Tuesday, December 11, 2012

On the First Week of Advent, My True Love Gave to Me...

First things first, that is a seriously misleading post title. Last year, Advent consisted of book after book after book, and then maybe an activity on a weekend. Also, last Advent I was large and uncomfortable. This year, I made the season as activity-centric as possible, so no true loves are giving much of anything, except of course the joy of doing nice things together--which is an incredibly pleasant way to spend the month.

What we've done so far:

1st: Rode on the Polar Express (St. Joe's operates this every other year in Needham); this was a day filled with hustle and bustle, actually, since I was helping to run the preschool fundraiser that morning, and then we had the train ride, a birthday party afterward, a holiday party after that, and my niece Bella coming to spend the night. Whew! The boys loved the train, and as Dave said re: Finn's love of Santa, "what a difference a year makes."

2nd: Got our Christmas tree. We went to Volante Farms this year, and the guy who helped us was beyond knowledgeable, not at all pushy, and encouraged us to look until we found the one we really wanted. I think it is perfection, and he helped us find the precise height we needed as well. While Dave got the transaction squared away, Bella, Will, Finn, Bridget and I headed indoors for some apple cider donuts. Yum.

3rd: Decorated our tree. We stopped and started this activity a few times because...well, I'm sure you can guess why. Between the choking/strangling/electrocution hazards for all three children and the adults' very clear and sometimes contrasting picture of how we wanted the tree to look, it took a while. No arguments broke out, though--we just took a few pauses during the process. But it got done! And beautifully. Since both our mothers like to give us ornaments for Christmas, and really pretty ones at that, we have a tree full of silver and fine china, and everything from angels to bunny rabbits. Will was old enough to be both mildly competent and wildly excited about decorating this year, too, so that was fun.
The lights are less top-heavy than they look here, I swear!
4th: Helped me stamp all our Christmas cards. This was interesting.  I'd read somewhere that some of our activities should be things we need to do anyway, and I like that in theory--and probably it's a good thing to keep in mind as the kids get older each year (which they tend to do, sadly). This year it felt more like I was doing them a favor by letting them use our address stamp and actual stamps, since I had to oversee the whole thing, re-ink a couple of return addresses, and re-adhere a couple of Forever stamps while praying that the post office doesn't reject them because they look...well, reused. It was fine, and they were both attentive enough to get through the task, but it will almost surely be less "forced art project" and more "helpful holiday task" in the future, right? (Just say yes.)

5th: Watch Rudolph movie. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Firstly, here was my drawing of Rudolph on the back of the Advent card. (Did I mention that this year I'm using all our billions of extra envelopes to put these little activity cards in, since the boys love opening mail so much? I am.)

Dave says this Rudolph looks drunk and possibly like he's about to hit on an unsuspecting rein-doe. I am proud of this reindeer, because I had to go online and find a cartoon drawing of a reindeer and copy it because I'm such a lousy draw-er. So there!

Anyway, Rudolph is the boys' favorite Christmas character this year, so I thought watching the movie would be great, but it turns out that Rudolph runs away (Finn: Where's his daddy? And later: WHERE'S HIS DADDY I'M SCARED WHERE'D HIS MOMMY GO????!?!) and then there's a snowmonster who is impossible to spin into anything other than what he is (Me: He's just roaring at them because he wants to play, guys. Relax. Will: But he's going to eat Rudolph!!! [dives under pillow as I frantically FF in case he's right about the eating part]), and THEN (spoiler alert from 1972 or something) THEY ALL THINK THEIR FRIEND DIED WHEN HE FELL OFF A CLIFF RUNNING FROM THE SNOWMONSTER. By the time we got to the surprise twist happy ending (friend not dead, snowmonster did want to play, although probably would have eaten them if he'd caught them, let's be honest), everyone was so traumatized that Rudolph's presence didn't even register. You know things are bad when you feel like you need to read them something light and happy to distract them from that kids' Christmas cartoon they just watched, or take them to a midnight showing of Argo.

