Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Day in the Life

 Before I left the house this morning, I decided that I wanted to remember this day. It's not out of the ordinary, really. Just a day in my life.

But I want to record it. I want to remember what it feels like to be in the trenches of motherhood, this here and now that I love so much. This time and place that brings me so much joy and so much aggravation.  I want to remember this day because it represents thousands of days just like it. I want to record more than just the tiny glimpses that my memory will allow me once this phase of my life has passed. I want to really remember. So I can hold onto the changes that are happening within me. So this refining process won't just wash away once my children are grown.

Because I want to be more than the nice old lady at the grocery store who smiles and offers unhelpful platitudes. I want my future self to be a real force for good. I want to remember how much strength and fortitude it takes to raise children. How much strength and fortitude I earned with every tantrum calmed and every math page completed and every toddler mayhem endured. Strength that I can use to help the future mothers of the world. To be supportive and encouraging. To be willing to jump in when I see a need. To bake cookies and drop them off because I notice a mom who had a particularly rough day with her kids at church. To offer a non-judgmental ear when I see a mom struggling with her child's behavioral issues at the park. To be a caregiver or a babysitter or a tutor to children who are not my own. To be a pillar others can lean on because I have been where they are going. Because I remember how amazing it is.  And how tough.

This post is for me. It is by far the longest and most detailed post I have ever written. Most people will likely have very little interest in this. But I post it here because it is the one place that I know I will be able to find it again.

My day began when our foster dog decided it was time to wrestle with Charger at 6 am. In our bedroom, of course. Yep, we are back in the foster game. And this dog is the best foster we have had. Period. She does well with dogs and children and has no issues. Except that she was shaved. Probably to treat some dermatitis thing. So she looks sorta funny. But she is the sweetest dog that has come through my home. (Sorry Charger, you have issues.) And I'm not just saying that because she likes me the best and follows me everywhere like my own personal, adoring shadow.

The getting ready for school craziness was more or less the same as every morning. K gets herself up and ready and to the bus stop. She loves the one on one time she gets with Shaggy when he walks her over. B usually wakes up next, ready for her baba. She snuggles with me as we lay in my bed and I revel in her sunny smile, soft skin and sweet baby voice that says “Mama, mama! Ou!” as she pulls the blankets off in an attempt to get me out of bed. I am grateful every day that this little bundle of joy is a newborn no longer and that I am done with nursing forever. It was sweet and wonderful and horrible and convenient and painful, all at different times. I am stinkin' proud of the fact that not one of my 5 children ever had a drop of formula. Because I know that it is the only perfect record I will ever have as a mother. And I am ok with that.

S also gets herself up and ready, though her brain teems with questions that she just has to ask right at the moment I'm changing a stinky diaper or calming a meltdown or trying to get J out of bed. J pretty much always yells when we tell him it's time to get up. He wastes most of his time dawdling in the bathroom and then has to rush through breakfast and brushing teeth to make it out the door on time. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen without a whole lot of nudging from us. And J doesn't always respond well to nudging.

R shows her sweet little sleepy face at some point during all this rushing around. It is a bright spot in the middle of all the morning craziness. She is always willing to give a cuddle or a hug and she is blessedly easy to nudge . . . most of the time. Today we have to hurry and get ready so we can actually make it to preschool on time. Because after I drop her off, I have to book it over to the junior high to watch K get an award for her good grades. We always try to make sure she knows how proud we are of all the effort she puts into learning, but these awards have become commonplace over the years. She and S get these awards twice every year.  But we do love it. How responsible they are. How much they don't need nudging to get their homework done. How much pride they take in a well done assignment. We realize that their attitude towards learning is a blessing.

As I was about to dry my hair, I realized that B had been absent and quiet for a little too long. That is usually a sure sign of trouble, so I went to investigate. I found her sitting on the table trying to drink the milk straight out of the jug. There were some flowers in a vase that were tipped over with the water cascading off the side of the table. As I got the milk out of reach, she grabbed a bowl and spoon from someone's leftover breakfast. I took that away before she could dump it out. Faster than lightning, she grabbed the cereal box and turned it upside down. S calls her 'monkopus'--a combination of monkey and octopus. I think it's a pretty fitting description of B as she is now. Finally, I just grabbed her little mischievous self and scooped her off the table and tipped over all the chairs so she couldn't climb up again. She started crying. And lifted her arms to be picked up.

