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Christmas Favorites

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I took the girls to see the Nutcracker this past weekend which can also be read as I saw God this past weekend, I had a mom geekout this past weekend and/or I did that imaginary swing from Christmas chandeliers celebration thing this weekend.

I am learning to accept the fact that I am deeply sentimental. As a writer, it is my Achille’s heel, and I often feel like I’m shoving gum into holes in a dam to keep the leaks from spreading into a giant crack that breaks the whole damn dam.

I catch myself sometimes, afraid I’m falling into the trap of my dad’s soft and weepy heart. The older he gets, the more he can’t keep himself from crying during a prayer or a recounted love story from one of his patients. I, the thirty-five-year-old much more in control of her feelings, roll my eyes and will him to pull it together. Jesus, Dad. The tears again. Get yer shit together, Carol

Brett’s stepmom recently told me that she loved following my dad on Facebook.

“He’s pretty sentimental. Sometimes he gets a little sappy,” I said.

She smiled and answered in her wise, calm way, “It’s beautiful. There aren’t enough people in the world who are comfortable with embracing who they are. I love it.”

*Note: As I write this, I call my dad:
Me: “Dad, are you okay with me ripping on your sappiness in a blog post?” 
Dad: “Yes, I’m fine with it.” 
Me: “I mean, I’m going to come back around and conclude that I love that you know who you are and you’re cool with it.”
Dad: “I know. I’m fine. Write what you want.”
Me: “Cool. Love you. Bye.”

So, where were we?  The Nutcracker.

Want a hit of holiday spirit? Take your girls to the Nutcracker. Take your boys too but perhaps wait until they are out of the climb curtains/scale balcony/fling crackers on dancers stage. Dress up, wear pearls, bring binoculars, Tell them all about the story of Clara and the land of the Sugarplum Fairy. When the music starts, pull them close. Close your eyes and feel every second of it. Point out every beautiful thing, and tell them why you love it. They might roll their eyes and will you to pull it together, annoyed by your sappiness. But don’t ever stop embracing who you are. Because your kids, more than anything, need you to be who you are.

The last dance of the Nutcracker kills me. I can keep it together until the Sugar Plum Fairy dances with her cavalier in the Pas de Deux dance. That song. In the dark auditorium, I sat with one girl in my lap and the other next to me, both of their eyes glued to the dancers and their faces barely lit from the stage lights. There’s this incredible crescendo in that song, and I cry every time the strings build and the brass takes over with this summit of emotions that sounds like it’s playing just for me. I leaned over to Lainey this year, tears streaming, and whispered, “Feel that music? That’s Christmas. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Damn you, Dad! Damn you and your weepy genes that can’t be controlled!

We took the kids to the Ritz Carlton afterwards for fondue in the lobby. It was super Christmas-y and special and I thought, “You’re going to remember this day your whole life.” And then the next morning I realized I left my wallet there, so I had to go pick it up in our minivan that smells like cheese. I parked it illegally so I didn’t have to valet at a fancy place, and when I met the security guard to get it back, I had to laugh when the guy handed my wallet to me and it was covered in gum. “Just write your room number here,” the guy pointed out on the form. I laughed again. “Dude. The wallet you just handed me is covered in gum and my minivan is parked behind the valet so you guys wouldn’t see the pile of shoes and last week’s lunchbox on the floor. I don’t have a room number. We just came to eat in your lobby and pretend we’re fancy.” Except I didn’t say that. I smiled, signed my name in the prettiest cursive, thanked him in a British accent and exited stage left with such graceful steps out the door.

Fancy Ritz bathroom selfie with Barbie photo bomb:

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Before they told us to turn off all electronics. I quite love the gentleman behind us, checking out his program:
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The girls, ignoring their fondue to check out a wedding outside:

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Post Nutcracker dancing at home:

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And so now that sentimental stuff and Christmas freak flag are already a flappin’, let’s just keep right on that path with some Christmas favorites.  The best of the best for December. Lainey loves to play the favorite game (what’s your favorite color? food? game?...), so a holiday edition is quite appropriate.

Prefaced with childhood photo of our family and my mom in a pink polyester robe, the epitome of an 80’s Christmas morning.

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Favorite Christmas Movie: 

The Family Stone: the dysfunctional, realistic but beautifully in-love family dynamics.
So many details and moments and quotes stand out: “Just stop. Stop trying. It’s exhausting. To keep the lid screwed on so tight. Just relax. Try it…”

If you haven’t seen it yet, promise me you’ll watch it.

Runners up: Elf, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street

Favorite Christmas Carol:

Lo How Arose E’er Blooming, Mormon Tabernacle Choir 
As far as faithy stuff, I have dumped so much of what I thought I knew and have hung on to only the simplest truth that feels okay to hang on to. This time of year brings a lot of that stuff up. But this song?  If I close my eyes and listen to it, I am thirteen years old again, sitting in an old run-down church in Flint, Michigan. It’s a cold December Sunday night, and my mom is leading the choir to this song. Though the congregation is small and made up of people with completely jacked up beliefs and faith practices, they are singing this song, and their voices come together in perfect harmony to sound much like this. My family is broken, and I am lost deep in a mess of confusion and guilt, but this song–its beauty, its harmony. its haunting melody wraps me up like the hug I’ve been waiting for, and it feels like how Christmas should be. Hopeful and beautiful and full of wonder, among the mess and all the cold of winter.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Judy Garland
Because, I mean, Judy Garland.

The Christmas Song, Nat King Cole
Iconic. This is the one. Family around the fireplace, kids ripping into presents, coffee in hand, this song, and tears welling up while it all happens because Damn you, Dad! Damn you again!

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, Brenda Lee
Best dance-in-your-pajamas-with-your-kids-on-Christmas-Eve song.

Favorite Christmas Tradition:

Going to See Santa
It’s become this imperfect, laid back tradition that starts with Santa, follows with dinner at Outback and always ends with our family having cart races in Costco while they’re closing.

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Candles and Songs
We started making our own Christmas Eve service at home several years back. We turn off all the lights, light candles and sing carols we don’t know the words to, and we’re all hilariously off tune–so much that sometimes I’m shaking with laughter. It’s funny and sweet and awesome to watch the kids who think that candles held in your hands are the coolest and most dangerous thing ever. They are.

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Reindeer Food in the Driveway and Setting up the Lights for the Sleigh Runway
The last thing we do before going to bed Christmas Eve. The excitement and magic are palpable.

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And a New Tradition…
Ugly Christmas Sweater Cookies. A blast to decorate.

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Christmas favorites…songs, movies, traditions. What are yours? Share in the comment section, if you wish.

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