Friday, January 14, 2011

Twelve Days of Christmas and Happy New Year

When I was growing up, we always celebrated the twelve days of Christmas. Well, not all of them, but the two at each end - Christmas day, and the Feast of the Epiphany. I remember as a child having a special meal and receiving a small gift each January sixth, and when I was older, going to huge bonfires where everyone brought their trees to burn. Not really a mainstream American habit, to say the least, but it is something that has stuck with me through the years. The lead up to Christmas is always very exciting, but it is often marred by mass consumerism and stress, whereas the days after Christmas are a time of calm and reflection. Like I said in my last blog, we are not to quick to put up the tree in the early days of December, but that's because we keep it up each year until the sixth - at least - and what fun is burning a completely dead tree? None at all...

Another wonderful element of the week after Christmas for our family, is that Matt has the entire week off from work! (Actually, because Christmas fell on a weekend this year, he had almost TWO weeks off work, all said and done) That is a gift more special than anything we could find under the tree. It is so nice to relax every day, have nowhere to go, nothing to do. It's great to have an extra set of hands for the small tasks that need to be done every day around the house, and to be able to spend time doing our own personal projects as well. Most of all, it is just great to be together as a family without any interruption. To play in the snow, (what little we had) and sit by the fire, listening to Matty - plinky, plinky, plink - on his banjo. It's so rejuvenating to be able to take a break from the stop-and-go of everyday and collect ourselves, to renew our energy stores for the new year to come.

This New Year holiday, we decided to go up to Vermont - why? I don't know - and it turned out to be a nice change of pace. Read: doing the above mentioned things in a different location with free babysitters. Emerson got to partake in some Extreme Sledding with my seventy-five year old mother, and the kids had enough sticky snow to build a snowman for the first time this winter - before it rained the next day. (We drove home in 50 degree weather)
We skipped the partying this year in lieu of "First Night: Town I Grew Up In" and that was a nice change too. We brought the kids to see a magician (which Emerson loved) and also partook in some music and kids' activities, all of which took place in my former high-school! (Weird...) It was fun though -surprisingly. We topped off our evening watching some fire dancing in the street, and bringing the kids home to bang some pots and pans on the porch to ring in the New Year (at 8pm).
Matty and followed that up with a jaunt up the road to my high-school friend's parents' house -KEGGER! (just kidding) - where we sat around having a few beers, talking about our kids, and barely acknowledging the ball-dropping, midnight madness. Which is how it should be when you're thirty-six - watching the fireworks from the window is nice (which we did), but I don't need to be out in the action anymore. It was just great to catch up with an old friend and not have to worry about getting pulled over on the way home.

So here is what I've taken from my two week hiatus from "real" life. I don't care. Not in the apathetic, "I don't care about anything, but really I do" attitude I carried throughout high school, but the "I care about things that are important, and fuck the rest" attitude I have adopted over the past couple of weeks. There are important things in life, and I DO care about them. I care about my children and my loved ones, and I care about what happens to them. I have empathy towards every other living being, be it human, animal, plant, earth in general, and I want what is best for them as well. I care that I have warmth, food, and happiness. But is there really anything else that is important after these things?

I'll tell you what I don't care about. I don't care that I have debt. It doesn't keep me up at night. I don't care if my daughter makes it to school on time or not. I don't care that I am not keeping up with the Jones'. (Whoever they are) I don't care that my house continues to get messier and messier as I do things I like to do - bake cookies, play with my children, write my blog... These, and many stupid issues like them, often cause stress in my life, and stand firmly in my way of my enjoyment of life. And maybe I am just giving lip service to all of this because I have just come off a very long holiday, but I really do believe that some of this "after Christmas" joy is seeping into the rest of my life. I surely hope so. I'm not really one for New Year's resolutions, but resolving to have fun and show my children that life is good - not errands -sounds good to me.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Big Day

