Every year Steph and I look forward to the thoughtful DIY Christmas gifts we get from the boys. From ornaments, to picture frames to cookie dough mix they are all (as Martha Stewart would say) so lovely.
This year we unwrapped what was likely the most odd gift we’ve ever gotten. Yes, a picture frame is not that crazy of a gift, as a matter of fact we’ve gotten a few homemade picture frames over the years. We still proudly display them around the house. Yet, nothing we’ve ever opened would ever prepare us for the amazing gift that was made for us in Jackson’s kindergarten class this year.
Was this Harry Potter character look alike purposely displayed in the beautifully handcrafted frame? Or is this all just a coincidence?!???
You say Frosty the Snowman Costume… I say Dobby, the Free Elf.
We do this family Christmas photo event every year and every year it’s a debacle. I just don’t understand why we continue to put ourselves through it. More so, I don’t know why Staci keeps letting us back. Although, this year she smartened up and made us take photos deep in the forest where no one could hear the screams.
The best way to describe the process is to break it down into chunks. Each section brings its own problems and creates its own issues. All atr equally chaotic and none are mutually exclusive… they occur naturally and each that proceeds the next creates and increases the chaos.
The Pre Photo Phase:
The whole morning routine is thrown to shit. Everyone is up at the same time, which means my morning coffee is sucked down while trying to wrangle two cranky toddlers who want nothing more than some apple juice and a few episodes of Blaze and the MonsterMachines. Instead I’m squeezing their heads through matching button down flannels and cardigans. The screams can be heard from neighborhoods afar. Feeding them goldfish for each article of clothing they successfully put on is all I can do to stop child protective services from showing up at my front door.
Once everyone is layered up with enough fleece and corduroy to protect from even the deepest freeze of Mount Everest, we all realize that mom hasn’t even started to get changed. Her 12 outfits still lay neatly on the bed each screaming to be lucky enough to be chosen as this years Christmas’ photo regalia.
As the tiny humans begin to unravel downstairs they wait for their fashionista of a mother to emerge from behind the velvet curtains and through the fog machine to cheers and excitement like a Victoria Secret Model on some primetime fashion show.
The Travel Phase:
Each of the past five years has ended in some sort of travel mishap, or disaster. The cars aren’t the same, but the results always are. Somehow, someway the travel phase always results in violation points on someone’s license and children so tightly squeezed into their booster seats that their eyes are likely to pop out.
Each round trip to and from family photos has produced some pretty significant accidents and lofty fines. Two accidents (one involving the photographer herself), a half injured turkey, and a speeding ticket (or two). We’ve been lost so many time we now know the backroads of New England better than Cookie Monster on Waze.
The Photo Phase:
Cue the most amazing photographer who’s ever walked the Earth. “AUUUUNNNNNTTTTIEEEEE STAAAAAAACCCCIIIIIIIIIII!!!!”
You can heat them from across the Christmas tree farm. You can see her turn slowly, like it’s a horror movie. Her hair flips slowly as her wide smile turns into a grin that is half happy to see you… maybe it’s more half paranoid about what’s about to happen.
She smartens up each time she meets us, this time she has set up stations. That’s the trick with toddlers. Keep them on the move, keep them guessing and don’t let them catch their breath. It’s almost like running the hurry up offense. Keep the clock moving and keep the entire defense on the field. Eventually they’ll tire out.
Props are just par for the course when taking Christmas photos. They can provide the perfect backdrop for two brothers. The trick is getting that photo snapped before the props become weapons. The beautifully painted wooden “Let it Snow” sign that bear the calligraphy of a professional become shields for chocolate-chip cookie ninja stars.
And the tricycle that was perfectly set up in between two symmetrical Douglas firs quickly becomes a get away vehicle.
The Post Photo Phase:
Pictures happen quickly. There are lots of moving parts, lots of bribery and lots of tears. It takes the patience of a saint. Staci, Saint Staci that is, has it. She perpetuates sainthood. She’s good, she’s really good.
