Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Magic of Christmas 2015

Christmas Eve was absolute magic. After a fun afternoon ice skating at the Christmas market, we came home, popped Cremant (Luxembourgish champagne), and started cooking. Escargot, fois gras, boeuf encroute, bouche de Noël, all while listening to Christmas carols and reveling in the real meaning of Christmas.
Towards the end of dinner, the door bell rang. And what do you know? Tinsel the elf had dropped off Christmas pajamas for all the kids on the front stoop! They were ecstatic! They couldn't believe Tinsel knew their size.
All day, the kids had been giddy waiting to open one present before bed -- they had each carefully chosen their gift, gently shaking it and trying to guess what was inside. At last, with dinner finished,  Charlie opened a remote control flying helicopter from Madeline and we just melted as he hugged her and kept exclaiming, "Mimi! You're the best sister in the whole world!" John was beside himself too when he opened "Magic Sand" (kinetic sand that sticks to itself) from his big sister. He'd been wanting it forever. And Madeline opened art projects that Rob and I gave her, which she loved; I think her joy that night sprang more from the act of giving than receiving. Watching the whole scene unfold was my Christmas gift from the kids.
Ballroom dancing to Christmas carols!
Reading Twas the Night Before Christmas, of course!
Charlie ended up reading us the whole entire thing!
The next morning, all the kids were in our bed at 5:45am watching the clock inch towards 6am, which we told them the night before was when we could go downstairs. Rob was positioned with the video camera to record their reactions.

Oh, the MAGIC!

Santa brought John a car track, Mimi a sewing machine and Charlie a light saber and Ninjago Legos. The next few hours were filled with so much Christmas joy. Those precious minutes are worth the months of work to pull it all off.
Sandie and Nicki made strata (they packed the Kraft jarred cheese in bubble wrap and carried it over in their suitcases), and after a few hours of spirited gift opening, we spent the next several days building catapults, putting together models, making sock puppets and more. Madeline and Grammy sewed a toy for Bitsy on her new sewing machine.
It was another absolutely amazing Christmas. It's possible that this will be the last year that ALL the kids believe in the magic of Santa, elves and the North Pole -- Madeline is eight and she has started asking why kids at school don't believe anymore -- so we especially treasured this special year.

Magic. Pure magic.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Vlachs Visit and a Day Trip to Trier, Germany

We were so blessed to be surrounded by family for our second Christmas abroad. Two days after Andi and Kyle's left for Paris, Rob's parents and his sister, Nicki, arrived!

We ice skated, visited the Lux Christmas market, ate raclette, had dance parties, played at the playground, read Harry Potter, watched Star Wars and played a lot of checkers.
Bitsy loved it, until it scared her!
Online checkers since we couldn't find a real board anywhere....
Peek-a-boo! (Or cuckoo, as the Europeans say)
Reading the illustrated Harry Potter!
We also enjoyed a sunny day in Luxembourg's Grund, which is a quarter in a valley right below the City Centre, along the Alzette River.
Eglise de St. John Baptiste is always closed but that day the door swung open...
One day, Rob took vacation from work and we drove to Trier, Germany, only 45 minutes away by car, for its Marché de Noël. It's the oldest city in Germany, and was founded by the Celts centuries before the Romans showed up; Karl Marx was also born there. We ate schnitzel for lunch, shelled fresh roasted chestnuts, visited ancient Roman baths and walked into an 800 year old cathedral where Jesus' tunic is preserved.
We were here the last day of the Christmas Market!
Roasted chestnuts
Ancient Roman bath
Bitsy's deciding what kind of schnitzel to order....
Trier Cathedral 
Loved this Christmas market poster
Another day, Rob took his folks and the "big kids" to Metz, France, to visit a display of Disney ice sculptures, or fééries de glace, as they're called. John couldn't resist licking each one as he walked past.
Madeline and Anna from Frozen
And then, before we knew it, the magic of Christmas was upon us.....