I swung her up to my hip and glanced at the clock. I had ten minutes until it was time to leave. My hair was sopping wet. I had a baby with no shoes or snacks to get her through the awards ceremony. My preschooler was spinning around on the coffee table singing, "You'll never get rich by digging a witch (sic), you're in the army now." She had crazy morning hair, unbrushed teeth and her feet were shoeless. I told her to go find her shoes and put them on. She walked over to the front window, looked outside and announced, "I can't find them." Then I noticed that she hadn’t found any items to put in her share bag like I asked her to do 5 times yesterday. But didn't follow up on because I was running around to doctor's appointments and helping a friend who had just discovered that her mother had passed away in her sleep.

I realized that it was hopeless. We would not be on time for preschool. Maybe I would also miss K's award ceremony. It wouldn't be the first time. Finally we managed to get all ready except we couldn't find B's jacket. Whenever she sees it, she carries it all around the house trying to get someone to put it on because she thinks then she will be able to go somewhere. Somewhere more interesting than home.

At long last, the crazy morning routine was over. Thank heavens! As I drove to preschool, my mind was mulling over all the tasks that I needed to accomplish during the day. Errands and award ceremonies and missions of mercy would all have to happen with a toddler in tow. No getting around that. But the calls and emails and applications and research would be impossible to do with my little whirlwind around. This is why naptime is so critical to the smooth sailing of my ship. When naptime turns choppy, that's when we capsize.

We raced over to preschool, late, of course and then raced on to the junior high. I fielded a call from my mother who had a question. I had to put her off with a promise to call her back which I forgot about as soon as I hung up. Baby B and I made it just in time to . . . sit and wait. And wait. And wait. While they went through hundreds of awards before getting to K's. Time where B climbed up and down and over me and everyone sitting near me. She handed me her jacket 20 times in the hope that we would leave and go somewhere more interesting. She tried to dump out my purse and fussed for a snack and tried to draw all over everything within reach with a marker she had found. I felt a surge of pride . . . and sweet relief when they finally read K's name. I wanted to duck out then, but the idea of climbing over so many people with a toddler on my hip kept me in my seat until the ceremony was over.

As we were walking back to the van, I marveled at B. At how big she is. And how adorable she is when she runs, even if it is in the opposite direction that we need to be going. I smiled at the way people responded to her assertions of independence. When she ran away from my outstretched hand, or just sat on the ground to protest the way I was herding her to the van. I had to scoop her up and stuff her flailing arms into her car seat straps while I talked to her about birdies in my most soothing mommy voice. Sometimes that works. But today was not one of those times. I listened to her crying as we drove home.

I probably should have just left her in the van, we had so little wiggle room with our schedule. But I brought her in while I hunted around for a phone number, brought the afore mentioned spilled flowers back to life, grabbed a plate of muffins and a giant homemade card. I followed her out the door with all of it held precariously in my arms. I knew it was a bad idea for her to be loose, but there wasn't much I could do about it at the moment. The minute I turned my back to shed my load and gain a free hand to grab her with, she darted into the middle of the street. I was a few steps behind her and said a million silent prayers that there were no cars coming.

With her safely stuffed back in her car seat, we headed out on our mission of mercy. Which would have been more merciful minus the little whirlwind. She climbed, fussed, and handed me my purse with stern orders to put it on. All in the hopes of going somewhere else. When all else failed, she pushed me out of my chair. I felt grateful that she had at least flashed her impish little smile at my grieving friend while we were there.

An already fussy toddler does not make for a good errand buddy. Ever. But we forged ahead anyway. Errands have a way of just needing to get done, no matter who your errand buddy is.  It makes me feel schizophrenic to even walk into a clothing store. Too many kids. Too many different sizes. Too many "Mom, I need more . . . " Too many things that will probably be needed next month that I would like to jump the gun on. Too many great deals on clearance that might fit next year. All I really want to shop for is cute stuff that will look good in pictures that I will probably never get around to taking.

In the middle of all this, I realized that I was nearly late for R's preschool pickup. As we were driving, I had to sing silly songs and reach back to tickle B in a desperate attempt to keep her awake so she would take a nap. I needed that naptime more than she did today.

Once home, I tried to rush through the sleep routine. Halfway through I realized that I was not even aware of the words I was reading. My mind was far away. Distracted. Stuck on my list of things to do. That would not do. So I stopped, and I nuzzled B's baby soft cheek, and made animal sounds until I heard her delightful little laugh. I gave her kisses until she screeched in protest. Then we spun in circles while she waved night night to all the animals on her walls. After a few more smooches, some whispered words of love, getting tucked in next to her beloved teddy, she was set. I still feel grateful every day that she is so much easier to put to sleep than when she was little. She sighed and watched me walk out of her room with those beautiful baby blues. 

