For Christmas Day, we always celebrate at my parents’ house. Our tradition is we convene there in the morning, have Dunkin’ Donuts (I have NO idea how that tradition started, but we’ve been doing it for a good ten years), open presents, and then have our “big meal.” Happy organized chaos in the best possible sense. I beg for two “traditional” pictures every year … one of the kids at the glass door, waiting to be let in to the living room to open their presents, and one in front of the Christmas tree before they start opening all their goodies.
Despite having five days off, I am exhausted and totally not ready to go back to work tomorrow. I’ve been fighting a migraine and head cold and do not feel like moving. Thank goodness it’s a short week! I hosted Christmas Eve this year, and went with lasagna, sausage stuffed mushrooms (recipe coming soon), Spinach Cheese Squares, chips and dip, that seven layer dip that is floating around the interwebs and shaped liked a wreath (don’t do it), a Broccoli Quinoa Salad, Garlic Bread Fantastique, and way too many desserts.
Santa came around on the fire trucks, which is one of my favorite Christmas Eve happenings (and that the kids have missed the past two years), but neither would pose with him.
Christmas Day was at my parents’ house with baked ham, scalloped potatoes, roasted vegetables, macaroni and cheese, dips galore (a weakness!), and again, way too many desserts.
That apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
This year, the kids used their own money to buy each other presents, and it was the sweetest thing in the world to see how much care and thought went into the selections. One of Maddie’s presents for me came via a teacher at school. She overheard her teacher talking to another teacher about some soaps and gift items that she sells, and Maddie and a friend slyly went up to her to broker her own deal. TOO CUTE.
Eloise. The baby of the family, and always willing to pose for the camera.
Books were one of the main things that was on Madeline’s Christmas list, along with fuzzy socks. She’s already finished three of them, and she wasn’t even here yesterday!
My oldest niece, Sophie, another voracious reader, got a Kindle for Christmas, which was the perfect gift for her….
As much as I occasionally throw tradition out the window (as I mentioned a few weeks ago), there are some traditions that I hold tightly to.
… Our annual Rainbow Cake Party to celebrate the end of the school year
… Costco’s pumpkin pie during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving
… and eggnog during the month of December
To name just a few.
Eggnog, or as the folks at International Delight refer to it, Nog is a must.
Perhaps a dash of cinnamon on the top.
Not every day.
But just enough to throw that “this is it, the holidays are here,” just like that first snow fall and crack of a roaring fire.
It just all goes together.
And, of course, once we kick off the holiday season, the rest of our favorite traditions start flying fast and furious.
A visit to Santa (the same one for the past twelve years).
Our food-and-drink themed-Christmas tree going up in the kitchen (a peek at last year’s version).
A quick photo shoot to capture the perfect picture for our Christmas cards.
The holiday parade downtown.
A trip to see the gingerbread creations at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum.
And, of course, the mad dash to get all of our holiday shopping done before the big day. …
Well hello there! I didn’t plan on taking a break over the last few days, but it ended up being that perfect little thing that was right. What a whirlwind the past few days have been… full of new traditions, old traditions, shouts of glee, kindness for strangers, thoughtfulness, love, and so much, much more.
We are very blessed indeed.
One of our new traditions this year was to go to the 10 pm Christmas Eve mass last night after our big dinner. As I walked into the church, with the adult choir singing before mass even started, we were greeted with smiles from one of the parish priests and the joyful holiday decorations. I felt a giant exhale and knew it was the right place to be at that moment.
I feel it merits an entire post on its own, but Madeline has become fiercely religious with the start of her new school this past September. Last night, I smiled while watching her try to follow along. And smiled even bigger as she recited the Our Father. I didn’t realize she knew it, and it was just the most adorable thing ever. She caught me looking at her and gave me the biggest grin ever.
And then we had a debate about whether she could or couldn’t get Communion.
The service ended with Joy to the World, which is my all-time favorite holiday song.
Our Christmas Eve dinner? Regular readers know that we do the Feast of the Seven Fishes (for our Italian background) and thirteen desserts (as is the French tradition). A few days before our meal, I conferred with my mom. I wanted to buck tradition
a bit a lot, but only if she agreed. We have done those traditions for as long as I can remember. Well, at least since I’ve been hosting Christmas Eve. Although I love it, I didn’t want to do it if it was a tradition out of a sense of obligation. So this year, we did something different. I made two lasagnas, one more traditional and one that was seafood (recipe coming soon). So a slight nod to our former fish feast, and a huge nod to our Italian background. I made another Zucchini Pie, both because it’s delicious and easy, and because I was determined to replace the picture I originally used in this post. My sister brought an assortment of appetizers, I added garlic bread and my Mom brought dessert (a few, not 13).
And it was perfect.
Because although it’s about the food, it’s also about coming together and being in the moment.
And it so was.
I want to raise kids that are supremely comfortable with who they are, and confident enough that they can embrace the different. Be ok with not following the pack. Leading their own little pack perhaps a different way. Playing football if you’re a girl. Coloring if you’re a boy. Blurring the lines between “what’s normal” and “what’s normal for me.”
To just raise kids that are confident in being themselves. Whatever self that may be.
But here’s where it gets tricky. I don’t want them to be *so* different that they become an outcast. Neither are in danger of that, but it’s something that floats in the back of my mind. You want them to be confident enough to handle any criticism that may ever come their way, and confident enough to be who they are. From now until the end of time.
And as a parent, that’s a pretty tall order.
