The Friday before Christmas, my five- and six-year-old daughters got it in their heads that they were going to put up a lemonade stand. Daunted not at all by the fact that we didn’t have lemonade and there was nobody around to buy their beverages, they went ahead and set up shop. The closest thing to lemonade they could find was some old pineapple juice at the back of the fridge, but there wasn’t even much of that, so they took a used plastic bottle, poured in what was left of the juice, and filled the rest with water.
I took pity on them when I saw them confidently sitting behind their little table on the sidewalk with their pitiful bottle of pineapple-water, so when a group of UPS employees approached on bikes I decided to give the girls some tips. I pointed out that potential customers might wonder what was in their bottle there, and that they should assure them of the quality of their product. So when a harried UPS employee walked up to give us some packages, my five-year-old pointed to the yellowish liquid that they were selling and proudly told him, “It’s not tinkle!”
Oddly, he declined to make a purchase.
This same five-year-old daughter had the honor of being the Star of Bethlehem in her preschool play, a job which mainly entails standing behind Mary and Joseph and holding up a cardboard cutout of a star. Unfortunately she was so elated to be on stage and see all the people she knew in the audience that she held up her prop for only a few seconds before setting it down so that she could gleefully wave at everyone. As cute as it was, I kind of bristled when the narrator teacher got to the part about the great star that led the wise men to Bethlehem, and leaned over to grumble to my dad that she was messing up the play because she wasn’t following instructions.
Without taking his eyes off his precious granddaughter, my dad noted defensively, “They say it was a variable star.”
The entire family came to Christmas Eve Mass with us since some of our kids were in a manger scene performance that was part of it. It was, of course, extremely crowded, and 15 minutes before Mass began the 1,700-person-capacity church was standing room only. Our pew happened to have a few empty spots in right the middle, and a group of men decided to go for it. They successfully squeezed past everyone at the end of the pew, but when they passed my mom, who had our 18-month-old baby on her lap, the baby reached out and grabbed one of the men in the rear (in her defense, I think she was trying to pull on his shirt). My mom was horrified and immediately exclaimed, “It wasn’t me!” Joe happened to see all this play out, and was not able to resist taking that ball and running with it. He loudly wondered (through gasps of laughter) what proof she had that it was the baby and not her, and during the Sign of Peace reminded my mom that we grab hands only during this part of the Mass. I fully expect that he’ll still be giggling about this weeks from now.
Per the longstanding family tradition, we let the kids open gifts of new pajamas on Christmas Eve night. I was worried that they’d be disappointed that it was just jammies, and I can’t say that it was the most thrilling moment of my son’s life. But for my girls, it was a different story. When I had worried that they wouldn’t be excited about their gifts, I had not realized that my mom had purchased pajamas with matching doll pajamas. The only downside of the situation is that they seem to perceive that they have reached the pinnacle of the human experience. Evidently, once you’ve experienced the ecstasy of dressing up your favorite dolly in jammies that are identical to your own, it’s all downhill from there.
I’m not sure that people believe me when I say that we’re a family of late-sleeping night owls. Finally, I have irrefutable proof:
On Christmas morning our one early bird woke up at 8:30, ready to go downstairs and see what Santa brought. We were able to hold her off for a while while her siblings slept, but at 9:00 decided it was time for the kids to get up. I could not drag them out of bed, even though they hadn’t stayed up all that late. I roused my three-year-old to exclaim that Santa had come and brought her AMAZING presents, and her response was to wave me away and turn over to go back to sleep. It was only with great effort that we were finally able to get everyone up by 9:30. Either my children are holy people who are utterly detached from base material concerns, preferring prayer to trivialities like Christmas presents, or they got all of my non-morning-person genes. Based on their reactions once they finally got downstairs, I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.
I made my last gingerbread house a couple of days before Christmas. Because I secretly hate myself, I only bought one kit for all five children to share. Setting out the bowls of colored candies and icing and telling the kids not to touch them until they had my permission had about the same effect has setting out bowls of hydroponic catnip and telling a bunch of feral cats not to touch them until they had my permission. Then we finally had the thing sort of set up, even though it looked more like a condemned shack than a charming confectionery cottage, and Joe thought he’d come by and lend a helping hand. He pointed out that one of the walls was leaning, and gently moved it to get it upright, and, well, this was the result:
This happens every year. The kids still had fun decorating their gingerbread abstract art piece, but this is the end for me and trying to decorate three-dimensional assembled desserts.
Luckily, we have a great new Christmas tradition I can break out next year. After the gingerbread disaster, I announced that we’d make some Santa cookies. It seemed to work beautifully in the pictures I saw on Pinterest, so obviously nothing could go wrong there. Unable to deal with making fresh cookie dough, I bought a tube of pre-packaged stuff at the store. Unable to deal with the hard work of reading the instructions about proper baking sheet size, I grabbed the first flat metal thing I saw from the cabinet and had the kids put their cookie dough circles on that. Evidently the recipe had called for some kind of large cookie sheet, and I had used a small jelly roll pan. Alas, instead of perfectly round white cookies which we could decorate to look like Santa’s face, I pulled from my oven one hard, crusty, brownish mass. All the cookies had melded together, and I was left with a pan-sized, dessicated brick. I tried to cut it into squares, but it was so hard and dry that my repeated stabbings with a steak knife only served to break it into jagged pieces.
I turned to the kids and announced that, at long last, they would get to participate in the tradition of making Christmas shards! For those of you unfamiliar with this great hours-old tradition, that’s where you carefully create cookies that are jagged and asymmetrical, and then you pretend that they’re shards of ice that you’ve found upon a cold winter’s day. And then you decorate them to make them festive:
The best part was the look on the grandparents’ faces when they came over and the kids joyfully announced, “Look, we made Christmas shards with mommy!”