Merry Christmas, everyone! Our second half of December’s List of Joy was a little, err… a lot less successful than the first half. The weather got cold and days got busy. But we still found time to do some family outings and great charity work. I love the holidays and I love them even more when I have these wonderful people in my life to share them with.
Day 13: Tour the lights at Phalen Park
Yup. We did this one. It was 4 degrees outside so we snuggled up with blankets and stopped for gas station snacks on the way there. The lights were pretty cool and the $10 donation went towards the Second Harvest Heartland, so that’s always a plus! When we got to the park, they made us turn off our headlights and you drive, like, 2 MPH on a small path, so I assumed it safe enough to release the kids from their car seats and let them pile in the passenger seat. They loved it! Craning their necks under the windshield, ooooing and ahhhhhing for the entire 20 minute drive was well worth the (loooooong) drive to East St. Paul.
Day 14: Donate to a Red Kettle for “Common Cents for Kids” Day
This Saturday was filled with errand-running for our family. We stopped at Lakeshore and made free Christmas ornaments, returned some stuff at Target, and finished up some final Christmas shopping. By the time all was said and done, the kids were napping in the car and their sandwich bags filled with coins they had chosen by hand that morning never got delivered. We are hanging on to them until Monday night, when we are actually ringing the Salvation Army bell at Southdale, and the kids can donate there. Granted, it won’t be doubled, as it would’ve been on Common Cents for Kids Day, but I’ll just throw in a little extra. Nate and I attended a very fun Christmas party this night too, which was incredibly enjoyable and a much-needed parents-night-out.
Day 15: Write letters to Santa Clause
Today was just what we all needed. Had a play date with friends in the morning, watched some football, cleaned the house, finished wrapping gifts, and of course — got those letters to Santa in the mailbox so they would have enough time to get to the North Pole before the big day! Coen made it very clear that he wants a T-Phone and a Batman Helicopter (Santa is on top of these items this year…fear not) and Mabel’s list was mostly just “Thomas” (how I loathe that train!), but Coen helped us add a few more things that he thought Santa could shop for. The letters got folded, enveloped, stamped (with stickers) and placed in the mailbox. Hopefully the mailwoman knows Santa’s exact location because we were only so specific as “The North Pole.”
Day 16: Ring the Salvation Army bell
I tried. I was there. I made the effort. And I shouldn’t even say “I.” I should say “We.” The whole Brunner clan made the trek to Southdale for the bell ringing, kids excited and dressed for two hours of cold weather. As we walked up to Macy’s, there was no kettle, so we inquired inside. They told me they don’t have a partnership with the Salvation Army this year. I asked at the mall Guest Services as well, and she knew nothing. Odd. My confirmation email from Salvation Army said that exact location so I assumed it was a mistake. Slightly frustrated, we played at the play place and got pretzels and bought the clothing donations for Sojourner’s House (which needed to be done, so that’s good). On the way home, I called Salvation Army and was told I “obviously missed the bucket” they had laid out for me. Maybe. But I have photographic proof of what was left for me at this door and this was my first time – it would’ve been nice to have some sort of instruction (via email or phone or in person…). The kids were bears and the lines were long and the workers were incompetent. But maybe that has something to do with my tolerance level by the night’s end. Better luck next year, Salvation Army. I will be donating my time elsewhere.
Speaking of donating elsewhere, I recently read about this great little site: Monkee See Monkee Do. Nate mentioned giving our efforts to something like this next year. Some pretty cool holiday stories come out of this site.
Day 17: Watch The Grinch and Charlie Brown’s Christmas with popcorn under the tent
Today’s “task” was an easy one. Nothing I enjoy more during the holidays than soaking in some Christmas classics via the television set. The kids are in love with Charlie Brown this year so that one was really fun to watch together. And The Grinch? Well, you can’t ever go wrong with The Grinch. Always good to instill a little “good conquers evil” this time of year.
You can call me a sap, but this part of Charlie Brown always gets to me. Oh, Linus…so young, yet so wise. What is the true meaning of Christmas? He nails it, folks!
Day 18: Read the story of the birth of Jesus and discuss
I should’ve set aside more time before bed for Q&A. It’s quite the concept, isn’t it? Mary and Joseph get pregnant and walk to Bethlehem on a donkey. No one will lodge them even though Mary is VERY pregnant and it’s winter (people were apparently 100% dead inside back in the day). Then, Jesus is born and He is the Savior. The Son of God. Now, I went to Catholic school for 14 years and still found it incredibly difficult to explain this. I read the simplest version of the story I could find…still included Wise Men, the Star of Bethlehem, and the whole bit on swaddling clothes. I even tried using the cast of Charlie Brown’s Christmas to help tell the story. That was all I needed to be the lucky recipient of ten billion toddler questions. “What is frankenscence?” (I don’t know) “How did they know that star would take them to the baby?” (I don’t know) “How come they didn’t take a car?” (That one I knew!)
The point was, I got the basis of the story through to them. Now, when I say, “Who’s birthday is on Christmas?” they can give me an answer. The reason for the season. Every year we will get into it deeper and deeper, but for this year, I gotta be honest…I’m kind of glad we kept it simple. I need to do some serious reading in the next 365 days.
Day 19: Visit TowerLight Senior Center
We are on the list of TowerLight volunteers, but are mostly sticking to the “Intergen” program, which is a really cool program where the preschool and daycare kids do an activity, craft, or project with the elderly residents. I have yet to participate in one of these activities with the kids, but am looking forward to doing it. So, this day didn’t quite pan out. Instead, the kids and I delivered our gifts to the Women’s Shelter, made cards for and delivered gifts to Coen’s teachers, and then visited friends. Just to chat. It was so wonderful and much-needed!
I did, however, watch Ellen DeGeneres this day, and watched this hilarious clip with Ellie Kemper (ya know, the cute secretary from The Office?). So, though we didn’t do much spectacular this day, this clip will make up for it.
Day 20: Go to the Holidazzle Parade
Ugh. Nate and I are both pretty “holidazzled out” so we vetoed this idea and had friends over instead. We enjoyed a nice, relaxing dinner and then opened their gift to us. Well, ladies and gentlemen, we are now the owners of an infamous “Elf on the Shelf.” He was immediately named “Leonardo Raphvestis” (by – you guessed it – the biggest Ninja Turtle fan in the house) and my mind was already reeling with ideas of what this troublesome elf could get into around the house. That night, Leonardo simply got placed in the kids’ basketball hoop (blaming the amount of vino and laziness in my system), but the next night, I made up for it. Haha…this little devil is gonna get a workout on the nights I actually have leftover energy.
Days 21 and 22: Snowtube, wrap gifts, and prepare for the chaos ahead
Our family dedicated this weekend to R-E-L-A-X-I-N-G. Took our time getting out of bed, out of pajamas, and out of the house both days. Nate and I each took the kids out on different one-on-one “dates” throughout town. I delivered anonymous gifts to neighbors (so fun!) and Nate took Coen sledding. Envisioning the week ahead, I soaked up every moment of semi-quiet that was shared in our little house this weekend. Sunday night, we laid out brownies, lettuce and root beer for Santa Clause and his nine antlered friends. Christmas is a-comin’ and I couldn’t be more excited! Tomorrow morning, the kids wake up to their “nice list” rewards…now, on to unpack them all from the depths of our laundry room…