I taught up until December 14, finals night. I brought in magic cookie bars and fudge for the students; encouraged a festive atmosphere, and gave them back their graded portfolios that night, the last of my essay reading and grading for the class! I input grades the next day and the Fall 2016 semester was officially done. It was a great one. I had the best group of Advanced College Composition students anyone could ask for. We only had one drop and no one got lower than a C; our discussions were consistently incredibly lively while also maintaining a healthy dose of respect and caring for each other. Despite our varied values and backgrounds, especially politically, I'd say we developed a pretty strong bond.
I continue working a few hours a week at The Bookery. Sometimes I go in early in the morning before the doors open and work in the kids' section. I also have been cleaning the Airbnb property that my sister manages, which pays well and is surprisingly relaxing. One morning on my way home after working a couple hours, Darin and the girls were on a neighborhood walk and mushroom hunt. It gave my heart a jolt of pure joy to see them tromping along with the red wagon and rosy cheeks, shouting and waving as I pulled up the road in our proud mini van. As soon as I hopped out, they bombarded me with, "Mama, we saw EIGHTEEN mushrooms in the front yard! In the back yard there are MILLIONS! There are PURPLE ONES. Wanna see\?!' And they took my hands to repeat all their deeply inquisitive little adventures.
|little wasp galls on our oak leaves|
We made our traditional sugar cookies shortly after that. I have real helpers this year! Yes, it's still lots of work, and the results are not pinterest worthy by any means, but it was fun and cute and cozy. Lucy is by my side every step of the way on any household endeavor. She did a great job with rolling pin and cookie cutters this year. Expert level already.
Both girls did a great job at sneaking bits of dough.
I didn't really take pictures at our Solstice bonfire but it was a lovely soul warming night. A few friends gathered, each showing up at various points and staying for varying lengths of time. I had read up extensively on the Solstice this year and felt determined to start incorporating more ritual into our seasonal gatherings. As friends gathered in the dark with mugs of mulled cider or tea, pulling up every random chair from our yard, as the topic turned and turned again, and the children came and went and even clambered on hay bales and went swinging by cold moonlight, and the fire kept burning until almost midnight, the night itself felt like a ceremony in its own right. We did talk a little about the long night, the way the Yule and the various versions of Christmas all center around these ancient practices; my heart was buoyed and enriched.
Pops on Solstice night.
Next day I took the girls on a little nature ramble picnic by the river.
It was colder than it looks, but when the sun peaked through the trees we put our faces to it and made up songs and chants of adoration. Here is a sun Tootie drew in the sand.
Starving after our walk, we called Darin at work and had him meet us for dinner at Mel's Diner, and then went to look at our favorite Christmas lights on Santa Claus Drive.
Christmas Eve's Eve, the excitement was mounting. Nana had us all over to her new place for her homemade fruitcake and to watch The Snowman. We were in festive attire every day at this point. Tootie is wearing a jumper and blouse that were mine when I was little. With her hair this way, she strongly resembles little me in my childhood photos.
Polly wore one of my very favorite gifts handed down from Missa and Clover, a little vintage German sweater dress with matching tights that she thrifted separately!
My Mom moved to a more rural location about ten minutes from town. Here is Nana's new woodsy little forest home all decked out for the season:
It boggles me that not everyone likes fruitcake. I am definitely a fan, and my mom's is incredibly delicious (and gluten free)!
tiny live tree with only a few treasured ornaments:
The kids get immediately comfy at Nana's house.
She gave them each a water bottle as a little early Christmas gift.
Christmas Eve, again the girls are wearing vintage pinafores from when Addie and I were little.
Nancy (owner of the Bookery) came by with a gift for each girl.
So here they are, posing with new stuffed animals.
My favorite thing about the holidays is all the friends and family just stopping by spontaneously. Carol Ann and Ezra were in town and stopped by briefly with little Elan. They were getting ready to make latkes at her mom's house for Chanukah. We talked about the challenges of mixed symbolism for holidays, and they admired the details of our tree's many ornaments. Elan's favorite was a little deer for whom he carefully chose a new spot.
