Christmas vacation: Day 4

Our Monday began – as it does on every day that Phoebe doesn’t have school – with Phoebe coming to the master bedroom and asking if she could watch TV. The difference was instead of going to Kates’ side of the bed, on this morning she came to mine.

It was fine. It was 7:20 a.m. and I needed to get out of bed anyway so I could get Faye dressed and take her to daycare. Kates and I didn’t want to take Faye to daycare, but when we’re forced to pay even though we’ll be out-of-state for most of the next two weeks, we might as well get what we can out of their service. Besides, it gave Kates and I little more freedom to do other things.

“Purple striped onesie with purple pants,” Kates told me as I got out of bed, her eyes still closed.

So I dressed Faye. Strapped her into her car seat, and off we went. After leaving her at the daycare, I intended to run a few errands that included finishing my Christmas shopping. But as I was walking down an aisle at the grocery store in search of a specific gift for Kates, she called to tell me she had called the doctor’s office to ask about getting Faye in to have her ears checked. The receptionists said one of the doctors could check her if we could bring her right away. … So I purchased the gift and headed back to the daycare to pick up Faye and take her to see the doctor. We got in, the doctor checked her ears, they were fine, and I took Faye back to the daycare again.

Back at home, I joined Kates in cleaning the house. Actually, I joined Phoebe in cleaning her play area. Now is a good time to share this video, which I recorded – unbeknownst to her – a couple weeks ago while she was looking for a missing piece to one of her trinkets. The pile of toys she left during the making of this video had yet to be put away …

* * *

At around 2:30 Monday afternoon and I picked up Faye, because the daycare was closing down at 3. And when I returned, it was go, go, go. Kates showered while I took care of the girls. When she finished, she put them in the tub for baths while I showered. Kates dressed Phoebe. I dressed Faye. And we had just enough time to snap some pictures before heading to the 5 o’clock Christmas Eve service.

The service was wonderful. Partly because our family – of four! – was involved in it. We got a phone call from the pastor late in the afternoon during which he asked if, one, we would light the advent candles and, two, if Kates and I would read scriptures. We agreed, and as soon as Kates mentioned we were lighting the candles, Phoebe, who apparently pays attention in church after all, shouted, “I want to light the pink one!”

After a hymn and an opening prayer, it was time for our family moment. I carried Faye to the alter area and stood to the side of the advent candles while Kates led Phoebe to retrieve the candle lighter. Phoebe lit the candles with Kates’ help and we were finished. Success.

Back at our pew, Faye was barely staying awake, absorbing the family sitting behind us. And a few minutes later, her eyes were too heavy to hold out any longer. She closed them and fell asleep in my arms again … She did the same thing in church Sunday. I’ve become so good at calming her and getting her to fall asleep that Kates has begun calling me the “Baby Whisperer.” … I passed her to Kates when it was time for me to step to the altar to read my scripture. Then Kates passed Faye back to me when Phoebe said she needed a potty break. Faye stayed sleeping through all of it, not waking until the worship service was finishing.

And Phoebe sang the hymns! She learned “Away in a Manger” and “Joy to the World” in Sunday School while practicing for her Christmas program. But it never occurred to her that the songs would be sung during a worship service. To see the smile on her face and hear her singing the songs with the rest of the congregation was pure joy.

* * *

Our plans for the rest of our Christmas Eve included making a homemade pizza and settling in for some movies and family time.

Instead, the pastor’s wife invited us to their home, where they also were planning a meal of homemade pizza. The youth pastor’s family – which includes a 6-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy in Phoebe’s preschool class – joined us, too. The kids – minus Faye, who was content sitting on the floor and playing with a couple of her rattles and teethers – played with toys in the basement, while the adults sat around the table conversing about the news of the day (the Newtown tragedy remains on everybody’s minds and was part of our conversation … ), church stuff and family Christmas traditions.

