posts tagged with 'christmas'

I guess we can do this tree thing

We get our Christmas trees at Chip-In Farm, where we also get our supplementary eggs and other assorted grocery items. It's on the way back from Concord, so after our outing on Thursday we stopped by to look at Christmas trees. It's still early, if you ask me, but I was under some pressure from other members of the family; don't say I never listen to their needs!

Harvey face in the be-a-tree cutout, Zion smiling just in front

the best at Chip-In Farm

Trees at Chip-In might be a little more expensive than, say, Home Depot, but I'm happy to support the neighborhood farmers. And they do get good trees. Look at these delightful specimens:

three boys pretending to be Christmas trees

the cutest trees there

That was Tuesday; Leah and I got the tree up Wednesday night, and I told the boys Thursday morning that we could decorate it that evening if they were good. They were, or good enough, but then we couldn't find the lights. I think I used them all decorating the porch—all the ones that still work, that is. So this morning we went out and got some more, and before and after lunch we finally got the job done.

the boys decorating the tree

happy elfing

Harvey and Zion are both real helpers this year; aside from the lights, I barely did any of the decorating. Even Lijah wasn't any more destructive than constructive: he only broke one ornament, and was about even in how many he put on the tree versus the number he removed. I think it looks fine!

the decorated tree

here it is


Christmas day report

We had a low-energy Christmas prep season this year, but we were still all of us delighted to make it to Christmas day. And there were some presents.

the stockings filled up and lying on the couch

hung on the couch with care

The boys and I were out until 9:30 at church Christmas Eve, so it was a slow morning for Zion (the only one of us capable of staying asleep as long as he needs to in the morning). Rascal knocked over his stocking to get at the bone within at around 6, but the rest of us managed to wait for Zion before we opened up our stockings. Then, with breakfast awaiting us and Grandma and Grandpa's, it was straight on to the presents under the tree.

Harvey opening a present, Zion watching

opening in situ: it's too heavy to move

I made a sword for Lijah and a new, bigger and better musket for Zion; that present Harvey is opening above is a wooden treasure chest that I fixed and filled with Legos from the attic (Harvey's dream is to bring them all down one day). Leah got a box to hold spices in the cabinet, and a promise of more; she sewed me a CD holder for the car. But the best presents were the ones Harvey and Zion gave Mama.

baby Harvey and Zion smiling from the frames the big boys decorated

baby boys

We got $1 frames at the craft store which they decorated with paint and mod-podge, but the real value of the gift came from the care the boys took in picking out the photos. Harvey had the idea of doing a baby picture, but seeing himself as a baby thought he looked too nondescript, so he upgraded to the one-year-old version. Zion wanted one of himself as a one-year-old camping in Maine. We looked through a lot of pictures together.

Besides the home-made presents and old legos there were also some new lego sets. The boys put them together while snacking on gingerbread and pickles.

Harvey and zion building legos at the kitchen table

right to work

Then it was on to Lexington, where the ceilings are higher and the tree bigger. I asked Harvey and Zion to sit in front of the tree for a picture; Lijah heard me and joined in.

the three boys sitting in front of grandma and grandpa's tree

Christmas central

He's totally old enough to know what's going on this year, and he was enthusiastic about opening presents (and then about opening packaging and so on, until he had everything reduced to its component parts).

Lijah delightedly opening a present, Mama and Zion helping


The bigger boys enjoyed getting gifts too, but Harvey especially was also excited about the giving side of things. He had an instant vision for Grandpa's present when I first asked him about it a couple weeks ago: he wanted to illustrate a summer day. So he did, and he was justifiably proud of the result.

Harvey and Zion watching Grandpa examining the drawing Harvey made him

eager giver

Besides the beautiful tree and abundant delicious food (which it would have been crass to photograph, and besides I was busy eating) my parents' house is also wonderfully suited to Christmas observances because they have a fireplace. Lijah helped tend the fire.

Lijah prodding the fire with a poker

fire boy

I must also note that Grandma and Grandpa entertained the boys wonderfully: Leah and I took a long walk together, just the two of us (well, with Rascal) which was a pretty nice present on its own!

