Saturday, December 27, 2008

A glimpse of our California Christmas

The presents were well received, no doubt about it. But the best gift of all on this Christmas visit to California has been family time. The four cousins are on day seven of spending all their time together, and have been begging to extend their visit. The new toys have been left in the living room as they spent three hours outside and are now on hour two of some random, but engrossing, indoor game. And we adults are thoroughly enjoying the view.

It's impossible to capture it all with the camera, but the slideshow below is at least a glimpse into our holiday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Stockings We'll Hang

As is tradition in our family, we will hang our stockings by the chimney with care on Christmas Eve, right before bedtime. Over the years, my mom has lovingly needle-pointed a stocking for each one of us, so I thought I would showcase her handiwork here. I fear mine is just the right size for some coal...but will it be bituminous or anthracite?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Clare's best day

Over the past week, Clare has been alternating between telling me that Friday was going to be the "biggest" day of her life, and the "best" day of her life. Being the last day of school before Christmas vacation, and a noon dismissal to boot, I could see how it would be a pretty good day - at least, for a lot of kids. But Clare told Max the other day that she doesn't want to grow up, because she loves going to school. So, what was the big deal for her with Friday? (And where did she learn this fine art of hyperbole, anyway?) The Kindergarten Mass.

In my limited, and completely unresearched, understanding, each class at Christ the King is responsible for one of the school masses throughout the school year. Turns out the Kindergarten classes (plus Pre-First Grade) are given the Christmas mass. For the past month they have been practicing several songs, with which Clare would serenade me on occasion. Earlier in the week she told me they would be wearing capes, which was quite the visual. Interspersed through it all were these near-manic declarations that Friday was going to be the "biggest" or "best" day.

So I treated it accordingly, which means I farmed Danny out so that I could attend the festivities sans the distractions of an annoying little brother. I'm so glad I did, too, because it was priceless. I scored a seat in the choir loft, which wasn't the best spot for pictures but did afford me a better view than the way back of the church, which was my alternative. The kids processed in, so very solemnly, and performed most of their songs before mass began, singing their hearts out. It was easy to see why this group was given the Christmas mass, because the combination of little ones during this season is truly magical.

When I met up with Clare later for her class' Christmas party (and surprise wedding shower for her teacher, who is getting married on New Year's Eve), she was beaming broadly and did seem to be thoroughly enjoying her day. Of course, now it's in the past and her new focus is on our trip to California (less than a day away), no doubt to be followed by Christmas itself. So it's hard to say if it lived up to being the biggest and the best - but happy is really the ultimate outcome anyway.

(In the blurry video below, Clare is on the left side, third kid in, three rows back, in a red "cape" or robe or whatever those things really are.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

More Finicky Files

Even though I poached the first part of this article from my own blog, check out the latest Finicky Files!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Lights of Life

I have a hard time imagining what the Christmas season looked like before civilization tapped into electricity. I do recall my grandparents sharing stories of the fleeting moments when their parents would light candles on their tree. They could only leave them lit for a few minutes, but I think that made it all the more breathtaking to them.

Such humble sights are not the 21st Century way, but we did manage to find some thrilling views of our own last night when we took the kids to nearby Life University for their annual lights display. We first fed the kids an early dinner, then let them put on a pair of Christmas pajamas to wear on our outing. I don't know what it is about wearing pajamas in unexpected places, but the kids were overjoyed, with Danny jumping up and down shouting, "I can't wait! I'm so excited!" To further the pleasantries, Clare and I had made red-and-green sugar-decorated rice krispy treats to eat in the car. Wow!

Thus we headed out. We had never seen the Lights of Life ourselves, though Clare and Danny went with Donna and Larry last year, and it sounded terrific. Which it was! Danny summed it up best when he declared, "This place is wonderful!" It's hard to do the lights justice with my pictures. The large displays wind through the campus, easy to see from all windows of the car as you drive through. The Santa hat-clad sea monster in the middle of the small lake was quite popular with Tim and the kids. I was amazed by Santa and his sleigh and the many trees surrounding Santa's workshop.

After we drove through most of it, we parked and walked through the concessions area. They had photo ops with Santa, but despite Danny's engaging smile and wave to the big guy, both kids declined yet again, keeping our Santa-free streak alive for the sixth year in a row. Much more importantly, they offered pony rides! We hit that at just the right time and didn't have to wait in line. Pony rides in pajamas - what a win!

