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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Holidays 2014 : Christmas

I know you saw the title of this post and were like, "WTF, Lara? CHRISTMAS? REALLY?" Soooo. I wrote posts about Christmas and Easter and forgot to publish them and only discovered them when I was clearing out my millions and millions of "Draft" posts (where half-formed thoughts go to die).  In the interest of being a huge attention whore, I'm going to post them now (because hello, even though they are six months old, they're still cute pics of my kids) and then back-date them to the appropriate months so it doesn't immediately look like I'm a huge blogging failure. But we'll all know the truth deep down.

Christmas season is, and pardon the French but it's the only way to put it, BAT SHIT INSANE around here. This is because we have (okay, *I* have) a pretty large extended family and I refuse to sacrifice or consolidate any of the Christmases. So over the course of two days, we typically have five Christmas celebrations:

- Christmas Eve at my paternal grandma's
- Christmas Eve at my in-law's
- Christmas morning at our house
- Christmas slightly later morning at my parents' house
- Christmas afternoon at my maternal grandparents' house

It's mind-mindbogglingly crazy and busy and sometimes stressful, but I wouldn't change it for the world. My grandparents - the girls' great-grandparents - aren't going to be around forever (my hope is that they're around long enough for both girls to at least remember them) and I want to squeeze in as many of these holidays at their homes, as we traditionally have, as long as I can.

This year, Christmas was a bit MORE insane since we had a two-week old newborn. I was a little hesitant about taking her out to gatherings, but then I figured hey, immune system building! Just kidding. I cleared it with the pediatrician as long as no one was sick (I checked with people beforehand) and people had their flu shots (checked that also) and I mostly kept her to myself (easy, since she was nursing).

And this post is going to be completely TL;DR for most of you, I bet. And that's okay. Just know that you're missing out on a super boring post! Aren't you sad?

Come Christmas week, we found out that Chris's uncle, who was staying with Chris's mom, was sick. Because of that, we couldn't do Christmas Eve at his mom's house like we normally do, so his aunt and cousin (visiting from out of town) and his mom and sister and her fiance came to our house. His aunt and cousin hadn't met Carys or Emmeline yet, so it was really special to have them over to our house.

The girls are wearing coordinating outfits from Hanna Andersson.  UGH I'M THAT MOM. But hello. Cute.

Forcing everyone to participate in a "Frozen" dance party. Which they were happy to oblige.

Our second Christmas celebration took place at my paternal grandma's, who Carys calls "Grandma Blankets." Because she makes blankets and there are always blankets around her house. I'm not joking when I say we probably have five quilts from her, as does everyone else. It's wonderful and I want even more!  We've been doing Christmas Eve at her house for as long as I can remember. When I was little, we'd do this, then go home and attend midnight mass.  

Christmas at Grandma Blankets' is known for two things: the giant haul you leave with (she's a shop-all-year-long-clearance-and-Black-Friday person) and for always having a fun, silly little activity. One year, she hid money around the house and we had to find it. Another, she put money in puzzle boxes that you had to solve to get the money out. One year, she said she couldn't afford presents that year because she had to buy grandpa a treadmill for his health - and all our presents were in the treadmill box. And one year, she took us all to Vegas. So you never really know what's going to happen, but you can be sure it will be fun. 

Attending this gathering were my parents, siblings and their significant others, as well as my aunt and uncle, and my cousins and their significant others and kids (got it?).  It's always funny because the two sides of the family - my dad's family (us. duh.) and his sister's family always split up and sit on two different sides of the living room.

The presents were endless, and Carys just kept asking "This is for me? Who from?" and followed it with a sincere and enthusiastic "OH, THANK YOU! I LOVE IT!"

Emmeline got to wear her special Christmas outfit, but Carys got hers dirty after Chris's family had visited, so she had to change. Sadface.

Carys's face was like this pretty much the entire night.

I love this age, when they're excited about everything - even clothes.

Holy fucking shit, I'm in a picture. Exhausted new mama right there.

Does this picture not just completely epitomize Christmas joy? The materialistic part, that is.

Chaos on the other half of the room.

This year, Grandma Blankets made us all pillow cases out of pin-up material. She's seriously hilarious.


The next morning, we did a quick gift opening at our house, with just our tiny family of four.  We've been doing "want, need, wear, read" with Carys, where she gets a couple Santa presents, then something she wants, something she needs, something to wear, and something to read from us. It's more of a guideline than a rule, since I'm, um, not the greatest at self control. But it does help me contain my spending, and hopefully will help Carys and Em with the insane Christmas materialism that seems to happen every year.  Each girl also gets a ornament each year, continuing the tradition started by my parents when I was born.

And yes, I have a spreadsheet tracking the ornaments already. All four of them. (Carys got Rudolph the year she was born, Curious George last year, and a big sister ornament this year. Emmeline got the same Rudolph ornament, only with 2014 on it instead of 2011. Obviously. Stop writing, Lara.)

She looks upset here, but this is actually her "Oh, I love it so much, mommy, it's my best ornament ever!" face. 

She stopped for a yogurt break. Despite my urging to keep opening presents. Weirdo.

One of her favorite presents - a train set. In the background is some of the haul from Grandma Blankets' house the night before. 


We (our family and my siblings and their significant others) then trudged to my parents' house for strawberry waffles, a tradition we've been doing for ages. We do stockings and gifts there. We each generally get my parents a small gift, then all chip in for a larger gift, and each get a few gifts from my parents. The siblings don't exchange gifts - instead, we draw names and give ourselves a theme. Each person gets a specific item within the theme and their present has to match that item. For instance, the theme might be "Wonders of the World" and I might draw "Great Pyramid of Giza" within that general theme. So my gift has to somehow say "Great Pyramid" to the recipient - because they have to guess it. I have no idea when or how this tradition started, but it's lots of fun. We typically wait until Epiphany (we're such Catholics) to do that part of the gift exchange, though, to spread out the pain of buying gifts for everyone all at once.

Dancing with her aunt.

My brother and his girlfriend. They're really ridiculously good looking. 


After my parents' house, we ALL go to my maternal grandparents' house. And when I say "ALL," I mean ALL. My mom is the oldest of seven [counts in head...yeah, seven] and those seven are mostly married with kids and those kids are having kids now, so there are a lot of us. Especially considering that the my mom and her siblings have families of four, four, four, six, and two. From those twenty grandkids have come....eight? nine? ten? something like that? great-grandkids. And most of those twenty have spouses or significant others as well. Obviously not every single family member makes it every single year, but it's generally a very. large. group. of. people. And completely chaotic. And I freaking LOVE IT. Love it. The last two years, we've done the actual celebration at my aunt's house (across the street from my grandparents') since it's gotten to be a little overwhelming for my grandparents. We draw names for this gift exchange, too. It ends up being like 95% booze. We're a fun family.



Then I go home and sleep for a week. 

And obviously I also need to share a couple pictures of the girls in their Christmas outfits. Because hello ADORABLE.

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