After a long day of celebrating everybody was pretty tired, but when Grandpa started playing the Nutcracker on the piano Lijah still had enough energy to dance.

Grandpa playing the piano, Lijah dancing along

my sugar plum

A great end to a delightful Christmas day!


this moment

Lijah silhouetted against the Christmas tree lights and dawn breaking through the window.

early Christmas morning

A moment from the week.

oh, Christmas tree...

Our Christmas tree has it rough. The bigger boys did a great job decorating it, but even they—to say nothing of Lijah—can hardly resist playing with the more interesting ornaments. So those move around; and then there's all the ones they knock down sword fighting, hiding under the tree, or just walking past on the way out the side door. So our display of ornaments is far from static.

the Christmas tree lit up before sunrise

what it looked like yesterday morning (it changes)

And while we can just put the ornaments back up—again and again—the same can't be said for the needles. At just a week out of the store, the tree is starting to look distinctly mangy around its bottom portions; there are twigs with not a single needle the last inch or two of their length. It gets plenty of water, and it's still soaking it up nicely, it just can't stand the abuse—the loving, adoring, abuse.

Of course, it was a very nice tree to start out with, and from a distance it's still perfectly beautiful. And even up close, the damage just gives it personality. It's like a well-loved stuffed animal with fur missing in a few spots. Its appeal may have been starting to wear off after a week, but today we restored it completely by starting to put presents out under it. Zion could hardly bear to stay at the table to finish his snack this afternoon. "I'm gonna go shake my presents some more!" he called over his shoulder as he ran off.

So the tree, it suffers, but it suffers for love. It only needs to hold on 15 more days... I think we're going to make it.


bed humbugs

I find myself, this year, not so into doing Christmas. Most years I am the epitome of a Christmas elf. I stay up late every night knitting sweaters for my children and boiling moisturizing concoctions for all the ladies I know. I patiently roll out cookie dough with my children, and don't scream at them when the put a sigle cookie cutter RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of the space, then pull the rest of the dough away in clumps to extract that one, tiny, lumpy star. I go to church and stand up front and scream with all my might, "OH COME OH COME EMANUEL!!!"

This year, whatevs.

I am depressed from sleep deprivation that has long ago passed the "stage" mark and gone into constant chronic immune system suppression. I started a new job and have not yet figured out how to schedule both motherhood and "work." Every time I look at my phone I am reminded that the world is a terrible place, where these concerns of mine are not so much a drop in the bucket, where the net volume of human woe is so so deep, and to many people this year Christmas will arrive and pass and it will not seem at all like Emanuel has come.

I have lost my Christmas hopefulness. Christmases have come and past and Jesus keeps being born and life does not get much easier.

What do you do when you feel this way? When all you want for Christmas is a nap? All advice welcome, practical, spiritual, or jokes.


starting to feel like Christmas

With out business and the warm weather it hasn't felt much like Christmas, and no one feels the lack more than Harvey. So he was delighted yesterday morning when I promised him a Christmas-y afternoon after we got home from church. Our Christmas card photoshoot led off the schedule, and then it was time for the main event: finally getting our Christmas tree. Off we went to Chip-In Farm.

Harvey and Zion running towards the farm store in the dusk


Our delay wasn't laziness or business, but tradition: we're old fashioned and don't want to front-load the Christmas season too much. But everybody else does, so when we pulled into the farm we saw there were only six trees left, and when we inquired we heard that they didn't plan to get any more. With only a single tree in our price range, our selection was easy! We asked them to take a foot off the bottom so it would fit in our house, then watched with delight as it was loaded onto the car.

the boys watching the tree being tied onto the car

almost ready to bring home

Once home we had to set it up right away—quietly, since Leah and Lijah were sick in bed. Both boys were great helpers in all phases of the project. Their extreme eagerness to get to the ornaments lent them energy for other, preparatory work, and they were appropriately delighted when the time came for their reward.

Harvey and Zion putting ornaments on the tree, illuminated by the lights

good elves

As we decorated we talked over the origins of the ornaments; a goodly number of them are handmade in living memory of Harvey, at least. Harvey was thrilled the whole time: "Now it's really starting to feel like Christmas," he said about halfway through. But my favorite moment came when Zion spotted a tapered red glass bauble. "Look," he cried, "a blood icicle! A bloodcicle!"

