Monday, December 19, 2011

the sweet spot

I had grand intentions of posting about our Advent activities more frequently this month, but that's been buried on my never-ending to-do list. For the last 6 weeks or so I've averaged about 90 minutes of TV per week and that's come in the form of 10 minute snippets of football here and there. (I have Grey's episodes from OCTOBER saved on DVR. I dream of an afternoon where the kids are at grandma's and I can be a lazy couch potato and catch up on my shows...) I've wanted to write about how J and I both signed up to run the Lincoln half marathon on May 6th (we're taking applications for cheerleaders...) (and omg a half MARATHON? The longest race I've ever run is a 3k, which I'm already running and I've only been training for a week). More on that later.

Saying this month has been busy would be a huge understatement. It's been insane. Yet, through all the busyness and rush rush, I feel like I've really truly enjoyed each day. Seeing Christmas through the eyes of a two and a half year old is pure magic. His joy makes every ounce of stress worthwhile.

2012 is 12 days away and while it's always refreshing to flip the calendar page to get a fresh start and a clean slate, I'm feeling a bit nostalgic about this particular Christmas. This is the year that Bubba really *got* Christmas. He knows fully that it's baby Jesus' birthday. He knows that it's about family and togetherness and love. And he CANNOT WAIT to see all of his grandmas and grandpas, he talks about it several times a day. He wakes up every morning to find Oliver the elf (nevermind the 48 hours this past weekend when we seem to have, um, lost Oliver). He's thrilled for Santa to come.

By that same token, this is the last year that Jbug will be completely oblivious to Christmas. Next year he will be 18 months and into everything I'm sure. It's the last year that I can shop for his presents with him in the cart, and I can wrap them while he plays contentedly beside me. He has no idea what's going on and it's precious.

People ask me how the boys are all the time (note: the phrase "the boys" takes my breath away, still) and I usually say "they're great, growing like weeds", and if that person probes a bit further I will tell them we're in a sweet spot right now. The boys are happy, healthy, growing, they really are enamored with each other, and I mean that truly. B doesn't have a jealous bone in his body, and j just thinks B hung the moon.

When j was born our lives were turned upside down while we struggled to find our new normal as a family. We worked very hard to keep B's life the same though, and for the most part he's thankfully just bobbed along through life the same as he did before j joined us. B interacts with his little brother frequently, but he's also a very independent toddler who isn't afraid to ask us for what he wants. This may sound a bit bizarre, but to some extent, it's almost like my mind has the boys and their needs completely separate - at the moment they're more different than they are alike. But, I also hold that dear - they rely on me for completely separate things and I can get their undivided attention because they don't want what the other has (yet).

The time will come when they're fighting over the eleventy million Hot Wheels cars in our possession, or they both want fruit snack at the exact same time and omg-boys-can-mom-please-just-go-to-the-bathroom-alone-just-this-once? I hope they're best friends. I hope they still think mom and dad are the coolest people in their lives (ha!). But I don't know how that will all work out.

What I do know is that this Christmas is the only one of its kind and I'm going to enjoy every single moment. We're in a sweet spot and I want it to last as long as possible.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Jesus, Santa, and an Elf Named Oliver

Christmas as parents is so very different than Christmas before these two little dudes came along. Before, we could be selfish - buy ourselves gifts, celebrate when and how we wanted, all while knowing that Christmas was about more than just candy canes and Rudolph (but never really needing to explain that to anyone). However, now that we're parents, Christmas seems to come with a Huge Responsibility. We want the boys to know that we celebrate Christmas because it's Jesus' birthday, and we want them to experience the spirit of love and magic that the holiday season brings with it.

Bubba is really getting into Christmas this year, and we've definitely had to slow down the presents!presents!presents! talk more than once to remind him why we celebrate Christmas, and to reinforce that if he gets a gift it's because that person loves him, and we also give gifts to show our love for others.

I know that some families don't "do" Santa for a variety of reasons (and that's a-ok with me!), but we do and B is very excited about Santa visiting. He's asking for "a bike and Scooby Doo". (Which is bizarre because we don't recall ever watching Scooby Doo with him, so I have no idea where this came from, but anyway.) We're trying not to make Santa a BIG DEAL so they won't be terribly disappointed when they find out that Santa lives under their roof, not at the North Pole. And we're trying to avoid the "Santa is waaaatching" thing, because kid, you need to listen to me on April 12 just as much as you need to on December 12. We may take him to see Santa this year, maybe not. He's so shy I seriously doubt he would even approach Santa, let alone sit on his lap. For the most part, I think we're treating the "Santa thing" similar to the tradition that Joey and I both grew up with: he shows up on Christmas Eve, takes a bite of your cookie, leaves a gift, and we all go on with life.

I've seen the "Elf on the Shelf" thing popping up around the Internet the last few Christmases and this year decided we needed to test drive this tradition too. So I got the cutest elf that I could find: Christopher Pop-In-Kins. He's been a smashing success so far, B adores him. He's named him Oliver. Again, we haven't said anything about B needing to "be good because the elf is watching" (because whoa, creepy) but Oliver does get into some mischief overnight and always is hiding in a funny place when B wakes in the morning. Yesterday when B woke up I said, "hey, where's Oliver? You should go look for him!". B: "He flied away, back to Santa." (complete with arm flapping motion). The cuteness in that alone was worth the $20. :) We forgot to hide him last night (oops) and B found him on the couch this morning and proclaimed "MOM! Oliver (prounounced all-duh-ber if you're 2 1/2) was silwy last night! He was jumpin' on the couch!"

I wanted to try one more tradition this year - the Advent calendar. Growing up, we sometimes had the chocolate Advent calendars, those were fantastic. After talking about it with Joey, we want to make sure we're experiencing Christmas, rather than just talking about it. I remember wayyy back to Sunday School at church, we always had an Advent activity this time of year. I remember specifically hearing that Advent was the season of "preparing our hearts for Jesus' birth" - and while the elf and Santa thing are fun side distractions, I didn't want to lose Jesus in all of the elf mischief. So we came up with one thing to make/read/do every day from now until the 24th. To our family, it's really about squeezing every last bit of Christmas joy out of the next 25 days - this month always goes SO fast and I want to cherish it.

This is our Advent list, big stuff and little stuff mixed together. I had to take into account our schedules and how much we could do that day, etc. etc.

1) talk about Advent and the calendar + read a book
2) read a Christmas book
3) watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
4) B's Christmas program
5) make ornaments
6) B's Christmas program (yes, we have 2 (!))
7) Christmas devotional
8) make Christmas cards
9) pick out someone from the giving tree and buy a gift
10) visit Santa (hopefully)
11) bake Christmas cookies
12) deliver cookies
13) make hot chocolate & read a Christmas book
14) Christmas devotional
15) visit Living Nativity
16) do a Christmas coloring page
17) make teacher gifts
18) watch Santa Claus is Comin' to Town
19) unwrap a new book
20) drive to look at lights
21) Christmas devotional
22) "open" our stockings
23) watch a Christmassy - movie? (any suggestions? or it's going to be Thomas the Train Saves Christmas, HALP!)
24) Read Twas the Night Before Christmas

I don't think we're ever going to "do" this Christmas thing perfectly. So far B vacillates between admiring the month-old Toys R Us catalog for the 423rd time and climbing up on the piano bench so he can stare at the nativity set once more ("I was borned just like Jesus was, mommy!" quoth he.)

What are your holiday traditions? What are your favorite Advent activities? Where should we hide Oliver next?