Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas 2013

Well, we made it through another Christmas. And Megan’s all geared up for the next one. She’s been talking about it since the day after, even though we’ve been telling her it’s an entire year away. That doesn’t seem to dampen her enthusiasm any; she just smiles and says it’s next week and we should keep the tree up for it. ;)

We had a great day, once again filled with traditions. They are what keep us grounded, bind us together as a family, and have a familiar rhythm throughout the years.

Ours start any time in the month of December, with crafts usually involving a tree ornament, as well as taking a drive through local neighborhoods to look at the lights, family parties, and doing an advent calendar that I made myself, the items inside relating to certain scriptures regarding the birth of Christ and the plan of salvation.

Most holiday traditions involve food, and yes ours do too! Growing up, my mother baked gingerbread cookies and my siblings and I decorated them with the colored icings she made and all the tiny decorations she could find. Back then we always had the usual colored sugars and jimmies to go on top, but we also used cinnamon hearts and silver balls. That was back before people started getting anxious about the consumption of silver. Do you know how many of those silver balls I ate as a kid? 

My mom would bake a bazillion gingerbread cookies of  many different shapes, lay out the colored icings and array of decorations, and let us have at it. 

We listened to Christmas albums and one of them was the Do Re Mi Children’s Choir, with very familiar songs. Just hearing those songs brings me back to those innocent times. 

When I had my own children, I carried on the cookie decorating tradition with them, right down to a cassette tape of that very Do Re Mi Children’s Choir album. As the kids grew, I started including neighbor children, most of whom had never decorated cookies in their lives, which amazed and saddened me, and then the cousins joined the annual event. It got large enough that I ended up having it in my sister’s kitchen the last 2 years or so that we lived in MA, because hers was a little larger than my own.

This year we were running a little late because I had an extra project to do right during the week between my birthday and Christmas day. But the kids didn’t mind doing it the day after; at least they got to do it. And yes, in that picture Timothy is indeed decorating his hand with the icing; there is no cookie in his hand. ------>

Christmas Eve, which in my family is sometimes more special than Christmas day itself, has it’s own traditional supper foods for us. Again, carrying on some traditions from my childhood, I make clam dip with my mother’s recipe, and we have homemade or store bought onion dip. We have shrimp cocktail, which the kids LOVE, and a relatively new food was added a few years ago: Buffalo Chicken Dip. <---you can find that recipe at The Magic Meal Fairy

The kids are caught between wanting to stay up late because they’re kids, and going to bed early because they want Christmas morning to come. Phil and I are caught between wanting them to go to bed early because we’re tired and we want to haul the presents out of their hiding places and under the tree, and wanting them to stay up late so maybe by some miracle they’ll sleep late because we’re so exhausted. ;)

Christmas morning we had our usual orange cinnamon rolls, which we have for breakfast on Thanksgiving too. We only have them on those two holidays. But since Caity and I each bought some for Christmas, not knowing the other had, we’ll be having them on New Year’s day as well. Hehehe

After the rush of opening presents and listening to the kids’ excited cries of, “Look!! Look what I got!” died down, we ate our orange cinnamon rolls and generally settled into a day of relaxation and play with our gifts. But I had forgotten one of Caitlin’s presents, a door mirror. I hadn’t wrapped it because it was so big, so Timmy came with me to get it and bring it out to her. She was so funny when she got it; she was holding the mirror and smiling at her image and saying she’d found the perfect person for herself! Of course I had to take a photo of it. 

I wished I had a video camera for earlier when Timmy had carried it out for me. He walked along, then happened to turn his head and notice his reflection in the mirror. Without missing a beat, he smiled at himself and made a clicking noise with his tongue, pointing his L-shaped hand at his image as he did so. You know, like he was giving approval to himself in the mirror. Oh my goodness, I could have died at how funny it was! This is why I need a camcorder installed in my forehead or something, so I can capture these spontaneous things!

One tradition I had started when my girls were very little is eating a pound of Russell Stover chocolates. I think one of my paper route customers had given a box of them to me for Christmas, and we ate them on Christmas day and then every year bought a pound for it. 

It must be eaten Christmas day, with our loins girded, shoes on,  and our staffs in our hands, and any remaining chocolates must be taken to the edge of the property and burned. Oh wait, I may be getting this mixed up with the Passover meal and the Israelites. Well, we do have to eat it all on Christmas day; that much is true.

So, Ryan and Timmy loved their bikes, which Phil and Caitlin had placed out on the front walk for the boys to see for the first time that morning. They were thrilled with them, and immediately went out to ride. Ryan’s bike seems to be a little too big for him, but Phil taught him a way to get it going and then sort of jump on it with one foot stepping up onto the pedal, and it’s working for him. 

