Tuesday, December 23, 2014

How to have the best Christmas ever

Lily watches Santa's Marching Band. 
It's like having a miniature bell choir in the convenience of your living room. Delightful.

 Here it is, just two days before Christmas.

The girls are bursting with Christmas spirit. Have been for a month and a half. 

They've scoured the toy inserts in the newspaper, shouting as if they've just unearthed the sarcophagus of Cleopatra, "It's Belle! It's Frozen! It's My Little Pony! It's Elsa from Frozen! It's Batman! Look Mom! More Frozen!!" Such characters.

We've watched "Frosty," "Rudolph" and "Elf" repeatedly (the latter of which inspired Lily to "burp" for extended periods of time at the dinner table, I quickly put a stop to that. And, in an effort to stay ahead of any other learned behaviors from Buddy, cautioned her that she should never, ever eat gum off the street. "Why, Mom?" she asked. "Because it's gross. And you'll catch a horrible disease. Obvies.")

We've sung "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" to our neighbors with the volume (if not the pitch) of a thousand Carolers. 

We've relocated ornaments on the tree -- moving Minnie Mouse to a "safe spot" toward the back after her leg fell off and putting the blue bird into a better "nest" on the side and clustering Buddy the Elf, Rudolph and the yarn angel into a yule gang that taxes the branches of our already drooping tree.

We've listened to Santa's Marching Band daily. Rushed outside barefoot to straighten the drunken Santa and listing tree on our inherited lawn inflatable. Ripped open Christmas cards.

Made and decorated sugar cookies, sneaking clumps of dough from the bowl, tasting icing from the icing spreaders and, on at least one occasion, licking the sprinkles off the kitchen table (the dog cleaned up the rest of the mess -- I wouldn't recommend eating anything directly off our table ... the cookies won't be passing any health inspections either).

Last night as I kissed Lily on her head she told me she was going to dream about Santa. 

They are ready.

So fueled by hot cocoa, cookies, candy canes and anticipation that recent playdates inevitably dissolve into packs of little girls screaming at high decibels and running around the house in circles. 

Their raw emotions haven't always been happy. 

Yesterday Jovie came running to me in tears because Lily had taken her trophy. A trophy that, as far as I could tell, was totally imaginary. I pantomimed a trophy ceremony, giving Jovie another "trophy," which Lily promptly stole. More tears. 

Every day they beg to go to Grandma and Grandpa's, and are devastated when I tell them we don't go until after Christmas. They really, really want to walk down the toy aisle at Target, just one more time. 

It seems the only way they can move around the house these days is by running or hopping or spinning in circles. 

Yes, their Christmas spirit is so overflowing that at the end of the day, after the girls are nestled all snug in their beds, I find myself wanting a glass of Christmas spirits myself. Maybe, two.

I've spent a lot of time complaining about the forced materialism and the rush of the holidays. The endless promotion of All The Stuff you must buy in order to show everyone that you love and/or appreciate them. This year, I've attempted to put blinders on to all the commercial hype. The cars in bows. The iPads. The 24-hour sales. 

I've felt like a honey bee, flying through December, making sure only to land on the moments that I am sure will offer the best sustenance, then sipping the joy until my soul is full.

Lily and Dasher at Central Market. 

Lily and I went shopping in downtown York on Small Business Saturday. We stopped in Central Market for lunch and shared macaroni and cheese, she marveled at all the people and stared shyly at the guy in a reindeer suit, eventually gathering courage to meet him. Sort of.

I skipped though Longwood Gardens with my giggling niece Penelope under a rainbow of twinkling Christmas lights. 

Listened to my dad read a Christmas story in a room crowded full of siblings and nieces and nephews while Lily and Penelope sat on my lap licking me, glaring at my brother-in-law Lukas as he suppressed snorts from across the room. 

Watched as Lily refused to make eye contact with Santa when he made an appearance at the end of her preschool Christmas show. (And I agree with her, he is more magical at a distance.)


Snacks is not amused.
Delaney is less even less amused.
Giggled conspiratorially while forcing the dog (and a cat) to dress up like Santa. 

Enjoyed the easy conversation and laughter of coffee with great friends while our kids chased each other (screaming of course) to the tune of "Deck the Halls." 


Lily, Jovie and Francis the sheep.
Fed the barn animals Ginger Snaps and wished them all a Merry Christmas.

Snuggled with Brad for the annual viewings of "Love Actually" and "Christmas Vacation." 

I can hear the sound of someone throwing up a little in their mouth right now. 

Here's the thing, I'm not trying to suggest I've solved the problem of high holiday expectations. And I certainly haven't found a solution to holiday stress. 

Right now, I should be editing interviews about CAD software and personal finance and retirement planning and all the other blogging assignments that are piling up in my inbox. I don't know when they'll all get done what with the cookies to bake and pie to make and wrapping to finish and packing and ... and ... and ... There's always so much more to do. But I miss writing for me. So I'm cramming this in. Because they'll never be enough time anyway. 

I've been on the verge of multiple mom-splosions (and by on the verge, I mean I've all out Mount Vesuviused) for the dumbest things. 

Like, can we stop fighting over the invisible trophy? Please? Come on guys. Just stop.  PLEASE! STOP FIGHTING OVER THE INVISIBLE TROPHY. OK, IF YOU CAN'T STOP FIGHTING OVER THE STUPID INVISIBLE TROPHY I'M CALLING SANTA AND TELLING HIM NOT TO COME TO OUR HOUSE!!!!!! 

The eruptions are more trouble than they're worth though, because of actually solving any problems, I just make Lily cry in the most pitiful way. And then I feel like an asshole. I mean, I feel like an asshole while I'm yelling, but especially so afterward. When their big, tear-filled eyes are looking at me with a mixture of horror and concern. Like this is the Big One. Mom's lost her shit and Santa isn't coming and that basically means the world is over. 

So, no. It's not been a perfect month. 

It's nice to have figured out that it will never be the perfect month. But all those moments of perfection are there for you to grab if you just pay attention. Really. Just go ahead and take them.
Gratuitous rosy cheek shot.

Sunday, the day of the Winter Solstice, was brisk, but sunny. The girls were, once again, behaving like baby goats, clattering around the house, braying and generally making a mess of things. So I bundled them up, put a leash on the dog and headed to the park. They ran and ran and ran. When they stopped, I suggested they run some more. 

When they were sufficiently tired out, we headed toward home. We stopped to chat with a woman walking her dachshund, Charlie. Her face split into a grin when she saw the girls, admiring how pretty they were with their rosy cheeks and asking if they were excited to see Santa. She was so earnest. 

"It's so fun at this age," she said, wistfully. "All my kids are grown. Even my grandchildren are teenagers. Enjoy them." 

I know what she means. For awhile there, you forget about how magical this season can be. But then with the kids, it's all glittery and mysterious and wonderful all over again. Like an unopened present.

The girls scratched Charlie and wished our neighbor a merry christmas in their tiny, bell-like voices.

Here it is, two days before Christmas. We haven't opened any of the presents under our tree yet, but I've already unwrapped the Big One. 

Best. Christmas. Ever.

(OK, fine, commence more mouth vomiting. Wash it down with a cookie. Yummmm.)

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