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Technology is Amazing, Charlie Brown

December 28, 2011 Leave a comment

I loved Christmas specials on television growing up.  I can still remember the excitement as the colorful “Special Presentation” (or whatever it said) words would spin in a multi-colored kaleidoscope on to the screen, announcing that a Christmas show was about to come on.  While I still enjoy many of them, my favorites are still “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (the original cartoon) and “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.  Those are the two that have stood the test of time for me.

The boys, of course, love them and they eagerly would watch most of them.  There have been some new ones added over the years — some funny, some heartwarming and some that are just plain creepy — that we have discovered together, but it is the old ones that they seem to enjoy the most…You can’t beat the classics, I guess.  It is adorable as Matthew, who really struggles to talk sometimes, walks around the house singing the Heat/Snow Miser song, making sure to hum the trombone parts of the song.

However, the interesting twist, that was unheard of when I was growing up, is that that they could watch their favorites over and over thanks to the DVR.  A VCR was unheard of for most of my childhood.  As kids, if we missed a showing, that was usually it…we missed it for the year.  And, in a way, that was nice because the night that Rudolph was on became an event.  We eagerly waited for it and we watched it together as a family.  Basically, there was no way we were going to miss it.  Now, I could be walking around the mall and pull up an app on my phone, scan the TV listings and set the DVR to record a particular show.  We would watch it when it was convenient (and if it was a hit, watch it over and over and over).

That same technology allows me to download the Heat/Snow Miser song so that I can play it, and other favorites, in the car to cheer them up on the way to school.

However, in all of this, the intersection of Christmas tradition on technology that touched me the most was the “A Charlie Brown Christmas” app by Loud Crow that was available for the iPad (maybe Android, as well).  I feel like I am about to write a review, but this was amazing.  It is designed like a pop up book with the familiar music of the television special playing in the background.  The kids could turn the pages and have the book narrated or they could read it themselves.  They could “pop” snowflakes, play Schroeder’s piano, make the characters dance on stage and even decorate Charlie Brown’s tree.  As the season passed, they could find ornaments and other goodies hidden on different pages.  Both boys spent countless hours playing on the iPad.  I really thought this was a special part of their Christmas.

And I have to confess, whether it is on television or on the iPad, I can’t help but let a tear go when the characters yell, “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown” at the end of the book.  It makes me feel like a kid on the inside again.

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The Christmas Cardinal

December 27, 2011 2 comments

Growing up in a large family, one of the more exciting parts of the Christmas season was Pollyanna where we would pick each others names out of a hat and secretly leave little gifts or candy for the person we picked.  With the boys as young as they are, we really can’t do that, so,  at the start of advent, I started placing the little toys from a Playmobile Advent Calendar under the kids Christmas tree at night, not really thinking about how it would unfold.  Through the four weeks there were lots of questions and a story started to write itself.  On Christmas morning, the kids found a modeling clay cardinal in the Christmas tree and the story below.

In the backyard of quiet suburban home within the glare of the Star of Christmas City two boys explore their new home.  They run silly through the grass and their laughter and giggles and screams of joy fill the air as they do what little boys do.

In a quiet corner of the property a bright red cardinal watches the boys carefully from the bow of a tall evergreen tree.  The music of the children’s voices is not lost on his heart.  He lets out a little song himself and the boys stop their play for a moment to look around for the sound, before resuming their play.

He watches as a new play set rises not far from his home and then as the boys themselves rise up into the play set.  He watches the pictures in chalk come and go and is mesmerized by the swings going back and forth.

It seems with each day that passes a new magic moment is born.  He longs to play in the leaves as he observes the boys jumping in themselves.  He lets out a little chirpy laugh when the older boy goes flying off the slide covered in snow.

He is kept warm through the winter watching the boys squeak and squeal in the ever deepening snow.  Through the cold nights he is kept warm by the memory of their laughter.

