a very hipstamatic christmas

oh christmas tree

Oh, Christmas. You are fast becoming my favorite holiday again. There were a few years where I wasn’t so sure about you and your glitter-filled tripe, but throw two little ones into the mix and suddenly I’m all about Santa.

penguin backpack!

I think we did better this year about not overloading Ellie with presents. Her big gifts were a penguin backpack, a Duplo zoo set and a box of art supplies. “Santa” tried to think creative & practical. But I think the gift that put the rest to shame was from my brother, aka “Uncle J”, who found the coolest play tent ever. It’s now taking up most of Ellie’s room and serves as a home to her ever-growing collection of stuffed animals:

tree tent

The rest of the family was spoiled as well. I’m proud to say I got everyone into Fitbit! Tim surprised me with an iPhone, something I’ve always wanted but could never justify given our budget. Now that he’s traveling and I’m walking more, it makes sense to have my own phone (and it means I can more easily torture my Facebook friends with photos of my kids, muwahahahaha!)

ellie at the maine jump

We also spent a day with our “surrogate family,” Tim’s family friends who we call Nana and Tom. They sent us home with a ridiculous amount of yummy food and gave Ellie a Little People school bus (among other things), which she hasn’t stopped playing with since:

the wheels on the bus go!

As far as keeping up with healthy habits over the holiday, I only cheated a little. There were two days during which I missed my 10k steps because I was either tired or too busy with holiday stuff. I also stopped tracking my food, but I don’t feel like I overindulged or ate differently than usual. I’ve been a lot more active thanks to one of my presents, Just Dance 2. All in all, I think I made it through the holidays without overdoing it, so I feel really good about that.

smug hipsta

my favorite month

I think December will always be one of my favorite months. For one, Ellie was born on the 20th, and I will always remember that month in 2008 as one of anticipation, pure joy and utter chaos all at once–like being five years old on Christmas morning all over again.

But December is also the month we discovered Gwen would be joining us, which is a story I never told here because I was too busy hibernating for the first part of this year. Now is as good a time as any!

Last year at this time we were actively trying to get pregnant–something I never want to do again. Not that the process itself isn’t, uhh, fun, and not that the result isn’t worth the effort, but (in typical Caroline fashion) I can’t do something without getting obsessed and I’m the least patient person you’ll ever meet. I’m Miss “If I can’t do it right the first time I don’t want to do it at all.”

In other words: I may maintain an adult exterior but on the inside I’m still five years old.

So I’d spent the two months since I stopped taking birth control in typical obsessive fashion: Sobbing unattractively every time I peed on a stick. Buying pregnancy tests in bulk and taking them every day, even when I knew I’d get a negative result. Charting temperatures and tracking fertility signs (ladies, a litmus test: If you can utter the words “cervical mucus” and your guy or gal of choice doesn’t run screaming the other way, you’ve picked a good one.) Examining false positives under different light sources at a thousand different angles. Reading fertility message boards and learning the acronyms (TTC! DTD! BFP!) all the while convinced we’d never get pregnant, I’d never be able to have another baby, I’d have to go through all sorts of painful procedures and exams and on and on and on.

Let me reiterate:  All this over the course of two months. Two months. Some people go through this for years, and I don’t know how they do it because I’d have imploded with anxiety by month four.

I’ll also remind you that Ellie was a surprise. A big surprise. We weren’t preventing, but we also weren’t expecting anything to happen for a long time. I’d convinced myself over the course of the last two years that she was a miracle, and repeating that miracle would take nothing short of, well, another miracle.

Anyway, Christmas came around and I promised myself I’d have a nice time with family and try to forget about the pregnancy nonsense for a few days. Well, mostly. I was still taking tests obsessively but I was determined not to be mopey about it, and on that front I succeeded. We visited my parents, spoiled Ellie rotten for her birthday and all was well.

On Christmas Eve I got the stomach bug that had been circulating and spent most of the day in bed feeling feverish and trying not to puke. I took a pregnancy test just for the hell of it and thought maybe I’d seen the faintest of faint pink lines (if I held the test upside down while jumping around in a counterclockwise circle three and a half turns), but I’d been seeing false positives for weeks. In keeping with my “No Stressing on Christmas” mantra, I didn’t get my hopes up.

