Thursday, December 31, 2009

Remember this?

Simplicity was my word for 2009. For the most part, I stuck to it. It was kind of strange having a theme word to the year. But it was good as it allowed me to stop and remember what my goal was.

My choice of word ended up being ironic. When Chris got laid off, we had no choice to simplify what we were doing. To determine what was important, what was not and go with less. Never without, just with less. It was a good lesson for not only ourselves, but for our children as well.

So as the year comes to a close, I have to say that I was happy with my word choice. Of course, not all those resolutions came true (there were disclaimers) but I am ending 2009 and this decade in a good place in life. And really, what is more important?

Happy New Year Everyone!

Monday, December 28, 2009

#1 Christmas Morning

The anticipation of Christmas morning is always a big build. For me, as we know, it starts months in advance.

Each year growing up, there were certain triggers that told us we were getting closer to Christmas. I think I have mentioned all of them in my top ten. I was always excited for Christmas morning, and this year was no different.

While I don't sleep well that night (same goes for this year), the morning is always worth it. This year the kids jumped into bed with me, and then the four of us headed downstairs to see if Santa showed up or not.

The look in the kids eyes said it all. Joy really.

I loved that they were sooooo excited about their gifts. Not just from Santa, but all the great things that they received from us, their grandparents, uncles and others.

It really was a great Christmas morning. Again.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

#2 - The Giving Spirit

Throughout the year, there are a lot of things that make people sad. A lot of things that seem to make people mad. And a lot of people who just don't see the good anymore.

That is why I love Christmas time. For a lot of people, they stop and think. They remember how many good things there are, and what blessings they have in their lives.

I know so many people get caught up in the commercial part of Christmas. I do too. It's hard not to really. But when I am picking out things for people, I try really hard to make it something special. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I find it in July.

One of my favorite Christmas gifts came from my aunt and uncle a few years ago. It was a box full of used stuff. But special used stuff. You see, it was full of memories and objects from my Grandma. Notes from her past (including some Valentine's I send her years before), a Bugs Bunny doll, newspaper clippings, photos of my Mom as a youth, and more. It still holds a place in my bedroom.
The giving spirit is also needed for people we don't know. Recently there was a story in the news that a local Salvation Army kettle was stolen. It only had $200 in it, but it's been a tough year for collections. But the North Shore residents gathered and not only replaced it, but made it full. I thought of that today when I walked by a kettle, and made sure that I helped fill it too. You see, although it was a challenging year here too - we have everything and more to make us happy.

It is Christmas Eve, one of my favorite nights of the whole year. Because the spirit of giving is at it's strongest. So in all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas Rush, thank you for all that you have given me. It's one of the reasons I have so much Christmas Spirit 365 days a year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

#3 - Santa Claus


Ahhhh, the magic of the big man in Red. I can quickly find the last three years of photos with Santa Claus, but trust me - I have them all to enjoy. Treasured photos.

I know some kids are scared of St Nick, but my Chrismtas spirit seems to have been a genetic gene that I passed along. From the first year in 2003 when I took my baby boy to see him, right through to the six year old with his 4 year old sister this year, they willingly hop onto his lap and provide their wish list.


I remember visitng Santa as a child, the Park Royal one specifically. We visit the Capliano Mall, I mean he has magic apples and oranges each year that help the wishes come true.

What I like most is that he really is about the magic that twinkels in the kids eyes. Not really about what shows up under the tree, but about the "what if". About believing in stories. About believing that good things can happen. About wishes, and best of all, when wishes come true.

Of course, there will come a time that my children will find out about the truth - you know, the there is more to Santa than the stories. I clearly recall the one Christmas Eve that my baby cousin Alyssa was on the cusp of believing or not. I told her to write Santa a note and if he had the same writing as her Mom or Dad, then he wasn't real. But if he had different writing, then he was real for sure. She followed my directions, but I made sure that my Mom wrote the note back. Just to give her one more Christmas worth of Santa Claus.

I can't wait till it's Christmas Eve and the kids pick out what they want to leave for Kris Kringle and his reindeer. And hope that once again, he brings the magic to Christmas morning. I know the kids tried really hard to get on his good list.

Monday, December 21, 2009

#4 - Singing and Celebrating

Last Saturday evening, we had about 30 or so people drop by. It's an Annual Heal Tradition, our Christmast Party. I love our Christmas Party.

But of course, while this year was our 9th Annual, it by no means my 9th Christmas party (big surprise eh?). See celebrating Christmas with family is one thing, but it's just as important to celebrate with friends and neighbours. This is the history....

