Saturday, January 07, 2023

On Christmas Day in the morning!

Here we are on the twelfth day of Christmas and I'm finally getting around to posting about Christmas morning.

Because we had church on Christmas morning and didn't want a repeat of Christmas morning tears, the kids all slept over at Grandpa's house—his Scrooge-house, with no decorations, no presents, and no internet (only because his internet was down for some reason, which factors into the story, I promise)—and in the morning Andrew dropped me and Phoebe off there and picked Miriam up because she was going to be playing the organ.

By the time I arrived, the internet guy was already there—yes, on Sunday; yes, on Christmas—trying to figure out what was wrong with Grandpa's internet. Eventually the diagnosis was, "Yup. Yup. Seems to be an outage of sorts," which wasn't very helpful, but he did what he could. We though he must have thought we were a little strange, though, to be in an obviously-Christian house filled with children but having no tree or presents (or any decorations at all) in sight. 

We sang a lot of carols, which was lovely, and since there was only one hour of church (which we streamed through Grandpa's phone—hurrah for satellites—which was hooked up to the television, it was over before we knew it and we were packing up to head home for the part of Christmas morning that the kids were really excited about.

Here they are lining up for "The Christmas Train":

Andrew took them all around the house (while I tried...and capture this activity with the camera) and then we let them into the music room to see all their presents.

Alexander was pretty sure the Grogu stuff was for him, but it was actually for Phoebe, who was equally excited about it (and Alexander was excited about his stuff as well, so it worked out):

We thought having a Grogu pillow and blanket might help Phoebe like her bed a little more.

We were wrong.

She thinks the pillow is great...when she's awake. But so far it has done very little to convince her that going to bed is cool. Oh, well. It was worth a shot. 

We've been wrong about things before. And I'm sure we'll be wrong about things in the future.

Here are some pictures of the kids getting into their stockings:

These lightsabers were one of those gifts that...really had me wondering what Santa was thinking when he dropped them off. Like...c'mon, Santa!

They haven't been quite as annoying as I expected them to be (they make noise) and the kids have been pretty gentle with their pretend battles.

Miriam was particularly excited about these scissors (because similar scissors are featured on Over the Garden Wall and she loves that show):

This picture of Zoë cracks me up:

These little bouncy toys have been well-used the past 12 days. It was another gift that I was like, "Gee, Santa, I don't know about this..." But it turns out that having three is no more annoying than having one. We merely traded off having one child boinging around the house while the other two cry about having to wait their turn to having three kids boinging all around the house. Honestly, having three kids boinging around the house is better.

Here's Andrew checking out his little crabby spoon holder:

And here's Phoebe trying out the giraffe (she got a rhino for her birthday, and it joined us in the music room for Christmas so it could be buddies with the giraffe and triceratops that Zoë and Alexander got):

Here's Benjamin discovering chapstick for what was apparently the first time in his life:

My poor teenagers. I'm not sure that we did a very good job shopping for them this year. For what it's worth, our "big" present for Rachel (1) never arrived and (2) just got around to issuing our refund and (3) we'd forgotten that we even purchased it but knew her pile seemed a little small...she was clearly disappointed and asked if there were supplemental gift cards to Amazon or something so that she some books, perhaps. 

We neglected to get her any books and that's always what she really wants. So we'll probably let her pop on and pick a few. I'm just not very good at presents.

Andrew made up a gift list for me to shop from. I bought a few things on it, but didn't get everything. One particular thing that I knew he'd really like, I just couldn't get myself to purchase due to some rather severe sticker shock. So I didn't get it. 

It definitely showed up on our front porch two days after Christmas, though, because when he didn't get it for Christmas he went ahead and bought it for himself!

He does not suffer from spending anxiety like I do.

Anyway, here's Rachel laughing about this gift that Zoë helped me wrap. When Zoë was writing on the wrapping paper she wrote "To: Mom and Dad" instead of "From: Mom and Dad" so she finished it off with "To: Mom and Dad to give to Rachel."

My kids were wonderful wrapping helpers. Rachel, Miriam, and I spent a few evenings together wrapping presents and watching Wednesday together. And then Zoë and Benjamin each took turns helping me wrap presents that I didn't wrap with their older sisters.

