Sunday, January 8, 2017
Cioppino, Presents, and a Puppy for Christmas
Even though the Advent season was as long as it could possibly be since Christmas Day fell on a Sunday this year, it seemed to fly by. As usual, our high aspirations for how we were planning to prepare our hearts and the hearts of our children for the true reason for the season fell a bit short. We did, however, successfully adhere to prayer and reflection together as a family in front of the manger scene and Advent wreath each night for prayers, followed immediately by singing a few verses of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel", "Silent Night", "Beautiful City", and "Away in the Manger." The kids mostly enjoyed it: Matthew was enthusiastic each and every night, Emma got sent to bed early for disrupting prayers on more than one occasion, and Lucy took the opportunity to channel her inner monkey by climbing every chair and table in the dining room while the rest of us prayed.
Soon enough, it was Christmas Eve. The day started off bright and early by a call from our grocer to inform us that they would not be able to completely fulfill our seafood order for our Christmas Eve Cioppino since their shipment of Littleneck Clams had failed to arrive. For those who do not know, we eat a seafood dinner featuring a seafood stew called Cioppino - a generous mixture of sea bass, shrimp, scallops, and clams and/or mussels in a tomato broth. We all look forward to it every year. We were a little bummed to have to confess the clam shortage to Matthew since he was the one who was looking forward to them the most. He was a little disappointed, but quickly brightened up when we headed to the store to pick up our order and a bright idea popped into his little noggin: "Can we use King Crab legs instead?' He had spied the long, pointy legs and claws in the window of the seafood department. Knowing crab was going to be a bit of a hassle to crack and eat during dinnertime, Paul and I purchased only enough to ensure that each person would get one full leg - plus a large claw for Matthew.
The rest of the afternoon was spent tidying up the house, baking ciabatta for the stew, and prepping the cinnamon rolls for breakfast the next morning. The kids enjoyed snacking on cheese and crackers while watching The Santa Clause and Paul baked a batch of his famed Candy Cane Crisps. Matthew and Paul then cleaned and prepped the fish for the Cioppino while I made the broth. We also made a quick batch of mac and cheese for the refined palates of Emma and Lucy. We weren't going to waste the seafood on them if they were just going to regurgitate it.
Then, we sat down to pray and feast!
Afterwards, we tried to get the kids bathed and settled down for the long night ahead. We always attend the midnight Christmas Mass which is not for the faint of heart with or without kids. One by one, we dressed the kids in their Christmas best and did our best to make them look presentable for church. They all looked slightly anemic and exhausted this year but none of them slept a wink before we left for Mass - not even Lucy, which was a big surprise.
We got to Mass about 20 minutes early, found seats towards the front, and sat down to enjoy the beautiful decorations and melodic voices of the choir. That was when Lucy decided to start voicing her displeasure. I walked her to the back for a bit and let her play with the drinking fountain but when Mass began to start, I lugged her back to the pew. We all stood to begin singing "Silent Night" and Lucy let out one last moan before I felt her weight heavy against my shoulder. She was out before we sung "all is bright." From there, the kids began to fall like flies. Matthew made it to the second reading before tipping over onto his side and napping atop our pile of coats. Emma held out the longest, holding her daddy's hand until the middle of the homily when she too succumbed to exhaustion. Paul and I enjoyed a very peaceful and beautiful Christmas Mass while our three cherubs snored behind us in the pew. It was perfect.
We got home, slipped them into their pajamas, and tucked them in bed. When everyone was quiet, we began the arduous task of finding the gifts we had wrapped and hidden throughout the house over the past few months and place them carefully under the tree. Bedtime for us was not until around 3:00 AM. It was a bit brutal.
Matthew woke us bright and early at 8:00 AM, which is actually sleeping in for him by a couple hours. We were grateful. We allowed him to go downstairs and peek in his stocking but told him he had to wait for Emma and Lucy before we could start opening gifts. We put on "It's a Wonderful Life" and ate Christmas cookies while waiting for the gals to arise from their beauty rest. Lucy joined us soon afterwards, and Emma followed not long after that. It was really funny when we heard Emma come down the stairs because she was already whining and fully prepared to make our lives miserable. However, when she saw the bulging stockings and the piles of gifts under the tree, her grumpy face transformed into the biggest dimpled grin.
The unwrapping began! Matthew received several games, Lincoln Logs, a Ninja Turtle Sweatshirt, Star Wars action figures, a soccer ball, a baseball bat and glove, and some art supplies. Emma received a Calico Critters house complete with a few furniture pieces and characters, a Paw Patrol play set, a nightlight for her bedroom, and a couple puzzles. Lucy opened a baby doll, a doll bed, and a couple cute board books. Paul was pleased to open a Seiko watch he had been eyeing, a couple movies, a new pair of slippers, and a new winter hat (a gift from Lucy and Emma - mainly Emma because she insisted that Paul was in need of it).
The kids look so serious in all the pictures we took of them opening presents. They really were very excited and happy...I promise!
It took Lucy about 30 minutes to unwrap this gift. She would tear the paper a little bit and then get bored, walk away, and eat some more goodies from her stocking. She required lots of encouragement and a little help from her more-than-willing brother and sister. When she finally saw what was in the box, she began to unwrap with a bit more enthusiasm!
I received the biggest surprise of my life from Paul this Christmas. I opened a new pair of winter boots, some cold weather clothes, and then a leash. Then, I opened a box containing a flip-over dog. Paul began to joke about how I have always wanted a dog as he attached the leash to the fake pup. The kids then took turns walking around the house with the leashed stuffed animal. You would think this would have been a major hint to me about what was coming next, but I honestly thought it was one big gag gift because Paul pulls stuff like that all the time. Then, I opened a set of food bowls and Paul showed me a picture of the beautiful baby Golden Retriever he had adopted for me along with the news that we would be picking him up from the breeder by the end of the week. I was flabbergasted. Absolutely shocked. He completely knocked my socks off.
You see, Paul and I had discussed the possibility of adopting another animal since I missed having a pet after our beloved cat died two years ago. We were leaning towards switching gears and raising a dog since we felt that would be a more appropriate family pet. We agreed that a Golden Retriever would be our dog of choice and Paul was especially excited about the idea of having something around the house to "walk me" since I was always begging him to go on family walks with me. I like my exercise. We even went so far as to look up breeders in the area and talk to several friends of ours who had beautiful, well-behaved Goldens. However, we were both skeptical about expense, maintenance, and stress in training the animal that we pretty much dropped it. At least I thought we had dropped it. Apparently Paul had continued to research and plan and reserved a puppy for me as soon as he heard that the best breeder had a new little of pups ready in time for Christmas. Again, he got me good this year.
When asked what I was going to name our new little puppy, there was no doubt in my mind what I would choose: Peyton! I will always admire and respect Peyton Manning as one of the most upstanding celebrity role models for young men. When I told Paul we were going to name the pup after Peyton, he rolled his eyes and said, "I should have known."
And yes, we will be saying "Omaha!" when we throw him a ball instead of "Fetch!"
The kids were a little confused when we told them we were getting a real, live puppy. They still thought the "dog" was the fake animal Paul had me unwrap. I think they finally got the picture when we made the drive into the country to bring Peyton home later in the week. And it was love at first sight for all three of them. This dog has gotten so much love and affection in the time he has spent with us. Emma especially dotes on him like crazy. She almost never leaves him alone. She likes to lay in his dog bed, reading books while he sleeps next to her. He loves all the attention and seems to thrive off human contact, even preferring to sleep on our feet on the cold floor over his comfy dog bed just because he needs to be near us. He's the sweetest little guy.
What was the biggest surprise you ever received on Christmas?