December 28, 2012

winter wonderland

I tend not to be a big fan of winter - the daily grind of getting bundled up, cleaning snow off the car, and struggling to get hats, mitts, boots and coats on the girls - each of these things make the winter a little less fun. Granted, here in Southern Ontario we don't seem to have a winter filled with five months of snow these days, but staying warm on the commute to work, or turning the kids into tiny little snowmen for a quick trip to the store makes it feel like winter is never ending.

However, there's one thing that simply makes every chill, every frozen nose and every salt-stained pair of dress pants worth it: the delight of my children when they get to play in the snow.

With the chaos of Christmas behind us, we headed up to Northern Ontario to visit some of Cal's family for a couple days. Apart from a small dusting of the white stuff that fell on Christmas morning (beautiful!) we hadn't seen much snow around here, so needless to say Lady M was very excited at the prospect of getting decked out in her snowsuit and taking her sled for it's inaugural run this season.

Five hours later we were up north, though it was a bit late - and a bit cold - to venture out in the snow. So first thing the next morning the bundling began - several layers of clothes, boots, snow pants, mittens, neck warmers, hats and jackets on, and two little girls were ready to waddle outside into the snow.

Last year Lady A was quite little  during the wintertime, so she wouldn't remember much about her first toboggan ride. Who knows if at nineteen months this one will remain in her memory, but her smile was awfully bright as we pulled her around in her polar bear shaped sled. Up and down some small hills, and she was thrilled!

Perhaps the cutest part about her was the fact that once she was bundled she could barely more her arms and legs, and walked around with limited ability to bend! It didn't stop her, however, from checking out the white stuff and enjoying her time outside. 

Lady M hit a small milestone on our visit - taking her first snowmobile ride! And boy, was she excited. Cal's uncle pulled out his snowmobile and attached the little yellow GT Snow Racer to it, towing her around their front yard, up and down their very quiet, and snow-filled road. Each time she came past us she was literally grinning ear to ear. Something tells me she'll be talking about this experience for weeks, even months, to come.

Moments like this easily make me a fan of winter; can't say I'll feel the same in a couple weeks when I return to work after the holidays, and have to scrape the ice off my car, but I'll try to remember moments like this to keep it all in perspective.

December 16, 2012

the christmas elf

Oh, Elf on the Shelf. It seems that everywhere you turn across North America these days that young families have one of these little red-suited, big-eyed elves taking up residency in their home throughout the first 24 days of December.

Our elf came to us last year when Lady M was three years old. We had learned about the whole Elf on the Shelf concept the previous December when visiting family in Florida. My cousins had one for their son and they told me all about it, primarily sharing how excited their little guy became each morning when he would search the house for his elf. This simple concept remained with me all year, so I went out to get one last year when the Christmas season was approaching.

However, in just one short year it seemed to have grown from a small concept into quite the phenomenon because when my procrastinating self went to go pick up our elf on November 30th (yes, the night before he was supposed to hit the shelf), I was very hard-pressed to find one. Thanks to online searches, I located one of these coveted little guys at a mall nearby my home, called to put it on hold, and ran over to pick him up after work that day.

The next morning, that little elf joined our family. Lady A was only seven months old at the time so certainly didin't notice much of what was happening on the elf front, but Lady M was quite intrigued by this magical little cloth man who had inhabited our home, and who moved from place to place each night. Well, most nights. You see it was then that I learned of the seriously annoying part of this sweet Christmas tradition - moving the damn elf every night!! There were at least four mornings last December that Lady M woke up saying "hey mum...he didn't move!", to which I would have to respond "well, I guess he's just REALLY comfortable there", my guilty conscience plaguing me.

This year has brought a totally different elf experience to the table. Lady M, now four years old, is completely enthralled with Jingle, the name we have fondly coined for our elf this year. She finds him quickly each morning, and discusses the finer points of his landing spot. Lady A, at 19 months, surprises me each morning with her ability to spot Jingle and giggle at him. It's nice to see that they're both getting something out of it. And I'm pleased to report that I have only forgotten to move him one time in 16 days.

On the flip side, I think most parents are hard-pressed not to notice the smaller group of parents who go quite above and beyond with the elaborate elf on the shelf set-ups that they seem to be creating each night. The elf making snow angels in the flour laid out on the counter...the elf scaling the Christmas tree like it's Mount Kilimanjaro...the elf having a little tryst with a Barbie doll, or playing cards with the G.I. Joes. Honestly, some ideas are incredibly creative - and I'm all for creativity - but some are extreme! I get a kick out of looking at the many websites dedicated to overachieving elf on the shelf parents - if you haven't already, google it! You can enjoy silently mocking them (not that I do, of course).

In our home, the elf locations may be a little simpler, but the impact is great. Beautiful smiles first thing in the morning, laughter at the funny, smiley little elf, and the happiness that exudes from my daughters. To me, that little elf has become just one of many wonderful family traditions.