So, I might have mentioned at some point that I love Christmas. And it's true. I really, really, really do.
I love the preparation, the waiting. I love the traditions- the same events, the same foods, the same songs, the same feelings. I love the whole dang season.
I love peppermint mochas and the smell of evergreen and twinkly lights. AND PEPPERMINT MOCHAS.
And I used to think that the best thing in the world was being a kid on Christmas. It's been great as an adult and all, but seriously, what could possibly beat the feeling being a kid of Christmas morning?!
Well, I'm changing my mind. I think celebrating Christmas with my own kids might be even better than being a kid myself.
I seriously loved doing Christmas with them this year. LOVED IT. And I'm preeeetty sure they loved it to. Probably not as much as I did, but still.
I really savor the anticipation, the counting down, the waiting of the Christmas season, so last year I did a simple advent calendar with Henry. This year Maggie really got into it too, which was awesome. I had a little Christmas stocking for every day, and in every stocking I'd put a little slip of green paper with some kind of Christmas activity in it and 2 Hershey kisses- one for each of them. The activities were mostly REALLY SIMPLE, like read a Christmas book or watch a Christmas movie or drink hot chocolate in our pajamas, but some were the bigger things we wanted to do this year too, like seeing tacky lights and baking Christmas cookies with friends.
They LIKED the Christmas activities, but they LOVED getting to eat a Hershey's kiss every morning. Priorities, right?
So, the first slip of paper said to pick out a tree & decorate it. And then the house. Because, c'mon. You gotta start the season right.
Next we went right for the refined sugar and made dessert Christmas trees:
The next night, David made hot chocolate The Right Way for the kids. A dessert he approves of. Henry drank his in 30 seconds and demanded another cup.
Clearly, he understands the Christmas Food Manta, which is "It's the holidays! Christ is born! Eat it all!"
One day, David brought home Christmas hats for the kids (leftover from a work thing) which they promptly wore for the next solid month.
In the evenings, we worked on our Jesse Tree & read the kids different Bible stories that traced the promise of Jesus through the Old Testament & then let them hang corresponding paper ornaments on a tiny tree.
However, we read NOTHING so often or with such joy as this holiday classic from the master:
One day, we had a nativity play day. I read them the Christmas story from a couple of kid's bibles, then we made our own nativity scene out of stickers.
Finally I got down our nativity set and we acted out the story with it until they were bored, and then I just let them play with the figures for awhile.
Sounds like a nice idea right? Well, after that, the Baby Jesus went missing for several weeks. He was last seen being carried around the house by Maggie, in her Minnie Mouse purse. Not exactly a traditional spot for the Holy Child, but whatevs.
I looked everywhere. I even moved the sofa. Nothing. He was gone. David finally found him the week before Christmas shoved underneath a heating vent.
PHEW! I was feeling super bad that I'd lost the newborn king. Like I jinxed Christmas or something.
On one particularly crafty day we made this little cottonball snowmen and then a much MUCH bigger snowman, which we have yet to take off the kids door.
And, speaking of neglecting to take things down, neither the kids or I could face the idea of taking down our Thanksgiving thankful tree. It was totally out place with the Christmas decor, but they loved it so much, and... um... I did too.
So, instead, we stuck christmas cards and some foam ornaments on it and kept it up.
The week before Christmas, we went on our own two-young-children-and-a-pregant-lady version of Richmond's Tacky Lights Tour. Our version included going out for Mexican (a 40 minute tornado of chip-crumbling, salsa-slinging, taco-munching beasts; we leave half the food on the floor, we leave our dignity at home, and we leave a real big tip)
then swinging by Starbucks for kid hot chocolates, and then going to 3 houses on the Tacky Light Tour list, all of which were within a 10 mile radius of our house. It was great. And perfectly timed for all of our attention spans and bedtime requirements.
We also found time in December to do some UNphotographed celebrating & preparing, like baking & decorating sugar cookies with friends, making handprint ornaments with more friends, taking the kids shopping to buy gifts for mommy & daddy & the pets, and then letting them help with the wrapping.
Then, the week before Christmas, I got sick. Real sick, yall. REAL.
On Thursday night, I tested positive for Type A Influenza, which is PARTICULARLY cute on pregnant women, let me tell you, and proceeded to spend the next three days in bed.
You know, THE THREE BUSIEST DAYS OF THE YEAR, in bed. On Friday morning David took the kids & himself to MediClinic where they all got preventative Tamiflu prescriptions. An hour later, my mom swooped in, picked up the kids & the drugs, and whisked them away to her germ-free home for the weekend where they THANK THE GOOD LORD, DID NOT GET THE FLU, HALLE-FREAKIN-LUJAH, A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!
Neither did David. Also a Christmas Miracle. He was, however, stuck in a house alone with me for the next three days, where i literally did nothing but moan and sleep. Upside: I lost six pounds in those three days. This means I had six pounds I HAD to gain back over Christmas. I HAD TO. IT WAS FOR THE BABY, YOU GUYS.
