Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In With the New

What do you do when you're in between flu symptoms - one child finally munching saltines while you wait for the next to cry out in the night that they need you? What do you do when your party consists of five children who all go to bed at eight pm, a mom who is fevered with chills, and a dad who isn't sure his own lunch is setting right?

Well... you stay put.

Tiny hands found tiny spots in which to stuff their balloons. Dad blew streamers into the tree. Mom pulled out horns and to her disappointment, they unfurled without making a single toot. (No one else seemed to mind.)

Then at the very early hour of 5:20 PM, we counted down.


Balloons kept us busy - punching, flicking, kicking, floating, squeezing, and as Gordon discovered... snapping!


Leftovers were served to those with an appetite as we watched the skies darken. Then we held hands and tromped downstairs to stand at the playroom window where we watched Doug light fireworks in the backyard snow. The fountains sparked long, the kids cheered wildly, and I pressed Spencer's cheek against mine as he clapped his hands again and again. Even the neighbors came out to watch.


Bedtime came early that night.

After the girls slipped their shoes under the tree we slipped everyone into bed. We sang songs and whispered "i love yous" from the doorway. After pulling the last knob closed, I popped two Tylenol, set some orange spice tea out to steep and climbed onto the couch to wait for the New Year's Eve elf.

The girls are sure it's Mr. Peeps. Back for one last visit.


Whatever his name, he's been coming since I was a little girl. A Dutch tradition, my mother tells us, that goes back a generation or two on her grandfather's side.


The next morning, the girls were thrilled with their find. A duckie, a ring, and more chocolate to pile into our kitchen cupboards. He came. Filling their shoes with small gifts.

No real purpose or meaning behind it. No deep lesson. Just for fun. Kind of like those red boots I've decided to keep. Just for fun.


So here's to the new year. And to you - for reading, commenting and sharing. Time is sacred and it means a great deal to me that you visit.

If I didn't write I would wither. But to know I write for someone other than myself, even if only here and there, makes my light burn a little brighter under the bushel, helps me steal a few moments and hold them close, makes me observe life and listen. You've helped me make sense of the wild while seeing the precious. I am duly grateful.

Blessings and more as you ring in the new.
With thanks and love,


  1. What cute traditions! The minute I started your video, all of my girls came RUNNING from the other room to see what it was. We all loved it. My twins wanted to watch it over and over again- surely for the balloons and tutus! I hope you're all feeling better.

  2. The balloons in the tree are super darling! What a fun idea.

    We do the shoes under the tree on the night of Jan 5 for Epiphany. My kids love having a little extra Christmas to look forward to (and I have to admit I like it, too.)

    And yep, we definitely have the Segullah connection. I'm pretty sure that's where I found your blog first. :)

  3. oh the balloon tree is magic--

    the shoes filled with goodies must be every child's wish--

    i do hope you feel better soon. xox

  4. Your tree is so pretty with the balloons! Happy New Year!

  5. I like this -- the idea to put balloons in the Christmas Tree is really cool.

    Actually, we do this shoe thing, but for St. Nikolaus Day, which is December 6. The kids put their shoes out and St. Nikolaus stops by to put candy in the shoes.

    Nikolaus was a Bishop in the 4th Century, he lived in the city of Myra, in Turkey, and was reported to do all kinds of good things, such as selling his Bishop Ring in order to buy bread for the people of his city.

    So in our Church volunteers dress up as Bishop Nikolaus and you can get them to come to your house on December 5, talk a little bit about what he did and hand out treats. We usually invite friends over for that, it's always a lot of fun, the kids will sing a song for St. Nikolaus, share what they know about them, and my oldest daughter used to play a song on the trumpet for him -- one year "the Bishop" told her that he knew very well that she practised hard... He was our neighbor, *lol*.

    I just really value all these traditions!

    So long,

  6. Cath, I hope you and your family are feeling better---it is the pits being sick during the holidays. Especially when you're the mom!!!

    Love the tree filled with balloons and streamers. So festive and fun! And I love that you did the count down early and then were able to ship everyone to bed. Somehow we never quite figured that out, and everybody always felt like they had to stay up until the stroke of midnight for it to count. lol.

    I'm going to have to collaborate stories with your mom and see what she knows, but I'm almost 100% certain that this tradition began with my mother's father who was English. I'm guessing he adopted it from some other culture (probably Dutch), but it was through the Manwarings that we get this unique twist on the holiday. Isn't it fun? My kids love having an additional little something to look forward to. Another funny thing---I find it fascinating that in a family as small and as close as ours that there can be so many varying versions. The Keslers for years said it was the New Year's "Fairy," while others of us have called him the New Year's "Elf". Funny, huh? But Grandma would be so pleased to see our generations carrying on this tradition!

  7. Looks like a perfect party to me. I LOVE the balloon tree. I hope you are feeling better.

  8. Tricia - my girls love watching little clips too. And as of yesterday, I think we're back to full health... until the next time! Thank you.

    Kerri - Fascinating all the different versions of this tradition - when and why. I like the idea of doing it for Epiphany also. And glad to pin down our connection to that special place of segullah.

    Cristie - I like the balloon tree almost more than the ornaments on our christmas tree. The tree is still drinking water. I'm holding out for a valentine's tree... maybe!

    Ellen - so nice to have your comment. I read your guest blog post on segullah. And your photography is beautiful. Glad to connect.

    Corinna - what a sweet and happy tradition you have there with the shoes and Bishop Nikolaus. The story of your daughter's trumpet practicing made me laugh. New Year blessings to you.

    Shelli - Okay. I was wondering if I had the story wrong. I changed the text b/c I did mean for it to read my mom's grandfather - not father. I know you're right. And yes, I think Grandma would be tickled. But had no idea the keslers called the NY's elf a fairy. I'm laughing pretty hard over that one. Especially with all those boys. Glad you're feeling better too! Still can't believe you had pneumonia. bah humbug.

    Michelle - 'twas the perfect party for us.

  9. Cath- What a cute post! For our New Year's tradition, we leave the Christmas tree up and lit. And that's pretty much it. It's still up and lit, and now it's become the elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about.

  10. Brod - I hear you. I feel like we just barely got our tree up! Why take it down now? Let's just embrace that big 'ol elephant for a while.

  11. love the balloons! i need to do that to hasten my taking-down-the-christmas-decorations. i still have ALL of my things out, and lit. we're the only ones on the street with our lights still on.

    and i love the boots and the cradles! my daughter might need one of those... of course she'll probably tell me she likes the cardboard one better. ;)

  12. Brooke - so delighted to find your blog. You're a stunning writer. As for the christmas take-down. We're all lit up around here too. Nothing but the ornaments have been packed up. I'm sooooo sloooooow but not too worried about it.

    As for the cradle, nothing compares to home-made. Keep the cardboard!

  13. What a magical new years ;)
    I love how you just rolled with it, sickness and all. Love the idea of the shoe presents, and all the balloons and celebrations.

    I would loove to bring in the New Year with fireworks...I have a funny feeling that we are only allowed to have fireworks on Guy Fawkes (we live in NZ). I just remember when I was over in Hawaii over new years when I was a young single adult, and the air was THICK with the smoke from all the firecrackers at midnight.

    Happy New Year to you and your family!!

  14. good decision on the boots :o)

  15. Here's to you, Catherine, and all the beautiful things that come from your home..

  16. I am so glad that you decided to keep the red boots! Happy new year. And as always, I loved your post.


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