Christmas 2017

December 28th, 2017

Merry Everything! We had a lovely holiday here in New England. A Christmas Eve pouring rain turned into a Christmas Day snowstorm so we got a true White Christmas. The snow blew in with a cold front; it’s less than 25 degrees now (and in the single digits at night) so we’ve been hunkered down inside enjoying the truly enormous and unnecessary pile of presents. My parents came up from Virginia to help celebrate and the kids we SO happy to have Mormor and Bumpa here. My dad helped me get a bunch of house and car stuff done (as usual) so the rest of our break week I can relax and just stay on top of laundry while packing up Christmas decorations. My tree was dead and out on the curb by 4 pm on December 27th. I know my Roomba is relieved – and might actually finish a cleaning cycle without needing me to empty all the pine needles out of the bin.

We had a stroke of good luck with Navy scheduling and E was able to be in port on Christmas Day so he watched everyone discover their Santa presents via Facebook messenger video. It might be the last time we get to talk to him before he comes back (which is still months away) so it was a very nice treat. He was a little bummed not to have matching pajamas or a delicious beef roast with us, but we’ll make up for it next year.

Please enjoy many, somewhat blurry photos of our day.

Please note Caroline’s shirt in the above photo: it says “Young, Scrappy & Hungry”.


Caroline: 7 Years Old

December 21st, 2017

Caroline is Seven!

Her favorite things are: cheer, dance, fashion, drawing, writing, reading, Wonder Woman, cooking, baking, her brothers, her friends, unicorns, glitter, Hamilton and making videos.

She is very, very smart, a wonderful friend, kind to everyone and makes me coffee in the morning. Caroline plans to have a streak of purple added to her hair over winter vacation. She cannot wait until she is old enough to officially babysit.

Happy birthday, my beautiful daughter.

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.

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.

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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