Christmas Highlights: Week 1

I realize we’re getting a bit out of order here, but I’m going to hop back and give a summary of our trip home to the USA for Christmas. A couple people (hi mom! Hi Ben!) have been hounding me not to abandon the blog completely.   The trip was a wonderful time of visiting friends and family and celebrating the birth of our Lord. We also had four new nieces and nephews to meet when we returned home for this trip. So here goes:

We flew out of Cebu in the first hour of Thursday, Dec. 17. Ben and I finished packing early and didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Daniel and Zion were still at school. So we took Knox and Clementine to the mall and hit Ulli’s Streets of Asia for lunch. Note to parents of small children: if you wish to avoid in-flight pungent, vile odors, perhaps avoid feeding them bibimbop just before departure.

We traveled for 29 hours and arrived in Bloomington mid-afternoon on Thursday, Dec. 17. I know. It’s confusing. That evening we had a big birthday bash/welcome home for my dad and my sister-in-law and for us. I remember very little about that evening, aside from waking up on the floor of my parents’ living room around 10pm and realizing the party was over. I assume we must have put our kids to bed sometime before, but I don’t remember.

We stayed with my parents for the first week and a half that we were back. On Friday, we went to Ben’s parents’ house for dinner. Ben’s parents retired and moved to Bloomington a week after we moved to Cebu. I suppose they thought Bloomington’s Crum population had reached critical mass and they couldn’t return until someone left. But we will return soon, and what will they do then? Ha! Ben’s parents had hung a “welcome home!” banner above their door, and it was a sweet reunion with them.

We spent Saturday visiting with friends, and my mom took Daniel and Zion to pick out a Christmas tree. That evening we met our new nephew Matthias. What joy!

Sunday we went to church, lunched and napped at Ben’s parents’, and then went to our small group’s Christmas party at the Chasteen home. We had forgotten to get gifts for the white elephant exchange, so Ben’s parents graciously scrounged up some treasures and wrapped them for us. We feasted like kings on BBQ beef brisket made by our dear friend Brandon and enjoyed all sorts of other delicious, purely American foods. Including Beth Alberson’s mint chocolate Christmas cookies…the best.

Before we left Cebu, on top of Christmas shopping I had made multiple trips to the mall to buy warm clothes for our trip back to the United States. Fortunately, Cebu’s first H&M opened just one week before we went home, so that made my task easier. By the time we left, each of us had at least one pair of jeans, one pair of sweat pants, and some type of sweatshirt. It was nice that the weather was unseasonably warm when we arrived in Bloomington. It gave us a chance to ease in to winter. That week, the boys played outside with cousins, tearing down and reconstructing a teepee in the woods behind my parents’ house. The teepee is a favorite spot. The boys spend endless hours there, and it always seems to be undergoing some type of renovation. Sound like anyone else you know?

On Monday night we participated in a very old Crum family tradition: Monday night spaghetti. Growing up, Ben’s family ate spaghetti for dinner every Monday. It was one of their favorite meals. Now, Ben’s parents have decided to carry on that tradition for their grandchildren. Ben’s mom fixes an enormous pot of spaghetti and daughters-in-law pitch in with several side dishes. There’s only one problem–there are too many of us to sit down for a meal in their home! So Ben’s parents, always resourceful, bought a propane heater for their large garage and draped flags over the fluorescent bulbs to soften the harsh light. Then they added some tables and decorations, and voila! they’ve managed to transform their garage into a warm and welcoming extension of their home. We traipse through the house and lounge in the family room, watching tv or playing with toys. But we eat the meal together in the garage. That night, we also got to meet our nephew Titus, along with our brand new niece Cecelia–only 1 week old!

We spent the next several days eating meals in the homes of family and friends, decorating my parents’ Christmas tree, drinking lots of coffee, and enjoying 24-hour access to their freezer, which my dad keeps stocked with top-quality ice cream. One afternoon I took my niece Brie to get her ears pierced. Another afternoon, my mom asked the boys to go outside and bring in the mail for her. In the mailbox, the boys found an envelope addressed to each of them. Inside was a card with a black umbrella on the front. They opened the cards to find an invitation to attend Cardinal Stage’s production of Mary Poppins that evening with my mom. They were elated.

Wednesday we had to cancel plans with several families whose kids had fallen sick with a stomach virus. Thursday, we had supper at Ben’s parents house again, then we all attended the Christmas Eve candlelight service at our church. That night, we attempted to go to a Christmas Eve party at my sister’s house, but Daniel fell sick.

On Christmas Day we awoke to find that the “creeping crud” had infiltrated our ranks. Daniel was recovering, but Ben, Zion and I had all succumbed to the dreaded stomach bug. Somehow, Knox and Clementine managed to stay healthy. Even with upset stomachs, though, nothing could keep us from enjoying the cinnamon rolls that Zion and I had made the night before. We sat down to a late brunch with my parents, and late in the afternoon we managed to open presents together.

The next couple days we spent with the Crum family. Two of Ben’s aunts had driven up from the south to celebrate with us, and their presence made the holiday even more special. The Crum family Christmas always includes a jam session of some sort. This year, Ben and three of his brothers and sister sat around playing guitar, drums, uke and bass. They sing all sorts of songs, but there’s always a bit of Kingston Trio in there.

One thing I’ve missed in Cebu is baking. Our oven looks really fancy, but it’s nearly impossible to use. There are no temperature settings on the dial. And in order to turn it on, you have to stand there and hold a knob in while clicking the starter. Once the gas flame starts, you have to sit there and babysit it for several minutes to make sure the flame doesn’t go out. Then, inevitably it goes out anyhow after you’ve walked away. I’ll go to put something in the oven, expecting it to be pre-heated, only to find that the flame went out and it has been seeping gas into our kitchen for 10 or 15 minutes. So I just don’t bother. So I took advantage of my mom’s kitchen to make one fancy dessert–a peppermint brownie trifle with chocolate pudding and white chocolate mousse. Yum!

And those are the highlights from our first week back in the United States. Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure:

We received a warm welcome home.

Knox enjoys Crum family spaghetti night with his cousin Abigail.


Zion helps Nana decorate the tree.

Clementine helped, too.


On Christmas Eve, shortly before we all fell ill.


Now that we’re back in Cebu, it’s hard to imagine sitting in front of a fire and enjoying it.


Christmas morning brunch at my parents’ house.

How’s the sickie?


Jam session after the Crum family Christmas celebration.

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