My grandmother is extremely ill and is now considered palliative.
So my mom came home from Angola to visit for some of her last days and in anticipation of a funeral. My mom hasn't been too well herself - some of you know she was recently quite ill with malaria followed by typhoid followed by an allergic reaction to the antibiotics that were supposed to be helping her - so we were very glad that she was well enough to travel and to see for ourselves that she is in fact on the mend!
There was some question of whether my grandmother would even make it to our big family gathering - she was hallucinating things like fire on her lap and some days not really responding at. One of my aunts thought it prudent to warn us that we wouldn't see the Grandma that we were used to. So it was quite surreal to get there and have Grandma come down in her wheelchair and interact with all of us completely normally. She was talking and joking with us, and remembered all of our names - even Brendan's mom, whom she has not seen in years! It's clear she perked up immensely for our visit ("I got to see my great grandchildren!" she gloated to a nurse). Even though she was so poorly she still arranged for presents for everyone. Girls got slippers and boys got socks. It was bittersweet that we got to have such a good visit and even managed some great photos, as we were very aware these would probably be the last time this side of heaven. Some family didn't arrive until later but we thought it best not to wait and I'm glad we didn't as Grandma did get tired quite abruptly. She didn't even remember getting back to her bed!
After Grandma went back to bed there was still much partying to be done and good food to eat. Cousin Chris was taught the proper way to flame a Christmas pudding with the booze we smuggled into the nursing home for the purpose. The kids mostly ran around playing a game that turned various uncles into tickle monsters, but Elizabeth surprised me by getting absorbed by a board game. She's growing up!
My mom's side of the family was getting together for Christmas on the 30th, so we planned to stop in Toronto to see Muriel, Lauren and Donna and family and Uncle Ryan.
Brendan's mom came along with us and with seven people in the van for Amelia's longest car ride yet we were a little concerned that the kids might not be well behaved. But they made forts out of coats and pillows, did some colouring and generally did very well. Amelia slept and played all the way until about five minutes before we arrived, which was nice.
Matthew and Elizabeth were very happy to introduce Grandma Margaret to the joys of waiting anxiously for the cuckoo clock at Auntie Muriel's to come out so that Elizabeth can play her "cuckoo whistle" at the same time. Amelia seemed rather bemused.
As per tradition, we spent part of Boxing day playing games at Dave and Karen's house. The older four kids are actually old enough that they played a new board game by themselves while the adults tried out Munchkins (Woohoo!). We had enough fondue meat left over from Christmas Eve to justify having fondue again - reminding me that butcher shops seem to think we need about twice the amount of meat per person as compared to what we actually eat.
We admired various gifts (Uncle Dave is getting more and more serious about sous vide!) and the kids enjoyed playing with the new Apple TV. Brendan was amused that they all held the remote for the car game as it were a bicycle handlebar.
Xander's school has a program where families send in unwanted items during October and November. Then the youngest kids are paired with the oldest and they all go "shopping" for members of their immediate family with a list of names, ages and relationship to the shopper. All items cost fifty cents and then there is free gift wrapping. Xander got his sister a cute hello kitty stuffie, Uncle Dave got a "scary" movie (lol) and Karen received a gingerbread soap dispenser. He came home on the bus with his four gifts and Karen said he was SO PROUD. Such a good idea for a fundraiser!
After supper the kids all bathed (oldest two and youngest two in pairs; they have now been deemed too big to all fit together in the tub!) and I read them a story. Xander was very sad that cousins were going home instead of having a sleepover so he and Elizabeth had a little cuddle during the story (so cute!).
Auntie Janice came to hang out after work in time for supper. Unfortunately, the kids were eating applesauce and then of course dipping their forks back into the fondue pot and probably because she arrived part of the way through the meal we didn't think about this being unsafe for someone allergic to apples until it was too late. Cue her being super unwell and needing to take her epipen. The kids were concerned, but more jealous of getting to ride in the ambulance. Until Elizabeth remembered Matthew already had an ambulance ride and she got to sit in one. Then they were slightly mollified.
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me... kids who rip and dump stuff everywhere in two seconds flat. Yikes! Matthew picked up his stocking turned it upside down and shook it until it was empty. It was terrifying and a good reminder for next year not to put anything fragile in there. They also did not really pause to even breathe while opening presents. Our house was clean and tidy in the morning before everyone got up and by the end of the day you could have sworn the place had been ransacked. Aside from these minor details it was a delightful day filled with as our Bible verse of the week recently reminded us: "good news of great joy for all the people".
It was so unseasonably warm for Ottawa (Christmas eve was 18C!!!) that Elizabeth and Matthew went outside to get fresh chives from our garden in their bare feet! Pretty amazing that we still HAD fresh chives, although admittedly these were the ones from Grandma's more sheltered balcony and therefore had missed the October frosts that killed the rest of my garden.
Elizabeth and I went for a bike ride together to the arboretum. Matthew, Elizabeth and I went for another short walk / tricycle / bike after Matthew's nap. Matthew insisted on bringing all the new stuffies for the ride. And baby Jesus. As one does.
Janice carved the bird for her first time after the boys started being all "not it!"