Monday, December 26, 2016

Making Spirits Bright

Christmas! It came, it went, it was super fun! I believe Cora's face here says it all.

But obviously I'm going to say more (and I apologize in advance for the pictures; I'm condensing a lot of days with a lot of happenings and this is my virtual photo album). First up, the day before the day before: I got up really early on Friday morning to do my half-day of work, emailed a draft memo to my boss by 11, and then got busy getting the house ready for guests. By noon, everything was done and we got the kids ready to (finally!) go see Santa! We'd originally planned to go to the Arboretum the previous weekend, but with a high of 28 and one kid recovering from Mycoplasma we decided that kind of trip was outside even our rather wide comfort zone. So this year, we opted for Stockyard Santa! Cora was SO excited and we thought maybe this year, unlike the previous two, perhaps her visit would not be filled with sobs and betrayal.

The Stockyards are north of town and outside my 5 mile driving radius, so we really never go. Our last visit was when my parents came soon after we moved here in 2012. I completely forgot how fun it is- longhorns and horses everywhere, games, mechanical bulls, giant mazes, shops, food, etc. It's so charming and there's so much history.

We entered Stockyard Station, dragged the kids away from the candy shop, and waited in the very short line with our still-very-excited Cora and then it was our turn! ... and then Cora decided that NOPE, I have no idea who that man is and I will not stand by him.

I will stand in front of him with great reluctance.

I will not give him the benefit of my tears. I will allow you to hold me in his proximity, but I will not smile.

Five seconds later, she was handed a stuffed horse as a parting gift and now, armed with her horsie and safely behind the dividing rope line, she let Santa back in her circle of trust. "Santa! Do you see my horse?!" she exclaimed. But Santa was now busy holding a baby and didn't hear her, so back on the shit list he went again. Luckily there was a big bench outside she found acceptable for a sibling pictures sans-Santa.

And then everyone got to pick one activity- Claire picked pony rides and after a moment's pause, so did Cora. And no one was EVER been more delighted by such a short, plodding, pony ride. Ever.

People actually stopped to watch her there was just so much joy happening in there. Landon picked the giant maze, so James went with him. The girls and I watched from up above, feeling very superior every time they walked into a dead end. It was a good time.

And then, after a little more cleaning and organizing, my parents and brother arrived! And bearing trays from our favorite Italian restaurant in Humble and the kids' giant present-- an Air Pogo Swing!

I'd discovered it in a friend's backyard many months ago and immediately texted it my parents as a Christmas idea. Growing up my dad made us a rope swing suspended between two trees in our backyard and it was the BEST. My dad could swing us SO high and spin us so fast (the equally dreaded and delightful "death spin") and we made up routines to music and did all kinds of tricks that now seem equally impossible and dumb. The Air Pogo is like our rope swing, but with the added bonus of a giant metal spring inside the tube so you can bounce and swing at the same time. What could be better?

It's fun for all ages.

Seriously, all.

Since the box was giant and unwrappable, the kids got to see it that Friday night and the men installed it on Saturday. It was in use for pretty much every minute after that. And the kids just now ran outside to swing on it some more as I type.

[I had to go outside to swing too; now it's 10 p.m.] Moving on -- on Christmas Eve day, my mom and I did a little shopping (new gold dotted wine glasses for me and a giant mirror her her at Homegoods!), I taught my barre class (with my mom as a student!), and then we picked up our traditional Christmas Day tamales. We hung out and then got fancied up for the 5:00 service at a local church and took some pictures. Cora had just woken up from her 4.5 hour nap and was unimpressed with the festive situation happening in her house.

The church service was excellent and we even got one picture of our whole Christmas 2016 crew in the hallway!

And the ladies, because we were all accidentally coordinating.

And then it was back home for our traditional fancy Christmas Eve dinner, which is one of my favorite parts of the whole holiday. Christmas Day is casual and full of pj's and leggings, but I love being a little fancy on Christmas Eve. I set the table with my wedding china and crystal and made marinated flank steak, twice baked potatoes (okay, Central Market made those), asparagus casserole, mandarin salad, rolls, and wine. It was delicious.

And then it was time for PJs and the unwrapping of presents! The kids were ready way before we were, so they were redirected to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas while we finished cleaning the kitchen. But finally, pj's were donned by all, mulled wine was warmed and poured (soooo good), popcorn (including a decent replica of the famous Chicago Mix!) was placed in bowls, and it was time to begin.

And it was everything I hoped it would be. I was super excited about the gifts I picked out this year and everyone loved them. The big kids each got a new ski coat for our trip next week and Cora (who will have Claire's hand-me-down) got two princess nightgowns, which she changed into repeatedly throughout the unwrapping. My grandparents always give me money to buy the kids something and with that I got Landon a Lego set he'd been dying to have. It was really the first Christmas he'd ever consistently asked for something - usually he is completely nonspecific and is delighted by everything, but it was outside our budget, so I bought him something else and even had it wrapped under the tree when I happened to google the set again last week and found it ON SALE for $99 at Toys R Us, making it the exact amount my grandparents give him, so dammit, I unwrapped the other one, returned it, and bought the new one. And the look on his face made it 100% worth it.

Claire got a fancy "grown-up" winter outfit with pea coat, as requested. And Cora got a Bitty Baby with red hair and hazel eyes, just like her. The baby's name is "Baby" and she is very loved.

My sister and brother got Cora the holiday barbie (reaction pictured above, and below) and the Belle princess dress, which Cora insisted on wearing out to see the Santa gifts on Christmas morning.

Claire got two super snazzy outfits and Landon got another Ninjago Lego set because he's suddenly way into those.

It was a really fun, cozy, magical evening. My coworkers and I had a big group discussion at work about everyone's Christmas traditions and while I love hearing everyone's, I must admit I always come away feeling so glad I have mine. I love the cozy magic of Christmas Eve unwrapping. It's dark outside, the lights are twinkling, everyone has snacks and wine and music is softly playing. We get to stay up late- SUCH a treat as a kid, taking turns opening gifts, savoring the magic. It's so special and the memories are so soft and hazily sparkly.

Claire made me a card; one line of it said, "You are in my heart." and I died a little

And then I love that we have Santa gifts on Christmas morning. The getting up early, the anticipation, the thrill of walking out to the living room to find whatever Santa brought you. It's the perfect split and I love savoring both parts. This year was our first year to have Christmas in our own home and I absolutely loved it.

Christmas morning was just as magical. Landon got a deeply longed-for "Cheetah Racer" remote control car, Claire got a "pet vet" kit- the exact one I played with for HOURS at my best friend Tiffany's house as a kid (she actually just graduated from vet school, making her an actual pet vet, and making me feel unjustifiably proud all those hours we ran that vet clinic out of her walk-in closet), and Cora got a baby cradle and high chair.

Everything was a hit. We keep things pretty simple- one ~$50 present per kid plus stocking stuffers and it always seems like plenty. And James and I put a few fun things in each other's stockings, like this ridiculously cool lighter he put in mine so I could light my candles every night when I take my bath without stealing the one he uses to light our outdoor grill. Then he and my brother promptly tried to light everything in our house on fire just to "test" it. (It works.)

Brunch was delicious, even my non-rising cinnamon rolls, and then we were too full to eat the delicious linner I also had planned. We went on a walk, we air pogo'd, we chatted, and then my parents and brother headed back to Houston with a few of my delicious linner (dunch? it's lunch/dinner) sandwiches to go. Cora took a nap, James took a nap, Claire played with all of Cora's toys, and Landon started building his beloved 1,000 piece Lego set, and I-- I opened up the Roku I bought James for Christmas solely so I could watch Seasons 2 and 3 of The Great British Baking Show and I WATCHED THEM. Or at least the first two episodes of Season 2. It was a wonderful Christmas Day.

Then I went to go wake up James and accidentally lay down next to him instead and fell asleep for another 30 minutes. Also wonderful. And then we packed up and went to see the 5:45 showing of Sing! It was cute and fun and a great way to end the day.

Unfortunately my day actually ended in a horrific headache with pain so intense I was dizzy and nauseated for about 3 hours. I would have gone to urgent care- we even called to find one open, but I couldn't drive and we didn't want to wake the kids to bring them. I have suffered from headaches since high school and some of them have been really really bad, but this one was the first to be so intense it scared me. Luckily a big dose of pain meds and sleeping pills knocked me out hard enough to fall asleep, though I could feel the pain in my head through my dreams, and I woke up with only echoes of the pain at 7 a.m. this morning. It was really bad. I basically have no memory of the night after about 9 p.m., even though I know I didn't go to bed until about 11.

But today is better. We went to the zoo, no one was there and the animals were super active. Cora wore her Rapunzel shoes and ran the whole way. We went to Target and bought more bins to organize things and you know how happy that makes me. We ate out at my favorite hamburger and french fry place and that made me even happier. And then I watched another episode of GBBS and went through my Christmas pictures before eating a dinner of leftover Italian food and playing Monopoly with the kids. It was a good day.

And the earmuffs were the surprise stocking stuffer hit of the year. $3.99 from Children' Place. Everyone should get some.

I hope you all had wonderful holidays, full of pj's or plaid leggings, mulled wine and/or other delicious things, with friends, family, and/or delighted children. And a pogo swing.


  1. Loved sharing your Christmas! We don't have little ones around; just a six foot four bearded one (it happens damned fast, I warn you) but we still had fun, too. Merry Christmas!

  2. I wanna go pogo swinging at your house!

  3. Happy happy Christmas!! I loved reading this. It makes me want to write our whole day/night out, with pictures! (I always had such a hard time uploading pics to blogger, though, back in the day. How do you do it?)

  4. Love seeing your lovely Christmas pictures and hearing all about it. My favorite is the one of you and James on Christmas morning. I mean- you look great!! Sounds wonderful- despite your awful headache. (I've totally had to Uber it to Urgent Care for that exact reason with the kids.) Enjoy your ski trip! Oh- and also- KUDOS to you guys for keeping Christmas gifts somewhat low key! I so appreciate that! Nick & I try to do the same but we have tons of extended family (who flat out ignore my pleading emails to skip gifts or consider a gift card for an experience) + Logan's birthday. It's a bit of gift overkill at Christmas, and we haven't figured out the magic formula to level it out yet. Anyway- merry belated Christmas and happy skiing!