Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas 2014: The Good, the Bad, and too many Pictures

The Good: 

-The whole Christmas experience with kids really does continue to get better with age.  Gus and Louie were both so excited and so funny and so silly and so enthusiastic about everything Christmas this year.  The spirit of Christmas really does come alive with children.  The twinkly lights and singing ornaments, the claymation specials on TV, countless tellings of both The Night Before Christmas and the Nativity Story.  Louie could often be heard singing to himself Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (obsessed) and Gus's skepticism-turned true believer of the Elf on the Shelf this year was absolutely hilarious.  To quote: "Dad, I know Elvis (our elf) isn't real, he's a stuffed animal.  I saw the tag.  Louie don't worry about him, he's just a stuffed animal."  But then later in the month, Dan caught him peeking around the corner from the kitchen, staring at the elf who was hanging from the ceiling fan on a helicopter made of K'NEX.  He then admitted to Dan that Elvis must be real, because that morning he was looking one way, and now he was looking the other, so he must be real.

-Baking cookies, eating cookies with my coffee every morning, basically everything that has to do with cookies this time of year, I am all about.  We had a really fun baking party at my mom's with my aunts, cousins, and sister-in-law this year and I hope we make it a tradition in coming years.  We all went home with a ridiculous amount of baked goods after like 8 hours together listening to Christmas music and chatting.  Super fun day.

My dad entertained the boys outside for hours while we baked, and when Dan came to pick them up they made their first snowman of the year.  So cute.  The next day every drop of snow was gone and temps were in the 40's.  Such weird Christmas weather we had this year.

-I really do love buying things for my kids.  There.  I said it.  Dan and I know these two little rascals better than anyone out there, better than they know themselves at this point, so we have the ability to pretty much nail it with the gift-giving.  And yeah.  We did.  I don't even actually think we went that overboard, (though I know others do things differently and might disagree), because truly this is the only time of the year that we actually do go out and buy them the stuff that we know they will lose their $hit over. Christmas and their birthdays.  And that's the truth.  So when those days come, it is just so fun to give and make them happy and see those smiles and join in the excitement of being a kid and receiving the most perfect present.

On December 23rd, we had breakfast for dinner and got the boys in their jammies and opened presents from ua, which has become our tradition over the last few years, because with all the other family Christmases we have it's really the only time left for just us.  It was such a happy and care-free night, despite how it started (see the sleep portion of my next category of bullets).

Here's a little montage of the boys while Dan passed out the presents that they have been looking at under the tree for weeks...
Gus was pretty excited, to say the least.

-We were healthy this year.  Crossing my fingers that continues, but at this point it's safe to say that at least we were all healthy over the holiday, and I'm going to go ahead and declare that a win.  I know the crap that is floating around out there, and this year more than ever I have actually been somewhat okay with trying to just lay low at home relatively often.  Today, for example, the Monday after a Sunday during which we never left the house because we spent the whole day organizing and purging toys, and the boys and I are still just chilling at home.  Of course they asked what we were doing today.  They wanted to go to some play place or the zoo or really anywhere, but I resisted.  We are fine playing with all the new toys, getting Louie a nap, sharing snack time with Optimus Prime.  Part of my willingness to stay at home is because I'm way pregnant and doing stuff on my own with the boys takes a lot out of me these days, so for that reason and to help avoid sickness, it really has been good to slow down.


-I am just 32 weeks pregnant this year, rather than 38 weeks and ready to pop.  It's nice not having that hanging over my head quite so close.  We've got time.  Not a ton of time (like whoa, I have a feeling the next 2 months will go by really fast), but still time.  Time to slow down again and regroup before the next big thing.  When Louie was born New Years Even almost three years ago there was very little regrouping time and it was very overwhelming. 

The Bad:

- The boys' "Advent" calendars were overall fails in my book.  They loved them, of course, but those blasted things were the bane of my existence and the cause of much missed sleep throughout the month of December. We first got Gus this Lego one and then found an animal calendar for Louie. Both very fitting, very much geared towards their interests and individual personalities... but the whole countdown thing and opening something new every single day proved to e just too much for our oldest.  Every damn morning they were both up in the 5:00-6:00 hour (and it just got earlier and earlier the closer we got to Christmas) and the first thing they wanted to do was open up that day's box.  Gus also created very high expectations in his head about what he would be getting, based on the pictures on the box and simply because that is what he does with everything, and the letdown when things to not go the way he had built them up is a lot for him to handle.  He wanted the Lego guys, or the little vehicles or sleds, and after days of fruit stands and coffee stands and (god-forbid!) GIRLS, we reached a point where each morning just turned into disappointment for him and my frustration with his inability to be grateful that he was getting anything at all.  It was too much for our guy.  Sure, good teachable moments in there, but in general just a lot of crabbiness way too early in the morning.  I don't need that with my coffee every morning for a month before Christmas.  On the plus side, Louie's reaction each day was awesomely hilarious and so sweet.  I had one kid crying in his room because he got an ice-skating GIRL Lego and another one grinning ear-to-ear over opening up his third piece of connecting fence.  My two children couldn't be more different.

- I already mentioned the lack of sleep but it needs its own bullet.  We had a really crappy month of sleep and that is putting it mildly.  The sleep deprivation got so bad that Gus was having behavior problems at school, his issues with focus and impulsiveness were magnified tenfold this month and I spent a lot of afternoons crying and google-ing and despairing after long conversations with his teacher.  The anticipation of Christmas had him on edge, "big days" are hard for him and high expectations are difficult for him to manage, and maybe years from now I can look back on this month and laugh that he would wake up at 5:00 AM every morning practically fist pumping and screaming "It's almost Christmas!", but today it's still too raw.  The memory of December 23rd when he was up for the morning at 4:15, and all the yelling that occurred as a result, and then my sobbing meltdowns (I'm way too pregnant for this) over the next two hours as we made him stay in his room and prayed he'd go back to sleep, and then the severe regret over my own behavior that I had to sit with at work all day...  Suffice it to say, Dan and I got to the point where we just wanted Christmas to get here, and be over.  

