This Christmas I Am Spoiling My Kids Rotten

December 20th, 2017

Hello Internet.

Thank you for all the wonderfully written, thoughtful posts about how kids these days are too focused on things and not on the true meaning of Christmas. It’s so important to remember that giving is far superior to receiving, just as God gave his love to all of us. I also read your advice on how experiences make better gifts than giant hunks of plastic. It’s true! You made some excellent points. Then there were the 4 Things devotees: Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. It rhymes! So adorable and minimalist and a great way to cut down on junk! And finally, there are the hardcore anti-stuff people who object to basically all of it and make their opinions loudly known. Thank you for your input, I appreciate the time you took to explain it.

This year, I am flat out ignoring ALL OF YOU.

wrapping presents

 

 

 

And I’m doing it 100% on purpose. I haven’t accidentally bought too much. I am not pretending to purchase only hand-crafted, heirloom quality, Waldolf-inspired toys. I am not claiming to be a minimalist while buying piles of presents. This is intentional, planned, thoughtful spoiling.

Our December has been full of both experiences and things. This year, we are seeing Santa no less than 5 separate times. We have five sets of matching Christmas pajamas, including two sets for me and one for the dog. Caroline has a special dress for The Nutcracker, a different special dress for our photo session with Santa, and another special dress for Christmas Eve. Oh and one more to wear on Christmas day after taking off her matching Christmas pajamas. We are opening seven advent calendars every morning. There are custom printed Santa bags for each child and fancy gourmet chocolates for their stockings. They are getting everything they asked for and then some. There is a giant Batman robot, thousands of Legos, and a stupid Baby Alive that pees. There are sleds and ride on toys and loud beeping things. ALL FOUR KIDS get their own Fingerling monkey, even the baby, who definitely does not need a Fingerling monkey. When they come down the stairs on Christmas morning, they’re going to freak out and scream their little heads off with joy.

Do you know what won’t be around our tree on Christmas morning? Their father.

I realize things don’t make up for your dad being deployed during Christmas. There is no present in the world I can give them that will stop them from saying “I wish Daddy was here”. My heart breaks a little more every time they say it – which is often. This isn’t their fault. They didn’t ask to be born into a military family. And until this year we’ve been able to shield them quite a bit from true Navy life – no moving, no long separations, no new schools. I grew up with that lifestyle and although I enjoyed it for the most part, not having “a” home or long-term friendships or a sense of being FROM somewhere can be hard sometimes. We’ve been very lucky that we can do this a little differently than most military families. But our luck ran out now that E is very fancy and important; his skills and expertise are needed on actual working submarines, and actual working submarines deploy.

It’s hard. Being the only parent means I am responsible for all the Christmas, for everyone. I don’t mind, really, because I love Christmas. But trying to buy stocking candy when I am never without at least one child is hard. Wrapping gifts at midnight is hard. Trying to decide if it’s time to tell the big kids about Santa is hard. I’m still part of a partnership as far as parenting goes but my partner is unavailable (most of the time he is 100% unavailable, not reachable by any means).

My choice to go completely overboard and ignore what other people are doing is in no way meant to be a reflection on others. This doesn’t just apply to our specific situation regarding Christmas presents or even just the holidays. As I am very fond of telling my children, different families make different choices. Some do small Christmases, some do big Christmases, some go to great lengths to be with as much family as possible, some want to stay home. Some people step away from Facebook and social media to stay focused on family, but I couldn’t imagine doing that when I spend so much time as the only adult in the room. Some find that taking photos helps keep them connected and in the moment (me, 100%), others find that putting away the camera makes them happier. It is a difficult time of year for so many people for so many reasons, finding joy however you want should be allowed. And this year, my joy is in distracting my kids from things that make them sad with things that make them happy.

