First we had to take our Christmas train upstairs to wake up Daddy, so I led the kids all around the house and upstairs to Mommy and Daddy's bedroom...only to have the train follow me back downstairs so Daddy could take them around the house while I went into the front room and got things ready (turned the tree lights on and so forth).
Alexander was the first one let under the Christmas sheet and he was very happy to see everything that Santa—and his sisters—had left.
Rachel and Miriam spent the entire year working on a needlepoint "homestead" project to give to their younger siblings for Christmas. They kept it a secret and spent hours and hours working together. On December 23 they asked Andrew if they could stay up "a while" to "put on the finishing touches," so Andrew told them that would be fine (thinking it would be only fifteen minutes or so), tacking on a snarky, "Good riddance!" So the girls retreated to the basement and continued working...and working...and working...
At 11:30 I went down there to check on them and found they were still up working.
"What do you think this is, New Year's Eve?" I asked.
"Dad said we could stay up!"
Soon Andrew heard our voices and came downstairs to investigate. That's when we learned he thought he'd given the girls permission to stay up a half hour or so after their bedtime and not the entire night.
But, it was worth it. The homestead turned out beautifully. Here they are exploring all the features:
And here are the kids digging into their stockings:
Alexander found a spider ring in his stocking, which Benjamin had put inside weeks ago, and which he was very excited to find.
He was also excited about his superhero erasers. He decided, however, that two erasers were too many for any boy, so he weighed them in his hands and said, "You can have the Batman one!"
Zoë was most excited about her lip gloss, I think.
Andrew sorted Christmas presents, with Alexander and Zoë playing delivering them to everyone.
Zoë has been buzzing with anticipation about what was in this great big box:
Here's Alexander opening his loot...
He got a game and a couple of books.
He didn't really have many presents to open (I'm...not very good at Christmas shopping) but exclaimed, "I feel like I got everything!" And I'm so glad he felt that way.
Zoë opened her gifts next—the big red one first, of course:
It was a set of Frozen toys, picked out by Andrew (I'm...not very good at Christmas shopping), which Benjamin though was the perfect gift.
Next she opened up a unicorn night light from Auntie Kelli. It was in a box—a box without a picture on it—and even though she can read really well, evidently she didn't employ her skills because when Miriam said, "Ooh! A night light!" Zoë growled at her and said, "Don't spoil it!"
I don't remember what she'd just opened that made her look so excited here:
Before we jump to pictures of Benjamin opening his presents, here are a few pictures of Rachel and Miriam waiting (somewhat) patiently to open their gifts.
Benjamin was exceptionally excited over a little tin can robot kit my sister Kelli sent for him (and has been hounding us for a tin can since then; unfortunately for him we don't often have tin cans so he'll have to wait a while for us to procure one).
My mom sent some colouring books, which was perfect because Benjamin has been asking for a colouring book. In the evenings before bed I read to the kids while they quietly colour. Technically, this ritual started out with all the kids in their beds but then somehow Benjamin and Zoë migrated into the hallway to be with me and now they colour while I read and they've been sharing a colouring book. So Benjamin has been asking me for his own colouring book. Alexander, the poor boy, is the only one who I force to stay in bed while I read (which he thinks is wildly unfair (and by "force," I mean, "I can't read if you don't lie down, Alex. Put your head on your pillow.")).
Benjamin was very excited about this trio of LEGO superhero robot/transformer creations (that, once again, Andrew picked out because he's actually quite good at gift giving).
I mostly picked out practical things. Like this jacket, which Benjamin had a difficult time figuring out. "Oh, it's new pants. Nice!" he said.
"Not pants," I said.
"Blanket, then. Cool."
"Not a blanket."
"Open it all the way."
"Oh, a jacket. I needed one of those."
I also picked out new socks for Benjamin. And then Rachel and I wrapped them all individually—sometimes in pairs but often literally as individual socks.
I may have done the same thing to Miriam. She didn't find it nearly as funny, perhaps because her pile of presents seemed much smaller than everyone else's. This is partly because of the organ behind her (which she understood was to be part of her birthday/Christmas presents this year) but also because a present or two of hers wound up in the communal pile rather than her pile (we found them at the end). Anyway, here she is with a sock, saying, "Yay. It's a sock."
"These are all socks, aren't they?"
Kelli sent her a necklace featuring a treble clef and base clef forming a heart, which she loved.
She was very excited about this embroidery kit from Dylan:
And here's a brief interlude of the younger kids enjoying their gifts because they don't have the attention span necessary to watch everyone else open their gifts:
Just Alexander putting Mommy in a chokehold...
