Christmas in Garlandia

After seeing the Young House Love holiday house tour I was surprised at the lack of garlands. Which made me realize that at least 80% of my holiday decorating relies on garlands. Why, you wonder? They are super quick to hang and visually you get a lot of bang for you buck.

Here is a picture essay of our garland game this year.

The living room is where Christmas is really at in our house. This garland includes sliver snowflake tinsel around the windows and three strands of lights.

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Vintage garland around the advent calendar. Check out those amazing mercury glass beads. I also like that this is clearly a Christmas garland, but also confidently bright pink.  (There is another pretty gold garland on the adjacent wall, but it surrounds the french doors to the laundry room which is currently my dump zone and I can’t get it cleaned up enough to take a pic. Trust me it is glorious, especially at distracting from the utter mess that is going on right through the doors).

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In the kitchen we have three garlands over the banquet and one fancying up the sink.

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Our cards also become a garland when you string them up with some festive gold jingle bells.

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I throw a string of mini lights on our wedding picture every year. I think they were once necklaces, but now they are garlands.

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And because I got worried that we didn’t have enough garlands going on this year I decided to make another one. I found this cute little gnome cookie mold and pressed paper pulp into it every morning and let it dry overnight. I did that for a week and volia: another garland.

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Good on you if you made it to the end of this ridiculous post. And in case I didn’t write this word enough: Garlands are where it’s at in the Good house.

Name that Dude

Let’s talk about baby naming. It’s hard! Harder than I thought.

I know I’ve written before about how, as a little girl, I never envisioned my wedding but I definitely day dreamed about being a mom. I have thought about baby names my entire life. So it should have been easy enough to stop the buck and decide names for these little dudes.

However, both pregnancies the process of finalizing our names was a little harder than I expected.

Lucas is a name that both Eric and I have loved for years. Not long after we got married we heard the name a few different places and it fit so many of the things we consider when naming.

  • Can’t start with A
  • Can’t end in -er or -or (due to rhyming with our last name)
  • Has to be a name that would work for everything from a CEO to a ski instructor
  • It has to be a name that you’ve heard before, but not so common that there will be three of the same name in the kid’s kindergarten class (unfortunately Lucas got really trendy by the time he was born so we’re already contending with this)
  • No other family members or jerks that you know with that name already
  • And, once we had Luke, we didn’t want a name that started with L or rhymed with Lucas

It should have been a slam dunk to formalize Luke’s name during our pregnancy, but for the fact that, I had in my heart named our angel baby Lucas. It felt to me that since that baby would have so little — nothing really — that the least we could do was give him the best name. Meanwhile, Eric’s opinion was different — that the universe is far more complicated and humorous than we could ever know and that it was likely we’d get that soul back again in some way. I think carrying the baby for 16 weeks versus being a first time dad, we were just at different places in terms of the bond we felt at that time. We’re oddly comfortable about having wildly differing opinions in our marriage so we didn’t have a problem not sussing it out more fully.

However, it was hard when Eric wanted to use the name and I was reluctant, wanting to save it.

At some point during my pregnancy with Luke, my mom and I were talking about genealogy and she shared that it was very common generations ago for subsequent children to be named after a child that had passed. Writing it, that sounds a little morbid but given that we’d never had a funeral, gotten a birth certificate or even gotten to see our first son, it gave me a sense of peace thinking about the boys sharing something special.

Still, I wanted to get through the delivery and see the baby’s face before we named him. I wanted to look in his eyes and see if he looked like a Lucas (or Logan, Garrett or Sean, which were our runners up). So, nearly immediately after Luke landed on my chest, Eric was excitedly asking if we could make the final call on the name.

I was so exhausted. And Luke was nestled so high under my neck that I could see his face anyway. That I really didn’t feel ready to call the name. But — people were waiting — we had a baby to announce and I knew that it would thrill my husband to the ends of the earth. So, Lucas James was formally named and in the years since I couldnt imagine him being called anything else. He actually only calls himself Lucas (Lew-tas is actually how it sounds want he says it), and the meaning of his name, to bring light, is so apt. He brightened up our lives and I think he brought with him more than two babies worth of love. James is Eric’s father’s name and it was actually what I would have been named were I a boy. (Plus I love that he and Ellis share a middle name.)

When we decided not to find out the sex during Sean’s pregnancy, we already had our favorite girl name on standby, Jillian Irene, so we only had one name to decide anyway.

