It was a very different holiday from what we've done every other year for the last decade (more than a decade, actually). This year, given that we took a week off and traveled to NYC in the summer, Hawaii in October and Baker City for Thanksgiving, we decided there would be no winter travels for us. The combination of the bathroom remodel, a sick cat (with a vet bill approaching $4K!! Ouch) and all the other trips we took this year have left us without any funds for travel. And, we just really needed some time at home after what was a busy and emotionally exhausting year. It meant no Timberline this year. I thought Kai would be more upset about abandoning the tradition -- but, she didn't seem to mind. She loves Timberline, but she was very understanding of why we couldn't go and agreed that we've done a lot of other fun things this year. She often is wise beyond her years and very easy to reason with (usually).
Not only did we stay home... we stayed home without any plans for things to do. There were days we barely left the living room. I definitely didn't feed the kids three meals a day most days. We had a lot of "fridge days" -- aka days when the kids were free to get whatever they could find out of the fridge and eat it.
We did celebrate Christmas. Alden is a true believer in Santa -- despite our best efforts to dissuade him of his firmly held belief. He went to a hockey game with Will early on during the break and came home and said, "well... it's true. Santa is real." We asked him how he knew this and he said he met him at the hockey game. We pressed a bit harder and reminded him of the scene in Elf when there was an imposter Santa in the toy store and asked him how he knew the Santa he met was real. Alden was nonplussed and responded, "they said there was a visitor from the NORTH POLE. So, that's how I know it was the real Santa." I feel like I may be failing in my attempts to raise children who are critical thinkers. Although, it is equally possible that Alden is messing with us. Or, maybe Santa is real after all and we are the ones that are misinterpreting reality. In any event, Santa didn't actually bring Alden any presents (we never label presents from Santa). Despite this, Alden has decided that his favorite presents came from Santa. I do admire the strength of his convictions. So funny.
On Christmas Eve, we spent the day baking cookies and made cookie tins for our neighbors, delivering them that evening. It was fun to walk around the neighborhood handing out our treats -- and it was fun baking them together. We made gingerbread whoopie pies, sugar cookies, blondie bars, and Rice Krispy treats shaped into reindeer.
Christmas morning was a lot of fun. As with past years, the kids slept into their usual time and woke up seemingly unaware that the holiday they had been so eagerly anticipating had finally arrived. Once they remembered it was Christmas, they were excited and the living room didn't disappoint, greeting them with stuffed stockings, a tree brimming with gifts, and a huge balance beam up leaning up against the wall.
We stretched the stockings and present opening out over many hours. Alden got a Wild Krats costume and a bunch of creature power discs. You put the creature power disc that represents whatever animal you are becoming into the vest and then turn into that creature with all the powers inherent to that animal. Alden has played HOURS of pretend since getting that vest, transforming into a new animal multiple times a day. He's had a blast. He also got a safari vest and a bunch of adventure tools (like a compass, binoculars, magnifying glass, bug catchers, etc) . He's had a ton of fun playing with those, too. He also got boots and recently told me that he never wants shoes for Christmas again. Eric responded that he was going to get shoes every year from now to eternity. Alden decided not to press the issue. He got magnetic blocks and some art supplies, too. All the new toys early on in the break have made for a lot of make believe and time spent in the playroom.
For Kailey, it was the year of gymnastics. She got a beam, gymnastics mats, a stretcher (to help her get better at the splits), and a new leotard. We transformed what was my work out room (in our in-law unit) into her gymnastics studio (although, my elliptical machine remans). She now spends hours in the back working to perfect her skills -- although, it hasn't reduced the number of handstands and cartwheels she does in the living room when we're all trying to watch TV. She's constantly tumbling. She also got new art supplies in furtherance of her other favorite activity.
