posts tagged with 'christmas'

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


almost 12th

Outside of the song, the twelve days of Christmas don't loom particularly large in the public consciousness. As Americans we seem to prefer looking forward to things and then having them be over promptly; celebratory seasons are maybe not our thing. So it makes sense that purveyors of culture moved the counting to before the holiday itself, with 25 Days of Christmas culminating in the final, most important day of Christmas of them all: Christmas day! Then we can get rid of the trees on the 26th and move on to the next thing.

As an Episcopalian by upbringing I'm held to a sterner schedule. Sure, we count the days of December before Christmas, but that's only Advent, and it's there to hold off Christmas and build up the anticipation. No early Christmas songs—there are plenty of Advent tunes. And of course, Christmas decorations would be totally out of place before the 25th! With all that waiting we can't be done with Christmas in a day, which is where the twelve days come in. There's gotta be lots of time for partying, and for admiring the greenery you put up in a frenzy after dark on Christmas Eve (n.b.: we don't do that; our frenzy is reserved for finishing up gifts).

We actually did a fair amount of long Christmasing this year, what with our big party on the 28th and the extended vacation (thanks to New Years Day being on Thursday). But all good things must come to an end, and Leah asked the other day when we were taking the tree down (even though she says she doesn't really hate Christmas). The thing is, despite my English Church heritage, I'm never quite sure when twelfth night falls. But it's not my fault! It's just that it's hard to keep track of a season that nobody else is observing! Thankfully wikipedia was there to set me straight; but I vowed at dinner this evening that for next year we'd have a calendar—like an Advent calendar—to mark each of the days of Christmas. The boys want to keep track too, if only because they know they can't start eating their gingerbread houses until Christmas is over (I told you we're serious about this stuff!).

Checking the encyclopedia and counting the days three times on the calendar I was able to determine that tomorrow, in fact, is the twelfth day of Christmas, and we'll be taking the tree down accordingly. But as it happens I didn't really need either of those methods to tell me that the season is almost over, since I had a certainer, more ancient sign: I finished the home-made candy my mom gave me for Christmas. Goodbye Christmas for another year; Harvey is already counting down the days until next year's celebrations (that is, when he's not asking how long until we go camping).


a sad day

It's official: Leah hates Christmas. It was the cards that put her over the edge, the cards that, shamefully, we still haven't managed to send out. They're printed and in our possession now, but the prospect of another late night writing and addressing all of them was too much. And understandably: late nights have been pretty much the rule rather than the exception around here, and we were more than ready to be done by Christmas itself. Especially since even once we do get to bed there's no guarantee of uninterrupted sleep—far from it!

I don't hate Christmas, though, and if you ask me the cards will be worth the wait. I won't say they're our best ever—in past years we've set a pretty high bar—but they are certainly very cute and feature a record-high level of naked baby. I'll post the images here once all the paper versions are safely sent out; if you want a hard copy yourself let us know and we'll add you to the list. And I'll do the writing and addressing.


Christmas report... December report

Lijah playing with presents in front of the Christmas tree

Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah! Joyous Solstice! Um, what else did we miss? Yes, December was a whirlwind of adventure at our house, what with holiday preparations for work and home, work excitement and busyness, and various illnesses and the associated marital discord. Also generally having a 9-month-old and two other kids (note that, while the photo above was taken on Christmas Eve, it was the morning of Christmas Eve: still dark when Lijah had us out of bed to play with him). But we made it! And Christmas Day was wonderfully relaxing at the Lexington Archibalds.

all three boys playing with Grandpa and their Christmas toys

boys and new toys

The boys were delighted with their new toys, and even more delighted to play with Grandma and Grandpa after weeks of being ignored by their parents. Said parents were delighted to eat and eat my mom's food, lie around, and try not to fall asleep, following a night where we got maybe five hours of sleep. Leah actually did take a nap for a bit, and I totally support her in that choice.