I sat down with R to have lunch to the sound of my Celtic station on Pandora. It's my go to music when I feel the need to be soothed. There is something about Irish melodies that feed my soul. I closed my eyes and let the music wash over me and realized that it was the first truly peaceful moment I'd had since 6 am. It was beautiful, but short lived as I realized that R was making an art project rather than a meal out of her PB&J.

I finally made it to the computer to begin to record the fleeting memories of my morning. By tomorrow they would be gone, pushed aside by the momentum of this phase of my life. I managed to type one sentence. And then the phone rang. My mother. Who had a quick question about an upcoming birthday. And then spent the next hour and a half hashing things out with me. She likes to hash things out.

I finally broke away from the phone call when B's post-nap crying became a crescendo. So much for my small window of productivity and decompression time. It took me a while to calm her down. And when I finally had, school was out and it was time for the homework onslaught to begin. The hash session had stripped me of my equilibrium, as it always does, and I lost my patience with J who is the world's biggest dawdler when it comes to homework. I just couldn't get him to stay in his chair and focus, so I yelled at him. He yelled back and continued to yell and go out of his way to try to start fights with his siblings. I patted myself on the back for a job well done and sent him to his room where he was instructed to finish his homework before coming out. Without my nudging, it took him 1.5 hours to get it all finished. The first sentence he wrote for an assignment was, "I had a bad day because my mom yells at me." It made me laugh. And apologize. And hope that his teacher wouldn't call DCFS. But I drew a frowny face and wrote, "Poor J" just in case she thought I wasn't aware of his sad, sad home life.

My afternoon was a blur of fussy toddlers, bored preschoolers, grumpy grade-schoolers, and energetic dogs.

Dinner was nothing very memorable. Pasta, I think. Standard fare around here. After dinner, once Shaggy was home, I escaped to my room. I managed to get 10 minutes to myself to type, type, type before S showed up asking about nintendo downloads. And K wanted me to look up how to do sock bun curls so she could try it. It just couldn't wait until tomorrow, apparently. I love spending time with these girls. They are fun to hang out with. They are witty and enthusiastic and categorically helpful. I long to have more time to spend with them without the distractions of to do lists and the needs of little ones. But time like that is few and far between. I love being their mother and look forward to getting to know them all over again as they move through the phases of their lives.

Then it was time for the bedtime routine. Which took hours, even with two of us, and more patience than I had. But it still had to be done. The highlight was when I got to chase R from corner to corner and room to room as she cowered and cried and begged me not to take off the band aids from her three immunizations. But we got it done and she bounced back to cheery, except for her runny nose and hacking cough. She amazes me. Truly. Her ability to jump between moods as easily as a butterfly flitters from flower to flower. I think she is my hero.

With two tucked into bed, it was time to cajole J into the bath. Another activity where he excels at dawdling. But it gave us a welcome respite from his foul temper. Which seemed to get washed away along with the sand and dirt and whatever else was lingering under his fingernails. He emerged clean and happy and full of questions. Mostly about stuff I couldn’t answer. So he went and had a serious discussion with Shaggy about ghosts. A newly discovered fear thanks to an overheard conversation between two budding paranormal investigators at school. He is now afraid that there are ghosts in every room. He doesn’t want to be alone. It’s a good thing that he shares a room with Baby B or we probably would have been rearranging some furniture. He now resists going to bed even more than normal. When Shaggy explained that ghosts weren’t real (now would not be a good time for the whole ‘our spirits leave our bodies at death‘ thing, I think), that they were just in stories like monsters and dragons, J insisted that they were real. Because he heard his friends say that you could see them as spots in the backs of pictures. Case closed, according to Shaggy, because Mommy has taken pictures in every room and there have never been any spots. Voila! Ghost free home. Good night. Except anxiety disorders don’t follow lines of logical thinking. The fear stayed put. But J did modify his prayer, which he says word for word every night, usually with very little modification. Now it goes something like this:

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for this day. Thank you for food and water and the sun and school and work and whiteboard markers and legos and Baby B. Please bless there to be no mites, no tics, no fleas, and no spiders. Please bless nothing to hurt me, nothing to bother me, and nothing to go wrong. Please bless there to be no ghosts.  Please bless there to be no scary noises.  And please bless me not to be scared. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Asking God for help with not being scared is the most perfect thing this little boy can ask for.

