the night before the last night

On December 30, 2015 the Wheat family partied like it was the last day of the year. With Alex's work schedule, I'm used to him working or traveling on most major holidays. Even on the rare occasion when Alex is home on New Year's Eve, our celebrations have been pretty low-key since having children. When Alex isn't here, I usually find myself sitting alone on the sofa watching Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. And when he is home, then I have a companion to watch the ball drop with me.

This year I decided to mix things up a bit. I came up with the brilliant idea to host a New Year's Eve party in our house on December 30th. It was strictly a family affair, but I made everyone get dressed in their festive best and whipped up a fancy cheese board along with some other crowd-pleasing appetizers. There was champagne from Trader Joe's, Happy New Year tiaras and noisemakers (much to Alex's chagrin). We danced to the Taylor Swift station on I < Heart > Radio and waved sparklers around on the sidewalk in front of our house. Even though I greatly annoyed Catcher by making him put on shoes for the party, which he promptly removed and replaced with Scout's Hello Kitty slippers when we ventured outside, everyone agreed it was pretty much the best party ever. I think we'll do it again next year.


merry and bright

The kids and I had a deal. No one was allowed to open presents until 7:00am on Christmas morning. Catcher had his plan of attack scheduled. He would wake up at 6:25, stare at the presents in the living room for a bit, wake up the girls and then all three would wake the parents at 6:45. There would be 15 minutes of peace and quiet while the parents made coffee, and then the madness would ensue. This is how the scenario was sold to me by a seven year-old boy. I was convinced it would work.

At 3:30am, aforementioned seven year-old boy crawled into bed next to me because he had been lying awake in his own bed for two hours and couldn't get back to sleep. My first thought was to tell him to go back to sleep because Santa wouldn't come if he was awake, but then my sleepy brain told me Catcher had walked through the living room to get up to our bedroom and would obviously have seen that Santa had been there. So instead I just told him to close his eyes and go to sleep. It worked for a bit. During that bit his knees were grinding into my back, but at least he wasn't ripping open presents at 3:30.

At 5:30 he woke again and continuously checked his watch every two minutes for the next twenty minutes. I wouldn't have minded except every two minutes a blue light would flash in my sleepy peripheral vision, and it was kind of driving me nuts. Then he started planning a strategy for creating teams for our inaugural Family Game Night, which happened to be that night, and I realized I was supposed to be listening to what he was talking about. Did he not realize that his dad and I had stayed up late having cocktails while the children were nestled all snug in their beds? I wasn't ready to discuss strategy.

But then the waiting could last no longer, and he crept downstairs to wake the girls. For a hot minute I thought I would let them entertain themselves while I stayed nestled all snug in my bed, but the excitement coming from the living room was too much to ignore. So the groggy parents made their way downstairs just in time to see Christmas unwrap before them.

When we arrived, I blew out the speedlite that attaches to my camera. There was a loud pop followed by short sizzling sound and the smell of smoke. The drama only lasted for a few seconds, but within that time Tillie had managed to tear through all of her gifts and the ones left unprotected by her siblings. Catcher was still on gift number one because the first he opened was some sort of Jedi mind reader thing, and he sat still in the middle of the room with his fortress of gifts protecting him while a toy cube read his Jedi mind.

As I was trying to reconfigure my camera and make sure no rogue sparks--perhaps I imagined the sparks to create a diversion--had reached the wads of paper crumpled up on the floor, the excitement fizzled. I contemplated staging the children's walk into the living room to create a "photo story" for Christmas morning, but then I saw the story was happening all around me. It didn't matter if I missed the photo of Scout tearing open the Inside Out DVD, because I have the memory of Scout jumping up and down, waving the DVD around while screaming "This is all I wanted for Christmas! I don't care about anything else." I also don't have a photo of the rack of princess dresses that Santa left for the girls, but I heard Scout tell Tillie she could have them all because they looked too small for Scout, and she didn't care (remember, all she wanted was Inside Out). But then Scout discovered the faux fur capelet hanging on the front of the rack, and she quickly claimed that one for herself. Catcher was still testing his Star Wars trivia on the mind reader thing.