In springs return, he watches as the children play baseball and soccer and drive a toy car in circles around the house.  He softly chirps trying to give hints as they search for the last of the hidden Easter eggs.

At times, the ever changing backyard is filled with other children who seem to fill the whole neighborhood with their joy.  He roots on the small child as he struggles (but laughs) to keep up with his older brother and their daddy in races around the yard.  He is touched by the little picnics in the play set that their mommy provides.

He so desperately missed them when they disappeared for a week two separate times in the heat of the summer and his heart leaped for joy when they returned.

After a long night hidden deep within the branches of his evergreen tree during a raging hurricane, he cries tears of happiness as the family emerges in the morning, safe and sound themselves.  He quietly followed them around as they went from house to house for Halloween.  He was thankful for their safe return after the weird winter storm that sent them from their home.

Then, one beautiful fall morning, he watched as they carefully decorated their play set, hanging shiny ornaments and sparkling lights and bows of evergreen and bright red bells.  When night came, it became the most beautiful sight he had ever seen.  He was so overwhelmed by it that he sang a cheerful prayer…a prayer asking that he would be given some way to thank these children.  He then fell asleep staring at the pretty lights.

The next morning, he awoke to find a box of small toys and a small silver pail decorated with little bells.  There was also a note and a small green wreath, also decorated with bells.  The note said:

“My dear little red friend, your beautiful song,
Has brought me great joy.
A favor I must ask of you,
On each night will you deliver a toy?

This tiny tinseled wreath has a special magic,
When the Christmas lights start to shine,
Wear it around your neck with love and joy,
And the magic will be yours like mine.

Follow your heart and sing your song;
You will know what to do in the light;
You will have the power of this magical season,
To deliver your gifts each joyful Christmas night.”

The poor cardinal while excited and happy to bring gifts to these children, feared his mission, worrying about what might await him in the house.  He had never been in a house before and he worried he would wake the children and scare them.  He fretted for nights until the last night of November came, the first night of his mission.

Still afraid and dreading what he might find in the dark of the chimney, he put the tiny wreath around his neck as bravely as he could.  But he felt no magic and soon found that he didn’t have the strength to lift the pail with the first toy in it.  He tried and tried for an hour and more before giving up.

He sat in his tree crying until he fell asleep.

The next day, feeling sorry for himself, he sadly watched the boys play with their LEGOs through the back door. It wasn’t long before the smiles on their faces cheered him up.  Their playing made him chirp loudly, and when he did so, the bells on the wreath and pail started to jingle.  He chirped some more and the bells rang more.

With the sun now set and the streets lit up with Christmas lights, he decided to put the wreath around his neck, once more, with only a lingering fear and joy in his heart.  This time, the wreath started to glow and sparkle.  He was suddenly encircled in a cloud of sparkles and light which landed on his wings and crest, causing them to brightly sparkle in red.  This made him sing even louder!

After the house went quiet that night, he easily lifted the pail and spread his glowing wings and flew right up to the chimney with ease.  He then flew down the chimney, his wreath lighting the way.  He was filled with happiness and he flew through the house and finished his mission.

After finishing his delivery, he was so excited; he flew around the whole neighborhood looking at all the lights and Christmas trees.  He then flew up to the star of Bethlehem and landed at the very top.  From there, he could see all of Christmas city.  He would fall asleep there, with peace in his heart.

And so, every night, the cardinal slipped his magical wreath around his neck and took a small toy and put it in the small pail and flew up to the chimney where he waited for the house to become quiet.  Some nights, he had to wait longer than others for the daddy to go to sleep.  He would then fly down into the darkness of the chimney and, as he approached the gate at the inside opening, it would magically open for him. He would then fly up to their room and quietly place the small toy under their tree.

Some nights, they left notes for him and on others he left them a feather or matching magical wreaths to give them clues to who he was.  He could sense their own excitement and joy.  One night, he came down the chimney too fast and was forced to land on one of the charred logs, sending up a cloud of ash.  He accidentally left behind footprints when he hopped out of the fireplace.