Here's Andrew starting to pass out presents:

Here are the girls eagerly waiting for their piles to grow (they did not grow much because (1) gift-giving is not my love language and (2) teenagers are more difficult (and/or expensive) to shop for, anyway):

My sister Kelli is amazing at giving gifts. She phoned me the other day, but I missed picking up, so I phoned her back, but then she missed picking up, so I left a message, and then she phoned again and ended up leaving a message, and then I phoned her and we finally connected only for her to tell me that her original call had only been a mistake—she'd butt-dialed me! But then she knew that she doesn't often call without texting first and that sometimes when she calls it's a big deal, so she didn't want to leave me hanging. 

I suppose she could have just texted me to tell me that she'd only accidentally dialed my number. But, then again, it's nice to have an excuse to talk every now and again, right?

So, she first told me that she'd only called me by accident. And then she told me all about her Christmas plans for next year and how she's already done a bunch of her shopping for people, getting all sorts of good deals. 

And that's totally great of her and for her. Go her! She gives great gifts!

I am too exhausted by this Christmas to think about next Christmas. Plus, I'd just...lose everything I purchased early.

Anyway, she's a good gift giver, I'm not. And...that's okay. 

It looks like Alexander started the present-opening this year. Here he is holding up a set of Bluey toys (which Zoë was a little jealous about, but they've been playing with them together, which has been nice):

And here he is in his owl apron that Miriam whipped up for him on Christmas Eve (she was a busy, busy seamstress on the days leading up to Christmas):

Maybe these pictures aren't really an indication of who opened gifts when because they seem to be coming in a bit of a jumbled order, and I can't quite remember how the present-opening went down. So here's a picture of Phoebe peeling off teeny bits of paper at a time:

And here's Zoë saying, "Let's just get it over with!"

Oh, this was a "group" present from Auntie Josie. She sent foam swords and shields for the younger four and them. Full disclosure, the gladiator costume Alexander borrowed from our neighbour for Halloween "came" with two plastic swords. Phoebe had been taught how to sword fight...some time previous to that...and loved having "real" swords to fight with, so she's been loving having these new swords in our house. She will sometimes bring people a sword so they can clash blades with her for a while. 

Here's a preview of our happy sword-fighting baby:

Here's Benjamin being excited about the swords before we opened them:

This helicopter is just something that came from my "buy nothing" group. I thought Alexander would like it. He loved it. He doesn't even care that it doesn't work (we tried putting batteries in, but...nothing).

Here's Zoë with a box full of Barbie clothes from Auntie K (that are now scattered all over our basement, along with the rest of the Barbie stuff):

Here's Alexander with his nightlight from Auntie K:

Zoë has been enamoured with foxes lately, particularly arctic foxes. This is a fox-themed Minecraft LEGO set. And she's thrilled about it.

Phoebe probably went around sword fighting people for most of the present-opening time:

Here's Zoë hugging her stuffed arctic fox:

And here's Benjamin being very excited about his Star Wars LEGO set:

He also got a drone, which was a huge wish on his wish list...and is actually another thing I picked up from the "buy nothing" group (Grandpa, as you can see, is on garbage duty).

We couldn't get it to fly, which was disappointing, and I apologized to Benjamin for the lame gift. He just said, "Oh, that's okay! I gave [friend] an empty wrapping paper tube! So I know all about lame gifts!"

In the end, we determined that the battery pack was corroded (the thing was brand new...but had been sitting in someone's closet for over a decade) so we ordered a new one and now it flies (and is no longer a lame gift). 

Here he is with the robot kit from Auntie K (he's still getting together his courage to put it together; so far he's detached and organized all the pieces but he hasn't quite gotten to piecing it together yet):

You can see Phoebe trying to convince Benjamin to sword fight with her rather than open his gifts. Here she is having convinced Miriam to dual with her:

Grandpa gave him a colouring book of all the National Parks:

Alexander gave him a periscope, which he'd fashioned out of an empty wrapping paper tube:

Benjamin was as excited about that gift as he was about everything else, which just shows how gracious Benjamin is. He understands lame gifts, as it were, and knows that it's truly the thought that counts.

We had a lot of empty wrapping paper tubes this year. I think we finished three rolls of paper, which is fine. We'll have to buy more wrapping paper or something, but we honestly haven't done that since we bought it on sale at Target shortly after Christmas...when we lived in Durham. We bought a lot (it was like $1 per roll or something ridiculously cheap like that) and moved it with us to Spanish Fork and then brought it out to Georgia, along with some of Grandma's wrapping paper collection. So we haven't bought wrapping paper for 7 or 8 years, probably.

