Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas in Retrospect

Toys from Christmas morning are still strewn about the living room. Matchbox cars, Tonka trucks, new puzzles, new books. The tree is half-decorated (on purpose) but I am still finding ornaments in random places due to the migratory pattern of toddlers.

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My favorite gift - a pair of red boots - is still in the box because I'm worried they're too expensive to keep. What do you think? I'm sorely tempted.

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Orange sticks, salt-water taffy, clementines, and home-baked bread still crowd the kitchen counter.

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It's past noon and I'm still in my pajamas.

On Friday we will carefully tuck ornaments into boxes, stuff the balsam boughs with balloons, and blow streamers in celebration of the New Year, but I'm still thinking about how it went - what we did, what we should have done, what we would do again.

Inspired by my friend Melissa (with a nod to her list and her beautiful writing), here's my Christmas in retrospect.

Things I will do the same next Christmas:
  • Shop Amazon Mom. Please tell me you know about Amazon Mom! I bought 90% of our gifts online. Free 2-day shipping! Free membership for three months and no annual fee if you purchase something from their baby department. All for simply being a Mom! Amazon SAVED my home-bound fanny!
  • Our Advent Tree with Service Stars. The girls performed thoughtful acts of service when it was their special day but I felt we needed a little more teaching about the Nativity so next year I'll write a verse of scripture on each star so we can read about the Savior.
    • Spend Christmas day at home - if possible. Both of Doug's parents came down with pneumonia during December. The week before Christmas Doug's father was hospitalized. Doug spent most evenings at the hospital and it was decided the annual Christmas day gathering, usually held at his parents' house, would be postponed. As a result, we had all of Christmas day to ourselves. Jim is home from the hospital now and doing much butter. The circumstances were unfortunate, but having nowhere to go on Christmas day was splendid.
    • Read Watch for the Light - but only the essays that make me think and feel. And Dicken's Christmas Carol. This story makes me cry every year. Maybe because I'm finding I have more in common with Scrooge than I thought.
    • Our Family Nativity.
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    Eliza started this tradition last year. It is quickly becoming one of our favorites. It's wild and unruly and nothing at all like that blessed holy evening, but in the tiniest of moments we feel something. While we listened to Silent Night, I saw Ali (Mary) and Doug (Joseph) exchange a look that was so precious and swollen with love that my own understanding of what happened that first Christmas night deepened.

    Eliza prepared everyone's costumes. She made the paper star hanging overhead and put together boxes of sparkly jewels for the christ-child. She wanted to be one of the three kings - I mean queens. Sami was a Shepherd. And here is Mary, holding baby Jesus - a doll I used to play with when I was a girl.

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    Spencer and Gordon were the other two Wisemen. They took a liking to their crowns, but of course, stealing baby Jesus and tearing apart the manger were first on their agenda.

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    Here's an outtake for you. It's our third picture attempt. Can you tell my patience is waning?

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    We videoed the whole thing, only to realize the camera was turned towards the couch, missing the entire story as it played out just a few feet to the left. Oh well!

    Things I will do differently next Christmas:
    • Neighbor gifts. I solemnly swear I will do this at the beginning of the month, rather than ride the wave of sugar inundation with everyone else two days before Christmas.
    • Remember where I've hidden things! I put presents for extended family and immediate family in the same spots. As a result, several gifts for the kids went missing. Obviously, I need a better system.
    • Spend less. Set aside money each month for a Christmas fund and STAY within our budget.
    • Make different food. This may sound funny but I'm struggling to find special meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) that our family will enjoy on Christmas. Any ideas? What are your favorite Christmas recipes?
    • Not let the stress of getting everything done strain the most important relationships in my life (husband and children). Have you noticed when you are stressed these relationships tend to suffer first?
    • Get a list to my husband earlier in the month (specifics are helpful) so he doesn't have to do all his shopping two days before Christmas.
      • Not put the kids to bed so late on Christmas Eve. Eliza was up until 10:30! (Which meant... you guessed it... we were up until 1:30!) Everyone was so wired and tired this was the best we could do for a group photo.
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      Best and Worst of Christmas 2010:

      Worst
      • Stewing on Christmas Eve because Doug and I haven't had one second to talk or get on the same page when it comes to plans and expectations for the weekend.
      • Gordon's post-Christmas stomach flu. He threw up most of this morning. Shouldn't be long before Spencer starts...
      Best
      • Watching Doug and Ali during our nativity. Holding hands (albeit briefly) while Doug said our family prayer.
      • Sewing blankets and pillows for the cradles Santa brought. I'm no seamstress but something giddy took hold inside as I slid the fabric beneath the needle and pushed the pedal.
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      You really do give a part of yourself - your time, your creativity and a bit of your heart - when you make something for someone else. I couldn't wait to give these blankets to the girls.

