As the year winds down, I find that I get very lazy at this time of year. My stomach filled with all kinds of cooking and baking, I like to put my feet up and mellow out.
And my brain goes to mush.
I worked on Monday and started my Christmas shopping about mid-afternoon, before the stores closed their doors for the day. Luckily, my wife does the bulk of the shopping for the kids and family members; I shop for her and for the last-minute items that we came up with at the eleventh hour.
Our Christmas routine has become a ritual: I finish my shopping and head home. I help clean up around the house and keep the girls occupied while Lori prepares dinner. Afterwards, we'll watch a couple of Christmas specials on TV before we set up goodies for Santa.
This year, S wrote a note to leave for Santa. She didn't write to him earlier, so she just wanted to say 'Hi' and tell him that she didn't want much, that she thought her parents pretty much had her covered.
Lori's dad has been coming to our house to stay the night ever since he's been on his own. He takes L's room, who in turn bunks with S. Part of my evening duties is to ensure that the bed sheets are freshly laundered for him.
Once the girls are tucked in bed, I start wrapping gifts. This routine generally starts around 11:00, just after the kids, ever excited for the arrival of St. Nick, settle down. I sit in my bedroom, my TV playing Scrooge and It's A Wonderful Life, and I wrap.
I wrap everything that isn't for me. I'm an expert wrapper: I attribute that skill to the days when I used to work at a paint and wallpaper store, and I used to give demonstrations of how to hang paper, how to get the decorative adhesion to fit around windows, light switches, and awkward corners. I can hang wallpaper anywhere and I can wrap any Christmas gift.
Watching my two favourite holiday classics, I take my time. Lori is busy, downstairs, baking stollen and preparing ingredients for the next day. On Christmas Day, we host my parents and father in law to a brunch to die for: potato pie, spiral ham, scrambled eggs, fruit salad, veggie salad, the stollen, and copious amounts of coffee.
By the time Lori has finished in the kitchen and I have finished wrapping, it can be anywhere between 2 and 3 in the morning. Seriously. She has lots to bake; I have lots to wrap. And I won't switch off the TV until my movies are over. This year, we tucked in at 2:43.
The girls woke us up at 6:30.
Now that they're grown up, we let them go downstairs on their own. They are allowed to look at the tree but touch nothing under it. And they are allowed to raid their stockings, stuffed to bursting, hung by the gas fireplace (they've never asked how Santa gets through the glass cover). Lori and I join them about a half hour later, when we have to start more preparation for brunch: peeling potatoes, slicing fruit, washing spinach.
When most of the food is prepared, we let the girls open their gift from Santa. They each get one from the big man: he can't get all of the credit for the cool stuff. Santa usually provides something that will keep the girls occupied until my folks arrive and Lori's dad emerges from upstairs. We serve up brunch, and the adults chat while the kids rip off that carefully wrapped paper.
It's all over by noon. The folks leave, the kitchen is cleaned up, and the crumpled paper is in the recycle bin. The peak of Christmas is over.
We still prepare a turkey for dinner, but it's low-key. By evening, Lori and I are burned out and the kids are worn out from a day of play.
That's Christmas at the Brownfoots. That's our holiday ritual. Time off, but no time out.
How was your holiday?