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December 21, 2003: Let the gifting begin

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It's been another long and (mostly) lovely day. We got up early, with all good intentions of making it to the church with plenty of time to get everything set up for the coffee hour after the service, since we were hosting it. Those plans were waylaid only slightly by the discovery of yet another trail of ants inside the house this time, of all places, one of the litter boxes. Naturally this meant I had to dump the entire box and wipe it down, since I didn't want the cats scrabbling around in ant-spray-contaminated litter. Bearing in mind that we have been cleaning up at least one infestation of ants daily for nearly the past week, can you blame us for later in the afternoon putting ant stakes directly into the paths of any ants we could find around the outside of our house. I am getting so incredibly sick of dealing with them, and I'm starting to get a little nervous. I hate dealing with ants in my own house and I do not want the poor pet sitter to have to deal with them while we're gone!

Despite the ants we managed, somehow, to make it to the church with just enough time to arrange cookies and fudge on trays, start the coffee, and mix up a few pitches of lemonade. Then it was off to the sanctuary for a few hours of practice before the service, during which we finally sang the cantata.

I am so used to singing cantatas that are nothing more than barely disguised Christmas carols with sappy readings stuck in between, so when the director introduced the music to us this year, it was a nice surprise. Some of the words of the songs were familiar, but few if any of the tunes were ones we knew, and the readings in between all seemed to convey the meaning and the intent of the piece without being overly saccharine. Such a nice change!

I hadn't been sure how well I'd do after a week of coughing and sniffling, but I took some sinus meds when we got to church, tried to hold back when the entire choir was in unison, and saved my voice for the times when the tenor part was most needed. The accompanying celloist was marvelous; the duet between bass and soprano was lovely, and even though they'd have loved us if we'd stood there and croaked simple children's songs at them, still it felt good when the congregation gave us a rousing round of applause at the end.

In a way I was glad that we were doing coffee hour today, because that meant I could sneak into the kitchen directly after the service and busy myself with coffee cups and spoons and trying to find where they keep the sugar in the church kitchen, and I didn't have to make much in the way of small talk with what remained of my voice. We got a lot of compliments on our cookies, and most especially on our fudge. My mom and I split the last gingerbread man, divvying up arms and legs and body parts between us, and my dad home from Germany for a few weeks helped corral the used dishes and bring them to the kitchen for me to load into the dishwasher. There were hugs for friends we won't see until after Christmas and cheerful wishes for holiday travel, and then we were done. We did lunch with my parents and talked about the bible study that all of us (except my dad, since he's been in Germany for months) are involved in, and discussed what Ezekiel really saw in those wacky visions of his, or who Isaiah really might have been referring to, and then they followed us back to our house to ooh and aah over all the new additions to our backyard (yes I will post pictures one of these days, honest I will).

After lunch Richard and I sat down and figured out who we still need stocking stuffers for, since the really cool stocking stuffers we'd ordered nearly a month ago never showed up, and then we set off in our own cars to finish the last minute shopping for those missing stuffers, and for each other.

We've strung out the opening of Christmas presents for each other over the two days previous to Christmas in the years past, but since we're heading down to his parents' place on Tuesday night and flying out to Seattle on Wednesday night, we either had to do our gifts to each other tonight or Monday, or wait until we got back. I am too impatient to wait that long, and tomorrow night will most likely be crammed full of last minute packing and cleaning and (I am sure) killing of ants. So we first decided to open our stocking presents, and after that it didn't take much before we were opening our under-the-tree presents as well.

I feel hopelessly spoiled this year with Christmas. Richard got me some beautiful skirts and tops, proving once again that he knows better than I what clothes will look good on me. There was a bag of some of my favorite cookies in my stocking, and a nice stack of books for me to read lots of short story compilations I've been eying and one of Judith Martin's etiquette books since she always makes me laugh with her oh-so-polite humor toward manners, and lots of little goodies, and for some reason, a whole handful of bright orange practice golf balls, which I spilled immediately onto the floor because even though he claims they are for me, we both know who they were really for. The cats were extremely interested in the whole process, since after all the unwrapping of presents always means lots of boxes and paper to play in, so the bright orange balls were batted and skittered across the floor within moments of them touching down.

And so now we are lounging about lazily, unwilling to let the weekend be truly over, munching on an oh-so-healthy dinner of Christmas stocking goodies cookies and chocolate and peanut brittle. Next week is Christmas, and in only a few days I will be on a plane to Seattle. This winter cold I am battling shows no signs of wanting to leave my sinuses and I am starting to panic, ever so slightly, but for now I am doing my best to remain optimistic. Because really, if I need to panic over something, better to do it over the ants.

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