Those sweat boys even thanked him and asked him his name.  He had never had a name and wondered what the boys might call him.

He was overjoyed by the pictures they drew in the house and the gingerbread houses they decorated. He couldn’t help but notice how the trains under the tree would be crashed on some nights.  He was happy for the boys that the money jar was nearly empty.  He smiled with a tear in his eye when he saw his feathers taped to their door.

And every night, he flew though the towns and cities of the valley before falling asleep atop the star.

Early on the morning of Christmas Eve, he left his last gift under their tree and lingered through the house.  He said goodbye to the boys and their trains and cars and toys and began to wish a new wish, a wish he dared not pray.  After one last look around, he flew up the chimney and out to his evergreen tree.  He took off his magic wreath one last time and fell asleep in certain sadness.

The next night, he eagerly watched for Santa and his reindeer until finally he arrived.

He was left in complete wonder as he watched through the windows as Santa went about his work, setting out the toys, eating his cookies and setting up the icicles and snowflakes in the hall.  He smiled as Santa made his way to the fireplace and disappeared up the chimney.

Before he had a chance to fly back to his evergreen tree, Santa appeared behind him.  The cardinal turned with a happy chirp as a smiling Santa extended his hand.  The cardinal jumped up and into his hand and Santa gave the small bird a wink.  Suddenly, in a swirl of sparkling dust, his magic wreath was around his neck again and then he started to feel tingling in his toes.  The tingly feeling slowly rose up through the rest of his body, spreading through all his feathers and finally into his beautiful crest.  Suddenly, he realized he was no longer a real bird, but a toy!  In a flash, he was back in the boy’s house with Santa carefully placing him and his pail into the Christmas tree.  His wish had come true.  He would get the chance to watch the boys come out of their room to the magic of Christmas morning.  He could watch them open their presents and play with their toys.  For one day, he was given the gift to watch these boys laugh and play.

And the beautiful cardinal had never been happier.

Bad Romans?

December 26, 2011 Leave a comment

The other day, Ben and I were watching TV together when a commercial for the new Chipmunks movie came on.  In it, they are singing Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”. After a moment, Ben suddenly looked very confused and then asked me, “Daddy, why were the Chipmunks singing about the guys that hung Jesus on the cross?”

“What?” I asked, half laughing.

“Bad Romans…they were singing about bad Romans.”

Christmas Past: Bittersweet Christmas

December 20, 2011 1 comment

I wrote this seven years ago…It was just after we discovered that Andrea was pregnant with Benjamin.

Christmas was bittersweet. I never thought it possible have joy clash with grief in the manner that it did.  We found out after Christmas Eve Mass that Andy’s grandmother had possibly suffered a stroke earlier in the day. It hit Andy like a ton of bricks. There was little that we could do that night, and with going to her parents house on Christmas day, we decided to go on with our Christmas Eve plans.

We arrived at my brother Chris’s house rather late. Andrea, already exhausted by the pregnancy and the news, had to pull together whatever energy she had left to get through the party. Somehow, we managed to enjoy ourselves. My family was in good spirits and they quickly cheered us up. We kept getting handed drinks, which we either took very tiny sips from or topped someone elses glass with (I decided out of support for Andrea, to not drink during her pregnancy). I quietly and frequently checked on the new mom-to-be.

I took a lot of pleasure in our very big secret. It’s not often that you can sit and watch people that have surrounded you your whole life and observe them through a new set of glasses that comes with such a life altering event.

As I talked with my father about his model ship, baseball and our new house, I wondered if I could be as good of a father as he is and I
wondered what I might talk about with my son or daughter in 31 years. I watched my mom sipping her drink with a twinkle of mischief in her eyes as she joked around with my sister and I knew what happiness this child would bring her. It was obvious that her children
had brought her such joy and I knew that is what she had hoped for us.

