We made it through the last three days of fun and excitement, and I am very happy with how Christmas turned out this year. I’ve been thinking all day about how I want to write this post. I want to talk a bit about something that has been bothering me a lot this month – really, it’s been bothering me for a whole year now, and I have been anxious and preparing against it happening again all of this month especially. I know I have a tendency to whine, and this is not meant to be a whiny post – but I am going to say some negative things only so that I can contrast them with just how positive I feel about the outcomes this year.
First, I’m going to share the fun stuff and the pictures, and if you want to skip my rant, you can stop when you get to the last four paragraphs. Christmas Eve was our traditional dinner and gift-game at my cousin Ron’s house. He and his wife Molly befriended my almost ten years ago when I moved to Minnesota, and I’ve been with them almost every year at this time since then. We’ve had fun every time, and I hope we never wear out our welcome. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so I’m going to have to hope that Ron and Molly send some copies of their pictures our way. Julie had a blast playing with their cats – chasing them around really.
Later that night, we got home and put the girls to bed – I haven’t mentioned it lately, but Sophie is going to bed much more easily and sleeping in her crib for much longer stretches. I stuffed the stockings, put the gifts under the tree, and did a few more little things before
Christmas Day is a happy blur, so let’s do it in pictures. This one is mid-way through opening gifts. Sophie’s big present was a new set of blocks that interlock. Sophie didn’t really get very many presents this year, but she’s only 10 months old, and we already have so many toys from when Julie was a baby there just wasn’t much to buy that we didn’t already have. These are pretty cool blocks, though, and you can see Julie likes them too.
Julie mid-way through opening her stocking gifts. I had a lot of fun buying little junk to stick in there, and she had a lot of fun digging through it.
Here’s what I look like first thing in the morning when I’m happy but still waking up. Sophie is enjoying her new ball.
After all the packages were opened, we went down to the basement and discovered one more present that Santa left. A set of giant blocks made out of cardboard. Julie seemed to like these as well.
Here’s a wide-angle view of the basement room. We hadn’t been using this space at all, except for storage, which is really sad because our living/dining room is not that big and this is fully finished space that is great for a playroom. Joe and I spent some time this month clearing it out and childproofing it so that we can move some of the toys down there and let them go crazy.
The curtains on the left are some of the ones I just finished sewing – that doorway leads to a storage area along the back that is just an eyesore.
Joe’s big present was something he hadn’t asked for but that I couldn’t resist when I saw it. I found it at the No-Coast Craft-o-Rama a few weeks ago – it’s a stained glass robot. Somehow it seemed like the perfect gift for Joe, and he says he likes it. I did also get him a couple of smaller things that were actually on his wish list.
Joe got me some good gifts too – a nice little selection of single-source dark chocolates from E. Guittard. I’m waiting to try those till my palate clears a bit from all the holiday sweets and treats. I want to really enjoy them. I also got a new external disk drive for my computer for easier backups, and we bought new Photoshop software on sale after Thanksgiving as well. Score!
I spent most of the rest of the day scrambling to get ready for the party, and managed to get everything done with a bit of time to spare. Joe’s parents arrived first and helped out a bit – mostly by taking care of the girls while we finished setting up. Sophie was amazing – she let practically everyone at the party hold her at some point, and didn’t complain at all even though I was busy and away from her most of the evening. Here she is in my MIL’s lap.
Here’s a picture of the food spread. You can’t see all that well, but we had a nice number of delicious dishes, but a simpler meal than last year for sure.
The table from my perspective. I think I had Sophie in my lap as I was taking this one. Not everyone got to sit at the table, but I managed to score a chair and eat for a few minutes.
After dinner, we had a bit of a present-opening extravaganza. The girls were a little wild, but they had a pretty good time. Sophie sat on the floor and chewed on the unopened packages for a while, and Bella the dog who was visiting with Joe’s cousin Natalie kept her entertained too. Natalie, if you’re reading? Bella left a nice little present in our bathroom!
Here I am helping Sohpie open one of her presents.