Come January 2nd when everyone goes back to school, I am going to be cursing all this STUFF that will have taken over my house. There’s nothing more #firstworldproblem than buying too many toys and then being annoyed by too many toys. I’ll remind myself of that as many times as is necessary during the long, cold, dark months between the end of the holidays and the end of deployment. But right now, I am SO EXCITED about Christmas magic and that is just what our family needs.

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Caroline’s 7th Birthday Celebration

December 18th, 2017

I asked Caroline what she wanted to do for her birthday this year, since it was just a family celebration and not a party. She said she wanted to get giant milkshakes, like we did for Lincoln’s birthday back in July. Lucky for us, Saturday also happened to be the reindeer visit at Foxwoods and their PR department invited us, so we were going to be headed there this weekend anyway.

Besides the reindeer, they also had a wonderful Santa and tons of Christmas decorations. It was very festive and joyful. My kids were almost well-behaved during our long, backward, sugar-filled lunch. They sang to Caroline and it was the highlight of her month. We learned a lot about reindeer – did you know their antlers fall off every year? Those giant antlers are only a few months old! And when we got home, Finnegan took a 3 hours nap because he was stuffed with french fries and worn out from fun.

We also did presents (all cheerleading-related), made her favorite dinner (spaghetti and meatballs) and had a small grocery store cake for dessert. She told me I am the greatest birthday planner in the world and it was the best day of her life. Considering the effort I put into her elaborate birthdays of the past, I’m just relieved she wasn’t shockingly disappointed. I do think from now on we’ll always have to go to the Sugar Factory for birthdays. Evan already requested it for his day in April.

Tomorrow is her actual birthday and we’ll do our traditional birthday interview. I am guessing every answer will be “cheer” or “unicorns”.

Linc was annoyed we had to wait for 3 whole minutes to see Santa.

Isn’t this the most gorgeous gingerbread house???

We went back to see the reindeer again after lunch.

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Essex Steam Train North Pole Express 2017

December 15th, 2017

Previously: 2013, 2015

Taking an Essex Steam Train ride to the North Pole is one of our favorite Christmas traditions. Last year was sort of awful because Finnegan was only 4 months old, it was the 7 pm train, and it was VERY loud. He cried almost the entire time. I don’t think I even took pictures with my real camera – I definitely never blogged it. This year I might have skipped it because E is gone and wrangling four kids on my own at public events is hard, but our boat FRG* decided that to celebrate Kids Halfway Night we would get tickets to the Essex Steam Train North Pole Express. Since it was a group activity (and the FRG subsidized the tickets) it seemed like fate that we should go.

The kids all did GREAT. No crying, no meltdowns, no spilled hot cocoa, (mostly) no torturing each other. There wasn’t even any fighting about who got to sit by the window. We got there right on time and didn’t have to wait long to board. Basically, everything was magical.

Our train car this year was significantly darker than in previous years so my photos are blurry and noisy. I think next year I might – MIGHT – splurge on first class tickets. The fanciest elves host the first class cars, there’s so much more room for dancing, and they have more twinkle lights which would mean better pictures. I’ll also make sure the baby doesn’t rub his grubby fingers all over my lens, leaving some sort of sticky stuff that made all my pictures fuzzy and out of focus.

The gnome jammies and hats are cute enough to make up for a slight lack in technical quality though.

*Quick Navy life lesson: submarines are called boats. What you think of as boats are called ships. An FRG is the family readiness group, which is like a club for all the spouses/families of people on that submarine. They do fundraisers and bake sales and have meetings and they keep us updated on what’s happening with the boat while they’re gone. Halfway Night marks (approximately) the halfway done with deployment date.

