Friday, January 5, 2018

December 2017 Wrap-up

Before January 2018 gets too far under way, I want to jot down some of the fun things that we did in December. It was one heck of a full month, but full of so many fun things!

2017 Olson Family Christmas Card

We have a non-negotiable holiday rule in our home: NO Christmas decorations until December. So, the first weekend in December is typically when the tree appears and we decorate the house with Christmas merriment galore. This was our first year having an artificial tree (thanks for the hand-me-down, Suzanne and Randy!), something I've been advocating for over the years. (Eric resisted because he would miss the smell, which I totally understand. I just was done spending the money on real trees that needed constant watering and still dropped their needles all over.) We compromised by hanging some tree scent sticks from the artificial tree... it worked ok for this year, but I think next year we'll just hang a wreath or swag somewhere in the house for the smell.

It's always a kick to decorate the tree with the kids because the activity is so much more than simply taking ornaments and putting them on branches. With each ornament, we would talk about why it was special, who it belongs to, or when we got it. Decorating the tree turns into a family history lesson, in some ways. We listen to Christmas music and dive into the past ... all together.

On Christmas concert December 14th, the kids' school had its annual Christmas concert. Conor's second grade class sang "Rise Up Shepherds And Follow". Annika's fourth grade class sang "Up On the Rooftop ". In addition to being an audience member, I was asked to take photos of the concert, so was us and down a lot throughout the evening. I'm pretty sure that Eric was convinced he was sitting next to a jack-in-the-box with how much I was popping up! Ha!

Back in November, I was at Central Market and noticed a flyer for their gingerbread house decorating event. Simply put, you buy a gingerbread house kit and decorate it at their butcher paper-covered tables using their frosting/icing and candy. In the end, you take home a fun house and the wonderful Central Market folks clean up the mess. Win, if you ask me!! The kids had a marvelous time creating their gingerbread masterpieces... and sneaking nibbles and bites of their candy decorations along the way.

This year, we had about a minute between the end of Advent and Christmas Eve. Annika was THE altar server at 10:30 mass on Chistmas Eve morning (aka the 4th Sunday of Advent) and that night, Conor was one of the wise men in the church's nativity play. Prior to mass, Annika was nervous about being the solo server; after mass, she turned to me and said, "I'm glad I did it alone because it made me realize I remember and know more than I thought I did." Way to go, Annika! She was mostly excited, however, that not only did she get to ring the bells during mass but also got to sit on the cushioned altar server chair. Bonus!

Conor decided that he wanted to participate in the annual nativity play at Christmas Eve mass. If I'm being really honest, I did try to convince him otherwise so we had fewer time commitments on the calendar and so we could go to a slightly earlier Christmas Eve mass at another nearby church, but he was determined to participate. Ok... fine. As it turns out, he had a marvelous time and it was pure joy to watch him with his school buddies reenact the nativity. I even helped out a bit by making the crowns for the three wise men (ok ,wise persons... Fiona probably doesn't want to be called a man). Conor had an extra prop  -- the camel stuffed animal that my brother gave to him when he still lived in Bahrain. Seriously!! Our little wise man had a camel from the Middle East for a play that was supposed to take place in .... oh yea .. the Middle East! How cool is that? Almost immediately after completing the performance and sitting next to me in the pew, Conor turned to me and asked if he could do the play again next year. Oh, my little star of the stage!! The second graders who were in the play also got to bring up the gifts during mass... bonus!! Conor (and his camel) did a very nice job carrying the basket up to the altar.

As Conor and I headed out to Christmas Eve mass, we noticed that it was starting to snow. Hello, Christmas miracle!!!! Eric suggested that we take his SUV instead of the van to church and I am so glad we did!! By the time we drove home, the roads were covered and slick. (Thanks for the loaner, hon!!)

Just before bedtime, we got to our completing our Christmas Even traditions: set out milk and cookies for Santa and read "Twas the Night Before Christmas". Problem: I used up our carrots when prepping Christmas dinner's veggies. We had no carrots for the reindeer. Fortunately, we (and hopefully the reindeer) were open to a slight variation on the snack .... this year, they got cherry tomatoes! One really neat aspect of our ongoing tradition was this was the first year all four of us helped read "Twas the Night Before Christmas". It was an unexpected gift and so cherished.

