Our holidays, so far

We’ve been counting down the days ’til Christmas and I still can’t believe it’s next week! Each morning or afternoon, the kids open a drawer on the advent calendar and find a slip of paper with a special plan for the day, two little mint chocolates, and a tiny ornament to hang on their tiny tree. I don’t put the message or candy in until it’s almost time to look inside, just in case, as this has been the first year that they are really eager to check on it each day. This has also been the first year that Hudson can read the messages. It’s so amazing to watch the reading begin! He sounds out the wordd using Spanish phonetics, but he usually can figure it out that way. It’s meant that he’s as excited about the slip of paper as he is about the chocolate.

Skyler looks forward to the days when it’s her turn to open the drawer, hunting for the numbers she recognizes and then relishing in the small moment of her control. She loves that she’s in charge of sharing with Hudson.

I always find it nice to stop and take stock of all the that’s been special about these anticipatory days in one big post. So here are some of the highlights we’ve had around here, so far…

As is often the case, our holiday began with our downtown tree lighting: everyone gathers a few blocks away at the local food co-op for a childrens’ parade downtown, walking behind the University marching band and some firetrucks, holding candles. Once downtown, you can take carriage rides, drink hot cider, watch showings of The Grinch for free at The Varsity, or catch a small (always too quiet to actually hear) holiday program. This year we caught the first-annual ugly sweater contest, too.

We returned once again to Silveyville—where you can go on sleigh rides and see Santa and get free popcorn, if you wish—to choose our tree. You can also cut down your own there, but we opted for a pre-cut silver tip for the first time. It was so precious that it got to ride home in the backseat.

We strung the lights that evening, but decided to save the decorations for the next morning.

Hudson was happy to be reunited with his beloved nutcracker, and Skyler hugged the soft ornaments before finding them a home—usually very close to one another on low-hanging branches.

After Aron cut down the tip that was leaning against the ceiling, our star made it to the top twice this year—so that both Hudson and Skyler had a turn.

After decking the halls inside, we strung lights outside—for the first time we went with the kids’ wish of colored lights, and those little laser projected lights, too.

The kids picked out presents at the Secret Store at the Davis Art Center. The Art Center hosts a holiday craft market for one weekend, and volunteers help children over the age of three pick out and wrap gifts to give. You give each child a budget and they disappear with a little wristband for about 30 minutes, while parents are free to see the rest of the market. Hudson shopped for the whole family, while Skyler wanted only to get one thing “for mommy.” I can’t wait to see what they picked out!

There have been holiday movies and popcorn (favorites of ours have been: The Snowman, wordless and so lovely; The Grinch; Elf; Rudolph; and The Polar Express), morning snuggles with holiday books, and plenty of snowflake making. The kids went through their toys and chose many to donate, as well as helped choose a gift for an adopted family.

We spread cheer by stuffing, stamping, and mailing holiday cards. I was so happy when, at least for a time, Hudson declared this to be his favorite activity yet. I think he was really proud of all the hard work, and it made him excited to see the cards he received in return.

One day we walked around downtown to judge the holiday window displays. As it turned out, this was probably the least well-received of our activities so far, but we’re hoping the shops might step up their game for future contests. At least Sawyer got to join on this one.

Though he would have probably preferred to be included in the Tamale-making class. (This activity paired well with the book, Too Many Tamales.)

And we spent a day in San Francisco to see Nutcracker Sweets—a specifically child-focused production of The Nutcracker—and have a chocolate fudge sundae in Ghirardelli Square. Skyler brought her homemade binoculars to the performance and would raise them when interesting things happened on stage. Afterward, she went twirling down the pier.

There were some holiday parties, too… Aron and I got dressed up a few weekends in a row; the kids made gingerbread houses at the annual harp-and-beer party (anyone remember this from one of the first ones?); and our bookclub got together for a white-elephant gift exchange and to send gifts to adopted families. Oh, and we roasted s’mores in the backyard with spiked cider!

Skyler really wants to ride a boat with Santa! I’m not sure why, but it has been her only constant. Also, the kids both worked really hard on these drawings. Lately, Skyler like to draw many hearts and circles, and spends a lot of time carefully coloring them in.

And finally, the kids sat down to write letters to Santa to be hand-delivered. Breakfast with Santa at our local Odd Fellows Hall has become something we really look forward to. It’s such a sweet event: so many local businesses contribute to make it incredibly special for the kids. They were sent home with a stuffed horse and a little monkey with velcro feet and hands, and both of the kids are in love!

You can feel it in the air: Christmas is almost here! The kids are looking forward to baking and eating Christmas cookies, singing in and attending the first-grade holiday concert, welcoming cousins from Germany, and—of course—discovering what gets left under the tree. Hope everyone is enjoying happy holidays!

P.S. Last year’s first-half-of-the-holidays post. I love looking back at these, so thank you for indulging me!

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