With both my mom and dad, I wondered how differently they would view me in 48 hours, after we had sprung our little surprise on them. There youngest son was going to be a daddy and I pondered what that meant to them and what it meant to me.

I watched my brothers and sister and what it meant to be a family. Andy and I were a family, but now, it was going to be different. We were going to bring this child into our tiny little family, but he or she was going to be part of two other families that were going to love him/her. And hopefully, one day they would be a brother or sister and know the love of that relationship.

On Christmas day, we headed to Andrea’s families house. With her grandmother on our minds, we knew this was going to be a very big day for us and her family. After arriving, we debated a little about when we would “present” our big secret. Andy wanted to wait until her whole family when they were together, but we were going to visit her grand mom and wanted to feel free to tell her as well.

So, as we stood around the kitchen, picking at the olives and cheese, Andrea handed her father a small wrapped gift. After some searching for glasses, he opened the gifts to reveal two small frames. Inside the frame was a piece of paper that said “Baby Keenan…Coming to a Snugglery in August.” Her father started laughing and asked us if it were for real.

He then called for Andrea’s mom and handed them to her and I think she was met with shock first…not really sure what they meant, but when it clicked, she wrapped up Andrea in a big hug. Congratulations quickly went around and all the questions began…When is it due? How long have you know? Who have you told?

We chatted with everyone for a while before heading over to see Andrea’s grand mom at the hospital. Unfortunately, her grandmother was on a lot of medication and seemed exhausted…she was barely able to acknowledge us, although she seemed to recognize Andy and Lisa. We talked to her for a little bit as she drifted in and out of sleep before Lisa suggested that we tell her the news.

Andy hesitated at first, before moving closer to to her grand mom and whispered “Grandma, I’m pregnant. I’m going to have a baby.”

Her grandmother, for a moment, snapped to a brief moment of alertness and managed to open her eyes and look and Andrea. She
practically jumped out of bed as she seemed to try to smile for a moment.

A few weeks before Christmas, Andrea’s friend Maureen had given us a daily calendar the stated what was going on with our baby each day of the pregnancy. At the start of that week, our little baby’s heart started beating for the first time.

A week later, early on the morning of December 26th, Andrea’s granmother’s heart stopped. Aside from goodbye, “Grandma, I’m pregnant. I’m going to have a baby,” was the last thing Andrea got to say to her. However painful, I truly believe that Rose’s heart will beat on in our child and that she got to be the first one to meet little Pudge (our name for the little unborn baby).

Every year, I build a gingerbread “structure”. Usually a house, but one year, I did a boat. Knowing we would be heading to my parents the day after Christmas (we didn’t find out about her grand mom until that night) and that they would expect to see another creation, I
built a very special gingerbread.

After arriving at my parents house, and making sure that as many people were around as we could round up, I unveiled my creation. I pulled the lid off the box to reveal a gingerbread cradle with a little gingerbread baby lying on a bed of marshmallows. For a brief second, no one said anything until my sister-in-law Jen yelled, “Do you have an announcement?” My mom, who seemed to be just half paying attention took a double take at the cradle before letting out a scream.

Suddenly, both Andrea and I were swamped in hugs and kisses, and even my big tough older brothers had tears in their eyes.

To this day, I still can’t help but shed a tear as I think back to those moments in my parents house…They were among the sweetest moments in my life. The love that my family has for the two of us just flooded down on us, and moved me in such a way that I will never forget.

Christmas Memories

December 17, 2011 1 comment

I’ve said it before…I love Christmas.  It was always magical to me as a kid, but that magic was lost for a while.  Now, as new magic is created through my children, I always think back to my own childhood (and after) memories.  I wrote the below a few years ago, but thought I would re-publish it here.

