It seems all month I had been preparing for last night. Gifts were purchased earlier than any year before, and all is wrapped and carefully placed around the tree. A weekend's worth of groceries were ordered and set to be delivered the next day, and our house was clean and cozy. It felt as though we had crossed the threshold, done with the preparations and so ready to snuggle in for the weekend ahead. Thanks to thirty degree temperatures that felt like a heat wave after our cold start to December, the kids played outside in the melting snow, and the fresh air felt so good. We heated up leftover chili for dinner, bathed the kids and helped dress them in their Christmas jammies, and wrapped blankets around them and told them to warm up in front of the fire while I filled their cups with cocoa. With one more sleep until Christmas break, we stayed up a little late, watched Rudolph, and treated the kids to my favorite chocolate crinkle cookies. I got teachers' gifts organized, school bags packed, and read Jonah and the big whale story to Cruz. We will get to Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus just in time.
Then, after the kids were asleep, I warmed up my own cup of cocoa, lit my new Frasier Fir candle from Kate, wrapped up in my favorite flannel blanket, and watched The Holiday. Between the stillness of the house, the smell of Christmas tree that filled our space, and Jude Law's Hollywood smile, life was good. The parties, the gatherings, even the hustle and bustle is fun to be a part of, but life feels most content on nights like this one.
More good things from this Christmas week...
406. Our Polar Express night. Last week, we watched The Polar Express and an idea was born to give Cruz and Mila their own little Polar Express adventure. Boone received most of the glory, writing a little letter to the kids explaining our date for the night. It involved pajamas with no shoes in a warmed up car (the kids thought this was great in and of itself), hot cocoa and popcorn, and a simple Christmas lights scavenger hunt. We listened to Rend Collective's Campfire Christmas, spotted candy canes, giant inflatable snowmen, and caroling minions, and happened upon the Christmas light jackpot with the Prospect Light Show in my favorite neighborhood. With the windows rolled down, the kids were mesmerized as we watched the singing Christmas trees and coordinating light show along with several other drivers doing the same thing.
Cruz could have driven around for hours, and we laughed as good ole Mila asked "When can we go home?" a half a dozen times during our drive. But then an acoustic "Come Thou Fount" came on Pandora, which just happens to be the song I sing to Mila nearly every night before bed, and minutes before we pulled in the driveway, they were both sleeping little angels. I carried Mila to her bed, but with all that magic in the air, I sure enough could have floated.
407. End of year reflecting and goal setting. With my favorite mug filled with white chocolate peppermint tea, I finished Jennie Allen's Restless, then thumbed through pages of journals and notes of this past year. Then, I put pen to paper to dream about the year to come.
408. A freshly baked batch of these chocolate crinkles, just slightly under baked. I've taken a few years off from these delights, and will never do that again.
409. Sweet teacher gifts, tied up with string and ready for little deliverers to learn the gift of giving.
410. Packages from Pella from one of our favorite families. The box included a Dutch bonket wreath from Jaarsma Bakery, coffee beans from Kate's favorite coffee shop, a book to read the kids, and a candle to make the house smell like a Christmas tree. We live miles apart, but as the card said, the box of goodies was as close as we could get to having the five of them on our doorstep.
411. Sweet pictures with Santa from Mom's library, taken by Uncle Jordan.
412. Spreading out this year's wrapping, a few at a time until my basement storage room was once again empty and the under part of the tree was not.
413. Making our way through our Storybook Bible during Advent. I love how every story ends with our need for a rescuer. We're one day away from the baby born in Bethlehem, just in time.
414. A day for baking. I wasn't going to do sugar cookies this year, but the man of the house said something about them being "near and dear to his heart." It's not one of my favorite Christmas traditions, but watching the kids lick the spatula and work away with flour on their cheeks is pretty cute.
The clean up, however, is not so cute.
415. Days when the white snow makes it extra bright in the house.
416. Our Boone, and how he always seems to find ideas that fit the kids and their loves just so.
417. Mila coming home from school with a fishtail braid, thanks to Maddie. And a new set of boots.
418. "Professor Jammies"
419. Downtown Cedar Falls in December. The Holiday Hoopla team always organizes so many free events to bring people out and add to the magic of it all. Last Saturday morning, the four of us sat in the front row of the balcony at the historic Oster Regent, and watched Arthur Christmas on a big screen. It's one of our favorite movies and I teared up at the end when Arthur's face is all lit up watching Gwen Hines get her bicycle. And hear I go on to explain that these years are so short and these days are so precious and I just want to stop time and keep them little forever....yada, yada, yada.
420. Day dates with Beau. We had two this week - sushi at Sakura and visiting the new Cottonwood Canyon in Cedar Falls. I love this concept and especially love that Brian is planning to do rice bowls everyday and breakfast burritos every morning. He also has dreams of an outdoor patio, wood fire pizzas, and music in the summertime. Love supporting these small town people and their big dreams.
421. Pie in the Face. I realize we are a year late in the game, but the kids are old enough to be thrilled with a little whipped cream in the eye. ;)
I could watch this reaction all day long. Mila's face and Cruz's giggle at the end.
422. Alice and Ames with red tights, and walking in the door to the start of Christmas break with some Bruno Mars and an immediate dance party.
423. Christmas with a two year old. Her toddler tantrums are no joke, but her sweet soul makes up for them tenfold. She's my little dolly.
424. Her stories with Daddy. "And there were free bears..."
425. Spending most of the day with this guy at his school party, helping his classmates make reindeer food and staying for hot dogs for lunch. And last night, we toasted the start of Christmas break with Italian Tradition pizza at Tonys, Blue Moons, a big brownie with ice cream, and tic tac toe on the table paper. Cruz drew and igloo and Eskimo, and asked our waiter to add it to the collection of other drawings on the big brick wall in the back of the restaurant. He is officially published, although the waiter assured us if it sells, all royalties go to Tony!
426. An evening stroll down the parkade. It was actually warm enough to be out and about, and we checked out what was left of the ice sculptures and grabbed some cocoas to go at Cup of Joe.
427. And lastly, the holly trolley ride. We ended our night cozied up on this thing, and sang our hearts out to Jingle Bells, Frosty, and Rudolph. The MC even asked if we were out for hire for next year. :)