In my family we count down to exciting things with “sleeps”. I think it’s always harder to sleep when I’m excited about something than it is to get through a day. This morning I was awake a bit earlier when it was still dark so I got up and turned on the Christmas lights. When Olivia got up we had some cuddle time on the couch and practiced saying, “Two sleeps!” It’s only two sleeps until Gramma and Granddad come and we’re very excited.
I know I said I wasn’t looking forward to getting back to Haiti, but it’s actually been nice to be home this last week. Abby arrived a few hours after my flight came in, and since I had to go back into the airport to get my luggage which didn’t arrive on my flight but on the next one from Miami I was able to meet her inside which was a treat for both of us. We’ve been having fun with her here and things have been quiet in other departments so that’s been a blessing.
Several years ago we started giving our staff two weeks off at Christmas. I think it started so things were simpler while we were away for holidays, but it was really nice last year to have that time off while we were still in the country too, and our workers liked having the vacation time. We’re doing the same thing this year and as we all pushed to get to Friday we could feel the anticipation mounting. Our workers look forward to the last day of work because it’s the day we give them their year end bonuses. By law we’re required to pay them 4 weeks salary and two weeks vacation time. We like to give it before the holidays so they use it to celebrate with their families. Two of our staff have been saving up and are going to be spending most of their vacation in Dominican Republic. They were really excited to be going and we’re really excited for them. The fact that they actually saved up the money, got their passports, visas and are taking an actual vacation is exciting for us to see. We know that’s an opportunity they have because they work here. I love that it’s going to expand their world view a bit and am looking forward to talking to them after they get back.
We always quit work at noon on the last day and try to do a little something for our workers. This year we had everyone up in our house and had snacks and played some games. There was lots of laughing so we think everyone had fun. It was nice to be able to do something to let them know that we appreciate them. I will admit that despite the fun Chris and I both let out a sigh of relief when everyone headed out. We were just really looking forward to having two weeks without having to manage people and projects. Two weeks where we can sleep in and not get out of our pajamas before noon if we don’t want to. Two weeks of just enjoying family and the Christmas season. So yes, we’re enjoying having a break.
This is the first year since we’ve been married that I feel like I’m actually fully enjoying the Christmas season. We’ve loved the years where we’ve been able to go home and be with family, but it’s hard to go from nothing Christmas to being smack in the middle of it. Being in Missouri I got to be around it, but not totally engulfed in it. Last year my mom brought some Christmas decorations, but because of their travel problems stuff didn’t get here until the day after they did and we just sort of threw it up so it “felt” like Christmas. It was chaotic and while it was so nice to have family here, I still felt like we were waiting on Christmas to come to us. This year I’ve been able to enjoy getting ready for the holidays, whether it’s been meal planning or baking for the family that is coming, or doing crafts with Olivia, it’s all been fun. I found a great deal on an artificial tree online and brought it back with me an had lots of fun decorating it with Olivia last week. She was SO into it. We’ve had fun as a family doing her advent tree every day, and her Christmas stories are strewn around the house. It was fun to have the decorations up last week and to have several of our workers come in the house for various things and just stop and smile and say, “Oh, it’s so nice.” I’m always wary of stuff like that but I saw a genuine appreciation for it. I love that last week while Yonese was working she was singing along to the Christmas music, but in French, not English, and she just had this look of peace and joy on her face like she was really enjoying that moment. I love that I get to experience watching Olivia learn and take things in for the first time. Last year she was just too young, but this year she’s so engaged in things and is having so much fun. I love that because we are removed from the North American commercialism we can pick and choose what is important to us as a family to focus on. Because of that this year I feel settled and happy.
We decided to start something this year that we’re hoping will become an annual tradition that many will look forward to. Several of the missionary families in our area don’t go home for Christmas so we thought it would be fun to host a Christmas BBQ and get together with everyone to have a fun day of relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. We were able to bring people together that hadn’t met yet and it was so fun to see the enthusiasm as people arrived on Saturday.
The mission has a great yard for hosting stuff like this, and this fall we put in an outdoor kitchen where Yonese can cook for classes, so I was able to BBQ and visit and set everything up out there. We kept it simple and because of that everyone was able to focus on visiting. We had about 30 people here of all ages. Because we redid the fencing this fall the kids were able to run themselves tired and us parents were able to sit and not worry about them at all. People swam, we ate good food and to finish the afternoon off we sang some Christmas carols. It’s a funny contrast to sing O Little Town of Bethlehem under coconut palms.
It was a really fun day and everyone left in a great mood. I think for us as a family it left us feeling full and content. We’re fortunate to have made so many good friends here and we love being able to get together like that. We all live really busy lives and the time it takes to drive to see each other is often a hindrance, but it was fun that everyone made a point of coming out and we had such a good time. Olivia did her part and snuck as much food and juice as possible for a toddler, and played SO hard that by 6 o’clock she crashed harder than I’ve ever seen her crash. I would chalk that up to a good day :)
Tomorrow is our last Manba day until the New Year, and then Gramma and Granddad arrive for more family fun. Like I said, we’re looking forward to it!
I’m anticipating probably one more blog post before Christmas day, but after that things might be a bit sparse so we can enjoy our family being here. We hope that as the countdown draws to a close you and yours are able to really savor the moments as they come. Yesterday afternoon Olivia had a burst of energy and was running around the kitchen/living room. Chris and I stood at the kitchen counter, hugging, and watching her. I had one of those “snapshot” moments where I was able to step back and just take it all in and file it away in my memory. It was just a sweet moment as we watched our daughter run around with such joy, cuddling each other and seeing the Christmas lights from the tree. I hope many of those moments for all of you this season. It’s worth it to stop and take it in :)