Christmas Round-up 2021

Despite COVID, this Christmas was much closer to “normal” than last year. The kids are vaccinated, and most of the holiday stuff went down before omicron showed up. I still, honestly, had a bit of a hard time feeling that holly jolly spirit. One of my friends has a sign she puts up in her house for the holidays that says, “Jingle all the way. Nobody likes a half-assed jingler.” It makes me giggle, but I also…well, here’s the true confessions of a half-assed jingler.

As the traditional start of the holiday season is when Santa rolls down the street at the end of the Macy’s parade, I think of Thanksgiving as the beginning. It’s my favorite holiday, and this year was no exception. We went to Lynlee’s and had a beautiful day with her and her kids. They had created a lovely table decoration with crystals, osage oranges, clementines, and fairy lights (Lynlee said she always gets clementines when she knows Petra is coming over). She had just butchered pigs, so we had fresh pork instead of turkey. At some point in the day, we went and helped her salt some bacon that was getting ready for the smoker. We went for walks around the farm, harvested fresh spinach in the garden, chatted. It was a beautiful, calm day. Exactly what all of us needed.

Mere days later, we were off to “early Christmas” with JC’s family. Everything was very loud, for several days. Between all of us, we have seven kids, and they spent the whole time screaming and running laps around the house (inside! There’s no good outdoor space at that house). Several of the adults were wearing sensory earplugs, and those who didn’t have them looked jealous; I think next year, I might just need to get them for everybody, because wow.

We managed to get a few moments of quiet: Marmee put out coloring pages, Konni brought a craft (it was a kaleidoscope—very cute! On the outside of hers, Petra wrote something like, “Death comes to all.” So festive). We let the kids watch some Christmas movies and play some Switch games.

My in-laws’ house is an easy walk to the park. We took Elora down there one afternoon to run some wiggles out while her little sister was napping, and went down there again after dark to see the lights.

We have two nieces who are two years old, and I have seen each of them only once or twice in their lives, due to the pandemic. So I enjoyed getting to know them better. Our other niblings have all grown up so much! I couldn’t get over how much the oldest, Olivia, has matured since we last spent much time with her.

Everyone spoiled the kids with piles of thoughtful gifts. It was a flurry of wrapping paper! Chaos! Excitement! I was so intrigued to notice which of the kids wanted to play with each gift one at a time and which ones wanted to unwrap them all and then examine them (I have one of each).

As tradition dictates, Katie and Kassi went all out on the “tablescape.” This year’s theme was dinosaurs. And tacos? Everyone loves dinosaurs! Equally dictated by tradition, the children tied up uncle Justin in ribbons after unwrapping their presents.

One advantage of “early Christmas” is that the kids have time to really enjoy the gifts they get from one side of the family before they get more. Spreading it out allows them to really appreciate them. Petra spent the whole week after we got back working on making crafts from cat hair (Katie got her a how-to book and lots of materials) and eating with light-saber chopsticks.

I almost forgot, we did attempt to get some group pictures. It…was…. not great (thanks largely to my kids…). It’s possible Katie got a few better ones. I’ve largely given up on these as a fool’s errand, but I will continue to be that fool.

I should say here that I had big ambitions for the holiday season! I was going to Do Things. Go to events (outdoors and masked)! Make crafts! This…did not happen.

The one outing we managed.

I did buy Petra the Christmas dress of her dreams, which was pretty exciting for all of us. It’s a throwback to the very sparkly red dress she had when she was tinier.

I managed to get the house all cleaned up and put out decorations, and we were just starting to work on the bird tree when we got a call from our contractor—the long-awaited Phase 1 of our kitchen rebuild was about to start! Like 15 hours after this phone call. Christmas week. Wow. Which was great, because I really wanted to get it done, but it was also complicated and exhausting. We didn’t end up getting any holiday baking done. We took the birdseed ornaments we had made for our bird tree and repurposed them into neighbor gifts. Whatever Christmas spirit I had been able to muster crumpled as the decorations were covered up by all the things we had to clear out of the kitchen.

OH AND ALSO we had two ash trees that we’ve been trying to get taken down since oh, July. We finally found a tree guy who could come do it…while the kitchen thing was going on. Madness! But I wasn’t going to suggest that they come another time.

My neighbor and his grandson came over to cut up the logs for their woodstoves. That felt like having a visit from Christmas elves, really. It’s been a lot of ups and downs this year.

Somehow, in the midst of all this madness, we managed to get everything organized to go to my mom’s for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We had a nice time with them. JC made a great spread for Jolabokaflud, we went to see Santa Claus come in on a horse-drawn sleigh, and we sent the kids on a crazy clue treasure hunt (inspired by Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library) to figure out what their Giant Family Gift was.

The clues:

The answers:

  1. Way Down Hadestown on Broadway
  2. Year of the Tiger, Chinatown, Big Apple
  3. Japanese cat cafe

I’m going to be so mad if Omicron screws up this trip! 🙁

The kids got some interesting gifts (Natalie sent Silas a plague doctor mask, which was a huge hit).

We went for a walk at the Museum of the Shenandoah and visited Granny’s grave. My big present this year for mom and my uncle was that I transcribed Granny’s teenage journals for them, so she’s been on my mind a lot this month.

Some years, my mom and stepdad come up with an over-the-top Christmas theme for the kids. This year, they decided to do that for them. The theme they chose: “Christmas bad guys.” We had Bad Guys Headbanz, with drawings by the kids. There were also “Gingerbread Evil Lairs.” We meant to do “Bad Guy Caroling” but forgot…

This whole season has been honestly kind of exhausting. This pandemic is dragging on and we’re all out of spoons. Every little thing, like the house stuff or things being too loud, or work getting intense, feels so much bigger than it should. Making the magic has felt like a whole lot of work.

Our church had an advent display. Someone stole our hope. It feels…undeniably apt.

But inside, we’ve started meeting again (masked, for now) and I helped our pastor frame some art. This one has been speaking to me, even in the midst of everything. It’s by Scott Erickson. I guess somebody likes a half-assed jingler.

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