The Christmas season flew by in a whirlwind this year, and while I’m always sad to see it go, this year I’m also a bit relieved (and my POCKETBOOK is a bit relieved. . .and my ever-growing thighs are a bit relieved) that things are going back to normal. Here’s a quick recap of the best twelve things that happened during this Christmas season (in no particular order):
12. Spending time with family
My sister and nephews traveled down to Knoxville for an early Christmas celebration (they needed to get back home in time for Santa Claus 😉 ). We took our traditional family photo, ate WAY too much food, opened WAY too many presents, watched Home Alone together (my nephew Drew’s first time seeing the movie!), and even had a slightly terrifying visit from a little sparrow. My sister opened the door to retrieve an Amazon delivery on the front steps, and he flew right inside. We spent (and by WE, I mean everyone but Drew and me, who were chicken) about 25 harrowing minutes trying to flush him back outdoors before he finally made it. In the end, Jake pronounced, “I scary the bird!” So we’ve probably created a lifelong phobia for him. 😀
11. Hanging out with friends
On Christmas Eve, we were invited to dinner at our friends’ Jessica and Justin’s house. Their tradition is Mexican food on Christmas Eve, and it was so nice of them to allow us to join them! Their parents were there, and their two kids are right around the same age as our two kids, so it was a really nice little gathering. Jake got to play with their daughter Madeline (and by play, I mean chase each other around and fight over toys), and Teddy got to see his buddy Asher (who is only 10 days older than him–future besties!). It was lovely.
10. Christmas cookie cutouts
A week or two before Christmas (honestly, the days are running together now), my mom came over and we showed Jake how to roll out the dough and make sugar cookies cutouts. I used to do this a lot when I was growing up, but it’s been YEARS. My mom may have even gotten a little emotional remembering when we used to make cookies each year with our friends, the Krepfles, which was really sweet. It will be my new tradition with Jake now (and Teddy)!
9. Christmas Lights
We’ve got a few places we like to hit when we’re in the mood to see Christmas lights. Knoxville locals will already know all about the walk-through display at Concord Park out in Farragut and the drive-through display in Chilhowee Park closer to downtown. But it’s even more fun to stumble upon people’s individual light displays in private neighborhoods, and driving around to see those kind of lights was one of my favorite traditions growing up. A guest writer on the Knoxville Mom’s Blog actually compiled a big list of individual light displays around town and created a Google map for finding them.
We followed her recommendations this year, and we were not disappointed. Several people had light displays that were set to music and all you had to do was tune to a certain radio station to hear it! I can only aspire to one day have a light display so amazing that people will come from all over town and park out in the street to watch it. 🙂
8. Jake’s Unbreakable Christmas Cheer
This Facebook post pretty much sums it up.
7. Visiting with Santa Claus
So for awhile now, Jake has been terrified of Santa Claus. I’m always hoping to get that perfect-Christmas-card-worthy photo of Jake with Santa, and so far, year one has been my only chance. This year, Jake is finally starting to understand that Santa is one of the good guys, and that he brings treats to all of the children. Specifically, Jake was hoping that Santa would bring him purple candy (a.k.a. the Dum Dums that he discovered on Halloween–he likes grape the best).
Well, I missed this particular magic moment because I was at a friend’s baby shower, but Justin took Jake to see the lights at Chilhowee Park one night and visit Santa outside in the gazebo. After bribing Jake with promises of purple candy, low and behold, I have my perfect Santa photo:
And now, Santa and Jake are besties. (Exhibit A: Jake’s groupie behavior at the public library.)
6. Delicious Food
There was SO MUCH delicious food to be had over the holidays. The traditional Christmas ham, all of the sweets and snacks that get traded between neighbors and families, etc. But Justin felt a little bit disappointed in spite of all of that, because he really wanted to have a Feast of the Fishes.
For those of you who don’t know, the Feast of Fishes is an Italian Christmas Eve tradition involving seven different courses of seafood and a dessert. I only know this because I watched Rachael Ray cook it on TV a few years back. But Justin’s Dad actually took him to eat the Feast of Fishes on Christmas Eve when he was growing up, and it’s a sentimental craving that has now.
Well, it was no giant feast by any means, but I did make him a delicious roasted tilapia with fresh tomatoes, basil, and spinach, served on a bed of pasta drizzled with olive oil and herbs. It was only a one-course meal, but I think Justin appreciated my effort. 😉
5. Opening Presents on Christmas Morning
I took a video of Jake’s reaction to opening his gifts on Christmas morning. I think it’s funny that my parents pulled out all the stops to purchase and assemble a giant train table for him (we opened the trains and tracks later, by the way), but all Jake had on his mind was that purple candy that Santa was supposed to bring him. 😀
4. Teddy Talking
This video was captured on Christmas day–the same day that Teddy turned exactly 6 months old. I’m a little disappointed that his first word isn’t “Mama,” but hearing his little voice is so cute that I guess I’ll forgive him. 😉
3. Jake’s New Racecar Bed
Jake has finally left his crib and graduated to a twin sized bed–and oh, what a bed it is! We saved about $500 by purchasing this used on Craigslist rather than buying it new, and I think it’s in really good shape! Assembling it without an instruction booklet (and some screws and other critical pieces that we realized were missing) was not easy. But several hours later (and multiple trips to the hardware store later), Jake’s bed was finally done. Justin turned to me and said, “From now on, let’s only buy Jake gifts that have no assembly required!” And I laughed and laughed about that for a really long time.
2. Visiting Gatlinburg
Many of you know about the wildfires that hit Gatlinburg just a few days after Thanksgiving. Many people were left with homes damaged beyond repair, and there were even several casualties, including the wife and child of a man who went out to pick up something at the store and came back to find his neighborhood being evacuated (and he was not permitted to go home and check on his wife and child, who had fallen asleep).
Everything about this wildfire situation is so sad, but it’s also inspiring to see how everyone has come together to try to help–even with things like donating Christmas gifts for children to replace presents that were burned in the fire. Gatlinburg is #smokystrong, and it’s been amazing to see how resilient the community and the businesses have been during these tough times.
The entire community was closed for a few weeks for damage control and repairs, but since it has reopened, they’ve been encouraging everyone to visit and support the local businesses. So a few days after Christmas, that’s exactly what we did.
The thing that surprised me the most was how much survived untouched! After watching the videos, I really felt like Gatlinburg was basically gone and it would never look the same. But the main shopping/tourist strip was spared from the fire, and it was just as busy and crowded with tourists as it always is! I am so proud to be #smokystrong 🙂
1.Caroling Around the Neighborhood
We went caroling with some friends from church one night, hoping to start a new Christmas tradition. We even brought our church worship leader who led us with his guitar, so this was quality caroling, you guys. Even so, after carefully choosing only houses with lights on and Christmas decor, we sang to a lot of closed doors and people suspiciously peeking through the blinds. I think this Facebook post pretty much sums it up:
What was your favorite Christmas moment this year?