Sunday, December 30, 2012

Merry, Merry.

All of the traditions, the planning, the creating, cooking and baking, record playing, dancing, waiting and anticipating came down to this...

Murray Family Christmas (at our house on 12/22):

New jammies on Christmas Eve.
I let the boys open up their new jammies before we left for our Christmas Eve celebration.

Gash/Meyers Family (Christmas Eve):
 Finishing up last minute Christmas preparations. 
Putting the last ornament on the tree and leaving out cookies and carrots (and oranges??).
I didn't get around to making my carrot-zucchini muffins this year unfortunately so the reindeer had to settle for plain old carrots.  Max thought adding an orange would be a healthier spread for Santa.
During all of these final Christmas activities Max was suddenly convinced he heard Santa on the roof.  Panic set in and he raced upstairs saying "I've gotta close my eyes!  I need to be sleeping!!"  The look of sincere urgency on his face was priceless.  He quickly went to his bed and pulled his covers up.  No last minute requests for water, books or additional stuffed animals...his eyes were tightly shut by the time I turned off his light.  As I closed the door he whispered, "Momma??"  I said, "What is it, buddy?"  He peeked one eye open and said, "Mewwy Chwistmas, Momma."  My little guy is so dear.

Billy and I got busy setting out gifts and filling stockings.  We kept with the tradition of each of the boys getting three gifts from Santa since that is the number of gifts Jesus got on the first Christmas.  It's our small reminder of why we celebrate with gifts at all.  They also get one gift to share and a few things in their stockings.  Plus a homemade present from us. 

Max's three gifts:

Max's stocking:
Scissors, Toy Story movie and undies, bowling set, harmonica, dinosaur nesting doll, dino crayons and some popcicle sticks with velcro to make shapes.
Sullivan's three gifts:

Sullivan's stocking:
Wooden stacker, play silk, ball catcher, a couple wooden instruments, bubbles, crayons and snowman notebook.
A homemade gift to share from Momma and Daddy:

A gift to share from Santa:
A model of the play set Santa is having built in the spring.
Billy and I looked over the meaningful Christmas we gave our boys and felt thankful that we were able to give them so many nice things.  And then stayed up and watched "It's a Wonderful Life" together.

The next morning came quickly.  Max was up by 7:30.  He could see the presents from the top of the stairs.  "He came! He came!!!  Santa brought me presents!!!"  He couldn't get down the stairs fast enough :)  We had to wake Sullivan up because I knew we wouldn't be able to have Max wait. 
Here's a small sample of the whirlwind of joy that followed....

The boys opening up the gifts from each other...
Max was so proud of the marble holder he made for Sullivan.  He couldn't wait to get it out of the bag and show him how it worked.

Daddy had one final, final surprise gift to all of us...BONGOS!  I didn't even know he had hidden them in the dining room.  Max, as you can see, is ecstatic.  Lots of music being made in the Murray household these days! :)
After we opened gifts we headed to Mass and Mimi & PopPop Murray joined us.
 But Sullivan lost his Christmas spirit.
 Then we headed to brunch the the Meyers extended family Christmas...
Another memorable Christmas in the books.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

I want to remember...

...when Max said "I want to go to Heaven."
Recently we were at a stoplight in front of a church in our neighborhood that has white crosses displayed in rows.  Each cross represents one of the children or women who needlessly lost their lives at the school shooting in Newtown, CT. 
Max was looking out the window for a minute as we were waiting for the light to turn green and asked me, "What are all those "x's" for?"
I said, "They're memory of people who have gone to Heaven."
"What's in Heaven?" he asked me.
"God is in Heaven." I said, giving the most basic response I could think of.
Max replied enthusiastically, "Oh...I want to go to Heaven!!"
"I'm certain you will someday." I told him.
Max doesn't like the idea of waiting or being patient, so he said, defiantly, 
"But I want to go to Heaven NOW!"
I looked back at him quickly. "DON'T SAY THAT!!" I said too loudly without even thinking.  
Max's eyes were wide and worried.
I reached back and put my hand on his knee and tried again..."What I meant to say is that you will go there one day.  Hopefully when you have lived a long time and are very old.  And by then momma will already be there."
"You'll wait for me there?" he asked quietly.
"Yes, baby, I'll wait for you."  I told him, trying hard to hold back tears.

