this is our christmas

So, where did we leave off?

Ah, yes, at Thanksmasween.

On Monday afternoon, Luau texted me the following photo.


{The raw image is of a lit but otherwise undecorated Christmas tree, photobombed by Scouter the Elf being creepy on a nearby telescope.}

Allow me to translate the photo:

“Honey, I knew you would never get to this on your own, and I know it’s important to you (for reasons I will never begin to fathom) to have it up for the duration of the Advent, so I hauled our sorry-ass tree out of the garage and managed to not only put it together but get it to stand sort of straight up and down (if you don’t look too carefully) and clearly I’m an awesome husband and I really, really love you.”

Here’s what I wrote back:


{image is a screenshot of the texts I sent to Luau: Ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!! Thank you!!!!!!!! Get the girls to do hw (homework) early so we can decorate it!!!!!!!!!!! Yay!!!!!!!}

I may have been just a little excited. Or, well, a lot.

After dinner, Luau had to go off to work, so I got started on the garland while we awaited his return. I tried to get the girls to help. That went, um, well. This is what I posted on Facebook midway through:


So you know when you’re standing on a ladder trying to hang garland onto a doorway over your head and it won’t catch on the hook and every single time that you try to get it to catch and fail an ungodly amount of glitter falls down on your head and, well, everywhere because you’re wearing nothing but a tank top and leggings because you’re sweating like you’re in a damn spin class and your kid, who is just sitting there watching you, says, “Um, you have glitter all over you,” and you’re like, “Uh, yeah, thanks, Sherlock,” and then she says, “You kind of look like …” and you’re thinking, “a Christmas ornament?” and she says, “a stripper.”


{image is a photo of the garland. Hung, damn it.}

The second that Luau got home (and you know I mean THE SECOND he got home), we started on the tree. The girls had worked out a system. Well, sort of.

When it came time for Katie to take her every-other-yearly turn placing the angel in her tree top perch, Luau looked at me like a deer in headlights. He’s strong, but lifting a thirteen year-old over your head and then holding her out in front of you for an indeterminate amount of time isn’t exactly like tossing a toddler.

He had a solution, of course. It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it worked.


{image is a photo of Luau squatting down so that Katie can climb up on his shoulders.}

And … lift …


{image is a photo of Luau standing up from the floor with Katie on his shoulders.}

And the hand off …


{image is a photo of Brooke handing the angel to Katie}

Et voila …


{image is a photo of Katie placing the angel on the tree, which is now at approximately a 25 degree angle to the right, which is where, despite Luau’s valiant efforts to right it, it shall stay.}

And then there was this ..


{image is a photo of Brooke jumping and Katie smiling.}

And then this ..


{image is a photo of the girls dancing in front of the tree. Even though you can’t see the tree. It’s over there to the left. You’ll just have to trust me.}

And this ..


{image is a photo of the girls making faces at each other. As you do.}

 And then Brooke shouted, “Advent elf!”

And Katie said, “Wait! We have to read the story first!”


{image is our Story of Christmas book. It contains 24 mini-books which double as ornaments. Each one tells a small part of the story of Jesus’s birth. The books, once read, get hung on the tree. It’s one of my absolute favorite parts of the season. Click on the photo for a link.}

Since Katie is determined to read the very last book, she convinces Brooke to go first every year. Pretty sneaky, Sis.


{image is a photo of Brooke reading the first story. Katie is helping her sound out some of the tougher words. The tree, in the background, looks drunk.}

And then it was time to hang the book on the tree.


{image is a photo of Brooke finding the perfect spot on the tree for the tiny book.}

As soon as the book was hung, we scampered upstairs to loot the advent elves.


{image is a photo of Brooke’s advent elf}


{image is a photo of Katie’s advent elf}

Katie raked in a Peanut Brittle flavored lip gloss while Brooke “found” one of the three Playmobils that she’d already pre-located in her elf.

Years ago, I wondered what our holiday traditions could possibly look like. I was raised in a Jewish home where our religion was food and the holidays were used as an opportunity to perfect our take on festive commercialism. Luau was raised in an otherwise Protestant family by a Buddhist devoted to nature and dedicated to simplicity. Whatever we were to come up with was to be our own.

Last night, as we sang The Twelve Days of Christmas while hanging the 12 days ornaments, as we danced in front of the newly decorated tree, as the girls negotiated who would hang which princess, as we searched for favorite ornaments and as we finally snuggled in for the story of Jesus’s birth, I knew we’d found it — whatever it is. I posted these words last night, from Pat Green’s California:

Is this the life I dreamed of?
Guess it’s just the way it all went down
Damn right I sure am happy
With the crazy piece of life that I have found

Our tree is crooked. Our house is loud and silly and fun and quiet and cranky and brooding. We are joyful and loving and annoying and generous and sisterly and nerve-grating and achingly sweet. We struggle. We are challenged. We are creative and talented and dear God, no matter how hard we try, we are disorganized. We are motivated and we are not. We bicker. We nitpick. We lose patience. We forgive. We love.

We are a family.

We are imperfect.

We are us.

This is our Christmas.

7 thoughts on “this is our christmas

  1. Just beautful. As always thank you for sharing your beautiful family pictures and stories.

    I am divorced. Sometimes I question that choice. Did I make the right decision for my “family”. It was hard but in my heart I really believe that real happiness and goodness has to come before the idea of what a “family” is supposed to be.

    Your post today is a great reminder to me that if a marriage isn’t about 100 percent support for each other in an effort to create a happy, healthy family, then what is it for?

    It’s better to be minus something and be happy and have happy children – than overflowing with a perception, full of stress and heartache 🙂

    Your Christmas is magical!!

    And I guess that’s what I’m saying too – the philosophy that you continue to perpetuate here that your “normal” is what you create it to be – is so helpful and uplifting and empowering. And I am so grateful to you for continuing to put that out there.

    Merry Christmas!


  2. Jess – this post is so awesome! I love our family traditions (as goofy as most of them are) but I’m discovering such joy, thanks in part to my autistic son, in recreating them year after year. The pattern stays the same but there’s always something new to it!

    Thank you and happy holidays to you & yours!

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