Boxing Day

December 26, 2013

This just in: I have decided that Boxing Day is my favorite holiday. Not because I give gifts to the servants. I…have no servants. Not like the rest of you.

And it’s also not my favorite holiday because of the great Elvis Costello song, which goes through my head every time I spell my last name out loud, since Falatko ends with T-K-O!

No, it’s my favorite holiday because all the work and stress and heightened expectations of Christmas are over, and the fridge is full of leftovers, and all the gifts are already open and we can just sit back and play with them and read them and wear them.

This December, Eli was asking me some very pointed questions about Santa, and we had a long, long, torturous talk in which I ultimately told him nothing, because it was clear he didn’t want to know, as evidenced by this re-enactment:

Eli: One part of me is saying, ‘Ask her!’ and the other part is saying, ‘You don’t want to know! There will be consequences!’
Julie: What kind of consequences?
Eli: Like I’d get hit by a bus.

So besides the fact that we need to work on Eli’s potential runaway imagination issues, I figured this was a year when I really had to ramp things up, magic-wise. We left Santa pralines, carrots, and hot cocoa with marshmallows. Eli wrote this note:

So the kids went to bed and Dave and I arranged the presents, and then he went to bed as I adjusted the stockings just so, and then, like some kind of parental amateur, I decided to open up the fireplace and sprinkle some soot on the hearth. For verity. Sure. Seemed like a fine idea.

Except then I was upstairs brushing my teeth and I looked down and saw SOOT, soot there on the bathroom floor, with the distinctive footprint, not of Santa’s boot, but of Julie’s sneaker. So then I was scurrying through the house, with a wad of paper towel, in my glasses and pajamas, frantically wiping up all of my sneakery sootprints, which led tellingly up the stairs and to my toothbrush.

And then I finally got into bed and there was a tickling itch in my throat, and I tried not to cough too loudly, because Dave was already asleep and snoring, but it was really irritating, and I kept having to get up to drink water, and I realized that I must have inhaled some soot and had now given myself Santa Lung and I just kept hoping that this was a curable condition and also that I would eventually be able to get to sleep and that the kids would think my frequent stomping out of bed for another glass of water was the merry tinkling of hoofbeats on the roof, instead of their polluted mother.

But all was fine, I guess, and the tots were excited in the morning to find that Santa wrote them a thank you letter on his own stationery (which I think he got from here) (hush now, it’s truly a letter from Santa).

So Christmas was lovely, really, and everyone was very joyful and excited, and OH BOY was it nice to wake up this morning and start putting away greenery while everyone contentedly kept themselves busy.

For instance, here’s Zuzu, wearing all the sparkly clothing she got, washing a window with her window washing kit, which she whisperingly told Dave, “Was all I really wanted.”

So Merry Merry Boxing Day to you! And me!


CATEGORIES: holidays

Christmas presents 2013

December 10, 2013

Here it is, my annual holiday gift round-up. As usual, no pictures — don’t want the kids peeking anything from across the room. This list isn’t quite complete. I’m a little bit using it to figure out what else I need. Though we are being real hammers this year about not getting too much. Our kids just don’t need anything else, truly. They circled a bunch of stuff in catalogs that they already own. Which I took as affirming that they like their own stuff already, but I’m not buying Zuzu a second broom. That’s just silly.

Henry, age 10:

  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He’s read and re-read The Hobbit and is ready for this, I think. I got him this nice edition (from my local indie bookstore).
  • The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen. I’ll admit I haven’t read this (yet) but it has gotten great reviews from people I trust, and Henry loved Nielsen’s Goblin Wars trilogy.
  • Wildwood by Carson Meloy (another one I want to read, and that I think Henry will like)
  • Odin’s Ravens. This is a game. It’s out of print, so I got it on eBay.
  • King of Tokyo. Another game. Haven’t decided yet if I’m giving this to him, or to everyone.