Once he was tucked safely, or not so safely depending on who you asked, it was on to sock buns and nintendo downloads. And the realization that I still hadn't done those urgent things. It took me a while to remember what they were. I sometimes think my mind is going, that these crazy days are robbing me of my ability to remember things because too much happens. I cannot hold even a fraction of it in my memory. Which is why my blog posts are so important to me. I want to remember more than I am able to on my own. I want to record it--a window for the future me to look into and relive a small piece of today's normal. Because I know that it will not be tomorrow's normal. It is certainly far from yesterday's normal. If the past me were dropped into my current life, she would have a breakdown. No doubt about it. But that is a thought for another post.

For now, it is time to rest. I have recorded one day, one day of my life. It was not a perfect day. There would probably be nothing from this day that I would have remembered a week from now. But now that I have recorded it, it will live on. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Just before crawling into bed, I told Shaggy that I thought we should just skip K's application to the specialized music high school we were considering. There's no more time. The deadline is upon us. All my intentions of working on it today didn't happen. And I have serious doubts about our ability to get her over there every day come next fall. So she will miss a potentially great experience simply because we are overwhelmed. Ah, well. It isn't the first time and it won't be the last.

I'm realizing that it is such a struggle to find a balance between being in the moment and planning for the next moment. Both are important, vital even. But it doesn't seem possible to do them both at the same time. So I am left to bounce back and forth between them, planning and cherishing. Cherishing and planning. And knowing all the while that most of it will fade away with time. Except for the lessons I have learned and the ways I have let myself be changed by the process. If I can just remember . . .

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stitches, Spots & Death Threats

So, how do you know that I am just a regular person and not some seemingly perfect (actual perfect ones don't exist) blogger that posts all these amazing and beautiful and timely projects?  Well, the main one that comes to mind right now is that I am still posting about Christmas even though January is mostly over.  That probably violates a lot of unwritten blogging rules.  AND, I only manage to throw in a beautiful project every once in a great while.  All the rest of my posts are mostly just me trying to keep a handle on my life.  So I refuse to feel bad.  And I will stop comparing my little corner of the blogoshpere with those mega monster blogs with all the amazing and beautiful and timely projects.  Which I love.  And hate.  They inspire me and drive me crazy, all at the same time.
Besides, those bloggers probably never get thinly veiled death threats from their extended family members, all under the guise of Christmas popcorn.  Seriously, would you dare to eat this popcorn?
And I'd be willing to bet their husbands don't slice open their fingers while trying to split wood with a tomahawk.  And then patch themselves up and run to an urgent care center where the doc doesn't even bother to clean the wound before stitching it up.
Maybe their kids get sick just in time for major holidays, but they probably don't take pictures of them while they are feeling so miserable and unable to move off the sofa.
And when Christmas morning rolls around and the plague-like virus has made itchy red spots appear only on their faces, hands and feet, they probably don't carry on like nothing's wrong.  And they probably would have noticed earlier that a certain daughter was scratching those itchy red spots which appeared on her face and they were spreading and scabbing and looking generally pretty horrible.

And yes, I purposely chose a photo that made those horrible spots look much more subtle than they actually were.  Believe me when I say that there was nothing subtle about them.

In my defense, since my children didn't seem to be critically ill and the horrible spots seemed to be the last stage of the plague, I totally stand by my decision not to drag them to the same urgent care center and sit there for half of Christmas Eve.  We have taken 5 people there since Thanksgiving and I hope to never see the inside of that place again.

But, since this blog is about trying to find the melody in the midst of the cacophony of my life, and not about how I measure up with the rest of the blogging world, I will end with a photo that simply makes me happy.  In the middle of all of our holiday celebrating and finger slicing and plagues, baby B had the opportunity to meet her grandmother for the first time.  Fortunately for them both, her visit was timed to perfectly coincide with B's remission from the plague virus.  Strep came before, fever and spots came after.  But the week Grandma was here, B was feeling great.  

And they became fast friends.  It was so fun to watch their interactions.  How delighted Grandma was with B--with her smiles and her antics and how much she loves to figure things out. I probably could not have captured that feeling if I had set about trying to.  But somehow, it showed up all on its own.  And that is why this photo makes me happy.  And why I share it on my oh-so-less-than-perfect blog that reflects my oh-so-less-than perfect life which is beautiful but hardly ever timely.


