It really is amazing to think that this time last year we were in Kiev, Ukraine. Our family had said "yes" to adopting Cava and he said, "Da," that he wanted us to adopt him. Our Christmas last year was as a family of three with a future fourth. All we could think about last Christmas was this Christmas and spending it with Cava. How quickly that year has passed between Christmases and how exciting it was to see Cava's reactions to everything that was new with his first Christmas in the States.
This holiday season was filled with firsts for Cava and he was delighted by all of them. He loved counting down the days until Christmas Eve on the Advent Calendar and telling us numerous times each day about how many days were left. As Christmas Eve drew closer, his excitement over anticipation grew and grew until he was electric with giddiness. Along with counting down the days, he counted each new present that appeared under our Christmas tree. He counted how many were his, how many were Benjamin's, and how many there were total. He vacillated on how many presents he was going to open on Christmas Eve and how many he was going to open on Christmas Morning.
The day before Christmas Eve, Cava began to withdraw a little. At one point, I found him in his room and he was rocking on his bed.
"You okay?" I asked.
"Yeah," he replied, unconvincingly.
"Are you sure?"
He finally admitted that he was nervous.
"Pretty overwhelming, isn't it?" I asked him.
"Yeah, it is for a lot of people, including adults. But remember, you were nervous about Halloween and that was fun, wasn't it?"
"And you were nervous about your birthday party, but you enjoyed that, didn't you?"
"And Thanksgiving, too, and you liked that, right?"
"Just watch, you'll love Christmas."
Just going into a store and seeing not only how its brightly decorated but all of the items one can buy (especially the toys) must be thrilling and overwhelming for a child who's grown up with nothing and has lived in orphanages his whole life. Not to mention all of the activity and the break from normal, daily routine. Talk about your sensory overload!
When Christmas Eve arrived and he could barely contain himself. He and Benjamin repeatedly asked us, "When can we open presents?"
"After dinner," both my wife and I replied.
"Can we eat dinner now?" they asked.
"Not for breakfast, no."
For the boys, it seemed like the time to open presents would never come. They wolfed down their food in the hopes that would speed things along, but Danelle and I had told them we weren't going to hurry through dinner and they would just have to wait until we were done. Seeing that this was true, Cava decided to have seconds and thirds (we fixed the Ukrainian dumplings Danelle had gotten at the international market).
Finally, when we had washed off our plates and put them in the dishwasher, the excitement could no longer be contained any more than one can push lava back into an active volcano.
Danelle played Santa and handed out the boys' presents.
It never ceases to amaze and depress me how we spend so much time finding the perfect gifts, then wrapping them, setting the gifts under the tree, and how it is all over with in a matter of minutes (10 minutes to be exact). Of course, we spend on both boys what many people probably spend on one kid. The key is not spending a lot, but on thinking through what gift will be most appreciated by each person.
For Cava, this year, it was all about Spider-man.
From us, he got Spider-man pajamas:
That he immediately had to put on:
And from Santa:
A Spider-man mask:
A Spider-man clock, wristwatch, and an umbrella:
And a Spider-man spin-brush in his stocking:
Later, when we went to my sister's house on Christmas Day, Granddad Bob and Evette gave him a Spider-man comforter, sheets, and pillowcase.
With Benjamin, it was electronics components:
Jurassic Park (a t-shirt and the DVD trilogy):
Dr. Who (he got the complete series six on DVD) and a t-shirt (that was sooooo Benjamin because it was both Dr. Who and computers):
For those who don't know the show, its CTRL, ALT, and a Cyberman who are notorious for exclaiming, "Delete!"
Throughout the Christmas holidays, I have tried to imagine how big and overwhelming it all must be for a child who has never experienced any of this. So much of what we have taken for granted: Christmas music, Christmas specials, seeing stores and homes decorated, getting to decorate our own house, presents wrapped in festive paper, and even the story of the birth of Christ was all new to him. We got to share so much with him and see the season through his eyes and just how miraculous Christmas really is.
When I asked Cava what his favorite thing about Christmas was, he replied in Cava style, "All of it!"