Same thing with Christmas lights. In fact, I'm pretty sure we haven't purchased Christmas lights since 2012 when we first put Christmas lights across the front of our little house on Hummingbird Lane. We had to buy a few new strings to accomplish that, but then we just...kept using them over and over again.

But when we tried to put up the lights this year, probably more than 50% of our collection refused to work (no matter how much I fiddled with them, switching out light bulbs and fuses and so forth). So we snagged a few extra strands that our next door neighbour was offering (on that "buy nothing" group—guys, it's my favourite) and managed to get lights up on our house this year.

And then Andrew picked up a few strands when he went shopping after Christmas, which is the best time to buy Christmas things. 

Except for presents, honestly, because those I'd just lose.'s Benjamin excited about his new leather explorer's satchel:

Any guesses about where I got this? If you said "buy nothing," you'd be 100% correct! 

I haven't been very good about posting about Miriam's sewing adventures (I don't want to take potential content away from her; she's made a goal to write more regularly on her blog), but she and I replaced the treadle belt on my great-grandma's sewing machine using a kit we purchased online. It came with an awl, so I used that tool to make the strap of this "adventure satchel" the length Benjamin wanted it (which was much shorter than the smallest we could make it go). 

He's already used it for several adventures (you may have seen it make an appearance in a few Alabama pictures).

Here he is with the apron that Miriam made for him (which so far Zoë has used to cover her pretty dress while doing the dishes, wishing she had an apron of her own (it's terribly unfair that Miriam only made her a Christmas dress, which she wore all the month of December, rather than an apron that she can wear while doing the dishes):

Here's Phoebe hanging out with Daddy:

Here's Alexander getting a little while with the light saber:

Miriam opened her gifts very slowly, to savour the experience:

Here's Phoebe with a light saber, that I think is only glowing because of how the sun is hitting it (I love the sunshine in this room in the morning):

Phoebe got a bunch of these finger puppet books in her stocking. She loves the one that we've had in our home for...oh...fourteen years or so (Meet Little Ladybug—Grandma bought it for Rachel at the visitor's center at Capitol Reef in 2008). Phoebe loves puppets and she loves books that have "extras" so these were a good fit for her.

Anyway, here's Miriam showing off her LEGO set:

I was impressed by how quickly the kids assembled their LEGO sets. We had never really purchased a LEGO set until...we moved to Spanish Fork (2017). Grandma gave Rachel a LEGO set she had been stashing for years (a Hagrid's Hut set that she'd originally purchased specifically for the minifigures to use on Rachel's fifth birthday cake). Rachel found it so frustrating to build. It took her days (maybe weeks?) and she cried (and cried) over it. 

Miriam, Benjamin, Zoë, and Alexander literally built all their LEGO sets from Christmas in, like, an hour. 

And then they were like, "Now what?!"

So I say I was impressed, and I was. But I was also...dumbfounded? Like, I was pretty sure that was going to give them an afternoon of joy, not 40 minutes.

Here's Miriam squealing about a set of new feet for the sewing machine—special hemming feet (foots?):

And here she is excited about...the "neck hugger" reading lamp Grandpa gave her? Or something else?

Here's Zoë with a shield:

Here's Alexander with his triceratops:

And you can see on the shelf behind him the beautiful red wooden tree that Grandma Pat sent to us. It has all of our names in it in it. It's beautiful (and actually might be something that my mom would like so I'll pack that present idea away in my brain (she is impossible to shop for)).

Here's Rachel opening a gift—but you can also see the loom from Auntie Josie at her feet (it's set up in the girls' room and we've been figuring it out; it's trickier than we thought it would be), as well as the heat-free curlers Miriam got (dangling on her head). Something funny must have just happened:

She got doughnut pans and madeleine pans and all sorts of cooking things:

Auntie K sent her this shirt that says "I can't; I have cookies to bake" and Rachel has already worn it a handful of times (so you know that means she likes it):

Here's Phoebe taking a turn with the fox:

She loves holding things, hugging things, kissing things. Stuffed animals get so much love at our house. Phoebe loves to hand people puppets to animate so she can hug and kiss the puppets. She loves to hug and kiss the cat—and can hardly say the word "cat" without following it up with a kissing sound. She loves to hug and kiss everyone in the house and considers it her duty to make sure everyone is really feeling loved. 

Today Alexander and Zoë made an obstacle course in the front yard and I (stupidly—I can say that because technically it's still Christmas) suggested that they use the garden wall as part of their obstacle course—which had to that point been safely spread out across the lawn. They had wood slats and helmets and lawn chairs and jump ropes and all sorts of things they had set out to jump over, as well as a little slide. 