Elijah resting his chin on a present

taking a break from trying to open it

We've never had an old baby at Christmastime before; Harvey was six months and Zion seven, and neither of them moving around very much for their first Christmas. Lijah at nine-and-a-half is delightfully mobile, and even if he isn't old enough to really get into the Christmas spirit he's good at getting into things generally, so close enough. Both older boys got new Legos he had to be kept away from, but there was plenty of room and lots of boxes and wrapping paper to occupy him—and some toys of his own too, I suppose—so he didn't mind too much. All three of them consented to being dragged away from their amusements for a while to be photographed, and they even smiled some, thanks to some expert clowning behind the photographer; we need to get Grandpa to help with all our photo-shoots!

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

sweater brothers

Besides generally cuteness, the purpose of the Christmas photo-shoot is to show off the new sweaters, Leah's principle creation of the season. I can't come up with anything to top that, but besides the usual jam and candy I made a toy musket for Zion and a tool box for Harvey, as well as a moderate collection of new ornaments. Gift-giving was reasonably moderate this year, which was fine.

Then yesterday we threw a party for 50+ people; getting ready for that meant that the 26th and 27th of December were, again, far from relaxing. But all went well, and now we are officially on vacation! Nothing to do until... the day after tomorrow, when we need to clean the house again to host folks for New Years Day. Hooray for December!


twelfth night

Christmas is over.; we took down the tree this evening. I wasn't sure it was going to make it, given its shaky beginnings, and another near fall Friday evening had us planning to be done with it Saturday. But circumstances did not permit, so we ended up going the official twelve days after all. And despite being a little crooked, it looked great up until the end.

Taking everything off was a little sad; when Zion came in after I had removed the lights he said, "hey! the tree is off! Turn it back on!". We really enjoy Christmas in this house, as you may have noticed. But even endings have their happy benefits: for example, the boys were delighted to get to eat the popcorn garland they made from stale popcorn not quite a month ago (they were kind enough to save some to put out for the birds). More usefully for the rest of us, the room the tree lived in—which is now, as of about a year ago, called the playroom—now seems wonderfully spacious.

Not everything of the tree is gone. We cleaned up many of the fallen needles, but maybe 2,000 or so are still around until our next pass with the vacuum (Harvey and Zion did most of the vacuuming this evening, which was nice). But there's enough lack of tree to get us thinking about the next big festival event. What'll that be, I wonder. A new baby?


Christmas making 2013, part 2

a grown-up doll for my grown-up niece

My Waldorf doll technique is improving, as demonstrated by this doll I made for my niece, complete with a cute little button nose. Dan says all the dolls I make in the future should have cute button noses. I also seem to be getting a bit faster sewing on the hair. All this bodes well for any girls who might invite us to birthday parties in the future. Unless it's a baby's party, in which case I might have to make blocks.

Yes that's a full bag of feed in the background. For ambiance and also because we didn't put it in the basement yet.

These blocks are part of an ongoing investigation of mine titled: What Can I Make from Chicken Feed Bags? So far it's just been bibs, tote bags, and now blocks, but I have some more ideas if I get really creative in the new year. Meanwhile, these blocks were super fun to make, because I got to use the serger on plastic which makes a VERY. LOUD. SOUND. If you have feed bags of your own (or vinyl from another source) here are the instructions: cut 6 equal size squares, serge all the edges, sew it on the regular machine in the shape of a block. Leave one side open, stuff with stuffing, sew up the last side. I know, right? Rocket science.

fun to stack and to topple

Last but not least (especially not least in terms of time spent) were the hand woven dish towels.

better than regular rags

These were supposed to be my crowning glory this Christmas, but I'm not totally in love with the way they turned out. Because I tried to make them as thick as possible, and because I'm limited by the number of heddles on my loom, each dish towel turned out a bit narrower than standard dish towel size. Also the cotton shrunk a bit in the wash, so the length now leaves something to be desired as well. Still Dan assures me they are the loveliest hand woven dish towels he's ever seen, and I have more cotton to string the loom again. Just as soon as I get new years cleaning out of the way.

