The Stockings are Hung and I’m Ready for Christmas Hugs

It’s a cloudy, snowy Sunday.

snowy winter day in PA

I slept in and had no intention of putting up my Christmas decorations. For the first time in a while I felt a bit lonely today. Thankfully thoughts of cozy evenings with my kids during upcoming holiday visits bumped my dreary demeanor to the curb.

Normally I put my decorations up the Friday after Thanksgiving. When the kids were growing up it was a tradition to decorate the house on Friday and go to That Pottery Place to make giant mugs, dog dishes, or holiday decorations on Saturday. I still have a few of the things we made, including my favorite over-sized bright green and blue polka dot coffee cup and saucer.

It’s never been great for coffee, it’s so big the hot liquid turns to room temperature almost before you’ve had time to take a sip. It does however, make a great place to keep loose change in case one of my kids needs a little laundry money to take back home with them.

change cup

It’s the first time in my adult life that I’ve decorated the house with the knowledge there was no one coming home this evening to enjoy the holiday transformation with me. It feels a little strange.

At first I thought it was silly to decorate until the day before the inbound Christmas flights arrive. But now that I’m done and there’s a stuffed Santa on the window seat, the stockings are hung by the fireplace, flames are flickering behind the glass doors and from the winter green candle tops, I’m glad I didn’t wait.

There are a few things left to do. I need to buy a wreath, figure out whether or not I’m going to replace my outdoor decorations, and last but not least put up the tree. The tree is going to have to wait until Christian gets home and has become our new tradition we’ll decorate it on Christmas Eve.

The stockings are hung and I’m ready for Christmas hugs and warm cozy nights.

the stockings are hung

What is More Quiet Than Quiet?

Christmas Tree In Rockerfeller Plaza

I had a very special Christmas this year.  Jeff and Katie, my two oldest kids, were both able to get the same days off over the holiday.  They both flew in on the 21st of December and we had until the 27th to enjoy being together.

I’m getting pretty creative these days when it comes to travel, and I’ve become a huge fan of taking the train any time I can.  Jeff and Katie both agreed to take the train from the airport (I really didn’t give them much of a choice). This meant that instead of trying to coordinate arrival times, airports, and costs for flights from two different cities I could focus on getting the best fare.

Things went smoothly aside from a couple of flight delays and a train stop due to a police  check and they were both here by 3 P.M.  We kicked off the weekend with a night of food and laughter with friends.

Dan, Brian, Paul, and Mary arrived on Saturday evening bearing gifts and board games.  We played Say Anything before dinner and laughed until we almost cried.  We played another game after dinner and wrapped up the evening with hugs.

We had a traditional Christmas Eve;  and although the minister attempted to draw an analogy between the movie Elf and Buddy’s use of maple syrup to the joy of Christmas, the church service was very nice.

Posing for the obligatory Christmas Eve family picture took a little more time than usual this year but in the end we decided it was worth it.

her kids on Christmas Eve

One of the things I love most about my kids is that they love being ‘kids’ they are never ‘too cool’ to be goofy and have fun together.

Katie, Christian, and Jeff on Christmas Eve

We packed in as much as we could during the week and in addition to seeing the Hobbit and Le Miz, we spent a cold and rainy afternoon in NYC.

I think it’s a good thing that we didn’t check the forecast before we left or we might have decided to stay home instead of dodging icy raindrops so we could say we’ve seen the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza.

Jeff, Katie Christian in NYCJeff, Katie Christian in NYC

I think we stayed just long enough to flag down a couple of random strangers to take our picture before we hailed a cab.  Which by they way, was the best $11.00 I’ve ever spent.

NYC in the rainy cold at Christmas

Thursday was the return travel day and filled with shuttling the kids to their destinations. I dropped Jeff off and fought back the goodbye tears until I was home.

Christian looked up when I walked in the door, “It’s so quiet.”

“I know, it’s funny how even when everyone is here, even when it’s quiet it feels like it’s not,” I said.

He nodded.

There’s a sound that is more quiet than quiet, and that’s the silent echo that bounces off the walls after a week with all of my kids.  In some ways I think it’s a sound of love.