My brother and half the family was in one car and the rest of us were in another when “Feliz Navidad” came on the radio. It was Christmas Eve years ago and we were packed into the two cars headed up to one of my aunt’s houses for a Christmas party. Both cars had the same radio station on, and for some reason, the song just sparked what my son would call, a case of the sillies. Each car started to try to outdo the other in the lip-syncing to the song and the “dance” moves (mind you, I believe the youngest in the cars was my sister Danielle, who was probably in high school at the time) as we drove up the highway, side by side. I won’t go into too much detail – it was one of those “you had to be there” type moments – but it has burned in my memory as one of my favorite Christmas memories.

As an adult, before my own children came along, I have struggled with Christmas. It is truly my favorite time of year, but as a kid, there was more magic to it. I still remember when I honestly believed in Santa Claus. I loved having that “fairy story” to believe in, and even now, I feel my soul and heart turning as I think of those days.  I think it had to do with coming from such a big family…There were surprises around every corner.

A memory that really holds on tight with me was when I was a senior in high school or maybe a freshman in college when late on Christmas Eve my parents sent me to the Quick Check to get a bottle of Egg Nog. I took my time, enjoyed the freedom and quiet of Christmas Eve and looked at all the decorations. I ran into a couple of people I knew at the store and exchanged greetings and I headed home. It was such a surreal sense of peace that I can’t explain that lasted for 20 minutes at the most. In a lot of ways, I felt that was the end of my Christmas innocence. All the years before, Christmas was about being with family, but for the first time, my favorite memory from a Christmas was being by myself. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the company of my family that year…it is very much the opposite. And I certainly don’t enjoy being alone on Christmas. However, it was the first time, because I could drive, that I had a Christmas memory that was mine and mine alone. The Christmases before were about being dragged around by and “adult” on errands and church and parties and they are great memories. The Christmases after seem to be about rushing around and trying force moments with people and focusing too much on trying to create the perfect Christmas memory instead of remembering that perfect Christmas moments just happen…like the trip in the car. That trip to the store seems to be the dividing line between the Christmases as a child and the Christmases as an adult.

With each person in my family, I have such specific memories…favorite memories with them. So many of my childhood memories involve Kyle and Danielle, because they are the closest in age to me. It feels like yesterday that Danielle and I sat on the floor in my room as Kyle was drawing in the upper bunk. I don’t remember the year, but it was Christmas Eve and we were exchanging theories on Santa. None of us believed in Santa anymore, but we had theories of Santa being a spirit that brings good things to people that believed in him and were good. We talked about how he might get around…walking through walls and just instantly jumping from house to house. It’s still a fun theory to think about.

I have an endless stream of Christmas memories with Danielle. So many times we would sit early in the morning trying to figure out what might be under the colorful gift wrap and conspiring on how long we had to wait before waking up the rest of the family and the best way to do it. Kyle was often involved, but he would grow out of it before Danielle and I did because of our ages. Because Danielle and I are the youngest and so close in age, most of my Christmas memories of a child are in being shoulder to shoulder with her and I treasure those memories.

My favorite memory with Kyle was the year we combed the woods behind our house in Hopatcong, NJ and the neighborhood to find the perfect Christmas tree for the room we shared. I think the previous year we had taken the top off a tree in a lot down the street that belong to someone else. Needless to say, we got in trouble. So that year, we found ourselves stumped after spending most of the morning looking. Finally, we came across an old mattress that someone was throwing away. A couple of springs were sticking out and it occurred to us that they were shaped a bit like pine trees. So, we went home, grabbed my dad’s wire cutters and removed a bunch of these. We then piled them three-high in the shape of a Christmas tree and then cut small branches of the giant pine tree in our front yard. We stuck these between the wires of the springs and then put lights and decorations on it. It was perfect in my memory, and, by far, my favorite Christmas tree.

The memories with Chris, Terry and Tara are a bit different because of the age difference. Tara is 10 years older, Terry, 8 and Chris, 5. However, I have so many great memories. A lot of times, I feel, they tried to help make Christmas special for Danielle, Kyle and I. Admittedly, they had different ideas of what that meant…We had a tradition in our family of doing Kris Kringle during Advent. We would each pick a name out of a hat and during advent, we would secretly leave little gifts like candy under each others pillow or somewhere else or do something nice for the person you had. There was something magical to waking up one random day to find a candy bar in your shoe, a candy cane tucked in the pocket of your jacket or a peppermint patty tapes to the back of your neck (Terry’s idea of making Christmas special). Then on Christmas, we would try to guess who our Kris Kringle was.

