Guest Column: Yule Tide greetings from Annie

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Last year, I invented our own deceptively simple Advent system for Christmas. My grandmother Dorothy Valentine passed away ten years ago and left behind her Depression Era hoard of fabric to my sister, Laura. Paired with more old pieces from our Great Aunt Edith, Laura has been gifting me with random bolts and scraps to use at will, including a huge bag of quilting scraps that aren’t big enough for anything but quilts (which I will post about sometime in the next seven years). As you can see I’ve put them to good use.

Every bag contains a little treat and a slip of paper with a daily Christmas activity. This looks really fancy and my kids think it’s super cool but in actuality the activities are things like, “Say something you love about Junie” or “Call Grandparents and tell them you love them.” Today is “Come up with a family Christmas Cheer.”

In order to fool them into remembering me as being Christmas Wonder Mom I have peppered our days with a few more intricate activities (about 4) that actually require a little time and effort on my part. Last night was my favorite, “Drink hot cocoa under the stars.” Well, theoretically my favorite. It sounds so cool and Christmasy.

Will I ever learn?

We didn’t get off to the best start. Jason got home late and wanted to eat dinner so Harrison (10) went outside and attempted to build his first unsupervised fire in our patio pit. To think I was worried that he might actually start something on fire.

Georgia (3) ignored all threats of Christmas giftlessness and rolled around the kitchen floor bawling for half an hour while Jason took forever to eat his soup. Rex (8) was knee deep in his flying invention and wanted no part of drinking hot anything, and the fire looked like…wood. The only kid who was happy was June (6). I was highly suspicious that Hell was experiencing a heavy frost.

By the time we all made it out to our struggling flames my blood pressure was up. I pulled out the Christmas devotional book and we started into the first verse of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” For the record, I make my kids sing all the verses of every single song at our evening devotionals. They will thank me someday.

Rex insisted that he didn’t want hot cocoa, he wanted to roast marshmallows. In lieu of a stick he went and found a dried up weed that had crumbling leaves and an eight inch brown stem. He dropped his first two stale (probably from last Christmas) marshmallows into the fire. The third got doused with lighter fluid by Dad.

One verse into the song and two marshmallows into the pit and Rex went running into the house in tears. We paused the carol, I threatened Rex with no gifts and escorted him by his ear back out to the fire pit and took up my position once more. I was met with comments like, “This is ridiculous, let’s put them all to bed,” and “My cocoa is cold!” and “Dad, can you spray some more of that stuff on the wood to make the fire big again?”

It takes so much effort to feel the Christmas spirit.

But. We launched once again into the song and made it to the end. I started to read our daily Christmas story and my kids all settled down with their cocoa. Halfway through the story Georgia came to sit by me. She had left her cocoa on the other side of the table and immediately started to whine about it.

I must pause here to explain that we draw top secret names every year and call them our Christmas Angels. You have to secretly do nice things for whoever you get and make them a homemade gift. My kids are really into it this year and they all have each other’s names.

Anyway, June gets up to take whiny Georgia her cup of cocoa and I say, “Oh June, how kind! Maybe June is Georgia’s Christmas Angel!”

Then Rex, who DOES have Georgia’s name, realized he missed his chance. “Oh,” he says, “Here Georgia, you can have my hot cocoa too.”

“No thanks,” she said.

Rex has a super tender heart and his chin hit his chest at his epic angel failure. “Oh!” he said.

Harrison was watching this whole thing and is Rex’s Christmas angel. He jumped in to save the day. “Uh, I’d love to have your hot cocoa, Rex!”

“Really?” Rex said and enthusiastically (spilling it as it changed hands) shared with his brother, who was taking it just to be nice.

But of course June, who is Harrison’s Christmas angel, felt bad that someone else was sharing their cocoa with him so she said, “Here Harrison, would you like the rest of my cocoa too?”

It was one of those circle of life moments as a parent when everything is right in the world. It might have required routine douses with lighter fluid, off-key caroling and stale marshmallows but last night was the best Christmas moment I’ve ever had. These little kids are my reason for the season.