We were out of town for a week preceding Christmas and it was all the chaos and noise and delicious foods and "oh-good-heavens-are-we-there-yet" that you can imagine with these three kids in a car for a 9.5 hour drive each way. We swore last March after an all-night drive that we would never again attempt it in one shot and so we spent the night at a hotel with an INDOOR POOL! at the halfway point each way. Given how often we stay there, the desk workers know us by name at this point and know Jorge can't have milk and so they make sure to slip him a bag of Fritos instead of Doritos. They're good like that.
We got home--oh, home sweet home!--early afternoon on Christmas eve. We had nearly four hours to unload the car, re-stock the fridge, shower and generally re-humanize ourselves before the Christmas eve mass. This picture was the last thing we did before running out the door to the 5PM mass.
Now, let me say that we rarely attend Saturday evening masses anymore. In St Louis we did almost exclusively but our church here has a very early Saturday mass and it generally doesn't work for us. The early Sunday mass works better. But for Christmas our options were 5PM, 10PM, and 11AM. Since the kids ruled out 10PM and our Christmas day lunch plans ruled out 11AM, we were left with either the 5 or attending a different parish. So 5 PM mass. This actually seemed great in theory--all of us were washed and rested and excited but not burnt out.
Let me also note that on any given Sunday you can walk into our church 5 minutes after mass technically starts and (a) the place is at most half full and (b) they're still warming up the first song. By 15 minutes after the listed start time it's about 70% full.
So we rolled into the church at 5:01 and were a bit shocked to see that the place was packed. Hip to hip; cheek to jowl. There were folding chairs 10 deep in the entrance and people standing 3 deep along the walls. Then I realized: "Children's mass." In addition to everyone in the city who ever made the sign-of-the-cross, we were also hosting every kid's extended family so they could watch little Billy carry around a paper cut out of a donkey. I hold a special dark dislike for children's masses. The music is generally terrible and there's far too much of it; the readings are mumbled; the homily consists of the priest talking to the kids so it goes something like this "So today is what?" mumble mumble mumble "Yes, that's right, Christmas Eve! And what do we celebrate on Christmas Eve?" mumble mumble mumble "No, not quite." mumble mumble mumble "Well, yes, we do celebrate family, but what else?" mumble mumble mumble . And 15 painful minutes later all we've established is that Christmas is Jesus's birthday and we all love presents and Uncle Steven likes pie. The main reasons I go to mass are to hear the readings and then listen to the perspective that the priest gives it. I like to leave with something to think about all week. Children's masses, by and large, fail miserably in this department. Yes, I'm a giant Scrooge.
But it didn't matter. We ended up standing in the back. Katie sat on the floor of the main aisle along with a dozen other kids. Jorge wanted to be held so he could see and promptly fell asleep on Rob's shoulder for the rest of the service--Rob standing and holding him the entire time. August started wailing and wiggling so much I took him home mid-sermon. The only one that actually heard most of mass was Katie. Good enough.
The rest of Christmas was better. We spent that evening at a cousin's house toasting family and good company. Christmas morning was an absolute whirl of happy kids and good food and singing happy birthday to Jesus and then heading to Rob's mom's where we had a huge lunch and more family and friends and then home and naps and more fun.
We're now using this week to recover from all of the fun. I've packaged up 6 giant garbage bags of things to donate to the thrift store and 3 more of just garbage and I have my eyes on the bedrooms for tomorrow. There are still boxes that we haven't unpacked after 4.5 years of living here--I think they can move on. Jorge has 2T clothing in his closet which at this point I suppose can just move into August's drawers but definitely needs to be relocated. Katie has 3T and 4T clothes to retire. I'm only a little embarrassed to admit that in the home office I still have the binders with all of my notes, quizzes, and tests from high school and college as well as grad school. Tomorrow the very few grad school things that should be saved will be packaged up to go to my work office while the rest will relocate to the recycling bins, removing a stack of papers and binders that is at least four feet high. The bags and piles of outgrown winter gear will also be sorted and dealt with appropriately. At some point all of this blessing starts to just feel gluttonous; it's time to share what can be shared and purge the rest so we can better appreciate the many treasures and blessings we have.