A Little of This and That in December

Jan 9, 2022

December was busy but laid-back, loud but quiet, festive but routine, energetic but contemplative. We filled it up with lots of simple things that brought us joy. I was so grateful for all of the time we got to spend together. These are my favorite people. The month was a mix of . . . 

Building . . . the Home Alone Lego house. Aaron got so many big Lego sets when he was in the hospital that our basement has become something of a Lego museum. I told him not to expect any more big sets because 1) we don't have room for more and 2) it is not an economical activity since he can do a set that has thousands of pieces (and costs hundreds of dollars) in just a few hours. But just because I said we weren't getting any new sets didn't mean he wasn't still regularly checking the Lego website for new releases. And what did he find? In November, Lego was going to release a 4000-piece replica of the Home Alone house, which would feature tons of little details from the movie. I had to admit, the photos on the website made it look really cool. And then Aaron informed me that it was divided up into 24 bags, effectively making it a giant advent calendar. I didn't reveal my true feelings to Aaron, but I was sold: yes, it was big and expensive, but the fact that it would be guaranteed to take 24 days (instead of less than 24 hours) was a huge selling point for me. So on the very day it was released, I bought it. But I didn't tell Aaron, and he continued to badger, plead, and cajole me throughout the rest of November. December 1st rolled around, and I presented the kids with a Harry Potter advent calendar, and I'm pretty sure I dashed all of Aaron's hopes at that point because he was certain that was his consolation prize. But then that evening as we finished up all of our advent activities for the first day, Mike said, "We have one more advent countdown. Follow me." When he pulled that big Home Alone set out of the box, I have never seen Aaron more excited. He gripped the box, and everyone jumped around; he hugged me and told me thank you over and over. It was so fun. But that was only the beginning. Aaron, Max, and Bradley rotated through the bags during the weeks leading up to Christmas. It was the first thing they did when they got home from school or got up on the weekends. Because they only did one bag per day, we got to fully appreciate every fun little detail in each new addition. Slowly the house came together until it was finished in all its glory on Christmas Eve. It might sound a little silly, but it was one of the major highlights of December. I'm so glad I just decided to go for it even though it seemed rather extravagant and unnecessary (I was especially glad I hadn't waited when I found out that it quickly sold out and then doubled in price). And on New Year's Day, the boys actually disassembled it section by section and put it back into 24 bags so that they can do it again next year, so they're maximizing the fun from it even more. 

Bumping . . . shoulders with thousands of people at the German Christmas market. Mike, Aaron, and I went to the Christkindlmarkt on an early Friday afternoon. I thought we would beat the crowds, but I was so wrong. Mike and I have been going to this market for years, and we have never seen it like it was this year. Normally, we leisurely stroll down the path, popping into booths that interest us. But everything was so crowded, I didn't even look at any items and consequently didn't buy anything either. We did squeeze in to get some food (waffles and stroopwafels) and then walked far away from everyone to eat it. I think too many people have heard about the market, so this might be our last year trying to go. It was a disappointment. (Don't be deceived by the lack of other people in these photos.)

Earning . . . Peeps. I'm not talking about the gross marshmallow Easter candy. A couple of months ago, Ian was at the toy store and saw a little white chick. As you might remember, he already has a yellow one (Peck) that he earned when he gave up his binky. I have mentioned Peck (as well as Waddles) many times on the blog because they have been Ian's near-constant companions. Anyway, he saw this other chick that looked like a brother to Peck, and he wanted it so much. I told him he could have it if he finished all of his reading lessons from the book How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. He talked about this chick all of the time as he finished up the last ten lessons and even picked out a name for him (Peeps). He was thrilled to finish off the last lesson and finally get a new little friend (who, admittedly, has kind of given Peck and Waddles the boot). For my part, I'm more thrilled about the reading progress than the new stuffed animal, but to each his own. 

Babysitting . . . for the first time. Maxwell has been babysitting his younger brothers for quite awhile, and he really wanted to hire himself out to other people. One of my friends gave him his first chance and let him watch three of her kids for a couple of hours. He took this job very seriously, and at the end of it, he said, "I have a new respect for parents. I'm exhausted!" He loved earning his own money and feeling like he had a real job. (So if anyone is local and wants a babysitter, Max is available!)

Winning . . . Reflections in the music category. Clark entered an original musical composition in the Reflections Arts competition this year. The theme was "I Will Change the World By . . . " and his song was meant to show the way he and another person came together to form a friendship. His composition won at his elementary school, so then it went onto the council level where it also won. He got to go to an awards night where they played a portion of his piece and he received a little plaque. This was quite thrilling for Clark. He hasn't ever won anything like this before, and he was all about the recognition and award. (And, spoiler, we just found out that he won at the region level as well!) 