This is baby B's standard pose for photos, sort of like a deer in the headlights.  Maybe she was shocked at the unauthorized photo shoot . . .
 . . . so she had to promptly call her agent to complain.  She was still in her pajamas, after all.  I love how R is doing action fingers on her head and J is caught in an attempted kiss.  That baby is loved, I tell you.
One of my favorite things to do on Christmas day is to try to capture the excitement of presents.  To catch that one magical moment when someone removes just enough of the wrapping to catch a glimpse of what's inside and their emotion is flashed across their face.  It's over so quickly, it's a challenge to catch.  Which is probably one of the reasons I love trying.  Because it isn't easy.  It makes giving so fun--to be able to witness that joy or awe or even sometimes bitter disappointment.  I love it all.
J wanted to build a present wall.  We were happy to oblige.  Made the perfect window to watch the present opening.
I am also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to capture a fair amount of dog butts in my photos.  Charger knows that he is a member of the family and so he is always ready to jump into the center of things.
Baby butts are a whole lot cuter.  Especially when they are all wrapped up in the very same Christmas outfit worn by each of her older siblings.  A tad small, but who cares?  A tradition is a tradition.
Aunt N sent these stylish boots for B.  The moment she opened them she was infatuated.  Insisted that I put them on immediately.  Actually, immediately was hardly fast enough for her.
Then she proceeded to show them off in every manner possible.
I remembered to make sure that I was in some photos this year.  Some years, that gets woefully overlooked in my attempts to capture everyone else's magical moments.  And yep, that is yet another butt in the photo.  She was crashing the picture of the nice gift K and S gave me.
The aftermath.  And though you can't tell from the photo, it was blissfully quiet since all the kids were so absorbed in their new activities.
Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Our Christmas Traditions

Shaggy and I used to spend a lot of time talking about what traditions we wanted to have in our little family.  But now our family is not so little anymore and our traditions are fairly stable.  Though they do fluctuate some from year to year--sometimes they get changed or forgotten, sometimes we toss in a new one just to spice things up.

Christmas is golden when it comes to traditions.  No holiday or event is looked forward to with such an abundance of delicious anticipation.  The kids don't need advent calendars to keep track of how many days until Christmas, it seems to be hardwired into their brains as soon as December rolls around.

First, of course, comes the decorating.  I have to be honest and say that pulling all the ornaments out and setting up the tree is not my favorite thing to actually do.  But I love it once it's done
I love how excited the kids get as they become reaquainted with beloved favorite ornaments.  And I love how my house looks so cheery and festive and colorful with everything set up.
This year, I learned something new.  How to take bokeh pictures of the lights on my tree.  It involved aperture and manual focus and blah, blah, blah (I know, this is not a photography tutorial!).  Anyway, it's such a perfect way to capture the spirit of the season.

At some point in the weeks that follow setting up the tree, I drag my kids to go take a photo with Santa.  Since I'm being honest in this post, I have to say that this is not their favorite tradition.  Except for R who absolutely adores going to visit Santa.  She will talk his ear off about what she wants for Christmas and how much trouble her baby sister causes and what kind of dance she is going to do for him.  She is our social butterfly.
I could document our family's expansion with Santa photos.  I have one from every year since K's first Christmas.  I am so overly fond of Santa photos that I even love the ones with crying babes.  To my poor children's detriment, I think they are adorable.

Once Christmas gets a little closer, we have a slumber party around the tree.  This is a fairly new tradition, added in the last few years and so is still being shifted and modified to make a good fit.  I think next year, we'll try doing this on their last day of school before Christmas break starts.  To kick off the real Christmas season, when their excitement can go into overdrive because they no longer have to worry about school.
We usually have to rearrange the furniture to make room for all the pillows and blankets and mattresses and stuffed animals and various other sleeping buddies that the kids can't live without.
The dog, naturally, invites himself to this party.  He believes that any blanket or pillow or jacket or various other soft thing that gets left on the floor, is left there for one purpose, and one purpose only.  To provide a more comfortable and cozy spot for him to lie down.  R now regularly provides him with something to cuddle and a blanket to keep him cozy.
Then we put on a recording of "A Christmas Carol."  We always hope that the younger ones will settle in to listen and then drift qietly into dreamland because they don't really understand the story all that well.  But that has yet to happen.  R was just too wound up being there with everyone and once she heard the word "ghost" and realized she was listening to a ghost story (she loves ghost stories), her imagination took over and any hopes for sleep fled.  They all stayed up way too late that night after the recording had ended and were fairly grumpy the next day.  But I like to believe that someday the memories of the whispering and the giggling and the "shhh, someone's coming!" will far outweigh any discord that happened later.
And then, of course, is the gingerbread.  I used to just buy the kits.  Because they were so easy.  But Shaggy invited the challenge of making homemade gingerbread.  Which just about derailed us last year.  But this year I found the most marvelous gingerbread cookie pan that makes perfect gingerbread house pieces.  It will definetly earn its keep through the years.