Jillian was chosen because I love the name Lillian and Eric loves the name Jade but we couldn’t compromise. Meanwhile jokingly one night I proposed the mashup of the names and it turned out we both really liked it. Jills would have been her nickname but I’ll put it out to the blogsphere if someone else would like it. That ship has officially sailed.

Irene is my maternal grandmother’s middle name and my sister Heather’s middle name. I know that we’d be able to tell a boatload of people we loved them with that name.

Picking a boy’s name this last pregnancy took us so much longer. We dusted off some of the finalists for Luke — Garrett, Logan and Sean all came back up in discussion. We also talked about Bradley and William pretty seriously and probably a dozen others in passing at one time or another.

The final weeks we were down to two options Sean Philip or William Harrison.

Will is a name that we both really liked. It also happens to be the main character in our favorite children’s series, The Castle in the Attic. And Harrison is a mashup of Harry, which is what we called my grandfather when he was being contrary, and Anderson, my maiden name. Philip is my dad’s and grandfather’s name.

On the night of our induction, we were in our yard looking at the super moon with Lucas before we headed out to the hospital. Eric pulled up an ap that tracks stars to show Luke some of the constellations. As luck would have it, the star my sister had named for our first baby was positioned directly above our house that night. There have been moments during the last four years that have brought me to weeping at the randomness and wonder of life. But this one takes the cake. We’ve only been positioned under that star one other night that we know of. On his due date when we were in Hawaii. Every other time we’ve looked, it’s been below the horizon probably shining down on the southern hemisphere somewhere. I know that sweet soul is a part of our family forever and that each of our boys who came home with us carry a piece of their brother.

Sean means a gift from God. As soon as I saw that star, it was locked in for me. Our boys — all three of them — have been amazing gifts and I have absolutely come to agree with Eric that the universe is infinitely more complicated and humorous than we can ever know.

Ornamental

Each year I knit a signature ornament of sorts. I usually make about 30 to throw into packages or stockings. Two years ago I made hummingbirds. Last year was tiny snowmen. This year was….drumroll please…toadstools.

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I knit most of these cuties during car naps last spring. It was nice to be able to focus on my actual Christmas knitting (stockings and Pussyhats) this year.

I also needed some cheer for my tree, so I made myself a Hillary ornament. Now I think of our tree as our Hilla-tree. (I pun about a knitted item is the best kind of two-for-one).

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Our Christmas decorating is pretty standard at this point. You know me: once I find the “right” place for something I don’t want to rearrange. After 6 years in this house, stockings go in the same order in the same place. Garlands are labeled with their rightful home and go there without much fanfare. But we have one new addition this year: Ellis also got a bead tree on his door.

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I found 10 strands of beads at the thrift store when we were at the beach in April. They were 50 cents so I snatched them up thinking I would put them on the tree. Turns out our live tree was too busy for that, so those beads became their own tree. Ellis loves his bead tree almost as much as I love having a new seasonal cheer.

Re-Adventing the Wheel

Although I had plenty of energy for Halloween creativity, I haven’t been able to muster the same enthusiasm for Christmas crafts. I did make one tweak that I hope will solve our book advent issue finally.

For the past three years we have done a Christmas advent. I posted about it last year and the year before. I love the tradition, but we hadn’t yet landed on the best system. The first year I just taped numbers to the books. It was ok, but I don’t really want the books covered with tape. The next year I wrapped each gift in butcher paper to teach Ellis how to open presents. This method took a lot of time and produced more waste than I want. Last year I made tags that Calvin delighted in tearing off.

I decided I wanted reusable “wrapping” so the books each night are still a surprise. I found some very forgiving red crushed velvet stretchy fabric at the thrift store (for $2!).

This week I have been preoccupied with other things and I realized on the last day of November at 3pm that I would only have one night to turn out this entire envelope project.

You see, Adam’s Grandmother died this week. She went peacefully in her sleep at the age of 97. She was the matriarch of this large family. Calvin is the youngest of 27 great-grandkids. There is even 1 great-great grandchild! She created a big beautiful family and was the sweetest woman.

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I was happy for the chance to sit down with her sewing machine and make something for my family. I sewed 30 sleeves in the hours before December officially began (we have a few extra books for swapping out).

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I also needed a way to tag the order and fasten the envelopes. I spray painted some old buttons gold and they should do the trick for years to come.

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I am looking forward to next year when I can just pull out the books and pop them in their sleeves instead of figuring out a new way to do it again.

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For now let the countdown to Christmas begin!