Thursday, December 28, 2017

Seasonal Superlatives

OH, December...what a ride. This season has been an absolute joy, and many other feelings. But good, or hard, or really good and really hard, I still want to remember every second of it. So for fun (and relative posterity) I put together a list of a the most, the best, the worst, the us, of Christmas this time around.

The Bowdens' Seasonal Superlatives: 2017

Favorite Christmas Song: "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas"
Miller's class did a performance to that song at school, and every time it comes on in the car, he announces excitedly: "It's my song, Mama!". If you ask him what a hippo says, he replies, "Christmas!" And when I left the kids in the car with Dustin for a quick last-minute grocery run, I came back to learn they had listened to that song three times in a row. A family record. 

Most Sought-After Gifts: Beanie Boos, Barbies, Baby Alive, Superheros
Fin's list was 98% Beanie Boos, and all three of the big girls asked for Barbies (specifically mermaid a Barbie car, and pool). All four of the girls got Baby Alives (I'm hoping to parlay those diapering skills into more help with the little kids). And Miller just wanted anything with Spiderman or "Hulk Smash" on it. (Fin had a Spiderman pillow on her list, but after also getting a Spiderman cup in her stocking, announced she didn't like "boy things" and she is done with superheros. I hid my heartbreak and am still hoping she doesn't trade that quirk for all things pink just yet.)

Best New Tradition: Oplatek (Kind of)
I was catching up with an out-of-town friend the other day, and when she described a tradition her in-laws do, I immediately decided I needed to co-opt it for our family. It's a ritual originally from Poland and the basic gist is that everyone goes around the table sharing a wish they have for each person for the following year (while sharing a piece of unleavened bread/wafer with each other). We had to make a few adjustments- doing an hour+ long event before Christmas eve dinner just wasn't going to work for our toddler-plentiful crew, and finding real Oplatek on December 23rd wasn't going to happen no matter how many Columbus-based international grocery stores I called. (and I called ALL of them. And then some). So I picked up pizzelles (close enough...?) and group-texted my family the idea. We gathered all the adults (and the teens, and my adorably invested first grade nephew) after Christmas dinner (while all the kids were occupied with their new presents) and gave it a whirl. I wasn't sure what to expect...but it was such a sweet, and surprisingly hilarious time together. It was such a gift to hear kind words and thoughtful hopes and prayers from each person in my family...and a great opportunity to tell them how I feel about them too. Such a sweet memory- I'm already looking forward to introducing the tradition to others, and making it a part of our family's celebrations in the future.

Best Old Tradition: Cutting down our Christmas tree
We don't always do this, but man I love when we do. This year we went back to the same farm we went to last year, and we had about the most fun you can have doing anything with five (very) small children. The kids were basically in it for the sled rides (though the goats and the hot chocolate didn't disappoint), and I was basically in it for the animal-eared hats. We were super sad to find out the owner had passed away, and his family was carrying on for just one last season to honor his wishes.  I tried (unsuccessfully) to use that as an opportunity for my step-dad and I to pick up a seasonal business. (Side-note: My brother's family has a tradition where they rotate who gets to choose the tree each year. The kids look forward to their year...basically all year, and it's adorable to watch them pose in front of their pick when it's their turn.)

Activity Most Likely to End in Tears: Opening the Paw Patrol Advent Calendar
Whose turn is it?! She got TWO turns!! I want to hold it!! Pass it to me, FIN! Give it BACK!... Every dang day. We're counting down to the birth of our LORD AND SAVIOR, children. Would it kill you to share the small puppy figurine in an orderly and fair manner?

