Holly Jolly New Traditions

Holly Jolly New Traditions

Life is different this Christmas.

Henry and I decided it would be fun to start some holly jolly new traditions for the two of us as far as decorating for Christmas goes. It’s always been a big evening for us as a family and we want to keep it as an important part of our year, but do things in a new way! I mean, change is fun, huh?

After school on Friday, we headed to the Walmart in Dunwoody to take part in Clark’s Christmas Kids. If you’re not familiar, every Christmas, Clark Howard and News/Talk WSB join with the Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services to provide gifts for the foster kids all across Georgia.

Henry has a job walking our neighbor’s dog every day after school and when he gets paid on Fridays, we separate his money into Spend, Save, and Give envelopes. He had $27 in his Give envelope and chose to use it to buy Christmas gifts for a child his age who may not have any gifts under the tree this year. Carefully, he looked at the lists of about 5 different 11 year old boys and chose Avery.

With list in hand, we set off to see what we could buy. He ended up with the Simon game that was on the list. Luckily, he caught that it needed AA batteries and he grabbed some of those, too. I can thank my Dad for him knowing to do that. Rock never shows up for a holiday where a battery-needing toy is given without a stash of batteries!

Once he paid, we dropped the list and gifts back at the table where dozens of people were picking up lists and dropping off gifts. If you’re in Atlanta and have a chance to see and participate in this, please do so. It’s such a gift — to these kids AND to yourself.

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Then we headed to the Big John’s Christmas Trees lot in Dunwoody. We LOVE Big John’s. They have the best trees and we’ve bought from them for years (even when we lived in Macon and Fort Valley).

It took Henry about 7 seconds to find our tree.

While I looked for the perfect one that spoke to me and that would hold all my beautiful ornaments and be just like all the other ones we’ve ever had, Henry found THE ONE.

It was about 5 feet tall with a big gap in the middle and a little scrawny. It was smaller than everything else out there and well, looked kinda sad. I kinda wanted to say, “Bless your heart,” to the poor tree.

I tried to talk him out of it, but he said with conviction, “Nobody else is going to buy this tree because it’s not as beautiful as the other trees and then it’s going to be lonely and sad and we’re going to get this one.”

Ok then! We grabbed Chinese food and headed home.

We were able to get the tree off the car and into the stand and into the house by ourselves. Really, Henry did it all, but of course, I gave advice and helicoptered until I realized he WANTED to do it by himself.

The tree stood perfectly straight on the first try, we placed it in the corner, and ate Chinese food while we watched Elf.

This morning, we lit and decorated and squint-tested the tree and you know? It’s possibly the most beautiful tree ever! (Oh, and Watkins the elf came in sometime during the night and toppled down the tree. I think he may have been drinking a little.)

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Our tree is small and mighty, but it holds so much love and hope for our future. It showed me that we can do it by ourselves, and that change, while a little scary, can be so much fun!

We’ve decked our halls and are thrilled with our holly jolly new traditions!

 

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

Oh, 2014. You’ve been good and you’ve been bad. As far as I’m concerned, you can go ahead and get on out of here…

Last year, I chose Intuition to be my word of the year. I’ve worked very hard to trust my intuition this year. It isn’t always easy, and sometimes it’s downright impossible, but when I’ve listened? It’s never led me astray.

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2014 was a busy year, and unfortunately I didn’t share a lot of what we did in posts. But here are some of my favorite moments from the year.

January: I cut off all my hair and the entire metro Atlanta area shut down from #snOMG14. Auburn went to the National Championship and lost, Henry won a trophy in the Pinewood Derby and Henry and I ran the Hot Chocolate 5k.

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February: Henry was asked to be in the Austin Chorus that would perform at the local high school. It snowed again. This time, like 6″. We had an amazing time playing in it for days and drinking iced snoffee! I started and completed the hardest weekend of my life, running 19.3 miles over the course of two days. It was stupid and amazing!

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March: March was super busy with Listen To Your Mother stuff. We held auditions and planned, plotted, and schemed. I spent a full week traveling the Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi area with my boss and coworker. I got to ride in the backseat of the truck the whole week and needed serious pain meds when it was all over!

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April: In April, my dad tried to catch himself on fire by blowing up his lawnmower. He’s fine… now we just laugh. Henry spent several days camping with his grandmother and her friend at Stone Mountain. The girls I grew up with from the time we were born all spent a day together. We always have such a great time! Listen To Your Mother: Atlanta happened. It was magical!

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May: May saw the end of third grade for Henry. Mom 2.0 was in Atlanta and I was fortunate to have been asked to be on the social media team. It was an amazing conference and I just l.o.v.e being able to see my friends… especially in “my” city! We marked Charlie’s 11th birthday without pomp and circumstance.

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June: In June, I left my job at the wholesale nursery to do social media management full (part) time. Jason and I took Henry to New Orleans for the 70th Anniversary of D Day. We spent the full day at the National WW2 Museum, which I highly recommend to anyone and everyone. On this trip, after probably 6 years of being friends online, I finally got to give Leah a big hug in person!!