Well, they understood my suggestion to mean they should move the obstacle course onto the wall! That would make it trickier, indeed! 

I had merely meant that they could walk along the wall and then complete their obstacle course as they'd set it up on the lawn; but I went inside before I realized what they were doing...because I'd just finished taking down the Christmas lights with Rachel and I wanted to wash my hands.

So, naturally, Alexander went down the slide, which was now balanced precariously on the wall rather than safely on the grass, and fell off the slide and the wall at the same time. He started howling. 

Phoebe, who was then inside, perked up and started looking around to locate her injured brother. 

"Hurt! Hurt!" she told Miriam in a panic. This statement was followed up with some desperate kissing sounds, so Miriam scooped Phoebe up and they rushed outside to check on Alexander, and I rushed outside right after them and ended up sitting on our walkway with a lapful of little people—Alexander sniffling and Phoebe showering him with hugs and kisses, the sweet little thing.

Here's Andrew opening up the most predictable present of the year—a Shutterfly calendar!

This year I filled it with quasi-inspirational quotes about data science (largely taken very out of context).

I got him a few other things from his list, including this illustrated version of The Hobbit:

I didn't actually have anything to open, but I'm okay with that because opening presents stresses me out just about as much as giving them, though Santa did manage to sneak three Christmas oranges into my stocking. I was so surprised because they were discontinued in 2015 and we haven't seen them since! But apparently they're back now (since 2020??)! That was quite the (yummy) surprise for me on Christmas morning!

Here is Phoebe admiring a new-fangled cup washing tool (mostly for water bottles). She is fascinated with brushing her hair and will use anything brush-like on her luscious locks. When she takes her turn brushing her teeth, it's not unusual for her to take a few swipes at her hair as well, for example. She thought this cup brush also made an excellent hair brush.

Now at last it's Phoebe's turn to open presents!

Auntie K had originally purchased the best gift for Phoebe—The Worm from Labyrinth, to memorialize Phoebe's caterpillar-eating days. Both Kelli and I were anxiously awaiting its delivery. When the package finally arrived it I hadn't been planning on opening the package up at the mailbox; I had just stopped to get the mail as we were leaving for a walk. Sometimes I do that as we're leaving for a walk because it's on my mind (and I know I'll forget when we're coming home). I usually just chuck it in the stroller's basket and we go on our way (and then the mail at least makes it into the garage). But I was too curious for that on this particular day (December 6th) because I couldn't imagine how The Worm would fit into a package of that size and weight (essentially flat, surprisingly light). So I tore into it right at the mailbox, which always feels conspicuous since our mailbox seems to be just sitting in the middle of the cul-de-sac (our house is so far removed from it). 

Inside the package was this large and not-my-style—but, to the sender's credit, cat-themed—shirt:

Cat shirt. Caterpillar. I can see how they might get those mixed up.

We (Rachel, Miriam, and I) were laughing so hard imagining how Phoebe might use this gift. I snapped a picture and sent it to my sister (since she had been notified that her gift had arrived) to inform her that there was a slight mixup in shipping. 

She informed the company and they issued a refund and let us keep the shirt, which was kind of sad because we rather wanted The Worm. But apparently they don't actually sell that was just a scam of sorts. I don't understand how that's a good scam...because it seems to me they (a) didn't get any money and (b) lost out on money by having to ship out a shirt. But whatever.

While we were walking, I told the girls about the time my Auntie Arlene—who is, like their Auntie, an excellent giver of gifts—mislabeled some of the presents she sent to our family for Christmas. It was when we lived in PoCo, so I was 9 or younger (I'm leaning towards younger) and when I opened my present I was surprised to find a ginormous nightgown emblazoned with dancing snowmen singing the words, "There's no business like snow business!"

I was torn on how to react. On the one hand, it was a very cute nightgown. But on the other hand, it was no where near my size. I'd have to wait years to wear it! On the one hand, I kind of liked it. But on the other hand, my siblings had all gotten fun little toys I had was this giant nightgown. 

And then my mom opened her gift and it was—very clearly—meant for a seven-year-old girl (or however old I was), which meant that the nightgown had really been intended for my mom. So we switched presents and everyone lived happily ever after. 

(Except that I was always just a little disappointed about not having a nightgown with cute dancing snowmen on it). 

