Thursday, December 29, 2016


"Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn't come from a store."
-Dr. Seuss

Christmas was gone in a jumble of wrapping paper and full tummies. Like every year since becoming a parent, the buildup bubbles until it explodes in a whirlwind of oooohs and ahhhhs and untethered excitement. The holiday is more than presents. Much, much more. But it certainly is enjoyable to watch your kids' eyes light up and hear their squeals when they unwrap something they've longed for or discover a treasure they never knew existed.

We didn't give anything extravagant this year, instead opting for a handful of smaller items, but no one seemed to notice or care. When asked their favorite gift, they rattled off a long list, not able to select just one. And, like years past, we split the gift-giving into two days. Christmas Eve is dedicated to the gifts from each other, focusing on the items hand-picked. And, without fail, their favorite gifts are always the ones from each other--a toy they saw on a YouTube video or tv commercial or while browsing the aisles of Target or in a catalog that they've coveted for months. We prefer to separate these especially picked presents from the ones from Santa on Christmas morning.

Christmas Eve found me with a new helper this year. Since Spencer deduced that Santa is really me, he got in on the action. Scarfing down the cookies we laid out moments before with his siblings, we stuffed stockings and Santa bags. Then I sent him off to bed with the reminder to play along in the morning.

We spent the day at home in our jammies, snacking our way through the day. Mid morning, after the wrapping paper was cleared away and new toys samples, we bundled up against the harsh wind slapping our faces for our traditional Christmas Day sledding. Last year Jillian barely made it ten minutes. This year she beat her time, but not by much. She likes being pulled in a sled and will cry her disapproval if you should dare remove her from the sled before she's done, but the biting wind spoiled her fun that day. The boys and I stayed out longer and raced down the hill over and over. Then later the rain came and washed away a good portion of the snow, leaving our tracks as proof of our earlier adventure.

As the calendar ticks off days during the holiday break, I'm reminded of all the festivities we crammed in the weeks preceding the big day. Decorations still litter shelves and doors and walls, the tree stands in its place in the front window, and other remnants can be found scattered around the house. Yet Ashton asked the other day, face scrunched up in contained energy, if I was excited for Christmas next year. You bet, buddy; I'm always excited for this very special holiday. But let's first finish off the remainder of this year--tuck away the momentos all neat and tidy--and begin anew.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Great Santa Debate

"I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, 'Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.'"
-Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in the Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Earlier in the month, before the bitterly cold temperatures dropped well below zero and every inch of you freezes on instant contact with the winter air, the first snow fell. There's something so magical about the first snow fall, even as an adult who scrooges her way through winter. The kids bundled up and went outside to enjoy nature's playground.

Last winter Jillian was a teeny babe, oblivious to the cold white stuff (except, perhaps, on our traditional Christmas day sledding adventure when her big brother dumped her out of the sled face first into the snow). This year, though, she definitely noticed it. Through the layers, she attempted to waddle after her brothers, but eventually gave up the battle and settled for scooping the snow into her mouth instead. The kids barely noticed as their noses turned red and the cold seeped into their bodies; they reluctantly came back inside to warm up with hot cocoa and giant marshmallows.

The frigid temperatures have kept us inside, the snow a mere backdrop to our holiday prep. We are in the homestretch now--the Christmas countdown can be tallied on one hand--and the anticipation runs high in our home. This year things will be a bit different since Spencer figured out that Santa is not real. He announced it one day and I immediately shot him down. No way, I fibbed, he's definitely real. But as the day wore on, the lie felt wrong. My practical son is far too smart to buy it, and as much as I hate ruining the magic of the Santa story for him, I realized we can rewrite our own Christmas story, like a secret between mother and son. I sat him down on his bed that night and I prepared myself to crush his spirit. You're right, I confessed to my seven-year-old, Santa is not real. But no tears were shed. Not even a sad face could be detected. I knew it! he boasted proudly. It's you and Daddy! Now he is excited to play Santa with us on Christmas Eve, but only with the explicit promise that he will not spoil it for his siblings, especially Ashton, who very much believes. He's the exact opposite of his practical brother. His imagination has no bounds and his sensitive spirit would be crushed. Spencer and I can be found exchanging looks, winks, and hushed whispers whenever Santa is mentioned. But, mostly, I think he is excited to eat Santa's cookies. Me, too, Buddy; me, too. Ho, ho, ho!