Not a creature was stirring....
except Santa-Mommy, who was actually very calm and organized this year. I always say I'm going to get all my shopping done early, and this year I did. I also wrapped early, and even though I had to run out and do some last minute errands on Christmas-Eve-day, I left early, missed the crowds, and was home by 11am - in time to watch Emerson perform the Nutcracker (twice!)

the stockings were hung by the chimney with care...

stuffed with crayons, and books, and silks, and Christmas wands and Santa gnomes that I made after the kids went to bed.
Emerson has always known about Santa, but we don't make a huge deal about it. I've told her that mall-Santas, and all the other varieties we see before Christmas are not really Santa. (I think it is totally creepy to tell your kids that everyone dressed in a Santa suit is friendly and nice, and I also think it's confusing to tell kids that Santa lives at the north pole and comes once a year, and then you see him at the park...) And she doesn't really talk about Santa, or make long lists. She loves the story of baby Jesus (which really encompasses the feeling better anyway) and she LOVES singing hymns. (We took her to church this year for the first time) But Santa... I wasn't so sure. Until we were going to bed Christmas Eve, and Emerson turned to me, with a glow in her eyes, and a smile on her face, and whispered, "Santa is coming tonight Mommy." The best kind of excitement...

The next morning I was woken out of deep sleep by Emerson standing next to my bed, again whispering, "Mommy, can I get up now?" (It was 7 am. If left to her own devices, she'll sleep until after 8, and lie in bed for a while after she wakes up...)

Seeing kids' faces on Christmas morning is priceless. Ophelia immediately saw the sled and screamed, "it's a boat! It's a boat! It's for me!" Emerson said, "Ophelia, Santa came!" And Ophelia -for the rest of morning - asked, "where? Where's Santa?"
The girls opened their stockings slowly and with intrigue, and spent the rest of the early morning reading, coloring, and eating their maple-sugar santas. The best gift we got for Emerson - from my point of view, and I'm pretty sure it was high on her list too - was a chapter book called Milly-Molly-Mandy, which Emerson had us read her (the whole thing) promptly. It's very, very sweet.Ophelia loved her little wand. Emerson said right away, when she saw hers, "my mom made those..." It's so funny that she can recognize right away that I made them, but still believe that everything else was from Santa. Ah, the irrationality of youth.... Next year we decided to have Santa only bring one gift for each girl to make things easier.

After breakfast, we opened the presents under the tree - again, slowly - taking time to see and appreciate what everyone received. We decided to give in to the (innocuous) Calico Critters this year, and I'm so happy we did. Emerson was so excited when she saw them, she was shaking. This is a few minutes after she opened her little, tiny "kitty twins." Still reeling...
She held onto the little kitties while she opened other presents as well.

Here they are in all their glory (I gave in to the Calico Critters, but not full force. Emerson said she wanted a "whole town." We decided to get her a kitty family, the kitty twins, and wooden accessories. Emerson was thrilled with it)We struggled to think of something Ophelia would really love, as she appreciates everything equally, and doesn't lack for anything, but at the last minute, I thought of getting her her own fancy dress. (She loves wearing Emerson's and is always tripping over it) It was a big hit!
Here is the kitty family.

The kids weren't the only ones who got what they wanted from Santa this year!
Emerson immediately went into a world of her own with her mini-friends (Matt's dad got the girls a beautiful, wooden, tree house for the kitties, bunnies, gnomes, etc... and it came with some fairy friends too)
Ophelia was very busy too.And then on to her second favorite gift,and some more dancing,

a yummy dinner,and more playing. This is my favorite thing about my girls. Using the presents however they see fit. (Here, the bonnet is a roof for some sort of kitty structure)This one is my favorite. She used multiple presents (a puzzle, a game, four cups, blocks, crayons, and peppermint bark) to create a house for her friends.
And here they are partying!

And of course in the latter part of the evening, there was even more dancing
and more and more....
A beautiful day, through and through.