Feb 23, 2011

"Peace on Earth"
(and even more "Angels Among Us")

Our Christmas season settled in with a great measure of peace this year.
We had Maxie and Kiki, and we all had colds so it was a quieter than usual time. 

We had intended to go to the Christmas concert at the Swedish Church in Junsele which promised to be wonderful with a children's choir presenting  traditional Swedish Christmas music.
 But we all found ourselves more ready for a peaceful evening at home that night, enjoying the warmth of the adventstalkar (7-candle Christmas lights) in every window and the fire in the woodstove.

We discovered the previous Sunday at our own little branch of the Church in Övik (short for Örnsköldsvik) that two of our dear members would be spending Christmas without their families this year.

 So we prevailed on Wek, on the left, who comes from the Sudan, and Darlington on the right (loading up the woodbox for the woodstove) to come to the farm and spend the holidays with us.
Two MORE angels! 
It was so wonderful to have them.

Pappa carved the Julskinka (Christmas ham) which was the best ever this year since we discovered a new and better recipe for the mustard glaze and crispy Storbröd (breadcrumb) coating,

and each and every one of us dug in to the Ris a lá Malta  (rice pudding with small chunks of sweet, fresh orange and mountains of whipped cream folded in - it can only be dee--licious!) until we were full to the brim.
Swedish comfort food at it's best.

And of course, it could NEVER be a real Christmas without the missionaries. This year it was Elder Grindstaff and Elder Grigg.

 They arrived, and that very evening Elder Grindstaff accompanied a greatly-cheered-up Pappa on a jaunt to Eden and Junsele where they delivered a Christmas Church video and a beautiful piece of farm cheese from our dairy to merchants and friends.

With their good humor and willingness to help they certainly more than earned their dinner, and their angelic presence made it even more festive.

Here were some of the family just after we started the first courses from the Julbord (Christmas buffet table).  The rest were still filling their plates in the kitchen. 
Maxie had combed his hair like a true gentleman for the occasion (Pappa was so pleased), and Kiki was enjoying yet another hilarious moment of Gustav's quick wittedness and straight-faced jokes.
It was a great spirit of fun and togetherness.

We had wondered and wondered what we could get Maxie for Christmas that he would really love.
It was Gustav who came up with the brilliant idea...
Maxie had told us that he loved to ski, but when we asked him if he went very often when he was home he said he didn't, even though there is a ski hill very close to where he lives. 
Ski equipment is expensive to rent and even more expensive to own and when children are growing so quickly it is a large and sometimes daunting investment for many families.
Gustav remembered that he had a pair of skis that he had outgrown, complete with the ski boots to match.  When he went to find them in an outbuilding on the farm where they had been stored for several years,
they were like BRAND NEW!
He brought them in and dusted them off and even found a helmet to go with the whole outfit.
On Christmas Eve, when it came Maxie's turn to open his presents, Gustav presented him with the entire kit.
Maxie was beside himself with joy and every piece fit perfectly!
As soon as the ski hill was open, Maxie was up and ready to roll.

Kiki helped him get his boots on but he could do the rest himself.

While Gustav was gone to the southern part of Sweden for several days after Christmas for an All-Church youth activity,
Maxie was "sloping it up" at every opportunity, practicing his downhill skills so as to impress Gustav when he came home.
And he did great.....

.....most of the time.
When Gustav got home they went every day and had  fabulous fun together.

They say that
 "All good things must come to an end"
and sadly, it is true.

Wek, Darlington and the missionaries had all been staying over in the "Men's Dormitory" in the upstairs loft of the Vävstuga (weaving house).
They tidied up their beds, packed their gear and left for home in Örnsköldsvik.

Kiki, who had promised to stay until Grandpa Hans' cast came off, did just that, then left for home the same week.  

We live in a small village where news travels fast.
Like everyone else, Jörgen the manager, Tomas the butcher, and Karin the cashier at the ICA grocery store had heard about the granddaughter of the Karlsson's that had come to help when Hans broke his leg.  She was a great favorite with all of them while she was here and when she went to say good-bye, they echoed the sentiments of one of the locals who had said,
 "Att flickan är så vacker inuti som hon är utanför."
(That girl is as beautiful inside as she is outside.)
We agreed.

And Maxie?  Well.....
After days of whooping it up on the ski hills of Junsele,
he and Gustav arrived home one night with less than happy news:

after a particularly daring run he had taken a fall,
and his right arm was bruised, sore and swollen.
He did the only sensible thing...he headed for the kitchen sofa.

When the swelling had subsided, we took him to the Sollefteå Sjukhus (Sollefteå Hospital) where we were greeted with a fond "Hello Karlsson's" since we had been there seemingly not so long before with Pappa and his leg.... They checked him in, examined the arm, X-rayed it, and pronounced it fractured.

Broken Bones 'R Us!
It wasn't a bad break so the cast would only have to stay on for three weeks.
Maxie said it was "worth it" for all the fun and besides, it was his right arm and he is left-handed so "it wouldn't be so bad".
(No shortage of optimism here).

This post would not be complete without one of the most tender-hearted moments of the entire Christmas experience for us.
In our home and around the farm there are always small chores to be done.  Often these come at seemingly "inconvenient" times for the kids and often there is more than one chore that must be done concurrently.
In order to make it fair I always say, 
"I'm thinking of a number between one and ten"
and whoever guesses closest gets to choose which chore he or she would like.  The loser gets the left overs.
For some reason that none of us can ever figure out,
Gustav loses and loses and loses and loses.
It doesn't seem to matter what his guessing strategy is
 or how fast he shouts out his number, he is seldom, if ever, the winner.
When Kiki went home she left a pair of earphones
and said if one of the boys wanted them they could have them.  
I am a 'Techno-Peasant', as our daughter says.
I had no idea of whether the earphones in question would even be desirable.
So as I started up the stairs to where the boys were playing their game one afternoon I began to say,
"Listen guys....Kiki left these earphones and said that if anyone wanted them..."  
I didn't get any farther than that before they both shouted, 
"I want them!"
And that meant picking a number between one and ten.

I saw the look on Gustav's face instantly.  So I got an idea and I said, 
"For just this time we will do 'best two out of three',"
thinking maybe in some way that would give Gustav a better chance.
Maxie guessed first and guessed right on the very number - Four.
Then Gustav guessed with Maxie next and yes...Maxie won again. 
I felt so badly for Gustav. 
And then a terrific thing happened.  

Without a moment's hesitation, and with complete love and sincerity in his boy-voice Maxie said,
"I give the earphones to Gustav!"
We were so touched.

"They wear so many faces, show up in the strangest places,
To grace us with their mercy, in our time of need".
                                                                                    Alabama: "Angels Among Us"

This Christmas season on the farm, we indeed had

Peace on earth,

and even more than that, with all the 'angels among us',
we had an abundance of

Good will Towards Men!

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