We started out on Christmas Eve with the play at church. Evelyn and Oliver are both in the choir, Oliver was set to be a lamb, and Evelyn was set to be Mary. What we did not expect was that Alex got conscripted to be baby Jesus (which means Sara was conscripted to play the “Innkeeper’s Wife” and help on stage). Alex is a little big to play a newborn,but was absolutely slaying the audience with his toddling around, saying, “ma ma” and playing with the hay. It didn’t hurt that Evelyn is his actual big sis, so was much more comfortable around him than the typical Mary.
Evelyn naturally nailed her big speech. That girl just has an absolute lack of stage fright, which means she is able to deliver her lines slowly and clearly in a way that most kids just can’t manage. Like, she would say it the same whether talking to me at home, or orating to 1500 people (yes, 1500 people! We always tell her she’ll probably never play to a bigger audience than the Christmas play!)
And for Oliver’s part, he was the most adorable sheep you’ve ever seen:
Vania got all three kids matching pjs and they were THE BEST. There are little t-rexes with Santa hats on them! They are the exact pajamas I would have picked out (assuming I even knew such a thing existed!)
Barb knit Alex some *adorable* hat and mitten sets:
However, those pictures don’t really give the…flavor of the experience. Alex HATED having them on. You can see above that we had to constantly bribe him with raisins to get him to leave them alone long enough for the pictures. I would say this is a more accurate representation:
In fact, Alex hated the hats so much, that after that he refused to open any more presents. He reached in, felt the tissue paper, pulled his hand back like he got burned and then just shook his head “No!” We had to open them and show him they were not hats before he would accept any gifts.
Other than that, though, Alex has a phenomenal first Christmas. He loved his car set from Santa, loved having everybody home to play with, loved all the boxes and wrapping paper, and most of all, loved the “na na” that Evelyn gave him. He hands it to you, demands, “Na na!” and then sticks his tongue out and goes “blubalubalubalub”:
Sara and I have officially been married too long, since we got each other the EXACT SAME PRESENT. Sara opened hers first, and since I wasn’t sure she would really like it I rushed to explain all the features that I thought she would like (Ceramic burr grinder! Doesn’t take up space on the counter! No batteries required!). Sara just kind of smiled and nodded through the whole thing, until Ollie said in a very confused voice, “Wait…I thought you got that for daddy?”
“It’s like Gift of the Magi!” shouted Evelyn.
I thought it was such a unique gift! I didn’t even mean to get a hand-crank one, but when I saw it I thought she would like that one better!
Finally, there was one truly enduring gift that will be remembered long after Christmas is over…
I’m talking about Ollie’s fitbit.
Ever since last year when Evelyn got one, Ollie has been pining for a fitbit of his very own. And just like when Evelyn got one he is obsessing about it every. second. of every. day. Nary a step is taken without a full reporting. He spent the entire day yesterday pacing up and down the hallway. The number of times we had to say something like, “Oliver! If you don’t sit down and eat your supper I’m going to take your fitbit away!”
Naturally, Evelyn responded in the way any big sister would: by pacing up and down the hallway behind him, making sure he doesn’t get more steps than her. Just the two of them doing loops, all day long. Luckily it was like 60 degrees for no reason, so we did get them out of the house for a bit, and Oliver managed > 20k steps for the day (and that was with going to see a movie!).
Better that than another hand-crank coffee grinder I guess.
For the past few years, my mother-in-law has made me pajamas for Christmas. It’s a pretty simple thing, but I don’t know, I get pretty excited about them. I think by now you all know me enough to know how much I appreciate a homemade gift. I love the fact that something homemade is unique: nobody else has a pair quite exactly like them.
The first year it was Packer pants, and I wore them until they basically shredded off of my body. The next year it was fuzzy fleece pants that matched the pajamas she made for Evie and Ollie. They are super fuzzy and warm, and I’m still wearing those, but they have started to develop holes as well.
Well, this year she cooked up something special: a full body, fleece, wookiee suit.
(Sometimes Han gets scared on takeoff, so he has to hold my hand)
Aside from being THE MOST AWESOME PAJAMAS EVER, they are super soft, and also very warm. These things could keep you warm on Hoth, if you know what I’m saying.
But it didn’t stop there! Barb also made matching pjs for Alex, so we can celebrate Life Day or whatever it is daddy wookiees do with their baby wookiees.
Sara said I could use them for Halloween, but as much as I’m going to wear them I’m not sure they will still be intact all the way until October…
At Evie’s school, parents can sign up to come in and talk about a holiday that they celebrate. This is a great tradition, and we have learned a lot about Eid, Diwali, Kwanzaa, St. Patrick’s Day, and Hanukkah. Evie really wanted me to talk about a special holiday that we celebrate, which is St. Nicholas Day.
St. Nicholas Day is a much smaller holiday, and none of the other kids in her class celebrate it, though several were familiar with it through friends. I decided that we would have the kids take their shoes off and line them up, so Evie could put a clementine in each one (something she was VERY proud to do), while I read a story about St. Nicholas.
There are lots and lots of stories about St. Nicholas, including a set of stories that we read leading up to St. Nicholas Day every year, but I couldn’t find just the right one that covered everything I wanted to cover. So I wrote my own, based in a large part off of a few of the stories at the link above.
