We observed Boxing Day for the first time ever at the McGaugh House today…and boxed up all of our Christmas decorations. I even got the tree out to the curb. Usually I let Christmas linger for a few days, even past my birthday, but this year it felt good to move forward toward the new year. I will be especially happy next year, because I managed in the process to consolidate two boxes worth of decor—not so much a testament to my organization skills this year, but an admission to chaotic boxes for the past few years.

The kiddos and I also found plenty of time to play with new toys today, too!

We made many beautiful memories over the past two days. We celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my mom’s side of our family. Christmas Eve was a balance of joy and remembrance and, for me, some tears as we went into Grandpa Yoder’s house for the first time since he passed last year. I might dedicate another blog entry to my thought life on Christmas Eve as I wandered through parts of his house, but I do not think I am quite up to that tonight. For me, it was the empty space in the family room where his bed used to be, the wheelchair marks on the cabinets in the bathroom, and the paper clips where he used to sort through his mail downstairs… Yet it was not just him I missed. There are four we are missing from our Christmas Eve celebration, and I wish they could all still be here.

Happy thoughts now:

We began Christmas Eve with our tradition of panettone, scrambled eggs, sausage, red pears, and hot chocolate. The kiddos pulled English crackers, and they also received their annual ornaments.

Katie’s ornament was a classic red tricycle identical to hers. She received this to commemorate her mastery of her trike this year. She zooms all over the place and has put in many hours of practice.

I looked for a pair of booties for Eric to commemorate his mastery of walking, but I could not find what I had in mind. So Eric opened a reindeer, as a reminder of one special night we shared this month. He was restless and not going to sleep, so I took him downstairs for a little snack. We have two lighted reindeer in the backyard, and it was this night that I taught him how to “blow a kiss.” He blew a kiss at the reindeer in our yard, and then has done it again since.

Then we got all dressed up and headed to Newport Beach for dinner at The Ritz. But first, we made sure to scatter our reindeer food:

These are some of the only pictures of Eric and Katie together on Christmas Eve night, since I sat in the middle of them at the restaurant and since they were both busy bees at Grandpa Yoder’s house. I loved Eric’s suspenders, which were made of the same silk as the collar and sash of Katie’s dress. I wanted to put Eric in suspenders for Christmas Eve because I have many memories of my Uncle Eric wearing suspenders on Christmas Eve, and it was a way to honor little Eric’s namesake. It turned out that my Eric really liked his suspenders—I worried he would try to pull them off—but as soon as I dressed him, he took a look at himself in the mirror and it was clear that he was the Man of the Playroom after that. He was giggling and striding about looking very pleased.

More reindeer food

Well, we tried to take a picture… 😉

The kiddos with their daddy

Eric and I at The Ritz—I am certain that is mushroom soup with morel foam on his shirt. He loved it! And, what is more, I discovered (a bit to my surprise) that both of the kiddos love goose! Who knew? I absolutely LOVE goose and red cabbage with apples. Between the two of them, I had only a few bites of it myself—and they had other food of their own!

Kermit, the hand puppet, is GREAT for keeping babies happy at the table. Going into the night, I had really had no idea how we would fare. Katie is always excellent at restaurants, but teaching Eric restaurant etiquette has been a work in progress. He is Mr. Social and has a tendency to want to be out of his chair and visiting people…or exploring…which doesn’t work very well at The Ritz. So I have been trying to make sure he knows that, if he wants to eat, he must be in a high chair. And crossing my fingers. And fretting. And talking to him about it beforehand. And hoping. I made sure he was reasonably hungry before we went, and I also brought a bag of tricks (Kermit, blank paper and crayons, a quart bag of duplo legos, etc). Thankfully, he also really loved the Christmas carolers who were singing around the restaurant. I was so, so, so relieved that he managed the whole meal. A Christmas miracle? That’s how it felt! In fact, a lady who was leaving after her meal stopped by and told me, “Your two children are so well behaved.” Wow! That made my night, truly. What a nice compliment, especially in a venue where expectations of children are so (rightfully) high. I wonder if she could see the beads of sweat on my temples? 😉

After the meal, we went to Great-Grandpa Yoder’s house. Boppa and Eric relaxed for a few moments, er, seconds. Then Eric was off!

Katie enjoyed playing with Matt and Lark, my youngest cousins. The three of them put on a ballet show for us.

Christmas Eve

On Christmas morning, the kiddos discovered that Santa had brought a little play cottage for them! In the short time they have had it, the two of them have spent HOURS in it—which helped enormously during Boxing Day today. I know Santa debated and debated this gift prior to committing…thank goodness the elves made it after all! I was going to put it in the yard, but I am finding that it is extremely helpful to have in the house!

My mom at Christmas breakfast. I chose this picture for my blog (out of the millions for the entire two days) because my mom always works so hard to put on a beautiful breakfast, and I love it and her. We’ve been eating the yeast bread Christmas wreath for over 20-something years every Christmas. My mom also makes the best omelets I’ve ever had. Seriously. Not a speck of brown anywhere (even when her attention is divided!!!), fluffy, and filled with different combinations of cheese. We also have sausage and hot chocolate. I love this breakfast, and she manages to make it—perfectly—on the most happily hectic morning of the year.

Christmas was at Nana’s this year! It felt so good to be back at Nana’s house. We haven’t had a Christmas Day there in awhile, and it brought back such beautiful feelings and memories. We ate ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans, yams, rolls, and sweet pickles and olives, and jello salad with the cranberry tart, the chocolate tort, and holiday rice krispie treats and candies and fudge for dessert.

Putting away the Christmas decorations is always a thoughtful time for me. I remember, for example, putting away the tree in Eric’s room last year and thinking, “The next time I see these ornaments he will be over a year old and walking.” Last year, he had just learned how to roll over and was four months old. It struck me especially then, because I knew he would change so drastically, that my baby would be a toddler. I put everything away today knowing that, when I see it all again, all of us will be different somehow, things will have changed, we will have continued to grow, we will have experienced all the more of life’s ups and downs. Putting away is a promise that we will take it back out, yet it is a reminder that another precious year will have gone.  Precious with my husband. Precious with my children. Precious with my larger family. I am always reminded of Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

But…no more Christmas jammies for us! We got mother-daughter jammies for Christmas!

My sweet babies