Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Our Santa Policy: December 14, 2014

The nighttime visions are dancing in our heads already, but not sugarplums, unfortunately.

Melina: crying, gesturing wildly and emphatically  THERE was a SNAKE in my BED.  It was trying to EAT me!
Mommy: Was it a nightmare?
Melina: Yeth!
Mommy: Do you need to stay in Mommy's bed for a few minutes?
Melina: Yeth!
 This happy guy saw TWO Santas this weekend.  The first was at the Elkton YMCA at their Christmas Faire.  This meant Craig and I needed a Santa Policy.  We decided that we wouldn't do anything to discourage belief in Santa, but if asked we would answer truthfully.  So Mommy can label packages "from Santa" because it's cute and we can have a Cookies for Santa plate because it's cute, but our kids will probably always know that Santa is Daddy and The Tooth Fairy is Mommy.
 The decorated cookies were a hit, too!
 I was surprised the girls weren't more into Santa, seeing that all three talked my ear off about him all the way there.  When we got there, he made Melina so nervous I actually thought she might bolt from the room during Devon's turn.  "Don't worry, sissy, nobody is making you do anything you don't want to do," I crooned over and over.  Carrie was more calm, but her clamp on my shoulder got stronger the closer we moved into the guy in the suit.
 So this was all three kids with Santa this year.  Okay.

Devon: Mommy, is the YMCA the North Pole?
Mommy: No, Devon, they set up the room for Santa to remind people of the North Pole.

 The girls had runny noses on Sunday, and I figured if you are too sick for the Baby Jesus you are too sick for Santa, too.  Devon and I went alone with Karolina and Victoria to see Santa at Kilby Cream.
 Devon asked for the same thing both times: a Hot Wheels Car track.  Good to know...
He ate his Snowman Sundae outside in forty-degree weather and still wanted to play outdoors.  He's turning into a little winter Marylander after all. 

Devon: Mommy, does Santa live at Kilby Cream and eat ice cream all day?
Mommy: Well, remember that Santa is real in the same way that Veggietales and Spiderman and Thomas the Train are real, Devon.  He's real in movies and he's real dressed up and we can sit on his lap and have fun and use our imaginations.  But he's not real in the way that Devon and the Baby Jesus are real. 
Devon: blank stare Spiderman isn't real?
Mommy: No, not really, sweetie.
Devon: But I'm a RescueBot.
Mommy: Yes, you are.
Devon: When I lived in Florida, I didn't know I was an emergency responder.  I hadn't started to Transform yet.  I was too little.

Yep, our son has a FIRM grasp on reality....

Devon: What about in Polar Express movie where the bell rings when the boy believes in Santa.  Do all the bells in our house not ring because Santa isn't real?
Mommy: No, all the bells in our house don't ring because you've pulled them all apart and the ringers fell out.

Christmas Tree 2014: December 7, 2014

Our first tri-state Christmas is shaping up to be memorable. Opening our Christmas boxes was such a time capsule, since we celebrated last Christmas in transit.  The last time these decorations saw the light of day, we had a two-year-old and two one-year-olds!
Everything gets put up in a new place and therefore viewed in a new way. 
I also get to appreciate gifts from long ago for the very first time, so it's like being given them all over again.  This is the beautiful Christmas card holder I begged a friend to make for me, getting its very first use.  Our Christmas cards will have to go out near or even shortly after Christmas.  In the meantime, I'm collecting addresses already because we're not the only moved ones this year among out acquaintances!
MOPS fall ended with a pajama day.  Devon joined the Moppets saying John 3:16 for the moms in big group.
That weekend's ambitious plan was to hit Schmidt's Christmas Tree Farm in Pennsylvania for a freshly cut Christmas tree.  It was a luxury we had to give up while living in Florida.  There just aren't many tree farms there.  Haha.
Unfortunately, Saturday's plans were rained out.  Hours and hours of rain.  No problem, we said, we'll go Sunday after church.  What better way to start remembering the baby Jesus than worshiping Sunday morning, celebrating the baptism of our favorite baby twins, and then getting a tree just minutes away on the way home.  We couldn't help it if everyone else in the tri-state area was rained out Saturday and had the same Sunday afternoon plans.  We got the kids' church clothes off and mud clothes on carside as vehicles whizzed by us, Christmas trees tied to the roofs already.  The kids enjoyed playing in the huge bark playground as Craig and I tried to formulate a plan.

