Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Reality of Santa

As I sit here, mere days from Christmas, I’m having trouble finding my Christmas spirit.  The lights are still twinkly, the songs are still merry, but every time I see a Santa I want to cry - all because a young man no longer sees the myth of a man.

My oldest, known here as Bigfoot (due to his abnormally large feet for a 12 year old), came home from school in tears and finally asked in earnest, whether Santa Claus was real.  The subject had been breached before, but this time was different and I was speechless.  No amount of preparation is enough for that moment, despite what certain Pinterest pins may claim.  So instead of a well-rehearsed speech or thoughtful letter, I winged it.

I tried to remember parts of the letters I’d read from better prepared parents telling their children there is no one Santa, he is love, he is Christmas spirit and lives inside all of us.  What I said, however, was:

“Does it really matter whether he is real or not?”

Although he shook his head no, the next few minutes were spent backpedalling and attempting to persuade my beautiful boy it was okay that Santa wasn’t a real guy, he would still have a great Christmas, and not to tell his younger siblings the truth – that they would learn in time.  I may have thrown in a few encouraging words about Christmas spirit and all that, but he still had tears in his eyes.

In the days since the reveal, the effect of the news doesn't seem to be weighing on him, even if it is on his mind.  I, on the other hand, can’t stop thinking about it.  I tried to watch a special on TLC called The Secret Santa – I got teary and changed the channel.  Then I was watching the 2004 remake of Miracle on 34th St. and I lost it.  All the kids were snug in their beds and mommy was curled up in herself, trying to keep the sound of her sobbing low so as not to wake them.

I don’t remember when I was presented with the truth about Santa.  I suppose it was around his age.  I don’t remember the feeling of heartbreak or betrayal at knowing that Santa didn’t exist, at least in the physical sense.  All I can remember is the excitement of finally being able to participate in the sacred Christmas Eve festivities, for in my parents’ house that’s exactly what it was.  The life-changing rite of Becoming Santa.

Being Santa is both rewarding and stressful, merry and miserable.  Over the years, our family has been blessed with help when we needed it, both from strangers and kin alike.  As parents we tell ourselves we’ll start early next year, but come December, we’re among the throng of procrastinators wishing we had kept that one resolution.  The bills pile up as we tell ourselves certain things can wait if it means our children will have a merry Christmas.  It’s joyfully exhausting.
And each year it is harder to stay awake on the Eve, fighting the steely resolve of wakeful children and the strain the holidays take on an already weary mind - sleep will wait for no human.  And I am of the “sleep is life” persuasion.  Christmas Eve in my house is not so much festive as frustrating, no matter how hard I try. 

The thought brings to mind the classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  Clark (Chevy Chase) wants so much to resurrect the Days of Christmas Past – the Christmases full of magic and cheer, the blissful contentment, the perfect Christmas, but every attempt results in some sort of failure.  While watching it happen to the Griswold’s is hilarious, one of my top 5 Christmas movies, sometimes parallels can be drawn.

So I've concluded there is no such thing as a perfect Christmas, except in the mind.  And while I have entered the years of adult revelations and unintentional growing up, I power on.  If all I can muster is a simple smile to brighten my child’s day, then I will smile even as my inner walls cave in.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Season So Far...

There is an ongoing revolution against The Elf on the Shelf.

Sure, s/he's creepy and it takes a little work and some creativity, but that's what this Pinterest board is for (and every other Elf board on Pinterest, for that matter).  I just don't get it.

While doing homework, my kids were discussing Charlie (our Elf) and how so many of their friends at school haven't had their Elves from last year arrive.  To hear them tell it, it's devastating. 

Why is the shelving of Elves suddenly a thing?  And I'm not talking about the title of the story, either.  Last year I had to work just to keep up with all the crazy things Elves were doing!  The whole thing is smelling a bit... grinchy
The avarice never ends! "I want golf clubs. I want diamonds. I want a pony so I can ride it twice, get bored and sell it to make glue."
- The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, circa 2000 

Is that what the Elf has become - the coveted pony sold for glue?  I say - not in this house!

But there is a lack of demand for the supply of fun Elf ideas, so instead of writing a whole post each week about what he's been up to, I'll simply share my pictures.



Woo hoo!  LEGOs!

