Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What a Storm

Now we sit amongst all the new treasures strewn across the living room floor.  The calm after the storm of the past few days.  It was a good storm.  Gale force winds blew our family and friends together for the annual Christmas Eve party.  The entire room was filled with excitement and anticipation and good cheer.  And each year this party feels different.  Each year the girls are older and people we only see a handful of times throughout the year comment on how they've grown.

Their eyes twinkled like the tree lights when the eye of the storm, a jolly, old man in a red suit came in ringing his sleigh bells and bellowing out HO HO HO.  Callie and Lexi love this guy... from a safe distance.  And these photos look the same as they did last year. 

Somehow I always seem to end up on Santa's knee.

I know this about my girls.  They can be shy and timid at times.  They need encouragement to try new things.  But this too is changing.  Callie doesn't take quite as long to warm up to ideas as she once did and Lexi is brave when I am close by her side.  And both girls stretched out a confident arm to receive their gift from St. Nick.

After Santa boarded his sleigh, Callie beamed as she told everyone that Santa had said he received the letter she wrote.

Callie was a full participant in the present game this year, rolling the dice and stealing gifts from others and Lexi was close beside, watching and soaking up the love and the tradition of Christmas crackers with paper hats and the joy of running and playing with cousins. 

When I got into bed Christmas Eve, after the stockings were hung, the reindeer food was sprinkled on the step, and the signature cookies and milk were ready and waiting, I breathed a sigh of exhaustion.  The good kind of exhaustion.  Because in just a few hours I would find out if the effort that goes into every detail that makes Christmas was worth it.

Need I say...its always worth it!

Because watching the girls shyly check under the tree, wide eyes looking closely, and smiles forming at the corners of their mouths...will always be worth it.

Finding that balance of Christmas morning joy without going overboard with excess can be a challenge.  But Santa seems to have found it by giving each of the girls one thing from their list, like a Buzz Lightyear scooter and a Playmobil doll house.  And then he left something not so expected, that they both would love... an art easel.

With the many gifts and stockings full of exciting things and the time spent with family and friends, we have so much to be grateful for.  And I think we all worry a little about the abundance of stuff and the values we are instilling in our children.  But for this one day I am going to trust my parenting instincts.  I am going to trust that we are raising thankful and grateful children.  I am going to enjoy watching the pleasure they get from having so many new things all at once.  Because it is for one day.  And one day out of a year can not possibly make a greedy, ungrateful child. For tomorrow we will be back to using the reoccurring phrases...

"...not today, sweetheart.  Maybe for your birthday.  We have lots of nice things at home..."

So before I click publish post, I am going to ask Callie what she likes best about Christmastime.  She is currently zooming around the living room on her Buzz Lightyear scooter.

Me - "Callie, what do you like most about Christmastime?"

Callie - "I like Santa and Rudolph.  And I like every one's Christmas trees.  And I like mommy because she's so thankful."

(And so you know, that was completely unprompted.  I wonder if she can feel my vibe.)

I guess she knows me as well as I know her.  The perfect rainbow after the storm.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

It is here.  

It's time to let go of the things that didn't get done.
Maybe take a little ride on the Polar Express.

It's time to eat the cookies we made.

And it's time to share the cookies with friends and family

We share the ones mom made.  Not the ones the girls made.
It's time for a pyjama party with friends.

It's time to make Christmas memories.
It's time to unplug and unwind...

Happy Holidays.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Someone mentioned today that in one week it will all be over.  And that it will, but oh what a week it will be!  Because most often, the anticipation is just as sweet as the prize and this week leading up to Christmas Day is no exception. 

In anticipation, the girls decked their bedroom halls...

There are precious memories to be made this week. 

Callie has been asking for "feet" pyjamas since last year when she grew too tall for the pink polka-dot pair she had.  And feet jammies in big girl sizes are not easy to find... but thanks to JC Penny the girls are strutting their Christmas stuff in their new Tinkerbell and Dora fuzzy jam-jams.  And so you know, I have to peel these jammies off them to get them in the wash.  Last Friday these jammies made Callie's brief encounter with the stomach flu just a little more bearable... because she was heart-broken (okay, I was heart-broken) when she had to miss her pre-school Christmas concert due to the spit-ups...the name we choose to use for the stomach flu.

The girls found a treasure map behind door number 16 in the advent calendar.  It lead them up the stairs, into the laundry room and inside the drier.

In the drier they found a couple of gingerbread kits. 

Treasures maps are fun... we're makin' memories baby!

 For all you gingerbread rolling, baking, cutting, shaping, constructing with just the right icing from scratch moms out there... you go sisters! 

