May Your Days Be Merry and Bright and Free From Snot

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

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Okay. Maybe not all the way from our house. Because of the germs. You wouldn’t want that. So, we’ll just say, merry Christmas and leave it at that.

Two of the three kids have full-blown ugly colds and a third has been coughing and sneezing suspiciously. “We’re All Going Down” should be the theme of this holiday season.

Somehow, even when debilitated by illness, they STILL manage to be completely over-excited about Christmas. Henry alternates between telling me how “bored, so, so boooooored” he is and counting the presents underneath the tree while simultaneously updating the Christmas countdown ticker. Charlie is basking in all of the extra attention and cuddles of his grandparents as he explains to them what he is going to do with the new John Deere lawn tractor he is getting for Christmas that he totally isn’t getting for Christmas. Millie asks every day, multiple times a day, if it’s time to open presents. (Which, actually, is a measure of self-control since last year she just opened several when I wasn’t looking.)

Our family has had a doozy of a year so, this Christmas, the adults are indulging in some lounging about, a bit of shopping, lots of lovely chats and an incredible quantity of sweet treats. The number of cookies, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls and chocolate consumed around here in the last three days is impressive. We had to pull a kringle out of the freezer this morning because we were getting dangerously low on baked goods.

I hope you, too, are enjoying many Christmas treats! I sincerely wish you the best of the holiday season. Thank you for being a part of our lives over the past many months and may the new year bring joy and light and wonderful adventures.

A Deserving Break

In a move of monumental bah humbug-ness for the second grade set, Henry had a full lid of homework last week. The week before Christmas break. The week when you’re supposed to be gluing pipe cleaners and googly eyes to candy canes and watching a disproportionate amount of in-class videos and coloring a lot of “worksheets.” But, nope, not for us. The holiday spirit died every evening when we sat down to work on math and vocabulary and reading. It’s like the school system is dedicated to fulfilling their pledge to educate my child, or something.

Basically, besides all the smarts, the only upside to school I can see is all the hand-crafted presents that arrive home in backpacks this time of year. The Holiday Haul of Stuff that Didn’t Cost too Much, if you will. This year’s loot included a picture frame covered with Charlie’s fingerprints and a tissue paper-covered decorative votive holder that I’m pretty sure is an actual fire hazard.

I will never not love that picture of Charlie. (Even if the threat of lice is large from a shared preschool Santa hat.

I will never not love that picture of Charlie. (Even if the threat of lice looms large from a shared preschool Santa hat.

It felt like Christmas break truly arrived this past weekend. Our calendar was empty, our to-do list minor and the weather unseasonably warm. It was really, really nice. We lingered over coffee on the front porch and lounged in pajamas until inappropriate hours. There was lots of book reading and casual meals and long, lovely walks. It was enough to make me pledge that our life going forward should always be as unscheduled as possible. And, with a lot less laundry.

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Guess who demanded we bring the doll stroller on our walk? Now, guess who got tired of pushing the doll stroller after approximately one (1) minute? Go ahead, guess!

Today is the first school-free weekday and with Bob at work, we’ve been occupying our time by completely destroying every corner of our home. It’s a pre-Christmas free-for-all. There are trucks underfoot and Legos on every surface and baby doll clothes hanging from lampshades. It looks like a Sesame Street fraternity house around here. In fact, I just heard Millie dump the contents of the board game cabinet on the foyer floor. Hooray!

Thus far, my kids have had the most fun with two cardboard tubes (from the last of the wrapping paper rolls) that they fashioned into light sabers (of course). Apparently, pummeling your brother while making those swoosh-swoosh noises never gets old. Also, we played a rousing game of catch in the kitchen with an empty, balled up chip bag (classy!) from Chipotle (of course). That had them in stitches.

I should be glad that playing with garbage is so entertaining since the other option on this rainy day would be sitting in front of All the Electronics for hours. That is DEFINITELY my Plan B though, if we run out of trash.

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I am especially pleased with myself for buying all of those fancy presents, not made from cardboard, that are underneath our tree. Money well spent, obviously.