And playing with some puppets that came from Santa (by way of Naanii):
Miriam thought this present was funny as well:
Rachel wrapped it and used Google translate to put up a big long message in German, which Miriam didn't have the vocabulary to decode.
It says, "Frohe weihnachten, Miriam! Du solltest das besser benutzen, oder aber (oas ist eine schrohung). Herzlich, Rachel"
Translation: "Merry Christmas, Miriam! You better use this, or else (this is a threat). Cordially, Rachel"
It's a book of 501 German Verbs, which she was rather excited about. You'll also note that near the book is a little jewelry bag. When we lived in Egypt we had necklaces made for each of the girls, with their name written in Arabic. We finally gave them to the girls this year (assuming they're finally old enough to take care of them). Miriam was thrilled to have a little piece of her birth country to wear around her neck.
But, here she is wearing this necklace/crown that Benjamin made for her, instead:
I don't know why Rachel is laughing in this picture, but her joy is beautiful.
Here are the girls opening their magic envelopes from Andrew, at the same time. A couple of the shows they've been trying to "binge watch" are leaving Netflix to go to another streaming platform. We decided that instead of subscribing it would probably be cheaper to just buy them the DVDs of those shows (one being The Office), so that's what Andrew did. They were very happy.
Are you still with me? This is so many pictures. I'm almost sorry, but not quite because I think my children are beautiful, so you're welcome. Anyway, next up was Rachel. It looks like she got a ton of presents, but that's because Miriam helped me wrap and we cleverly used boxes to inflate the impression of the presents.
This box, for example...
...held nothing but...
I joked, while Miriam and I were wrapping Rachel's gifts, that I should just sneak a pair out for myself. Rachel would never know! (But then Andrew ended up giving me a set of the same socks so it's a good thing I didn't!)
Here's Rachel with a shirt that Auntie Kelli sent, featuring a dumpster fire.
Dylan sent two embroidery kits, so I gave the llama one to Miriam and the owl one to Rachel. Rachel told Alexander that when she finished we could hang it in his room and he was overjoyed and hopped onto her lap for a snuggle (with Spot, his snowy owl, which was not a Christmas present but he came along to watch us open presents because he's been Alexander's take-everywhere toy lately):
Here's Rachel laughing at the book of feminist embroidery that I got for her. Honestly, when I looked at in on Amazon, it looked innocent enough. It had little sayings like, "Nevertheless, she persisted," and "A women's place is in the revolution," and "Smash the patriarchy." You know, innocent sayings like that. I did not realize there was an entire section of patterns featuring...f-bombs.
So that was fun to discover. But Rachel loves it anyway and is working on one of the...less explicit...patterns as we speak. She says it's okay for her to own a book like this because I let her go to middle school (and she's...not wrong...there was some colourful language in those hallways).
And here's Rachel being very excited about a 3-tiered cooling rack, a sure sign she's maturing.
Andrew didn't get many surprises for Christmas, but he did get this lovely hummingbird fashioned out of tinfoil from Zoë. He wasn't expecting that! It came in a toilet paper roll, with a picture about eating a healthy amount of fruits and vegetables.
He got some other things, too. They just weren't surprises. I make him a calendar every year, he picked out a new cookbook, as well as some linocut books. Oh, and I had a stamp made of our address so we don't have to write out our address anymore (our address is so long I had trouble finding a stamp template that would allow us to enter enough characters). The stamp was a surprise, too.
There are no pictures of me opening my present, but Andrew did wrap up a few things for me. He surprised me with a weighted blanket, a new water bottle, some socks, and a set of decent measuring cups with the labels etched into the handle instead of being painted/printed on.
Here we are starting on our communal gifts...
Zoë was excited to open this big box from Grandpa:
Here's Benjamin delving into some more books that Dylan sent (actually, I think the set he's holding right now is a set of vampire books from my mom; Dylan had an Usborne party, see, so we had two big boxes of books show up at our house; some things I wrapped up for specific children and some things I decided would be enjoyed by many...and also I got tired of wrapping things).
Here we are reading cards from Grandma Pat (she sent a funny 2020 ornament, with five little figures (representing the children) wearing masks, with the zeros in 2020 being rolls of toilet paper):
Here's Zoë holding a fun bean bag chair that my sister sent with some fabric markers (the kids can colour in the pattern on the chair), while Alexander plays with his little flashlight, and Miriam opens...something...
It was a great morning of opening presents, of thanking each other, and playing together. Zoë said it was the best day of her life. So I think you could say Christmas turned out well.