Anyway, my sister quickly sent an alternate gift for Phoebe—a little music set of music toys. This gift, I'm sure was inspired from December 5th when I shared on Facebook that Phoebe was jealous of the toy saxophone Zoë was using and decided that a toy turkey was a good saxophone-shaped substitute:

She was blowing into the mouthpiece to make noise, just like you might with a real saxophone. Rather hilarious!

(I compared it to the time a jealous Zoë found a toilet paper roll to use as a cast when Alexander had a real one, as well as the time Alexander found a hairbrush to strum when he was jealous the other kids had ukuleles to play and he didn't. Babies/children are incredibly resourceful and imaginative!)

Anyway, here's Phoebe opening the music set from Auntie K:

And here she is trying out the maracas: 

And figuring out how to blow on the little horn:

She can't actually do it with the mouthpiece in her mouth but quickly discovered that it works backwards as well, so she holds the horn up to her mouth and blows in it that way. We used these toys to help ring in the New Year!

Alexander was particularly excited about the xylophone (because now they can play The Magic Xylophone game from Bluey (the game that initially made him afraid of Bluey)).

Here's Phoebe hammering on the xylophone with the horn while "singing" (which sounds a lot like yelling when she does it):

Here's Miriam being intrigued by the same cup cleaning tool that Phoebe had been transfixed by moments earlier:

Here's Grandpa opening his present:

A Shutterfly calendar! What a surprise!

And here's Andrew sitting on the present from Grandpa—a soundbar that looked like it could have been a chair (and a much better gift than a calender)!

Our last picture is of Zoë's pink hair after I helped her put in some hair chalk. A few of her little friends have been allowed to die their hair different colours (like purple and red). I'm not super into making such permanent and drastic changes (although I do understand that hair grows out). In fact, I'm not really into hair maintenance at all. If my kids want to keep up with their hair (appointments, transportation, $$$) when they're on their own, they're more than welcome to, but I'm not going to invest my time and money into dyeing my naturally blonde child purple. That's just me. 

I will, however, consent to running a chalk comb through her hair every once in a while. 

She enjoyed having pink hair all day (it washes right out with a quick evening shower):

She hasn't asked for more chalk yet, but when she does we can give her a little more colour for a little while.

Speaking of wild hair colour, one of the funniest gifts was a set of tatting bobbins for Miriam. 

When she asked for them, Andrew was initially stunned a bit, since "tat" is slang for tattoo. But then Miriam explained that what she actually wanted was supplies for creating lace. So we got her some tatting supplies and when she opened them and exclaimed, "YES! TATTING BOBBINS!" Grandpa just about had a heart attack. 

"Yeah, she's been wanting to get into tatting," I explained somewhat wryly, knowing that wouldn't clarify anything for Grandpa and would only fuel his shock (I don't know why he hangs out with us). 

"Tatting is so cool!" Miriam said, fully in on the joke.

"Well, I's okay now..." Grandpa said, feeling a little uncomfortable because he thought she had a tattoo artist kit in her hand—with needles and ink and everything.

Tattoos are a tricky subject within Mormonism. They used to be severely frowned upon, but recognizing the cultural significance in many places in the world and engaging in a bit of decolonization, the stance on tattoos has softened in recent history.

Observe the old wording on tattooing on the church's website:

Compared to the new wording:

Anyway, so Grandpa was trying to be supportive and progressive but was obviously panicking a little bit. So we explained that she's been wanting to get into lacemaking and was not considering becoming a tattoo artist. Which, I mean, as Grandpa said, would be "okay now," which is to say that as a church we're experiencing a change in cultural mindset regarding tattoos. 

It was still a fun little trick to spontaneously pull on Grandpa!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to our Christmas! It was fun to have so many surprises arrive at our door and then appear under our tree.

(I will also note that Naanii sent us money so I could buy gifts from her for the kids, but since I'm terrible at thinking of gifts to buy we decided we'd just apply that money toward our little jaunt to Alabama. So Naanii helped fund that little getaway, which was also a wonderful and memorable Christmas gift!)


  1. (And Naanii also thinks experiences are more valuable and important than things, anyway, so was very pleased about how the money was spent.) Also. My mom and grandma knew how to tat. And had tatting things.

  2. I just have to suggest that someday Miriam get a pair of Gingher dressmaker scissors. Expensive, but worth every penny! Properly cared for, they'll last a lifetime, and make cutting out fabric much more enjoyable. It's what the pro's use.