Not this year. This year, it was just right.
There was the perfect candlelight service at Orchard Hill. Our church is always beautiful in December, and the staff goes the extra mile for Christmas Eve. Silent Night gets me every time.
There was putting Brandon in his Christmas jammies, putting together their first "big" toy of the holiday and watching them play with it while we sang happy birthday to Jesus... taking turns taking bites of His birthday cake before leaving a slice for Santa.
There was dancing with Brandon on Christmas Eve night in his dark bedroom, singing Silent Night once again while his head rested on my shoulders... knowing that this was a moment I would cherish always.
There was my dad surprising Jaden and Brandon on Christmas Eve night with their own stuffed Santas after seeing Brandon's near obsession with the character. Brandon grabbed that Santa, cuddled close to him and walked around the house like he was holding his baby, patting Santa on the back and taking him to his crib to sleep with him.
There was reading The Christmas Story and The Night Before Christmas to Jaden after we erased that final day off his chalkboard and his Christmas countdown. There were the memories of my childhood and waking up on Christmas morning after seeing Jaden so excited when he realized this was the night Santa was coming.
There was the fact that neither Cody nor I could sleep past 5:30 on Christmas morning because we were both so eager for our young ones to wake up. (They slept in until 7:00).
There was walking into Jaden's room on Christmas morning and hearing him say, "Is today Christmas???!!!"
There was the present opening - just the four of us. The excitement on their faces when they opened up their new guitar (and the fight that followed when neither one of them wanted to share it). There was the immediate putting together of new toys and a new train track that took a couple of hours... and the realization that we still had many more presents to go.
There was brunch at my parents' house and Brandon wanting to have a picnic for himself on the kitchen floor. Stuffing his little mouth with a very large breakfast sandwich while reading his Santa book and staring at the same page the whole time. This little boy LOVES the moon and any picture that has the moon in it.
There was Jaden pulling the Panther marching band CD out of his stocking. He loves drumming along to music, and he LOVES the Panther marching band. ;)
There was what was probably Brandon's favorite gift of all. Once he opened this, he didn't care to open anything else. He laid on his tummy staring at these "fish" forever. And now that it is set up in his bedroom, he continues to do so. This boy will be getting some real fish for his birthday in a couple of months...
There was Santa going overboard. Just a few pictures below... they do not even come close to doing it justice. It took us two hours to completely open every package at my parents'.
There was the surprise gift from my mom to my dad. The perfect addition to the "Panther Pit."
There was Christmas night. Cody's parents visiting our house and going home with some of our older toys that I just had to get rid of to make room for the new. There was the satisfaction I felt when I actually found a rightful place for every new gift. There was setting up our new flat screen TV, hooking up the Wii, watching Brandon play with his new train stuff, and feeling relieved and grateful that I would have another week off of work. For four years in a row now, our company president has shut us down for the entire week and a half surrounding Christmas and New Year's. It's a paid week off, and we don't even have to use any PTO time. Because our company has opened two new locations in the last year, and because our number of employees has grown so much, we were told that we wouldn't be able to shut down this year. A few days before Christmas... our president surprised us all by changing his mind and giving us the time off. His email to us said, "use this as a time to recharge your batteries and enjoy your family." I'm not taking this week for granted, and I've been feeling very blessed by who I work with and for.
There was the day after Christmas - our whole family at home - continuing to discover our new gifts, setting up the boys' kitchen, a trip to Lowe's to start picking out new kitchen cabinets, and a trip to the pet store where we watched Jaden and Brandon fall in love with fish, kitties, birds, turtles... and even a snake. We had a lot of fun.
There was going shopping on Tuesday. Just myself and my gift cards. And the fact that I found every article of clothing I'd been longing for -- on sale.
There's the fact that we are finally finishing our bathroom re-do project we started in July... and the fact that I'm finally cleaning out Brandon and Jaden's closets to get them ready for sharing a bedroom in the next couple of months. I'm feeling accomplished. I'm feeling rejuvenated. I'm feeling "recharged." And I'm feeling grateful.
New Year's Eve we head to Aplington to finally celebrate Christmas with Cody's family. Cassi and James were in England over Christmas so we get to stretch our Christmas out one week longer this year.
It has lived up to the hype, and this week off is just what the doctor ordered. 2012 is going to be another big year for our family with changes on the horizon. Big things are happening at both of our jobs. Jaden turns four in a month. Cody turns 30 in February! Brandon turns two in March. And this mommy is currently enjoying the last drops of her Starbucks Peppermint Mocha and is ready to "roll with it." Bring on 2012.