The photo session comes to end with as much anticipation as the end of a root canal. With puddles of tears, new clothes stained and tattered, the cries slowly quieted (and that was just from mom and dad). The kids on the other hand were hyped from the 15 Candid Cookie Eating takes, but I digress.
After herding these animals back towards the parking it was finally time to breathe a sigh of relief. Kids are tired. Parents are tired. Hell, the photographer is tired. It’s time to hitch a ride out of there.
Things are never easy and we always say we’ll never go through it again. That is… until we see the magic that Staci, Jax and Oliver have created. They are magicians and the photographs will forever be magic.
Christmas. It’s a time to appreciate what you have and reflect on the important things in life. It’s a time for giving and a time to enjoy the most important people in your life. That is unless your have kids. Then it’s about winning. It’s literally about winning Christmas (obviously winning is about being the best present giving “parent” since Santa is the best overall).
Setting aside all the magical gifts that Santa delivers down the chimney and under your barely standing, brown five week old Christmas tree, parents often both agree on an amount to spend on their children, or at least decide together what gifts will be bought for the kids. The thing is… if your anything like us it’s not just about the season of giving. It’s about the season of “who got the best gifts.” You want to try to take it easy… you know, just get little Susie an Easy Bake Oven, but it’s easy to want to go overboard and become the favorite parent. It’s amazing how fast that Easy Bake Oven turns into a live unicorn.
Although, the other side of this… Just understand you may wind up sleeping on the couch once your partner catches wind of your plan. Steph and I haven’t gotten to that point yet, as long as the kids are happy on Christmas morning… that magic of the holiday twinkling in their eyes… that’s the real gift.
Buying for the little one is easy. Oliver would go nuts over a toilet paper roll, or a box of tissue paper. Put a few random legos in a coffee can and you have created the greatest gift of all time. You can’t measure happiness in money or gift amounts, but you can however measure happiness in laughs and smiles. We all want to make Christmas morning as magical as possible, so it’s best to take advantage of how easy it is to please the little ones now.
We try to take it easy. We (Santa) buys lots of books and puzzles. This year we are going to have Jackson pick a few old toys to donate to someone in need, as he replaces those he donates with new ones Santa brings him. We aren’t naive to think that Christmas isn’t about presents, but I think this mom and dad also relish in the little things as well… a healthy and happy family. Two little boys who love each other and most importantly the fact that we got them to sit long enough with each other to get a decent Christmas card! It’s a Christmas miracle.
Half and hour in and my four year-old has already made approximately 187 references to Elfie (his #ElfonTheShelf). Check out @thedadexperience on Thursday, December 20th for a hilarious look at how that damn Elf has ruined parents everywhere. There’s also an in-depth look at the #Hanukkah equivalent of the Elf called #MoistureOnAMat
What breakfast, lunch and dinner looks like with two children
“The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”
I share a lot on here, but one thing I refuse to do is to share pictures of our Elf on the Shelf. We’re not a Pinterest family (well Steph tries to be, but her projects usually look like the after on a failed Pinterest page… but the effort is there).
Our elf doesn’t recreate movie elaborate Christmas movie scenes depicting himself dressed up as the main character. He doesn’t tend to use props and for the most part he sits in the same place he was when everyone went to bed (usually until someone panics first thing in the morning because we realized we forgot).
Tonight, however, I watched my wife, the mother of our children, help Elfie (yes our Elf’s name is Elfie) toilet paper the Christmas tree… if you could call it that. Now I don’t know what kind of childhood this woman lived… wether it was under a rock or simply spent in a bubble, but the fact that she didn’t know how to toilet paper something is telling.
I walked down stairs to multiple rolls of toilet paper carefully patterned and intricately placed like lacy garland on the ensues of the tree branches. I watched as Elfie sat, embarrassed perched high atop the Douglas Fir. Embarrassingly realizing that he would have to take credit for this “prank”.
What toilet papering should look like:
What Stephanie’s idea of toilet papering looks like:
Luckily there was someone in the house with a bit more knowledge and experiences when it comes to toilet papering. I won’t say who he is for confidentiality reasons… but I know Elfie appreciated the more random and vandalized look of his prank now that an expert lent his expertise.
