Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas 2012

We had quite a full Christmas season this year. We started out the month by having a college friend of mine and her family over for dinner. Not exactly Christmas-related, but it happened this month. Ryan and I went to a potluck/white elephant party by ourselves early in the month (a white elephant where you could come home with more than one gift each; thankfully we ended up with a couple of desirable items in addition to the three or four less desirable items). The next weekend we went to another white elephant party (at which we gave away items from our earlier party) put on by the family we usually walk to school with. Then the weekend before Christmas we had a brunch with some good friends. We did this brunch last year as well and are thinking we will make a yearly thing out of it. We ended the month by having dinner with a family who lived in the same house as us during our internship here. It may not sound like much to an extrovert, but for our usual non-social selves this made for an extremely busy calendar.

Our Christmas was excellent this year - pretty much everything I think Christmas should be about. Christmas to me has always been about baking, decorating, listening to Christmas music, watching movies, giving presents -  and generally doing all of this as a family. I think we succeeded in creating some great memories for Gareth, which was our primary goal this year. Though he was pretty excited about Santa and presents, he was a bit confused about some of the details of how Christmas goes in our house, probably because we haven't had Christmas in our house since he was 2, and partly because we're still working some of that out ourselves.

Christmas in Seattle was rainy, which means that it stayed dark in our house even later than usual (usual being about 7:45 am). Because it was nice and dark, it was something like 8 or 8:30 before Gareth and Malcolm woke up. We'd made a makeshift gate out of the playpen to keep Gareth from running out to the living room too soon, but he did an excellent job of remembering the rules we'd talked to him about the day before so I'm not sure the playpen gate was entirely necessary. Gareth for once got dressed without whining about how unjust the world is and then he and Malcolm patiently waited in our room for Ryan and I to get showered and dressed. About 9:30 we were finally all ready to head out and see what Santa had brought.
Gareth waiting excitedly to head out to the tree

Malcolm waiting indifferently to head out to the tree

Gareth was awed by the piano keyboard that Santa left and we spent a few minutes playing around with that. Then he and Malcolm opened their stockings and Gareth was very excited to find a bell for his bike, something he's been wanting since he got the bike in April. He was also very excited about the Mario fruit snacks he found (we never buy fruit snacks and he'd been begging for these for weeks, so they were a pretty special treat to find in his stocking). Malcolm was more than happy to chew on the sippy cup found in his stocking. He was less than impressed with the puff cereal things, though they've grown on him since.

We opened one more gift - a recording device with a message on it telling Gareth to go to the basement where he got to check out a new video game - before taking a break for our traditional breakfast of blueberry bake, grapefruit and bacon. Gareth has been making "recordements" of himself reading every day since - and even in the middle of the night, something which I made sure to put a quick end to the next morning.
Excited to open a gift - which turned out to be Legos

Gareth was totally on board with taking turns opening presents as he usually wanted to open up and check out each item before moving on. We let him hand out presents with not too much direction from us, and he did quite well at making sure everyone was getting a turn.

Malcolm was happy about the wrapping paper, and sad that we didn't let him swallow any of it.

This is the first year I had Gareth come up with a gift for Ryan. I was torn for a bit about whether to let him go with his own idea if he had one or to direct him toward items that I knew Ryan would definitely want. In the end, I decided to let him go with his idea since he did have one and I thought it'd be more exciting for him if the gift was something he came up with himself. He and Ryan had been playing a video game called Bastion, so Gareth decided he wanted to draw a Bastion picture for Ryan. I offered to get a frame to put it in:

Ryan gets pretty excited about beef jerky - I was happy to help him eat it.

We finished up our presents and stockings in the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day relaxing and playing with new toys. I realized a couple of weeks before Christmas that this is the first Christmas where Ryan and I have worked together on the prep for this holiday. Up until now we've either gone to family for Christmas (and therefore haven't had much to do) or Ryan's been in school up until the last minute, leaving me to do most of the preparations. It's definitely more fun to do it together.