Kailey also really enjoyed shopping for us this year. She got Eric a narwhal mug (from the movie Elf) and walkie talkies (which have proven to be super helpful around the house!) She got me the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biography, cozy socks, and weights (to aid in my workouts). She really thought about the gifts she got this year and was as excited to be giving gifts as receiving them. It was pretty cool. Alden got Eric a toy Hey Hey (from the movie Moana) -- and it screeches the way the chicken in the movie does when he discovers he's in the middle of the ocean. It might be the world's most annoying toy. Alden and I were shopping together for Eric and he said, "Mama... I know EXACTLY what Daddy wants. Come." He took me straight to the toy aisle and pointed out the toy chicken. I told Alden that I didn't think Daddy wanted that and he said, "he DOES. He TOLD me. I'm SERIOUS." So, we got it. Turns out Eric had told Alden he wanted that. So, it seems that Alden is also getting into the swing of giving and paying attention to what people say they want. That chicken is annoying, though. It may need to get misplaced soon.
Following Christmas, we returned to our hibernation mode. We watched 5 seasons of Kids Baking Championships (those kids are amazing) and were inspired to cook a lemon cake for our NYE party from scratch, using lemons from our lemon tree. That cake was amazing. It had a lemon syrup in between each layer. And the lemon frosting was divine. There was quite a bit of creative disagreement between me, Kailey and Alden about how the cake should be decorated. Ultimately, it was an amalgam of each of our visions with sprinkles, stars, and frosting flowers piped around the top layer. It wouldn't have won any prizes on our new favorite show, but it was fun to make and, like I said, it tasted amazing.
We also threw a really fun NYE party. We made a TON of food: prime rib, tamales, a side of salmon cooked over a fire in our backyard (using the outdoor fireplace, of course), scalloped potatoes, sweet potatoes, artichoke dip, brussels sprouts, lemon cake, crispy chickpeas, and more. Then our friends brought more tamales, quiche, cherry pie, cheesecake, more sweet potatoes, key lime pie, and more. We had so much food. And so much fun. The kids all played, mostly spending time in the playroom. We talked and laughed so hard telling stories about our kids (and our often inept attempts at parenting) that it made me cry. It was a great group of people. We rang in the east coast new year and were in bed long before midnight. It was a great party. We took no pictures... I always forget to take pictures!
This last week, we've watched more movies but also gotten a bit more active. Alden has gotten good at riding his bike, although, he still cannot start on his own. But, he can ride for long stretches and really enjoys riding. So, I took the kids to the bike path that runs along the river for a long ride -- over 5 miles! I had to walk/jog alongside Alden the whole time to help him get started... so it was quite a workout for me, too! That day, my fitbit tells me I walked nearly 10 miles. I've also been good about working out nearly every day. I've been trying to get the kids to exercise with me -- but, beyond the bike riding -- they haven't been super interested in participating. Although, we did get in all their make up swim lessons (we've missed a bit of swimming lately) -- so they've had 4 lessons in 3 days. Kai also went ice skating with a friend and has continued to go to gymnastics practice. So, it would be an unfair characterization to say they've been inactive. They just don't want to do circuit training with me. Go figure.
Eric has also worked diligently on the bathroom remodel during the break. We passed the rough inspection and Eric spent most of the break putting up the walls and ceiling, picking out tile and fixtures, and getting the bathroom to a more completed state. In the near future, we'll have a working bathroom again downstairs. So exciting. It's amazing what Eric is capable of doing with a remodel. I'm really excited to see the finished room. The kids are also quite interested in the remodel and check in on Eric repeatedly throughout the day. They like following the progress and asking questions about what he is doing -- and Eric enjoys engaging them in the work. In a few more years, they'll be able to help out quite a bit more. Just in time for remodeling the upstairs bathroom and adding a master bath.
It was great to have a couple weeks at home without a lot of plans. I think the kids are feeling ready to return to school. I'm not sure I'm ready to return to work -- but, I am ready to start engaging with the world again on a daily basis. So, that's something.
Happy New Year!