Easiest Tradition: #AdventJokes
I skipped the activities this time around (primarily as a self-preservation effort), and just looked up 25 jokes on Pinterest to get us through the season. My kids are hilariously bad at guessing the punchlines (Miller, for no understandable reason, just yells "Motorcycle!" whenever I open the floor for ideas) and the rest of them complain that they don't get it...or that I'm not funny. Our five year old is the best though, because without fail, after I pause, allow guesses, give hints, and then finnnnnnally announce the answer, she says, "Hey! I was going to guess that!" Sure, kiddo. 
(p.s. in case you're not as great a guesser as she is...the answer to the one above is: Merry Kissmas!)

Biggest Surprise: Dustin's Fantasy Football season
This was going to be "biggest disappointment" but then in literally the last second of the championship series, Dustin's defense recovered a fumble to win the game- and win him the league. (Don't ask me how my team did.)

Best Christmas Special: Olaf's Frozen Adventure
We saw this as a "short" before Coco (it's a half hour not super short when you're dealing with pre-K attention spans) and it is adorable. Until about a week ago, I had never actually seen Frozen (right?! how?! I know!) so I didn't have the benefit of backstory or character loyalty. But regardless, I instantly fell in love. It's hilarious, and the songs have been on repeat in our house for a month (you know, when we're not singing about a hippo).

Most Generous: Sooooo many people. 
Our family, our small group, our coworkers, our case workers, our church, the kids' schools, the county foster care office....they've all brought meals, bought gifts, dropped off diapers, offered babysitting...We've been loved and supported in such tangible and overwhelming ways. 

Best Pick Me Up When it All Gets to be Too Much: Matching Jammies
Guaranteed to make me 1% less frustrated with their incessant antics. (and to Dustin's immense gratitude, I draw the line at adult jammies. No offense if that's your thing.)

Naughtiest Bowden: 5 way tie. 
Well...actually 4. Piper is 98% angelic. The rest...need some work.

Least Appreciated Activity: Christmas tree waffles
It's like my kids have never heard of Pinterest!

Favorite Christmas book: Pinkalicious Christmas
I have suffered through this book at least 18 times this season. And that was all in the week after Thanksgiving before I "lost" it for the rest of the month. 

Funniest Quote: EW! It's Reindeer Slobber! 
...when they found the frozen bowls of carrots and "reindeer food" (oatmeal + glitter) we left outside for Santa's crew.

Most overambitious craft: Knit garland
I'm about 10,000 man hours in. And I have about 10ft (~10,000 hours) left to go. 

Best Dressed: Tie- Miller/Fin.
Miller had a strong showing in his Elf jammies. But Fin is pretty irresistible in reindeer antlers. But they both brought their A-game on Christmas eve (alright as the designated family shopper I'll take 98% credit). Fin sported a new velvet jumpsuit (she's been asking for a jumpsuit for months so when I saw this at Target, I had no problems stripping it right off of the child mannequin). And Miller pretty much went in costume as Marty McFly.

Best School Event: Candy Cane Lane
This was a tough call, because there were about 119 events this month (you feel me, working parents?!) but we especially love Candy Cane Lane- a shopping day the girls' school runs for the kids. They get a ton of gifts, and set up a full "store" for the kids to go through. Every student brings their list of people they're shopping for (and their my money), and gets to pick out special items for everyone. They use little shopping carts, and even get to wrap them. Our kids are always thrilled with their purchases, and beg us to open them immediately. This year we let Piper and Fin shop for grandparents and their little siblings, while our foster daughter shopped for her bio parents. It's a sweet tradition, and I love how it teaches them how fun it is to give to others. 

Most Contested Activity: Driving around to look at Christmas lights
Some of us love it (me, Miller) some of us tolerate it (Dustin, Piper) and some of us can't SEEEEEEE and are COLLLLD, and don't want your feet TOUCHING MEEEEEEE (Fin). We hit up a few fav houses, and made friends with another car who seemed to be on the same circuit (after passing them at two houses in a row we rolled down our windows to swap tips. Now I have a couple more locations bookmarked for next year!)

Best Intentions AwardSleepover by the tree
It sounded like fun until I remembered sleepovers are completely crazy, and it effectively banned me from my own living room for 12 hours. But the girls seemed to like it...minus the fact that the tree was "too bright" for them to sleep. 