Dad is very muscial. In our living room is a baby grand and a church organ. It's not a large living room, but they are large pieces. They also played a large roll around Christmas time. I have no idea what year the Dye Sing A Long started, but I have to say it is the fondest of childhood memories.

Each year at Christmas we invited all the neighbours for the sing a long. Ruth Cres is a small cul de sac street with neighbours that knew each other. Dad played the organ, and Mr. Lenord played the piano. We all sang. We sang loud, we sang the classics and we sang with all the Christmas spirit there is.

I remember the smell of the lyric sheets. You see, "old" photocopies had different paper, which had a specific smell to it. I remember thinking that Mom could draw so well with the pretty bow and drawing of Rudolph on those sheets. Songs like Jingle Bells started us off (pretty sure that Frosty was near the beginning too). Silent Night near the end, and if memory is on tonight, then the last song was always "We wish you a Merry Christmas".

The dining room was full of food. The punch as I recall took a lot of work, and wasn't overly child friendly. But Pop Shoppe was always there for the kids, funny how some of these memories are popping up as I write this!

While the Sing A Long ended somewhere in childhood, Richard and I decided somewhere in our young adulthood that it should be brought back. That year, Dad played the organ for our friends. We sat on the living room floor, and us 20 somethings belted out the toons just like the good old days.

While our Christmas party doesn't have any singing, it's still a lot of fun. Family and friends gather together, enjoy some time together, and celebrate the season in fine style.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

#5 - Traditions

Mom used to say that she didn't know it was a Christmas tradition in our house till she forgot one year and we asked what happened to _________?

Traditions, I think, are one of the reasons why Christmas is so magical. Every family has their own, and over the years they change, some get dropped and new ones get added. I have lots of fond ones from my childhood, and adore seeing the ones that my children love.

Christmas Eve Richard and I slept in the same room. Either his, or the basement (for some reason that just came to me). Grandma stayed the night and slept in my bed. Christmas morning always came early. If you ask Richard, I woke him. But I know he woke me. Regardless the stockings were waiting for us, and Grandma usually greeted us in the living room before Mom and Dad woke up.

Breakfast was forced upon us. I laugh because we always ate the same thing (and I still have them Christmas morning). Christmas breakfast is cinnamon rolls - the Pillsbury kind.

Santa's gifts were left unwrapped on the fireplace mantle. The biggest gift for years under the tree was mine - a doll from my Grandma. I would bet a million dollars that my brother will make a comment about it this Christmas. So far, the biggest gift under the tree is for me again (another tradition??).

Other traditions in the family growing up:
  • Dye Christmas gatherings
  • Christmas Sing A long
  • PJ's Christmas Eve (still one I share with my kids)
  • Dye triffel (this one has seemed to end, which isn't a bad thing)
  • Egg nog on Christmas Eve
  • Stocking stuffers individually wrapped (did that tonight)
There are lots of others. And I hope to continue to create more as the years go by. Christmas is only 5 days away, so I wonder what becomes tradition this year?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

#6 - Christmas Music

Christmas without music is like Christmas without a tree. I mean, sure it could still happen, but people wouldn't enjoy it as much.

Christmas Carols are special to me. I love singing them, I know all the words (well mostly) and have more Christmas CDs than any other type of music.

If I were to choose a type of Chrismas music that I like best, I would have a really really hard time. I love the classics, but I love the newer version of the classics as well. Celine Dion's Christmas album is a nice blend of both. Having said that, I could listen to Bing Crosby sing the tradional ones for weeks on end. Yet again, I really love the version of Bruce Springsteen as he belts out Santa Claus is Coming to Town (the kids really like that one these days).

Yet there is one particular Christmas Album that is my all time favorite. Sunshine and Snowflakes. Must be good as it already came up as part of the top ten already!

You see, this group of children singing was very loved in my house growing up. I could sing every single song word for word. One year, the Squamish Children's Choir sand this, and I remember very clearly seeing them live. Happy Birthday Baby Jesus or Where is Christmas. Love all of the songs on there.

And this year just to take it another level, I decided to Christmas shop while listening to Christmas music. I think everyone should do this. Takes all the hussle and bustle out of it and brings you to a happiness that seems to be a rare thing in the malls.

Friday, December 18, 2009

#7 - Wrapping

So this is obviously something that people don't like about the holidays. But I like wrapping. I like being able to make a package pretty. Maybe this is where my love of paper and embellishments came from????

I remember being a kid and sitting at the dining room table wrapping presents with my Mom. Long before the days of "bags", we took the time to add curly ribbons, bows and tags.