Before brunch there were tears, as you come to expect on every Christmas morning when the children are sugar-rushed and sleep-deprived, but it all worked out several hours later as we played The Game of Life on our first Wheat Family Game Night. All that talk about "teams" worked out in my favor, by the way, as I was paired up with Catcher the lawyer. Tillie and her partner skipped the college route and went straight for a career because, as Tillie pointed out to us all on the board, "You can get married quicker." #goals


the break, part one

Well that went fast. I'm sure I'll be eating my words during our second week of winter break, but the first week came and went before I even realized what was happening. Gone is the toddler/preschool vacation when your days are endless and your brain is mush (I suppose my brain is still mush but for different reasons). The children have finally reached an age where our days are wild yet interspersed with moments of relaxation...if you can count nine seconds of zoning out as "relaxation."

Honestly, though, here's my laundry list of things we accomplished the past week (not counting the four or five loads of actually laundry I've done): painted a piano and two chairs, made four dozen cookies, attended a cookie party where we shared our four dozen cookies, delivered part of those four dozen cookies to the local fire station, watched The Force Awakens with Catcher, attended Christmas Eve service at the church where Scout was a lamb (or a sheep, depending on who you ask) in the Nativity Story, prepared a crustless zucchini quiche and stollen for Christmas brunch, wrapped some presents, stuffed some stockings, visited our fourth Santa Claus of the season and enjoyed the annual Tuba Christmas concert on the steps of the Capitol. I also managed a couple of trips to the gym and a five-mile run on Christmas Even morning around the lake with Alex.

The children have not yet tired of their Christmas presents, so I hope we can sail through the next few days to the new year. Or else I'll have to search my mushy brain for some old tricks.


arcade of lights

They call it the "Trail of Lights," but when you're inside it feels more like an arcade of lights. It's an Austin Christmas Tradition of which our family has never partaken until last night. We were invited to tag along with friends who had a "premiere" parking space, access to the sponsors' "hospitality tent" (which means free hot chocolate and cookies) and early entrance into the showcase. We also walked in through a private entrance, so we didn't have to stand in line with the masses. The only thing missing was Alex. He's in Nebraska, but he's also watching the new Star Wars movie on opening day, so don't feel too sorry for him for missing this little light show.

The trail itself was almost like a teeny-tiny Disney World. Or am I over thinking that? I guess instead of a minuscule Disney World, it's more like a scaled-down carnival. There was a Ferris wheel and carousel, but those weren't free--even for those of us with a blue wristband--so we passed on waiting in line for 30 minutes (I pulled the "guys, we just got back from Disney World" card when the children threatened exploding into tantrums). But there's one thing Disney World does not have that the Trail of Lights does: a serape-clad cowboy riding atop a Rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-inspired jackalope. That's right; we're in Texas.


winter wedding

I have a good reason for slacking on the blog this time. I'm not going to blame it on Apple software upgrades or wonky UVerse connections. This one is legit: I've been busy.

It turns out that picking up that part time gig of teaching high school History and English takes up a good portion of my evenings if I want to be prepared for class (and who doesn't want to be prepared for class?). I thought once we took a winter hiatus from the sports scene things would slow down, but then I found myself agreeing to photograph a wedding. The wedding was the first weekend in December, and approximately five days after our trip to Disney World. "Why not," I said.

I should mention that, although my children make excellent subjects, they do not pay the photographer well (or at all, if you aren't counting in tears and rolling of the eyes). The wedding, in contrast, was my first opportunity to get paid for this--it was a small affair on a warm December evening in Austin. I gave the couple an amazing deal as far as wedding photography is concerned; in turn, they gave me an opportunity to see if I could hack it as an actual photographer. I'm not ready to invest in a paparazzi cargo vest just yet, but I did enjoy acting like I was super important for the evening.