We’re in the home stretch, of the “Holiday Season” that is, and I could not be more excited. Per usual, it’s a little overwhelming, juggling both of our families and trying to find a way to actually spend quality time with everyone rather than feel like we’re constantly running from one place to the next. There always seem to be hurt feelings on someone’s part, but we really do try so very hard to make it work.
We kicked off Christmas last night at my brother’s house with a laid back night of Chinese take-out, a huge batch of my mom’s home-made Chex-mix, and pecan turtle cookies purchased from the local bakery down the street from my house. Dinner was followed by some competitive Wii tennis, a rowdy game of Pictionary, and Sid the Science Kid.
Re: Sid the Science Kid… our rambunctious little toddler had to be somewhat distracted whilst the adults attempted to play a board game. And for the most part, a few episodes of that strange PBS show did the trick, though Gus did steal the little plastic hourglass timer at one point. I won’t lie, getting it back involved a bit of negotiation.
After getting home last night at 9:30 and putting a very sleepy little boy to bed, I had the very sudden realization that the rest of our weekend looks to be insane. And that made me very sleepy as well. My friends, we are in for lots of CHRISTMAS over the next few days.
Tonight is Christmas with Dan’s immediate family. I can’t wait. There is likely to be insane amounts of shrimp and cheesy potatoes and cookies eaten, hilarious stories told, squeals from little children, manic dogs ripping apart wrapping paper… all the stuff that you can expect from a big family being together to celebrate the holiday. It’s hard to explain it, but the chaos, the anticipation, the wide-eyed babies… it’s just all so wonderful and insane. It is Norman Rockwell on crack. It is family to the nth degree. It is CHRISTMAS.
Friday I will hopefully have time to get a few of my last-minute things done, Santa still hasn’t wrapped Dan’s stocking stuffers that he went out and bought yesterday during his lunch break, and a long time ago I promised to bring a salad to my grandma’s, so that probably means a trip to the grocery store on Christmas Eve. Hmm… that sounds pretty much like my worst nightmare. Maybe I should try to take care of that today.
We attend church on Christmas Eve with Dan’s family and it’s my favorite service of the year. All the little girls decked out in their white tights and satin and velvet dresses with big bows, the beautiful sanctuary decorated for the holiday, and the countless familiar hymns… The closing hymn is always “Silent Night”, for which they turn down all the lights and pass out these little white candles to everyone in the church. It’s incredibly serene and beautiful, and every single year leaves me with goose bumps and a little lump in my throat as the service comes to an end.
We don’t make it to church very often throughout the year, but the Christmas Eve service is usually one that rejuvenates my faith and sort of inspires me to get more serious about joining a congregation. I’d like to really do that this year, instead of talk about it, and I think Dan and I have decided to become members at the Lutheran Church his parents belong to, and to really get more involved in their community. So hopefully we make that a reality in the New Year.
After church, this year we’ll be heading to my grandparents’ house for the traditional Christmas Eve dinner of potato soup, sausages and sour kraut. How very Midwestern-y German of us… It’s so funny to hear what every family’s traditions are, I love that they all seem to have their own very distinct way of celebrating the holiday. Especially here in the Midwest, everyone’s meals are so… well, weird. I’m not going to pretend that my grandpa’s (very distinct) potato soup (lots of onions, very thin cream based, mashed potatoes as opposed to chunks) is not a strange tradition to have on Christmas Eve. But for me, it is Christmas Eve. Just the smell of it brings back memories of thirty people all crowded into their tiny living room, opening gifts, one by one, youngest to oldest. My brothers and I sleeping on the floor of my grandparents’ porch, dreaming of Santa Clause and candy canes and scooters, while my parents sneak out to midnight mass.
On Christmas morning we’ll have brunch with my parents and brothers, and exchange gifts amongst my immediate family… then it’s off to Dan’s aunt’s house for more food and cookies and games and family.
It’s a lot. And my motto is definitely to “go with the flow…” Because if I think about the logistics… about Gus staying up super late 4 days in a row and how THAT might go, about fitting in his nap on Christmas day during the one-hour drive from my parents house to Dan’s aunt’s… about making sure we bring the right gifts to the right houses… it all sounds very overwhelming. But I do think it’s worth it, and it’s hard to complain about the fact that we have “too” much family to see over the holiday. We’re really so lucky and blessed to spend time with all these people we love so much.
Soooo… here goes nothing. Merry Christmas everyone!