Our tree managed to make it through Christmas, and even through New Year's Eve, though it's getting quite dry. Gareth is very sad about having to take it down and has asked how long it is until it's December again. Ryan and I take this as a good indication that he enjoyed the season and will be excited for it to come around again next year.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Prep 2012

Well, we're quite ready for Christmas around here. Gareth is having a hard time leaving the few presents already under the tree alone and he's asked twice if he could open a present of Malcolm's right now - even though he knows they presents under the tree aren't for opening until Christmas and that that particular present is not his. So, yeah, we've got some excitement going around here.

We've spent a couple Christmases on our own in Indiana, but the last of those was three years ago, so Gareth's only memories of Christmas are at extended family. Ryan and I have been trying to find ways to make it memorable and fun for him/decide what traditions and such we'd like to have in our family.

We started out with Christmas music on December 1. Ryan refuses to play it before then, and I'm not as adamant either way, so that's what we go with. He, apparently, has always started us off with Carol of the Bells. After finding our pathetically small assortment of household Christmas decor, Gareth helped us select the perfect spots for each item. Then on December 2nd we headed east in search of a tree. We tried a tree farm in Carnation that had been recommended to us. It was okay, but I'm thinking we'll look somewhere else next year. We like our trees to be nice and full and it seemed most of the trees were rather spindly and sad-looking. Eventually we wound our way over to the Grand Firs, which were more full and of which they had more tagged for sale than the other varieties we'd looked at. So we did end up with a nice tree, I just wasn't terribly impressed by the selection.

We brought it home and set to work getting it in the stand and freed from it's wrapping:

Gareth was a little nervous about the branches breaking free and whacking him in the face, but he had fun clipping open the netting. Even Malcolm was excited about the new addition to our living room decor:

It took us a few days to get the decorating done because Ryan had a presentation to prep for work and I had rehearsal, but we eventually got around to it. My mom sends us twenty-four small gifts (cookies, dried herbs from her garden, things like that) each year and that's what's up on the mantle. The stocking clips are new and I'm rather excited about how well they work. I like their simplicity and the fact that my kids won't get knocked on the head by a large weighted stocking holder should they choose to pull on the stockings (hasn't been a problem yet, but might be next year when Malcolm's walking). As you can see, I need to make a stocking for Malcolm still - that's in the queue, hopefully to be completed by next Christmas.

We've included Gareth in more of our movie-watching this year. We started with Polar Express because Gareth loves it so much. Then on to Holiday Inn (really not a Christmas movie, is it? I was wondering this year why it's always thought of as one). Ryan and I watched A Christmas Story on our own, since neither of us had seen it before. Then we watched White Christmas (okay movie, not one of my favorites, but some funny parts). Last night we let Gareth stay up way late and watched Nightmare Before Christmas, which he really enjoyed. I remember being a little weirded out by it as a kid, but I am not entirely sure why after watching it again last night. Today we watched the 1955 Miracle on 34th Street - another one that's kinda meh. But we'll watch A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott version) on Christmas Eve and we've still got It's a Wonderful Life here at home, so we've got at least a couple more excellent ones to go. We're also planning on leaving Malcolm with some friends (a huge deal, as he'll cry the entire time) in order to take Gareth to his first movie in a theatre.

And we can't forget the holiday grapefruit. It actually arrived over a week ago, but we're holding out on digging into it to make sure we still have some left for Christmas morning breakfast. On the baking front, Gareth helped us make some fudge. I was planning to include him in making the gingerbread cookies, but that didn't happen (though I need to make another batch since they're addicting and I've consumed most of what was made earlier, so maybe I'll get him in on that round). And we tried some toffee tonight, our first Seattle toffee attempt. We'll see how that turned out come morning. So, there you have it, what we've been busy with the past few weeks. And here we all are, attempting a family photo with the self-timer: