Just before Christmas dinner--that's the ill-fated half-baked pie with the abused crust next to us on the table. It still tasted good, especially slathered with whipped cream.
It didn’t actually snow on Christmas, but it did on Christmas Eve—when we went ice skating with Lynnette, Tad, and Dalai—and then again on Wednesday and Thursday. Temperatures are supposed to drastically drop tonight (Thursday) so I guess the ice and “fluffy clouds” (as Grace calls it) will stick around for a while. There is only one drawback to all the snow, which probably only I notice: my laundry doesn’t dry in one day and I am perpetually behind. To make matters worse, the kids have taken to rolling in the snow on the sidewalks and courtyard, making for wet, dirty clothes, which also must be washed. We have laundry hanging off of every radiator, on every available space on the balcony, and on every chair. I like to think of it as a new kind of Christmas decoration.
Despite my laundry woes, Christmas went off beautifully, as I hope it did for everyone at home. We had a pretty mellow Christmas Eve. Dave had to “teach” (he showed Polar Express three times to three different classes—they loved it), I did what I could to prepare for Christmas (dry out the bread that I baked earlier in the week, buy the last ingredients, wrap the last presents, try to keep the kids from climbing the walls), the kids succeeded in climbing the walls (well, almost).
We managed to get them to bed by 10:00, they fell asleep by 10:30, and Dave and I stayed up doing all those parental things one does on Christmas Eve. One of the last things Samuel said as he was going to sleep was that Christmas didn’t seem too exciting this year (yes, Virginia, even though there is a Santa Claus, there comes a time when a young boy finally must be told the truth—the line between keeping up a nice tradition and outright lying when your kid starts questioning in a truly sophisticated manner becomes downright blurry), but he was the first one awake, sometime before 6:00. We managed to keep him from waking up Grace for about a half an hour (in the pitch dark, no less, since we don’t have daylight savings time here—it’s dark until almost 8:00) and then finally had to relent. Christmas morning here mirrored exactly Christmas at home: stockings to delve into, presents to be distributed and then opened, breakfast to be squeezed in at some point, phone calls home to family via Skype, and then hours of playing before dinner at 2:00pm.
The master lego builder at work Christmas morning.
Grace and her Polly Pockets
And what did I do in the hours before dinner? I struggled yet again to make a pie crust—and after finally losing my patience with it and whacking it with my rolling pin (note: the secret to making a pie crust lies in treating it gently and handling it as little as possible, usually not a problem at home with my trusty food processor or, as a last resort, my pastry cutter) I gave up, put it in the tin, and hoped for the best. I then discovered why I’ve been having problems lately getting things to bake in a timely fashion in my pathetically small oven. It is slowly making its way to that great cloud in the sky reserved for over-worked appliances. How did I make my discovery? First, my honey-walnut pie took twice as long to bake and, horror of horrors, it still didn’t bake all the way through, as I found out when I cut into it hours later. Then, I borrowed Jed’s oven (this is the young bachelor guy who lives upstairs and doesn’t use his kitchen for much more than to store his Mountain Dew and raise cockroaches) since I had to bake my stuffing in two pans. Scientific discovery number two: the stuffing in Jed’s oven cooked nicely, the stuffing in mine…did not cook at all. Needless to say, much later in the day when it came time to take the oven back to Jed, Dave kindly took my dinosaur oven up to Jed’s apartment (with Jed’s permission) and now I have a more sprightly oven to work with.
Dinner lived up to expectations: a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green beans, cranberry sauce, gravy, biscuits, creamed corn, apple cake and honey-walnut pie. Not too shabby for
We took a break from food and opened a bazillion presents. The American teachers organized a drawing about a week before Christmas, in which each adult pulled another’s name from a hat. The kids (unfortunately, says the scrooge mama) got a present from nearly everyone, increasing their horde of random things cluttering up our little apartment and doing nothing to alleviate the “gimmies” we thought we had escaped from. We did have a lot of fun with the present-opening, anyway, and everyone chose well for each other.
By this point I was ready to be done with Christmas. It is a great thing to be able to have this group of people to share our American holidays with, but everyone has their own traditions and ways of doing things and I have to admit that I was ready for a little downtime. As hard as it may be to believe, I found a little quiet and solace in returning to our apartment to do the dishes. Something as mundane and irritating as always having to tackle the dishes can sometimes be the best remedy for everything from cold hands to boredom to people-overload. That time away also helped me put everything into perspective: Christmas away from home, living in
We finished out the day with popcorn, ginger beer and grown-up beer, and Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. Needless to say, Wednesday is a total blur. Samuel spent Tuesday morning putting together his Star Wars spaceship—and did remarkably well, with very little intervention by his parents. Wednesday proved to be a totally different story. Everyone was feeling “hung over” from too much food and excitement and not enough sleep. One would think that this wouldn’t be a terribly good time to undertake building a Chinese-lego tank. The directions, like legos at home, were clear—no written instructions, just lots of step-by-step pictures. Unfortunately, tanks are army green. Entirely army green. Imagine not only trying to decipher the instructions when everything is the same color, but also trying to find the necessary piece—even when sorted by shape—in a sea of army green. After two attempts at tackling the tank, and many blow-ups, both by Samuel and us, we put the tank away until the afternoon, when a much more rested Samuel and Mama put it together. Gosh, and I thought Polly Pockets were crazy with all the little pieces and clothing to put on and take off… Undaunted, Samuel built (again with some help from yours truly) a battleship, almost entirely made of gray pieces (yes, battleship gray), on Thursday. I hope to not see another lego set until his birthday, at least. Of course, the kids are rolling in Christmas money so I am prepared to find more itty-bitty monochromatic lego pieces underfoot in the near future. Despite the after-Christmas exhaustion, the kids insist that this was a terrific Christmas. They loved all their presents, from family and friends in
Grace's Christmas treasures: yes, a barbie, stuffed animals, doll clothes and Polly Pockets, alongside matchbox cars and airplanes. She's a well-balanced gal.
Samuel's Christmas treasures: an aluminum bike rack, a bike light, airplanes, a stuffed bunny, and his legos. It looks like Samuel got a lot less than Grace, but that's because he didn't want to put it all out for show.
The semester is wrapping up for Dave. After showing his movie on Monday and Tuesday, he has been holding review sessions in all his classes. Next week is reading week with the final taking place sometime near the end of the following week, so for the first time since… maybe last Christmas?... Dave will have a little vacation. And after the final, he’ll be all done with teaching until the end of March when third quarter starts up at CBC. Because it’s nearing the end of his teaching responsibilities, his students are coming to the realization that he won’t be here next semester. He is being taken out Friday night by one student and Saturday night by an entire class. Helen took us out to a wonderful dumpling restaurant Wednesday night and Thursday night Dave went alone to the English Department party—I have been under the weather and the kids wouldn’t go without me. Next week we have dinner dates with a few others, including Wu Yunna, vice-dean at the IEC. It’s starting to feel like a whirlwind right about now.
To top everything off, Jed and Emi (a Chinese biking friend) are trying to organize a gift drop-off at a
We have had a week off from lessons which is supposed to give me time to dig out from under Christmas and all the piles resulting from the holiday. We’ll start back on Monday, since we’ll have a two week break in January for traveling, and another couple week break when we get home. I have no idea if New Year’s Eve is celebrated here, since Spring Festival in February celebrates Chinese New Year. I’ll keep you posted. I don’t know that we’ll do anything in particular, other than maybe try to stay up to midnight. If I don’t post before then, we wish all of you a very Happy New Year and all the best for 2008.