January 5, 2012

Holiday Recap, or, Unintended Consequences of Birthing Favorite (i.e. "only") Grandchildren

The last night of Channukah
I have spent a great deal of the day thus far making plans for M and I to take the weekend essentially away from our children, in order to undertake The Great Ikea Adventure.

First of all, you must understand... I don't do so well at stores like Ikea.  I get agoraphobia on occasion, and nothing like a big box store will kick that in.  And no store is bigger, more filled with people and stuff, and more designed to totally overwhelm your senses than Ikea.  Add to that my rapidly increasing levels of nesting hormones, my obsessive need to plan, and my inability to walk for any meaningful length of time without a cane (yay SPD!), and it all adds up to a gigantic disaster waiting to happen.  Thankfully, sans grublings.

So why on earth are we doing this?  What could possibly have inspired us to go through the process of trucking ourselves out to the burbs to go through a process that will most likely result in at least one of us crying in public?  (The only Ikea trip that left M in tears was more due to manly shame than anything else- his pregnant wife was climbing all over the car using her mad knot tying skillz to attach far too many oddly proportioned boxes to the roof of our Kia.  Girl Scouts taught me well.)

How I decorate for the Holidays
We are going to Ikea in order to find a way to accommodate the innumerable presents that were heaped upon our children by their doting relatives.

This is not a complaint, but I'm just saying... I don't remember EVER having as many toys as my kids have right now.  I just stole away and entire box of toys that as Executive Parental Unit I deemed "outgrown," and their toybox STILL doesn't close.

So what on earth was involved in this veritable orgy of gift giving?  I couldn't even begin to catalog it.  But I can tell you without a doubt what the favored gifts have been, and I am extremely pleased to say that I am behind at least three of them.  Go SuperMommy!

(If you don't care about the details of the toys, skip to the picture of the man in the fancy pants for the heartwarming ending.)

SI and her new train
We had three distinct gift giving events.  First, our own small family Channukah celebration.  It was the first night of Channukah, and the girls opened presents sent from extended family members, from me and M, and from a few friends.

This night yielded two big wins for the kids.  First, their Melissa and Doug toy train set and toy truck and car set.  I'd just like to say, my girls LOVE cars and trains.  I think the idea that toys like this are so heavily gendered is truly unfair.  And I love that the first person to get them their own trucks- a great toy dump truck and fishing boat set- was my Granny- hereafter known as Great-Grandmommy.  She delivered them to the girls last summer with the announcement that SOMEBODY had to get our   little girls their "boy toys," because those are better toys anyway.  Great-Grandmommy, you rock.  The train and truck came from her sister, my great aunt Minda Rae.  They have been underfoot ever since.  It's kind of glorious.

Wearing their Channukah dresses from Great-Grandmommy
The next big toy excitement was over their "big" presents from Mommy and Daddy- that is, me and M.  As SI has been obsessed with robots for months now, we found her a super cute stuffed robot.  Despite the obvious reasons not to, she immediately named it "Blue Robot," and it became her very best friend.  For DD, we got an owl.  Now, this was a little trickier.  She has a serious case of the "me toos" when it comes to expressing her opinions.  So I simply filed a way a list of things that she announced she loved that morning while getting dressed, and when I found what was to be HER stuffed toy, her little voice announcing, "I love owls!" jumped back from my memory.  As it turns out, she loves this owl, too.

SI and Aunt Engineer play with the elephant bank
The next day, it was off to Minnesota for Christmas.

Yes, the very next day.

I can't even begin to recount all the gifts they received.  M's family utterly showered them with love and toys and all manner of things that little children absolutely adore.  It was five days of nonstop madness.

Aunt and Uncle Engineer got the children stuffed animal piggie banks.  Well, a piggie bank and an elephant bank.  They make noise and move around each time you put in a coin.

This was more excitement than my children could handle.  Cookies were abandoned.  All games forgotten.  Nothing was important anymore.  Not now that there were... pig and elephant.

DD insisted on posing with "her family" at least 100 times
The children spent much of the trip putting coins into the banks as fast as they possibly could.  It is due to this that they quickly learned that the coins that made the pig and elephant come to life were called "money," and from there it was only a few quick leaps of thought to the repeated squeal, "I love money!"  Adorable, yes.  My grandfather probably rolled in his grave a little bit.  :)

The girls were each given a gift by their cousins (we have a one-to-one gift giving ratio for kids, as there are SO MANY of them in M's family!), and I have to say... those cousins have spectacular taste!  It's amazing.  The girls only get to see most of M's family a few times a year, but M's aunts in charge of gift gathering for grublings seemed to read the girls' minds across the span of three states.  DD got what she has since called "my family," which is two little girl dolls, a mommy doll, and a daddy doll.  She carries them with her everywhere.

Yup, same zipper as on the show...
Then came the coup de grace, Muno and Brobee.  You see, my kids are OBSESSED with Yo Gabba Gabba.  For a whole month, the only way I knew to get SI to smile for the camera was to ask her if Muno had bumps, or one big eye.  The answer to both of those questions is "yes."  I searched EVERYWHERE, within a few pre-set limitations, for Yo Gabba Gabba toys.  I finally dug up some stuffed backpacks from Spencer's Gifts, of all places.  DD was immediately in love.  SI wasn't so sure.  She spent about five minutes looking Muno over, as if asking him, "Are you really who you say you are?"  Finally, she accepted that he might not be THE Muno, but he was at least HER Muno.  And just like that, Blue Robot was forgotten.  Possibly forever.

Future American Idol?
I actually feel bad for that toy.  To be loved intensely for five days and then tossed aside?  But I digress...