Ellie woke up at 3 a.m. on Christmas Day, refusing to sleep, wanting to cuddle. So in a bleary state of exhaustion I thought, “What the hell, I’m up” and decided to take another test. This time the faint pink line was not so faint… hmm. So I tried another brand of test (see the part about me being obsessive) and the second line was blatantly obvious. I did a happy dance in the bathroom, then crawled back into bed and tried (unsuccessfully) to sleep for the next three hours.

Before Tim woke up that morning, I put the test back in its foil sheath and wrapped it in green tissue paper. I stuck a bow on top and snuck downstairs before the rest of the family, placing the test in Tim’s stocking so it would be the first “gift” he opened–and when he did, his absolutely perplexed look was priceless. His first words to me were, “You mean… it’s over???? Thank god!!!”

Oh, no, my dear. It’s just beginning! Proof:

Guinevere

(Hard to believe someone so laid-back came from someone so insane, isn’t it?)

santa’s village

I’ve had a difficult time getting into the Christmas thing this year. Not sure why, although I’m guessing a last-minute trip to North Carolina for a funeral and the stress of going back to work had something to do with it. In any case, I just wasn’t feeling the holiday cheer… I’m way behind on shopping, we’re not even putting up a tree until Christmas Eve, and I ordered Christmas cards but I kinda forgot where I put them. Oops.

santa's village

Last Saturday I woke up and decided I wanted to do something to change that. So in a rare moment of spontaneity, we booked a motel room, strapped the kids into the van and were off to New Hampshire to visit Santa’s Village for the weekend. We figured this would be one of Ellie’s birthday gifts since she’s just as excited about experiences as toys (and she already has way too many of the latter).

cozy and warmIt was cold, but only in New England do people still flock to an amusement park when it’s 25 degrees out. We spent most of the time bundled up in layers with the occasional pit stop into a restaurant to warm up. You don’t see Gwen in many of these pictures because she was tucked away in her stroller, wrapped in a snow suit and a couple blankets with a canopy cover to keep the wind out. In fact, she slept through the majority of the park, waking only to eat and smile and smugly prove to us just how easy-going a baby can be.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the park was especially friendly to little kids… there was more than enough stuff to do in the two days we were there. I was worried Ellie would get scared on the rides but she LOVED them–the train, the monorail, the spinning cups, everything. She liked visiting with the reindeer and decorating her own gingerbread lady (and then inhaling it, of course.) The light display after the sun went down was spectacular (I’d hate to see their electric bill) and Tim and I both enjoyed watching Ellie soak it all up with wide eyes.

hi (rein)deer!

riding the carousel    gingerbread lady

Ironically, the only thing we didn’t do was visit with Santa… the line was too long for a three-year-old’s attention span. But you know, I don’t think Ellie missed out–the whole “sit on an old man’s lap to get candy” thing probably seems pretty creepy to a kid who is finicky around strangers.

cupcake girl

We know it was a successful trip because by the end of the day, Ellie was an overstimulated grouch. She passed out in the car on the way home and didn’t wake up for two hours. Operation: Exhaust the Preschooler was a success!

daddy's better than any stroller

And wouldn’t you know, I found a bit of Christmas spirit along the way (and a pound of homemade fudge from the candy shop certainly didn’t hurt).

a very merry christmas

Ellie at ChristmasI think I can safely say we had one of the best Christmases in recent memory. We spent five days with my family up north, which meant three extra sets of hands to wrangle the kiddo. Between her birthday and Christmas, I’m pretty sure she thought the entire week was about her–and let’s face it, in some sense it was. Christmas with young kids is like that.

My mom went all out with the decorations and Christmas cookies, Tim helped with the cooking, and all must have been good little boys and girls, because Santa delivered. I managed to catch a nasty stomach bug that temporarily threatened my enjoyment, but it was gone within 24 hours–I consider that a Christmas miracle in and of itself!

Ellie was pleased with her loot (and seeing it all in one place made me think we’ll make an effort to be less spendy next year–it’s far too easy to overindulge with her birthday and Christmas in the same week) and her new toys have kept her occupied all week, which tells me everyone made good choices.

Speaking of loot, Mama has a brand new iPad to play with, and Plants vs. Zombies may be taking up a bit too much of my time.