I relish a good surprise. When I was a girl, I didn't want to know if the preemie cabbage doll I asked Santa for, or the James Blundell tape I had searched everywhere for, would be under the tree. Not until Christmas morning. No way would you find me rummaging through closets or peeking into storage rooms. I couldn't stand the thought of prematurely spoiling a surprise.
And now that I'm "grown" I still prefer to be surprised. But I'm quite positive it's even better to be on the other end.
Watching that unexpected joy leap out of my children's mouths, seeing the thrill of opening that one special thing light up their faces - it's an elation that can't be calculated or contrived. Something so spontaneous it swoops up everyone else in the room with the sheer happiness of it.
So Doug and I planned a surprise for our girls. One we've been saving for, planning for, and zipping our lips about for almost a year. And as much as I love surprises, some days this secret felt bigger than me - like I was going to pop if I didn't say something! (But I didn't.)
By Christmas Eve we were still working through the last symptoms of stomach flu with the boys. So we stayed home, ate clam chowder for dinner, and did our own reenactment of the Nativity.
By the time the girls were in their new pajamas and ready for family prayer, they were bouncing off the walls. Literally.
I tried to take a few pictures, but most of the time, the living room looked like this. All tickles, tumbles, and jumbles of silliness.
Finally, they went to sleep.
And Santa came.
He filled all our stockings, put together this train table for the boys, and left the girls just what they had asked for (despite occasional threats of coal).
Once Spence and Gordy laid eyes on this train set, they were consumed. I couldn't even get them to glance up for a photo.
We forced them to come up for air so we could get to church on time, but they were back at it as soon as we walked in the door.
Eliza got her cook book, and the perfect apron. Pink with math symbols.
Ali got her make-up box.
Santa wisely gave her "make-up" for a four-year-old. Things like nail polish, lip gloss, and press-on nails.
And Sami got her jewelry box. Complete with rings, bracelets, and necklaces.
Under the tree we left each of the girls a new back pack. With a little Minnie Mouse dangling her arms out of the side pocket.
On the zipper we attached this name tag.
You'd think the tag might have tipped them off, but they didn't seem to notice. They were over the moon about Minnie and the stack of "things to do" inside their back packs. But they didn't have a clue they might be going somewhere.
So Doug had Eliza pull a scroll of papers tied with a red ribbon from the tree.
Now, mind you, Doug is the mastermind behind this surprise. He's done all the legwork, all the reservations, all the deal-finding, and of course, it was only right that he do the unveiling of the surprise.
He told them they were going on a plane (a thrill of it's own since we haven't traveled outside the state since having the boys) to visit someone. And the letters to that someone's name were in this stack of papers. Two words. And both words started with the same letter.
Eliza pulled out the "M"s quickly enough. But after that, there were a whole lot of blank stares and screwed up faces.The word scramble might have been a bit over their heads. I began to chuckle, and tilt my head sideways, as we read various combinations of the letters. Soon we were all laughing.
"Mikuc Moys?" No....
And then I must have left the room for a minute because I missed them getting the spelling right and don't have a picture of all the letters in place.
But even then, the surprise was still lost on them.
"How are we going to see Mickey Mouse?" Ali asked. (They've been begging to go to Disneyland for months. Hmmmmmm....)
So Doug had to explain it (which was slightly anti-climactic). Then he handed them this paper.
And it began to sink in.
Then Doug gave them a letter from Cinderella - a special invitation to join her for lunch at her castle.
And it really began to sink in...
I know all of this might sound frivolous and extreme, and I feel a little self-conscious telling you about it here. But our girls will only be little once. We found some fabulous resort deals, we have sky miles to burn since we've traveled nowhere since moving to Utah, and well, we can hardly stand it we're so excited.
I have to thank Doug for making this happen. For watching our finances, and for spending lots of late nights online trying to find the best way to do... everything.
We'll be leaving the boys here with Grandm Nae and Grandma Ronda (those lucky boys) and heading to sunny Florida for a whole week. Truthfully, I'm not sure who's going to have more fun. The girls. Or their Mom and Dad.
It was a beautiful Christmas, full of sweet surprises. More on some of them later (like this precious doll house).
Right now, we're enjoying having Doug home for a few weeks. He took a much-needed sabbatical from work. And tonight we're hosting our first neighborhood Food Drive in lieu of neighbor gifts. I'll tell you how it goes, but so far the neighborhood is very much on board, and I think everyone is relieved to pool their resources and give to those who have real needs.
The magic of Christmas is still going strong around here. When the girls wake up each morning, instead of asking how many days until Christmas, they ask how many days until DisneyWorld?
So the girls made a chain.
To count the days.
And you can bet they're not the only ones counting down.