Last year, Madeline became seriously, amusingly obsessed with wearing glasses. As an accessory. And Santa Claus delivered, with a pair of her very own in her Christmas stocking. Sometime after, through the disaster that is her bedroom (because it so rarely looks like this), they got lost.
Earlier this week, after having a day off from school and having to spend the day with me at work, I surprised her by taking her out to the store so she could pick out another pair of glasses.
You would have thought I adopted a unicorn.
I love that it takes so little to make her happy. That she is truly, honestly content with whatever she has.
She wore the glasses the rest of the day. Couldn’t wait to show Nick after he got home from school. And fell asleep, clasping the glasses in her little hands.
She had planned to wear them to school the next day. She wore them at Nick’s bus stop that morning. And in the car on the way to her school.
But when we got there, she took them off. I asked her why, and she said, “What if people make fun of me?”
“Oh Madeline,” I started, my heart breaking just a little. “You need to do what makes you happy. You love those glasses, and you look adorable in them. And without them. If you want to wear them, then wear them. And your real friends won’t make fun of you.”
Oh the things that go through that little four-year-old head. I hate that we’re starting such thoughts so early.
And even more with her, because she is one of the most confident people I know, amongst children and adults combined.
It took a few days, but she finally wore them to school. And all was fine.
As I hoped it would be.
Because nobody should be crushing that little girl’s spirit.
Or anyone else’s.
“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Roald Dahl
I think this will be Nick’s last year believing in Santa Claus, and I can’t tell you how sad that makes me. Mystic and I were talking about it this weekend. I love Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the Halloween Fairy. For a million reasons, but most of all? Because it allows our children to believe in magic. Mystical things. Unexplained goodness. Innocence and wonderment. Pure and unadulterated bliss. And, of course, the occasional rainbow.
Nick has asked a lot of pointed questions about Santa Claus, and is one of just a few believers left in his class. He said he makes sure to look at the handwriting on gift tags (and luckily Mom makes sure to change hers from Santa), and while that could be parents writing the tags, how could the words “North Pole” show up on the Caller ID when they get their annual call from Santa Claus? Thank goodness for SantaSpeaking.com. In the meantime, I’m going to have to be more careful than ever. And I hope that whenever he does put all the pieces together, that he’s not terribly crushed. Or at least as crushed as his mom will be.
Somewhat related, the kids are obsessed with college. Where they will go. What they will study. How far they will be from home. I think a lot of it stems from the fact that both Mystic’s daughter and The Ex’s daughter will be going to college next year.
“Mommy, when I turn four in February, will I have to go to college?” Madeline innocently asked me last week.
Because, dude, she is not ready. Even though she is my three-year-old-going-on-teen, she is a little worried that next year means college.
Um, it doesn’t. I’m all for overachieving, but one year at a time.
They have conversations seemingly daily about what they want to be when they grow up. Madeline still comes back to being a mommy and a doctor, although being a groomer, a babysitter, and a cupcake maker were recently thrown into the mix. Nope, no candlestick maker. Nick circles around the CIA/FBI/Secret Service arenas a lot, peppered by a groomer (both kids love Maxwell’s groomer, can you tell?), a chef, and an artist. One night last week, the kids were underfoot in the kitchen in a megaserious way. I was running late in getting dinner ready, trying to make a batch of rainbow cupcakes for Madeline’s class, and supervise homework duty, and they both decided they wanted to help me cook. I tried my best to shoo them out of the kitchen so I could pick up the pace a bit. “But Mom, it’s your fault. We love your cooking, and we just want to be like you.” Yeah, statements like that pretty much get you your way. And make me feel equal parts guilty and super proud.
Our Christmas Day tradition has always been that we open presents here in our house first, and then go down to my parents’ house for breakfast, and then open presents there. The kids managed to stay in bed until 8 am on Christmas morning. I am thankful for small favors as this Mama was up until about 1 am, putting last minute touches on homemade gifts, wrapping presents and playing Santa and the Tooth Fairy.
I asked Madeline what her favorite present from me or Santa was, and this Panda Pillow Pet took top honors. The child needs an intervention when it comes to Pillow Pets. I am hoping (praying!) that the company stops making them, because I think she has them all.
Tradition is always that the youngest in the family is in charge of distributing the Christmas presents. My (younger) sister was mighty glad when she was able to give up her post as Chief Giver Outer, and now with a collective four kids between us, the torch has definitely been passed. It worked out perfectly. Nick reads the labels and the oldest girls handled distribution.
I’m big on tradition. Whether it’s a new one or an old one, I like the comfortable feeling of being able to rely on tradition. The kids each open up one present on Christmas Eve, a tradition carried over from my own childhood, and it’s always pajamas to wear that night. We celebrate Chinese New Year. We have a New Years’ Eve seafood feast every year. The Rainbow Cake End of School/Back to School tradition was born this year. Tradition. Love it.
One of our Halloween traditions is the Trick of Treat bag I made years ago when Nick was two years old. Every year, I write what his Halloween costume is, and the year. Since he learned how to write his name, he has also signed it. I love that he carries something special like this for trick-or-treating and it’s a fun trip down memory lane when we dig it out each year. This year, he had a hard time deciding what to dress up as, torn between two choices, so he will be a soccer playing vampire.
Today I bought Madeline her bag so she can carry her own memory-filled trick-or-treat bag. She has a very “large and in charge,” bustling walk, and I can just picture her marching up to front doors on Saturday, trick or treating with the big kids. This is the perfect picture to show off her walk. Given her sweet tooth, she will be in all her glory come Halloween. And then some….