My feelings may change dramatically by the time dinner rolls around but, right now, I’m enjoying the break from our regular routine. School days can be so monotonous. They begin and end with lots of responsibilities and must-do’s and don’t forget’s. The early start, the lunches to pack, the breakfasts to force-feed, the shoes to tie, the bus to catch – go, go, go.

So, we will relish the lack of regular programming over the next two weeks. Then, I will slowly start to lose my mind just in time to send them all back to school. Which, doesn’t preclude me from complaining about homework as soon as that kicks in again. Thus completes the circle of life.

Tell me, what are you doing this Christmas? Are you celebrating at home? Traveling to be with family? Hiding in your parents’ bathroom while polishing off a bottle of Merlot and praying no one brings up Obamacare around the dinner table?

All Wrapped Up

Christmas is two weeks away. Are you ready? Are you excited? Are you stressed? Are your kids hyped up on a seemingly never-depleted supply of treats? Are you easily tearing up at every inspiring holiday-music-filled-flash-mob-WestJet-surprise-presents video your Facebook friends link to? No? Watch this and get back to me:

As the Chief Present Buyer in our household, I am pleased to report that we are ready for Christmas. We’ve been ready for awhile now. I am an early shopper when it comes to Christmas presents and for the past few years, I’ve tried to have everything procured and stashed by Thanksgiving at the very latest.

This habit began when we lived in the city where shopping even on a random Tuesday in June can be difficult, let alone any of the days between Thanksgiving and New Years. It was always better to just get it done than battle the crowds by waiting until the season set in. That early bird shopping tradition has continued here in Richmond even though navigating the “throngs” of people down this way is not nearly as bad.

And, because Henry starts discussing what he wants for Christmas around Labor Day, it hasn’t been too hard to pick things he will genuinely enjoy. He also hasn’t yet had a last minute change of heart about anything on his wish list. As long as all of his gifts are comprised of small, multi-colored, inter-locking, will-still-be-finding-them-in-our-heater-vents-in-twenty-years plastic bricks, we’re good to go.

Charlie doesn’t have much of an opinion yet about presents. He’s still of the age of unrealistic expectations so when he wakes up on Christmas day and doesn’t find the full-size John Deere lawn tractor he requested waiting for him in our family room, he will be easily placated with the awesome walkie-talkies he’ll unwrap instead.

Millie is easy to shop for. She just wants whatever it is the boys are playing with. While they’re playing with it. So, that’s fun.

With everyone’s Christmas lists checked off, the only task left is to wrap all of the presents. If I didn’t think Millie would undermine my efforts, everything would already be under the tree. Besides, it wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t wait until the last minute to wrap and then get annoyed that I had waited until the last minute to wrap. Plus, this year ups the irritation factor because there is a bike to put together so I’m really looking forward to the arguments Bob and I will have on Christmas Eve while completing that task!

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Just in case you haven’t crossed everyone off of your shopping list yet, here’s some helpful links to some of my friends and family that might have just what you’re looking for!

My amazing sister, Julie, makes lovely things. This past weekend, she texted me a picture of a pair of mittens she had knit just… for fun. Obviously, she is hoarding all of the genetic code for CRAFTER in our family. She has lots of beautiful scarves listed in her Etsy shop. And, because she is related to me, I will forgive the proliferation of Notre Dame-related items she offers.

My friend and fellow playgroup mom, Michelle, is a graphic designer with some serious talent. She makes whimsical and fun prints for kids on placemats and posters and plaques. You can find out more information on her Imagination by hand Facebook page.

If tasty treats are more your thing, my friend, Becky, makes some unbelievable cookies and cupcakes that are as delicious as they are delightfully decorated. I think she may just be for the locals in Richmond right now but you can contact her through her Facebook page for additional details.

If you prefer to bake your own goodies, my one-time neighbor, Estela, offers a wealth of recipes for holiday (and everyday) treats on her blog, Weekly Bite. All of her featured foods are delicious however, for the holidays, I’d probably start with this one. YUM!

My favorite thing about all of these lovely women is that they have busy lives as moms (and some as employees elsewhere, too) yet, they’ve all made time to work on things they are passionate about. I just love that!

Here’s hoping the next two weeks will be as stress-free as possible for you and yours. We’ve almost made it to the finish line!