Yuletide Epiphanies

Up until this point, Christmases with kids haven’t been that great. Mismatched expectations, being heavily pregnant (on half of the occasions), and herding overwhelmed and tired children in crowded houses just didn’t really lend itself to experiences of peace, hope and joy.

This year, somehow, it just worked.

My ‘baking gifts’ were pared back from four types of Christmas goodies, to a half hour (slightly burnt) batch of salted caramel popcorn. The present shopping was mostly done online or in local (and quieter) locations. We ditched the traditional roast menu in favour of a salad, cold meat and seafood alternative. Our presents to the kids were sparingly dealt out over a ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ attempt, which had each child take it in turns to receive a gift (or part thereof in Hudson’s case as we gifted each piece of his kitchen appliance set separately over the period). We chose low key hangouts with friends over a frenzy of cleaning, preparing and setting up at home. In short, we ‘did’ a lot less and shook off much of the previous (self-imposed) pressures.
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Not that it was necessarily any quieter.

On the weekend before Christmas we worked with neighbours to set up a Street Party, and then had our Open House Christmas Party on the very next day. The Street Party had the misfortune of coinciding with a 38 degree scorcher, which saw a lot of the people who had planned to attend drop out. Surprisingly, the intensity of the weather actually brought the people who did show up together much more effectively than any milder alternative, as we all ended up running around like lunatics in the midst of a massive water fight, spraying and shooting people we had met only moments before! The water fight’s grand finale was a torrential drenching from above which saw everyone huddling in the park’s only (tiny) shelter, awkwardly laughing at the absurdity of the experience. Eli was right in the middle of getting his face painted as ‘The Hulk’ and relished the newfound audience, jumping off the chair deep in character and growling at all who looked in his direction.

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The Open House ‘Inside Out’ themed party was just as epic, with an amazing turnout from our community and extended networks and a solid showing from the Finglish to English group as well. For the last year Open House has been connecting with a group of Persian refugees, most of whom arrived by boat and have struggled to assimilate and learn the language with the (thankfully recently overturned) prohibition on working which effectively closeted them in their own enclaves with little to look forward to or focus on. For some of these guys, our invitations to picnics or barbeques have been the first of such since they have arrived in our country. The addition to our community has been incredible- the Persians are so generous, fun-loving, helpful and kind, lavishing attention on the children and relishing the opportunity to teach them how to take ‘selfies’! (Though, let’s be honest, in Hudson’s case he didn’t need much instruction.) The whole emphasis of the Christmas party was a good excuse to learn more of their stories, discover more about the Persian culture and fundraise so that courses and education can be funded and so that the Finglish to English lessons can be more inclusive and meal-driven next year. Dave, Naomi and Dwain did a fantastic job dressing up as ‘Anger’, ‘Joy’ and ‘Sadness’ and the whole event had such a festive, fun-filled vibe.

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As for our family Christmas experience, it was surprisingly relaxing.

We hosted the Christmas Eve celebrations and Mum came well equipped with ten water pistols for an epic battle. Even Ivy participated, though mostly in the receiving sense, as she hovered by the little pool and got happily drenched by all the crossfire. Thankfully we had the good sense to take the family photo before this exchange, as we all stumbled inside looking rather bedraggled. The feast was spectacular, with Greek Lamb Salad, Chicken and Apricot Salad, Chicken and Beetroot Salad, Pear and Baby Spinach Salad, Chargrilled Prawns, Turkish Garlic Bread, Mango and Quinoa Salad and a selection of cold meats with gravy. We stayed traditional with the Pudding for dessert but Loren made her Walnut Cream Cake which was a worthy addition. There were no meltdowns or tantrums this year, and Eli played his role as the Elf to perfection, handing out gifts, picking up rubbish and giving instructions as to when the recipients were allowed to tear off the wrapping. After the kids conked out, we upped the hilarity with a few rounds of Family Feud, which will have Dad forever known as the ‘Baby Snatcher’ after an unfortunate confusion of idioms whilst crowing at a recent win (“like snatching a baby from…. oh, hang on…”). A round of ‘Jay’s Balls’ in front of the Carols was a perfect way to wind down the evening.

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Christmas morning saw the kids sleeping in… for an extra ten minutes… and then the whirlwind began. Presents were unwrapped, balance bikes put together, pajamas hastily packed, salads thrown into the esky, as we eventually made it out the door to Mum and Dad’s for a delectable brunch. Fresh fruit, Burek, homemade Stollen, Creme Brulee, Pancakes, Egg and Bacon bites… it was all delicious!

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Afterwards, it was off to the Hughes side of the family for a Traditional Roast lunch. Pat and John outdid themselves with the feast, and we had a lot of fun laughing and reminiscing at the long table. Though tragically, a nasty stomach bug felled Nathan and Julie at the last minute and they were unable to join the celebrations. The water pistols made another appearance and the myriad of presents were redistributed to their new owners. After a relaxed dinner of salads and cold meats, a bounty of desserts (Pavlova, Gingerbread House, Candy Cane Cookies, Truffles) we hauled the kids home to bed. What a day!

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I love Christmas, though I love it a lot more when I completely relax my expectations and move with the experience. So often in the past I have become stuck in a picture of how I thought the day ‘should go’ and miss out on the magic that was happening instead. The days weren’t perfect- kids still fought over sharing, annoyingly turned lights on and off, I got Dave completely lame (but pratical!) gifts compared to his abundance for me, Hudson suddenly needed lots and lots of cuddles and Ivy spent a fair amount of time attached to me in temporary shyness- but I didn’t have any artificial construction in my mind to compare the experience to, so it came pretty damn close.

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