A Little of This and That in December

Jan 3, 2021

Oh, Christmas. I love it so much, and I am always so sad when it is over. This year was cozy and simple, and I embraced the pure hygge-ness of it all. We were able to spend little bits of time with small groups of extended family, and I'm grateful we could find safe ways to do so. But most of the time, it was just us, and I treasured it. This month found us . . . 

Realizing . . . that I can't be trusted around any sort of gummy candies. Mike and I went to Trader Joe's (our first time since the pandemic started!), and they had out their seasonal gummies, so of course I had to buy some. Unfortunately, almost no one else in my family likes them, so I ended up eating the entire bag over the course of just two days. Good thing I only bought one.

Celebrating . . . our engagement anniversary. Mike and I got engaged sixteen years ago on December 4th. We always mark the passing of another year by going to Panda Express because that is what we ate on that evening so many years ago before Mike popped the question. This year, we stopped by the Utah Art Market first, which features art from local artists, including two of my friends. It was all so beautiful, and I definitely would have bought many pieces if I'd had unlimited funds. Then we got takeout at Panda Express, brought it home, and reminisced about the last sixteen years, which have gone by so fast.

Giving . . . my mom an early Christmas present. In my family, we draw names for Christmas presents, and my parents are included in the exchange. This means that there are some years when I don't give to them and some years when they don't give to me. I drew the names of both of my sisters this year, but then I thought about my mom's aprons that were so well-used they were basically falling apart. So I decided to make her an apron as a surprise. I knew she wouldn't be expecting it since I didn't have her for Christmas, and nothing makes me happier than thinking up the perfect gift. I gave it to her early since it wasn't a "real" Christmas present, and I wanted her to have it for all of her holiday baking. It wasn't quite as good as my brother's surprise gift of grandchild #11, but she was still very happy to get it.

Writing . . . haiku. Maxwell is really into writing poems, especially haiku. He puts together little booklets of them on various themes. As someone who has always struggled with how to fit the essence of what I want to say in such a limited meter, I am so impressed with what he creates. 

Making . . . Christmas ornaments. One of our traditions is to make a new set of ornaments every year. Sometimes they are quite time intensive, but this year's was quick and easy. I bought a set of glass balls. We took the tops off of them, and the boys put in a few bits of crayon. Then we used a hair dryer to heat up the glass and melt the crayons. The melted crayons were then swirled around the inside of the ball to create a marbled effect. They're really very pretty, and we only had two casualties of broken glass while we did it. 

Baking . . . with Ian. Ever since school started, Ian and I have had a little ritual of baking a treat or snack on Wednesdays. This started because Wednesdays are my big piano teaching days (I have seven lessons in the afternoon), and so I thought it would be nice if the boys had something yummy to come home to since I am always so preoccupied and busy. It has become a fun little activity that both Ian and I look forward to. Baking is not one of my big loves, but when it is planned into my schedule, it is much more enjoyable. Plus, I've had fun choosing things that are very seasonal and help get us in the mood for the various holidays. (For example, in October we made these delicious pumpkin snickerdoodle bars. In November, we made cranberry bread from the picture book Cranberry Thanksgiving. And this month, we made my favorite Gingerbread Cookie Bars.) We crank up some tunes while measuring out ingredients, and it is a delightful time. We usually can't wait for the boys to get home before having a sneak taste ourselves. When we made these Christmas Crackers, we both found them so addicting that Ian even said, "I know I should stop eating these. But I just can't."

Devouring . . . chocolates from an advent calendar. And not just his own. On the 19th, Ian hid under a couch and ate up every last chocolate from his own calendar as well as his four brothers (and both Bradley and Aaron had not been eating theirs regularly, so I know they had more than six chocolates left). I'm rather impressed with his clandestine plan executed so perfectly, his thoroughness in methodically cleaning out each calendar, and his ability to consume so much chocolate in one sitting.


Going . . . to Aaron's Christmas band concert. Mike and I enjoyed Aaron's second concert just as much as the first. My only regret was that, because of continued Covid restrictions, his brothers and grandparents couldn't come, too. He loved performing and was flying higher than a kite when it was done. 