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      • The goodies left out for Santa. Eliza drew this picture of a reindeer. It reads, "Santa Cloz and Kris Kringle." She also made an ornament for Santa - carefully wrapped inside this colorful box. Note the Ensign magazine left out for Santa, just in case he wanted to do a little reading.
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      • Seeing the thrill on the girls' faces as they walked into the living room together Christmas morning. They were excited yet gracious - full of thank-yous and kisses.
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      After all the presents were opened, Doug and I finally crashed onto the couch next to each other and thought, "Hi. Do we know each other? Oh! We're married, you say?" We heaved a huge sigh of relief, then watched the girls play together, work on puzzles, and race cars with the boys.

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      • Visiting Temple Square on Christmas Night. The visitors' center was closed so the crowds were thin. It felt good to be outside - to breathe crisp air as the girls ran from one nativity to the next, dazzled by winking lights and happy faces.
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      Making Christmas what we want it to be is a process - a dynamic one - that changes as much as we do. I want to figure everything out before next year, but I won't. I want to have a solution for everything, but I don't. So I'm trying to be patient with myself and learn as we go along.

      How was your Christmas? Tell me what you would do again... or what you wouldn't.

      Doug is taking the entire week off. His offices are closed - even emails have come to a halt. I've been looking forward to this week all year!

      I won't be posting again until after the New Year so I can be completely available, consumed, and present, for our family. Happy 2011 to you! And joyous blessings as you gather with family and friends. May you have time to count your gifts - the kind that aren't wrapped, but opened within the heart.


      21 comments:

      1. I love your sweet blog. It's been helping me remember the joys of mothering. Thank you!

        Our latest favorite tradition is that we throw a Swedish pancake breakfast for our neighborhood on the second Saturday of December. Our neighbors gather with donations for needy families (I think we'll stick with cash for those in need or for a great charity next year. Delivering stuff got a little tricky) and we spend a morning eating and laughing. The donations are in lieu of neighbor gifts, so we don't all end up with a counter full of treats and things we don't really need.

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      2. Oh, and keep the boots. Red boots go with EVERYTHING.

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      3. i loved this post! so thoughtful and so thorough. i am too tired to think right now but i didn't want to sign off without telling you that your babies (all 5 of them) are so beautiful. i found myself smiling and sighing at their precious pictures with their santa loot. merry christmas cath!

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      4. Kerri - I so love your neighborhood donation idea. I've been talking with a few women about something similar. Maybe we can pull it off in the next couple years. I would much rather give money to those in real need than spend it on treats and goodies that no one needs. So glad you shared this. And thanks for saying yes to the boots. I'm leaning that direction...

        I've read your blog before - I think from Segullah. Looks like you are nearby. I always like what you have to say (and how you say it). Blessings to you! And thanks so much for reading.

        Corinne - Miss you guys! Can we get together after the holiday rush? Merry merry to you too. Sure love you, and T and your darling boys.

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      5. Delightful blog! I loved your list of things to do again and things to change. With Grandma gone our celebrations changed this year.

        Christmas breakfast is always breakfast casserole (made the day before and put in the fridge) to be baked in the morning, Rhodes cinnamon rolls put out the night before so they are ready for the oven when you get up and juice and hot chocolate. This way all I have to do is turn on the oven and sit back to enjoy the morning.

        Keep the boots and let go of the guilt for doing so.

        Enjoy the new year!

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      6. Ah there's far too much here for me to comment on. Love you.

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      7. Please keep the boots...every time you wear them you could think of all of the love your family has for you and how much they want you also to be happy. Thank you for your blog. I love the list of what to keep and not keep for the next Christmas while it is fresh in your mind and heart. You really are wonderful!

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      8. I just LOVE that donkey in the nativity. We had him once too.
        Your children are beautiful.
        Keep the boots.
        What a great idea with the lists. Don't you wish you just KNEW it all every year and didn't have to constantly assess and improve?
        That's not life I guess, or parenting.

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      9. I LOVE how you put this post together!!
        I like how you wrote what worked and what didn't and the special memories as well.

        Our family did an advent calendar this year which the kids really enjoyed:
        http://lds.about.com/od/visualmusicalaids/a/adventcalendar.htm

        I loved the scriptures that came with this advent calendar:
        http://lds.about.com/od/crafts/a/advent_calendar.htm

        Because it doesn't matter which scripture you chose, if you had a day that you missed here and there, it didn't matter.

        The kids (we would help the wee ones) read our the scripture first, then they would read the summary and then the action/activity that came with it.

        It helped us focus on Jesus, and it was a lovely start to the day each morning in December

        I will be doing that next year for sure!

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      10. love the boots...definitely a keeper.

        love the photos.

        love the lists.

        love you. xox

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      11. Leslie - thanks for the breakfast casserole idea. We did orange rolls this year too. But I'd love your casserole recipe. And thanks to you - the girls are all excited to decorate our New Year's tree tonight. xo

        Michelle - I know. On a run next week we can download christmas. I hope your island holiday was all you hoped for.

        Sweet Jen - Is this Jen J?? If so, I miss you. I'd love a picture of your family. Did you send cards this year??

        Sarah - "That's not life I guess, or parenting." You're always so wise. Thanks for the reminder. And you have Rody too? (The "donkey") is on his second year cameo. The girls love him.

        Meeks - it was actually your scripture list that inspired me to include a verse each day. I loved your advent idea. Thank you!!

        Cristie - love you too.

