfulness. Oh, that made all the difference when life was launching grenades my way. I don't plan on stopping, either. I have so much to be grateful for, and every day brings new blessings. That resolution was a resounding success.
I also kept track of all the books I read. I read 38 different books (2 were unfinished as of December 31), for a total of 10,703 pages. Clark got up to 11,675. I think those numbers are quite impressive. We're readers, people. READERS. Now that I know about how many pages I read in a year, I can set a new goal to surpass that number. 11,000 pages, here I come!
Progress report on reading Book of Mormon as a family: we are almost through Alma. While we didn't finish the whole thing, we read fairly consistently, and I'm quite pleased. Sure, the girls aren't getting everything, but they are getting some things, and that's important. New goal: finish it this year. I feel confident this will happen.
As for the other goals, I am afraid I wasn't more patient, nor did I spend less time yelling at my kids. We're putting those into the "Roll-over" category. Or, more accurately, the "Never Ending Battle" category. And yoga didn't really happen either. Maybe those things are connected? Hmm...
So what about 2014? What lofty goals am I setting? Well, I'm glad you asked.
Reading 11,000 pages was already mentioned.
And finishing the Book of Mormon as a family.
It's high time I read Jesus the Christ by Talmage. I'm not sure how I've made it to 32 years as a Mormon and not read this book. Time to change that.
Remember my 30 by 30 challenge? Remember how I actually completed 25 by 30, and then one more by 31? I am thinking it's time to chase down those last 4.
We're now an hour closer to a temple. Monthly temple trips are a bit more feasible. Time to make that happen.
Learn Portuguese. When I say "learn Portuguese" I basically mean "learn some Portuguese." And I'd love for the girls to learn along with me. It's hard to say what I hope the end result will be. We'll see how this goes.
And finally, I want to blog more. I have no family close by, and very few friends in this new place. I need to tell my stories to someone! And so, fair blog, you are the recipient. Or at least, I hope you will be.
All written down like that, this seems like a long list. But I think these are all things I can do, and in fact want to do. And since one of those goals is to blog weekly, you'll get to read all about my progress!