The Christmas with no pictures

I believe that there are generally two kinds of events in life: the ones that are fun at the time, and the ones that make a good story later. As Christmas 2019 winds to a close as one of the “fun to experience” Christmases, I’d like to head back through the mists of time to tell the story of another Christmas.

This Christmas Eve I spent nearly 10 hours wrestling my 2019 photographs into submission. I firmly believe in the near-miraculous value of a good picture to help you remember an event as being much more fun than you thought it was at the time, and so I take a lot of pictures. I suspect this year’s tally was somewhere around 12,000 pictures (which was impossible for most of human history). I have pictures of almost everything. But there is this one Christmas where we go from this:

Setting out Santa’s cookies

To this

Hallway Hex Bugs

Strangely missing from the otherwise complete photographic documentation of my life is all the Christmas morning stuff. Where are the kids faces coming down the stairs? The stockings? The chaos of a living room in a flurry of wrapping paper? The look on my sons’ faces when they open their “big present”?

Well, let me tell you a story. The year was 2013, and on this Christmas my sons were 8 and 5 years old: peak Christmas aged. The joy and excitement were running high on Christmas Eve, and the full paraphernalia of both religious and secular were on display as we came back from Christmas Eve services to lay out a plate of cookies and milk for Santa. The children were nestled all snug in their beds, and the parents stayed up very late making sure that the scene to be uncovered in the morning was absolutely perfect. We were tired but satisfied as we went to bed that night, imagining the joy our children would experience because of our efforts the next day.

In the midst of our sugar-plum dreams, in the cold dark of a December morning, a sound intruded into our sleep. What could that be? But ah well, our children had yet to awaken us, so it couldn’t be that important. We rolled back over. But then, it came again. Was that… a squeal of joy? Wait, was that the sound of paper being torn? As if of mutual accord we flung ourselves out of bed and down the stairs, only to be confronted by a veritable blizzard of confetti-sized wrapping paper shrouding our two hellions as they tore into wrapped packages with a savagery usually only found in hungry, wild beasts.

Yes. They had gotten up and started on Christmas presents all on their own. They’d unwrapped over half their presents before we came down, screeching. It took me HOURS to get over it enough to take any more pictures. I was WROTH. I knew, in some tiny corner of my mind, that it might eventually be a funny story. I’m here to tell you that the amount of time required to accomplish that is no less than 6 years.

Here’s the decision-making, as paraphrased from the retelling of my eldest son.

So if you’ve ever met my mother, you would know that she is not what you would call a “morning person”. So when I woke up early on Christmas morning, I knew that my parents would not be excited to wake up so early. So I woke up Thane and went downstairs to give them a few more minutes to sleep. But our stockings were right there! I figured it would keep Thane quiet if we just opened our stockings, so we did. But then we’d opened our stockings. And I thought it wouldn’t hurt to open just one present to play with it, so Thane and I each opened one present. But then, before I could stop him, Thane opened a second! And it was only fair that I should open a second one too. Things after that got a bit out of control.

Now, every Christmas Eve, I remind my children that there is NO OPENING PRESENTS WITHOUT ADULT SUPERVISION!

And to those of you who just lived through one of those, uh, challenging celebrations: take pictures. It’ll be a great story, someday.

Explaining his perfidy to grandma

Merry Christmas from Legoland

Little Lego set before heading into Vampyre castle

The house is full of little boys yelling out “Wow! Cool!” and “Sticker help, mom!” Grey is on bag six of seven of the Lego Vampyre Castle, and Thane has completed “Spider-Man’s Doc Ock Ambush”, “Genosian Starfighter”, “Space Police” and is attempting to open “Droid Escape”. Suffice it to say, we’re having an amazingly awesome Christmas morning.

Doc Ock’s Ambush

As I waited for the kids to fall asleep last night, I pulled some pictures off the camera. These include Grey’s Christmas concert and Christmas Eve at Grandma’s house with Cousin Alec!

Pictures here!

The Warmth of Winter

Christmas Eve was really lovely. I left work at about 1 (with blessings to go). I picked up my sons. Grey and I wrapped presents and made cookies. Thane bopped around as Thane is wont to do. My husband came home early.

Making cookies for Santa
Making cookies for Santa

But when Thane woke up from his nap, he was shivering. Cheerful. Eating and drinking. But shivering. Curious, I took his temperature. 102.8. WHOA. I proceeded to try to figure out what could possibly be up. Obviously, he couldn’t go to our Christmas Eve service like that. So reluctantly I left my husband behind and took Grey.