They have loved these bikes and ridden them on and off all day long since they got them. And after lurching forward and landing on the bar, they have learned that it’s not a good idea to switch gears while the bike is standing still and then ride it. Unless you happen to like singing soprano. ;)

Ahhhh, what a day it was. And thankfully, no matter what Megan says, it is indeed a whole year away. ;)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Birthday Bash!

So, yesterday was my birthday, and what a fantastic day it was. After Ryan and Timmy got up to ready themselves for school, they gave me heck for my age (Ryan) and artwork from school (Timmy). Timmy also gave me a bazillion hugs and I-love-yous. ;)

Phil made breakfast, including chocolate milk, an indulgence we treasure of a morning now and again. And in a perfectly birthday-legal breach of Chocolate Milk Etiquette, I drank in a long drawl of it before I even took a bite of my fried eggs on toast. It was just that kind of birthday.

I spent the early morning get-ready-for-school time writing my little heart out. I actually was late getting Timmy up, so absorbed was I in the article. Thankfully that one has his routine down to an art form. It’s not that he’s so eager to get to school; he wants to make sure he’s exactly walk-out-the-door ready so he can spend every last nanosecond watching a show, or playing on the computer. 

I spent a bit of time on the computer, but since I had been so sick with a stomach virus the day before, I was really wiped out. I napped for two hours! Hey, it’s my birthday. Birthday Rules say that I can do anything I want, and I also don’t have to do any work, either. I chose to nap. Well, my body made that decision for me. ;)

We went to each of the boys’ schools and picked them up around 1:30, surprising them, and went out to eat for my birthday lunch. Growing up, it was tradition in my family to pick your birthday meal. I usually chose meatloaf. When I started having my family, we made it a tradition to go out to eat for the birthday supper. Lately it’s changed to be more of a lunch treat, as the prices are better. And besides, it was more funner to unexpectedly collect the boys from school and whisk them away to a local Chinese buffet. 

You gotta click on this and see it larger!
The place was great and had a larger selection than our former preferred buffet. The kids loved it, Phil and I loved it. Timmy was as off the wall as ever (when is that ADHD appointment, anyway??), but despite annoying and arguing with Megan, one of his favorite sports, spilling a puddle of soy sauce the size of Michigan from a capped bottle, and ignoring my decision that he should NOT sprinkle a few packets of sugar on his ice cream, he really was quite funny.

At one point he stood up to tell me about someone we all dislike, saying, “Mommy, you should see how crazy Maude is!” I was sitting on the opposite end of the table on the other side. Before I could stop myself, I muttered, “I already know how crazy she is.” Timmy stopped mid-chatter, snickered, and said, “Good one!” Then resumed his story about her. Caity put her head to the table, busting up laughing, and I just about choked trying to hide my own laughter. 

We finished up the afternoon with a little shopping, went home, and Phil and I spent the next few hours refereeing the boys as they “played” with the neighbor boys. “Play” being defined as: verb; to pretend you are going to sit around the computer and strategize in a civilized manner how to best win the game on it, when in actuality, you jump up and down, knock over chairs, spill drinks, grab each other’s snacks and then scream, “HEYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!”, smack each other on the head and then return the favor while screaming, “HEYYYYY DON’T HIT MEEEEEE!!!!!!!” and whine and argue about whose turn it is.

And let’s not forget, “HEY YOU MADE ME LOSE MY JOE!!! YOU STUPID STUPID-HEAD!!!!” I can’t use what they really say here because, well, this is a blog about family life and I want you to think my family and I are perfect. ;)

After about two hours of that torture, Phil and I sent the other kids home, and we started tree decorating. This is actually a tradition that started on my first birthday, way back in nineteen-shnkdhuah3nsvlareor6w. My family always decorated the Christmas tree on the night of my birthday, and I always carried it on each year. 

So the tree needed a little help standing up straight. I think maybe he had one night too many of standing out in the tree lot, chugging down Mike’s Hard Miracle Gro with the few buddies he had left. For ease, let’s just call him Bob. Phil and Caitlin worked hard to help Bob out, tilting him here, leaning him there, screwing and re-screwing the tree stand bolts until he stood as nice and tall as a skinny, oddly-shaped tree could stand. Bob ended up having his oddest shaped side turned to face the window, and the last I heard from him was, “ Ah camp breeeeve!”

While all this was going on, Ryan had taken the handmade quilted tree skirt and wrapped it around his middle, as a kilt. 

He went around the house talking in his best Irish brogue, which isn’t easy when you’re 13 and your voice is changing. I followed him and repeated the old Irish Spring commercial where the woman says, “Made for a man, but I like it too!” 