Jackson really enjoys finding him each morning and this year is Ollie’s first time being interested…even with that though, it’s a good thing we don’t do the social media thing with our elf… he would have been embarrassed by this who situation. Sorry Elfie. Sorry.
Terrible Twos and/or Torturous Threes? How about the Fearsome Fours? Honestly, I don’t know what to call them… and more importantly I don’t know what i can’t stand more… either the people who don’t have kids and have advice for parents on what to do better, or the parents who tell us how amazing their children’s behavior always is.
We were pretty lucky in the beginning with Jackson. We never really had to deal with temper tantrums. Granted now we’re paying the price, as he has become a little toddler terrorist, taking what he wants and leaving destruction in his path. For the most part though, (he was pretty active), but he never really had temper tantrums.
Oliver, however, is a professional tantrum thrower. For being the happiest always smiling little guy… he sure knows how to throw down. I’ve witnessed this child lay on the floor and cry until you’d think he’d be dehydrated and then while still screaming, get up silently and laugh in my face thirty seconds later.
Those moments are what us parents dread the most, either in the mall or restaurant… or even just at home. When your child is flopping around on the floor like a fish just pulled up on the deck of a boat, screaming and crying like he just found out the next season of his favorite Nexflix series wouldn’t be released for another two years. And how do we try to stop it? We try reasoning with a this tiny human who won’t fully develop reasoning skills for another few years. I always here, “Use your words,” which is like asking me to hold a conversation during Game of Thrones (not happening).
Listen… a toddler tantrum, or any age tantrum for that matter, is a ride out the storm kind of situation. I try to stay calm (and more importantly try not to have an anxiety attack if we’re out in public) and just make sure everyone is safe. We save the talking for later.
Oliver can cry with the best of them. I’ve seen those crying fits come and go. Nothing, especially with a one year old, can prepare you for the intensity of an outburst especially when that outburst happens for the most asinine reason… have you ever suggested that your child not eat dog food? Or tell them to avoid touching a hot stove because, I don’t know… it’s hot? Yea, that’s all it takes. And, Oliver is no different.
Here’s a perfect example… we are decorating the tree and have a fire roaring. The perfect atmosphere to get into the Christmas spirit. The problem here… the placement of said fire. It’s not where my one year old wanted it to be. So what else is there to do but lay on the floor and kick and scream. Obviously, you want the fire on the other side of the room.
Yes my child, one and a half years old, was pissed off because he wanted the fire to be moved to the other side of the room.
You remember that scene in Old School where Will Ferrell’s character takes a tranquilizer dark to the throat and then stumbles around aimlessly knocking over everything in his path? Remember that scene in Harry Potter where the troll is loose in the dungeon and starts smashing everything and destroying anything that he comes across? Yes? You do? Good then you don’t need to do much to imagine what I went through last night attempting to put up the Christmas tree with a two year old.
It was like watching Godzilla march through a Japanese village and topple over buildings and houses with no regard for humanity. Strings of lights popped, glass ornaments were launched into orbit and the dogs were forced into hiding. It became every man for himself. What should have taken an hour and included hot cocoa, laughs and fun… was more about dodging projectiles, fear of injury and trying to preserve a level of sanity that would at least keep me from drop kicking the tree out of the window.
I’ve been part of a few insane missions as a parent: changing the first huge diaper explosion, or trying to coral a herd of children at a two year old’s birthday party, but even trying to put together “some assembly required toys” is nothing compared to the challenge of installing the North Pole in your home with a toddler on the loose. “You gotta keep your head on a swivel” is the understatement of the century.
Every time I turned to hang a candy cane, every time I stepped back to check the “swoop” of the string of snowflakes, literally at every turn there was damage done to something that has been in the family for generations. Grandma’s handmade strawberry ornaments were eaten as an after dinner snack, the “baby’s first Christmas ball was thrown into the fireplace faster than any left fielder trying to catch a running tagging up from third.
I mean I love my kid and I love Christmas… but I came out of this worse for the wear. I feel like I did in high school after football two-a-days. It was a long… long……. long night, but in the end another night worth the effort!