Happy New Year! It definitely feels different around here–like COLD. WINTER. It finally CAME. My mother called me tonight and informed me that my area could receive the unprecedented amount of 3″ of snow on Sunday depending on the trajectory of a winter storm apparently coming our way. Last night a dusting of snow sent our children caroling from window to window. Flurries are a huge deal around here, where two years could possibly go by without any real snow. Rascal and Princess informed me that their prayers for a white Christmas have now been officially answered because “It’s still Christmas, Mom!” And they’re right, it is.
So, how did our Christmas go? I left the family story hanging a bit, so let’s tie up some loose threads. On Christmas Eve Sunshine had a fever of 102 when she woke up. We got it down to 99 but she still wanted nothing more than to sit or lay around or curl back up in her bed and sleep again. Miss M was the same, only less feverish. Princess began to run a fever that night. Trooper kept going to his room for a rest or a nap. It was very quiet. Still, we strived for some normalcy and I sang Christmas songs–the good old ones about Jesus’ birth–while rocking Sunshine and Miss M on my lap in my armchair. That’s my most treasured memory of the day. The kids and I made dried orange slice ornaments for the Jesse Tree and made gingerbread from Tasha Tudor’s recipe in the back of The Christmas Cat. We made a huge gingerbread boy with a pan my father-in-law had given me the previous Christmas. Haus Meister was in his workshop helping St. Nicholas out with a special commission (described further on). He came out in time to eat dinner and light a fire in our woodstove, and then read aloud to the children from a special compilation of Christmas stories just like his father read to him when he and his brother were small, and later his sisters, too.
All in all I was pretty content with the quiet Christmas, dosing out cold medicine to those old enough for it and keeping the vaporizers running and fevers reduced. Lest I get too proud of my fortitude, I’ll confess I finally did have a cranky Scrooge moment. You know, the angry George Bailey scene where he begins tearing apart the living room? Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but anyway…. When I opened the back door at 9pm to let the corgis in for the night, I was shocked to see that Pippin had somehow torn a 2″ gash in his ear. And of course, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi’s ear is his pride and joy, as definitive a characteristic of his breed as his stubby “legs” and penguin tail (so named by Dino at age 4). Now it’s 9pm on Christmas Eve, and no vet would be open until the 26th at 8am. Haus Meister calls the local emergency animal hospital to find they are open 24/7 regardless of holiday, and so while Haus Meister was at Midnight Mass, Pippin was stitched back together and at 3am everyone was safely home again. My Scrooge moment came when Haus Meister texted me the amount of the bill (I know they had to work on a holiday, but honestly!) and the George Bailey was coming out a little as I strived to get everything ready downstairs by myself as Miss M and Sunshine kept waking up. I panicked lest Rascal or Dino or Princess should wake before Haus Meister came home or while I was wrapping the presents–because while I was a savvy shopper and had 90% of the Christmas shopping done by November 15, I omitted to wrap anything before 10pm Christmas Eve. Go figure! And I was seriously lacking in giftwrap to my surprise. So many years of too much wrapping paper and this year I used up the last roll in my closet plus the only two I had purchased. Advent 2014: Buy more wrapping paper and wrap everything as soon as it arrives in the house. Period.
So, Christmas Day. The middle children were all up by 6:30. Sunshine came into my bed and after some Advil she went back to sleep. She slept off and on until 1:30pm, then came out and started to show she was getting back to normal. We let the oldest four open their stockings and then I woke up Posey so she could eat before Mass. I took Rascal to morning Mass with myself and the baby and then we came home to see that Miss M had awakened in our absence. She was watery-eyed and sniffly but fully eager to join in the celebration. After some sausage biscuits we went back downstairs to open the presents. Did I mention we barely decorated our tree? What ornaments and lights are there were put there by Rascal, Princess, and Dino. I did the star and the top lights. We adults were too much in survival mode to bring out the ornament boxes and the other kids too sick to care much–so long as there were lights on the tree. We never even had a full dinner that day. This virus sapped the appetites of anyone who had it, and poor Haus Meister came down with it on Christmas Day so he ended up sleeping through the afternoon. Even now I’m convinced some of the kids who were getting over the virus still took advantage of the moment to exist off clementines and chocolate. Princess still had watery eyes as did Miss M and Trooper but after Christmas Day the fevers went away, praise be. Now there’s just a sniffle here and there and an occasional cough so hopefully by the end of next week I can pack up the vaporizers and put it all behind us.
Honestly, though, viruses and unexplainable doggy accident aside, it was the best Christmas. We were all so relaxed and there were no expectations, no bustle, no stress. We enjoyed each other’s company. We planned the gift giving to be smallish but more meaningful (the kids basically got a present from their “Dear St. Nicholas” list, a present from us, and one from each other’s “Secret Santa.” There were occasionally a joint gift to all the boys or all the girls and some gifts from absent aunts and uncles but overall I never got the feeling that it was “too much of a muchness” like I had in previous years, and the only child who acted disappointed is Princess, who it seems had her heart set on receiving a full ballet costume worthy of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Royal Ballet Nutcracker.
Still, Princess (and her sisters) scored the Present of Presents this year, a dollhouse sized for their American Girl dolls, lovingly and quickly put together by their amazing engineer of a father out of spare wood from his shop and old bookcases that once stood in a corner of my grandparents’ old house in Indianapolis. We got these bookcases back in the summer when Grandma was downsizing her stuff to move into an apartment and we went up to fetch her old dining room table. Once home, we weren’t sure we actually needed the bookcases as bookcases and definitely not in their original shade–something like avocado green. Funny–the light in that corner of the room always made me think the shelves were yellow! Anyway, we took out some shelves, repainted, and added things to others so the girls have a dollhouse for the ages here. We’re going to hinge the two halves together and we’ve since added both “lean-to” sections on the side (not pictured here). Some accessories were added, like a doll kitchen stove that is actually too big for the shelf but fits great in front of it. Sunshine has a bad habit of using it as a stepstool when she puts the dolls to “bed” in the shelves divided by repurposed chair legs. That’s an elaborate doll bunkbed, if you will, with headboards salvaged from the same chair that also came from Grandma’s house. We also found a hat-and-coat peg hook board in the shop that had originally been in our boys’ room until they lost three of the pegs and accidentally pulled it out of the wall. Haus Meister cut it down on Boxing Day and we installed it so the dollies could have a working wardrobe in their “dressing room.” Between five girls I imagine this dollhouse will receive many updates over the next 12-15 years. Then, as I have never outgrown my love for dollhouses myself, I’ll keep it spruced for the next generation of little girls to enjoy.
Once we were all well enough to visit we enjoyed the company of Haus Meister’s brother’s family who had flown in from Texas and were staying a block away at my in-laws’ house. Then my parents drove down on the 28th and stayed until January 1. We had our big Christmas turkey dinner on the 29th, and on New Year’s Eve we celebrated my dad’s birthday (a day early). Haus Meister and I were the only ones who made it to midnight to ring in 2014. That day we said goodbye to my parents after Mass and went home to start cooking a big Beef Wellington New Year’s dinner with Haus Meister’s family.
Now we’re wondering about snow, wrapping up our Christmas break, and getting ready to get back to school next week. At least, I am. The kids are trying not to think about it at the moment.