Last year, Christmas ended and we told ourselves it HAD to be different the next time--between the rushing and the cleaning and Peter begging to just play with a single gift rather than opening more, it was painful. It's almost eleven p.m. Christmas Eve and I think we might have pulled it off.
Winter arrived Thursday (conveniently, the Solstice) with our first big snow and Peter was enthralled. " 'no outside Mama! 'no!" He wanted nothing more than to run around in it--we went out to the car and he ran all the way down the block. "I walk in 'no!" Then Friday evening we picked out a tree and he thought a store full of Christmas trees was such fun--he ran around and around pointing all of them out. Saturday we got out the ornaments and he spent the next two days playing with a diesel train ornament my mom gave him last year. Leo and the cat have been playing peekaboo in the tree. Peter noticed the presents under the tree but the ornaments have better held his attention. We made one more batch of cookies -- spritz -- yesterday and went to 5 p.m. Mass to celebrate the fourth Sunday in Advent. We spent most of the day today at the IL's house, cooking and playing earlier, then eating our Norwegian white dinner (minus the lutefisk) of lefse, rommegrot, meatballs, and sweet soup. We drew names (2 each) this year and the chaos seemed much more controlled than usual. Peter thought his Harvey engine was fabulous and immediately came up with some crack-in-the-track scenarios for Harvey to help Thomas out. Leo didn't choke on any paper and Dan and I each received a couple thoughtful gifts. Tomorrow we'll go to church in the late morning, then to my parents' in the late afternoon. I've never had Christmas morning without my parents and I'm looking forward to it just being the four of us for a few hours. Leo will be able to nap in his own bed and Peter can play with his trains in peace for awhile.
I managed to trade knitting for about half of our gifts this year. I think with more planning I could improve on that to further reduce the times the credit card needs to be used in December, but I was really happy with the things I did trade for. Then last week, I decided to make fabric gift bags and all the small to medium gifts got them. For Peter and Leo, I took the scraps and wrapped them around their gifts and tied them with ribbon, so they just have to untie the ribbon bow. I'll keep the fabric to use again. I don't use other paper products (other than toilet paper, although I might go there one of these day) and it felt strange using a ton of paper and tape now when I had the fabric available. (I finished quilting Leo's stocking with a week to spare!) The fabric is also more durable against Leo's crawling and the cat's scratching (see the peekaboo comment above).
I grew up in a family with no cousins and an aunt and grandmother who loved to shop and I remember years when the piles of presents were over my head when I sat down. My parents now use Christmas as an excuse to give us things we really need or otherwise won't buy. Peter found the onslaught of gifts from them completely overwhelming last year and I want him to be able to sit and play with each gift as he opens it. I tried to emphasize to family that we'd appreciate memberships and passes to local amusements--we'll see how it goes. I bought too much at the local train shop and managed to put half of back in the basement to save for his birthday.
We try to balance Advent and Christmas around here and I think the past few years we waited too long. Advent is all about preparing for Christmas and shouldn't leave us trying to clean the house, decorate the tree, and wrap the presents the morning of Christmas Eve. We'll emphasize the Octet of Christmas rather than making a bigger deal about the weeks leading up to it. Peter enjoyed the Advent candles and counting how many to light each week. I intended to do more with Advent but just didn't get there. I'm not sure what Peter thinks about Santa but I suspect that'll be a bigger issue next year when he's better able to sort out the camels from the wise men from the mall elves. It's hard to ignore Santa when it's everywhere--I feel bad for non-Christians trying to explain things to their kids this time of year. Peter loves looking for Mary and the manger -- is there baby Jesus yet in that one? -- in nativity scenes.
I'm just enjoying watching Peter experience so many things this week for the first time in his memory. He's able to comprehend so much more this year and he acts as though everything from the first snow to Christmas trees to gifts is there for the purpose of delighting him.