The first consideration was the mud.  Tons of it.  How muddy was our tree going to get?  How muddy were we going to get?
Then we saw the Tree of Saws.  Hmm.... we're supposed to take one to cut our Christmas tree.  That would take one hand.  With our three remaining hands, we needed to guide our three kids onto the tractor and keep them from wanting to touch the saw as we were driven out to the tree fields.  Then we needed to find a tree, keep the kids at a safe distance as we cut it, load the tree, the saw, and everybody else back onto the tractor, and try to keep the kids from touching the tree AND the saw all the way back.  Then we'd ditch the saw and get the tree AND kids over the foot-deep mud ruts and back to the car safely.

I looked at Craig.

He looked at me.

"I miss Lowe's," he said.

"I do, too.  Let's go there," I said.

We paused.

"I'm serious," I added.  

"Me too!"

In wise, all-knowing tones we informed the kids that we were just about ready to wrap it up at "the place where we took you to see where our Christmas Tree was grown".  Now we were going to the car to go see "the place where we get our Christmas tree and tie it to the top of the car".  It seemed like a perfectly plausible explanation to toddlers.  Thank goodness!
Of course, not everybody made it to Lowe's....  Devon and Mommy got to go in and select a tree while Daddy stayed in the car with the napping girls.

"Get us a big one, Devon," Daddy said.
We raced around Lowe's admiring the trees in our usual 5-6 foot row.  Daddy had said to get a big tree, so I rounded the corner and pointed out the 7-8 foot row, lifting one tree and then another so Devon could admire them and choose his favorite.  He didn't really get the concept of choosing one of them over another to bring home and kept wanting to sneak off and play with the electronic Christmas toys, so I picked one that looked nice and flagged some help to trim the trunk and wrap it for us.

Somehow I had overlooked the fact that the 7-8 foot row became the 9-10 foot row halfway through and I had chosen an unbelievably big tree.  I paled a little as the register tag revealed that this tree was way bigger than we were used to.  I almost chickened out.  Would our stand even be big enough?  Would we be able to get it home?  Could we lift it?
The kids waited in the car through the long task of roping the tree securely to the top. 
It was a Fraser Fir, a lighter choice, so the hoist up on top went much better than expected.  I told myself that all we had to do at home was lift it down without getting crushed by it.
It ended up being the work of Sunday just to get it home and in the stand.  It ended up being the perfect size for our first floor, just missing the ceiling after we trimmed the highest branch by a few inches.  The kids watched classic Rudolph for the first time in a year as Craig and I screwed it into the stand.  There is only so much that three toddlers can do in one day.  Monday night's work was stringing the lights.  All three went round and round behind Daddy holding each string.  
Thankfully one of the very few things I had bought after last year's season were new strings of lights, as ours were just starting to go.  We had enough to light the much taller tree.  When it was all lit up I was glad that I hadn't chickened out and bought a smaller one.  One of the advantages of still having a completely unfurnished gathering room is we have plenty of room for a truly amazing tree.  We haven't worked out what exactly we'll sit on Christmas morning.  Pillows?  Bean bags?  Folding chairs?
Tuesday morning at six am the ornaments started coming out.  My plan was to do them in short bursts throughout the day to keep everyone entertained and reduce toddler burnout (see Carrie's face in the tree lighting picture).

We truly have an amazing amount of ornaments, and this is the first time we've ever had a tree that didn't seem totally overloaded.  Both sets of grandparents collected throughout our childhoods for Mommy and Daddy.  They also kept detailed notes on the origin of each one, whether handmade in BSF childcare or purchased on a special family vacation as a memento.  We even have a white, wooden moose of Craig's that reads Baltimore, 1987, so we know that when he was fourteen he visited a mere hour from where we live now.  It's so, so neat to have these, and it's a tradition we want to start for the kids.  I'm hoping to purchase a special Christmas box for each this year, and start their respective ornament lists with the several they've gotten so far. 

When Craig and I got married, we kept up the tradition, purchasing commemorative ornaments on our various vacations and a few special ones each Christmas.  We have a "New Home" ornament from 2002, 2004, 2007, and 2011 as we purchased or rented our first four homes.  Now we need one for 2014, as we moved in on New Year's Eve!