 

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Some December in Connecticut Stuff

December 11th, 2017

We had 6 inches of snow on Saturday, which was beautiful but incredibly inconvenient. It ruined my long-planned styled photo shoot with a whole bunch of very cold children, and then the roads were terrifying when Caroline and I attended the Nutcracker. I hate driving in the snow, even after a decade in New England. But we made it and had a lovely time. The boys stayed home with a babysitter – Evan was so excited to “get babysitted”, for some reason he thinks that’s the coolest – and she reported they were great. I guess I’ll know if she’s telling the truth if the next time I text her she’s unavailable forever. The roads were clear and the snow was still on the trees on Sunday, so we went back out to get a photo for the back of the Christmas card.The kids are hoping this is the start of a very snowy winter, which I am totally ok with as long as from now on I don’t have to leave the house during the storm.

Here’s an update in photos of what we’ve been up to in the past few weeks.

Poor Finnegan had his regular check-up this week, and what I thought was just a baby cold had turned into a double ear infection. You’d think a baby in that much pain would complain, but he’s just been a boogery ball of sunshine (except when you put him outside in the snow)(he haaaates the snow).

Caroline does not hate the snow.

 

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Things I Am Giving Up And Things I Am Not

December 4th, 2017

So here’s the thing: I am not a quitter. I have kept up my 365 project for 3 full years now, and I plan to do it again next year. I’ve been trying to catch up on laundry since 2008 and I haven’t given up on that even though I’m pretty sure it’s hopeless. And I made it through 362 weeks (that’s almost 7 years) of iPhone photos. But I don’t think I’m going to catch up. My phone isn’t making it easy to move my photos, the program I use to resize them isn’t recognizing the folders, and the amount of work it takes to get it all together just doesn’t fit in my schedule anymore. I’ve also completely failed to take photos with my phone several days in the past few weeks because if it’s in my hand the baby tries to steal it and if it’s in my purse I’m not taking pictures. No matter how many times I SAY I’m not going to stop, I think it’s time to admit I’m done.

That doesn’t mean I’m letting the blog die. I’m going to go back to more life-documenting with my real camera. I take photos literally every day for my 365 but haven’t been sharing them here. In 2018, the plan is a weekly/bi-weekly post of those pictures, so I have all my projects (years of pregnancy, baby and kid stories, adventures and thoughts +daily life photo documentation) in one place. I’m just working on not letting myself feel like a failure over something as stupid as blog posts, so I feel like making an announcement that I am quitting officially will help.

Besides letting my iPhoneography slip, I’ve actually been holding things together pretty well. Mostly.There was a day last week where I got off the phone from discussing one of the many adult problems I am currently juggling and I briefly considering just canceling everything. Like, just not doing any of it. Not taking the babies to their doctor’s appointment, not calling the plumber, not doing the dishes, not moving the laundry to the dryer, not taking Caroline to ballet, not putting Lincoln on the bus to school, not making dinner, not taking a picture, not changing the dog’s foot bandage, not taking out the trash…nothing. LIFE IS CANCELED.

Unfortunately, that’s not how this works. None of those things go away and dealing with the consequences of not doing them is going to be more annoying than just doing them. Plus my four small humans don’t let me get away with skipping meals or bedtimes or activities they want to go to. It’s good, really. If I didn’t have all these kids I might let myself slip slowly – instead of just wearing my slippers to the bus stop, I might not leave the house at all. Instead of having a fun day baking with the kids and then eating a handful of mints, I might sit on the couch and eat a pint of ice cream every night. Instead of spending maybe probably definitely too much on presents to make this Christmas extra magical, I might let the sadness of missing E this month overwhelm me.

Speaking of E, I finally had a chance to talk to my husband over Thanksgiving. It was such a relief. Even if we don’t get him back for a lot longer, being able to update him on everything that’s been going on and let him know that we’re OK.

And we are. Ok, I mean. Operation Keep Them Busy has been a raging success. December is officially here and we have plans almost every single day. We kicked off the month with the train to the North Pole followed by a day of holiday fun in Mystic. We haven’t been to the aquarium in a couple months and Finnegan was REALLY into it. We’ll be headed back soon so he can run around squealing at the fishes.

Oh and we saw Elsa. Caroline and Linc were in heaven.

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