Anyway, Tamiflu is a great, great drug (although, PSA, clearly, the flu shot would have worked better, no need to rub it in) and I was much, much better on Monday, and was able to proceed with Christmas mostly as planned, even if I was significantly LESS prepared than I would have been otherwise.
On Christmas Eve, we declared it Christmas Movie Marathon Day, a new tradition, which I think we should continue for always.
Then, on Christmas Eve night, we headed over to David's parents' house to celebrate with his parents, his brothers & their families.
Henry and Maggie have EIGHT older cousins on David's side of the family, and you guys, they LOVE THEM. They worship their older cousins. Most of Christmas Eve and Christmas day was like a 24 hour cousin-binge for them. Honestly, they probably would have given up their presents for MORE COUSIN TIME, PLEASE.
We went home laaaaate that night, (ok, late for us... like 9pm) wrestled the kids into their pajamas, left out a note, cookies for Santa, pretzel sticks for the reindeer, read The Night Before Christmas as fast as we could, and threw the kids into bed by 10pm. Keep in mind, they're usually FAST ASLEEP by 8pm. This marks the beginning of The Great Christmas Sleep Deprivation.
The next morning was the first time we've done Christmas morning at our own home, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The kids LOVED that Santa had eaten their cookies and filled their stockings, and I loved it just being the 4 of us for a little bit that morning. Another tradition we can hopefully continue.
We let the kids open their stockings and give David & I their gifts, and then we headed over to David's parents' house, armed with several dozen cinnamon rolls.
Christmas morning was great, and not JUST because Christmas pj's are adorable.
We stayed and played all morning and through lunch, and then headed home to let the kids nap while David & I finished packing the car and getting ready to head up to my parents house for what I've affectionately begun to call 'Second Christmas.'
We got there around dinner time, allowing Henry & Maggie just enough time to switch over from their cousin binge into an aunts/uncles/grandparents/Whit binge, and, of course, to stay up entirely too late. Again.
The next morning they woke up, in the same adorable Christmas jammies, and we celebrated all over again. The nice part was that since they'd ALREADY opened so many presents the day before, it wasn't all that hard to hold them off while we had yummy Christmas breakfast and several cups of coffee and all those other things that boring adults like to do on Christmas morning.
Eventually, we got down to business, and Uncle Justin read the kids the Christmas story to start things off.
While this is a lovely tradition, and one we will certainly continue, in all reality, it ends up being less of a meaningful moment and being more like the ringing of the bell on Wall Street; as soon as it's done, the gleeful chaos erupts.
We opened presents, we opened presents, and then... we opened presents. We don't call my parents The Great Benefactors for nothing, y'all. They're generous past the point of reason.
It was also really nice having Christmas on a Wednesday this year, because we had SO MUCH TIME to just hang out after all the festivities. We stayed for almost 5 days at my parents house, which is just enough time to MOSTLY wear out our welcome and to COMPLETELY destroy the kids sleep schedules. Falalala!
We squeezed in a ton of fun in those five days. The guys spent a day celebrating Justin's birthday. The girls took my mom out for a morning of shopping (our group gift to her- a Nordstroms gift card to buy clothes and a crowd of us to actually MAKE her buy them) and a fun lunch.
Frank's gift to everyone was a trip to this enormous inflatable Christmas slide. To say the kids loved it would be the understatement of the year. It was like heroin to them. Apparently, they're adrenaline junkies already. The slide had a list of restrictions on a big sign where you pay for your tickets, and it CLEARLY stated that pregnant women SHOULD NOT ride the slide. So Lauren and I wore big coats, tried not to make eye contact with anyone in charge, and went flying down that thing anyway. I think the babies liked it.
Justin & Lauren & David & I also took the kids into DC one night to go to Zoo Lights at the National Zoo. (And to give everyone else a break from our REALLY ACTIVE children.) Guys, if you're ever in D.C. around Christmas, you gotta go!!! It's so fun! The whole place is open late, and there are lights everywhere and all the nocturnal animals are awake. If you look REALLLLLLY hard at this picture, you can see David & Justin taking the kids on a train ride.
Then we packed up & came home. And, miracle of miracles, we still had two more WHOLE days before David had to go back to work. Which was amazing.
And then it was over. And we took down the decorations. And the tree. And we stopped binging on sugar every day. And we got the kids back on a reasonable sleep schedule. And we faced the true heartache of January: the damage done in December to the checking account. Ouch.
And the end of the holidays is always a little sad for me. As happy as I am to get back into our routine, my self-confessed extroverted personality sort of wants to ALWAYS be in the middle of a holiday! The middle of a party! The middle of a house stuffed to bursting with people I love!
The quiet after Christmas is hard for me to handle. But, I think it's also good for me. It's been a good time of thought and reflection. As one season closes, and another begins, one thing I've carried with me this year- through Advent, through Christmas, and into the new year is this: that this year, and for so many years before it, Christmas came. Christ came, Life came. And that Life was the Light of the world. And the Light shines into the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (A very, very loose translation of John 1:4-5)
I'm trying to hold that close this year, through whatever periods of light and dark 2014 may hold; that one Light continues to shine, and the darkness cannot overcome it.
So, until next Christmas, friends! Eeeeek! Can't wait!