But these pre-made kits rock.

Just ask Lexi...
She ate a few of the candies.
But a few did make it onto the gingerbread train that she got to build by default.  Callie picked the house.  And because she is the big sister, she seems to get to make these important decisions.

 These two buddies shared an order of rink fries on the weekend as they cheered on their big sisters in the Skating Club's Winter Ice Show....

It was the great save after missing the concert.
I got the chance to wave my proud momma freak flag.  And that guy on the ice dressed up as Frosty...

the best dad in the world.

Six more sleeps.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Old and Dear

Yikes,  it's been a while since I've been in this blogger world but it has been for good reason.

The reason kinda looks like this...

Let the holiday celebrating begin... with a visit from old and dear friends.  And I want to clarify not old in "age" but when I say that it has been 17 years since we all lived in university residence together... old and dear are the first words to come to mind.

Needless to say, a lot has happened over the course of 17 years of friendship.  From moments of deep despair and struggles to the happiness of bridal parties and wedding dresses to the birth of beautiful babies. Our life stories have been written over this time.  And although the three of us have not lived in the same town since we were handed our university diplomas, the chapters in our book of  life stories overlap as we steal weekends here and there,  jump a quick flight to make the annual baking party, or in Shaun's case, pack the van with her four babies for a six hour drive because having her BFF's just a days drive away was worth the effort. 

It's always worth it.

What a girl won't do to be beautiful!
 Of course it goes without saying that I love, love, LOVE watching all our children together, making their memories. Crafting together, going skating, meeting Santa... all those things we would dream about during our days on McKercher Drive while we were eating popcorn for supper and watching The Jenny Jones Show.

And so what if our dreams may or may not have included baby number four...

... this girl is definately a keeper.

After months of watching her big sister, Lexi finally had her skating debut.

And little sister rocked her double-bladed bob skates.

 My baby joined the ranks of the big kids stating, "I do it all myself."

Our weekend was capped with a visit from the big guy himself.  No amount of encouragement or watching friends sit on Santa's knee would be enough to convince my girls to pose for the photo opp and whisper their Christmas wishes to the man in red.

Callie did shake his hand and when he asked her what she would like him to bring her she answered, "nothing" as she hid behind my leg and reached out with one arm to get her gift.  Later, I asked why she didn't tell Santa that she wanted a scooter like she had told me the other day.  Her response was, "what I meant was he can bring me anything.  I will like anything he brings me.  If he brings me a scooter I will like it but if he doesn't bring me a scooter I will like anything I get because I like everything."

Dear, old friends, children, the holidays...
Let the memory making begin!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Spirit and Tradition

Our holiday spirit is alive and well and it's out in full force.  The halls are decked and the countdown has begun.  I love the sparkle and the bustle and the feelings of Christmas. And this is nothing new.  I remember taping Christmas lights up in my bedroom when I was young.  I would sit in the dark and watch the lights twinkle while listening to the cassette tapes of Christmas carols that my mom had bought at the Woolworth's store.  The words to the songs were printed in the Christmas special of the local paper and I would use them to sing along. 

I have a lot of great memories from Christmases past.  I can still remember the angel and Santa ornaments that my mom would hang in the doorways of our little apartment when I was a kid.  They were made of heavy cardboard and the blue angel that hung by my bedroom had tinsel that reflected the light as it twisted and spun in the drafts of the house.  I remember many of my Santa presents and I remember how my mom would give my brother and I some of the dough from the scuffle cookies she was making to mould into our own creations.  Of course my dad was the lucky one who got to eat those creations.

Our "talking house".
 It tells the story of The Night Before Christmas and I watch in awe as my girls imagine themselves in this mansion with visions of sugar plums dancing through their heads.

It's difficult to pinpoint what it is I like most about the holidays... the music, the decorating, the giving, the smells, the camaraderie... I love it all.  But what I love most is not a thing... it is the feeling of Christmas.  And I don't know if I can actually describe the feeling that is Christmas but if you've had this feeling you know what I'm talking about.  It's a warm and cozy feeling.  A feeling like when there is a  blizzard happening outside and you don't have to go anywhere because everything you need is right in front of you.  It is the Christmas spirit. 

And the one thing I want to give my girls the most this year and every year, more than any toy or gift... I want them to feel and experience the Christmas spirit. And for some, this spirit comes in the form of traditions... whether it be gingerbread and shortbread making, giving ornaments that commemorate the year, annual gatherings, sleigh rides, midnight mass, Christmas breakfast or turkey dinner...whatever the ritual, it is the feeling that is produced that we all crave.

I say, "give your sister a kiss" and this is what she does.

