Holiday lights, play dates, etc.

A third December weekend is now in the books. Next weekend is officially Christmas weekend, so that will have a different rhythm.

First: A quick plug for my (free) weekly newsletter, Week’s Worth. My choir director unexpectedly mentioned it in rehearsal on Sunday (it seems he is into spreadsheets, which was the subject of this week’s newsletter). If you’re looking to subscribe, just go to the home page and enter your email address in the box about getting a free time makeover guide. I send a weekly newsletter on Saturday mornings, and then a monthly newsletter called Just a Minute somewhere around the first of the month.

(If that’s not enough…you can sign up for the every-weekday-morning Vanderhacks newsletter over at Substack. Current cadence is four free posts per week and one behind the paywall, though I’m still experimenting with that.)

Anyway, there was some down time this weekend, two family outings, and we also managed three family dinners, so that was good. On Friday, during the 16-year-old’s voice lesson, I brought the 12-year-old to pageant practice. Then we came home, had chicken fajitas, and all went to the Morris Arboretum to see the holiday trains. This was a quick visit, in and out, partly because we were there at 7:15 p.m. and it closes at 8, but also because the 3-year-old at one point wound up lying down on the sidewalk and screaming. But the trains and lights were indeed festive. A favorite was the long train with a Philly Phanatic and the Grinch on the front. After, I helped the 14-year-old order his sibling presents online. We are now officially done with procuring those.

On Saturday, the 3-year-old went to his Saturday sitter for a few hours. I ran outside (5 miles), went grocery shopping, and sent the invites for my two post-holiday babies’ birthday parties. There was some downtime until 3:00, when a handful of my daughter’s friends came over for a Secret Santa gift exchange and holiday party. Let’s just say that the Squishmallow company and the slime companies are doing a brisk business if this group of 12-year-olds is typical! It was really cute. I had my husband bring the boys out for hair cuts during this, and I hung out in my office half-helping where needed, but she mostly ran the party herself. Progress!

We had family dinner — using up the tilapia that I’d bought on a “Let’s Eat Fish!” kick — then headed to the zoo for Luminature, that light display. The lights were lovely (I liked the giant jellyfish) and it is nice to walk outside on winter nights, but some adult in our family who is not me thought he had procured the tickets, but had not in fact procured the tickets, so after a frustrating wait at Guest Services, we wound up just buying them at a kiosk. This led to a discussion of whether we actually had the tickets to the other things this person procured tickets for but in fact we do. Phew. In the car on the way home, I listened to a livestream from the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus holiday concert (another NYC trip wasn’t going to fit into the weekend).

Sunday was church, then an afternoon of playdates — the 8-year-old and the 14-year-old both had friends over. So my job was to take the 3-year-old out of the house. We went to the library and read a bunch of books about Bear (of Bear Snores On fame) and then went to Wawa. After all the friends left, my husband and I watched football for a while, he tried a new recipe for shrimp curry (it was good!), and we had the usual evening activities (scouts and parkour).

Anyway, most of the presents have been procured so now it is on to the wrapping stage, which is going to be epic. In the meantime, here is last week’s sonnet.


This little tree once slept beneath the sky,
for ten years on a hill outside of town,
each summer drinking sunlight, reaching high,
and under snow in winter drooping down.

And all that decade we were growing too,
new babies in the Christmas card we send,
the children growing out of pants and shoes,
and as the winter shadows start to bend,

we load into the car, drive to the lot,
to see the stacks of firs, to choose our tree.
Or did the tree choose us? A little thought —
that all the while it grew, it grew for me

to make it dazzle, decking it with lights,
just like the stars watched over it those nights.

8 thoughts on “Holiday lights, play dates, etc.

  1. I am a big fan of Karma Wilson’s (of Bear fame) kids books. A Christmas favorite is “Mortimer’s Christmas Manger.” My 6 year old noted that “Mortimer looks a lot like Mouse from the Bear books,” and indeed, the illustrator is the same 🙂

    1. @Allison – ooh, I hadn’t seen that one. I’ll have to check it out to maybe add to our Christmas library!

    1. @Erin – thanks! I’m having a lot of fun writing these. Two lines a day is doable and over the year I’ve been learning about what makes a better sonnet…

  2. Laura, I had to scroll past some of your daily schedules because I felt tired from all the activity, ha! I see your life as being so hectic, and you’d probably see mine as super boring! 🙂

  3. This sonnet is my favorite so far. Although I’ll probably say that again next week. 🙂

    I love hearing all that you managed to do over a weekend. I find it inspiring. I also appreciate the honesty regarding the not so shiny moments when toddlers decide they are “done”

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