Oh my goodness. Christmas 2009 was the best ever -- at least of my adult life and our life of Christmas-with-kids (as opposed to Christmas-as-kids --- in our family, according to my mother, the Matriarch, you get a stocking until you have kids yourself-- and thus, you experience Christmas-as-a-kid until you begin to experience, first-hand, Christmas-with-kids). I gotta say, both are magical in their own right. But I, for one, am definitely a huge fan of Christmas-with-kids. I can honestly say that this was a magical, wonder-filled, as-good-as-it-gets-Christmas. So much so, in fact, that I am self-conscious to post about it for fear of what people will think ("oh, she's gotta be delusional" or "she's making this stuff up" or "screw her and her Norman-Rockwell blog" or worse). I've decided to write these Christmas posts as if 1,000 people aren't reading this everyday (sidenote: I still am stunned every time I look at our blog meter and see that 1,000 people are reading this). I'm going to write as if this is just a journal for my three children and Braydon and me. I'm going to write this to reflect the Christmas that it was -- despite my trepidation of 'audience.' For the past few days I've been thinking about something that a friend of ours, another adoptive mom of Haitian sensations, wrote on her blog recently. She wrote: "So if it seems like I write with rose-colored glasses, it's because I am blessed to be living a rose-colored life." I too, am living a "rose-colored life." At least that is how I see it. We can, I believe, to some extent, choose how we view the world. We can choose the lens through which we see our lives. And I choose to, and naturally do, see the best in things and people. Having said that, still, I must admit, even I am often breathless for a moment in thinking what a charmed life we are living. And times like the past two weeks are big reminders of all that we have to be grateful for. I live a great and grateful life. Without further ado... here is... a glimpse of Christmas 2009... in snippets and snapshots.
The boys' last day of school was Friday the 18th. We had quite a whirlwind few weeks leading up to that, and I was out-straight and burning the candle at both ends to make everything happen. But on Saturday morning the 19th, we set sail for our holiday. We hit the road, just ahead of a big storm, and we made it in record time. It took us only 8.5 hours to get to Portland, Maine. Where we checked into a lovely hotel and immediately headed to the indoor swimming pool. We spent a great family night in Portland before kicking off our Christmas on Sunday with the beloved Johnson tradition of the Portland Symphony Orchestra's Magic of Christmas concert. We joined up with my parents, our dear family friend Alice, and my sister's family at a stupendous Portland chowder house before heading to Symphony Hall. This concert has been running every Christmas for 30 years. And we have been to 29 of the 30! I started going when I was seven years old! Braydon started going when he was 22! Kyle and Owen have gone for all but their first Christmas (when they were infants, in Haiti still). Meera's already gone twice now. It is tradition. And tradition, at the root of it, is what our Christmas is all about. So far, for Meera only, it is tradition to fall asleep during the Magic of Christmas in Portland. This year MorMor was the lucky one to have the precious sleeping babe in her arms for most of the concert.
Here we are (below) in Portland after the concert. Three generations valuing the tradition that it is. Meera was, I must admit, beyond adorable in her Christmas attire. How much do I love dressing my baby girl??? What a gift this girl is to me and her grandmother. And what a gift this girl's grandmother is to me.
We left Portland and headed for New Hampshire. Within just an hour of our arrival in Freedom, at MorMor and MorFar's house, MorMor unveiled the 2009 Christmas Cookies. Tin after tin after tin. She spent an entire 8-hour-day making over 9 different kinds of cookies (multiple batches of each) this year. Her kids and her grand-kids all have their favorites, of course. But these are all traditional cookies which have varied very little over the years of my life.
Many of the cookies are Swedish, of course, and it is tradition -- at least for MorFar -- to break out the whipped cream to eat with the pepperkaker. Pepperkaker is good. But with whipped cream, some say, it is great. Here are K & O, following tradition.
Lots of traditions, big and small. A specific concert every year for 30 years and a specific type of dried toast to dunk in your coffee every Christmas of your entire life (and your parents' and their parents' lives). What is the difference? It is something I've been thinking about a lot in the past days. Traditions are traditions. Big and small. Huge and tiny. They are the glue that holds it all together. It is precious and it is important. And it is profound when you think of passing them all along. Here is our Little Miss Meera eating her first (of many, for sure) cinnamon-sugar-rusk.
Oh, how I love those rusks at Christmastime. Dunked in hot black coffee. Is it the rusks and coffee, or is it the specific bakery where my parents always buy them (hours away from their home), or is it that it is Christmas, or is it that I'm standing there, in the kitchen, doing the exact same thing as my dad - almost in unison - as we have for so many mornings during Christmas week? Rusks-- a major, tiny, Christmas tradition.
There is a theme here. Traditional foods. Traditional Swedish foods. Traditional Swedish Christmas foods. And drink. Like Glug. This is Glug with a twist -- served by MorFar, outside, on a picnic table in the snow, on Christmas Eve Day.
But the biggest Swedish Christmas food tradition of all? --The Christmas Eve Smorgasbord. My mother is a force to be reckoned with. She is the one who makes it all happen. And the smorgasbord symbolizes it all. Foods that she ate, and we ate, and now our kids eat, every Christmas Eve every year, with no exception, ever.
Important notes re: smorgasbord 2009 -- Braydon finally loves gravlax! And Owen loves fish pudding, just like his mother!!!
And then there are the butterhorns on Christmas morning. Fresh from the oven, with the sugar glaze still dripping. Dough that was been rising by the woodstove overnight. I love this photo below. Amidst opening presents, Kyle (prompted by MorMor) suddenly appears bearing the first tray of butterhorns, and Owen bolts upright to run to the tray! (I love it too because Meera is playing with her favorite gift: a gift from Owen that she's played with for long chunks of time every day since).
But Owen's treasured edible tradition of choice this year turned out to be that box of fine Swedish chocolates he discovered the first day. And by the last day, it was entirely gone. And the rest of us had eaten only a handful, total, from that two-layered box.
Kyle says his favorite treasured edible tradition of choice this year was the hot dogs that he roasted over the fire on Christmas Eve Day. This is a new tradition, only a couple of years old. But it is set for the long haul, of that I am sure. Because Kyle will never let us not do it. Hot dogs, roasted on sticks, out in the snow, on Christmas Eve Day. That's one of the most amazing parts of all of this whole Christmas thing for us-- some of the traditions have been passed down for 3, 4, 5, or even more generations. And others are just getting started now. It is a joyful, evolving thing. Not a stagnant, bland thing.
Interestingly, speaking of new traditions, I'm pretty sure that Meera's favorite treasured edible tradition of choice this year was the wood-fired pizza at Flatbreads in North Conway. She's a modern girl, what can we say?!
Traditions... old and new... they are the glue.