Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas in Brooklyn: Flapjack Jams, Potato Penguins, and an Unconventional Christmas

Christmas here was good and special. The actual day was really great. Of course I missed my family and friends in Mississippi, but it wasn't the deep homesickness that Thanksgiving brought. Peyton had Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off and we had a wonderful time celebrating, albeit in unconventional ways. 

I read this page in my Brennan Manning devotional a week or so before Christmas and I reread it every day leading up to it. 

I told myself I was going to be okay with an unconventional Christmas.

I was really worried that I was going to see people's celebrations on social media and either compare or judge. [Of course, the obvious answer here is just to turn it off for the day, but I wanted to see everyone else's updates and pictures and such.]

I should probably back up a bit. Peyton and I decided awhile back that since we were already in a situation where we didn't have to risk hurting feelings or looking like religious zealots, we'd seize the opportunity and not do presents this year. And then when I tested the water on this idea, Wise Sage Annie determined that their room is too messy to accommodate more toys anyway (which again, the obvious answer is to give stuff away, but who's going to argue with such a contented kids. Um, well, Sarah Denley Herrington almost. Yeah, really. I was just sad to pull the final plug on the magical Christmases of my youth (we've gradually scaled back each year since probably AP's second Christmas). But when she flipped through a toy catalog in a vain attempt for ideas and explained to me and Graves that each was either a) too big for our apartment b) strikingly similar to something she already owned or c) for a child much younger/older than them, it became clear presents weren't really instrumental in making her Christmas magical. 

Anyway, the day wasn't the emotional battle I had prepared for. I missed home, but not to the point of tears. I got on Facebook several times and had no alarming feelings of jealously or malice toward the Santa Folks, even the ones whose living room floor you literally could not see and whose children got tiny motorized vehicles much nicer than the Buick. 

It was also nice to have a low key day, because Christmas Eve was so bangin'. Melina (the priest at CSG's wife) basically had an open house from like seven until well past midnight where choir members, people who were serving in some way, and other friends popped in and out for tamales (a Mexican tradition) and some soup (another Mexican tradition). She is SO laid back and is basically the antithesis of everything I am. She probably has less anxiety about a house full of fifty-ish come and go guests than I do about serving one or two people dinner. Anyway, I was still floored because obviously Jake wasn't even there a ton of the time. Her parents and sisters were, but still. I'd be losing my mind. The dinner was lovely and perfect and very relaxed and enjoyable. 

After that, Peyton and I were ushers at the eleven o'clock service which involved (unknown to us at the time) a heck of a lot more than what we usually do at the six o'clock. Peyton was, no kidding, polishing the communion chalice before we left around one AM. We were also instructed about the proper procedures regarding drunks stumbling in. I really, really appreciate the policy- let them in (because THE GOSPEL, for crying out loud), but if they wander up to the front or pull out a shiv it's good to redirect them/call the cops, respectively. We also had quite a few visitors drop in and just take a short stroll around the church and then pop out- during the service. Part of being a historical church in Manhattan that happens to be celebrating Christ's birth into the morning, I guess. 

Anyway, the service was beautiful and the sermon perfect (about identity and Christmas cards and other junk that is all so very important until we think about what Christmas really means, which (SPOILER!) is NOT about moving from vice to virtue or "being good for goodness sake"). The music was wonderful and Jake told us at the end to really focus on the last stanzas of "Once in Royal David's City", which happen to be some of my favorite lesser known lines in a favorite less popular carol.

We got on our train back to Brooklyn around 1:20. 
Ain't no party like the high church party, cause the high church party don't stop. 

Then we came home. And Annie probably ate second supper. I can't remember, but she always does.

Poor Peyton was ushering again in the morning (being a transient in a city full of transients ain't easy, folks). The kids and I slept absurdly late and then watched the Charlie Brown Christmas movie. [As an aside, Annie likes to find stools for Graves to stand on and tells him to "say it just like Linus" as a way of encouraging him to say his memory verse.] 

Then we started our day. Around noon. Which has, of late, not been uncommon. I know, I know. But: PERKS OF HOMESCHOOLING. 

We did try to make it special in a few different ways. One previous Christmas we had sprinkle pancakes, but P and I both neglected to think about sprinkles until we were on our way to the epic church service/tamale party at the Smiths. So Peyton improvised with chocolate chips, which were, of course delicious (because I didn't make them). 

Then I created a little scavenger hunt for the kids to find the baby Jesus from their Advent calendar/nativity set. The scavenger hunt was a big hit and after they found the Baby Jesus, Annie wanted to create her own. She hid a stuffed bear and was giving really obvious clues. When Peyton pointed out that it's more fun maybe to be a little vague, she snapped at him a bit and told him she was trying to make it easy enough for Graves. 

Annie treated herself to a two plus hour bath (which Graves partook in part of the time) and we belly laughed over this hilarious Ecard Cookie made with her and Con and Mickey and Minnie dressed as elves and rocking around a Christmas tree. We also tried to make our own (and got a good ways into the process) before finding out that you have to pay a yearly subscription of $18. I later found out Mick and Min footed the bill on the other end (no surprise, but what??). 

Graves went to bed early- like around seven- which we later found out was a nap in his mind. I had told Annie she could pick any craft from her Christmas craft book and of course she skipped over the ones involving markers and construction paper and went right to the craft that includes paint and sliced potatoes to make penguin prints. I actually think it turned out super cute, despite us having to use White Out for the bellies. 
Just as she was finishing and eating supper, Graves woke up. Since we had been so late the night before, I had neglected to make sure we wore our matching pjs, bought specifically for the occasion. So we busted them out and had a short photo shoot and wore them to bed that night. 

Annie did have a moment of mild panic when she realized that our bottoms did not all say the same things (which, props to me for finding flapjack pajamas with sayings on the back that are not entirely crass. Do you know how hard it is to find one piece pjs for a man, let alone flap jacks, let alone ones that don't have sayings that are too crude for my (ha!) delicate sensibilities?). Anyway, she was momentarily undone by it and I can't remember what calmed her down. Probably some silly antics from Bear Bottom there. I did get a little chuckle, because it was major deja vu. While Minnie never had a propensity for acquiring matching family pjs, there were so many things just like this where things didn't match that SENT ME INTO ORBIT because of my compulsions. I had to laugh (because what else can you do?) seeing how Tail End reacted in that situation. 

I mostly stayed behind the camera, because how I could miss shots like this one? 

but Peyton did snap a couple with me included. Moose Caboose was grumpy from waking up from his "nap" (ughhhhh), so he didn't appear in as many as his sister. 

After the pictures and the goofiness and probably another supper for both small people, we put them to bed. Peyton and I talked some, played around on various devices, watched Doomsday Preppers and went to bed. 

And just like that- Christmas 2014 is in the books! 

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