Christmas Eve we each open a little gift from each other. The girls each opened a game that the other had picked out for her sister. They were delighted and we played both games that night.
Darin gets to open one from each girl. Polly got him raven socks this year (last year it was sharks) and Lucy got him a little book from the Wooden books series, The Sun, the Moon and the Stars.
That night I got my annual family DVD that Darin makes me, an edited version of all video footage we take during the year. I started it after the girls went to bed, wrapped presents and cried.
And then....the joy and the spirit and the magic of Christmas morning. The bells really were ringing out for Christmas day, and it was the sound of my little girls' voices.
They definitely loosely believe in Santa Claus. We don't really go out of our way to make a big show of it, and we try to refer to the idea of Santa and the spirit of giving in a more vague, mystical sense. This December we spent enough time in our friend Tony's toy shop, Bonkers, that the first thing Lucy shouted when she saw her snake and Polly's kangaroo was, "Santa must have gone to Tony's store!"
We spend a long, leisurely time Christmas morning going through the contents of our stockings.
We got an Instax mini to share!
Polly adores her Calico Critter babies.
I made cranberry orange muffins,scrambled eggs and veggie sausage, and we all had time to get dressed in holiday attire before my family started to arrive.
Pops and Joey and Scout arrived first. Joey and I had gone in together on a popcorn maker for Pops that makes movie theater style popcorn, his favorite.
Then our friend Oran stopped by bearing gifts. He makes these "lasso rings" of twisted sterling silver and he fitted us each for one on the spot. He told me they look nice on ladies as a thumb ring so that's what I've been wearing. Oran's sons are the nicest kids on earth. His younger son helped the girls build their new Peppa pig pirate ship out of big Legos.
Then my dad gifted us a new camera lens. It's the one I broke last year, a wide angle lens with a low f-stop so I had to try it out right away. Thanks Pops! Now we can see the total chaos of our living room in one photo. ;)
Playing with new toys and waiting for everyone to arrive is part of the fun of Christmas.
Poor Gelf is always along for the fun whether she likes it or not. That kitten's sweet patience knows no bounds! Sometimes I honestly think she kind of likes it all.
Nana's here! She and Jack brought his daughter Moriah this year too.
Addie and I assembled a stocking full of goodies for our dad. Actually, we had too many goodies, so he got two!
More gift opening madness ensues!
Calico Critters adventure treehouse!
Play cupcake set:
And of course, books, books and more books:
A couple of my new favorites:
When Emmy came to pick up Scouty to take her to her mom's for a little while, my mom bawled. Joey and Em's divorce will be final soon. We all still love each other very, very much and will always be family. Honestly, the holidays have not seemed much different than before; Joey and Em are still together often, and she often joins us for family activities. Scouty just has two houses now.
Meanwhile, the playing went on and on and on.
We rejoined for Christmas dinner a couple hours later. The girls said their own grace. Here is how Tootie usually says it (in triumphant, loud tones) "Dear UNIVERSE, thank you for this wonderful meal. We love Christmas. I love my new toys. NAMASTE." They do this funny exaggerated head bow and say "namaste"to each other after any prayer.
Pigging out, potluck style. We had two different kinds of enchiladas, a green salad, cheesy potatoes, and garlic bread and we all stuffed ourselves!
After dinner Addie played piano. It was a merry night. The kids occasionally marched through in full-on parade mode, with kazoos and shakers and tambourines. The noise level at our house is off the charts; everyone has gotten used to it. Addie was learning "Fairytale of New York" with Joey's help on guitar, and we'd pipe in singing periodically. Later when my other two brothers were here for "second Christmas" on the 30th we all sang it together, but that's another post!
The Christmas season could not have been more glorious for me this year and I hope that you all had a wonderful one as well, surrounded by those you love dearly, with happy hearts and warmth and light inside during the dark midwinter.