Now, when Grey is angry or upset he’ll say, “I don’t want ____” where ____ is his heart’s desire. So for example a regular day will have me saying, “Grey, you need to get into the car right now and stop goofing off.” If he actually HEARS me, which doesn’t happen until about the 80th time, he’ll sometimes get mad and say, “I can never never never play my DS again.” You can almost bet that he’s thinking about his favorite thing: his DS. Well, yesterday he made a small mistake (didn’t listen to an instruction) and when I called him on it, do you know what that child said on Christmas Eve? Not “I’m not going to get any presents!” which was what I expected. No, instead it was, “You’re not going to let me go to church tonight.” On Christmas Eve, the thing my four year old was most excited about was our church service.

It warms the cockles of my heart that my son wanted to go to church so much. And it was really a lovely service. The children *I* remember as the Angel Gabriel back when were home from college and looking terribly grownup and flatteringly happy to see me. The church looked lovely. My friends were there — young and old. And there was the pageant with the angels and the holy family and the gathered crowds. I played my trumpet for the hymns. Grey sang along, loudly and correctly. He sat beautifully for the entire service (abetted by the old school Pokemon cards he’d gotten as a gift). And then afterwards he and one of his cohorts in crime chased each other around the sanctuary while I chatted. He was in no hurry to get home and get with the loot parts of Christmas. It was just beautiful.

An angel's eye view of the manger in Bethleham
An angel's eye view of the manger in Bethleham

Eventually we did get home, and he carefully laid out four cookies for Santa and some milk. We played a game while waiting for him to fall asleep, thinking this would take a while. We were wrong. He was out like a light. And Santa came and gifts appeared and joy filled the house, except for the feverish baby (who is a very cheerful sick kid).
The joy of Christmas morning
The joy of Christmas morning

The boys are still young enough to sleep until their regular time on Christmas morning. But I heard excited exclamations as Grey discovered the scene below. He’s always so satisfied by the end of his stocking I wonder why I ever think I might not have enough for him to open. His interest in opening gifts lasted until the end of our gifts — he still has to open all his grandmother’s tomorrow, but since she flies in tomorrow morning, that seems appropriate.
I caught Grey helping Robby play with Robby's present
I caught Grey helping Robby play with Robby's present

Then we all rotted our brains out on the various digital anesthesias. (Well, except for Mr. Slightly More Clingy Than Usual Thane) Grey got two DS games and two Wii games and the usual parental rules regarding them were suspended. He got an astronaut set (including two space monkies!), real Legos, blocks, a science experiment kit, books, and a glow-sword. And oh did he have fun with it all (right until the sugar-crash-fueled complete meltdown). Thane’s favorite toys were his new bunny Mr. Bun (Grey snitched his snuggly new moose) and the colander and spatula Santa brought for Grey’s stuffed bunny Robby. My husband got a Kindle, which is really, really awesome looking. I got a number of really nice things, including a fantastic apron (really!), a Wii fit from my brother, and a new recipe book. (Ok, maybe I’m easy to please.) But mostly, it was all filled with joy and togetherness.

Grey brought up the idea of sending a thank you note to Santa. I wonder how many kids who write Santa letters also write him thank you notes?

I'm not too sick to play with blocks!
I'm not too sick to play with blocks!

As for Thane, well, he was down to 101.2 tonight. Tylenol seems to help immensely. Was ever there such a bad 4 day patch to get sick? I’m pretty sure it’s a really nasty persistent ear infection. He just stopped a course of antibiotics like 3 days ago. I’m guessing it held off but didn’t cure an infection. I’m also guessing that since this is his fourth infection in as many months, tubes are in his future. This isn’t so bad, though. It doesn’t seem to bother him that much. It’s not infectious (so I don’t have it to “look forward to”). It’s not going to be dangerous even if we have to wait until Monday to treat it. I haven’t decided whether it is terrible timing (sick for Christmas!) or fantastic timing (we were going to be staying home anyway!).
Mr. Bun Gives sick Thane a kiss
Mr. Bun Gives sick Thane a kiss

The grownups have topped off our day further rotting our own cerebellums with more video games. My husband appears to be in a very tense ground battle with the Russians on one of the floating bridges in Seattle. I think that, after a nice 2 year hiatus, I might actually beat Fable. And my mother-in-law flies in tomorrow! Yay!

So how was your Christmas? What was most meaningful in it for you? And, the real question, what loot did you get?