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Our Annual Christmas Progressive Dinner: What It Is, Why We Have it, and How to Host Your Own

Our Annual Christmas Progressive Dinner: What it Is, Why We Have it, and How to Host Your Own | CosmosMariners.com

Two years ago, when my sister and I had both moved out of our parents' house (at 24 and 26, respectively--no shame) and into our own homes, we decided to start a new Christmas tradition: the Christmas Progressive Dinner.

While, at first glance, seem to be a dinner where we all get together and discuss the direction of politics, culture, and technology, the reality is far less sophisticated (at least in our case: you totally make your dinner your own!). We use it as an excuse to get together during a very busy time of the year and stuff our faces.

Christmas Randoms

This year was Britton's first Christmas. We tried to make it as exciting as we could--visiting Santa, getting our tree, buying lots of fun gifts for everyone--but at the end of the day, she was most excited about the wrapping paper.

And speaking of wrapping paper, twinklepoop is totally a thing (as I had the joy of evidencing yesterday). Don't say I didn't warn you.

While I'll dive into more of our holiday antics next week (after I've had a chance to breathe), I wanted to share a few things with you before we head out for Christmas round 2 at Landon's parents' house.

My family did our third annual Progressive Christmas Dinners, which is basically an excuse to eat amazing meals back-to-back over the course of four days. Just one Christmas dinner? You are way behind, my friend. (This event is so awesome that it warrants an entire post next week.)

Britton was awesome during the Christmas service. She refused to take a nap all day Christmas Eve, and by the time the 3 p.m. service started, she was rubbing her eyes and bucking like a bronco. Maybe it was the music, or maybe it was a Christmas miracle, but she danced and played the entire service without a peep.

"Gosh, mom, you're embarassing me."
We exchanged presents at my parents' house Christmas Eve, and had the final dinner in our Progressive Christmas Dinner series.

Britton: "The Day of Wrapping Paper has finally arrived! My life is complete!"
Two seconds later: Britton decides that she's done opening presents, and she's off to eat something that she shouldn't.
Can you tell that Britton is the daughter of a former college Literature professor (and the niece of a die-hard Mr. Darcy lover)? She got so many cute classics-themed gifts that I'll have to do another post on them!
We stayed overnight so that we'd all be able to see our Santa presents that arrived Christmas morning.
Britton investigates her loot from Santa. And yes, I'm totally rocking footed onesie pajamas.
Britton LOVED the monorail that I got to go under our tree next year. Giant baby takes over Disney World!

After playing with our presents from Santa, we packed up in the car and headed out to my grandmother's house, which is about two and a half hours away. I really didn't want to go back this year because the house reminds me so much of my grandfather, who passed away just before Thanksgiving. But my grandma really wanted to go back for one more holiday (she now lives with my parents here in town), so we did it to make her happy--and hopefully help start the closure process.

With my dad and Britton at my grandma's house.
Grandma opening a present from my cousins.
I don't know what we'll be doing next year, but it will involve staying home on Christmas day, which will be the first time I've ever done that in my entire life. We lived all over during my childhood, so we always traveled to my grandparents' house each year. My tradition for Britton is centered around one thing: not traveling. We've got another 11 months to figure out the rest of the details.

I read Marisha Pessl's Night Film (which I loved) and saw The Wolf of Wall Street (which I thought was awful). I'll definitely be doing a review of the Pessl book because it is so awesome and I just want to talk about it all the time with everyone, but I might do a review of Wolf, too, just because it was like a car wreck, and sometimes you've just got to talk out your feelings after you experience something terrible.

So, there's our holiday in a nutshell. We're off tonight to see the other side of the family.

We're embarking on a four hour trip with a 6 month old who hates being in her carseat. Pray for our sanity.

Happy Holidays, all!

A Baby's Guide to Christmas

Merry Christmas Eve Eve, everyone!

Stationery Nerd Alert: How to Use a Wax Seal Kit to Personalize Your Letters

I'm slowly working on our Christmas cards (about half are stamped, addressed and ready to go), and they should be completed by tomorrow. While I love all things stationery and mail, I do have a bit of the procrastination gene in me, which accounts for the fact that still haven't send out my Christmas cards..and we're down to six days.

Anyway, since it's not like I'm rushed for time or anything (ha), I decided to do a little something extra for my holiday correspondence this year: a wax seal kit.