Receiving . . . a dumping of snow. At the beginning of the month, we got a few inches of snow. It was our first real snowfall of the season that amounted to any accumulation. Then, just a few days later, more snow came. It started in the late evening, and by the time I went to bed, everything was white outside and our bedroom was bright with that magical snow light. It didn't stop overnight, and by the next morning, we had over a foot on the ground. This led to . . . 

Moving . . . school to virtual for the day. Our district decided to switch to a virtual learning day because the roads were impossible to navigate until the snowplows could deal with them. I was a big fan of this option and hope they continue to utilize it this winter as needed. The boys spent several hours in the snow--shoveling, digging out snow caves, and building a sledding run. Then they came inside to warm up, drink hot chocolate, and do their schoolwork. The snow stuck around for awhile, and they took advantage of it by going sledding a couple of times. I have a volatile relationship with snow, but I quite like it in December. It definitely added to the Christmasy ambiance. (Too bad it had all melted by Christmas Day, and we didn't get any more snow until the day after Christmas.)

Attending . . . a Christmas band performance. Aaron and Max had their band concert at school. The program was full of fun Christmas music. Max played his saxophone with the foundations band, and Aaron played his trombone with both the concert and jazz bands. This was the first time we brought Ian to a band concert. As I expected, he was a bit wiggly but eventually settled down and actually fell asleep. I was so grateful that he went to sleep . . . until he started coughing up a storm. It has been very typical for him this winter to cough a lot at night but then be fine during the day. But no one sitting around us knew that, and I was pretty embarrassed to have brought a coughing child to a public event. My parents also came to support the boys, and it was fun to have them there.

Skipping . . . a Christmas band performance. In contrast, we actually ended up not going to Bradley's very first band concert. He started learning the trumpet at the beginning of the school year. His first concert conflicted with the swim team Christmas party. Normally I would say that a performance gets preference over a party, but I've been to elementary school band concerts before, and they're a certain form of torture, so I wasn't exactly anticipating it with much excitement. So when Bradley expressed a lot of disappointment over missing the party, I told him the choice was up to him: concert or party. He chose the party. Maybe I should have encouraged him to be committed to band, but there will be many more opportunities, and I'm actually really glad that he's enjoying swimming so much (and I'm happy to give the elementary band a few more months to practice before I have to listen to them). 

Wondering . . . why my kids can't seem to remember that it's winter. I am continually baffled and amazed at the attire (or lack thereof) they think is appropriate for this time of year. One example: Mike and I were walking Ian home from preschool, and Clark saw us coming. He ran to meet us in shorts, a T-shirt, and no socks or shoes. And yes, there was snow on the ground. (I had to document it because it was so unbelievable.)

Trying . . . to track down a missing package. I'm sure we're not the only ones who had a package disappear this month. I ordered a stroller for the new baby and got a notification that it had been delivered, but I couldn't find any evidence of it. At first, I thought it must have been stolen, especially since it had been signed for by a person named Kevin and it had come at a time when Mike and I were gone. But after doing some investigating and sending multiple messages, it seemed more likely that the FedEx driver had gotten behind on his deliveries and prematurely marked it as delivered (that, or he delivered it to the wrong house). Either way, it showed up a few days later. Crisis averted.

Going . . . to not one, not two, but three church Christmas functions. Apparently, our ward has some long-standing Christmas traditions (something we were not fully aware of last year when many activities were still virtual). They do an adult-only dinner, a youth choir program (and fundraiser), and a family breakfast (and service project). At first, I thought it was a bit overkill, especially during such a busy month, but I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed each event. I loved being able to talk to other adults in our neighborhood during the dinner; I marveled that all of the teenagers in our ward participated in the choir (Aaron played a piano solo at this event as well); and I was grateful for the opportunity to donate much needed items to people in our community at the breakfast. All in all, these events just really helped me feel the spirit of the season in a variety of ways, and I appreciated the efforts of so many to make them happen. 

Sending . . . ugly Christmas cards. Instead of ugly Christmas sweaters, we did ugly Christmas cards. Not really on purpose, but we hadn't had real family photos taken this year, and I wasn't about to go to the trouble of it at eight months pregnant. So we decided we better just use our family photo from Halloween. And as long as we were wearing costumes, we went all in and totally played up the theme of Emperor's New Groove . . . from the design to the font to the little blurb on the back. As I addressed all of the cards and sent them out, I laughed when I thought of our card sticking out like an eyesore amid all of the beautifully curated Christmas-themed cards. Also, I realized that probably a third of the people we were sending them to wouldn't even understand all of the movie references or costumes, and so not only would it be ugly but also terribly confusing. Regardless of all of these things, it was still fun (and this was maybe our all-time favorite Halloween theme so it need to be immortalized somehow).

Sledding . . . in Neff's canyon. Mike had a bunch of days off over the holidays. He took advantage of all that downtime to take the big boys and a couple of their friends up Neff's canyon to go sledding. They hiked up quite a distance and then had the thrill of a good, long run all the way down. 