Ryan actually told me to take a picture of it, so I did. This was a rare opportunity to capture his emerging sense of humor, at *his* behest. Yes, I fairly sprinted for my camera and snapped the photo before he changed his mind. ;)

Soon the tree decorating was in full swing, with me in charge of the ornament box trying desperately to run interference as Timotheus grabbed at very delicate real German glass ornaments that cost a lot, almost slinging them through the air as I keep up a steady stream of, 

“No, don’t touch that. I told you I will tell you which ones you can hang. No, leave that one. Timmy, that’s very delicate and expensive! Don’t touch! I said don’t touch! Timmy, these are very old, you need to not touch them. Great Grammie made them. You can hang these unbreakable ones here. No, not that one, that’s my German glass chestnut. No, Timmy, stop grabbing them. Don’t touch. Don’t touch! I SAID DON’T TOUCH!!!” 

Ryan has reached the age where he would be careful, and I felt it was time to show him the confidence I have in him as he’s maturing, so for the first time, he got to help Caity hang the fragile ornaments on the tree. I’m so glad I did, because I think it was a big boost to his self-esteem that we entrusted this responsibility to him. He was very careful and almost business-like in his handling and placement of them. My heart still smiles thinking of it.

And when Bob was in full Christmas tree regalia, lights turned on, oohing and aahing completed, Phil made me sit and my precious family gave me gifts. I got pretty nightgowns and shirts, socks and chocolate,  and….BOOKS!!!! 

Have I ever mentioned my love affair with books?? I devour them ravenously. I read them voraciously. I consume them like a person gasping for oxygen…or maybe it’s they who consume me. ;)

Caity had made me a cake, and it was now time to sing the birthday song. I sang too. ;) Candles had been lit, and thankfully the number of them did *not* come anywhere near my age, or we would have had the fire department here last night! 

I blew them all out, and didn’t need my inhaler afterwards. I noticed later that Phil had bought a package of 80 candles. Eighty?? How old does he think I am?? Crypt Keeper??  

Seriously, though, Phil is the sweetest man to me, and the age thing...he always says my age is ten years younger than it actually is. :) 

The kids ate oversized pieces of my mom’s recipe Velvet Midnight Cake, and that was their supper! By then it was late, and the boys needed to lay their heads down for school in the morning, Megan was ready to go to her hidey hole and color until she went to sleep, and Caitlin had plans to go out visiting a friend. Phil and I slipped off to our haven to relax with a little white merlot and some ID channel shows. I can’t remember what we watched but it was something comforting like Wives With Knives or something. Just kidding, of course! It was the new one, Diabolical. ;) 

And so, as the night wound down, Phil and I chatted about the day, played a little Bejeweled Twist on our laptops, and ordered pizza in from Domino’s. And it was a good day, too, such a good day! I loved it and I truly am so thankful for my family making it so special for me. I hope you enjoy hearing about it. I didn’t even tell you the half of it. Maybe next time. ;) 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Philip’s Christmas Traditions

Traditions are so important in a home. At Phil’s house, the traditions he carried on gave comfort and delight to his family. I know just about everyone has traditions at Christmas time, but of course they’re unique to each family. 

Phil likes to put up a Christmas tree. He didn’t use an artificial one; he likes the fresh trees best. When he put the tree up ranged anywhere from the day after Thanksgiving to a week before Christmas. He and his children liked to decorate the tree together, and they had the typical metal ball ornaments, as well as garland and tinsel.

Christmas cards received from friends and family were taped up around the door frames as decorations, and mistletoe was hung. Phil strung colorful Christmas lights around the front porch and on the two bushes that adorn each side of the porch. 

Christmas Eve sometimes has a special place in many families’ traditions too. With Phil and his children, they would read the account of Christ’s birth in the bible, in the book of Luke. Each family member would take turns reading the verses. 

The children were allowed to open one small gift on Christmas Eve, to “tide” them over until Christmas morning. I know other families do the same thing. 

The children’s stockings were hung on the big wooden piano in the dining room.

On Christmas morning, breakfast was very simple, after opening the gifts, of course. Gifts were always very thoughtful and meaningful. If there was a large gift for one of the children, it was placed outside on the porch, not by the tree. Phil’s children would then open the door to see it and receive it.

Phil’s family always visited his mother around lunchtime on Christmas day, as well as his siblings. She loves putting on a special spread for the family and relatives. 

For supper on Christmas day, Phil would make a wonderful meal, the meat being either ham or turkey. Potatoes, stuffing, yams, beets, and cranberry sauce would always accompany the ham or turkey. Phil and his children would stuff themselves and enjoy the special holiday together. 

Traditions are what make such special memories for families, and Phil and his children have many to look back on and feel good about.