I've used a sealing wax and stamps on and off for years as a way to jazz up a letter or card. It's really easy to do, and the end result looks awesome. (See, I DO have more interests than just traveling!)

Christmas in Savannah, Georgia

Landon and I decided not to give each other presents this year. We already have a lot of stuff, and  most of the things that we really wanted to give one another (a new master bathroom, a new house) weren't really feasible for holiday gifts.

One thing that was wanted was time together. And that is definitely possible, though a little difficult with all of the Christmas stuff this time of year.

Since we were taking Britton with us, Landon and I chose somewhere that wasn't too far away for our mini-escape. We didn't want to torture our poor baby (or ourselves) with a really long car ride because she's recently decided that she hates her car seat and will gladly scream until we let her out.

We live in the Charleston area, and there aren't too many places that you can get to in two hours that are worthy of a mid-winter break. From here, we could go to Myrtle Beach, Columbia, Florence, Hilton Head, or Savannah.

Landon and I both have a soft spot for Savannah (so much so that I named our blog after a Savannah-based author), and we've visited many times. The city has a ton of stores to walk around in and great restaurants to eat at, which was just perfect for us--we wanted a low key weekend away.

We didn't make any plans. We didn't book any tours. We just found a great deal on Priceline the day before we left, packed a few things, and piled in the car. It was completely stress-free (which is saying a lot these days, as anyone who's ever traveled with a six month old knows that being between a 6.5 and an 8 on the stress scale is pretty much a given).

We stayed across the Savannah River from downtown over on Hutchinson Island. I'd never been to the Westin resort, but I'm always up to try a new hotel. I was excited when our Priceline bid was accepted and we found out that the Westin would be our home for the weekend. Plus (and this was a BIG draw for me), we got to take the water taxi across the river to go shopping and to eat. I know--I'm a huge dork. It's the little things in life that amuse me to no end.

Britton wasn't too bad on the car ride down there: she sleep half the way and screamed half the way. After we checked in, we wandered around the hotel to look at all the decorations.

Bundled up in her Baby K'tan to check out the hotel Christmas lights!
River Street and the Savannah skyline from our hotel
After exploring the hotel, we headed back upstairs to our room. Britton was acting tired, rubbing her eyes and yawning, so Landon and I thought "yes! she's going to go to bed early, so we can all get some rest!" Britton's always been a good sleeper, but in the last week or so, she'd been fussy when we put her down to rest and she'd been waking up multiple times each night. I figured it was a combination of the vaccines she'd gotten last week, teething, and her six-month-growth spurt. Whatever the cause, we were all tired.

So much for wishing.

With a full tummy and in her warm pajamas, Britton fell asleep in my arms as I rocked her, but as soon as I put her in her crib, she woke up and started screaming. Landon took over, rocked her back to sleep, and tried to put her down. Screaming ensued. This cycle continued for two hours until she finally went to sleep after midnight.

Needless to say, our relaxing retreat didn't start out exactly as we expected.

However, being the eternal optimists that we are, we figured that Britton would sleep in Saturday morning since she'd gone to bed late.

Let's all laugh together.

At the stroke of 6 a.m., she was back up and at 'em. She was so grumpy, but refused to go back to sleep. Landon, being the saint of a husband that he is, offered to walk her around the resort for a bit so I could rest. Ahhh.

I woke up again an hour later to a beautiful morning in Savannah. I was a little sleepy, but nothing could dampen my mood for our full day of shopping and sightseeing.

The view from our room. Hello, Savannah!
We hopped on the free water taxi that ferries visitors across the river. It makes three stops: at the Westin, at the Waving Girl statue, and near the Hyatt Regency on River Street. If you're visiting, make use of the public transportation to get around. There's also a free trolley that goes up and down River Street, as well as one that hits up major points in the historic district. Walking is definitely the best way to see the city, but sometimes, you've just got to rest those feet for a minute!

We can at least look perky, even if we don't feel that way! 

