Saturday, December 26, 2009

Surviving Christmas

A lot of people wouldn't be able to handle the way we celebrate Christmas around here. Not because the kids get up too early or because of the complete greedy mayhem. Nope. Around here, Christmas is all about the anticipation. 

The kind of anticipation that can kill you if you're not brave enough or strong enough. For me, the anticipation is the best part. But, I'm strong. Or crazy. Or both. 

There's no waking up at the crack of dawn (or earlier!) around here. No rushing in to rip the wrappings to shreds, everyone opening at once, desperate to see what was given. Nope. At this place we take things at a more leisurely pace. Less like a 100 yard dash and more like a stroll through the neighborhood, with plenty of pauses to enjoy the scenery, look at crawling bugs and smell the flowers. 

There are rules, you know. 

The first rule is that everyone must sleep in. Until at least 8 o'clock. Big is still working on this one, but this year he made it until 7:40. The key is, you see, to never let them know that waking up at 4 am is an option. Because it isn't.

The second rule is that everyone must be dressed, teeth and hair brushed, rooms cleaned before any of the festivities can start. The kids are usually smart and do most of the cleaning in the few days before Christmas arrives, but the morning of is perfect for last minute touch-ups. All of this usually occurs while I am whipping up our traditional breakfast of bran muffins (they rock, I swear) and cheesy scrambled eggs.

Oh, did I forget to mention that breakfast has to be eaten before we can even think of entertaining thoughts of present opening? It's important to give all of that Christmas candy a good solid base, you know. We're looking for staying power here. The fact that we get regularity, too, is just a bonus. At least I'm not super hardcore like my mom is-- she serves a big bowl of frozen peaches to each family member. Try eating those quickly in your rush to get things moving! 

It might seem like we're ready to start now, but we're not. There are still the breakfast dishes to be washed, table to be wiped clean, leftovers to be put away... even the floor must be swept. It's amazing how willingly the kids pitch in when there's a goal in sight.

Ahhh. Now we're ready. Line up and get ready to go...

Even the grandparents in Armenia joined us for a bit. It looks like they're excited to see what Santa brought. 

Once we get into the living room, the kids are free to open the stockings and gifts brought by Santa with some semblance of wild abandon, but they still take time to show others what they've been given and appreciate what others have received. It's a must, you know.

After all of Santa's gifts have been opened, it's time to open the stuff under the tree. Time for patience to once again be tested. We take turns opening gifts, youngest to oldest, over and over again until the presents are gone. It's nice to see what everyone received, to feel gratified when your gift seems appreciated and they take the time to tell you so, instead of just tossing it quickly aside after a glance so they can rip open the next thing with their name on it. It's nice. Relaxing, even (knowing that I don't have a pile of dishes waiting for me to do when we're done? Relaxing and priceless!).

When the presents were all opened this year, Rophone and I unveiled the final Santa gift. It was kept under wraps until the very end, with thoughts that once the boys saw it we'd have a hard time getting them to do other things. 

We were right.

I know that a lot of the time growing up I thought that doing Christmas this way was torture, but I reveled in every minute of it. I'm sure that my kids feel the same way. I have come to learn as a parent, though, that celebrating the way we do isn't just a means to successfully torture the kids (I'm always trying to figure out ways to do that!)-- it's also a way to help them realize that what they get isn't really what Christmas is all about. The traditions, the spending time with family.... heck, even doing the breakfast dishes is more important than the gifts they receive. The only Christmas gift that really matters is the birth of our Savior and the gift of his example and life. 

Anyway, this Christmas was just fabulous. The kids were all appropriately appreciative, no tantrums or meltdowns (I tell ya the bran muffins really do rock!) and, for once, every single gift was perfect for its intended recipient. There was none of the usual regret over a present that just didn't go over the way we thought it would. The amount of time we've been able to just hang as a family has been fantastic. Really, really great. We not only survived Christmas, we did it in grand style!

I can't wait to bring on the torture again next year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Celebrating Fifteen

Rophone and I were married fifteen years ago today. Fifteen years! It's so weird how time is-- on one hand it feels like just the other day, but on the other hand it feels like we've been married forever (in a good way). I can't seem to remember my life without him. My life has certainly been better because of him.

I know that I am better because of him. Rophone has boosted my self-confidence beyond measure over the past 15 years. It still has a ways to go, but he has made me believe that I can do things. Be things. That I already am things. And I love him for that.