So I thought it would be fun to have a contest.  Gingerbread cookie vs. gingerbread cake.  Because gingerbread isn't my favorite flavor so I thought maybe I would like it better in cake form with cream cheese frosting. So I headed up the cake team and Shaggy was in charge of the cookie team.  We let the kids decide which team they wanted to help.  K was Shaggy's apprentice and S was mine.  The other kids were mostly opportunists and swarmed around only when they thought they could get some candy in their greedy little mouths.

It was kind of fun and a lot of work.  And I still don't care for gingerbread all that much.  Even with yummy frosting.
So who won?  The original idea was to post two photos on facebook and see which one got more likes, but then we worried about the kids feeling bad and fostering too much competition, so we tossed that idea out and just ate the gingerbread.  But I think that Shaggy's team would have earned a lot of extra votes because his house lit up.  The windows are backwards gummy bears and he rigged a reading light to go inside the house.  Yeah, I never would have thought of that.

But my frosting tasted WAY better.  Neener, neener.
Christmas Eve comes way too slowly for the kids and way too quickly for us.  There's a whole lot of magic to pack in on Christmas Eve.
The highlight for the kids is the opening of a gift.  Typically we let them choose from among the presents that are already under the tree.  But this year they didn't get a choice and we did it a week early. 
Grandma came to visit so we let the kids open the gifts we bought with the money she had sent them.  She had a particularly profitable year with her avocado stocks.  Fortunately.
 Unfortunately, J did NOT like his gift.  Fortunately, he swiftly changed his mind once he realized what it was.  Expectations can be dangerous things.
Then there's our scripture narrated nativity play which, in all likelihood will never have anyone besides Mickey Mouse cast as Joseph.  I don't understand this tradition, but then again, I don't work for the casting department.  And next there is the sprinkling of oats and glitter all over the lawn for Santa's reindeer.  A tradition which only surfaces when we have a child in preschool, since it seems to be a preschool thing.
And there's the Daddy reading of "Twas the Night Before Christmas."  Which is way better than the Mommy reading of the same poem, apparently.
Cookies, milk and a note for Santa.  And when we say cookies, we use the term very loosely.  R was the voice for the note this year.  This is what she said:  Dear Santa, I put reindeer dust on the lawn for the reindeer.  We made muffins for you.  There's m&m's on them.  I hope your reindeer don't stop going in the sky.  I hope your sleigh doesn't try to go down.  Deliver all the presents on time!  I hope you don't crash.  Sometimes people come to your house at the same time.  Santa, our Christmas tree is so beautiful.  Merry Christmas!  Merry Christmas!
She was appropriately thrilled, but not surprised that the "muffins" were gone in the morning.  I have decided that 4 is the quintessentially perfect age for Christmas.  There is just the right mix of awe and faith to make it truly magical to behold.
This is our Christmas Spirit box which got a facelift this year thanks to my newfound appreciation for mod podge.  We bring this out with all the Christmas decorations and fill it up with examples of the Christmas spirit that we notice during the weeks leading up to Christmas.  When we have Christmas dinner on the 25th, we open it and take turns reading all the notes.  I love that we get to focus on this when the craziness of gifts and wrapping is all over and done.  It gives us a chance to remember that it is the giving spirit and faith that really make the Christmas season magical.
Usually, I also like to take either a family portrait or one of just the kids (it all depends on how ambitious I'm feeling) in our Christmas finery.  Some years are finer than others (it all depends on which hand-me-down dresses happen to fit the girls).  This year, portraits of B is as far as I got.  After I had made sure all the kids were clean, and dressed, and combed, and brushed and I had my camera all ready, the kids were so stinking grumpy and uncooperative that I gave up.  Some battles are not worth fighting.

Christmas day will have to wait for a different post.  As will the stories of stitches and spots that made unwelcome appearances during our Christmas merry-making.