Eli, age 7:

  • Journey by Aaron Becker. A beautiful, beautiful picture book. We got it out of the library, and Eli declared it “the best book I’ve ever seen.” And every time he looked at it, he’d talk about how amazing he thinks it is. So not only did I get this for him, I bought all the copies they had at the bookstore. Teachers are getting this one too. (I am also seriously tempted to get Eli one of the prints, too. Thinking.)
  • Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. Haven’t decided yet whether this is for Eli or for everyone.
  • The kid wants a wooden toy boat. A lot. This is the one he wants, I might make a half-hearted attempt to find one that’s slightly larger.
  • Ok, so Eli wants a tank that shoots at things (like, really shoots) and also a sword (like he doesn’t already have enough swords).  I’m definitely not getting the tank, because I’d like everyone in the house to keep both of their eyeballs. My compromise to all this might be to get him a punching bag. I still have to look into this more, but he is a kid who likes big movement, and I think a big thing to punch at would be helpful.
  • Both boys are getting (together, I mean) this Lego Ewok village thing. They super duper asked for it. And I like getting Legos because they occupy the kids for so long, and also (mostly?) we have a dedicated place for them to go, already, in the house (a Lego bin).
  • Both boys are getting Fantasy: An Artist’s Realm by Ben Boos. Because it’s a little ridiculous how many times we’ve gotten it out of the library.

On that last point, I’ll pause here to say that, at this point, having four kids, I see toys they might want — fairy treehouses or doll houses, or play kitchens, or dolly strollers, and I know they would love them, but we just don’t have room. I feel conflicted about this. Like, is this it, forever? “Here are our established toy systems. We do not deviate from these systems. You can have Legos, toy food, blocks, or those little hard plastic Schleich animals. You may not choose any toy that is its own piece of furniture. Do you want a game? A book? You can have those. You want a cradle for your doll? Sorry, honey. We’ll have to get rid of your dresser to make that happen.”

Zuzu, age 5:

  • So last year we got her this Learning Resources School Set, and she has played with it every day since. If you have a kid who likes to play school, you need to get this. I wish I could give it to her all over again. Or something. At any rate, I got some teacher-y things at the dollar store. Some flash cards and a counting thing that I think is stickers you can put on the window?
  • The girl loves her shoes. And clothes. I don’t want to pigeon-hole her too much, but oh boy she loves shoes. She has a pair of cowboy boots she wears every day, but they’re getting small, and one day I was trying to get stuff done and showed her how to pin stuff onto Pinterest, and she made a whole board of shoes she wants.  She’s going to get these shimmery blue cowboy boots for Christmas. And also some clothes from the Gap that have sparkles on them. (And sunglasses for the rest of us, so we can look at her, with all this glitter.)
  • She’s had a bunch of dress-up tiaras in her five years, and they’ve all broken. I don’t really get too much into the princess stuff, but she does love a tiara every now and again, and is always heartbroken when they break. So Z and Ramona are both getting sturdier tiaras.
  • Zuzu really wants a window-washing kit. I don’t know whether to be horrified (like she’s so repulsed by my housekeeping that she’s going to take over the job) or thrilled (she’s going to take over the job!). Anyway. She’s cute.
  • She showed some interest in a potholder loom, and, honestly, when the boys started making some of those rainbow loom bracelet things, Zuzu turned out to be kind of an instant genius at it. She completely understood the whole weaving concept, while the rest of us were getting frustrated and inadvertently shooting rubber bands across the room.
  • Did you know that there’s a Hello Kitty graphic novel? A few of them! My pal Colby Sharp says they’re pretty good. Zuzu’s going to love them.

Ramona, age 3

Oh, poor fourth child, who is so happy to go along with everything. What will I get you?

  • Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean. This is such a sweet story. Ramona loves this book, but we didn’t own it.
  • A dress with POCKETS. The girl loves pockets.
  • One of those study tiaras that Zuzu is getting.
  • Ramona’s favorite gift from last Christmas was a black lab doggie I got at Goodwill. He looks like this. Last weekend we were at a birthday party, and one of the birthday presents was a tiny version of that doggie, in a little bag. Ramona got uncharacteristically anxious; she started chewing on her thumb and looked extremely agitated. Basically — she was trying to hold it in and not run over and take that dog-in-a-bag because she wanted it so much.
  • Something else? She loves her doll stuff. Maybe a doll thing. Or more play food. She likes that a lot too. Or something else that one of you suggests?

Santa might be bringing everyone a Lego minifigure in their stockings. He’s also bringing them candy canes. And bookmarks. And the usual round-up of oranges and apples.

The kids all have also requested Lego sets to give from each other (not sure about that sentence syntax — they want to buy each other Lego sets).

That’s the round-up right now. I’ll post more in the comments if things change.

CATEGORIES: etsy, Henry, holidays, Ramona, Zuzu

Christmas Tree

December 18, 2012

Starting to snow. Finding the tree.



CATEGORIES: holidays
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Stuff I’m Getting my Kids for Christmas

November 29, 2012

Ok, here it is! After juggling 6 catalogs, 12 browser pages, and a super-secret piece of paper with notes and circles and arrows on the back, here is the World of Julie rundown for this holiday. (Forgive me for the lack of pictures, but I’m compiling this post with kids in the house, and I don’t want them to see anything.)



CATEGORIES: holidays

New Christmas Book Fave: Great Joy

December 23, 2011

We don’t really vary too much from our Christmas favorites here. I still love Christmas in Noisy Village best because it has earnest lines like “This cooky smell is the kind I like!” and “I wish Christmas would come oftener, don’t you?”

I’m sure there’s a place for dinosaurs dressed as Santa*, and we do get those from the library, but I tend to be fairly traditional when it comes to holiday books (with the notable expression of Lemony Snicket writing about latkes or coal).

A new favorite this year is Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo, with incredible illustrations by Bagram Ibatouilline. It’s sweet and heartfelt and old-fashioned. A girl named Frances can’t stop thinking about the organ grinder and his monkey who stand on the street corner outside her apartment. Her mother — who is harried, presumably because the father is off fighting in a war, though this is only vaguely hinted at in the illustrations — doesn’t want to deal with Frances’s questions about the organ grinder, and where he goes at night, and whether they can invite him to dinner. Frances does end up reaching out to him, and it’s just lovely.

Plus now Zuzu insists that I braid her hair with ribbons like Frances, which is a good look for her.

*Ok, I don’t know of any books where dinosaurs dress as Santa, but a fun surprise this year was Santa Duck by David Milgrim, which is completely hilarious. Check it out, if you can.


Slow Christmas: Start Planning Now!

November 7, 2011

Hello all. This is your annual reminder post about having Slow Holidays. You can read the original post here; what it says, basically, is that you should give fewer gifts, make them more meaningful, and encourage everyone to open one gift and enjoy it for a while before going on to the next one.

As usual, I am feeling fairly overwhelmed by Stuff, and am thinking I’ll get each child three or four things (which still amounts to twelve new items coming in to my house — this may not seem like a lot, but when some of them are substantial toys, it can be a fair amount of square footage). I like my friend Ruth’s edict to give kids “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.” I may do some version of that. Henry and Eli have already made long, thoughtful lists. I’m looking forward to mining those for ideas.

My plan is to start making my list this week of what everyone’s getting (so I can also plan what to tell the grandparents what to get — in my family, they’d always rather have me tell them). Then buy the gifts and be done by the end of November, so I can enjoy making thousands of cookies in December.

One final note: Dave and I decided last year to (finally!) stop getting gifts for each other. We really don’t need anything. If we do, we buy it throughout the year. The elimination of spousal gifts was a huge relief for us. Just something to consider.


CATEGORIES: holidays

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2009
The holiday photo we didnt use.

The holiday photo we didn't use.


