The holidays are over, the boys are back in school, and the only thing holding the inversion at bay is the frequent snowstorms. Yep, January is here. But on a happier note, here's a little taste of what we filled our November and December with:
Soaking . . . up the November weather. It was unseasonably warm, and believe me, we didn't take it for granted.
Enduring . . . family pictures. I asked our good friend, James Gardner, if he'd take some family photos for us. I stressed about what we should all wear (believe me, I'm longing for the days where you could dress everyone in white shirts and jeans and look hip). And then, on the day of the actual pictures, Max's genuine smiles seemed to have been replaced by monster grimaces. Plus there was just the usual chaos of trying to get six people all looking fairly normal and at the camera at the same time. After the shoot, I wailed to Mike that we'd probably bombed the whole thing and hadn't gotten a single good image. But then, James sent us the photos, and there were dozens of good shots. I guess he's a miracle worker, that's the only logical explanation.
Knitting . . . a new hat. I've had my eye on this hat pattern for over a year. After I finished the epic vest, I decided I better knit a practice hat before I tackled my dream pattern. The practice hat went quickly and easily (I gave it to my sister for Christmas), and then I bought the yarn for THE hat. So far, it's been so fun, and once again, I've been expanding my repertoire of skills. I've done some stitch variations and knitted cables for the first time. I've also been following a chart (which has slowed me down quite a bit).
Carrying . . . our love of The Great British Baking Show to new heights. I think this is the third update in a row where I've mentioned The Great British Baking Show, but we've been a little obsessed. As we were nearing the end of the second season, we were talking to our equally-obsessed friends, the Gardners, and found out they were almost done with it as well. So we decided to watch the finale together and precede that with dinner made up of recipes from the show. We had Mary Berry's scones and clotted cream and jam, Richard's pesto pinwheel, and Becca's focaccia (plus Mike made up some bacon bites as his "signature dish"). It was probably one of the most fun dates Mike and I have ever been on.
Sending . . . out 160 Christmas cards. Every year I have to twist Mike's arm a little to get him to help me design the actual card, but after that I do all the stuffing, addressing (I love addressing), and stamping, so he shouldn't complain, right? And in return, I have a wall filled with Christmas cards from friends and loved ones. It was such fun to get the mail in December.
Finding . . . out that we're expecting our fifth boy. I wrote about the grand reveal here and divulged some of my complicated feelings here. But overall, we're just so thrilled and happy. My friend, Kathy, described it best: It's "like getting a Yahtzee!" Exactly. Bam.
Enjoying . . . Clark's sweetness. He loved everything about the holidays, and it was a delight seeing them through his eyes. He especially loved Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus. He would search for them in books, play with them in our nativities, and talk about them constantly. We went to a live nativity early in the month, and it was magical for him (much more magical than seeing Santa Claus). He kept telling people, "I saw the Baby Jesus in a stable." That said, he also felt the thrill of Santa coming and bringing him presents. He repeated this mantra during the week leading up to Christmas, "When Santa comes, Christmas will come." And oh, the singing. Clark sings way more than any of my other kids anyway, but he just loved the Christmas songs, and it was so cute to hear his sweet little voice singing the words. I would have liked the season to go on and on just for him.
Sneaking . . . around doing the 12 Days of Christmas. Last year, someone did it for our family (we were never able to determine their identity for sure), and so this year, my kids really wanted to do it for someone else. We didn't do anything huge--just fun little gifts and treats--but the boys loved it. They took turns delivering and would ring the doorbell some nights, depending on how brave they felt. It was definitely one of the highlights of the month, and I think it brought a new level of excitement to gift-giving that they'd never felt before.
Participating . . . in old and new Christmas activities. I love a good mix of well-known, much-anticipated Christmas traditions and new adventures to spice things up and help us remember this specific Christmas. This year, we made ornaments and paper snowflakes and caramels (old) but also went to the Festival of Trees, took everyone to see a movie on Christmas Eve, and took Aaron to see A Christmas Carol (new). The month felt busy but not crazy, and I was proud of myself for letting some things go so we could relax and just enjoy the season.
Listening . . . to lots of Christmas music. I bought two new albums this year: Mercy River's All is Bright, which was one of our favorites last year, and JJ Heller's Unto Us. I'd never even heard of JJ Heller until one of my friends mentioned her on Instagram, but I became an instant fan. I love all of her songs, but there's something special about "Christmas is Here," and I couldn't stop listening to "This Year" on New Year's Eve. It's so fun to discover new artists.