Our shopping was interrupted by a downpour. The rain cover on Britton's stroller just wouldn't withstand the rain, so Landon put her in the Infantino carrier and zipped her up in his Columbia rain jacket!
After darting through the rain, we headed over to eat at the Pirates' House Restaurant. I know it's a tourist spot, but I love eating there. Plus, where else can you eat in a 300 year old house where a guy dressed up like Jack Sparrow will give you a history lesson?
Next was lunch at the Pirates' House restaurant. I love their Fried Green Tomato BLT (BLFGT?) salad.
Walking around burned up some calories, so we stopped by Sweet Carolina Cupcakes to get a few treats. Landon was afraid that the icing would get smashed if we just held them, so we put Britton in my carrier and strapped the cupcakes in the stroller. People pretty much thought we were crazy!

That night, we were tired from walking around, so we took the water taxi back over to the hotel. We were sort of hungry (but still kind of full from our lunch and snacks), so we ordered a hamburger from room service. I'm totally country-come-to-town, but I've never ordered room service before. The guy who brought it even set it up in our room.
Plus, there were mini condiments. Life is good.
Britton got up TWICE Saturday night (between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.), so we still weren't feeling too great Sunday morning. Still, we wanted to make the most of our last hours in Savannah. We packed up the room, and then headed out to the nearby Fort Pulaski for an early morning history lesson.

What's the best way to keep your baby warm when you encounter a chilly breeze? By stuffing her inside of your jacket, of course.

The front of Fort Pulaski. It was designed by the same man who was behind Fort Sumter (in the Charleston harbor) and Fort Jefferson (in the Dry Tortugas, off the coast of the Florida Keys).
A few more pictures from inside the fort:

Even with Britton's bizarre sleeping patterns, we still had a wonderful time. Landon and I decided that we're going to try and do a weekend getaway every year instead of exchanging gifts--any ideas on where we should head next year?

Have you ever gone on a trip instead of exchanging gifts?

We're in the Holiday Mood...Sort of

Normally, I'm all about Christmas.

I love buying presents and watching as my recipients open them.

I love getting presents (I'm not modest!).

I love seeing the twinkly lights that are hung all over town.

I don't love listening to the same old Christmas songs every year, but it's part of the process, so I embrace it. (The N*Sync Christmas album is the exception. That CD--which I bought from an actual record store in 1998--is pure listening gold.)

Last year, I pretty much tried to skip Christmas. I had an excuse, though. I was halfway through my pregnancy, and still dealing with relentless morning sickness. Who wants to deck the halls and stuff your face when you're constantly feeling like you might puke in the tinsel? We got a tree and we Landon decorated it. Baby Tadpole (we didn't even know it was Britton yet!) got lots and lots of fun things--things that we're using this Christmas, which I think is super cool. Christmas 2012 trundled along even though I couldn't give it my all, and I ended up having a pretty good holiday.

This year, I'm struggling again. Not because I'm sick like last year, or because I've decided I hate Christmas. I can't put my finger on the reason why, but it still doesn't feel like Christmas yet, even though we've started checking off the Christmas to-do list, like going to see Santa. And because of my lack of holiday mood, our house looked like it does the other eleven months in the year until last night.

I wanted to skip getting a tree this year (the horror! the horror!) because Britton is trying her dardest to crawl, the dog flies around here with abandon (usually skidding into furniture because our hardwood floors offer no traction), and the addition of baby stuff has made our tiny, 1100 sq. ft. house completely cramped.

Why bother? I thought. It will just get torn up by Britton/ the dog/ a combo of both. It will take too much time to decorate and put up, and heaven knows I have plenty of other things I need to be doing (like blogging, obvs).

But Landon, that wonderful husband of mine, insisted that we get a tree because it would make the house happier and Christmas-ier.

He was totally right. But don't tell him that I said that.

After Landon got off work last night, we went off into the chilly (for South Carolina) night to find our tree. Britton had just gotten up from her nap--which went late into the afternoon because Britton wasn't feeling well from her 6 month immunizations she'd gotten earlier--and was in a pretty good mood considering that I'd made her get three shots only hours before.

Landon and I broke from tradition and got a Douglas fir this year instead of a Fraser. Neither of us has ever had anything other than a Fraser, but the Douglas firs on the lot were so much fuller and greener. They smell a little different than the Fraser firs, but that's why I've got my awesome Fraser fir candle to burn, right?

Britton approves! She grumpily evaluated all of the other trees, but smiled when we got to this one. Coincidence? I think not.
Clockwise from upper left: 1) Britton's standards of tree purchasing are extremely strict. 2) The tree made it home and through half of the light stringing. 3) The tree in the sunlight. 4) Our tinseled mantle + our crocheted stockings.
Clearly, we didn't get too deeply into the decorating. We made it through the lights and the tinsel before Britton needed to go to bed; she was up half the night with a little temperature because of her vaccinations, so I've been limping along this morning. We might get some more decorations on the tree tonight--or we might not.