The morning it felt like Christmas morning as the boys came downstairs, full of delight and ready to hang out with the tree. After I left for work they made a little home beneath it and even even asked if they could sleep there. We said yes; even though they decided not to in the end it demonstrates the depths of their affection.

Harvey in PJs relaxing on the floor by the tree

the place to be

Now all we need are some presents to go under it!


the trees are lit

the crowd around the illuminated trees on the common

joyous all together

To redeem myself from my failure earlier in the day, Saturday evening I walked the boys up to the center of town to take in the tree-lighting festivities. There was a lot of advertising leading up to the event, which may have resulted in larger-than-usual crowds; I don't know, since I'd never been before. It was certainly joyfully well-attended!

In all that dark throng I was a little nervous about losing one of the boys as we waited for the lights to come on, but we managed to stay together; huddling on the church steps (huddling against the crowds, not the weather—it was quite warm) we sipped free hot chocolate and listened to snatches of music coming through the very insufficient sound system. At some point Citizen-of-the-Year Peter Grey must have arrived to push the button, since without warning all the trees were illuminated. I think everyone was surprised, but cheerfully so!

Moments later Santa pulled up riding a fire truck, and spotting him early we were able to position ourselves perfectly for an up-close look as he disembarked. Even better, as the crowd streamed away after him we were able to enjoy an even closer look at the fire truck, which frankly had more appeal to the boys than a guy in a red suit. (We didn't yet know that his elves—surprisingly tall elves—were giving out candy-canes.)

Santa on the back of a fire truck, red lights illuminating the scene

here he comes!

Somehow we managed to run across some friends, and together we explored a few of the local businesses that were opened for the festivities. Suzanne and Co. had a man in a Frosty the Snowman suit (which captivated and terrified Lijah in equal measure) and a lovely bubble-snow machine (since when do we need simulated snow in New England?!); the Old Town Hall offered chili from the new restaurant in town and balloons and worksheets from the tutoring place. There were other vendors there too, but all boring stuff, and the boys and I agreed that it was a pretty poor show. At least there was room to run around and play with their balloons; and after a little while a quartet arrived and started to sing in the stairwell.

the boys sitting on steps listening to a quartet and playing with balloons

music can happen anywhere!

Maybe a strange spot, but the acoustics were lovely and we very much enjoyed several Christmas tunes with not a syllable of English between them.

True happiness escaped us, however—escaped Zion especially—because many other people had candy-canes and we did not. I told the boys that candy-canes are plentiful this time of year, but they wouldn't be satisfied with anything but a candy-cane right then, from Santa. Julen had one. Then as we were crossing back to the common we saw him: nearly all alone in the darkness, accompanied only by his elves and a man with a dog. After the dog got his picture taken on Santa's lap it was our turn, and I'm sure the peppermint was all the sweeter for the wait.

Of course the boys didn't want anything at all to do with Santa once they had their candy, but Julen is made of sterner stuff and actually sat on the bearded one's lap. Unfortunately, it was quite dark, and I wasn't prepared, so the photo I took... isn't really that good.

Julen sitting on Santa's lap... in the very dark

you can just make out his white beard

But we were there! We did the thing. And back home, as Leah was going to bed, Lijah needed to spend quite a while telling Mama about his experiences. "Santa? Santa? Snowman?" It was pretty intense for the little guy.

The lights look very nice; we admired them again this evening. It's definitely starting to feel Christmas-y around here... maybe I should start thinking about what I'm going to do for presents?



We go to a pretty non-liturgical church, but the appeal of seasonality in faith is pretty hard to resist, and after several good years with Lent-like observations before Easter we're dipping our toes into Advent-analogues. It's great!

poinsettias in front of the Advent wreath

signs of the season

Advent is an awesome thing to do at home with your kids, because who doesn't like counting down to Christmas?! It doesn't have to be complicated: you can slip all sorts of spiritual content in there without the kids thinking it's too heavy. Our Advent calendar is just a (totally amazing) felt-board Bible story, and the kids are thrilled every morning to pull out a piece and hear the story—even without chocolate!