After dodging the over-eager goats, we found another spot to walk around and got a better look at the sea monster and other sights. More oohing and ahhing ensued, and then it was time to head home. Where we saw Tim's more modest, but nonetheless pleasing, lights display on our own house. Another Seymour tradition has been born. Happy holidays indeed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Seventh (at least) Circle of Hell

I can't decide if I owe my parents a profound apology or a profusion of thanks. I always knew that they really didn't like going to Chuck E. Cheese's. Dread is probably the more apt word. And yet I remember multiple visits during my childhood, at least one on the occasion of my birthday. Man, I loved that place. What's better than animatronic rodents singing silly songs, cardboard-like pizza (I distinctly recall my dad using that word), and hours upon hours of skee ball, all culminating in the final visit to the prize counter to redeem tickets for candy and crappy plastic toys? I imagine that to the under-five crowd, Chuck E. Cheese's is strikingly similar to what Vegas casinos are to we adults.

Today we returned to Chuck E. Cheese's after an almost two-year hiatus. During our last visit, Clare (then three-and-a-half) cried almost the whole time, most vociferously when the big Cheese himself came out to wish the birthday boy a happy day. Danny was a mere eight months, but he sat in his stroller and handled himself with way more poise than she did. I'm happy to say that Clare was much happier this time around (though she did keep her distance when Chuck E. came out for the birthday greetings). And Danny? I'm not so happy to say that he loved it. To the point that we left with him in hysterics of a totally different kind.

You may think it's a bit histrionic of me to liken Chuck E. Cheese's to one of Dante's Inferno's Circles of Hell - and you're probably right. But after 90 minutes of pinging games, loud robot performances, and dozens and dozens of kids whining for a multitude of reasons, it honestly felt that way. Suffice it to say, the excursion ended with Danny moaning to me, "Mommy, stop screaming!" (Hey, it was a loooong car ride in what felt to be excruciatingly confined quarters.)

"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" is probably not the marketing slogan Chuck E. Cheese's is looking for, but if they were seeking truth in advertising, I think it would fit. I have in particular abandoned hope of avoiding another visit - a show of just how much I love my children. At least I can console myself with the knowledge that I was (and still am) similarly loved.

P.S. Almost as if to prove my point, astute reader Brian passed along this gem from the Wall Street Journal: Calling All Cars: Trouble at Chuck E. Cheese's, Again

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Pirates Evidently DO Decorate Christmas Trees

Today we purchased and decorated our Christmas tree. This is a much-anticipated event in the Seymour household, with much of the ritual having been passed down from my (Morlan) side of the family. Ever since I was a kid, but I'm pretty sure starting when my parents were first married, we would decorate our Christmas tree in the evening while enjoying a sumptuous buffet feast. This is really the only time I recall my parents condoning the consumption of chips and dip (we're talking salty potato chips and sour cream and onion dip - does it get any more decadent?), and Sara and I positively lived for that menu item. (We Morlans take our food very seriously. Typical breakfast conversations revolve around the topic of what we're going to eat for dinner.) The more gourmet members participating in the tree trimming also enjoyed offerings like smoked salmon and champagne, while the kids got sparkling cider. And while he used to come in handy when it came time to put the angel on top of the tree, I primarily remember my dad sitting on the couch to "supervise" while the rest of us did the decorating. Of course, we all reminisced as each ornament made its way out of storage.

Tim and I continued this tradition when we married, merging two collections of childhood ornaments and starting our own. It was always a lovely evening, but I must say it's even better now that we have kids. I wasn't sure what to expect from them on a participatory level, either. We were able to stave off most of their impatience while we did the lights by setting them up with play-doh, but by the time the lights were finished they were more than ready to hang some ornaments. Clare gamely wore one of the Santa hats I picked up at the store. Danny, however, only wore his long enough to say, "Ho! Ho! Ho!" before tearing it off and replacing it with his pirate eye patch.

Fortunately there was no mutiny against the tree. In fact, far from it. Both kids remained dedicated to hanging ornaments, with Clare ceaselessly calling out, "Mommy, look at this! Do you remember this one?" and Danny proclaiming each ornament "Gorgeous! It's my favorite!" They were happy to take a food break, but returned to the tree much more quickly than Tim or I. (No, there were no chips and dip, but there was brie.) And when Tim eventually sat on the couch and said he would supervise, the whole evening came full circle for me.

When the trimming was finished and we had admired our work, I sat on the couch with the kids and read a couple of Christmas stories. Clare eventually moseyed off to prance around with her own book in hand, but Danny stayed with me. As cozy as it was, the evening was getting late, so I announced last call, expecting one more seasonal tale. Not so much. Instead Danny chose, with great glee, Pirates Don't Change Diapers. And so we ended our beloved annual ritual with me growling in my best pirate voice. Definitely a first - but I must admit, sometimes it's fun to tweak tradition.