The Best Christmas Ever

A couple of days ago, I asked the kids, “What was your favorite part of Christmas?” And despite the dozens of new toys they received and the daily desserts they enjoyed, not one of them mentioned anything that has to do with either.

We’d been anticipating December 25th for at least 24 days by the time Christmas rolled around. Probably longer since the kids knew that “Christmas comes after Thanksgiving,” and the first “When is it going to be Christmas?” queries began on Black Friday.

We started decorating immediately. The ornaments weren’t even out of the box (nevermind the fact that our tree wouldn’t arrive for another couple of weeks) before the kids started decking our halls. They adorned their desks with ornaments and figurines. We made a “Merry Christmas” banner.

Here we are in action working on the banner.

Homemade banner hung? Check. Pentatonix Christmas special streamed? Check.

We live on THE prettiest block in Manhattan during the holiday season, and nothing says, “It’s nearly Christmas!” more than your ENTIRE street being aglow with lights.

It’s kinda hard to convince the kids to contain their Christmas frenzy when the thousands of twinkly lights from the street below are literally brightening up their bedroom each night.

Our Elf on the Shelf, Meatball, made an appearance on December 1 (after we feared we had lost him), and I thought these kids were going to lose their minds.

Guys, we barely even try at the elf thing. We manage to remember to move him each night at some point after the kids fall asleep and before they wake up, but that’s about the extent of it. Half the time Henry would say something like, “Meatball told me he was going to be hanging from your medals tomorrow.” And then we’d just make him hang from the medals. That’s 1) totally obvious and 2) really freaking lazy. But it didn’t matter. Every morning they were racing around like chickens with their heads cut off, “Where’s Meatball?!? Where is he?!” And, “SEE!!! I TOLD you he told me he was gonna hang from the medals.” Oh crap. I just realized that if our kids learn to read before they figure out this whole Elf on the Shelf deal (fingers crossed!) that I’ve kind of just ruined it for them. Oh well. Cross that bridge when we come to it, I guess!

And then they’d race over to their advent calendars to open the day’s window. And it didn’t even matter that two of them were the same. They were just doubly excited. And then they’d argue over whose turn it was to put up the next wooden block (our fourth…count ’em, FOUR) advent calendar.

And you know what? I barely even blinked at the bickering. I barely even cared. Because they were just so gosh darned excited about this whole “Christmas” thing. And we loved EVERY second of it. Will just kept saying, “Is this the sweet spot? I think we might be in the Christmas Sweet Spot.”

Each weekend was another Christmas-themed adventure.

Gingerbread cookies.

Best clean up crew ever.

Gingerbread houses.

MORE gingerbread houses.

A field trip to see all the holiday windows.

Henry’s favorite window

Jack’s favorite window

Mommy’s favorite window

Sophie’s favorite window

Seeing OURSELVES in the holiday windows.

Posing with this Christmas tree…

and that Christmas tree…

Watching the ice skaters (real and not so real).

Trips to Target and Flying Tiger and CVS for Christmas crafts, holiday place settings, and about a gazillion Santa-themed window gels.

And yes, we were serving tacos on those holiday plates 🤣

This year was the first year everybody bought a gift for everybody else, and those trips became part of our holiday-themed adventures. Picking the store we wanted to go to (CVS, Barnes and Noble, Target, Flying Tiger). Roaming through the aisles looking for the perfect thing (within our price range) for Henry, Jack, Sophie, or Dad. Then racing into Mom and Dad’s room as soon as we get home for a super secret wrapping mission to get the presents wrapped, labeled, and hidden before your siblings can deduce what’s inside. And finally, working VERY hard to keep the surprise a secret until the big day. This was, for sure, our greatest collective challenge 😝.

These kids were so danged thoughtful. When you’re at CVS and they have only two of the Paw Patrol watches you and your siblings love? What do you do? Buy them both and gift one each to your brother and your sister. Clean up in aisle five, please. I think my heart just melted all over the floor.

Having our own Christmas tree hand picked and hand delivered by Grammie and Nonno.

Decorating the tree.

And at this point, we were still two weeks out from the big day. I don’t know if it is because we were coming off of a pretty miserable fall, or because I love Christmas as much as I do, or because we just really had hit the “Christmas Sweet Spot,” but these last few weeks really have been all things merry and bright.

Well, aside from the lice breakout, but hey, you win some, you lose some, right?

We didn’t lose any steam in the days leading up to Christmas.

There were carol concerts to attend.

Classic Christmas movies to watch. About a billion Hershey kisses to consume.

There were snowball fights to be had and sleighs to ride.

Ice box cakes to be made and more trees to be trimmed.

Oh, and more window gels. Always more window gels.

And then, of course, there was Christmas. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and all of the traditions, new and old, that come with it.

Stockings hung by the chimney (er…TV?) with care.

Cookies and notes for Santa.

No-hay hay rides with Nonno on the tractor.

Making our own pizzas for dinner.

And presents. Yes, there were presents. And despite our best efforts to keep our intake low this season, between brothers, sisters, moms, dads, grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles, these lucky kids cleaned up. Oh, and don’t forget Santa. Santa who usually brings only one gift each but who this year brought two. Perhaps Meatball reported back on the perpetual good moods these kids were in for the entire advent season. Or maybe he took note of how thoughtful they were being in their efforts to give to others. Or maybe the two head elves neglected to communicate clearly with one another and there was a mix up at Amazon, er, I mean, the North Pole.