        And All - Okay. it's a done deal. I'm keeping the boots!

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      12. Keep the boots! You won't regret it! I loved meeting you this year and equally love visiting your blog and seeing what you're up to. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your sweet family. I wouldn't change a thing about our Christmas this year. We slowed down and spent lots of quality time together.. :)

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      13. Cath - Thanks for the re-cap. I need to sit down and do something similar here. If I wait until next year, I'll forget or run out of time!

        I got the advent calendar out - but never did a THING with it. It was pure decoration. I wasn't inspired, I had no time, and then it was too late. So I want to steal or twist the service stars idea next year.

        Keep the red boots. Make a vow to pass them on when done with them, if that makes you feel better.

        I think that next year I might do goodie plates for New Years or Valentines instead of Christmas. There is just too much to fit into one month!

        Lastly - here are some foods we do/did for Christmas: Christmas Eve morning we did Cinnamon Rolls. I make them the night before and refrigerate overnight. Then pop them in the oven in the morning. Yummy. Christmas morning Dave makes Grog - his family's drink. It is made by heating up apple juice, orange juice, cinnamon, mulling spices, lemon and honey. It is quite tasty and for our chilly English house, perfect. Then I make Ebelskivers - basically a pancake ball - that has been made in my family for generations. This year I put drops of Nutella, Lingonberry or Raspberry Jam inside them. Then dinner was traditional turkey, mashed potatoes, etc. because we weren't together for Thanksgiving.

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      14. Pam - from the looks of your blog, you had a wonderful Christmas! I LOVE your new NYear's tradition. And can I just say - you live in the perfect spot! So nice to meet you too this year. Thanks for staying in touch.

        Michelle - totally agree. Not enough time in the month to do it all. Let's spread it out! Thanks for the meal ideas. I was secretly hoping you'd respond! If only I could eat at your house!! Ebelskivers... yum! (Are those hard to make?)

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      15. Ebelskivers are not hard to make, but take a little more effort than pancakes - you have to whip egg whites and fold them into the batter. The biggest thing is you need a special pan for it. If you ever wanted to, you can get a pan and a mix from William & Sonoma. For some reason Ebelskivers have gone commercial lately and W&S carry everything for them.

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      16. Earlier I tried to do everything each year, but then I decided it wasn´t worth it. it´s much more important for the family to have a happy mom than having all the "right" foods, cookies etc. Now I think that if there is no time or strength for some things, there will always be another Christmas, and if there shouldn´t, I´m quite sure it wouldn´t matter anyway. Being happy together is most important. thanks for sharing!

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      17. Oh, please tell me you kept those boots. Seriously, I love them. And this is a great post, as I read I was ticking off in my head what I would and wouldn't do next year. Your kiddos are stinking cute, glad you had such wonderful Christmas!

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      18. Red boots! GAH! You are NOT taking those beauties back. Calculating price per wear of such a fabulous pair, will end up being pennies over the years. Besides, I believe you just can't have a bad day wearing red shoes. I'm sure it's the same for boots. Especially some that fantastic!

        P.S.- I also believe red is a "neutral" color. They'll match EVERYTHING!

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      19. Monica - wise words. Thanks so much for sharing your perspective. I couldn't agree more.

        Rachel - yes, kept the boots. Loved your Christmas rundown. Looked like you did it right - at home, together - lots of love.

        Andy - ah... a word from the shoe expert!! Thanks for your two cents. I busted the boots out of the box, wore them yesterday and today - and truthfully? They make me happy. I am in love. You're right - red is rather "neutral" to my surprise. Thanks for your comment. Hopefully you can sleep tonight knowing the boot box is in the recycling bin!

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      20. So glad you kept the boots! They are awesome!!!!! I'm feeling a mild bit of jealousy. :) Beautiful post. I am glad you stayed home on Christmas. I was wishing we had done the same. We were having so much fun just playing with the boys.
        We also do a neighbor party and donations for the local food bank in lieu of neighbor gifts like Kerri said. I think I will take her suggestion and do a breakfast instead of evening party though. But I do miss thinking and visiting with each individual neighbor that way. I think some of the love gets lost. But....
        Hope you all are feeling better. No one here has caught the flu yet - yeah!
        Bec

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      21. Okay, first of all, every year I forget where I have hidden things too, and every year I vow I will make a list of where the stash is hid. But I don't make the list, or I make the list and then foget where I hid the list, because you HAVE to hide the list, because what if the kids find it! I have older kids who snoop!

        Christmas eve dinner we have gone to eating homemade soup out of bread bowls. It's simple, yummy and my kids love bread bowls. YOu can get them at Costco. You can also make the soup in adavance which is nice.

        Neighbor gifts - Years ago I started making mixes and bagging them We have done soups and cornbread, cookies, brownies, cranberry walnut muffins. It's nice because people can make them when they want them and not have to eat 1,000 sweets at Christmas. Also, you can do it way in advance, like you mentioned.
        It's so nice to see your family. You are doing such a good job Catherine. You can put the mixes in a jar, but that was too expensive and a bag works great and you can still layer the ingredients.

        Love you and love your blog and family!

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