Wednesday, December 19, 2012
This is my favorite time of the year. I know that’s completely cliché, but I can’t help it. It’s not the whole materialistic aspect of the season necessarily, though admittedly, the way all the stores are decorated festively and open late to promote all their sales and specials does make me excited. The opportunity to make traditions and memories with the kids is what is the most special to me. This year is particularly bittersweet and precious because this is the first and the last year that we have our whole family together under our roof. This is Sam’s first Christmas in our family, and probably Drew’s last one living here. Hopefully he’ll choose to come back and visit and spend the holidays with us, but this is the last year I’m guaranteed to have him here, and so that means we’re going all out this year. No, not all out gift wise, or shopping wise (though we have plenty of all that too) but all out on doing things together, simple things, basic and ordinary things, but things that will be filled with so much love and will be cherished as one of the sweetest holidays of our family’s history. The day before Thanksgiving, the older boys and I helped the little kids make chocolate dipped pretzels. They were supposed to be for an appetizer on Thanksgiving day, but they didn’t make it that long, they were gobbled up that night and the next morning. Watching the older kids assist their siblings, patiently and without fighting, watching them be excited for the littles as they successfully dipped their pretzel and laid in on the baking pan and then later that evening, watching all their greedy little fingers dripping with chocolate and proudly proclaiming which ones were made by which child melted my heart. I’ve tried hard to keep these fun little traditions going throughout the month of December. In fairness, its nothing new. We’ve always had cute little Christmassy traditions to fill up our evenings and weekends during this month but somehow this year, they mean a little more, probably because I’m a bit weepy at both the prospect of having a brand new life with us this season and simultaneously, having our oldest son at the brink of being completely raised and ready to leave us. Dealing with both ends of this equation keeps me well stocked with fresh tears and lots of smiles. So, we’ve had our fourth annual Polar Express night. This year, we decorated our tree together the same day and then made hot chocolate and popcorn and enjoyed the movie together. The older kids as well as myself could probably recite each word, but it’s like magic to the littler ones. One of the sweetest aspects of having many children is the fact that each year, one of the smaller children seems to really “get it” for the first time ever. This year its Kambree. She watches our Christmas movies as though she’s seeing it for the very first time. Sure, she’s seen it before but she hasn’t really been old enough to understand or become emotionally invested in it. Now, at four, she’s at a perfect age. Her eyes were wide during Polar Express, and she literally sat on the edge of her seat. We’ve also watched Frosty the Snowman and again, even though I’ve watched it since I was a child myself, sitting on the couch with Bree and watching it with her made it brand new again. What an amazing gift being a parent is, it sometimes allows you to experience the best parts of your own childhood all over again. Tonight is Disney’s A Christmas Carol. We’ve seen it at the theater when it first came out, but I think our kids will really enjoy watching it tonight. No one has to sleep in their bed tonight, they will all be camped out on the living room floor with blankets and pillows since the movie essentially comes on near their bedtime anyways. This wont apply to the older kids who have learned by now that a warm bed beats a spot on the floor. We’ve added another thing that will hopefully become a tradition. Each night when I bathe the girls, we talk about the birth of Jesus Christ. We talk about how Mary was in labor looking for a safe, comfortable place to deliver. I take a few liberties and tell the girls how Mary must have been feeling, in labor and they listen intently. We talk about the inn keeper who allowed them to use the barn and then we talk about how awesome Mary must have felt when Jesus was finally born and she held him in her arms. Then we talk about the Wise Men visiting and bringing gifts to baby Jesus and finally about the gift that Jesus gave to all of us. That ties in to why we give gifts to each other and helps the concept of Christmas become more related to Jesus than to Santa. That being said, our children certainly enjoy talking about Santa and visiting him at various places through the month as well. It also wouldn’t be the holiday season without the normal rush of everyday stressors. The kids schools are full of parties, activities and fun things for them to do. With lots of kids in school, it can be quite overwhelming. I really need to be writing a list so I don’t forget anything. This year I need to remember to send in Doritos for Brice’s party, Pretzels for Brandon, something for each of the twins, I need to help Isaiah and Alexandria decorate their Polar Express “tickets” for their party, and help them pack a special gift that they’ve been given to bring for their class show and tell that ties in with the Polar Express theme for their classes. I have a talent show that Jackson is in on Thursday and a Talent show for Drew on Friday. Brandon has an ice skating trip on Friday and will need a sack lunch and I’m drawing a blank on Jackson so I suppose I need to ask him what we should bring. We still need to wrap teacher gifts and I still feel like I’m forgetting something…I really wish those “mom” calendars, you know, the ones meant for planning each family members activities were made for large broods. Most only have room for five or six family members at most. We have tons more to do after school is out for the break….wrapping gifts, making gingerbread houses, making fudge, Christmas cookies, and then of course Christmas Eve which is filled with so many traditions that I sometimes have to struggle to make sure it isn’t overly structured. We skip our breakfast, lunch and dinner routine in favor of all day appetizers. The kids can eat what they want when they want, and we keep a big bowl of punch on the table. We eat things like cheese and crackers, fruit, veggies, ham, chicken wings, cream cheese and sweet chili dip, finger sandwiches and way more deserts than we should. We re-tell the story of Jesus’ birth, we read The Night Before Christmas, put on special Christmas pajamas and gather around to watch “A Christmas Story” while eating snacks and drinking punch. Then we go outside and leave reindeer food on the lawn and put out our cookies for Santa. Tucking in the kids takes a while because they are super excited and can’t stop egging each other on long enough to fall asleep! The older kids stay up a little bit longer and hang out with us. We play cards or some other kind of game or just hang out and then they go to bed too. After the littles are asleep and the older kids are in their rooms for the night, Albert and I bring down gifts and set them out for the morning. Then, we have a few minutes all to our selves. We cuddle up on the couch and drink a glass of wine or hot chocolate. Mostly we just sit in exhausted quiet, relived and happy that we pulled off yet another Christmas Eve. One year, when we were pregnant with Mia, we opened our envelope that contained the news of her gender. Most years, we just talk and sit together, knowing that the morning will bring lots of joy and chaos and happiness. Then we creep upstairs to sleep for a few hours until the break of dawn when one of the littles has decided that its late enough in the morning to wake everyone up with that joyous line we hear each year “Santa came! Santa Came!” I can’t wait.