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July: July was busy. We moved into a new house where we have a small pond behind us. Henry and his friend had a lemonade stand. He also participated in the GIANT Dunwoody 4th of July parade and went to Camp Winnataska for the 3rd year. I posted my 700th blog post on this here site.

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August: In August, Henry and his first girlfriend Daria were able to get together. Our families went bowling and they were absolutely mortified to have to take a picture together (though later, I saw them playing a game standing about 1cm apart). Henry started 4th grade and I landed myself in the ER with a crazy reaction to a sulfa drug. Fun times, y’all! I also shared a recipe for the Georgia Cash Crop Cobbler. It’s seriously delicious.

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September: In September, Jason and I dressed up and went out. It was to a wedding where we knew only the bride, but it was out. And fancy. Henry’s hair got to epic lengths and he looked like a teenager in his school pictures. Type A Conference was in Atlanta and I spent a few nights down in Buckhead with dear dear friends, old and new.

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October: In October, I went to a few Auburn football games, hanging out with Kim and my #BelieveBitches crew! We went to the fair down in Perry, as usual, and celebrated Halloween with the Hollidays for the 5th year.

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November: November marked Henry’s TENTH birthday. Double digits. He had a Game Truck birthday party, which was amazing! I highly recommend having someone bring a game truck to your driveway. You can drink while they play games and entertain your child! The Cub Scout Den went zip lining. What a blast! Henry was a narrator in his class’s patriotic program. If you want, I can have him recite his part in his Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation. My friends got together for an unofficial 20th class reunion. There was much drinking and much Cards Against Humanity going on. 

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We spent Thanksgiving Week in New York City.

This was by far the highlight of our year. Henry and I got to hang out with my dear friend Neil for two days while Jason worked in Long Island, and then we spent the next 5 days as a family doing amazing things, like the Intrepid Museum and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! Yes, I’m going to recap the trip after the new year because there is SO much more!

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December: In December, I turned 39. Yes, I’m staring down 40. We celebrated my birthday and our friend’s 50th with all you can eat catfish! We celebrated the holidays with Jason’s side of the family at the annual Anthoine Christmas Party, and of course, took goofy pictures of ourselves with our Christmas tree! Christmas was wonderful as usual, with my parents coming over for Christmas day lunch and then going to Jason’s mom’s for the weekend.

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2015 is now upon us.

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I hope 2015 is better than 2014. Not that it was horrible for my family or myself exactly, but there’s always room for improvement. I’ll be spending the next few days thinking about what I want in 2015 and I’m sure you’re going to do the same.

My big hope for everyone is that we can all find happiness and peace.

Cheers!

 

{Part 2}: The Door To Christmas: Story of The Christmas Room

For Part 1 of The Christmas Room story, start here.

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Once everything was checked out, we were given the thumbs-up to go into The Christmas Room. In spite of being in that room year in and out, the magic of the room made your brain feel all oogly woogly and for a moment you couldn’t remember where you were supposed to go or sit or what you were supposed to say and YAY IT’S CHRISTMAS WE’RE FINALLY IN!

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to go into The Christmas Room, you know that whether it’s April or July or the day after Christmas, you will long for wrapped gifts and stockings. All year, this room is dedicated to Christmas.

There are two Christmas sofas, one for each family like we’re on Family Feud. I’m not sure how or when they were covered in this epically textured red velvet fabric, but I know that they were probably the subject of thousands of conversations over the years.

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Someone would inevitably try to squeeze into the small chair that had once been my Mama’s, noting that “I can still fit in here” for all the family to giggle at them.

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Stockings were laid out in the corners of the sofas, perfectly filled with equal amounts of goods. Dads and boys got water guns and silly string. The Moms and girls got smelly lotions and lip gloss. At some point, we all started to get lottery tickets.

And there was always the famous cash envelope that the parents immediately confiscated – I can only assume that was so we didn’t throw it away with the wrapping paper.

Gifts were passed out by two of us. Everybody waited until all the gifts were carefully (and quickly) delivered to dive in. But when all was delivered, it was game on. Paper flew, “thank you” was said quickly when eye contact was made with the giver, the next gift was grabbed to open in a hurry.

As the years went on, we realized that Grannie and Grandaddy would sit and wait before opening their own gifts, watching and taking it all in before turning their attention to the gifts from their grandchildren and daughters.

It all moved dizzyingly fast – from the opening of the door to the moment we all leaned back and sighed from exhaustion. The next thing you knew, the parents were back at the table with pecan pie and coffee while the kids were laid out in the floor in front of the TV and electric space heater watching WMAZ’s coverage of Santa’s flight across the globe.

And just as we rushed to get TO Grannie and Grandaddy’s, once we realized Santa was close to our area, we forced the parents to rush home. Bags were gathered, trunks were filled (to the brim, to be honest), cars were loaded and goodbyes were said.

Before we got to the river, my sister and I were normally asleep. In fact, we were so sound asleep we would have to be carried into the house and placed in our beds with visions of sugarplums and the magic of The Christmas Room dancing in our heads.