Will and Finn, visibly shaken; Bridget, blissfully ignorant
6th: It was St. Nick's Day, so they'd left their boots outside their bedroom the night before; we'd filled said boots with Clifford activity books and one chocolate Santa (yep, Grinchiest parents ever), so they woke up and got those. See? This is why presents throughout Advent gets boring. (Though to be fair, in the pro column for Clifford is "no one runs away and/or dies.")

7th: Make gingerbread cookies for Inger's baby brunch and for our neighbors. I made the dough* and refrigerated it beforehand, so it was ready on Friday. I emailed Will out of school because he's been working so hard lately and seemed a touch overwhelmed (of course I'm talking about working hard at social/developmental stuff, not academics, but still). Then we spent much of the day rolling and flouring dough, cutting out the ninja-bread shapes, and planting some chocolate chips. They loved it, and Finn made a ginger-snake out of a piece of dough and felt extra proud.

8th: Frosty the Snowman day! Okay, all this really meant was that we read our copy of Frosty that has Bella and Joe's recorded voices singing it to us (awesome) plus drew some snowmen and watched the last five minutes of the old cartoon movie. (I learned my lesson, apparently, and pre-screened those five minutes to make sure we only viewed the happy ending. It worked.)

9th: Gave a Toy for a Tot. Part of our annual Christmas brunch with the Isis families is that Mo collects any Toys for Tots we want to contribute. They particularly need stuff for older kids, 7-10ish, so we donated an extra Jenga game I'd bought for next to nothing. I don't actually think the boys were paying any attention to this, but again, it's an activity that will mean more as they grow older. Also, I'd like to increase the percentage of Advent days spent in service to others, but that will have to wait.

10th: Delivered cards and cookies to our neighbors: We did this after nap/quiet time this afternoon, and the boys loved it. It was certainly warm enough (60 degrees!), although it started to rain halfway through. Still, this was a tangible way to do nice things for people--people we know, whose houses we can literally walk to--so I could imagine the boys feeling a little bit empowered, getting to feel kind and generous as they gave away their baked goods. "Merry Christmas!" Will called out at a couple of houses, then turned to me and said, "Mom, I was really polite and friendly."

Smiling about all the Rudolph-related therapy bills I'll be paying well into the middle of the century
*I used this Betty Crocker recipe for the cookies, but had to reduce the time to 7-8 minutes after the first (10-minute) batch came out all gingersnappy. Which I know some people (Dave included) like, but that's not really the point of  gingerbread men, is it? I also used butter instead of shortening, and while the remaining batches turned out nicely, I might need to experiment with a new recipe next year.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Four Years of Friendship

We celebrated Inger's third baby (first boy!) with a holiday brunch for the Isis moms this weekend. It was so fun, and if you scroll down, you'll find our attempt to recreate the original photos of us holding our babies when they were just a few months old, plus a few pictures from back in the day! I love these ladies and their families so much.

The only shot I could find from four winters ago that included all the babies: from L to R  Connor, Ryan, Will (sleeping in his bucket seat while I look on jealously), Kate, Catherine, Kenley and Abby
And yesterday, from L to R: Kate, Connor, Ryan, Kenley, Abby, Will and Catherine

Friday, December 7, 2012

And Then Came November (2012)

The soccer season ended later than usual thanks to some bizarre fall weather

Fiona, Coach Kevin and Will at the "medal ceremony"

Finny at a friend's third birthday party

And at his first ever dental checkup!

He did great, especially with big brother Will there to show him the ropes

Will routinely asks for mint-flavored stuff; Finn stuck with cherry

More snow, more hot chocolate, this time with marshmallows!

A quick girls' getaway was just what the doctor ordered

Will was the only boy at a (girl) friend's fifth birthday party, and he swam like a champ!

Grace and Bridget, BFFs as always, even when one is using the other as a chewtoy

Great night with Nikki and Emily (and our husbands) at the YMCA fundraiser

The tiger brothers! Now with a signature "tiger high five"!

Our baby girl is eating solids galore...

She's definitely a table food girl rather than a puree fan

Cheerios, sweet potato chunks, bread, banana--her pincer grasp gets quite a workout

When Dad walks in the door, Mom is chopped liver

And then there was Thanksgiving!