CATEGORIES: holidays

Because you always wanted to know

December 23, 2009

According to Dave’s mom, today is called Christmas Adam (because Adam comes before Eve). Now that you know this, you’ll find you can use this term all the time. Because, really, all sorts of holiday events often happen on Christmas Adam. I have incorporated this term into my lexicon for so many years I forgot that it’s not well known (I said something to Eli about how we were going to bake cookies on Christmas Adam, and my mom, overhearing, wanted to know what on earth I was talking about). So, go forth! Have a lovely Christmas Adam!


CATEGORIES: holidays

Christmas Presents I’m Most Excited About

December 18, 2009

Here’s what I’m excited to see the kids open in a week:

I got Zuzu this Penelope Peapod doll, and I have to say it’s adorable. I have been on the fence about getting her a doll; she’s pretty into trucks and things, but she does love to cuddle with stuffed animals like they’re little babies. I took her with me to the toy store and she fell in love with this doll. And with the little basket/purse/bassinet it comes with.

Eli’s getting a giant working crane that he’s going to freak over. I’m also looking forward to his reaction to the motorcycle policeman who comes with a crossing guard stop sign — I think the toy company made the whole thing specifically with Eli in mind (unless, wait, maybe…is it possible Eli is a generic type of kid, and there are legions of children who love motorcycles, policemen, and crossing guard stop signs?).

Henry is going to go nuts over the dinosaur sticker encyclopedia he’s getting. He has the animal version, and it gets daily use. I think he’s also going to love the Enchanted Forest game, which he played with for a good solid hour once at Maple’s Organics.

I’m also psyched about the vintage copy of A Hole is to Dig. Thanks, Vintage Children’s Books My Kid Loves (or, well, thanks to her Etsy shop).

Things I got for free or super cheap (hurrah!):

A Leave No Trace game, 99 cents from Goodwill. This is from the same company that makes Rush Hour (we have Rush Hour Jr.), which all the kids love (though I’m not sure they’ve ever played it the proper way). Evil Mom Thoughts: “It’s a one-person game, which means I don’t have to deal with it.”

Wooden Noah’s Ark toy from Freecycle. I actually got this a few years ago, and then had reservations about introducing something with so many scatter-able parts. But it’s been in the closet for too long, and it’s time to bring it out.

A giant stack of wild animal cards, free from the library. Henry has a half-filled notebook of these, thanks to my mom’s library. In the same way the motorcycle cop is tailor-made for Eli, these are tailor-made for Henry. Animals + organization + animal facts + maps = Henry heaven. I seriously think that, once he opens this, he may not get to any other presents for the rest of the day.

I’m also looking forward to the Shins and Decemberists CDs I got for Dave.


CATEGORIES: holidays, toys

Children’s Book of the Week: Christmas Books

December 14, 2009

Every year we get the same Christmas books from the library, and I love that they’ve become such a part of our holiday ritual. We do have some Christmas books of our own that get year-round use (Mary Engelbreit’s The Night Before Christmas, The Polar Express, Mortimer’s Christmas Manger, and The Nativity) though I’m considering putting them away this year and bringing them out with the ornaments next year.

Here are the ones we love from the library:

Christmas in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Ilon Wikland

Oh, I love this book so much. It’s from a little Swedish girl’s point of view, telling us how they spend Christmas in Noisy Village, a little group of three farmhouses where there are a bunch of children (and so it’s always noisy). There are all these homey, old-fashioned traditions (the children bringing their sleds out into the woods to gather wood, because everyone has to help out with Christmas work), but everything they do is also completely understood by any kid right now: baking cookies, waiting for Christmas to come, a Christmas feast. I just love that it’s all wrapped up in these old-timey words like “This cooky smell is the kind I like best” and “Christmas Eve is the longest day of the year. Waiting for presents is what turns your hair gray” and “I wish Christmas would come oftener, don’t you?” The kids all love this book as much as I do, and I’m so glad to see it’s still in print.

