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.
I have this theory about Santa that literally might blow your mind so I hope you are sitting down as you read this…
We all know there is only one Santa and his helpers come to malls to help Santa out while he is busy getting ready for his big night. He can’t be bothered with food courts and cell phone kiosks… Santa is making his list and checking it twice. He’s doing competitive eating practice drills so he can stretch his stomach for 793 trillion pounds of cookies that he’s gonna cram into his belly on XMAS eve.
I want you to think about literally every single Christmas movie you’ve ever seen. Think about the plot of every single holiday film, there’s at least an 85% chance the guy we met this weekend at the mall is actually Santa Claus. I’m so convinced that Christmas time is Santa’s time to come down and check in on what’s actually going on… sometimes he needs to get a closer look at a particular kid before he puts him or her on the naughty list. So what better way then to sneak into “Santa’s Workshop” behind the mall fountain and tap the fake guy out. It’s like a holiday version of undercover boss.
This one was so obvious to pick out though. The beard, the jolly laugh where his belly jiggled like a bowl full of jelly… you can’t fake that HO HO HO… you can practice it all you want, but even the best actors can’t completely imitate a Bronx accent or perfectly convey the voice of a character they are playing (except Allen Rickman… he is THE Professor Snape, he was perfect). There was something about this Santa’s HO HO HO. It was smooth and rolled off the tongue like it was natural to him… you know why? Because it was. This Santa was literally a saint. No “helper” Santa could have that much patience. No way, no how.
That brings us to the waiting line to meet Santa… Jackson screamed, yelled, ran, jumped and tried to attack Mrs. Claus (mind you that’s what you get for being all up in a two year olds personal space). There were a few children ahead of Jax and they pulled Santa’s beard and kicked him in the shin. What did Santa do? Smiled and calmed the child down with a reassuring touch and no break in character. Then Jackson arrived. I was so nervous, I apologized proactively and even asked one of the elves if Santa had good heath insurance. Jackson, the child with limited “sit still” ability was mesmerized by The Jolly Man in Red. It was instantaneous. This was nothing a mere mortal could do. This was the work of a Saint… Saint Nick.
I am so confident (I’ve seen The Santa Clause, and Elf and Miracle on 34th Street)… this guy was actually Santa Claus. I know that I’m going to see him in a few weeks smashing cookies in my kitchen and he’s going to give a small head nod and a knowing wink. And I’ll nod back. A “Jetereske” tip of the cap for not kicking my kid out of line at the mall when so many other “helper Santas” would have.
I guess seven and a half months isn’t old enough to get the whole Christmas thing… but you have to start somewhere right? So I started thinking about the holiday itself, not the religious meaning or where Christmas actually began, but just the perspective of a baby who is still trying to figure out the world around him.
I can literally see his little brain working… his inner thoughts are asking: “Dad, why the hell did you plant a tree inside the house?” “Hey guys, did you know that you left some colored nightlights on outside?” “Mom, you know how your always complaining that the dryer eats all the socks… well I think I found the ones you’re looking for. They’re hanging up on the fireplace!”
You spend every waking minute talking to your baby. Teaching them about life, about nature and about how things work. Then all of a sudden, Christmas comes… things are turned upside down, people change… How do you explain this to someone who still puts anything in front of them in their mouth? Where do you begin? What do you say that can spell out what is going on in their own home? The thing is… I don’t think you can… I am going to go under the assumption that the first few Christmases are about the moms and the dads and especially about the grandmas and the grandpas (sounds like a 1970s band).
I am confident that Jax is loving all the extra things lying around the house that are (to him) edible… I know over the past few years the dogs sure have enjoyed eating hundreds of decorations and ornaments. Jackson is going to have to just deal with the fact that a big fat (healthy fat we like to say) is able to break into our house and walk around freely with no consequences. “No Jax the alarm does not work on Santa.” “No Jax Santa will not burn his buttcrack on the fire.” No Jackson, Santa will not be happy if you leave him a dirty diaper.”
400 words later and I haven’t even introduced Jax to the Abominable Snowman, Hermey, Buddy the Elf, or the Wet Bandits… or the fact that we dress up Buster and Max for XMAS too. This is going to be a long Christmas break….