So after a short discussion, this is what I read to her class:
You know how the year is 2014? The real person Nicholas lived back in the 300s, before they even used four numbers for the year. So about 1,700 years ago! That’s a really long time ago, right? Most of the people who were alive back then have been forgotten for a long time, but Nicholas was so generous that we still remember him now, 1,700 years later. Imagine how generous you would have to be, to be remembered longer than anyone else who was alive at the same time as you!
Nicholas was a priest, and eventually he got a promotion to bishop. A bishop is sort of like the boss of many priests. Bishops often wear a really tall hat (sometimes the more important you are, the bigger your hat is) and carry a big staff with a shepherd’s crook on the end. Nicholas also had a long white beard and wore white robes and a long red cloak, which is kind of like a cape. (Like Superman)
Nicholas was actually rich. His family had lots and lots of money. When you’re rich it’s maybe a little easier to give SOME of your money to people who need it, but Nicholas gave ALL of his money to people who needed it. But, he didn’t just give it all at one time, he gave it little by little to lots of different people.
Remember that Nicholas was very, very generous, so into his clothes, and his red Superman cloak, he sewed many, many pockets, and he would keep things in there to give to people. Maybe some coins, or a little toy, or a cookie, whatever he could give to someone that would help them out, or make them feel happy.
So let me tell you a story about St. Nicholas.
In the city that Nicholas lived in, there was a family that was very poor. The father worked hard all day long for not very much money. The mother was sick and needed special medicine that they couldn’t afford. They had a little baby boy, Nikko, who was sad and cried all the time, and a daughter, Alexis, that was 7 years old.
Oh, let me tell you about Alexis. I’m sad to tell you, Alexis was very, very selfish. She didn’t like to let anybody have a turn at things, and she only played games if she knew she could win. Naturally, people stopped playing with Alexis, and she became very lonely. She even refused to share her toys with her little brother, Nikko. Maybe that’s why he was always crying, who can say.
The only thing that made everyone happy was when the father would come home in the evening and play the fiddle. Nikko would stop crying, Alexis would smile for once, and the mother would feel better. It was a wonderful time.
Until the poor father broke a string on his fiddle, and he couldn’t play anymore.
This is a sad family, right?
Now, Bishop Nicholas knew this family very well. He knew all the families in the city, and he always seemed to know just exactly what they needed. And remember, nothing made Nicholas happier than helping people and giving them secret little gifts whenever he could.
In this city it was very, very muddy, so many people would take their shoes or boots off and leave them on the porch by the door so they wouldn’t track mud through the house. So while the family was sleeping, St. Nicholas crept up onto the porch and put a present into each person’s shoe.
In the morning, when the family came outside to put their shoes on, they found a little gift. When little Nikko put his foot into his shoe, he found a beautiful carved wooden train. When the mother put her foot in her shoe, she found the medicine she needed, and the father found new strings for his fiddle. They were overjoyed.
What do you think Alexis found?
(Many children guessed “nothing” or “mud”!)
When she saw how everyone else got such amazing presents, she couldn’t wait to reach into her shoe! So she reached in and pulled out…an orange.
Now Alexis was NOT very happy with her orange. Everyone had gotten something they really wanted, and all she got was a piece of fruit?
Many people in town did not know how gifts appeared in their shoes at night, but Alexis guessed that Bishop Nicholas was the one who had put the presents there. So she marched right over to Bishop Nicholas and demanded an answer.
“Bishop Nicholas!” she cried. “How could you give my brother Nikko a beautiful toy train and give me only an orange?”
“Only an orange?” said Nicholas. “Why, an orange is the best present of all! An orange is so sweet, and when you are sweet, everyone loves you!”
But Alexis, who never remembered to be sweet, stomped her foot and said, “Bishop Nicholas! How could you give me only an orange, when everyone else got just what they needed?”
Nicholas said again, “Only an orange? An orange is like a little sun. The sun shares its warmth with everyone equally, whoever they are, and therefore everyone loves the sun!”
But Alexis, who never shared anything with anyone, stomped both feet and said, “Bishop Nicholas! How could you give me only an orange? All you can do is eat it, and then it’s gone, and all you are left with are a bunch of worthless seeds!”
Nicholas smiled and said, “But Alexis, the seeds are the best part! With the seeds you can plant more oranges, and give the oranges to others. Everyone loves those who give to others.”
Alexis realized she wasn’t going to get anywhere with Nicholas and took her orange and went home in a huff. But later, when she thought about what Nicholas said about oranges and sharing, she started to see how she had not been like an orange. So, even though she ate the orange, she remembered the orange, and that helped her remember to be kind and giving. Before long, Alexis had lots of friends, and she was so kind and generous, that people called her, “Little Sunshine”.
And that’s when she knew that St. Nicholas had given her just what she needed after all.
Around this time of year, there are lots and lots of holidays that help us remember about giving, and being generous and thankful, and St. Nicholas day is another one. But hopefully we can remember all year long how to be like an orange, and the example of St. Nicholas, a man so generous that we still celebrate him 1,700 years after he was alive.
I also explained how we celebrate St. Nicholas Day by putting out our shoes and finding presents in the morning. I asked them what they thought we got, and many guessed oranges. I explained that some of the other traditional presents were chocolate coins and candy canes, which reminded us of St. Nicholas’ staff.
Finally, I let them get their shoes, and I have to say that I was surprised at how excited they were about the clementines! I was also a little surprised at how enthralled they all were with the story. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m hitting the age right (you have to admit, this is a little heavy handed), but so far I haven’t gone wrong. It was certainly rapt attention; they literally had their mouths hanging open.
I guess even in this day and age, children are just hungry for well-told stories.