You always wanted to have Tara as your Kris Kringle, because she would go all out. You would never know what you would get. The one year, she had me and twelve days before Christmas, paper bags with my name started showing up and a modification of “12 days of Christmas”. I think instead of a partridge in a pear tree, she did a Twinkie in a paper bag and instead of five golden rings, it was five jelly rings. I remember how exciting it was to wake up each morning to see what was in the bag that day…which always included the stuff from all the previous days, as well as the new stuff. Still, to this day, I find that to be so cool.

My strongest memory of Terry at Christmas is that car trip. I believe he was the one that initiated it and the one that really had the rest of us really laughing. At one point, to express how lame he thought our “song and dance” routine was, he put his head down and pretended to be sleeping. Of course, he was the driver of the other car, and we didn’t know that my mom was secretly holding the steering wheel that he had his head resting on with his eyes closed. Oh, of course, this could have gone a whole other way as far as Christmas memories, but something about it was so funny and I still chuckle to this day thinking about it.

My memories of Chris and Christmas seem to be around LEGOs. He loved them as a kid and I think that is where I got my love of them (which still exists to this day). I remember one Christmas, when we lived in Colorado in 1977 or 1978, we had all gotten LEGO’s from Santa. I can remember sitting in Chris’ room with him and a giant pile of LEGO’s between us as we built castles and spaceships. I think that is were we spent the entire day. In subsequent Christmas’ he would seem to always be there to help put a toy together or figure something out.

When I look at a potential new place to live, as I walk through it, I imagine how I would decorate it for Christmas. I love decorating for Christmas and each year, I try to top what I did the year before. I believe this is a trait I get from my dad. Every year, he would do everything he could to make the house just right for Christmas. Whether is was taking us out into the mountains of Colorado to find the perfect trees or taking these small mirrors he got somewhere and turning them into ornaments that would reflect the tree lights around the room. As I get the house ready for my own kids, I always find myself thinking about the ways he would decorate.

Mom would just go to great lengths to make the food perfect through the holidays. I can recall so many times sitting with her at the big wooden kitchen table, making a million different kinds of cookies. The kitchen would just become a flurry of activity on Christmas Eve and I so enjoyed being in the middle of it. However, my favorite memories were of going on different errands on Christmas Eve morning. It was kind of the calm before the storm, and it was just her and I going from place to place, picking up fish or meat or going to the Viking bakery to pick up a cake or pie. I still miss doing that with my mom. There was something really special about the peace of Christmas Eve morning.

All-in-all, it is the memories of my entire family together on Christmas Eve the most. I hate to over use the word, but they were magical (and, in hindsight, I don’t know how my parents did it with six kids). It would start with a Christmas party at my aunts house in late afternoon or evening. We would then leave that and go home for maybe an hour or two. Danielle and I were often sent to bed to try to get a little sleep before we were taken to midnight mass. I loved midnight mass…the excitement and the people and the special music and the colors and the incenses. We would come back and then eat a ton of food that my mom made. We would be allowed to open a present or two before we went off to bed. It was a whirlwind of excitement and year after year is burned in my brain in this endless stream of memories. Just thinking of them today, makes that magic come back alive.

In the years since, I have a whole host of wonderful memories, but they are just different kinds of memories. Andrea and I have ten wonderful Christmases together and each one has been so special. However, I always felt there was a stress in the preparation an run up to the holiday.  Christmas became more about getting from house to house rather than enjoying the magic.

That all changed in 2005, when Benjamin was born.  He was four months old at his first Christmas and I can still see the colorful tree lights reflecting in his eye.  Of course, he didn’t know what was going on, but I saw all the Christmases of the future in that sparkle and the magic returned.