Playing . . . the trombone with Grandpa Paul. Mike's parents decided to invite families over one at a time to limit the risk of spreading Covid. When it was our turn, they made waffle cones filled with raspberry cream for dessert (a Norwegian tradition), and Aaron inhaled four of them in under five minutes (I'm seeing hints of a teenage appetite). After dinner, Aaron got out his trombone and played Christmas hymns with Mike's dad. They really sounded pretty good together, and it was a lot of fun for both of them. Mike's dad also showed me a beautiful stranded colorwork cardigan that was knitted for him while he was on his mission in Norway in the 1970's. That was a highlight of the night for me. 

Watching . . . so many Christmas movies. Having most of our traditional festivities cancelled, we filled the evenings with Christmas movies. The kids had never seen such classics as Home Alone and The Santa Claus, and we also watched many of our old favorites. One new one that we really liked was Jingle Jangle. It was filled with good music and wasn't as blatantly Christmas as some of the others ones. On the night that we watched Home Alone, we immediately followed it with family scripture study. Completely by coincidence, our reading was from Luke 2:42-46, which tells about when Mary and Joseph accidentally left 12-year-old Jesus in Jerusalem. Having just finished a movie all about a child being left behind, the words took on new meaning: "But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance." We all busted up; we couldn't help ourselves. The application was just too perfect.

Participating . . . in my family's Christmas piano party. This is a highlight of the season for my kids. Each year my parents host a family party where everyone performs a Christmas song, usually on the piano, although other instruments are definitely allowed. We didn't know if it would happen this year because of Covid, but we decided we could make it safely work by wearing masks, sitting apart from each other, and sanitizing after performing. My dad and Aaron played a duet on the baritone and trombone, and it was the first time they'd ever played together.

Wrapping . . . Christmas presents. Mike and I were so on top of things this year and wrapped all of the presents several days before Christmas. Usually, we are totally a wrap-everything-at-10:00pm-on-Christmas-Eve kind of couple, but not this year. We enjoyed the evening and were in bed by 11:30 (which is pretty typical for us on a normal day). 

Going . . . to the movie theater. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, we went to see a movie. This has been a tradition of ours for several years, and it is such a nice way to pass the time on Christmas Eve. There have been very few new releases because of the pandemic, but some of the theaters were showing old classics. We decided to see Muppet Christmas Carol. I thought it was great fun to see one of our favorite Christmas movies on the big screen. In my opinion, going to see a movie is one of the safest activities you can do during the pandemic. We sat at the back of the theater and had an entire row to ourselves. You don't have any other contact with other people and you just sit quietly in a darkened theater for a couple of hours (unless you have a three-year-old, in which case there's a little more squirming). I was remembering last year when we went to the movie theater with Aaron and his compromised immune system. We wiped down all of the seats with Clorox wipes and Aaron was wearing an N95 masks. We thought we probably looked like paranoid, germ-freak parents. Oh, how things change in a year. Now Clorox wipes and masks are not only totally normal but required. 

Acting . . . out the nativity. We spent Christmas Eve with Mike's sister and her family. After dinner, which included prime roast, au gratin sweet potatoes, rolls, salad, and corn, the kids divided up the parts and acted out the nativity with Sonja and Rob playing Mary and Joseph. They were inventive with cobbling together costumes for the various parts, and I loved it.

Waiting . . . to wake up until 7:00am on Christmas morning. I could hear the boys out in the hallway at 6:58--"Okay, guys, only two more minutes."

Meeting . . . Bodie. Clark desperately wanted a pet for Christmas. His top choice was a rabbit (a friend in his class has one, and she brought it to school one day). When I told him even if Santa brought him one, he wouldn't get to keep it, he then moved onto a kitten (I think he somehow thought he had a better chance with this since we already have a cat). I promptly shut down that idea as well since even one cat is one too many for me. In frustration he said, "What pet can I have then?!" I said, "Clark, basically the only pet you could ask for is a fish." He latched onto that idea immediately: "Really? You would let me keep a fish? If Santa gave me a fish, you wouldn't make me give it away?" I pretty much had to sign a verbal contract, giving him my word of honor that a fish would be welcome in this house. He thought about it all month long, and on Christmas morning, he was thrilled to meet his little blue beta fish. He promptly named it "Bodie." (Apparently, he had two names picked out: "Goldie," if it was a goldfish and "Bodie" if it was a beta fish.) I have no doubt that the appeal will wear off after a little while as a fish only has so much to give, but for right now, Clark is quite content.