I’ll Love You Forever, I’ll Like You For Always

It seemed like waiting to pick out a Christmas tree until Katie arrived in Pennsylvania, the week of Christmas, was a brilliant idea.  We’d pick out the perfect tree sometime between the 18th and the 23rd of December, set it up on Christmas Eve eve and decorate the tree when Jeff flew in on the 24th.  We’d enjoy all of the Christmas with less of the mess.

On the day she arrived we ran out of daylight, time, and motivation but being the eternal optimist (that is when I’m not worrying) I knew we still had plenty of time and there would be no issue getting a tree that would be ‘just right.’  I have to admit I started getting a little nervous when the place we usually buy our trees from closed down their operation a week before Christmas.  However since there were two other places nearby I stood steadfast in my confidence right up until I woke up in a cold sweat at 4:00 a.m. the morning of the 23rd, I was suddenly certain that all of the Christmas trees were gone. I tossed and turned while I anxiously racked my brain for plan B, C, or Z.

Thankfully I had to take Christian to school on Friday morning which gave me the perfect excuse to take a detour on the way home and scope out the remaining trees.  After all if I had gotten up and driven by the Christmas tree place with no other reason to leave the house, it would have sounded nuts.  I breathed a big sigh of relief when I saw there were more than a few trees left, a bit scraggly, maybe not as ‘perfect’ as I had hoped, but then again it’s all a matter of perspective.

Frantic to get to the tree place before the final rush of procrastinators, I decided it was not a morning for sleeping in and I rousted my reluctant daughter out of bed and by 9:30 a.m. we were at the lot scoping out the remaining trees.  We picked the best one, deemed it ‘perfect’ and watched in awe as the guy from the nursery spun a clever four strand web of twine over the tree and through the car to secure it tightly to the roof.

Unlike last year, the trunk slid easily into the tree stand and there was no need for a last minute trip to Sears to buy a new one.  After a bit of good natured squabbling about which direction to move the tree we stood back to admire it.

“It’s lopsided,” Christian declared.

“Don’t worry, it’ll fluff out overnight and be just fine,” I replied.

Christmas Eve arrived I surveyed the tree and it had fluffed out overnight, but much to my chagrin no matter how many times I spun it around, Christian’s declaration remained true.  The shape of the tree was far from perfect and although the worst side of the tree was positioned into the corner I couldn’t deny that it leaned to the left.

After a trip to the airport, a stop at the grocery store, dinner preparations, gift wrapping, and a very strange church service the tree was no straighter than when I had looked at it earlier in the day. I was a little disappointed in it, my kids however, declared it to be just right.

“All you have to do is look at it from this angle and you can’t even tell it’s crooked,” said Jeff.

“And once we get the lights and ornaments on it’ll be even better,” Christian added.

I smiled as I watched my kids transform from three young adults into giggling children while they decorated the tree.  After some lighthearted debate they agreed to hang all of the stars and glass balls they could rescue, the traditional wooden figures and angels, a keepsake from the Caribbean, and even the homemade felt snowman who has only ever had one eye.  I had to admit the tree ended up being ‘perfect.’

Christmas morning arrived and we settled in to exchange gifts and a lot of laughter.  I passed out the presents and we decided the opening order.

“You know you have to go last Mommy.  If you hadn’t jumped the gun and opened your other present early there would be more under the tree for you, so now you have to wait,” Katie teased me.

(The story of the full length mirror and the early Fed Ex delivery is one I will never live down.)

After many gifts, smiles, thank you’s and hugs it was time to open my present.  I had no idea what to expect and I felt they had already been way too generous with the gift of the mirror.  My fingers trembled as I worked my way through the tape and wrapping paper.  I opened the box, reached for the flat orange envelope and slid a spiral bound gift with a shutterfly logo onto my lap.  I turned it over and my kids grinned as my eyes filled with tears.

On the cover was a picture of the four of us and a quote from Love You Forever (Robert N. Munsch and Sheila McGraw) a book I read to each of them no fewer than a thousand times, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always.  As long as I’m living, my mommy you’ll be.”  Tears continued to stream down my face as I flipped from one personalized month to the next, each page contained a collage of digital memories.

Jeff and Christian nodded and smiled while Katie exclaimed, “We hit it out of the ball park boys!”

They did indeed.

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