Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Eve

Our Christmas Eve was as slow and easy as it gets.  As our holiday time has gone on day after day we have become more and more thankful for God's gracious leading to stay in Doha.  While I was very thankful to save the money and not travel with my children for 18 hours on an airplane plus jetlag...I still dreaded being so far away from home at such a special time.  I just wanted to be with our family and ached at the idea of what it would feel like on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  I especially hated not being able to share my kids with their grandparents and cousins. 

As usual the Lord knew where we needed to be.  There might be some reasons we'll never know but some became obvious.  Tatty's husband Ronnie had back surgery in mid December.  His recover was slower than expected and he needed Tatty's 100% attention.  And I'm certain 3 little loud Junods would have been a big distraction and changed the volume of their house.  In addition, my mom, our Honey was diagnosed with Shingles and has been in a tremendous amount of pain.  My dad has been a saint caring for her but she has literally been in bed most all day everyday. And finally my sis, poor Ash found herself at the doctor on Christmas Day with a bad case of the flu, which now has been passed on to her little baby Boone (both of which had the flu shot). 

Whew! There's no kidding, I have had tears and aching to just be in the same house as these precious people but our time together would have been strained and stressful.  Definitely not an environment for getting well or staying well.  And most importantly what a big disturbance for what our focus should be on over the holidays.  I'm pretty certain our stay in Doha has pointed us straight to Jesus and the gift of Christmas more than us being anywhere else.  I honestly have never had more free time and I've used a lot up on praying (not to mention, sleeping and eating). Its really is true that we have to make room for God.  He's a gentleman and He's not going to force Himself into our lives, even if we're "doing Christmas" 

I have best friends back home struggling with heavy responsibilities of sick or dying parents, plus a slew of tragedies that have burdened my heart in one way or another.  I have had the time and space in Doha to feel a unique closeness and special welcoming for Jesus.  My need for a Savior and my thankfulness for  Hope in such difficult or unknown circumstances have narrowed.  I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for our health, our family, and their unconditional love (no matter how far away we are).  Thank Jesus sickness, sadness, worry, fear, unknown and distance don't last forever and there is something far greater than the simple facts that we see right before us.  I keep having to relearn that lesson.  I pray our Christmas in Doha lasts a lifetime and that I never forget the little treasures and time God has given us.  And it all basically boils down to slowing down.   We have had the time to relate and love each other the way we should all the time.  We've had the opportunity and time to talk or see our families on FaceTime which isn't the same as hugging but its certainly a blessing! We have also loved all the sleeping, napping, reading, watching movies, games, puzzles and eating...we've mastered all of it TOGETHER.

This is a little video from church on Friday morning.  Our church has been a place of sharpening for so many reasons.  For one its given us a better picture of what heaven must look like and what Jesus really meant for a church.  Its stripped down to simple stuff.  Its not perfect but what church is?  

This sweet song was special to me for some reason. Might have been the timing, might have been the memory of this song but mostly I think its the genuine hearts that sing and lead our congregation.  Great way to start our holiday weekend.
Christmas Eve was spent in our PJs mostly...we did a little cooking and baking but not much. 
Brooks working on our birthday cake for Jesus.
 Barrett is very unhappy that Georgia just DUMPED the sprinkles instead of making them pretty.  He recovered pretty quick.
This is the Junod picture that my parents used for their Christmas card.  Honey gave all of her grand babies matching adorable red dresses and shirts that they didn't end up wearing together on Christmas Eve. 
We unfortunately under estimated the traffic on Christmas Eve.  It wasn't like all of Doha was rushing to a Christmas Eve service.  We were the advent readers/lighters so we were in a real pinch.  We made it just fine and basically walked down the isle reading as we walked in the door.  It was simple and sweet, no big production, just like that night thousands of years ago I suppose :)
Not a great picture but there we are...candles and all!  Brooks was the official lighter and he loved his responsibility!
 On our way home from church we made a quick stop at MegaMart to pick up some last minute things.  I happened upon the very last EggNog pint...whoohoo...for a whopping 37.75 QAR or $10.37.  We loved every drop!
These little people were itching to open a present and OFF THE WALL CRAZY!!  Like spinning on the floor out of control CRAZY.  We sure did drug our kids and have no shame.  I've never seen anything like it and my mom just kept laughing when she saw it on FaceTime.  That's some other spirit of Christmas I've never experienced!
We decided they could open their gifts from each other.  They each picked out very specific gifts.
Uh huh!  A blonde snow white and proud of it!
Can always count on an expressive thank you from Barrett!  He loves everything you give him! 
Over the last few years the Watkins family usually has a fish fry sometime over the Christmas or New Year holiday.  My dad, husband and BIL always have fish they've personally caught so we fry it all up with some hush puppies and other high cholesterol goodies.  
Nick and I worked away in the kitchen for our little munckins to have some fried fish, which they love.  I like to play off the work as if it was totally for the kids ;) I found a few Paula Dean recipes for jalapeno hush puppies and fried shrimp.  Guuuuuud!  
Georgia and Barrett snuggled on the couch watching Christmas movies while they waited for dinner.
Master Fry Daddy and Dawgs!  What you mean this doesn't look like a professional fry station?  The green towel, shady propane tank and laundry rack for a just fine at our house.  
Oh and I might mention that night, Brody (dog A front and center in the pic) cleaned up the entire cast iron skillet full of frying oil.  I'm pretty sure Santa didn't leave the puke Nick had to clean up the next morning. The dog stories never stop.
Tatty sent some pretty awesome jommies complete with Minnie ears we just had to open that night as well!
We're fairly certain that Jesus and Santa prefer red velvet like we do and so it was!  ( has the BEST and easiest homemade recipe. Trust me we've experimented!)
Reindeer food or was that for the dogs?
We Believe!  And Santa sure did find us in Doha!
Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night!