A good time was had by all, and I have to say how pleased I was with the way the evening flowed and with how much help everyone was in getting the work done and even cleaning up a bit afterwards. The girls were exhausted, and both of them went to bed as soon as the party was over. Julie was still tired today, and we paid for it with some squirrelly behavior this morning. It’s SO to be expected, but it took us a little while to figure out what was going on.
Here she is eating leftover dessert after lunch. I made a wheat-free apple pie and a special little pan of wheat-free bread pudding just for her. What she loves most is the whipped cream. In the foreground, you can see my serving of bread pudding. Oh my, you wouldn’t believe how yummy this stuff was. It was Gooo-oood. I used this recipe from the food network, only I substituted the chocolate bread from Turtle Bread (two loaves) and doubled the recipe. It took a little longer to bake, but was otherwise fine. The whiskey sauce was a great complement to it as well. If you’re local and can get this bread, you have got to try this the next time you need an easy but impressive dessert. If you’re not local, maybe you can get them to ship the bread to you – stale is okay because you want it dried out before you add the custard and bake it. Everyone who ate it liked it.
This afternoon, we all headed out to the mall. Joe’s cousin gave the girls Build-A-Bear stuffies that needed filling, so we braved the crowds. The whole mall was busier than all get-out, but the Build-A-Bear store was super-crowded with kids using their gift cards and filling animals just like us. Here are the girls with “Lucy” the cow and “Wiggles” the bunny. Julie came up with the names. Notice she’s still wearing the purple tutu. I promise, we do put clean clothes on her every morning – she just strips down to her shirt and tights and puts that tutu back on the minute she has a chance.
Alright, I’m off to sort through all the gifts a bit more – we got so many things from all the relatives, and Joe’s cousin Sarah brought over a huge tub of clothes for Sophie to borrow. None of Julie’s old winter clothes fit Sophie right now because their birthdays are almost six months apart and Julie was a bigger baby than Sophie is. Luckily, Katelyn’s old clothes are in beautiful shape and are just the right size. I am so grateful to Sarah for sharing them with us!
With any luck, tomorrow I’ll have a finished object to show off. Now, read the rest of the post at your own risk – it’s the whiney part I mentioned at the beginning.
So here’s the back story. Last Christmas was pretty awful for me. There I said it. I was just going to point you to the post from last year about it, but I went and looked and there is none – it was so awful I didn’t post about it because I was really angry and I didn’t really have anything nice to say to balance that anger off. I was so angry, and nobody else seemed to even raise an eyebrow at the situation, it didn’t even seem like it was really happening. It’s taken me a year to decide that yes, I really had a right to be angry and that NO, I wasn’t going to let the same thing happen again.
Oops, I just double-checked, and there is a post on it. Whew! I did a good job last year of describing the evening in as positive light as possible. Go read it and look at the cute pictures now if you want to, but the summary is that I was 8 months pregnant and ended up hosting dinner for fifteen people, almost none of whom helped at all and I spent the whole time cooking and cleaning in the kitchen instead of spending time with my loved ones.
Now the good news. After a year of agonizing how to handle this situation the next time, I managed to work it out so everyone had a good time, including myself. I was up front with Joe’s cousin and simply told her without anger that I had felt really hurt last year that I had spent the Christmas party in the kitchen and that I would really like some last-minute help this time. I suggested that we do a pot-luck and that I was going to make lasagna instead of the traditional roast meat dinner. Lasagna you can prepare ahead of time and simply pull out of the oven and it’s ready. Roast meat usually involves carving and gravy-making and other things that need last-minute heating. I delegated the side dishes and salad to the other women, and reserved the desserts for myself only because I really enjoy making desserts and, more importantly, eating the desserts that I make.
I was a little disappointed not to have the traditional Christmas type food that I grew up with, but it was SO worth it for the company in the kitchen and the freedom to hang out in the living room with the rest of the party for a greater portion of the evening. And I make a pretty good lasagna any way. This time, everyone had a reason to be in the kitchen, and most of the women offered to help this time. There was closer to the right amount of food, which meant that nobody’s dish went untouched, and everyone had room for dessert. I feel like this year’s experience has helped me heal the wounds from last year, and now I can look forward to future Christmases knowing how to plan for happy all around.