Like I said before, the ornaments and decorations stayed boxed last year, but we were gifted with several lovely and unique mementos on leaving Vero Beach last year, and the kids have added some through fun trips and church crafts.  These have been coming out of the most unexpected places in EVERY room of the house.  It's been like a treasure hunt!  I'll be putting away clothes in the girls' closet and find a box with the three favorite Disney character ornaments the kids got on their first trip to Disney World.  I'll be collecting plastic fish from a broken game on the top of our dresser and lay hands on a small box with a hand-painted sand dollar that's spent the whole year there waiting for Christmas.  I spent an evening printing tiny pictures to stuff frame ornaments that have never been stuffed, some of them dating back to the girls' first year!
This was our first outdoor decorating effort in thirteen years.  It's our side mudroom entrance, so not even very visible from the street.  Devon and I just cooked it up one afternoon to surprise Daddy and give him something cheerful to look at every night when coming home from work.  We're thinking of going much larger scale next year, even doing something that goes across the front of the house.  It's a good start.
P.S. (Dec. 22) My final festive decorating effort was to finish the Christmas stockings I've been planning for the kids long before their conception.  When Craig and I were engaged I cross-stitched stockings for the two of us.  When I did the finish sewing, I bought enough fabric to finish off three more stockings and put it aside for someday.  Quite the planner, I was.  I finally finished the third (Carrie's) topper last week, and spent Saturday morning at a friend's house doing the finish sewing because my machine is on the fritz.  Whew!  I gotta admit, crafting projects are a lot more fun when you're not already parenting and running a household.  I'm just glad they're done.

Thanksgiving: November 27, 2014

November seems like such a blur already.  We were thankful for TWO whole weeks to celebrate, starting with Devon's pre-K thanksgiving program at Landenburg.
The kids came in dressed as pilgrims and indians.
They said their memory verses, sang their songs, and generally wowed the audience.  Carrie and Melina watched, amazed.
Afterwards was Devon's most talked about part: the big FEAST.  My three ate their weights in chicken nuggets.  A huge success.
Afterwards, we circled back home for the girls's nap and then back to Landenburg to pick up Devon.  It was a good trial run for the real Thanksgiving. 
The very next day we hopped in the car for the fourteen-hour drive to Nashville TN.  It was the first long car trip attempted since our move and our only significant vacation of this year.  Ten whole days!! 
The route took us through Lexington, KY, right past the house where the kids came home from the hospital, the burger joint that nourished their little bodies in utero, and the castle park where we played with Devon the night before the girls were born. 

Nashville was a pretty low-key vacation, which was just what we needed.  We spent time at a favorite park there daily, reveling in fifty-degree temperatures as our friends from home posted snow pics on facebook.
Mama and Papa's house is home to the toys of Craig's childhood, many of which came out to play. 
But the best part was the cousins.  Four older boys for Devon to look up to, and three girls for Carrie and Melina.  We enjoyed Big Hero 6 together.  My favorite part of the experience was having to make the girls share a chair with somebody because they were so light that their bodies wouldn't keep the chairs open. 
Devon discovered the foam sword.  And life will never, ever be the same. 
It felt awfully ambitious to get everyone out at 9 am on Black Friday to take a professional family photo, but it went really, really well.  And when is it NOT ambitious to get ten kids dressed, looking, and smiling?  This is an amazingly good result if you ask me. 
We were lucky to be able to delay our return until Monday after Thanksgiving, when most everyone was already home and not on the roads.  We decided to drive it all in one day, an ambitious choice that ended up working pretty well.  We left at four am and were already back through Lexington before these cheerful morning faces made an appearance.  We ate meals in the car and stopped to run around and stretch instead of getting out to sit and eat more again.  Come to think of it, we pretty much ate recreationally all day.  It's something to do in the car...  By seven it was dark again and we were almost home, and that's when the sitting-too-long energy explosion happened.  You wouldn't believe the noise in the car as the kids trilled, sang songs, and told each other incomprehensible inside jokes.  We pulled into Elkton around 8 and poor Ally Kitty must have wondered what tornado was hitting after a quiet ten days at home.