At least Britton's first Christmas won't be a total bust!

Britton Visits Santa (+ My Thoughts on St. Nick)

About a month ago, someone asked me when Britton was going to visit Santa, and the question caught me completely off guard.

I don't know if it's because I haven't gone to see Santa in about twenty years or because I was seriously sleep deprived at the time, but I had not given one second's thought about a picture with Santa.

I asked my husband, my sister, and my mom about a potential visit, and all of them looked at me as if I were crazy. Of course Britton needs to see Santa, they all told me.

I still wasn't convinced. After all, she's only six months old and guaranteed to remember exactly nothing of this Christmas. Plus, I am deeply conflicted about Jolly Old St. Nick (but more on that later).

Then, the Mommy Guilt started to set in. Britton's going to be the only baby who doesn't go see Santa. Britton will look at me in ten years and say, "Mom, what was wrong with you? Why aren't there any baby pictures with Santa?!" Also, I was going to completely ruin Christmas this year, and since it was the first Christmas that Britton would experience, there was basically a slippery slope from skipping Santa to skipping the whole she-bang in a few more years.

So, off to Santa we went. Landon and I were unsure as to how Britton would react. Most of the time, she'll go to anyone. She does this so well that, half the time, I'm pretty sure that she would assist in her own kidnapping because she's just so friendly to everyone. But then there's that 2% of the time when she decides that I am the best thing since sliced bread, and if I give her to someone else, she gets completely and totally grumpy.

Add this to the fact that she refused to take a nap yesterday afternoon, and we had a perfect storm of baby grumpiness brewing.

Or so I thought.

She ended up being a little angel. Britton checked out Santa, looked at the camera, and even smiled a tiny smile. Piece of cake!

I'm always worried about the creepy factor of handing my child to a perfect stranger dressed in a red wool suit, but this Santa was really nice and very patient as Britton figured out where to look for her picture. All in all, we couldn't have had a better experience. Plus, I highly recommend going on a school night because there wasn't a line at all.

Britton and Santa:

While the picture is impossibly cute (and I admit to sneaking peeks every few minutes!), I'm still not totally sure about the whole Santa thing in general.

As a kid, I didn't dwell too much on the idea of Santa. I went to Catholic school, as well as Methodist (and later Episcopal) Sunday School, so the religious aspect of Christmas was never far from my mind. Somehow, Santa had something to do with baby Jesus, but I didn't worry about it--I was one of those little kids that accepted things as they were. I wasn't the curious one asking where babies came from, or how Santa visited all of those kids in one night, or how in the world a bunny can carry baskets of candy. If my parents said it was so, I believed that it was.

It wasn't until late elementary school that I deduced that something was off about Santa, and I got a little creeped out by the idea that a diabetic, bearded man that I didn't know was roaming around our house while I slept.

While I know that many parents point to the Santa tradition as something fun and creative, I can't get away from the idea that I'm 1) lying to my child, and 2) getting away from the actual reason for the Christmas season. I'm all about making this fun for Britton--and heaven knows that I was a creative, highstrung child--but looking back, I'm not sure what a belief in Santa did for me growing up.

I don't like lying about anything. Most people in my life would tell you that I'm too honest. So why would I spin a yarn to Britton about Santa? I'd rather her know that it is her parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who love her and want to gift her new things. Plus, how can I tell her not to lie when I'll basically be doing the same thing under the guise of holiday fun?

The important part of Christmas to me is the time that I get to spend with my family: going to the church service Christmas Eve, making our Christmas Eve supper, opening the presents we've all worked so hard to purchase and wrap, and watching a holiday movie or two. The season isn't about getting stuff from a man in a red suit.

I'm still not sure what I'm going to do about this in the years to come. It seems cruel to ignore Santa completely, but I'm not one of those people who think that Santa MUST be this huge part of our holiday celebration. I think I'd be more comfortable with Britton learning about the actual Saint Nicholas and the myths that have been a result of his actions.

What are your thoughts on all of this? How did you think about Santa when you were a little kid? How have you approached the Santa component of Christmas, especially if you're Christian?