The five days of Christmas

Some people think that Christmas is on December 25, but in my family, we stretch it out much longer... Having family close by is both a blessing and a curse at the holidays. It's wonderful to not have to worry about planes, trains or extended automobile rides. However, when everyone is within an hour's drive, it's hard to justify not spending time with every segment of the family. For a few years, I hosted a Christmas brunch, inviting both sides of our family (including aunts, uncles, and cousins) while still allowing the kids to stay put in our house. DH's insistence on hosting dinner as well, however, made for a very long day of entertaining. So, we extending our Christmas celebrations to the surrounding weeks. The state park near my parents' house does a huge light show each year, and as the kids get older, they enjoy it more. DD is starting to remember certain displys from year to year and looking to see what has been added for changed. We went to see the lights on Thursday night, and used the visit to exchange gifts with Nic and MrNic. It actually worked out very well this year, timing wise, because my mom had driven to our house to watch the kids (allowing DH to finish his Christmas shopping) while I was at work. She drove him to her house and Nic and I picked up some dinner on the way back from work. DS2 is still a bit too young to fully enjoy the lights (although something was striking him as really funny as we drove through the park) but the older children are enthralled by the animated displays and the lights on the water. DH's aunt and uncle have always hosted a get together on Christmas Eve. DH's aunt is FIL's only sibling, so it's important to him to attend and stay connected with that branch of the family. So, after going to the children's Mass on Friday night (if Joseph had hoisted Baby Jesus up the to show the crowds way the kid in the auditorium did, though, Christianity would have been over before it got started) we loaded the kids in the car to join the party. Santa is a bit sneaky; the one gift that gets delivered in time to open on Christmas Eve is a new pair of pajamas for each child to change into, since the party goes on long past everyone's bedtime. One of DH's cousins gave each of the kids a soft, fleecy blanket, and DS1 put it to use while the adults did their gift exchange. Had my digital camera not died a while ago, I might have been able to show how he made himself at home on the loveseat in the TV room. The gift exchange is one of the grab bag/steal from each other deals (I've heard it called many things, "Yankee swap", "Chinese auction", "Let's see how often we can take something away from Dad") This year's popular gifts, especially among the guys, were the turkey fryer and the case of Corona, neither of which came home with us. I'm kind of thankful for that, actually. I awoke Christmas morning (6:54 a.m.) to DS1's voice exclaiming over the number of presents under the tree. Since he has learned to recognize his own name on the gift tags, I had to move fast to ensure that he didn't start opening things without us. Once the whole family was assembled, the stocking and gifts were opened with much excitement. Naturally, the kids wanted everything removed from the packaging so they could begin using the toys immediately. I think the record for the number of twist-ties used to hold a single toy in place is 43. Just when you think you've freed the darned thing from the cardboard, you find another connection. Later that day, my parents picked up my brother and his girlfriend from the train station and came to our place. I think B and L had almost as much fun with DS1's new MagnaDoodle as he did, and DS kept everyone entertained with the elaborate stories she created by combining her Strawberry Shortcake dolls with the Hot Wheels Fire House and Little People Rescue Vehicles her brothers got. Much food was consumed, many gifts exchanged (including- woo hoo! a new digital camera for me,) and much fun was had by all. The best reaction to a gift was when DS1 looked at the scarf crocheted by Gramma and exclaimed "Look! I got yarn!" This year's celebration with the extended family on my mom's side of the family was a Boxing Day party at my grandmother's, the Polish themed one I described earlier. DD sang the song to anyone who would listen (with reminders from me and Mom when she got stuck on the lyrics.) Our family, like DH's, does the gift exchange for the adults, but with a lower price limit ($15 instead of $30) and more stealing for the sake of competition. The Belgian beer, cheese fondue set, candles, and Bolshevik pottery bowl changed hands more times that I could keep count of. The Cow Vac and mini note jotter didn't move nearly as often. I ended up with the fondue set, but gave it to L because I felt sorry for her, since she ended up with the Clay Aiken CD. Rounding out the extended Christmas weekend, we went out to dinner on Monday night with my ILs. Planning the dinner becomes a hotly debated subject, since one BIL has vetoed going to Outback Steakhouse anymore, MIL and BIL2 didn't like last year's trip to Longhorn, no one was overly enthused about the Bennigan's experience two years ago, and DH and I have kiboshed seafood restaurants (a trip to the ER isn't on our Christmas list.) We decided on Copeland's, since it's close to the house and we can all find something we want to eat there. I had no idea until we were at the restaurant that BIL was bringing his girlfriend. Actually, until they showed up together at the restaurant, I didn't even know they were dating again. Or maybe they really aren't, because I've never seen her act as though they were anything other than friendly co-workers, but all of my in-laws refer to her as his girlfriend, so I roll with it. Anyway, she joined us for dinner and gift exchange back at our house, but since I had no idea she was coming, I had no gift for her. Not that I'm inclined to be neurotic about someone having the slightest possiblity to be offended by my abilities as a hostess or anything. Not like DH knows that I am a nutcase about wanting to make sure that no one feels left out of anything (in his defense, I don't think he knew she was coming either.) Anyway, the lesson from this was that I will keep a stash of gift cards/small presents on hand for situations such as this in the future. I would post some lovely digital pictures of the kids opening the gifts, except that I didn't take any because my darling husband and his family thought that having them open up the presents while I was busy in the kitchen making coffee and setting out dessert would be a good idea so that we could get the kids put to bed and open our gifts. Because, you know, waiting for 5 minutes to allow me to see my children open their presents would be so unreasonable. But I'm not upset about it or anything. DH ended up with one duplicate DVD and didn't get the one he wanted most, so he's got an exchange to do. The clothes all seem to be the right sizes, styles and colors for the recipients, and there's nothing in my pile that is destined for Ebay or Purple Heart. Overall, not a bad holiday.


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Who's Who

    Hubby- aka DH My husband since 1995. He is the head of the band department at a college prep school, and dabbles as a wanna-be pop star.

    The Princess- aka DD. Third grader at the local parochial school. Loves butterlies, sparkly things, the color purple and has recently developed a crush on one of the twins from "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody". Is ready for her teenage years, having already perfected her exasperated sigh and dramatic eye-roll.

    Hoss- aka DS1. Kindergartener and resident spirited child. His aunt likes to call him "the evil genius" because of his penchant for letting a lack of intellectual stimulation lead him into mischief. Likes trucks, sports, building things and burping. His current favorite word is "underwear."

    Lil Joe- aka DS2. Born in 2003. Doesn't say much we can understand, but has mastered the important stuff ("eat!", "Wash hands!", "Want chocolate ones!", "Hockey game!") Likes to push buttons, much to the consternation of whoever is trying to watch a DVD. Firmly refuses to use the potty, despite evidence that he is physically ready to be out of diapers, indicating a level of stubborn that eclipses even that of his parents and siblings.

    Me? I'm the Mama. That's all you need to know.

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