Nick has been off work along with the boys school holiday.  ITS AWESOME! We have never spent any time in Doha with him at home.  Of course the weekends but not vacation.  A few days before Christmas it was especially great.  We spent our days together and were able to share the Christmas shopping and grocery shopping, which isn't usually the case. 

One long errand consisted of waiting in the Aramex line.  The boys patiently waited and snacked on shwarmas but were very excited to see what was shipped to us from our families in Texas.  I believe they sent an entire Target store and more! It was so much fun for the boys.  Brooks said daddy's FJ had turned into Santa's sleigh. Thankfully Georgie was home with a sitter napping or someone would have been on the roof! 
 That night we were all in our PJs and loved the surprise of a small group of families from our compound who came to our door caroling! 
 Finally...the gifts from Texas were out of the box (re-wrapped...thank you customs) and under our tree.  On to the real fun...packing peanuts.  This was minimal...we had a white Christmas a few hours later.  We warned about the clean up...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Gingerbread Houses

The word on the street was that the Sharq Hotel (sister to the Ritz) had a great Gingerbread House making kids event.  So a few weeks ago we made our reservation and it did NOT disappoint.  It was fun for all of us.  
Started our morning with a little breakfast at Ric's.
 Listening to instructions from the pastry chefs.
 mini pastry chefs
 Pastry Chef Daddy was all about the fondant...he rocked the snowmen!
 All of the houses made that day by the kids in our group.
Such a fun activity for us!

Starry Night at the Singing Dunes

Well I think it might have been one of my most favorite nights ever in this place we currently call home.  We left mid afternoon with some friends and headed to the Singing Sand Dunes, one of our favorite Doha spots but it was unlike any other time we've ever been.

By word of mouth we were invited to join a big group for their annual caroling and bonfire at the Dunes.  It was so well organized and such a special night.  
Shot as we drove up.  People started gathering well before we arrived. 
 Headed up the Dunes...we had a full day of rain 3-4 days prior to this so the sand was really unusual and much harder to climb in.  And sadly it didn't "sing" like it usually does.
 View from the top of all the people and cars.  Do you see the wood for the bon fire way down there and the terribly long line for...santa! Thankfully we had already seen him!
 We estimated that there were probably 300 cars.
Our friends the Mercers...once again crazy connection.  They used to live in the same Round Rock neighborhood as one of my Pi Phi sorority sisters.  Now they live in our compound! 
 Our friends the Neckers...we were internet friends before their move to Doha!  Sweet family!!
 Our group...a few of the Griders who were also in our groupie!
 Georgia the gangster.  Not sure!  Maybe that's what happens when you give your kids the healthy food we prepared :)
 I borrowed this picture from my friend who was singing from the Dunes.  We were on the opposite side by the cars.  Very special night to gather and sing songs under a clear sky about the birth of our Savior.  We saw so many people we knew and apparently most of who stayed in Doha for Christmas went to this event. 
One last unique value of the night struck me. There 500-700 people there, no security, no worries of vandalism or safety.  I don't mean we were being stupid, I mean there really seriously was no concern.  Sure we were smart with driving and fire issues.  But all we really needed was a flash light.  I just think its unreal that hundreds of people can gather in the middle of no where...respect each other, respect children and enjoy themselves so comfortably.  That, you might not find anywhere else.

Christmas at School

Since living in Doha we have always skipped out of school early before the Christmas break.  This year it was fun to stick around for class parties and a slow finish before the break. Usually we kill ourselves to pack and get out of Qatar asap.  We would have loved to pack up and head home but this year the Lord had different plans for us so we enjoyed finishing school and celebrating with our classmates and teachers. 

Georgia had a little song program that was pretty much straight chaos but still something we wouldn't dare miss.  This was one of those moments my camera was in the air just guessing that the lens was pointed in the right direction.
 Not sure Georgia had seen me at this point...eventually most of this little cute school was crying for their mama! 
 Both of the boys made these Reindeer Nose little treats for their classmates.  Seriously Pinterest and Etsy keep people alive over here in the desert!  The boys helped with these treats which at this point makes any effort totally worth it.  They were so excited and so proud to give them to their friends.  We improvised the noses with Maltesers instead of Whoppers and cherry gummies instead of red gumballs.  Team effort for this one...thank you Daddy for hunting down Rudolph noses.
We also scored these cute ceramic Santas for our teachers.  Doha, you've come a long way!  They may have been sold in the US 20 years ago at KMart but they're pretty darn cute and worked just perfect for our teachers. 
First up on Thursday morning was a pancake breakfast with hot chocolate for Bear's class.  They loved it and gobbled it up!!
 His teacher is so special. She is so experienced and so mindful of what these little thinkers need to practice and learn.  Confidence in themselves and respect for others are at the very top of her priorities. She had them all stand up and walk around the table to look each others Santa handywork. 
She also asked Barrett to tell the class about his gift.  I've noticed she often builds them up by requiring them to speak confidently in front of each other.  I needed a little more of that growing up...still makes me nervous!
 And in the afternoon, it was on to Brooks' party which was easy peasy. I love these teachers who prefer simple and less distraction from the already crazy day.  We decorated cookies.  Then watched Charlie Brown Christmas with hot chocolate and popcorn.
 I'm not even sure Charlie Brown Christmas would be allowed in a typical American school.  It actually talks about Jesus' birth and the real meaning of Christmas.  Doha rebels!
 Brooks also was asked to tell about his treats.  How nice not to just toss our little project in all the backpacks and mostly great practice for Brooks.
 Our weekend breakfast of champions!