Playing . . . the piano at my parents' musical Christmas party. This is always a highlight of the season for my kids. They love taking their turn playing a piano piece along with their aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents (it's totally just for fun--not a performance for other people). They like playing the traditional games of pass-the-present and charades afterwards. And they love the treats. 

Performing . . . for an assisted living center. My sister-in-law scheduled a time for her kids to perform Christmas songs on the piano for residents of a local assisted living center. She invited my kids to perform as well. It was so much fun. The audience of seniors was very engaged and appreciative. Each of the kids played two songs, and I ended up performing too (a duet with Aaron and a solo). My kids were a little nervous to go, but it ended up being a very positive experience for them. We only had one mishap when the digital piano randomly turned off in the middle of Addie's performance of, "I'll Be Home for Christmas," but other than that it was a seamless program. 

Making . . . Christmas ornaments. The boys made macrame stars this year. They ended up being slightly more involved and complicated than I thought they would be, so I had Ian make a simple Christmas tree instead (which was still a bit too hard for him). They were the perfect addition to our rustic Christmas tree, but I failed to get a picture of them. On Christmas Day, I settled down with my knitting (as has become a tradition) and made a new Christmas ornament. It was a Scandinavian Santa Claus this time. Even though I only knit one new ornament each year, at this point, I'm getting quite the little collection of ornaments, and they bring me a lot of joy. 

Sleeping . . . under the Christmas tree. Every year I think my kids are not going to want to do this, and every year I'm wrong. This time, Mike and I were actually gone for the evening, and when we got home, we found that they'd found all of the sleeping bags and set up everything on their own. 

Acting . . . out the nativity with cousins and participating in a service project. We had a Christmas party with Mike's family, and as part of that, we assembled weekend food kits for a local school district. The younger nieces and nephews also reenacted the nativity. Mike's mom and one of his sisters painted a cool backdrop, which really upped the effect. Bradley was a sheep (his costume consisted of a white piece of fabric thrown over him), Clark was a wiseman, and Ian was a shepherd. Seeing these cute little kids act out this beloved account was just really beautiful.

Watching . . . Disney's Encanto on Christmas Eve. It has become a tradition for us to go see a movie on the afternoon of Christmas Eve to help pass the time. We were planning to see Encanto in the theater, but when we realized it came out on Disney+ that same day, we decided to switch venues to Mike's sister's newly remodeled basement. Best. Decision. Ever. It was so cozy and comfortable with a great new TV and sound system. Also, we absolutely loved the movie. My kids have been listening to the soundtrack nonstop ever since and have at least three of the songs memorized. (After the movie, we stayed and had dinner with them; Mike cooked prime rib, which ended up taking longer than he expected, so we didn't get the kids to bed very early on Christmas Eve.) 

Dubbing . . . this the year of "Functional Christmas." Because we had Aaron's Make-a-Wish in August (which was basically like five Christmases), I told the kids to try to ask for useful items and things that they actually needed rather than more toys and games. Because of this, they ended up with such things as camping chairs, a music stand, bathrobes, a swim parka, dressers (which they all helped assemble), pillows, bedspreads, clothes, and a Gabb phone and watch. Of course, there were a few fun things thrown into the mix, but amazingly and thankfully, no Legos (we are at capacity here). 

Having . . . a nice, slow Christmas Day. It was actually so lovely. No snow, unfortunately, and the big snow from the week before had all pretty much melted, but we were still cozy (and Mike, Clark, Ian, and I actually went on a walk later in the day because the weather was so nice). All of the presents had been opened by mid-morning, and after that, everyone just played new games, read books, ate treats, and lounged around. In the afternoon, we watched a movie (The Man Who Saved Christmas), and we finished off the day with a simple shepherd's meal. Such a nice way to spend Christmas.

Sending . . . off 2021. We had our friends over for the evening, and we counted down the hours by eating, playing games, chatting, reading Dave Barry's annual recap, watching movies, coloring, and playing. At about 11:30, Ian said he was just going to "take a little rest" in his bed, and of course he was completely out within five minutes. But the rest of us made it all the way to midnight. We threw confetti, made a lot of noise outside, and watched some fireworks before heading to bed. Although 2021 was not my favorite year, it was a great way to finish it off.

And that wraps up not just this month but also this year. I have a lot of things I've been thinking about in regards to 2021 as well as thoughts and goals for 2022. Hopefully I'll have a chance to write about them soon. 


  1. Happy New Year! I used to help with Reflections, and it was a huge deal for us when we opened it up to music and video (we had a tiny PTA). Congratulations to Clark on going so far!

  2. I want to comment about everything you wrote. Loved reading this post. Glad you had such a fantastic holiday season.

    1. And for the record, your family's Christmas card was my favorite!!! I love The Emperor's New Groove! I loved all of the movie references!


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