Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Mom's night at The Local; Playgroup cookies & books with Santa
My Three Kings on Christmas Eve; snuggling after playing in the snow
Christmas dinner - Carters, Seehavers, Hammons
What a wonderful way to end the year! We enjoyed so many treats and special events this month. Highlights include:
In early December, we made our annual visit to see Santa Claus. The boys were so exited! Aidan talked all about our visit last year to see Santa, and how Leo looked "worried" as he sat on his lap. Appropriately, Aidan & Leo wore shirts that said "Naughty is the New Nice." No longer shy, Aidan marched right up to the Fat Man and gave him a nice hello. Santa took his time talking to each boy, asking what they wanted and reminding them to be good helpers to Mom. (Yay Santa!!!) Aidan asked for a tumbling mat "to practice my gymnastics and for exercising." Pax requested more hair. (Santa said maybe he could have a hat instead.) And Leo's request? "A remote control." Santa responded, "A remote control?..... like a remote control car?" "No," said Leo. "A remote control." Santa and I were both a little puzzled, but Leo refused to say more. Later, he explained to me that he wanted the remote control to spin the Christmas tree around in circles. Hmm. In the same way that I came to learn that Santa doesn't always deliver, through repeated requests for a pony and a TV for my room, Leo didn't seem too surprised not to find a remote control underneath the tree. Instead, he was thrilled to pieces with the lollipops Mr. Claus left in his stocking.
Last year, I figured we'd seen the end of a holiday party through Jeff's work, since he would no longer be working for UVA in the academics side. I was really pleased, then, to find out that he and his fellow nurses held a bake sale and other fundraisers to come up with the funds to rent out a nice community center and to purchase a liquor license for their annual nurses party. Even though I was really looking forward to our first date post-Pax, the very introverted, shy part of me was dreading going to the event. Jeff nearly dragged me there, kicking and screaming. Of course, we ended up having a lot of fun, and I was very happy to be able to put faces with the names I've been hearing about for the past 5 months. Clearly, Jeff is adored by his fellow nursing staff (mostly women, of course!) and it was nice to hear how much they appreciate him and how highly they think of him.
We changed things up a bit for this year's annual mom's night ornament exchange and dinner, forgoing our tradition of going to Bang and instead heading to The Local. The atmosphere was great; the server, a cute artist type, and the food, outstanding. And of course, the company couldn't be beat!
On December 17, I joined Aidan at school for his holiday party. It was really fun to see him in his classroom, interacting with his peers and friends. His teacher set up four stations and the kids rotated at 15 minute intervals between them - a beautifully orchestrated party, indeed. They decorated a cookie, made a reindeer craft, created a glittering snowflake, and devoured snacks and desserts. I enjoyed the party much more than I could have imagined, and yet it still affirmed for me, with no uncertainty whatsoever, that I'll take 100 middle schoolers over 10 kindergarteners, any day!
On December 18, we were hit with a record-setting snow storm! In all, we received over two feet of cold, fluffy powder, trapping us indoors for 2 days. I was so glad Jeff was not scheduled to work. We spent the days playing in the snow, sitting in front of the constantly-fed fire, and snuggling on the couch.
But that snow would not keep us from our other fun events! We braved the roads just 3 days later to attend our playgroup's annual cookie and book exchange, where Santa Claus Himself makes an appearance each time to deliver the books. The new favorite cookie of this year is Stacy's Chai Eggnog. It is simply divine! The funniest part of playgroup was when all of the kids (except Pax) locked themselves into a huge dog crate and told stories to each other. WHY didn't we think of a dog crate earlier, we wondered aloud?
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the holiday season came in the next two days, on December 22 and 23, when we went caroling to those who could use some holiday cheer. First, I asked all of the playgroup moms and kids to come with us to the home of my homebound student who died in October. With song sheets and jingle bells, we caroled for Susan, Johnnie, and Alex, who seemed very pleased and touched by the singing. The next day, our family of 5 headed to the hospital to carol for our good friend Ed, who has been in the hospital for several weeks and only recently was moved out of ICU. We added "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" to our list of carols for Ed, since Leo is so good at singing it. Aidan pointed out to us, "It's kind of like a Christmas carol! Twinkle twinkle is about the stars, just like "the stars in the sky... looked down where he lay!" So we're singing about those stars!" The caroling was simple and easy, and yet the message it sent to our children was so much bigger - Christmas is about doing nice things for people, because you care about them. I'm so grateful that we had the chance to give this "gift of service" with our kids, because it was finally something that they seemed to understand. It left me with the determination to continue to find small gifts of service that my young children can contribute to others.
And finally, on Christmas Eve, I was so proud to watch my Three Kings in the Christmas Pageant at our church! Aidan marched tall and regal in his get up, solomnly holding up his gift of gold; Leo was positively gorgeous in his attire, yet was mischevious and squirrly - hiding his bag of frankincense, punctuating their quiet entrance with "Pow! Pow! Pow!" and wandering all over the manger scene. Pax was serene and peaceful in his crown and robe, comfortably observing everything in the Bjorn baby carrier (worn by Jeff) and mounted atop an oversized camel puppet. As the story was told and the children gathered around the cradle to admire the baby Jesus (doll), a quiet stillness came to most of them. In that moment, all was calm and bright!
Christmas morning was among the most calm and chaos-free of any we've seen in the past 5 or so years. Aidan could read the names on the gifts, and was a huge helper in the distribution. Leo actually quit opening his gifts about 2/3 of the way through, happy to play with whatever he'd already opened. And Pax was the happiest baby we've ever had, content to sit in his bouncy seat and watch the action. The day was unrushed and fairly relaxing, and culminated with a fabulous dinner prepared by my mom at their home. The Hammons family joined us in celebrating, and it proved to be one of my favorite Christmas dinners in recent history.
Tonight, we're heading to Richmond to the botanical gardens there for the Gardenfest of Lights, an anuual event where visitors walk through the gardens to enjoy the light show. We're treating ourselves to dinner at California Pizza Kitchen and then heading over to see the lights.
As we begin to look to the new year, I continue to feel so incredibly grateful for the many gifts and good fortune our family has enjoyed. I've said it before, but it bears repeating - I feel fortunate and lucky for our good health and our happy children. I am filled with gratitude. I understand that we have so much to be thankful for. And I know that I must find more ways in which to help others. "For of those to whom much is given, much is required." (Luke 12:48; JFK)