For the other project, you're just going to have to wait until they are finished.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Simply Festive Wreath {tutorial}

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go. Take a look in the five and ten, glistening once again with candy canes and silver lanes aglow!   
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas; toys in every store.  But the prettiest sight you'll see is the holly that will be on your own front door.   
A pair of Hop-a-long boots and a pistol that shoots is the wish of Barney and Ben.  Dolls that will talk and go for a walk is the hope of Janice and Jenn.  And mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again.  
- "It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas", by Meredith Wilson circa 1951
Ho, ho, ho... 'n stuff.  This whole damn thing is just starting and I already feel like I'm failing at Christmas.  Yes, failing.  Horrible. Just horrible.  Plus, the elf.  Just saying.

We've busted out the Christmas movies and have managed to sneak in ELF, Home Alone 1 and 2, and Jeff Dunham's Very Special Christmas Special.  Don't judge - we've explained that anything Dunham's puppets say should never be repeated and if any of the stunts shown in the Home Alones were performed in real life, people would die.  Also, we've told them that if they see gum on the street, leave it.  It's not free candy.  Bases covered.

You're here, which means you are awesome and it just so happens the Jolly Jinglers are bringing you amazeball projects to brighten your holidays!  Here's mine:

First, I'd like to give a shout out and loads of love to The Big Guy, who went with my to the craft store every time and helped me cling to my sanity as my merry crumbled around me.  He's the best husband I could ask for and I'm not giving him back.  All mine.

Also, you might notice my usual starter picture is missing.  At this point my thumb holding yarn on a wreath could start its own Facebook page, so I decided to leave it off.  If you must see my thumb, you can do so here and here.

  • 1 skein tan yarn
  • 1/2 skein gold-flecked, thin-style, tan yarn
  • white yarn
  • rope lights, found in the scrapbook section
  • 1 bottle brush tree, size is users choice
  • miniature present ornaments, scaled to tree size (there are a bunch of sizes and colors)
  • hot glue gun
  • hot glue sticks (if you don't have them)
This wreath started out with a light tan color planned for the whole wreath.  Obviously I added to it, as the monotonous color needed pizazz.  Plus, I had this idea halfway through to use up the rest of my white yarn.  Goal accomplished!

You could just use the gold-flecked tan yarn to wrap the whole thing, but if you end up with the thinner style, it will take longer.  Trust me - I know.  In this case, I used it as the second wrap over the tan yarn.

The white was supposed to represent snow, but when all was said and done, it was just a nice accent color and an indicator where to put the tree.  Also, it is off center, which would usually bother the OCD part of me, but the tree is straight, so I left it alone.  Again, wrapped twice.

Ah.  The lights.  Aren't they adorable!?  I did not have this specifically in mind and boy am I thankful for that!  While looking for pieces for another project (in the near future), TBG wandered into the scrapbook aisle and picked them up.  I fell in love - both with the lights and again with my husband.

Using the glue gun, I hot glued one light to the back of the wreath to start the strand.  As I draped the lights, I continued to glue one light to the back, so the whole thing wouldn't fall. For those keeping count at home, I glued a total of 4 lights to the back and cut off the excess.

Now, what to do with the remaining lights...

What's more Christmas-y than a tree lit with colorful lights (besides Santa and candy canes)!?  This bottle brush tree came with a wooden base.  You could just snip it off with wire cutters, but I found I could just unscrew the tree from the base.  What!?  Done.

Don't laugh, but when I went to stick the wire into the wreath form (after wrapping it), I couldn't get it past the yarn.  I know - dumb.  However, gently moving the yarn aside, then sticking it in worked wonders. (that's what she said)  I added a dab of glue to reinforce its stability. 

Because it's a bottle brush tree, adding the excess lights was easy and didn't require any glue.  I started at the bottom and wound them around to the top.  Boom.

Pick a present (or two) and hot glue it near the tree.  Step back and admire a job well done!

Simple.  Festive.  Simply Festive!

For more festive fun, check out these links.  You'll be filled with holiday cheer!

Looking for something yummy?  Look no further than Karen's Incredible Edible Holiday Trees:

Lydia made an adorable Twisted Paper Angel - and you could too!

Shellybean brought us Cloth Christmas Trees to spark your Christmas spirit:

Looking for High Tech Stocking Stuffers that won't break the bank?  Melissa has a list and checked it twice! 

Sarah is going to entertain us with stories during Christmas Story Time:

Dream of being an elf?  Let it come true with Stacy's Elf Hat and Shoes!

How about some more fun for the kids - Hand Print Christmas Wreaths from Christy!

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, Happy Chanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Yule Blessings, and Feliz Navidad - from me to you!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Heeeere's Charlie!

There are many articles surfacing concerning The Elf on the Shelf and why families are choosing not to partake in this Christmas trend.  To a point, I understand their point of view, but I also love the idea of the Elf.