But either way, these kiddos made out like bandits.

EXHIBIT A: Paw Patrol Lookout & PJ Mask HQ

EXHIBIT B: Pink talking monkey 🐒 that is almost as big as she is.

EXHIBITS C – M: ALL THE LEGOS (plus the Elsa dress)

EXHIBIT N-Z not pictured here, but I’m pretty sure they scored at least 26 presents between them 🤦🏻‍♀️.

So when I asked the kids, “What was your favorite part of Christmas?” they had a LOT of things to choose from.

But you know what? Nobody said anything about any of the presents. Not one word. Because it wasn’t really about the presents for them.

We had gifts wrapped in our closet all month, and every once in a while, the kids would catch a glimpse and say, “I can’t wait to open my presents on Christmas.” But that simply wasn’t the point for them this year. (Although it was a pretty awesome perk, don’t get me wrong).

Jack was the first to answer the question: “Hugging Sophie and yelling, ‘Soph!!!!!!’” he said.

Sophie went next: “Seeing everyone,” she reported.

And if I’m being honest, I can’t remember what Henry said (#tripletmomlifeproblems), but it could have been “building Legos with Dad,” or “going for a tractor ride with Nonno and everyone,” or “making our own pizzas.” Because it was definitely about a memory made and not about a gift he got.

We grownups know Christmas isn’t about the presents. But I was pretty surprised to find out that our four-year-olds had figured that out too.

Even when it was about the presents, it wasn’t. They watched with such excitement and anticipation as their family members opened up the gifts they had bought them. They filled my stocking up with the PERFECT things, all hand-picked by them: a pug keychain, blue sparkly earrings, a Starbucks gift card, an insulated wine glass (don’t judge)! And they COULD NOT WAIT for me to find them all. And to tell me how they had picked them out. They raced towards each other with arms flung open for hugs after opening their gifts from each other. I wish I could bottle their joy in those moments. Save it for a gloomy February day when we all need a pick-me-up. I can’t, so I’ll just leave you with a few clips right here.

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” -Dr. Seuss.

I guess if the Grinch can understand that, we all can.

So as we head into 2019, we’ll look back at this past year. We’ll celebrate the highs and learn from the lows. We’ll remember our wins and mourn our losses. But I will always, always, look back on Christmas 2018 as the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER. At least to date. Perhaps we just hit the “Christmas Sweet Spot” this year. Perhaps not. But if future Christmases are all whining and bickering and moping and pouting, we will always have Christmas 2018.

First Day of Group 3

 

It’s here! (Actually, by the time I post this, it’s come and gone), but Henry, Jack, and Sophie’s first day of Group 3 at Episcopal finally arrived. They are SOOOOOO excited! I realize this picture probably doesn’t convey their excitement, but they had been waiting outside for about ten minutes at that point. They were, understandably after all these days, a bit impatient. They literally asked, “Is today the day we are going to school?” Every. Single. Day. Since we got back to NYC.

I’m pretty excited too because a little over three decades ago, I had my first day at Episcopal. Some of my earliest memories are from my classroom and teachers there, and I am so thrilled Henry, Jack, and Sophie will start making their own this year.

There’s is a VERY gradual separation schedule, so it will be a while before the kiddos experience their “full” day of three hours at school (they are SO ready!). In the meantime, they are enjoying meeting their teachers, making new friends, and learning all about Episcopal. Or “Ecispocal,” as Sophie sometimes calls it .

The later start date meant I had extra time to make their “First Day of School” chalkboards. My first instinct was to just purchase these on Etsy, but like everything else times three, it was so dang expensive. So then I thought, I’ll make my own! But that initially proved too complicated and time consuming (mostly because I couldn’t decide on the materials/find what I wanted). But then, after hemming and hawing (and wasting way too much time browsing the internet for the perfect solution…what else is new?) I bit the bullet. And here’s what I came up with:

Pros: I can reuse these every year by just erasing the chalk markers and updating the information. Also, the kids (kind of) helped make them. They chose the colors (and the order of the colors…if I had my way it would all be a lot more coordinated). Then they helped find the stickers I needed. See what I did there? I made a fun craft project with Mom into a lesson in letter recognition and spelling. Always a teacher…

For what it’s worth, the kids also managed to mess up some of the chalk before we took the photos (oh, and they LOST Henry’s board the DAY SCHOOL STARTED). These are NOT small boards, people. How it got LOST in this two bedroom apartment of ours is anybody’s guess, but if you guessed triplet toddlers + tiny apartment + two working parents + start of school = hot mess at the Strumolo abode, you guessed right. We found it later hiding behind a side cabinet.

I guess you could say those were the cons: it can (and probably will) be erased and it can (and probably will) get lost. But that last one is a con for just about everything in this apartment, so it doesn’t really count. The other con is probably that these aren’t as cute and coordinated as the ones on Etsy, but hey, at least they’re homemade, right?

I used these chalkboards, these stickers, and these chalk markers. For a grand total of less than $60. This probably still sounds expensive to most of you, seriously, check Etsy. That stuff is adorable, but boy… Also, I needed chalkboards that would be big enough to fit all of the things I wanted to add. That is harder to find than one might think. Or at least than I might think.

Speaking of fitting all the things I wanted to add, I realize you probably can’t read all those things in the small photos above, so here they are one at a time:

IMG_7034

IMG_7027

And because Jack thought it would be important to have a photo altogether, there’s this. It only took about fifty tries, and this is the best we got. #triplets

IMG_7041