There is a part of me that is glad Christmas is over for another year. I have a list of things I was putting off until after Christmas, (switch health insurance plan, clean laundry room, sort and wash the baby clothes) and now I can use my free moments to tackle these life-organization projects head-on. Not that I like de-cluttering any better than I like making things, it's just that TOO MUCH making things swings the pendulum in one direction and awakens the cleaning monster within. And now that the beast is fully awakened I cannot imagine crafting one more thing until the house is perfectly livable again, down to a freshly sorted drawer of newborn onesies. Sorted onesies, stacked tupperware, and then maybe we can get to weaving again. It's going to be a busy January.


Christmas making 2013

Here are the presents I made for Christmas this year, in reverse order of completion:

Zion's PowPow with his stocking and teddy

Zion's PowPow with his stocking and teddy

This is one of the PowPow teddies I made on Christmas Eve. Zion and Harvey helped me make the little stockings sometime during Advent, but it was only the day before that it sunk in I might have to make something to put IN the stockings. I used this online pattern for the teddies. Even I am not dumb enough to free-hand a softie pattern the day before Christmas.

Harvey said on Christmas morning: "Who made this little teddy? You did? I love him!" Of course, now his is lost...

Then there was the play house I made TWO DAYS before Christmas:

a shot of the play tent from the outside

a shot of the play tent from the outside

I made this felt house to fit over my desk, which the kids were playing under anyway. First, they pushed the chair away from the desk so often that I donated the chair because I was tired of seeing it in the middle of the room. Then they started playing house under there, asking me to take the covering off the couch and tuck it in on all sides. This irritated me, because I like the covering on the couch where it can catch Rascal hair. So I designed this custom-fitting play house desk cover as a solution.

close-up of the working mailbox

close-up of the working mailbox

The mailbox fits a regular sized letter, which Harvey discovered immediately. The fence can also hold a stuffed animal prisoner, but they haven't figured that out yet and I want to see if they come up with it on their own.

The flaps behind the windows were Dan's idea. I had a mind to make curtains, but Dan said they would be too hard to open and close. The boys would mostly want them closed anyway, with the ability to peak out quickly to check for intruders. So flaps sewn at the top was the best solution, plus they were far easier to sew than curtains. The whole house was easy to sew, in fact. I cut everything freehand without measuring and I finished the whole project within a 24-hour period, a personal record made possible by two hours of work before the kids woke up and two hours after they went to sleep. Plus it only cost me $10 in brown felt (the colors were left over from other projects.)

Here's a peak into their house from the side window. They requested not one but TWO inside lights.

inside the playhouse

inside their lair

You can see Zion brought in a blanket and a pillow. He likes to be cozy.

Of course, after the house has been up for a few days and I see how much the boys are playing in there, I realize this might mean the permanent loss off my desk for desk purposes. Already I'm typing this blog post from my bedroom, and I've moved my charger and camera cords up here. Sigh. If I realized I was ceding ground, I might not have had so much fun making this thing.

Four days before Christmas I sewed up the last ends of their bunny sweaters.

both boys in their christmas sweaters by Grandma's tree

This is the first time I've tried a knitting project with the intarsia color-blocking technique. It was not at all difficult, either to figure out or to accomplish, but all the same it's not my favorite technique because it means you have to knit a sweater back and forth over knit and purl instead of just knitting in the round. But it is the way to get a giant bunny onto a sweater, and Harvey like his so much that he wore it for two days straight and slept in it in between. (Zion took his off after an hour because he hates sweaters.)

Now for a color-work technique I like, here are some fair isles hats I finished at least a week before Christmas.

harvey, zion, and dan in their new hats

three frozen peas in a pod.

Harvey had asked for a hat to match his Dada's, and then Zion asked for a hat to match Harvey's. Here they all are playing kick the snowball down the street. The hats are made from Drumlin Farm undyled wool, and the pattern is made up out of my head.

ready for an expedition

ready to go out in the cold

Here the boys are ready to go out on an expedition in their new hats and new backpacks (not a homemade gift but packed with awesome factory-features, including a built-in whistle!) The backpack is a good example of something that's good to buy from a store. Look how well PowPow peaks out of the mesh pocket.

harvey with powpow in his backpack

peaking out from behind

I made some more things but I see now that I'll have to split this blog post into two parts to save on reading fatigue. So that's all the exhaustion inspiration you get for now. Next up will be: hand woven dish towels, waldorf doll, and baby blocks.


christmas magic

For the past few days Harvey has been really excited about Christmas. REALLY. EXCITED. So excited that on Christmas Eve we could barely contain his excitement within our house, and I offered to take him to an indoor playground to run around, but he said No, he would prefer to run around the house, and just wait... for... christmas... to come.

