For a few years now we've decided to have our own little Christmas, just the four of us, before we head out of town to be with family. For a couple of reasons it's very fun, our kids certainly never balk at the idea of opening their gifts early and we love not having to drag a bunch of presents with us out of town. But also, it's just a sweet and quiet time for the four of us, five next year, to be together and for Trav and I to enjoy watching them open the gifts we chose for them. I believe we started this little tradition when Ava was almost two and Carter was an infant, and we were hit with a series of snowstorms that were keeping us homebound and a little stir crazy. One particular weekend we just looked at each other and knew we needed something new to distract us all. We had a play kitchen stored in the garage, that we bought for Ava and were planning to give her on Christmas day, but that night we broke all the rules and brought it out for her, unwrapped and all. She loved it, we got a big kick out of watching her play with it and it kept her entertained for days on end. After that, we adopted the early Christmas idea as a way to spread out the gifts and make some sweet family memories.
I usually do a Christmas tour of our house every year, mostly so I can have it to look back on, but this year I didn't have the energy to get it together. I kept things extra simple, not pulling out everything I usually do but just going with the things we love and things that were easy to put out and take down later.
I really wanted to incorporate more navy into my classic red and green, but I never felt good enough to do any shopping or to find what I was looking for, beyond the pillows I always have on my couch. I will be on the lookout for next year though!
We put the baby's stocking out this year, mostly just to make us smile at the thought of another person in our home next year. I loved looking at 3 stockings and I'm so glad we'll get to hang that same stocking that both Ava and Carter used for their first Christmases.
I didn't get very crafty this year and I didn't even put any fresh greens out. I just mixed a few Christmas things with my normal everyday stuff and called it good.
But I did want to tackle one teeny, tiny crafty thing because even when I was sick around the clock, I couldn't stand to not do anything :) In my mind, I really wanted these balls to be a cool, navy plaid but again, I never could find it anywhere I looked. One day at Costco I spotted this blue ribbon and decided to bring it home and see what I could come up with.
I sort of made it up with some pearl pins out of my florist's tool box but I liked the way it turned out. They serve no functional purpose whatsoever but they did help tie some navy in and they were kind of a fun addition.
Picture that bowl full of fresh greens and berries with some of these tucked in and around it.
It was a work in progress this year but that's ok, I have some vision for next year!
A few nights before we were headed to Iowa, we put the kids in the bath and while they were in there I pulled out all of their presents to surprise them. We definitely were not in a stage of life this year where we could leave wrapped presents under the tree for weeks at a time. Mostly for the purpose of our sanity and not wanting to answer the "is it time to open presents?" question every 10 seconds. With all of our family living out of state, December is an exciting month for our kids and the constant deliveries from the UPS man and Fed-Ex guy. I'd been stashing the deliveries from the grandparents and aunts and uncles for a while, so I pulled them out and wrapped them for the kids to open along with ours.
When they got out of the bath and came into the living room, there were plenty of squeals and looks of delight on their clean, little faces!
This year they could both read their own names so it was a fun few minutes watching them read the labels and get excited every time they found their name.
We got them to make their piles, turned on the video camera and then turned them loose!
Carty went for his biggest gift right away and the only thing he's been asking us for, for months!
And what is that you might ask? A green garbage man :) I am the most well-versed Mama on the toy garbage truck market. Thankfully he was smitten immediately!
I had a feeling he was also going to like the other things coming his way!
And this little cutie has been very specific and consistent with the gifts she desired. Ariel is her favorite princess of all time and yes, she already has 2 of them but her beloved doll with the mermaid tail broke a few months ago and she was broken hearted about it. In one of my prouder Mom moments I did not give in and immediately rush her to the mall for a new one, but I helped her fix the old one with tape and told her that Christmas would be good time to ask for a new one. She's played with that broken-tailed Ariel for months but has never forgotten my suggestion. I was so happy to buy this for her and reward her patience. She was THRILLED that we remembered and loves her new Ariel with the slip on mermaid tail that can't break :)
She also scored the Frozen sisters!
She's pretty easy to shop for, this one. Some new princess dolls to play with and this girl is good to go!
We dubbed this year the "Year of the Vehicle" for Carty. He basically received a fleet of things that make noise and light up between all of us and he was pretty happy about it.
Every year it seems that I have a major lapse in judgement when it comes to 1 present. A few years ago I bought Ava a musical lawnmower that was actually one of those horrible popper toys. I thought I tested it in the store for an annoyance factor but clearly I didn't do my homework. It was annoying in epic proportions. It's still hidden in the corner of our laundry room because we hate it so much and I am the one who bought it! Last year I bought Carter a bike on Zulily that said it was perfect for his age. Well I should have measured him to double check the height because even now, one year later, it STILL doesn't fit him! He's still too short for it and it has become the bike that hasn't seen a minute of action. I never would have dreamed that would be the case, esp since Carter is extremely tall for his age! Crazy. Major Mom fail on that one.
This year I was determined not to make a bad choice but as Christmas got closer and I examined the gifts I'd already picked up, I panicked and felt like Carter was short one gift in comparison to Ava. Of course Moms cannot handle feeling like one kid got the short end of the stick, right?? I made a last minute, quick trip to the store and in one of my weak-willed moments, I convinced myself that a play-dough ice-cream factory would be a good idea.
Well I was right and so horribly wrong too! My kids LOVE play-dough and they couldn't wait to get that box open! But the part I conveniently ignored is that I HATE play-dough and I'm always the one that gets stuck with the aftermath of the mess. What was I thinking??
The next morning while Trav went to work and I got us all packed up, these two sat for an entire hour at the kitchen table, happily playing with their new ice-cream factory...mixing colors of play-dough and dropping tiny pieces of play-dough all over the floor. Two things that make me crazy.
But look at those little faces, how could I deny them their play-dough joy??
We had a great night together and we tucked away one surprise gift for each of them to bring to my parents for Christmas morning. I love this age and I love how thrilling Christmas is to them. I'm so glad we have continued this tradition and I can't wait for next year when we've got a third little face smiling back at us, completely clueless about everything! You can bet I won't be purchasing a lawn-mower popper, a bike from the internet, or a play-dough factory for this baby :)