Once, a very, very long time ago, I was talking to a neighbor about scrapbooking. Journaling, in particular. She said that Christmas is the hardest thing to journal about, because it's the same every year. Same traditions, same meals and treats and trips to Grandma's house. I had to think for a few minutes about why I enjoy writing about the holidays, until I could put it into words: exactly becausethere are so many things the same about each year, I watch for the little things that are different, and this watching helps me write better journaling, but it has an added bonus. Watching for the unique moments helps me experience everything with a little bit more clarity.
This year was no different: the same Christmas-Eve pajamas, the same fudge and cookies and caramel, the same ornaments on the tree, the same opening-presents traditions. Still, these are the unique moments that will set Christmas 2009 apart from all the others:
- On Christmas Eve, after we got home from our party, Haley stayed up late with me. She helped me cook---the pound cake to take to my mom's, the dough for cinnamon rolls in the morning, the Christmas-morning casserole and, of course, the wassail. We talked and laughed and drank tasty beverages together. It was awesome!
- Nathan was SO excited this year about the whole Santa thing. (Maybe his last gasp of believing, which makes me sad.) He wrote the sweetest letter to Santa, apologizing for the mistakes he thought he'd made throughout the year and asking for a second chance. Then he listed all his wants, including the model numbers of each & every Nerf gun he hoped for. And the ones he already has. At the end, he wrote "PS, please write me back." So, on Christmas Eve (actually, it was early, early Christmas morning), I wrote him back. I have a handwriting I only use on the tags on the Santa gifts (because I clearly remember thinking, as a child, "Santa's handwriting is just like my mom's!"), and I used it for the letter. I wrote (on the back of his letter) about choices, and how learning to choose is a process, and about what "being good" really means, and then I tucked the letter into the little stocking he has that hangs on the tree. I think the time I spent writing that letter was my favorite moment.
- Jake was SO HARD to shop for this year. Every time I asked him what he wanted he'd say "I don't know, Mom. You choose. Or Santa can choose!" Possibly knowing The Santa Secret made him less enthusiastic. Thinking about this makes me sad. I wish the believing could last longer. Magic drains from our life far too early. Still, Kendell managed a brilliant idea for a gift, a Leatherman knife, and the fact that Jake didn't know he would love to have one made the magic come back, just for a second, when he opened it.
- Maybe my most annoying moment: When he opened his Christmas-Eve PJs (at our family Christmas party and thus surrounded by an enormous group of people), Kaleb threw them on the floor and said "This is stupid! I want toys!" and then I managed not to shake him or slap him or any of the other horrible desires I had welling up in me, but just pulled him aside and spoke to him very, very sternly about being grateful and non-bratty and loving everything he was given no matter what. Oh, and the old "if you can't say anything nice" concept. Maybe it worked, because every time he opened a gift on Christmas morning, he hugged me and said "Thanks, Momma, I love this!" and then he'd get confused and say "I mean, thanks Santa" while he looked up at the ceiling. Apparently Santa lives in the sky with the angels and the Savior.
- Kendell gave me a new watch. I've been wanting a pretty silver watch for a long time, but I have my nice gold one so the silver one was definitely more of a want than a need. I showed him one at Costco that I loved, hoping he'd come through, and he did! It was almost a surprise. I love it!
- Two days before Christmas, I was shopping at Target and came across these rolls of tinsel. I snapped up two and used all of it instead of ribbon on the Santa presents. I thought it added such a pretty glow to everything. I wonder: am I the only one who obsesses a little bit over how gifts look under the tree? I like the paper and ribbons and bows to match. I like the ribbons and bows to be shimmery and notable. I like the gift tags to coordinate with the wrapping. Yes, I probably AM the only one who gets obsessive about it. Still: I loved that tinsel ribbon. I almost wish I'd bought enough for next year, too, except then it might not be as special.
Stuff I learned (or relearned) this year:
- I should plan better. I was up until 4:00 in the morning on the 23rd/24th, and again until 4:00 on Christmas Eve. It's not like Christmas is a surprise. WHY do I procrastinate? My goal for next year is to wrap the presents when I buy them. Of course, the problem isn't just procrastination. It's also the fact that my kids get all curious if a door is shut, anywhere in the house. "What you doing in there, mom?" It is exhausting to get all the wrapping stuff in and out of secret hiding places!
- Speaking of secret hiding places, I had this epiphany: the empty boxes your Christmas decorations are no longer inhabiting are a great spot for hiding wrapped gifts.
- Buy gift bags at the post-Christmas sales and hide them away to use next year. For once, I didn't learn this the hard way! I would have been up even later on Christmas Eve had I not discovered the gift bags I bought last year at Joann for something ridiculous like .25 each. They saved my life!
- Speaking of gift bags. My sister-in-law, who is a goddess of knowing-how-to-do-everything-well, needed moi to teach her how to artfully arrange tissue in a gift bag. I thought I was the last person who learned this, but in case you are still in the dark, here is how to do it. 1. Unfold the tissue paper and smooth out any crinkles. 2. Pinch the paper in the middle (horizontal and vertical). 3. Shake it down and then back up and 4. voila! The paper is artfully fluffed.
- No one knows all the plans in your head, so if you don't manage to get them finished, no one will know. Plans I failed on: those blasted pajamas (whenever I was working on them, Jake would come in and say "hey, momma! How goes the Quest for Pants?"), an orange quilt for Nathan (also a birthday failure), a red quilt for Jake ("planned" in the sense that I thought "hmmmm, Jake is always cold in his room, and he sleeps with that ancient flannel quilt, I should make him something new" but I didn't even shop for it yet), a photo album with prints of all the photo shoots I've done with Haley.
- Speaking of taking pictures. Last year I learned I should use my big flash on Christmas morning. I did that, and am much happier with my pictures. I even took it to my mom's house, and then I forgot to take many pictures. I even missed our traditional family-photo-by-Grandma's-tree picture. I am totally bummed about that one! In general I took fewer photos this Christmas, but I like the ones I got.
Stuff to remember for next year:
- Haley really wants to be surprised. She also wants me to be able to pick out cute clothes that she loves. I need to work on understanding her fashion sense better so I can surprise her next year.
- I only need to buy ONE roll of wrapping paper for the old saint nick gifts. The majority of another roll is in the super-secret hiding place. (The one I will not divulge until all children no longer live at home, not even on my blog. It is SUCH a good hiding spot!)
- There is a sack of gift bags in the hiding spot.
- There is also an enormous roll of super-cute ribbon---shimmery and Christmasy---no one has seen. Not as cute as the tinsel ribbon, but that belongs just to 2009.
- Jake needs new blue-and-gold tissue paper for his PJ bag.
And one thing that makes me nuts:
- WHY do they put so many blue bows in the sacks of bows? I know there's that Elvis song, and my grandma used to have a blue tree, but seriously...there are more blue bows than any other color. Are there really THAT many people who have blue Christmases? Or is America full of wrapping-supply containers stuffed with shiny blue bows that no one will ever use?