Lovely Chaos – Our Christmas

Bring back my normalcy! Enough with the crazy….I need a schedule!

So many of you have asked me how our holidays have been. Thank you for asking. And because I don’t want to scare you with the truth, I usually just answer with something bland like, “Our holidays were nice.”

If I had to describe our Christmas season in one sentence it would be….

There were some lovely moments amidst all the chaos.

Like this moment…

Christmas service at church – a beautiful time of celebrating Christ’s birth.

And this one….

Watching The Sound of Music on Christmas Eve

And these….



And more cousins

But then there were the other moments.

Like this one….

Two days before Christmas, my in-laws get snowed out of their home and lose power. This would be the house that was originally slated to host Christmas dinner, of course. So my mother and father-in-law, my sister-in-law and my dog-in-law all move into our master bedroom and the little boy’s room. Then my sister and brother-in-law and my adorable niece move into the office. Then my dad and stepmom and youngest brother move into the floor of our living room.

Are you catching all of this? Keep up with me here. This means that 7 out of the 8 original members of our household are all sharing one bedroom. We now have 17 people and 3 dogs staying at our house. And….we are unexpectedly hosting Christmas dinner. For which another 9 people show up.

Kinda funny, isn’t it?

And this moment….

On Christmas morning, after all the present-opening and toy-inspecting, I had the kids take their new belongings up to their bedrooms. I was soon summoned by a certain child who shall remain nameless (her name rhymes with Zeah). She had all of her gifts carefully arranged across the carpet. And she proceeds to explain to me that she did not get the same amount of presents as the others. How unfair! She did not get enough!

And this one….

As we lay in bed discussing Christmas traditions and family, one child asks when we are going back to Ethiopia. We explain that we would love to go back and visit someday, maybe 2 or 3 years from now. Then, this sweet soul says, “Me no visit. Me stay in Ethiopia. Need help my mom. She say you get big, you come back and help.” As we gently explained that we are a family now and that they will all be living in America with us, the tears start to fall. Quietly into the pillow. Crying themselves to sleep.

Our children are still adjusting to the over-stimulation that is America. They do very well handling all of the new, but it does not take much to overwhelm them. I have had to turn down party invitations and re-adjust plans because I know that the end result will not be pretty. In fact, I have to segment my errand-running because too many errands in one day is cause for meltdown. What must the Christmas season seem like to them?

Imagine spending your life in a one-room home. There is no TV. No video games. No electricity. No car. No books and toys. Almost every meal consists of the same food, when you are lucky enough to have a meal. One outfit that you wear every day. To pass the time you play outside. A marble-type game played with rocks. Using sticks to build a bird trap. Trying to catch the mouse that lives in the patch of weeds across the street. Braiding your sister’s hair.

And then you come here. To America. How do you process something like that?

Sometimes it shows up in a hoarding-like mentality. “I went without food before. I used to not have any toys. Now I see food and toys everywhere. Maybe I should take as much as I can now, just in case it all goes away again.”

Sometimes it looks like over-reaction. Yelling and pushing because someone touches your belongings. Being hyperactive and loud and fidgety. Crying over every little ache and pain so that they will receive comfort and love.

Sometimes it looks like defiance and attitude. A little bit of testing. “Do they really love me? Is this really forever? How will they treat me if I disobey?”

These kinds of behaviors and issues are best handled in a safe, secure, predictable environment. Having a schedule and some structure to their day seems to make them feel less of a need to test me. I am beyond proud of the growth I have seen in my children. They have beautiful hearts. But they are still in the adjustment phase.

So how was our Christmas season? Well, we focused on what was important. We celebrated the birth of Christ. We read a story for advent every night. We let the kids put out the manger scene and talked about the characters. We read the Christmas story before we opened even one present.

And next year will be better!




3 thoughts on “Lovely Chaos – Our Christmas

  1. Anita

    Yes, it gets better. Our Haitian kids have been home 3 Christmas’s. The first was the hardest. We learned a lot. Simplicity goes a long ways. We limit the gifts we give, and the gifts of others, and the time spent opening them. Not in a legalistic way, but in a ‘hey, lets focus on Jesus, and not stuff’ kinda of way. We say no to a lot, but enjoy doubly what we are able to say yes too. The highlight for me was riding a hayride through our neighborhood of Christmas lights, with our youngest adopted child yelling at everyone walking,”Hey YOU- Have a MERRY CHRISTmas…” It was awesome. She’s figured it out 🙂

  2. Bill Giovannetti

    Way to embrace the chaos! I can only imagine the stress of suddenly having Christmas dinner (and unexpected houseguests), as if you didn’t have enough stress already! Thank you for sharing your heart and life with us all. Many blessings to your Great Eight in the coming year.

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