Monday, December 29, 2014

"Santa shops at Walmart!"

"When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things--not the greatest occasions--give off the greatest glow of happiness."
-Bob Hope

Now that we're snugly between the two holidays--Christmas and the new year--I'm feeling a bit of a tug toward normalcy. The Christmas remnants are still lingering in my house: the decorations stare cheerily at me, the new toys litter every nook and cranny, and the lazy days grow long and boring. The festive hangover has commenced. I need a holiday detox, beginning with Project De-Christmas My House. I say this like a big fat Grinch, but, really, I loved every minute of the holiday and I'm already looking forward to next year.

Ours was filled with celebrating our family of four. We inadvertently discovered last year when the weather ruined our travel plans yet another Christmas that we'd really rather prefer staying home anyway. So we made plans to see the extended family before or after Christmas, and then spent Christmas Eve and Day holed up in our house, save for the excursion into town for the Christmas Eve candlelight service--a definite tradition I'm not willing to sacrifice.

A few days prior to Christmas, it snowed. We all rejoiced: a white Christmas, after all! Then it melted. Gone with barely a trace as a reminder. The lack of snow seems like such a inconsequential thing, but I'm fairly certain it contributed to our constant state of denial that it was indeed Christmas. Dave and I kept reminding ourselves and each other of that fact. And Spencer mourned our foiled sledding plans. Last Christmas we had more than enough snow and sledded the afternoon away, thinking a new tradition had been born. Hopefully next year we can resurrect the Christmas day sledding tradition.

On Christmas Eve the boys opened the gifts from us, separating the ones from Santa by a day. The favorite gifts were definitely the ones the boys picked out for each other. Toys, of course. After setting out cookies for Santa and grain for the reindeer, the boys snuggled into the sleeping bags I made them, rolled out on their bedroom floors. Ashton lasted a few minutes on the floor before he retired to his bed, but Spencer spent the entire night nestled inside his "army" sleeping bag.

Christmas morning buzzed with sweet anticipation. We made the boys wait while I prepared the monkey bread for baking. I wonder if Santa ate all the cookies. I can't wait to see what he brought me. Is it time to go downstairs yet? Finally, it was time, and they ran downstairs. Spencer grabbed his stocking off the hook faster than I could ready my camera and was digging in it with wild abandon. Ashton took his time mulling through the stocking and Santa bag treasures. We had to keep urging him along to discover more of the goodies. When all the gifts had been unearthed, Spencer took stock of his loot, and suddenly exclaimed, "Santa shops at Walmart!" (Note to self: remove all stickers, tags and other "evidence" next year. Otherwise my Santa rights may just be revoked.)

We spent the day in our jammies, eating, playing with new toys and puzzles and games, watching movies and singing along to the constant stream of the Frozen soundtrack in the background. Once the boys were tucked in bed that night, Dave and I played a few rounds of cards before snuggling under blankets to watch a movie.

Although we enjoyed being hermits on Christmas, we were equally excited to emerge the next day. We did something so atypical of a December in Minnesota. We had a picnic. Outside. Without freezing to death. It was a little chilly, but the novelty of a December picnic was too hard to pass up. Then after we "fed" some deer and played at the park, we hurried home to trade in real clothes for jammies and resume our hermit status.

Now that Christmas is over and we're sluggishly detoxing, we are preparing to celebrate the end of 2014. Happy belated holidays!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Muddy Christmas

"Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it white."
-Bing Crosby

A thick fog descended and cloaked the world with a hazy grayness. The temperature hung in the 40s, feeling more like days ripped out of April rather than December. The early snow that sprinkled Christmas in our hearts in November, melted slowly, leaving only random patches in the browning grass. The boys' outerwear transitioned from thick puffy coats and snow pants and double layered mittens to hooded sweatshirts and thin mittens; and their winter boots replaced with rain boots. Once again, they contented themselves with the big mud puddle in our backyard. 

When is Christmas? they ask on repeat. When is Christmas? The advent calendar says mere days remain, but apparently the weather didn't get the memo. I'm certainly not winter's biggest cheerleader, but Christmas without snow or millions of layers to stay warm feels wrong. I'm definitely dreaming of a white Christmas this year.

Although the weather isn't on board with the holidays, we've still been busy readying ourselves and enjoying our favorite activities. Spencer's third and final preschool program was last week. I remember his first time ever crawling onto the stage and looking out at all the families. He was a small three-year-old, tears streaming down his cheeks, searching for my face in the crowd. I desperately wanted to rescue him, save him from his own discomfort, but he warmed up once the first song started and was smiling by the last one. Now, a few short years later, a five-year-old Spencer hams it up on the stage, belting out the words he practiced at home for weeks. This year he sat in the back row, his face hidden behind the large paper hats, and it was me searching for him. He stood up--his body standing above his classmates--waved big and yelled, HI, MOMMY! He rarely needs me to swoop in and rescue him anymore. The once timid kid is maturing into an outgoing boy.

We had another quick visit with Santa at the preschool program. As we waited in line, I knelt down next to the boys and whispered, Is this the real one or just a helper? Spencer immediately answered that it was a helper, but Ashton stared at the man perched on a chair in front of a festive backdrop, contemplating the question for a while. Finally, he said, It's the real one but he cut his beard.

The church program was this past weekend, and as always, my face hurt from smiling so big. Ashton watched from the pew for the last year as his big brother stood in front of the church and sang his little heart out, in bursts of really loud spurts or extra long notes. Spencer is the kind who moves his mouth randomly to the words he can't remember, but gives it all to the ones he knows. Dave and I exchanged amused looks as we laughed into our hands.

We've also been crafting holiday projects, baking cookies, and eating Rudolph pancakes. But, best of all, we made a caroling video. I must have watched it a million times by now. It makes me smile each and every time. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from my silly family to yours!