Working . . . on a Paint-by-Sticker book. Early in the month, I pulled out a Christmas-themed Paint-by-Sticker book and divided up the pages among the boys. Ian had never done one before, and he surprised me by being able to do it by himself. I thought it was going to be too complicated with the geometric shapes and the high numbers. But he loved it. He ended up adding a sticker book to his letter to Santa, and he was thrilled to receive one on Christmas morning. He paid only minimal attention to his other presents because he was so consumed with his sticker book. He was determined to do the whole thing all on Christmas, and he worked diligently on it throughout the day. He almost reached his goal. He did nine pictures and had just one left that he did the following day. I feel like I need to keep a stock of these as each picture takes him about 25-30 minutes to complete, which can be like gold depending on what I'm trying to get done.

Knitting . . . a Christmas ornament. I continued my tradition of knitting a new Christmas ornament on Christmas Day. This year, I decided to make a star. It was a slow start for me as I had some difficulty understanding the instructions, but I eventually figured it out and enjoyed the process. I watched White Christmas in the afternoon while working on it. Ian was doing his sticker book (see above) at the same time and happened to glance at the movie just as Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye were doing their "Sisters" number. He was quite impressed with their "dressing up." I finished the star that evening and hung it on the tree. My collection of hand-knitted ornaments is growing, and I love them.

Playing . . . a not very Covid-friendly game. Don't worry, it only involved our family. Our family got a ping-pong table for Christmas, and Mike introduced the boys to the game where you have to keep the ping pong ball on the table by blowing on it. I'm not sure if it has a real name or not, but my kids call it "Hurricane." We all played it on Christmas, and it made us fall on the floor from laughing so much (or maybe we were just completely winded from so much blowing). My parents gave us a couple of new games that were in frequent circulation during the break as well: Tiki Topple and Gonuts for Donuts.

Drinking . . . lots of wassail. 'Tis the season. It's my favorite warm drink, and my kids were so nice to give me a smart mug for Christmas. I had no idea these things existed, but basically, I can set my phone to whatever temperature I want (I prefer 140 degrees F), and then the mug will keep my drink at that temperature. It's pretty awesome (I happen to be sipping on some right now as I write this post). 

Bingeing . . . The Office. Mike and I are usually about ten years late to any party. Such was the case with The Office. While the rest of you have loved it since 2005, we didn't start watching it until May of this year. Once we started, we couldn't stop, and it was a rare evening when we didn't watch at least one episode. It felt so good to end each day by laughing, and I was surprised with how deeply invested I became in the characters--so much so that sometimes I would bring one of them up to Mike in just a normal conversation, and he would say something like, "It's kind of funny that you're so worried [irritated] [excited] about that." When we found out The Office would be leaving Netflix at the end of the month, we tried our best to watch as many episodes as possible. We only made it to the end of Season 7, but that's when Michael leaves, so it felt like a fitting place to stop. I'm already missing it so much though. Nothing else feels the same. (P.S. There were times when the dialogue was a little crass and/or uncomfortable for me (which I know is kind of the point), so we actually watched it through VidAngel, and this helped to temper it a bit.)

Seeing . . . a lot of Mike. Mike was lucky to be able to take off most of the two-week break along with the boys, and we were all so glad to have him home. He baked sour dough bread and perfected his attempts at kouign-amann pastries. He played many rounds of snooker, pool, and ping pong. He also helped the boys work on their STEM projects that were due when they returned to school. I think he enjoyed the time off as much as the kids did. 