Most Adorable Craft: Fin's homemade snowglobe ornament

Worst Performance in a Christmas Show: Miller, twice.
Miller prepped for his school and church shows for WEEKS, learning song lyrics and motions...and then when it was showtime? Nothin'. He stood, frozen, refusing to participate in any way. In the church show, he actually just turned his back to the crowd, and watched Fin do the whole thing. (in his defense...she was great.)

Best Item on a Christmas List: Piper's "collection": 
"lost and found things that people don't really need"

Most Delicious Treat: Chocolate Babke
A gift from a coworker(/friend) for our team. A yummy, yummy gift.

Best Date: Trip to Cleveland
One year we did 12 dates of Christmas, but that's clearly not in the cards this time around...But we still managed to sneak away for a day (thanks to my parents, and some other foster parents for watching the kiddos!) to visit some friends up in NE Ohio. We got to meet a new baby and see a new house, and spend some time catching up with some people I love and miss a ton. (And Dustin and I got a two hour car ride- each way!- of uninterrupted time together. Yes! 

Least Missed: Making Christmas cookies
You can't do everything...and by that, I mean I don't want to do everything. We've had fun doing Gingerbread houses and cookies in the past, but it's a horrific mess and I was just as happy to skip it this time around. (Fear not for my children...I assure you they've had plenty of sugar this month. And people who love them even more I do- G'mi, their teachers- bit the bullet and allowed them to pour sprinkles with wild abandon.)

Most Exhausting: Christmas Eve church service.
I was neck-deep in toddlers, lollipops, markers, and nonsense, so I didn't exactly absorb a lot from the message...But it all looked stunning, and the battery operated candles prevented my crew from burning the whole place down, so that's a win. 

And some personal opinions:

Favorite: Ummm...everything? Am I allowed to say that? It's my game. I'm pretty sure I'm allowed to say that. (ok...but if I was forced to pick one thing, I'd say reading books with the kids at bedtime. It was filled with more arguing/complaining/spot switching/water spilling than I'd like, but every once in a while there was a moment of snuggly magic. 
Least favorite: Deciding not to get each other presents. I mean I know Christmas is for the kids, but c'mon! Who's silly idea was this? (Mine. It seemed smart at the time...but then when I'm up late stuffing my own stocking, and I started to doubt the system).

Favorite: Cutting down our Christmas tree (*Editor's note: I am legit shocked he chose this. Normally he's not into the pomp and circumstance of it all, but I think my festive enthusiasm is rubbing off on him). 
Least favorite: The reindeer car kit I installed on the van. (Although, when one antler blew off the other day, he did pull over and let me retrieve it...He must love me.)

Favorite: "Spending time with each other" (I didn't even coach her!)
Least favorite: "When we found out we didn't have that great of Christmas lights." (She was jealous of the inflatable menageries we toured, and doesn't think our wreaths are quite getting the job done).

Favorite: "Giving presents!" (specifically the disgusting jelly bean game to her cousin).
Least favorite: That I won't let her wear her velvet jumpsuit every single day.

Favorite: Turning his tree on and off with a foot switch
Well...actually his favorite is turning alllllll the trees on and off with the foot switches. I've created a monster.
Least favorite: Singing in public
Stand there and look scared/a little bit dumb, buddy. Nailed it.

Our oldest foster child...
Favorite Activity: "Dessert" (food is her love language).
Least favorite: Well...she really wants her OWN room, with her OWN tree...Sorry, kiddo!

Our youngest foster child...
Favorite Activity: Hanging ornaments on the tree
She would grab a plastic ball, run over the tree, jump (why?) and drop it near the tree, and run back for another one, signing "more" emphatically every time.
Least favorite: Sitting on Santa's lap. NO thank you.


Most Worth It: Everything. Every. Single. Thing.

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