In the evening when we got back from church Harvey helped Dan lay out the stockings on the couch. I reminded them to put out PowPow's stocking, since we had gone to the trouble of making it and all. (Never mind that I hadn't finished the presents for the PowPow stockings. Really, how long could two tiny teddy bears take?)

Harvey looked a little worried and confessed "I forgot to make a present for PowPow."

"Maybe the stocking will get filled magically," Dan said.

Harvey furrowed his brow and considered this statement. "I don't think magic is in our world," he said finally.

Later when I put Harvey to bed he repeated the story. "Dada says PowPow's stocking will be filled by magic."

"If you put out a stocking," I told him, "It will get filled."

"How?" he asked.

"Mama and Dada fill it. Mama and Dada make sure there are presents in every stocking."

"Oh." Harvey exhaled deeply and looked relieved.

Perhaps my explanation isn't festive enough — indeed some might accuse me of stealing all the magic away from Christmas. But I never grew up with Christmas traditions, so I don't have fond memories of fabricated gift origin stories. My current approach to Christmas is wonder within the context of reality. I don't know if the thought of magic elves in my living room after dark would make me feel more excited about the world, or more safe in it for that matter. Mama and Dada staying up till 11pm to make sure everyone has enough presents in their stocking? At least that's an explanation that lets my children know they're loved. Plus it's the truth. A truth, at least for me, that still feels alive with magic.

At least for me, homemade Christmas at our house was magical.

zion playing with a wooden chicken puzzle Dan made for him for Christmas

harvey hugging his new knitted sweater

the first time one of my children successfully wrote my name on a gift tag. Swoon.

The kids peeping out from their new play tent, which we had to coax them out of to open other presents

zion playing with his gingerbread action figure

I feel like we finally right-sized Christmas at home this year. We spent precious little on store-bought gifts: the boys got two books and a game, Dan got a new pair of Carharts and a calendar, and I got a thread organizer and thimble. The rest of our gifts were handmade. I made the boys some presents they were expecting (knit hats and sweaters) and some they weren't (a giant play house, and tiny teddy bears for their PowPow stockings.) Dan made some things that they had asked for (pickles, marshmallows) and some things that were completely surprising (wooden action figures with removable swords, shields, and standards.) Harvey made me a framed picture of himself and Dan made me a picture frame ornament, both of which made me cry. I made Dan a hat that I gave to him two months ago, because he needed it then, and some hand woven dish towels because we need more dish towels.

Some will read this and think that yes, I do not understand Christmas magic.

But as I was walking the dog this morning I passed a street called Colonial Ct, and I had this flash of an idea, a feeling of connection with our colonial ancestors who wove and knitted and whittled and baked up until Christmas day to bless their families and fulfill the desires of their hearts through the work of their own hands. It was a really lovely thought.

Of course, maybe our colonial ancestors would have killed for Amazon Prime. I am not an objective judge.

I do not get to control Christmas for my children any more than I control the rest of their lives. Their grandparents shower them with other gifts, and my version of Christmas is merely that, a version among many that they get to experience. In the same way, my ideal world is just an opinion. In the end they each get to choose how much magic they want, and where it comes from.

both boys in their christmas sweaters by Grandma's tree


Christmas day snapshots

Harvey and Zion by our tree playing with their presents; Harvey looking excited

Christmas morning joy

We did presents and breakfast at home, then went to Grandma and Grandpa's for more of both.

Zion playing with new duplos

immediately captivating

There was also much other eating, and cousins playing, and some sleeping (only by the mamas) and pacing nervously (that was Rascal). All in all a good time.

Harvey on Grandpa's lap with a puppet

Grandpa entertains endlessly

Thanks Grandma and Grandpa for having us over!