Tonight I powered through a lot of my wrapping, and had two very helpful little elves. I was great to get it all done, and I can check off another thing off my to do list.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

#8 - Gingerbread Houses and Trains

Who doesn't love gingerbread? Just a bit of spice with some sugary icing....mmmmm.

I decided that tonight would be our annual Gingerbread House building night. Last year we did a train and had a lot of fun with it, but I wanted to do a house again this year. Ya, see when you are a great procrastinator like I am....well you end up finding that apparently everyone else bought the houses last weekend, so the train was the only option.

See, these pre-fab kits - well they rock. I tried as a teen and a couple more times as an adult to make my own grand gingerbread house. Thinking "how hard could it be", I created some masterpieces in my head. But here is the thing - it's a lot harder than you think. Cutting the bread to make it all fit, um even Martha must find that a challenge. So I gave up and bought the kits. Best idea ever.

Of course, they never come with enough candy, and as you can see - there is barely any gingerbread to the naked eye. But trust me, it is actually holding up something like all that icing and smarties. The kids had a lot of fun putting this together (and of course sneaking in a treat or two), and I am sure tomorrow the bits and pieces will start to be eaten.

I was thinking about gingerbread houses today, and all of a sudden I remembered ones from my past. Our neighbour David brought us one a couple of different years, and if my memory serves me correctly, they were the big ones. I think Mom said we couldn't eat them (or probably some silly rules like not eat the whole thing at once), but of course Richard and I would steal the candies and crack off the icicles. I love remembering things like that. And I love gingerbread.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

#9 - The Classics

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, The Grinch that Stole Christmas. The classic TV shows that are a MUST see in my house.

When I was a kid, it was such a treat to stay up and see these specials. Now you can catch them a million times before the big day.

While the TV shows are great, to me the movies are even better. My all time favorite (while I still haven't watched it yet) is White Christmas. Something about a musical. I mean, Bing Crosby and Rose Clooney. Come on!

More recent favs include the series of The Santa Clause. It answers some great questions and I love watching it as a family. Chris' favorite is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - it's a must see each year. And while I fought watching it for the longest time, the newest to my addition is Elf. If you haven't seen it, please do so. It's packed FULL of Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The yummy part of cookies

Cookie dough is fine. But let's face it, the cookies get really good when you add icing!

We iced our cookies the other night. The kids were very concerned that we wouldn't have them ready for our Christmas Party.

So instead of trying to make my cookies look like Martha made them, I went with the Braydon and Kaylee version. Let me tell you, a lot more fun to do - and they taste just as good! The smiles (and proudness) on their faces made them even sweeter.

Christmas Top Ten - #10: Decorating the Tree

Growing up, decorating the tree was one of my favorite things. Picking it out (the rule was that it had to be taller than me with my arms stretched out) and of course decorating it.

The lights for the LONGEST time were my dad's parents lights. Big and beautiful, with foil surroundings that made it glow prettier than anyone else's tree. The ornaments were all special. My favorites then are my favorites now. Nothing store bought, but a few remaining beaded stars, bells, and angels that my Grandma made. And the starched snowflake :)

There seems to be a pattern of actions that happened when we decorated our tree. Dad dug out the stuff from under the stairs. Mom organized what went where, and Dad and Richard untangled the lights. Once the lights were up, somehow Dad's job was done. Richard, Mom and I put up the decorations. Tinsel was the last to put up. By this time, it seems that Richard was done too. Strand by strand Mom and I made the tree sparkle. Even the old Angel at the top looked better with the lights bouncing off her.

Music needed to be playing. Specifically Sunshine and Snowflakes. In fact, if you were to pick a tree decorating album, that would be it. Eggnog also needed to be part of the "event".

We have a lot of the same traditions today. So our tree isn't real anymore (there was a post last year on that), but it's still taller than me. My lights are new this year, and while aren't classic like the ones I grew up with (much less fire hazard though), they still make me smile. Eggnog and music go hand in hand with the evening, although tinsel seems to be something only in my past.

Chris puts up the lights, both kids help untangle (or help tangle....not sure what is more true). Our ornaments are a mix of mine and Chris' from years past, all of which are carefully unpacked from their 11 months of storage. My favorites are still there, and will always be on my tree. We have new ones, and they are part of my favorite Heal tradition. Each year, Chris goes out on his own and picks out a new ornament from Halmark for each of the kids. I have carefully dated them so when they have their own tree, they too can have their memories to share.

I still love decorating the tree night. And let's face it, I always will.