Our holidays, so far (2018)

I can’t stop looking at the photo of Hudson cozying up to Santa. Both kids were so excited to see him at breakfast this year, and I swear all that magic in their heads really could make a grinch’s heart grow.

You can feel it in the air: Christmas is almost here! We’ve already been enjoying many of our favorite parts of the season, but there is still so much to come in the next week. The children are looking forward to family Christmas cookies, touring to choose the best holiday lights and, of course, discovering what gets left under the tree. I’m looking forward to those first days out of school when being lazy in pajamas feels like an obligation. How about you?

Every year, around this time, I try to take a pause and appreciate all that’s already happened by rounding up photos of the holiday, so far. They’re always too photo-heavy, but I love looking back at these posts later.

So thank you for indulging me…

With Thanksgiving falling earlier in November, Christmas came on quick this year. (Spotify confirms that people started searching for Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You” ahead of schedule in 2018!)

Our town’s Children’s candlelight parade, where we walk to light the tree, took place before December.

It had been a rainy day—with moods to match—but the clouds paused just long enough for the parade. We took in the marching band show, while others watched free showings of the 1966-The Grinch at The Varsity Theatre and took horse-drawn carriage rides around E Street Plaza, and then ducked out of the rain.

More appropriately, we started the real countdown on the 1st of this month. When I woke up Saturday morning, both Hudson and Skyler were up and waiting a few feet from the advent calendar, ready to spring into action. “Choose and decorate the tree!”

Though we’ve talked about going out and getting a forest permit one of these years, we’ve come to really appreciate our local Silveyville Tree Farm. After we pick out the tree (we chose a Silver Tip again this year), we get hot cider and popcorn and go on a (mechanical) sleigh ride around the farm. Everyone sees someone they know from school, the kids visit the animals, and—sometimes—we spot Santa.

I had forgotten about this picture! Look who went in for the snuggle that time, too! I think Santa thought Hudson was going to whisper in his ear, but clearly he was going for a hug.

He is such a lover!

We also got our first preview of what the kids might wish for—Skyler had just started talking about musical jewelry boxes with a spinning ballerina.

I made a Dutch baby with eggs and Swiss cheese, while the kids helped Aron set up the tree, and our pup Sawyer took a rest after all the hard work he’d done.

Everyone pulled out their favorite ornaments. And they only fought a little over whose got to be front and center. This is why, while it’s a little silly, we let both kids take turns putting the star up top.

They love the tree so much—more than I can ever recall—and Hudson would, for days after it went up, sit and stare, and say how beautiful it is.

That first day of December was a full one: Winters—a neighboring town—had its annual Tractor Parade that evening and we joined up with some friends for soup and cider before the parade.

It always finishes with the flame of a hot-air-balloon tank, before the crowds proceed to the tree lighting. This year, there were more people than ever lining Main Street for the charming spectacle!

On the Sunday morning, while Aron went to a work event, I took the kids to the Davis Art Center for the last day of the Secret Store. You give the kids an allotted budget to go into a secret room with volunteers and pick out presents for mom and dad and the like. They get to do it all on their own, and the adults get to shop the rest of the craft faire.

This was the first time Skyler had complete confidence to go in alone. She brought a little (empty) purse and wore it, “just like mama.”

It was all a huge success until I told her I wasn’t going to open the gift she got me until Christmas. That was not what she wanted to hear. The reaction was so swift and over-the-top angry that I can laugh now, but—you know—it wasn’t so funny in the moment.

We also introduced a new tradition this year, The Jingle Jar. I wrote about it after a friend suggested it as a way they put more giving into their holiday. Every time they do something good—it can be as small as “thank you for tying your shoes without my asking, that really helped us get out the door on time”—they might get a quarter in the jar, and then we will match the money and help them use it all as a donation to someone in need.

Aron and I have some set dates for things throughout the month, but the majority of the activities are written down on cards the day-of and slipped into the advent calendar. At some point, I’ll have the Jingle Jar donation be an evening’s activity—probably around the 20th or 21st.

One of the first activities we work into the calendar is getting down the box of holiday books. I’m always so eager to read The Night Before Christmas (this is my favorite edition), and Skyler practically hugged The Story Orchestra Nutcracker when she spotted it. We leave them out for the month of December and then they get tucked away again until the next year. (Here’s a list of our favorites.)