Spending . . . lots of time in the kitchen. Max is his father's son and couldn't seem to stay out of the kitchen during the break. He just wanted to be baking or cooking something all of the time. He loved making breakfast in the mornings, and his brothers were the happy recipients. There was one morning when he wanted to make French toast, but Mike was at work and I was still reading a manuscript. I told him he could do it but I wouldn't be available to help him. I was quite surprised when I came downstairs thirty minutes later and found that not only had he made French toast, but the kids had set the table and were all eating together. When I returned to the kitchen a little later, he had cleaned up his entire mess, including wiping down the table and counters. He's the real deal, that Maxwell. One day we told him he couldn't make anything. We didn't really have a good reason, except that he'd been doing so much of it. We found this letter on our bed later in the day: 

Dear Mom + Dad,

This is my petition for why I should be allowed to bake/make breakfast on non-school days:

  • These days have extra jobs/chore lists so you can easily have us "sweep and wipe table," "mop," or "clear kitchen." Besides I am usually willing to clean up by myself.
  • Letting me make breakfast saves you trouble because you can stay in your bed while I "slave away at the stove" (Aaron reference), made all the easier because I can print off a recipe from the office.


P.S. Present other points and problems to me and I will resolve your worries. 

Sending . . . off 2020. This year was unlike anything I could have dreamed of. If you told me last January that we'd spend most of the year quarantined from the rest of the world and that a face mask would be the most popular accessory, I would have laughed in disbelief. I sometimes look back fondly at my naive pre-Covid self in early March when I optimistically told my friend that "Of course you'll still be able to go to Paris in April!" I never guessed at the worldwide impact of this virus. It makes me a little scared of the future, but I also learned that life keeps going, and there is still so much joy to be found. We spent the last day of the year watching the 2019 Little Women with my sister (that movie is pure perfection), eating Muddy Buddies, playing games, massaging a headache (me), creating a calendar for 2021, and making as much noise as possible at midnight. Even Ian and Clark made it to midnight--the first time for both of them. 

And with that, let's do this, 2021! We're ready for you! I'd love to hear about all of the ways that you celebrated during this unusual holiday season. I'm grateful for each one of you that still sits down and reads my occasional posts on this blog. Take care, and happy new year!


  1. As always I love, love your this and that posts. But the point that slays me is Maxwell's letter, oh my, so, so precious!!

    1. So funny, right? I love him and his logic.

  2. I also love Trader Joe's and I also have a weakness for gummy candies!!!

  3. Lovely again! I got to spend New Years with my sons, when usually they go to their dad's. We played games and made a Vasilopita (Greek cake with a coin hidden inside for luck to whoever gets that slice). My oldest, Alexander is the lucky one!

    The crayon ornaments look great -- that's a good idea. My kids got fish when Alexander was about Clark's age; in our case it was a sneaky way to give Alexander a night light, as he still really wanted one but felt he was too old. I really wanted him to sleep at night so I got him an aquarium with a light.

    1. I actually thought the same thing about the fish tank acting as a night light. It has worked the same for Clark with good results!

      I'm glad you had a lovely holiday with your boys!

  4. Hello Amy! I love catching up with your family's doings. I feel like we have so much in common with our goals and our kiddos.
    I gave my 8 year old a sticker by number book this year as well. He hasn't broken it out yet, but he's my puzzle buddy, so I think once he does he will get really into it. Rainbow Resource (a homeschooling curriculum site, mostly) has several options, if you're needing more. Also, one of my goals this year is to learn to knit--partly inspired by seeing all the things you have made.
    We have moved to the Oregon Coast, which means I had to let my flower farm go. I'm still working out what that means for me here, but suddenly I have time for other hobbies again! I have dubbed this year as the one where I want to get back into sewing again! (I think in your other post you mentioned you just got back into it in 2020.)
    Anyway, thanks for posting. Take care!

    1. I didn't realize you had moved! I was really lax in reading blogs in 2020. But I hope all went well with the move and that you're settling in! I'm sure you'll find a spot of earth somewhere to grow something!
      But you should definitely pick up knitting! It is a great, low-key hobby. And yes, I've been sewing quite a bit this year. I don't know if you saw this, but we also moved last year (but just a few blocks away), and our new home has the perfect little sewing space for me. Since it's been much more convenient and accessible, I've been doing it more!
      Also, thanks for another paint by sticker option! We're going to need it!


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