|Christmas tree 2010|
Yes, it's almost Christmas and while we will most likely not celebrate with a roast goose, we are observing other time-honored traditions of the season. This is what's happening in our happy holiday home:
Christmas Tree Shopping
I remember Christmases past when the kids would eagerly count down the days until this event and would brave any amount of cold stoically in search of the perfect tree. However, we now have 4 teenagers in the house so family traditions have become significantly less cool. This year, I had to forcibly pry video game controllers out the hands of our boys and threaten one of our girls with the loss of her cell phone to get our happy little band in the car. (I growled through gritted teeth, "We are a family and we're picking a tree together. We will be pleasant and we will have fun...or else." and I intoned my oft-repeated mantra, "Videogames aren't as important as family." Being smart kids, they decided Mom wasn't to be denied on this one.) Once we got to the lot, the boys amused themselves playing tag between the trees to Mom's rendition of "If you damage anything, it'll come out of your allowance!!" The sulky girl stomped around texting her friends with an in-depth description of how bored she was and how lame Christmas tree shopping was. We had one child who was in the holiday spirit and she flitted from tree to tree like a manic elf, offering a critique of each specimen Dad held up. We finally settled on a 7 ft. Douglas fir, got it paid for and loaded in the truck and back to the house in about 30 minutes flat. Fifteen seconds later, our darling children had returned to their mind-rotting pursuits. I checked Buy Christmas tree off my list of holiday family bonding activities and vowed to do better at lightening up for the rest of the holiday season.
While the cherubs were at school, I unpacked our house decorations and decked our halls with garlands and wreaths and nutcrackers. I even hummed Christmas carols and sipped holiday tea. Our greyhounds were good company as they followed me from room to room; they didn't bicker or proclaim boredom even once. When the kids got home, they took note of the decorations with comments ranging from "Oooh, pretty!" (the girls) to "Nice..." (the boys). I had saved setting up the nativity for Kate, one of her favorite holiday chores...it's the same nativity I used to arrange each Christmas when I was a girl. Pass down holiday traditions--check...and I didn't have to threaten anyone.
Lighting the Tree
When I was a kid, putting the lights on the tree was my Dad's job...and my mother's job was to critique his efforts. Risley women are notoriously opinionated re: the quantity and positioning of lights on the tree so poor Dad never stood a chance. He would mutter under his breath while repositioning and adding string after string of lights until my mom finally declared the tree properly illuminated. Craig and I figured out early on that we could live without that particular holiday ritual...and I'm the one who puts the lights on the tree in our house which keeps us both happy. This year, Kate and Aniyar wanted to help...and Kate told Aniyar that he couldn't put lights on the tree because he wasn't a Risley woman...poor Aniyar was so sad that I told him he could certainly join the Risley women in the tree lighting tradition. He was thrilled to be included in the club. (Aniyar to his big sister: "See, Kate? Mama say I can be Risley woman, too!" Big sis to Aniyar: "OK, buddy, you're a Risley tree lighter, but we can't do much about the woman thing.") Make our own family memories--check.
Trimming the Tree
For the first year ever, I was able to sit back and let the kids unpack and hang our ornaments. (Yes, I do have some control issues but I'm working on it!) Anyway, Aniyar and Kate did most of the work this time. They were so careful to place each ornament on just the right branch. The other 3 kids wandered in and out of the room, pausing long enough to hang their own special ornaments and then returning to other pursuits...and that was OK, too. It was a lovely, stress free evening that resulted in the above pictured beautifully decorated tree...go figure. Share quality time with family---check.
Thank heavens for the internet! Most of Mom and Dad's shopping has been done on line. I did brave the malls to help the kids find gifts for each other but it was actually fun. We did lunch, admired the decorations, and shopped in The Dollar Tree and Five Below where they could get more for their money. I was impressed with how much thought each of them put into what they bought their siblings and how excited they were with their purchases. Experience the joys of giving (not just receiving) at Christmas--check.
We've made French Puffs, Eggnog Coffeecake, and Maple Muffins for teacher's gifts and homemade hot chocolate spoons as gifts for friends. Our house has been filled with delicious aromas resulting from extensive recipe testing. Our kids have liked helping with baking, sampling, and wrapping the presents we made ourselves. Demonstrate the pleasures of gifts of the heart, made by hand--check.
You know, we're really getting into the holiday spirit this year. Even the teenagers have ditched their bored affect and are having fun. We're better organized this year, too. I've already sent off gifts to relatives in far off places. I might even get around to Christmas cards before New Year's!
But just in case I don't get those cards done... consider yourself extended