- I'm still not sure how to manage or even react to the greediness that comes out this time of year.  Or how to teach my kids that regardless of whether or not a gift is something they're excited about, they should be grateful for the fact that someone purchased something for them with their own money and spent their own time wrapping it for them.  I hate seeing them throw half-opened boxes of clothes to the side with barely a glance, or open something maybe "educational" (i.e. not super hero/Transformer/Star Wars related) and just look at it with confusion and disappointment and ask to move on to the next.  I know these are things kids do, and all you can really do is talk to them about being grateful, and model what it looks like to be grateful, but it still happens and those moments are awkward and admittedly embarrassing as the parent.  I also know that I have two kids who hate to be on display, and opening a gift from someone in front of many people is the definition of being put on display.  I want to give them grace and time and skills to learn to deal with those moments appropriately.  I know that it's counterproductive to be thinking about myself and what their behavior says to others about "me" in those moments.  Still, as a people-pleaser from way back, it's hard to not.  We did bring the kids to a local Toys for Tots drop-off to donate a few Paw Patrol toys that they REALLY wanted to keep for themselves (there were tears the night before when we discussed the plan), and I think we will work on some thank-you notes this week which we did for Gus's birthday as well, and it was a good exercise for him then.  But certainly this year the more gifts they got, and the more Christmas-s we had (this year it was five separate days of opening presents) the worse it got.  By the last celebration they were both all MORE PRESENTS I WANT MORE, WHAT THIS IS ALL I GOT?  GIVE ME ALL THE TOYS!  RAWRRR!

- I totally need a sugar detox after this holiday.  Holy mother.  I mentioned the cookies (the leftovers have all been relegated to the freezer which makes things a little better... out of sight, out of mind), and now it's the stocking-stuffer candy that sits on our dining room table and my grandma's pecan pie she sent home with us on Christmas Day and the cherry cheesecake dessert Dan's grandma brought out at 9:00 pm on Christmas Eve and the chocolate covered almonds I'm eating RIGHT THIS SECOND and and and...

The rest of the pictures

(And if you make it through all of these... thank you, and I'm sorry.  I got a new camera this year for Christmas and went a little crazy playing around with it, and I really wanted to do Christmas in just this one post... so it's a bit of a doozy.)  

We did Christmas on December 21st with my parents and Ben and his family.  Nathan and Eric just started new jobs in St. Louis, so couldn't come home at all this year.  :( Sad panda.  Wasn't the same without them.

We spent the whole day at my parents'.  Starting with brunch, then presents, then football and lounging, then a movie (A Muppet's Christmas Carol!) and finally Chinese food for dinner and early bedtimes for the non-napping kids.  Great, easy, low-key day.

Absolutely went crazy for this thing.  Like, he squealed when he opened it.

Christmas Eve started with church (so exhausting with these boys) and then was spent at Dan's grandparents' home.  Christmas Eve was, and always is, Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes for dinner, and trays of sweets in every room of the house.  Screeching happy children running throughout the house, mix-and-match transformers from great-grandma for all the little boys, singing Christmas knick-knacks in the stairway (a favorite of Louie's, always), a dance performance by my nephew in front of the jukebox, quiet moments, loud moments, sweet kids, naughty kids, tired kids, frustrated kids, occupied kids and parents who actually get to sit around the table and talk and just be.

This shot really shows the chaos that is gift-opening on Christmas Eve.

Abby was desperate to find someone to play Barbies with her.  Poor thing, surrounded by boy cousins... though not for long.

One last time this year, "Twas the night before Christmas..."


Playing Santa...



And then Christmas morning's Santa excitement.  (Gus finally slept past 5:30!  Almost to 7:00 in fact! Thank God, since he went to bed at 10:30 on Christmas Eve.)


Lots of lounging in pajamas on Christmas Day until it was time to go to my parents' for the extended family gathering.  It was exceptionally warm, so we walked through the quiet, deserted streets and then Dan walked back once we got there to go get the car and all our "stuff".  Really nice to get outside and get some fresh air, we took our time walking and jumped over cracks and said "Merry Christmas!" to everyone we passed.  Lovely.

Very concerned about Graham messing with his snacks.

No Graham!  Get your own!

Out like a light after the meal, during The Grinch.  All Christmased out at this point I think.  (Me too.)

And finally,the Saturday after Christmas we closed out the holiday at Dan's parents' house with all his brothers and sisters and the big gaggle of cousins.  We were able to make a day of it and it was wild and fun and chaotic and exactly what it always is.  The kids were absolutely in their element and it was great to all be together in a very easy way.  

Just a sample of all the gifts.  Big family = a lot of garbage bags of wrapping paper at the end of the night.

A snacky h'ourderves graze-all-day kind of day.

So begins the wild paper-bag-puppet show.  Pulling out all the stops trying to stall gift-opening until James was home from basketball.  These pictures make me so happy, so I apologize for the ridiculous number I have chosen to share here.

A little iPad time on grandma's bed (more stalling/placating before presents).  

Oh the things I find in this house...

Almost time.  Waiting patiently as we began passing out gifts.

Poor buddy.  So so tired.  He needed a pick-me-up for sure at this point.

Enter: Aunt Heidi

Old dance costumes were unearthed from the basement.

Chocolate cake.  Because... why not?  Grandma doesn't need a reason.