The Mole Family’s Christmas by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban

Russell Hoban, how we worship you! This is such a great book. Delver Mole and his parents do their mole work, digging underground and being very nearsighted. Delver hears about Christmas from a mouse, and starts to dream about asking Santa for a telescope — because he’s heard about these things called “stars” but is too nearsighted to see them. His family knows that, in order to get a present from Santa, you need a chimney, so they go through all the trouble of making a chimney so they can ask Santa for the telescope. There’s some harrowing action with the local owl, but in the end it’s the owl who delivers the moles’ letter to Santa and makes Christmas happen. Like every Hoban book, this one is enormously fun to read, and the illustrations are wonderful.

Peter Spier’s Christmas by Peter Spier

My aunt turned us on to Peter Spier when she gave us People, which is a book that, after two years, is still one that can absorb the kids for hours. Christmas is no different. There are no words, just these lovely detailed illustrations that you get completely lost in. You follow a family as they prepare for Christmas (grocery shopping! decorating!), have Christmas (complete with feasting and church and presents), and then clean up afterwards. Every time you look at it you’ll notice something new, especially in scenes like the shopping mall or the church, where there are loads of people doing all kinds of different things (well, ok, in church they’re all mainly doing the same thing, but that’s what makes finding the fussy child even more fun). There is something incredibly magical about this book that I’m not even sure I can describe. This one is out of print (as is The Mole Family’s Christmas), and prices on are ridiculous, but it shows on on eBay at more reasonable prices (and, in fact, I just snagged us an eBay copy because someone else got the library’s copy this year, and I found that I really missed it).

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

Last year my mom said to me, “What’s that Christmas book about the tree that’s too big, and they keep cutting off the top, and more and more animals get the tree bits as it gets smaller and smaller?” Apparently it was one we had read when I was little, but I had no idea what she was talking about. Using my almost-librarian skills, however, we figured out that it was Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree and quickly inter-library loaned us a copy of it.

It’s great. Wonderfully effortless rhymes, and my mom’s synopsis is pretty much what happens. Mr. Willowby, a rich man, orders an enormous tree, one that’s just a trifle too enormous, so he cuts off the top and gives it to his maid. But the top bit is just a bit too big for the space where she puts it, so she cuts off a bit, and everyone else who gets the tree top does too, until finally a mouse family takes the last little tippy top bit and it’s perfect. I actually got us our own copy of this this year too (despite me telling my mom last year not to get it because we don’t need any more books) because it’s so wonderful, and we can fit it in with my new plan of packing away the Christmas books.

There’s another we got this year, but it’s the first time we’ve gotten it, so I can’t really call it one that has worked itself into our Christmas library book tradition. It’s An Early American Christmas by Tomie DePaola. DePaola lives in New Hampshire, and I guess he got curious one year about how Christmas used to be celebrated. Turns out it wasn’t really celebrated at all. So he tells the story of a family that comes from Germany and who does celebrate Christmas, and all the things they do, and how the other people in the town eventually celebrate Christmas more as well. There’s some really neat stuff here that I didn’t know about, like folding paper decorations and coating them in wax to hang outside on the bushes, or all the different kinds of cookies they make (as well as a maddening reference to “the Christmas pyramid” that isn’t explained any further — what could that be?). Henry has really been taken in by this book, making all kinds of paper hearts-in-hands and birds to hang on our windows.

One other that we got this year that I love but the kids are not quite as into is Little Tree by e.e. cummings. But I really love e.e. cummings, so that’s why I love this book. It’s just a lovely little poem about picking out a tree (a little tree) and bringing it home. I will say that the book we got from the library is illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray (the one on is illustrated by Chris Raschka), and I really love her pictures. She also illustrated this book we have by Charlotte Zolotow called The White Marble that is such a marvel of children’s bookery — I keep wanting to review it here but it’s such an enigma I’m not sure I can do it justice. At any rate it’s a summer book so I can wait until then. Anyway, seek out Little Tree if you want a nice poem-in-a-book in your Christmas book collection.


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