The senseless act of violence that took place two weeks ago (along with many others recently) has left me feeling so emotionally thin.  And I don't even know exactly how to write about it, which is what I normally do to process my feelings. 
I decided to try another outlet instead.  Creating something.  Something simple and a snowflake.  I saw this post on another blog and decided it was a small thing we could do to express our wishes for hope and healing in Newtown while giving the children of Sandy Hook a new start -- Snowflakes for Sandy Hook. 
  The only thing Max knows is that there are some people at a school who need to be cheered up.  I asked him to help me think of words that would help someone who is very sad or scared.  We wrote the words we came up with on the snowflakes...Peace, Comfort, Light, Healing, Hope. 
We'll ship them to the Connecticuit PTSA so they can be hung up in the new school when the children return to class in mid-January.  Their goal is to turn the temporary school into a winter wonderland.
It's all still difficult to grasp, but in a small way this helped me move forward and hope for a better future for all of us.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Traditions: Part II

My obsession with tradition continues...
Christmas Lights Tour.

This is a tradition Billy and I have had for's just more fun with kids!  We make hot chocolate and drive the streets searching for the best lighting display.  Our neighborhood has some pretty amazing lights so we didn't have to look far.  Max sang jingle bells at the top of his lungs and Sullivan clapped every time he saw a blow-up Santa in someones yard :)
Fed, bathed, jammied and ready to go.
Let's GO, mom!!
Lights never look as impressive in pics, but this was one of our favorite streets.
  We meandered up and down streets and eventually found ourselves on the plaza.  We parked on a roof top to take in all the lights.  Max sat wrapped in a blanket on the hood of the car :)
The 12 Days of Christmas.

I bought some hand painted "12 Days of Christmas" ornaments a few years ago and started the tradition of hanging one on our tree each night with Max last Christmas.  It's sort of like an advent calendar...except there are only 12 of them.  So we start hanging the ornaments on 12/12 and will put the last one up on Christmas Eve.  I know that the biblical "12 days of Christmas" are technically from Christmas Day through the Epiphany on January 6th...but it didn't seem as fun to hang ornaments after Christmas.  So its our countdown to the big day instead.
The first night Max got to unwrap and hang the ornament.  Sullvian is feeling a little left out :(
Max says, "Ta da!  A Pawtwidge in a Pear Twee!" 
Sullivan says, "Max didn't let me help. I'm outta here."
 Don't worry all my middle-child friends and family..."Day 2" was Sullivan's show.  He got to  unwrap and hang Two Turtle Doves and he couldn't have been happier :)
Handmade gifts from the heart.

Billy and I love to make fun gifts for the boys on special occassions.  This year we're making a large abacus for their playroom.  Here's my inspiration:
 Finishing touches being added now!

The boys also like to give special gifts to one another! (with our help of course :)

Max told me he wanted to get Sully a "marble holder".  Sullivan's favorite toy right now is a jar of marbles.  He dumps them out and puts them back in one. by. one.  And then dumps them again.  I think its cute that Max knows his little brother so well.  After some Pinterest browsing I found this idea.  Golf tees in styrofoam.  Great for improving fine motor skills.  The best part is...Max pretty much put this together all on his own with only me supervising.  Now that is a gift from the heart!
Painting it, putting the golf tees in and then cleaning up.
All done!
For Sullivan's gift to Max I had to do the thinking on his behalf.  Max is really into "make believe" clothes right now.  And since Max is a superhero in Sully's eyes I thought we needed to add a superhero cape to Max's collection. 
So focused on his painting. 

Clean up time!
Old t-shirt, a little velcro and felt = the finished product. 
Santa also likes to give gifts that are handmade.  He gave us this sneak peak of the boys' big joint present. 
This is a model of the play set that he has commissioned for the backyard.  It can't be completed until spring when the weather is warmer, but he wanted them to see what it is going to look like.  And even include their telescopes that will go in their individual "towers" in advance.  These little boys must have been very good this year! :)
So that's about it.  Little trees and Christmas books, a visit to the tree farm, Elf on the Shelf, visiting Santa, Christmas lights tour, 12 days of ornaments and handmaking gifts with love.  Long live family traditions!

{Holiday Traditions: Part I can be found HERE}

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Away in a Manger

The boys' favorite Christmas book we've read so far this season has been "The First Christmas".
It very simply explains the story of the birth of Jesus.  However, initially I thought I'd have to bribe them to listen to the story.  Only because it is a different kind of book than they're used to.  No "Llama Llama" rhyming, no toddler humor.  The best part of the book is that it gives the lyrics to "Away in a Manger" at the end.  Which I sing.  In my horrible, horrible singing voice.  Max puts his cheek next to mine and tries to sing along.  Sullivan signs "more, more" with his little hands when I reach the end.  I usually end up singing the song 4-5 times.