On Christmas morning, we woke up to about 3 inches of snow and it was still (lightly) falling! A white Christmas in Seattle?? Holy moly!! Talk about the best Christmas present EVER!!! (Although, remember that whole "no carrots left for the reindeer? Well, that also meant no carrot noses for the kids' Christmas snowmen. Obviously, I need to keep more carrots on hand!)

Unfortunately, the snow kept Eric's parents from making it to our house first thing in the morning. (They couldn't get up their driveway because it was too slick.) So, we adapted a bit and the four of us opened presents on our own. (It felt so weird!) We opened our stockings first and then moved on to the gifts under the tree.

In preparation for Christmas, I sewed a number of reusable fabric gift bags and we used them to wrap our gifts.... talk about a smart choice. The clean up was a breeze and the amount of recyclables plummeted compared to years past.

After a few quite hours at home (filled with enjoying our gifts, catching our breath, eating our family's traditional Christmas Breakfast casserole, and playing in the snow), we geared up for some amount of unknown guests for dinner. Eric's folks arrived a little bit after 1 and Eric's best friend (Dave) arrive a little after 2. Because of the snow and the fact we did a pre-Christmas celebration 2 days before, the Nelson contingency opted to hunker down at home ... and we didn't blame them one bit!!

While our Christmas turned out to be a "let's play things by ear" day, we loved the treat of having snow on the ground!

The Wednesday after Christmas was our designated night to to to the holiday lights display at Woodland Park Zoo. We've gone every year for I don't even know how long and usually have our friends Dave and Anne join us. Unfortunately, Eric's nasty cold (which turned into a sinus infection by January) kept him him and feeling miserable. So, the kids and I met Dave and Anne at Zeek's Pizza (our pre-lights dining spot due to its proximity to the zoo), had dinner, and then walked over to take in the pretty lights. It is fun to look for the new additions each year. This year, we found a Yoda in lights! The kids had so much fun running around and having fun together. (Dave and I greatly felt Eric's absence because that meant we were outnumbered 2 to 3... we had to play zone defense.... no man-to-man for us!) We wrapped up the evening with about a half hour of a "snowball" fight in the Zoomazium. The kids probably couldn't have asked for a better way to wrap up the evening! (The adults were just glad it didn't rain and we left with the same number of kids we arrived with!)

The morning after our zoo lights excursion, the kids and I layered up and headed up to Snoqualmie for our annual tubing fun. Again, Eric was feeling so cruddy that he opted to stay home bundled up in his PJs and sipping on Theraflu. (Boy, does he know how to enjoy the Christmas holidays or what????)

As we drove up to the pass, I started feeling nervous about the conditions at the tubing area because we were seeing nothing but down pouring rain. Even 2-3 miles before the freeway exit to the ski and tubing areas, it was still raining. Amazingly, the slight elevation shift at the tubing area meant snow for us while we tubed and tubed and tubed for 2 hours. This year, the tubing area had speakers up that play fun music from the 80s and 90s. It was a neat bonus, for sure!

Before we knew it, it was New Year's Eve and we were saying goodbye to 2017. Of course, Eric and I had NO plans to stay up until midnight (much to Annika's chagrin ... we are SUCH party poopers!) Conor was sacked out by 9. Eric and I were in bed and asleep before 10 (as nature intended!) What about our little night owl, you ask? She opted to stay up until midnight, have a party with her stuffed animals, made party hats for said stuffies and her family members, did the countdown, and even made confetti to toss in the air at the stroke of midnight. I awoke a few minutes after midnight knowing someone was standing over me. Even though we were blissfully ignorant of the new year having arrived, Annika felt the need to include us in her celebration, so she put our party hats (that she kindly made while waiting for midnight) on our heads. Was I startled? Yup!! Was her sentiment sweet? Yup!! Was I glad to be awake? Nope! Oh well...

So,that's how our December and year wrapped up. So much fun! A few annoying germs. Celebrations galore. And snow. Aside from the germs, we've decided to call it a win. Happy new year to our loved ones far and near!!

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