Truth:  It's astonishingly hard to remember to move the damned thing every night to maintain the illusion of magic, especially after a stressful day of holiday shopping, decorating, and other shenanigans.

Truth:  Santa should be enough intimidation to turn unruly kids into moderately behaved homo-sapiens for the duration of December.  It seems silly to add an unnecessary behavior advocate that requires so much more work than a simple threat.

Truth:  Many ideas out on the interwebz have elves behaving badly, and while elf-shaming is hilarious for those of us in the loop, it seems to relay a mixed message to the children.  The Elf behaves inappropriately but still gets to sit in Santa's favor.


I will admit that I was not looking forward to doing the Elf this year.  I'm still in recovery from my surgery less than a month ago and I did not want the added stress.  My kids are well out of the typical Elf age range and I was hoping they would just forget Charlie existed.

But when Little Miss Sassy Pants casually asks when Charlie is going to arrive, I couldn't find within my heart of Christmas spirit to bench the the little bugger.  And it didn't stop with her.  Around Thanksgiving, both boys wondered about Charlie out loud - what he was going to do, etc.  So the tradition continues.

While out and about during Christmas-time over the years, I noticed a growing number of accessories for the Elf.  I figured the Elf was enough.  Then I saw this bomber jacket at the store and, having not found a single thing I wanted, decided the only way to salvage the miserable trip was to get an outfit for Charlie's arrival.

Even the most skeptical has to admit the jacket and goggles are adorable.  Or maybe it's just me - I'm pint-sized, so I love all things tiny and cute.

The holiday season is trying, taxing, and tense, but there are moments that make all worth it:

♫ Watching the children decorate the tree and seeing it lit for the first time of the season. 

♫ The first snow of December (for those in snow prone areas) - the glimpse of a white Christmas. 

♫ Making a celebrated mess decorating cookies made from scratch and the sweet sugary bites that follow. 

♫ Christmas movies enjoyed with family and popcorn, while the festive lights glimmer softly in the background.

♫ Festivals of Light, snowmen, hot cocoa, wrapping presents... the list goes on.

You may have noticed Charlie is more bendy this year.  For those of you continuing the Elf or just starting, you can find the tutorial I used here.  There are a few post out there on Elf Surgery, so pick what fits you best.  I went with a no-sew option.

As for me and Charlie, I will power on until my children no long find the magic he represents relevant.  After all, the Elf isn't about me, it's about them.  And they are worth it.  Every. Time.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Letters to Santa

This was the year.  The year we were finally going to reveal the secret of Santa to our oldest boy.
Yes, Virginia,  there is a Santa Claus.  He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. - Francis Pharcellus Church
 (see the article here)

It's not easy, having a child of that age who still believes with all his heart.  Every year parents around the world are confronted with the possibility of their child learning the truth.  We ask ourselves whether it would be easier to tell them or let them figure it out on their own.

While I have a feeling that he may suspect, that he may be playing along for our benefit, he's convincing in his belief.  I have expected the fallout for the last couple years.  Plus, there is the added time bombs in the form of younger siblings, who are not as convinced in their belief.

So what do we do?  Take the pressure off of ourselves and reveal the people behind the red suit?  Keep the inherent magic alive by holding on to the illusion of the jolly man who somehow squeezes his fat butt into our house year after year, despite the lack of explanations we have to give?

Bigfoot is turning thirteen in two months, shortly after Christmas.  Officially a teenager, along with all of his friends.  The perfect time to tell him, right?  Then this happens:

(©Someone Else's Genius)

We're stuck.  The plan was to allow him to join us in the Christmas Eve revelry after his brother and sister were asleep.  He wrote this letter to Santa without pretension, on his own, and left it for us to find and send.

When I first started on Pinterest, there was this letter from Martha Brockenbrough to her daughter Lucy on the truth about Santa.  It seems the prefect explanation and covers all the things parents fear.  But is it enough?  

One more year?  Or do we go ahead with the plan?  I'm not sure I'm prepared to absorb the backlash of teenage angst and betrayal when his peers laugh at him.  Because it won't be their fault - it will be ours.  We are the ones "lying" to him.

I can only hope that, whether it's this year or the next, or somewhere in between, the sweet boy we know and love will handle the news and not the hormonal overreaction of the teenager.  After all, he shares half my DNA.

To top it off, we actually had to ask the younger two for their letters to Santa:

(©Someone Else's Genius)

Much simpler from the little lady.  A least she's consistent.

(©Someone Else's Genius)

I'm seeing a trend here.

Let the games begin...