Spoiling . . . our big Christmas surprise. We decided to get the boys a trampoline for Christmas. We bought it early in the month and then stored it at Mike's sister's house until the day before Christmas Eve. On the morning of Christmas Eve, we turned on a movie for the boys, and then Mike sneaked out to the backyard to assemble it. The boys were so preoccupied with their movie (one of the blessings of limiting their screen time) that they never once asked where Mike was. We figured we were safe because they hadn't been in the backyard in about a month (ever since the weather turned cold). Their bedrooms do look out on the backyard, but it is rare for them to open their blinds. Plus, we were going to be gone all afternoon at the movie theater, which would cut down even more on the possibility of them accidentally seeing it. But wouldn't you know it, not twenty minutes after Mike came inside, Maxwell was in his room and opened the blinds. Aaron was in the room, too, and quickly found Mike and asked, "Um, Dad, why's there a giant trampoline in our backyard?" And all Mike and I could do was look at each other and then say, "Merry Christmas, kids!" We then sent them outside to try it out, and in spite of the anti-climatic reveal, I was happy they'd found it early because the next day it was covered in snow.
Drinking . . . lots of Trader Joe's wassail. I do not like eggnog at all (I even tried Mel's homemade version last year, and, while definitely an upgrade from the kind that comes in a carton from the grocery store, I still couldn't tolerate it), so wassail is my go-to holiday drink. That said, in the past, it hasn't been in heavy rotation in December simply because I never make it myself so it had to be at someone else's holiday party if I was going to enjoy it. But this year, I discovered Trader Joe's version, and once it's heated, it tastes as good as the real thing. Game changer. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) Clark and I are the only ones who like it, so we've been drinking a lot of it.
Performing . . . Christmas songs. First up, I held a Christmas piano recital with my students. I usually have a recital in the spring, but with the baby due in April, I don't know if it's going to happen this year, so I decided we should have a Christmas recital, just in case. It was great. Aaron, Maxwell, and Bradley performed (it was Bradley's first recital) as well as my other students. Aaron and Maxwell played a duet of "I Saw Three Ships." It was a lot of work to get them to practice together, but the results were so rewarding. Later in the month, my mom organized a Christmas music party where anyone in the family who could play a musical instrument could perform. She also did a couple of games and then treats afterwards, and my kids thought it was basically the best thing ever. Besides both of the those events, I also had several opportunities to perform in church, including an organ arrangement of "Angels We Have Heard on High," which let me pull out all the stops.
Getting . . . our first real snowfall on Christmas Day. Up to that point, we'd had an inch or two or sometimes a little skiff here and there, but after the kids went to bed on Christmas Eve, it began to snow, and when we woke up, we had eleven inches on the ground! It was magical.
Basking . . . in a wonderful Christmas Day. Aaron and Max woke up at 6:00, but Clark had had a bit of a rough night, so I told them to go back to bed, which they did quite willingly, and I didn't hear another peep from them until 7:00, at which point everyone was awake. Everyone loved their presents. We took a break from things to go to church at 9:00 (and I was so grateful that, in spite of the heavy snow, it wasn't cancelled). It felt so good to be in church, singing jubilant praises, on that holy day. When we got home, the boys opened more presents and played all of their new games, and then we went to my parents' house for dinner. It was just a perfect Christmas.
Reading . . . and reading and reading. I was determined to reach my reading goal of 70 books, but that meant I really had to push myself in December (and read some shorter books!). I made it though, but just barely--I finished my seventieth book on the afternoon of New Year's Eve.
Hosting . . . some of our favorite people. Mike's cousin, Rachel, and her family were in Utah for Rachel's sister's wedding, and we were extremely lucky to get to host them at our house for a couple of nights. We loved it. Rachel and I always have so many books to talk about (among other things), and we might have accidentally spent three hours (!) at the bookstore (oops!).
Installing . . . a radon pump. We've known ever since we moved into our home almost three years ago that we had high levels of radon in our basement. We weren't in a huge hurry to fix it because none of us actually sleep in the basement (and we had other home projects we preferred to spend our money on). But with the new baby coming, it's only a matter of time before someone gets booted down there, so it needed to happen. Not the most fun way to spend $1400, but at least we've lowered our risk of lung cancer.
Ringing . . . in the New Year. Bradley was determined to stay up until midnight (last year, he only made it until 10:30), and I was surprised with how cheerful he stayed right up until the stroke of twelve. I think he was worried that if we heard the tiniest whine from him, we'd send him straight to bed. However, immediately after throwing confetti and shouting "Happy New Year!" he crawled into bed and fell promptly asleep, so he was obviously tired.
And now, it's back to real life. What were the highlights of your holiday season?