Perhaps the highlight of the night was watching the kids decorate a chocolate pan cake that was designated as a birthday cake for Jesus. They pressed so many candles and paper decorations into it that the chocolate frosting was barely visible when they finished. Lighting the numerous candles later created a definite fire hazard – but only a couple paper decorations were destroyed in the blaze.

* * *

The Christmas Eve gathering ended around 10 p.m.

We were smart to stop off at our house and change the girls into their pajamas before heading to our pastor’s house. But before they went to bed, we wanted to make the preparations for Santa we didn’t quite get to do last year because Phoebe fell asleep too early.

This year, Phoebe was well aware of the magic of Santa Claus, believed in it deeply and couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities – and as parents it’s great fun for us to watch and share in. Phoebe insisted we put out cookies for Santa, and she picked out a variety – peppermints to ginger snaps – from a cookie collection Kates brought home from school. To my surprise, as we were preparing the plate, Phoebe also remembered that Santa didn’t eat all of his cookies last year (As I recall, we put out three and he ate 2 ½.). So she scurried to her play area, asking for a piece of paper and grabbing a crayon. She proceeded to write on the paper in big letters:


(… When I asked her if she knew how to spell Santa, she replied, “Yes. Remember I sang it in my Christmas program [To the tune of B-I-N-G-O]. S-A-N-T-A.”)

Eat all of it (... For the record, she asked me to write this line.)
Phoebe Faye ( … Underlined.)

Here’s the photo proof.

After setting the note by the cookies, we had to put the magic key out for Santa and spread the reindeer food. Without coats – Phoebe in her pajamas – the two of us went outside. I lifted Phoebe to the mailbox outside our door and she dropped the key inside. Then we spread the reindeer food – a concoction of pine needles and grass inside a paper bag – on the front lawn.

Once the girls were in bed and asleep, Kates and I performed our parental duty of populating the space underneath the Christmas tree. Then we headed to bed.

Our tradition of watching TBS’s “Christmas Story” marathon lasted about 10 minutes this year.

* * *

Christmas Day began around 8 this morning with the pitter patter of Phoebe’s feet across the hall. We always know when she’s coming.

“Today's Christmas! Get up,” she shouted, appearing at Kates’ bedside.

“It is?” I shouted, acting surprised.

“I'm going to go downstairs to see if Santa ate all of the cookies!”

More of the pitter patter of Phoebe’s feet as she scurried downstairs to the living room.

A gasp.

More pitter patter as she returns to our bedroom.

“He ate all of them! Even the peppermint.”

”Wow!” I said. “Are there a lot of presents under the tree?”

“Uh, I’ll go check!”

Pitter patter as she returns to the living room.

Another gasp.

”Mommy! Daddy! You gotta get up and watch me open all my presents!” Phoebe yells from the living room. “Get up!”

Then we hear more pitter patter and see the light go on across the hall in Faye’s room.

”Faye, it's Christmas! You gotta get up!” Phoebe says to her.

Those few moments alone made this Christmas one of the best ever.

Kates and I agreed to mark two of the girls’ gifts – the best ones, we thought – as being from Santa, and the rest would come from us. This year’s Santa gifts were, for Phoebe, the “Magical Learn & Go” from Vtech and a new set of pots and pans to add to her play kitchen. In contrast to last Christmas, Phoebe was very general about her wish list this year. Basically she wanted anything that had anything to do with princesses.

Faye got the “Move & Crawl Ball” from Vtech and a stuffed giraffe. Faye’s gifts were inspired by her daycare play. She has a giraffe like the one we gave her in her daycare crib, and the crawl ball is one of her favorite toys there. So we thought, If she enjoys them so much there, why not have them at home, too?

We milked the gift unwrapping for a solid hour. Then, Kates made pancakes and apple-stuffed sausages for breakfast. And we caught the end of the Disney Christmas parade on TV.

Both kids were enthralled and playing with their news toys at the foot of the tree. It was just the four of us. In our own house. And we had nowhere to go today.

Best Christmas ever. … And I’m not even thinking about the fact that our washer broke this afternoon.

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