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The Door To Christmas is more than just that. It’s the door to memories, ones that we can all share and cherish and open the door to whenever we want.

My wish for y’all this Christmas season is that you have a door in your heart and in your mind that you are able to open and be transported to happy and beautiful memories of Christmases past. And also that you are taking the time to enjoy the memories you are making with your children and grandchildren. Those memories will stay with them forever.

I also know that this Christmas, my Grannie and Grandaddy are together, sitting on a Christmas sofa holding Charlie, waiting patiently for all gifts to be open before they open theirs. They’ll smile down and make sure we are all equally  blessed, just as they did for dozens of years before.

{Part 1} The Door To Christmas: The Story of The Christmas Room

{Part 1} The Door To Christmas: The Story of The Christmas Room

The door to the jewelry store was locked as soon as the clock struck closing time on Christmas Eve. Jewelry was put away, money was counted, the employees milled around to wait for their gifts that were always handed out after closing. My sister and I were twitchy to get out of there so Christmas could start.

Christmas Eve was always spent at Grannie’s. It was tradition. It was how Christmas started.

After we got home from the store, my parents seemed to mill around for hours. My grandparents and Aunt and Uncle knew to wait for us, that we would be there as soon as we could. It seemed like my parents were never ready – always having to throw together some last minute gifts and having to pack the car and grab the food. I’m sure they were more organized than I remember, but it seemed like it took a short eternity to get to Grannie’s house.

Over the river and through the woods we went, with a trunk full of gifts, a food dish or two, and butterflies in our stomachs.

I’d say we had a small, tight family. There was Grannie and Grandaddy, our mom and dad and the two of us, and my aunt and uncle and their two sons. Small and mighty we were.

Part of the magic of Christmas growing up was starting the holidays in The Christmas Room.

We would all arrive, us late as usual, and the moms (women) would take to the kitchen and prepare the spread of carbs and desserts. I think there was some protein in there, too, but I stayed far away from all that! Was better to build up our energy stores with dressing and biscuits than to waste time eating turkey.

The men would count the pictures around Grannie and Grandaddy’s house to see which family “they liked best.”

The kids would ask every 3.7 seconds, “WHEN ARE WE GOING TO EAAATTTTT???”

Finally it was time to bless the food. Uncle Gary, being a good Southern Baptist Deacon, always had the honor. We wrapped around the table, hands held, parents trying to separate the kids to avoid the inevitable giggle-fest that organically happened about midway through the blessing. Their attempts to stop it were in vain.

Giggles commenced. First the kids, then the dads, and finally once we all proclaimed “AMEN” the whole group erupted in laughter.

Dinner was had – adults at the table near the door to The Christmas Room, kids in the kitchen at the small table. We ate as fast as humanly possible. There was no time for seconds or talking. Eat. As. Fast. As. You. Can.

And the parents ate as slooooowly as they could. In fact, sometimes it seemed like they weren’t even TRYING to eat.

So we waited. And waited.

After being as patient as possible, we would start hovering around the door.

door

Much like the door in Willy Wonka, this door was the way to the magic. Inside this room, FUN happened. Inside this room, Santa has already stopped by.

It was the door to Christmas. 

Eventually, after hovering over this door and offering to take the adults’ dishes to the kitchen, after the adults moseyed their way to get their cameras and coffee, after we all went to the bathroom because there could be NO breaks, after ALL that…

the dads went in the room to “check things out.

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…to be continued

Read Part 2 here.

Believe…

Believe…

Henry, pushing his hot dogs aside: I’m not very hungry.

Me: Are you ok? Do you feel bad?

Henry, shyly: I’m um, I’m just not hungry.

Me: Are you nervous? 

Henry: Maybe a little. 

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The night before, Henry asked very simply, “What will you do if I get coal for Christmas?”

After questioning him about what he said, he very sheepishly explained that he’s afraid that he’ll be punished if he only gets coal for Christmas from Santa.

He’s afraid he’s not been good enough for Santa to visit with toys.

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We make an appointment to see the Santa at Phipps Plaza in Buckhead in September. People go crazy to get an appointment with him because he’s (not to be completely snotty) the best. He’s the Bentley of Santas.

We scurry out of the house after work to make it down to the mall for a 7:45 appointment. It’s a mad dash, this year complete with forgetting Watkins, our trusty elf. Luckily we had time to turn around and grab him so he could see his boss for a few minutes.

Our evening started with rushing and anxiety and lots of shuffling…

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There were finishing touches put on the list. It’s hard to narrow down all your “wants” to five things that Santa’s allowed to bring you when you’re eight. The line got shorter. We were last. The last ones of the night…

Twinkles in eyes got brighter and under my hand, his heartbeat got faster.

It was his turn.

Meet Santa. Sit. Smile for the camera.

Then there was whispering, smiling, talking to Watkins. There were a few winks from Santa in our direction.

And then the awkward goodbyes.

That included the shot that reminded me that he believes.

He truly believes.

And that’s what makes Christmas magical, friends.

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