The other huge Christmas hits were microphones and flashlights.  The microphones, sadly, do not have adjustable volumes.  But they have wrought a huge change in my daily life.  As many of our friends and family know, our children HATE singing.  The reason for this is that they love being sung to sleep, so much that they associate all singing with bedtime.  So unless they are not tired, not laying down, or have no wish to sleep, they feel they are being tricked when somebody strikes up a tune.  However, the microphones play the tunes to a few songs that I know, and I now frequently find myself with two microphones shoved in my face as I sing endless verses of "Old MacDonald Had A Farm."

The flashlights have been turned into SI's new favorite game of all time.  She calls it, "Light in the Dark."  It sounds religious, but actually it's quite literal.  I turn off the hallway lights, and then she runs around with her flashlight (a tiger that roars when his mouth opens to emit a beam of light) squealing with delight, roaring with the tiger, and announcing, "Make light in the dark!"

Grandma made that purple dress!
Then it was back to Chicago for the last night of Channukah, and immediately off to Guppy Lake for the SuperMommy family shindig and New Year's Eve.

Again, total present overload.  My mother went absolutely nuts getting stuff for the girls.  But the most beloved items of the trip were the following...

The vintage stuffed My Little Ponies made the top of the list.  I'm still patting myself on the back.  And intensely relieved.  If the girls hadn't liked them, I'd be playing with them myself out of pure determined pride.  Aunt Genocide was pretty floored when she saw them.  They're creatures of our own childhood, and it is a little strange to see them brought back to life, as it were.

DD lighting the wooden candles
Grandmommy got the girls a toy Menorah.  That was an enormous hit.  The girls took turns lighting candles all weekend long.  They even came to accept more singing- the Channukah shema in a variety of tunes.  So long as they were lighting the candles, singing was totally allowed.  It was pretty cool.

And then there were the books.  So many books!

The girls favorite two were, without a doubt, "It Happened in Pinsk," and "The Carrot Seed."  Although the Nutshell Library and the incredible pop-up book from Grandmommy are also instant favorites.

"It Happened In Pinsk"
It's odd.  I noticed as I was picking out books for my kids (like "It Happened in Pinsk') that really, I was passing along my own favorite books.  But the more books I got for the girls (they got a book apiece every night of Channukah), the more I realized that I wasn't passing along MY favorite books, I was passing along my mother's favorite books (Maurice Sendak's Nutshell Library) that had been passed to me.  And more than that, I was passing along Great-Grandmommy's favorite books ("Harry the Dirty Dog" and "Blueberries for Sal") that had been passed first to my mother and then to me.

It's amazing to realize that children's books, GOOD children's books, are so incredibly universal that they transcend era.  That it doesn't strike my kids as at all odd that somebody would deliver coal, or that Sal's mommy's kitchen would have a wood burning stove, or that Pierre's mother wears an elaborately feathered hat.  It doesn't strike them as strange that the big brother in "The Carrot Seed" would wear knickerbockers, or that Irv Irving's telephone would have separate parts for the mouth and ear pieces.

Reading "Harry the Dirty Dog" with Grandma
A good story, with good illustrations, is basically immortal.  And that's pretty cool.

So the girls need about a bazillion feet of shelf space for all their new books, they need a new, more organized system in which to store their increasingly complicated toys, and I need about a month and a half to recover from the insanity that was December.

I suppose that if there's a moral here, it's Don't Have the First Grandchildren Unless You Have Tons Of Space.

Or, you know, do.  Because there are few joys greater than giving a gift that is well loved.

M and his swag
And truly, gift giving is my favorite part of the season.  I love to give presents.  I love finding things that tell the people I care about, "I KNOW you.  And I love you.  And in order to show you that, I have a physical object that you will love because it reflects something about you that can only be known by those who DO love and know you."

I got Grandmommy a super weird CD.  I got Aunt Genocide TMNT tumblers.  I got M a laptop skin that looks like a vintage boom box and a hoodie from his alma mater.  I got Aunt Engineer a beautiful upcycled sweater.

I love to give gifts.  Because when somebody opens the gift, and sees something that they really like, it's not about what that thing is.  It's about being loved.

So I am glad that my children are so crazy about all their new stuff.  Not because they needed a single piece of it (which they did- the dresses and the socks. THANK YOU!).  Not because now they have all sorts of new distractions that give me a little more time.  I am glad because they are so thoroughly loved by their family- by their aunts and uncles and grandparents and greatgrandparents... by friends they didn't know that they had.

Watching them play together is always pretty amazing.
My heart was warmed every single time DD grinned and said Thank You to another person.  I grinned seeing now only how happy my children were, but how happy their relatives were, seeing that they had succeeded in showing something simple like love to my children.

I love the holidays.  I love presents.  While I don't care what I get (although I ADORE the perfume M got me!), I care very much what I give.  And I really hope to instill those sorts of gift giving values to my kids.


  1. The girls sure got some great toys, hopefully it will keep them busy for a while!
    Looks like you had some wonderful holidays!

  2. We just cleared out some toys and then I made the "rainy/crazy/won't stop crying" day toy bin so I can whip new stuff out in say, March. :)

  3. Good Luck with Ikea. Love their stuff... HATE shopping there! We have a Trofast frame and bin system for our boys and it stores smallish toys brilliantly! Trains and track systems go in huge bins on the bottom, legos in a medium bin, matchbox cars in shallow bins. You can also buy shelf packs for them and store books etc. We decided to use the Trofast for toys, then bought the Mammut shelves for the books the boys read the most - we hung them at kid height so they can reach them. Tons of useful storage options at Ikea! I know all about the crazy amount of toys our kids got too... and we didn't buy them any toys - it was all the grandparents! I made a point this year of asking my parents to get a family membership to the local Children's Museum so I can take them somewhere to run and play in the depths of winter. :)



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