Well Christmas 2015 is done. I’ll be honest, it was a difficult one for me. I never really got into the Christmas spirit. I basically just attempted to survive it and ensure that Annelise had a good Christmas.
As this Christmas season approached I felt a lot like I did for Annelise’s first Christmas. It was just me for so long that I really didn’t have any Holiday traditions, each year I just went with the flow of that year. For her first Christmas I felt like we should have some traditions and without any to draw on I felt like I was making it up as I went along.
We had three Christmases in Virginia as a family and we’d developed some traditions and now this year we were in Michigan and it again felt like I was starting all over. I was trying to hold onto some of the things we had done in the past but so much of what we did was tied to our town and friends there and couldn’t be duplicated here.
We are also still living with my parents. We had decided that Annelise and I would be in charge of the tree and decorating for Christmas, but it still wasn’t the same as decorating our own space. All of our Christmas decorations had been bought while we were in Roanoke and they fit our space there. Things didn’t seem to fit here.
One of the traditions that I was able to bring with me was our Elf. I have been doing “Elf on the Shelf” since her first Christmas. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at the time, but it has come to be something she really enjoys. Our Elf, Noah, kicks off the holiday season. On the day he arrives he sets up a little tree in Annelise’s room. When she wakes up she knows that’s the day we go get our tree. This little tradition takes a lot of pressure off me. When she starts asking about getting a tree I can simply say, as soon as Noah gets here (and of course I have no idea when that will be). Getting the tree has always been an all day event. We get the tree, decorate it, decorate the rest of the house and she gets a couple of gifts to open: a new ornament, a Christmas book, and a Christmas movie. After decorating we watch the movie while enjoying the tree lights before bed.
The tree was all that got decorated this year. I just didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm to decorate beyond that. It felt like I was invading someone else’s space since it wasn’t our house. Annelise did a lot of the tree decorating although she had a tendency to hang all the ornaments on one branch.
Since both Annelise and I had a winter break from school we had planned a trip to Roanoke the weekend before Christmas. I was actually looking forward to that more than I was actual Christmas. We would be able to do some of the things we traditional did at Christmas and see the people we were use to celebrating with. But the day before we were scheduled to leave Izzy had a particularly discouraging vet visit. It was obvious I couldn’t leave her and I couldn’t take her with us so our trip had to be canceled. It was devastating to me and killed any Christmas spirit I had.
Annelise was also disappointed so pretty much my only goal for Christmas became making it good for her. We got some more decorations out and put out the outside lights. I also went a little overboard with gifts. She simply had to mention an interest in something and I got it for her. It took me a while to realize I was trying to buy some Christmas spirit. Thankfully there was very little that she wanted. Since August she’s been asking for a “large Rudolph with a shiny nose and that played music.” She saw one in a craft shop and never let it go. When I asked what else she wanted she’d simply say, “Santa will decide” or “Santa will know.” When I took her to visit Santa and he asked what she wanted she simply said, “The things on my list.” She was very into making lists this year. But all she would put on hers was a large Rudolph. She did mention a squirrel and a train. She also wanted to add to our outside light display. She felt we needed a light up reindeer. So of course I had to get that for her.
Every year I’ve taken her to see the same Santa. I had planned to take her back to that same Santa while we were in Roanoke, but since we didn’t make the trip it wasn’t going to happen. She did get several opportunities to see Santa here. Once in Pentwater and then another that visited her school. She was shy with each of them, and not really interested in hanging out on their lap and while she thinks that Santa in Pentwater may have been real, she’s fairly certain the one at her school was a pretend Santa.
She is still a big believer in Santa. Last year Santa got the credit for all the presents. This year I wanted to draw more attention to giving to each other. Instead of waiting until Christmas eve to put out the presents we put them out as we bought them, and only the stocking and gift from Santa was left for Christmas eve. She also took her own money (and my credit card) and went shopping with my sister for me. She was so proud of the gifts she bought.
Since we cancelled our trip we were in town the same weekend as my brother’s family so we had an impromptu get together. She has several cousins her age so it was great for her to spend time with them. We were also able to attend the Christmas program at my parents’ church. We are not Christian so I don’t overemphasis the Christian traditions but we do tell the story of the Nativity and she knows that this is when Christian’s celebrate Jesus birth. She enjoys the story of Baby Jesus and this year she liked to pretend to be Mary. She made me Joseph and my parents shepherds. This was the first traditional Christmas pageant she had seen.
Christmas Eve was probably the hardest for me. In the past my parents always came to Virginia and we went to the Hotel Roanoke for the Christmas Eve buffet and then we’d go through the hotel to look at the tree displays. I looked forward to that all year. I think Annelise does too because throughout the year when she plays with her dress up dolls they are always putting on their Christmas Eve dresses. I wasn’t sure what to do this year, I couldn’t find anything comparable locally so we spent the evening at home. I let her open several gifts, the traditional Christmas jammies and a new book and then I added a new puzzle and game that we could play that night. It was a good night. We had snacks, drank bubbly grape juice, played the game, worked on the puzzle and then left out milk and cookies for Santa. We started a new tradition this year. I told her any left over Halloween candy had to be left for Santa to take back to the Elves. She actually still had quite a bit left. She left it in a tin next to the cookies and Santa replaced it with a new toothbrush, toothpaste, and fluoride rinse. Since I had been wrapping and placing presents under the tree as I purchased them, after she was in bed all I had to do was eat the cookies, take the candy and fill the stockings. It was the first Christmas since becoming a mom, and thus Santa, that I was in bed before midnight. Merry Christmas to me!
In the morning she was overjoyed to see that Santa brought her a big Rudolph. She also appreciated the gifts I got for her, some things for her kitchen, Fisher Price animals, books, clothes, a train set, and a firefighter outfit. She declared the firefighter outfit to be her favorite. And we spent the entire weekend building and rebuilding the train set. I know that in years to come the clear memory of this particular Christmas will fade and at best she’ll have a vague recollection of spending one of her childhood Christmases at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. After opening gifts Christmas morning we went to my sister’s for lunch and then spent the afternoon there. The kids played and we watched Hallmark Christmas movies. Overall it was a good Christmas, but it lacked magic. I think Annelise had a good Christmas and that’s what really mattered to me.
I was already to hit publish when I remembered one more image I wanted to share. Every year I take our Christmas card picture in front of the tree and fireplace. Of course this year we took it at our parents. It’s always a challenge to get the dogs and Annelise to cooperate and all like at the camera at the same time. I managed to get a decent one of them, and also one of Annelise and I for the card.
But Annelise specifically requested one of all of us together. So I said we’d only do it once and whatever we got that would be our picture. I set the time and this was the result. It looks better in black and white due to the effect of the flash on dogs eyes. While it’s not great, barring a miraculous healing this was Izzy’s last Christmas, so it’s special.