This is our "new" mid-1900's Nativity from Italy. I love it and I think it brings the First Christmas to life for the boys. I hope it remains in our family for a very long time.  Max insisted on studying it closely with our old magnifying glass. 
 I love that they're embracing the true spirit of Christmas without even really knowing it.  Yes, they love the tree.  Elf on the Shelf is a hit.  Max is obsessed with getting presents.  But each evening, as we read our books, the only talk is of a very special baby being born.  Max has also has recently learned about praying and how to sign the cross. He clasps his hands, kneels down beside his little tree and says "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spearmint." I try not to laugh :) It's so adorable that I can't bring myself to correct him. 

Before I shut his door at night he's been asking "Can we read more about Jesus tomorrow?"  He also asked me the other day if the reason why people get "married" is because Jesus' mom is named "Mary".  I love his questions.  Sometimes I can just see his little mind working, trying to interpret all aspects of the world and learning about the way things are connected to each other.
I realize the questions and insights about religion will get far more complicated.  But for now, Jesus is king, Mary is his momma and Bethlehem is a magical place with donkeys and sheep.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday Traditions: Part I

I have a thing for traditions.  I keep adopting new ones and its getting a little out of control.   I. Can't. Stop.  I just love the nostalgic feeling that traditions create.  Plus it keeps me grounded in the midst of all the sales, the crowds, the material pursuit and general holiday rush that drives everyone mad this time of year.  

Dear boys,
I hope you always remember our family traditions and know how special they are to me. 
You are my merry, my wonderful life.
My whole heart,

Little trees and Christmas books.
We started this tradition with Max last Christmas and he loved it.  We used a small, real tree last year, but I found these football helmet trees for 75% off at Hobby Lobby in January. And they just happened to be Chicago Bears colors (I added the stickers). I couldn't resist. So I bought one for each of my guys. Sullivan is in heaven and loves to decorate and redecorate his tree with the small wooden ornaments.  I wrapped 25 Christmas books and divided them between the boys trees. Each night in December they get to unwrap a "new" one to read.

Elf on the Shelf.
Meet Fritz.
This is a new tradition for us.  We introduced the elf who Max quickly named "Fritz".
 Within an hour of reading the book about Fritz and placing him up on a shelf to keep him out of reach I caught Max staring intensely at him.  Hands on his hips, a little frown of skepticism on his face.
  Finally Max said, "Mom, is he REALLY real?"
(which sounded more like "WEALLY weal?" in his toddler accent :)
I said, "What do you mean?"
 "Is he a WEAL person?"
Trying to think quick, I asked, "Well...what do you think?"
 Still frowning he said, "His eyes don't bink" (Oh my ever-suspicious little guy)
The only thing I could think to say was, "That's a good observation..." ?!?!?
I'm not going to lie when he's asking me a sincere question so I've just been diverting his inquiries by throwing questions back at him. He hasn't cornered me again, though, so hopefully that's all on the subject for now :)
Sullivan, however, is taking Fritz at face value for the time being...
Pucker up, Fritz!
Regardless of his suspicions Max loves to see what Fritz is up to every morning :)

This one was Daddy's work :)
Tree farm.

Max brought his own saw :)
This is a tradition I've done my whole life.  Even when Billy and I were just dating we always went to a tree farm and cut down a tree.  I love the smell of fresh pine in the house.  Vacuuming up needles until then month of May doesn't bother me.  No one can convince me to get a fake one.  The past few years, though, I have gotten a little more conscious about the fact that...we're cutting down A PERFECTLY GOOD TREE.   Any other time of the year or under any other circumstance the idea of it is horrifying.  So now we plant a tree each spring to wash away our guilt.  It's sort of...a new tradition (<---See.  I have a problem.)
Decorating our friendly tree.
Visiting Santa.
Max's relationship with Santa has gotten progressively worse each year.  He thought ahead, though, and drew "pictures" of the things he wants...a guitar, a harmonica and bowling game.  He stood as far away as he could and handed the pictures to Santa.  Then he stood there nervously while Sullivan panicked on Santa's knee.  Classic.
Brothers helping brothers.  Max said he was worried that the other little boy was going to "knock Sully over" :)
Watching the trains.  The after-Santa activities were a much bigger hit.
Personalized Christmas Card Envelopes.
This one was 100% Max's idea :)  He wanted to help me while I was addressing the last of the Christmas card envelopes, so I let him color on the ones I hadn't put address labels on yet.  He worked so hard on each one and was so proud when I let him put his works of art into the mailbox. I couldn't believe I didn't think of this myself!  A fun way to add a personal touch to our Christmas cards.  This should surely be a new tradition!

And the whirlwind of holiday traditions doesn't stop there.  Part II is coming :)