And for someone like me who loves the holidays, who craves the feeling that is Christmas, you would think I would be creating rich and meaningful traditions for for Callie and Lexi... in a great effort to have them experience and feel the spirit.  And I will say that I have complete and utter envy for those people out there who thoughtfully choose just the right ornament for each child every year, those who make sooty black footprints next to the fireplace, those Santa's who leave letters for the children next to an empty cookie plate, those who spend the year creating just the perfect gift.... to those people, I wish I was more that way.

But in my reality, I feel like our family traditions will surface when they feel right.  Some years we put out reindeer food, some years we don't.  If the opportunity presents itself, we will make gingerbread houses, if not, we will make a craft instead.  If I find just the right ornament that signifies that special event I will buy it, if I don't spot it this year, that's okay too.  Because for me, tradition can't be forced or done just because it's tradition. For me, it is the feeling I want, not just the ritual. 
Our advent calendar.
 This is exactly what I imagined when I bought it.  A perfect house with 25 doors.
 Just the right size for treats and  playmobil.
This year I hung sixty red, sparkly ornaments from the roof.  Callie was pretending to be the elf and I was the Santa mommy.  She passed me the decorations while I stood on the stool pushing the tacks into the ceiling. After about the tenth ball Callie says, "I think we need some music."  Then she drags her twenty dollar CD player out of her bedroom and pushes play on a Christmas CD she found in the cupboard.  We all danced in the kitchen and sang along to the familiar words. Lexi follows right behind big sister. Callie asks a ton of questions like "who is the new born king?"  and "if we are celebrating Jesus' birthday, how old is he?"

I don't know if we will hang sixty ornaments from the roof each year.  I don't know if that will be the tradition or the thing that my girls will recall when they are grown... but I do know that the Christmas spirit is alive in our house and even though they may not remember exactly what they were doing, my girls will remember the feeling...the Christmas Spirit.

Monday, November 28, 2011

More than Happy

Sometimes mornings can be rough.  And usually Monday morning is no exception.  But today... all went well.  I always thought it was lack of time in the morning that caused the majority of the problems but today I realized it is not lack of time that makes for a rough start to the day but rather a lack of cooperation.  Because today every one's clothes felt right, sock seams didn't bother the toes, the too big winter boots didn't cause any grief... in other words, when all the stars are aligned, we have plenty of time to get out the door in the morning.

Some days, though, it feels like the wheels are falling off the parenting bus and I am about to drive it into the ditch. When every request that is made is refuted as though the leader of the opposition party resides right here in my home.  And then I start to sweat the small stuff even though Don't Sweat the Small Stuff has sold  a billion copies.  Because it feels like every small decision has such huge repercussions.

Big sister's second haircut.  Remember her first?  It is so long when it's combed out straight.  Rachel asked if I've ever straightened her hair.  I replied, "Never!  She'll be doing it herself soon enough."

And at the end of the day, after sweating about 20 small things, the big thing is I just want my girls to know that I love them.  And to say that I want them to grow up to be happy is such a cliche and would definitely be selling them short.  I want them to be more than just happy.  Because I can make them happy.  I can buy them that treat, I can let them not brush their teeth, I can let them not clean their messes... and they would be happy. 

My baby's first haircut.  Before.
And after.

Sister tossed her hair around as though she was a shampoo commercial star!

I want more than just happy.  I want kindness and living with a conscious.  I want them to not only know right from wrong but to know when they choose wrong they have the power to fix it.  I want them to know that sometimes hard work pays off and you get the prize but usually hard work gets you the self-satisfaction of a job well done.  I want them to know passion and compassion.  I want then to know love.

Our friend turned five.  Five seems so grown up.  Like when you ask how old they are and they say, "this many," and they no longer have to push any other fingers down.  Every finger on the hand counts.

And all of these things I want for them comes in the form of words like this... "you need to wear a hat it's cold out today,  sit down in your seat we need to be safe, we eat our food at the table,  TV time is done, share and take turns, you can't just grab things from people, use your words, kind words only, try again, please and thank you, put things back when you're done, hands are not for hitting, hugs and kisses only, no banging, fix the problem, inside voices, brush your teeth,  time for bed..."

Cute snowmen craft...thanks to an early Christmas present.  We glued the foamy snowmen to the clothespins on the art clothesline to hold up the pictures the girls made last week.

So when I'm sweating the small stuff and digging my parenting bus out of the ditch I must remind myself of my own wants.  That when I choose wrong I can make it right.  That parenting is hard work and the pay off is the self-satisfaction of a job well done.  

And... I should have wore a hat because it's cold out here digging my bus out of the snow bank.