Another night, we wrote to Santa: Skyler dictated her letter, while Hudson wrote his all by himself. Note the Spanish spelling of baseball and the exclamation points! She would like “a music box jewelry box with a person who goes to ballet class dancing because I love ballet.” He would like “A Real Action Beisboll game and a book called ‘The Last Kids on Earth’ and Arr Hockey.”

As soon as our Christmas cards arrived in the mail, I slipped in the activity: “Spread cheer far and near.” We do our best to drum up the excitement for envelope-stuffing, stamp-affixing, and post-office-delivering!

On the evening that Aron and the kids strung our Christmas lights outside, I went to my bookclub’s holiday party. We brought gifts to exchange with each other and to donate to families through Empower Yolo. It’s always a highlight of the season for me.

Those outside lights went up just in time for roasting marshmallows. Aron made spiced butter rum for the grownups and spiced butter apple juice for the kids—of which there are so many big ones now!

We decided we would distract them all with showings of The Snowman and Stick Man so that we would get a turn with the roasting sticks.

Our friend was much braver and had an equally full house of children over for a cookie-decorating party. I was so impressed with the organization: she’d pre-ordered boxes of cookies, lines little tables with butcher paper, made a few dozen little baggies of pipe-able frosting, and just asked guests to bring sprinkles and the like to share. It was tremendous! And they were so focused for so long—we all had a chance to talk and toast with glasses of champagne!

That night, we went to our annual Love, Actually viewing and had our first Peppermint Jo-Jos of the season.

On Sunday, we paired donating toys with the new Grinch—which turned out to be a well-themed match. We had recently done a toy-purge, but the kids still did an excellent job of thinking about what other kids might enjoy more than them.

Speaking of movies: this year, we’ve been watching more holiday movies and shows, so we’ve stopped putting those (with a few exceptions) onto the calendar. And I have so many more things I’d still like to show them! They watched White Christmas for the first time this year, but they still haven’t seen so many of the ones that figured prominently into my holiday: Miracle on 34th Street, Little Women, A Christmas Story, Home Alone, or It’s a Wonderful Life. What do you watch every year?

Sunday also happened to be the anniversary of Aron’s and my engagement (13 years since engaged, 18 years together) so we went out for dinner—and a few games of bowling—in Sacramento!

There have a been a few holiday crafts: the kids and I cut paper snowflakes out of coffee filters and hung them up. And we frosted gingerbread houses to make a little village. (Multiple houses, in part, because I’d already bought the Trader Joe’s chalet last year and then neglected to use it!) We learn a few construction lessons every year. But every year I forget how hard it is for the four and unders not to eat it immediately!

We went to the Davis Children’s Nutcracker (42 years strong), with its everyone-gets-a-part assembly of clowns, and fairies, and bumble bees, and poodle skirts on stage.

And then kids opened up a new pair of matching winter pajamas.

Of course one of the biggest events was breakfast with Santa at the Odd Fellow Hall. Even though we spotted the jolly fella at Silveyville, this is the real one they’ve been coming to talk to every year. I owe a debt to my friend Stacey, who got us tickets—we nearly missed out!

They read their letters with him, snuggled close (see up top), and left with two little stuffed animals that suit each of them so well: A Tasmanian Devil-like friend for Hudson (that he sat down to watch a Tasmanian-set episode of Wild Kratts with him this morning), and a bear with a secret pouch that Skyler first named “Dog-bear,” but has since renamed “love.”

So much sweetness this time of year…

The hugs!

The Friends! (Central Perk, Future Joey and Chandler, Rachel and Monica)

The carols! (At the annual Harp & Beer holiday party.)

And the toasts! (At a grown-up holiday party Saturday night)

Finally, to finish off the first half of the holidays, we all went to breakfast at the Austrian bakery in town (where they make the most beautiful Gingerbread Houses and Yule Log cakes), and a concert at The Mondavi Center.

The Boston Brass came to the concert hall to play holiday songs, and even though it was probably a little long for the kids, it was a beautiful afternoon of horns, trumpets, tubas, and trombones.

It has been wonderful season so far, and I feel so lucky to get to see it through the wide eyes of these two little loves of mine.

Happy holidays, everyone! Thank you for sharing some of yours with me.

P.S. A mid-way recap from last year. And the year before that.

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