Happy Anniversary, Rophone! Can't wait for the next gazillion plus years!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Abominable Big

Big and I went to Ginger's Christmas program yesterday while Bud was at school. It was difficult to make it through. Big isn't really cut out to sit still for that sort of thing-- not without providing his own entertainment, that is.

Today we had to do it again for Pen's program. It was long. Interminably long. You see, each day we watched half of the kindergarten perform (either morning or afternoon) and then half of the grades perform. It just so happens that my kids were in the highest grade of each program, so therefore performed last. Not only that, but for Pen's program today they also added in the two upper grade choirs. Long with a two year old, I tell you. Especially a two year old like Big.

About 3/4 of the way through today's program, Big, standing on his chair, started plugging his ears with a grand gesture, elbows sticking out. After a few minutes of this, he suddenly lowered his arms and shouted at the top of his lungs, "I am the Abominable Snow Monster! I live in a cave! And I like to eat reindeer!"

Then he looked over at my arm draped over the back of his chair and said slyly, "And who is this in my cave?.... Ah! It's a reindeer! I am going to eat you up!!!"

He proceeded to pretend to eat me, nibbling me all over. I just about died laughing. 

A few minutes later I mentioned to Big that he needs a haircut, to which he responded, "No, I don't. I live in a cave."

Clearly, he was still in character.

The best part of the program, by far. (But you were really good, too, Pen!)

Monday, December 14, 2009


The snow that fell this weekend was perfect for making snowpeople (snowpersons?), so I decided to take the kids outside to make some yesterday. Besides being a fun activity to do together, there was the added benefit of the cold air helping out Big with his croup. Croup sucks, by the way. 

Anyway, here are two snowpeople I helped the kids create. After I went inside, they made a plethora of snowkids for the couple, which I neglected to photograph. Sorry, snowkids!

This is Pop. The mom snowperson. Bud and I created her together, and it was seeing her that prompted Pen and Ginger to want to make their own. 

Even though Pop has buck teeth, her husband, Bugly, still finds her to be beautiful. It may be that when he gazes into her brussels sprout eyes that he sees the moon and stars and forgets all else.

This is Bugly. The daddy snowperson. Pen, Ginger and I made him, with some heavy lifting help from Bud. Thanks, Bud!

Pop thinks he's really sweet. I'm not sure if she is referring to his disposition, or how he tastes when she gives him a smooch on his sweet pickle lips (Of course they kiss! They're married! They have snowkids! They are a very seriously committed snowcouple!).

Thanks kids (and snowpeople) for the great time!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mannequin Pals

Rophone had the day off yesterday, so we took the boys to the mall while the girls were in school. Like we usually do, we entered the mall through Nordstrom so the boys could look at the fish in the children's department.  

As we were leaving that store to enter the main part of the mall, Big, who wasn't watching where he was going, just about bumped into a mannequin. He looked up at the mannequin, gave him a head nod, and said, "Hey, man." Then he noticed it was actually a group of mannequins and said, "Oh. Hey guys."

In another store a few minutes later, Big reached out as he was passing a seated little girl mannequin and patted her on the knee saying, "Hi there, cutie!"   

He didn't even seem to mind that she didn't have a head. 

It's nice to know I've got a boy who'll look beyond outward beauty.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Talking to Big

Big and I talked and talked this afternoon. He really enjoys the time we have alone while Bud's in school. Part of today's lunchtime conversation made me laugh. 

Big: "What do rabbits eat, Mom?"

Me: "They eat lettuce, carrots, radishes, and things like that. They love raw vegetables."

Big: "Ewww! That stuff is yucky!"

Me: "Well, rabbits like it."

Big: "What do donkeys eat?"

Me (answering as Big gets distracted by something): "They eat hay and oats and stuff like horses do."

Big (in complete shock): "They eat horses?!?"

I clarified, which made him feel better. 

Big: "What about goats? What do they eat?"

Me: "They eat pretty much anything."

Big: "Anything?"

Me: "Yeah. You know, they like grass, garbage, even hats."

Big: "Of course they like hats. They like to put them on their heads."

Talking to Big is always fun. 

Then he started calling me Gordon.

Monday, December 7, 2009

All They Want

We have a Christmas tradition of asking the kids to write out (or dictate to others) a list of things they would like for Christmas. One might argue that it is just encouraging the greediness of the season, but we find it a helpful means to find out what they really want without being obvious about asking. Plus, the things they write down can often be hilarious. 

And revealing. 

And scary. 

And optimistically ridiculous. 

I scanned and took photos (when the scanner decided to act wonky) of the kids' lists this year and I thought I'd share them with you.  

This is Big's list, as dictated to me:

It is easy to see from this list what Big is obsessed with at the moment. I think he's rather greedy to want a second pool table, but I guess he just wants one of his own. We currently only allow him to use the top half of a pool stick-- it seems that number 4 on the list is letting us know what he thinks he should be using. 

And you can tell from #3 and #6 that he really, really wants his own drum set. In black, he says. But, I'd have to say that after hearing the awfully terrible sound of Big hitting Bud on the top of his head with a drumstick tonight.... yeah, that's not happening any time soon.

The next list is Bud's. I find it to be so revealing of the way his mind works. I love it.

I really kind of hope he gets #11, I can't wait to put him to work. And I'm not quite sure how Bud decided on the design of the notepad for #12, but that's what I love about him-- you never know what will come out of his mouth. I suppose he's going to use #18 to spruce up his room a bit, but doesn't want the upkeep of a real plant. He'll have enough to do with that kind of stuff if he gets #13.

Ginger's list is a little hard to read, but let's just say that some of it falls into the "optimistically ridiculous" category. That's probably why she included the note at the end that reads, "If you can't bring me these things bring what you think would be best for me." She's a smart girl. Hmmm... maybe there's some psychological play going on here.

It was so thoughtful of her to request a cedar wood play set without swings (since there's already an old school swing set in the backyard). That should save a few bucks. The play set, along with numbers 2 and 10, the trampoline and swimming pool--medium (she explained that a large swimming pool would be unrealistic to ask for), should fit just fine in Santa's sleigh, but might put a bit of a strain on the available space in the backyard. Just a tad. 

Oh, and I love that Ginger requested a Geo Trax train with a girl driver. Girl power!

Pen's list illustrates how completely she is straddling the line between being a young girl and a teen. 

Should Santa bring Pen the American Girl Doll and the Build-a-Bear, knowing she will outgrow them before she realizes? Or should Santa bring her a laptop, knowing she will be doing more research and typing of papers when she enters middle school next year? 

Pen received an Easy Bake Oven from Santa 3 years ago, but it had to be returned due to a recall. Then, we somehow managed to misplace the voucher for a replacement. She hasn't given up asking for a new one. It's been on her list for the past 2 years, but now she's upped the stakes and added cake mixes and a chef's hat to the request. Is this the year it will be fulfilled?

What should Santa do? Such a dilemma. I sure am glad I don't have his job!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pretend Fighting

I played pretend catch with Big this morning. You know, with a pretend ball. Big pretends I throw it fast sometimes. Other times he pretends that I threw it slowly, or that I threw it way up in the air and he has to wait for it to come down as he looks skyward. 

The best part of playing pretend catch is that no one ever throws it wildly or misses the catch. Unless you pretend it, that is. The possibilities are endless. 

Anyway, Big and I were playing and having a grand time-- until Bud decided he wanted to join in on the fun. It must have looked like we were having such a ball that he decided he wanted to be part of it. Big told Bud "no" when he asked if he could play, and no amount of persuading on my part could get him to throw the pretend ball Bud's way. 

Well, Bud started pretend catching the "ball" anyway, making Big feel as though his  extremely accurate fake toss was actually errant in its path, and possibly making Big feel as though his pretending personal space was being encroached upon. He yelled at Bud, "I told you you can't play catch with us!" But, Bud continued on in his provoking ways, once again catching the "ball" that Big threw.

Big then leapt upon Bud and beat the crap out of him to retrieve the "ball". I found myself laughing in disbelief that my boys were physically fighting over ownership of something that didn't truly exist, gripping one another's hands, pulling back and forth, trying to wrest a non-existent ball from the other's grasp. It was surreal. 

After it happened more than once, and no amount of rational talk would get the boys to stop, I copped the excuse that all mothers everywhere use when they need some space--

"I have to go to the bathroom."

The diversion worked. They started playing pretend catch with their dad while I was gone. All three of them. 

Hmmm. Maybe it wasn't the "ball" that they didn't want to share, but their Mommy. 

Awwww. They love me!