It's nice at church too (even if we can't do the really good Advent hymns...). This year Leah is upping the excitement level by running a "Pop-Up Cafe" to serve coffee drinks and homemade baked goods. Harvey was proudly involved in all aspects of the first day of operation, from planning to counting the money. Lijah... didn't really help.

from behind: Leah serving the cafe crowd with Lijah and Harvey to either side

dealing the treats

I plan to make a pecan pie for this Sunday.

Of course, being a non-liturgical church we don't really get the whole point of Advent. In the marketing material our "Light in the Darkness" Sundays are referred to as "the Christmas season", and there's no way we can resist societal pressure to decorate early. Not to say it's not pretty!

the Christmas tree at church

well, close enough

We're holding out against the pressure here at home, despite frequent expressions of curiosity from the boys about the timing of our procuring a tree. All their friends' trees are already up! When their complaints get too desperate we'll distract them with the Advent calendar... only four more days until they get to take out the owl!


photographic evidence of the destruction

Harvey and Zion eating roof panels off their gingerbread houses

nibble nibble little mice

Yes, we ate the gingerbread houses yesterday. I though I was going to refrain, but I couldn't resist either. We won't eat any more desert for a couple weeks—not least because Harvey (totally coincidentally!) now has a large painful cavity.

I must say, before I smashed it up my house looked quite elegant, as well as tasty...

Dan's gingerbread house (with the boys' in the background)

last view


christmas sweaters

It's the twelfth day of Christmas today, which we celebrated in our house by taking down our Christmas tree and demolishing our gingerbread houses. It's the gingerbread houses that had the boys asking for several days now, "When is Christmas going to be over???!!!" The potential consumption of store-bought candy glued to a stale cookie with dry sugar paste has been a very compelling topic of conversation. In the event, however, the process turned out to be more staid than I'd imagined. You can't really shove your face at a house made of candy. You have to carefully chose an angle and wedge a butter knife up in there. Maybe after a minute you get something off that's worth putting in your mouth. "Worth putting in your mouth" being subjective to age and gender. I personally feel that no part of a gingerbread house is worth putting in my mouth, but my family feels the same way about my paleo flax seed bread, so....

Before we put this season of excess behind us, there's one more thing I have to record here. The excess knitting I did for this year's presents. I give you the Christmas sweaters.

the three boys--Harvey holding Lijah--posing in their new sweaters on Grandpa's front steps

sweater brothers

When I took their sweater requests back in October Harvey said he wanted a sweater to make him look like TinTin. Zion jumped on the idea and wanted one to turn him into Snowy, Tintin's dog. They chose the colors online (Cascade 220 superwash) and I tried to find sweater styles that might best match the shape of the cartoon characters. Harvey and Zion for their part could not possibly care whether I knit a raglan or a fisherman's pullover, but they were very specific about the finishing details. Whenever I held up a half-knit sweater for sizing they reminded me that Tintin's sweater needs a collar, and Snowy's needs ears.

Harvey and Zion posing in character in their Tintin and Snowy sweaters

good dog Snowy

Which, ahem, I finished attaching to the sweaters on Christmas morning. At 1am. This was not a good year for handmaking for me. I spent most of December holding a sick baby instead of knitting, and when I freaked out that I probobly wouldn't have time to make the poor little guy anything new Dan reasoned with me: "He doesn't care from sweaters, what he wants for Christmas is to be held."

Leah and the three boys sitting on a bridge rail, all in home-made sweaters

generations of sweaters

Which is why I wrapped up two hand-me-down sweaters for Elijah his first Christmas. Though it makes me cringe at the failure, he needed love this year in a way that wasn't sweaters. There will be many years in the future to make him new sweaters. Once he doesn't need held so much, once he figures out where he fits in the Herge universe. Captain Haddock has a lovely pullover, for instance, but the boatman's hat would have to be purchased.

Meanwhile, the older adventurers gratefully take their costumes and walk away with my heart.

Harvey and Zion walking along a path away from the camera

warm for the walk