Each year, as my own boys get older, Christmas feels like it did when I was a kid. The wonderful magic is all around in their little faces, especially with Benjamin, as he not only remembers things from last Christmas, but is developing his own theories on Santa and how Christmas should be. These days, I enjoy plotting ways to perpetuate the magic of Santa Claus with them. They remind me of the wonder and splendor of Christmas, again. In my mind, I try to picture all the Christmas going forward as Andrea and I mark time for the kids with the holiday. I picture the four of use getting older together and developing our own traditions and seeing what magical moment will be burned in our brains going forward.

And, the great memories do continue with my brothers and sisters…sure, a lot of spiked Egg Nog is involved, but they continue.  We don’t always get to see each other on Christmas, but usually we find time to be together at the holidays and it is always cherished.  As I write, my brain is flooded with new memories and moments from the last few years with my family, but they will have to be for another time.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Homemade Christmas Presents

December 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Last night, Benjamin and Matthew decided to make Christmas presents for Andrea and I.  They disappeared into the office and proceeded to discuss and create the perfect gifts (with some arguing and lots of giggling).

At one point, as I passed the office door, I heard papers quickly get shuffled and I looked in to see Ben with his arms spread across the desk.  He looked up at me and said, “We aren’t doing anything here!”

Later, Matthew moved a couple of little chairs in front of the office door.  After they went to bed, I noticed Andrea’s present just on the other side of the chairs.  I was later told by Ben that Matthew put them there to keep mommy from coming into the office and seeing the gift.

Now I have to wait until Christmas to see what they made me…Bah Humbug!

Christmas Excitement

December 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Ready for SantaIt’s the Christmas season, obviously, and the boys are beyond excited.  They are up at least an hour earlier than normal, they run around like chickens without heads and the most popular question (it accounts for at least 50% of their questions) is “How many days until Christmas?”  They ask, of course, despite the three different advent calendars as well as the countdown decoration sitting on the window in the family room.  And, I love every moment of it. I feel that this is the time of the year that I should be writing the most about them and the things they do.  However, to be honest, I am right there with them.  I am not sure who is actually more excited…them or me.  And with the excitement, my mind is cluttered with thoughts of decorating and shopping and ways to poke a stick at the kids own excitement (more on that in another post).  The end result is that by the time I get a chance to write about all of their excitement, I can’t unravel my mind enough to remember the details.  I find this to be a shame and even a small stress point, but the important thing is that I am enjoying the holiday with them.

So, below are the small scraps that I can remember and hopefully, I’ll be able to write more soon.

During the entire time we were decorating, Benjamin was loudly singing appropriate Christmas carols, often butchering them in the process.  For example, as I lay on my back, half under a pine tree with sap dripping on me as I struggled to get the thing straight in the strand, Benjamin was boldly singing, at the the top of his lungs, “Oh Christmas Tree.”  I wish I had recorded him doing this.  Sometime he would stop to analyze the songs he was sing…”Daddy, what does ‘Thy branches’ mean?”

Andrea took Ben to see the Nutcracker ballet the other night and, apparently, he completely understood the meaning of the show.  While wrestling with Matt, there apparently was a small accident to which Ben said, “Ah, my nuts are being cracked!”  He then started humming his favorite song from the show, “dum dada dum dum dum dum dum.” (The Nutcracker March)

Matthew got in on the action as well, sometimes literally just running in circles around me as I decorated different things out side.  While putting up lights on a tree in the backyard and then on my car (yes, I put Christmas lights along the roof rack of my car), Squeeky continued to escalate his high pitched noises and funny little dance until finally he exploded in excitement, “this is going to be the best Christmas ever!”

While both of them have been very, very good under the intense glare of Santa Clause, there have been a few times when Benjamin has done something bad, resulting in Matthew telling him that he won’t get anything from Santa.  Of course, this doesn’t make Ben very happy.