Another Christmas has come and gone. It‘s been a busy few weeks, full of whiteboard scribblings, scrap paper lists and back-of-the-napkin spending calculations, so let’s catch up.
The whiteboard Advent calendar ended up being fun for both me and the two younger kids. Even if some days it was a mad dash to get the board ready before picking them up from school. We touched on Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice/Yule, winter in general, and of course, Christmas. Their treats were mostly from the dollar store. My favorite were the light-up Rudolph noses, which they received on Christmas Eve. Then Santa got a hold of the markers when he showed up.
Some days we did a particular activity but it was more about reading the fact I would write and getting the treat for the day, and just following the countdown. It was hard to fit activities in with playdates, homework, making dinner, etc. We mostly did the usual things: baking, decorating, getting the tree. I tried to involve them more in gift wrapping, and we sat down and wrote out a few Christmas cards to people I knew we wouldn’t see.
I made a pretty big deal about the solstice. We went out for pizza at King of Pizza, which is not what the ancients did, but obviously they would have if they could have. Back at home, I lit my red candles from last year, and then we sat down and wrote out things we wanted to forget about this past year, things we wanted to release. (See here.) Next, hubs made a fire in the fire pit, and we took turns tossing our slips in the fire. Hubs, Gemma and I did it; Aidan refused to participate at all and Sebastian was in it for the fire but didn’t want to do any writing. With the year I’ve had, it could have been a scroll, but I just wrote a lot of things on one slip. Hubs and I kept ours private, but Gemma wanted to read hers out loud, and so I feel it’s OK to share it:
(Referring to a cut that ended up infected, back in the summer, leading to an urgent care visit and lots of antibiotics.)
I played some appropriate music on my phone while this went on. All in all, it felt good. A little mystical. Just to be outside on a cold night with a fire was nice.
So those have been our educational/spiritual components this season. Back on the consumer frenzy side, I basically didn’t think about gifts until the last week before Christmas. At that point, I got the final lowdown from the kids on the one thing they wanted the most and went out and got it, plus a few more things that I thought would be good. This included a mix of new and used things. Used: clothes for Gemma and Sebastian; a book for Aidan. New: 2 pairs of pants for Aidan, a big Nerf gun, 2 baby dolls, a K’nex set, hair chalk, a few other things. Nonthings: Xbox gift cards, a movie theater gift card, a Chuck E. Cheese gift card (those last two I found in a drawer). At the last second, hubs overruled me and bought Aidan his top wish, a phone. But I’m glad he did. His pile was lacking and we couldn’t think of anything else for him, really. It was definitely a smaller pile of gifts than usual, overall, but I have to say that everyone really liked what they received. Sebastian even told me that Santa is really smart because he got him K’nex instead of Legos; i.e., Santa knew that he was ready to move on even though he didn’t know it himself.
The teachers received Wawa gift cards. I was chastened by finding this at Goodwill:
On the 23rd, I baked pumpkin molasses bread (using half canned pumpkin and half a home-roasted, store bought pie pumpkin) and made Christmas crack (the chocolate/Saltines combo that sort of tastes like toffee) to give to most everybody else.
I managed to get the first floor straightened up in time to host everybody on Christmas Eve, a minor Christmas miracle. I cleaned a lot too, so much that my right arm was aching from scrubbing. Pictures can’t really capture it, but I love a quiet, pretty clean, candlelit house around midnight on Christmas Eve.
I’m grateful to my parents, sister and sister-in-law who brought nearly all the food on Christmas Eve. I did contribute carrots from the garden, which Sebastian enthusiastically picked for me, with ranch dip, and homemade whipped cream. The carrots were ok, some more sweet than others. If you are used to baby carrots, well, they don’t taste like that.
Sometime in December I also made a gingerbread house from scratch, but we never got around to putting it together; then it got wet and I threw it out. I made several batches of gingersnaps, some to eat, some to gift. It also snowed a few times. Lots of hot chocolate has been consumed.
We have mostly eaten in except for King of Pizza and a trip to PJ’s to use a gift card my parents gave us for our anniversary.
I made some killer pulled pork one day, with a shoulder from Hillacres Pride. That was good for two nights. Some homemade meatballs as well, to go with spaghetti.
Overall, we’ve been eating lots of leftovers and making meals of little random bits of things. I’m back on cloth napkins/rags instead of paper towels. I’m reusing the Ziploc freezer bags on the regular. I wear two pairs of socks and my fleece jacket in the house to keep the heat low, and instruct everyone else to do the same. I ordered heating oil from a website that allegedly gets you the lowest price from local dealers (it did seem low). Most importantly, we finally cut the cable cord! We don’t have Verizon Fios cable anymore. Just Netflix and Hulu. I don’t miss it at all, and everyone else is getting used to it. (I’ll admit the buffering can be annoying.) Hubs went out and bought a 2nd Roku box for his room, but I don’t miss having TV in my room.
December was also a big month of sales for me, on Facebook, craigslist, and eBay. Holiday dresses (though I have several that didn’t sell), a microwave, that midcentury modern chair, more lots of baby clothes, even a bra that I bought but never wore. The weekend before Christmas, I edited some eBay item titles to mention Christmas and that Wednesday was the last day to ship them for Christmas, and found some new items laying around to sell with that spin (novelty slippers that the kids barely wore, for instance), and sold a few things that way. eBay selling certainly is interesting and a world of its own. Right now, I need to pack away my winter items that didn’t sell and get the spring clothes ready.
I’m sitting in the living room now with all the candles and lights, on my cozy red couch. All the kids are off watching TV or bothering my husband. Overall… it was a peaceful, low-key holiday season. I didn’t overdo anything. The decorations and gifts and food were pared down compared to other years, even last year. I tried some new recipes and new traditions. I’m content. I have some thoughts and plans concerning next year but I’m laying low this week.
Today: We went to Friendly’s, where the kids paid with their own money, and where Sebastian drew all over his face with a pen and then cried when kids at another table laughed at him. After that I picked up 2 free mugs from a Buy Nothing member, which I really needed. Then, at their insistence, I took Sebastian and Gemma to Toys R Us to spend the monetary gifts they received from family members.
Tomorrow, I want to make soup, maybe potato.
This week, it will be cold enough that we could make ice lanterns, something I’ve been wanting to try.
See you in 2018…