Last-Minute Mayhem: The Joy of the Holidays

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Last-Minute Mayhem: The Joy of the Holidays

12.31.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

While I was the one who put up our tree, it was my children who decorated it with flair, pulling out ornaments without discrimination, sticking them onto the tree in no apparent order or aesthetic balance. Nope. No matter the size, texture, colour, amount of glitter, or fragility, those ornaments were going to hang onto the tree for their dear lives. So, while I checked to make sure no needles poked out my children’s eyes in retaliation, I also helped to ensure the children didn’t drop the delicate ornaments made out of blown glass. The result? An over-crowded, cluttered, non-coordinated, non-matching tree—with three broken ornaments that crashed to the floor because of slippery fingers and stubborn pine needles. Still, the lack of perfection of our tree was truly trumped by the children’s joy in putting it together. Non-commercialized tree, but happy kids. The real beauty of Christmas is discovering such moments of quiet (or not-so-quiet) joy in lieu of other people’s expectations. Hey, I’ll be the first one to admit that I won’t be the first to enter a Christmas tree beauty contest, but I can guarantee my kids had a great time when it came to Christmas decorating.

My little elf, so pleased that the tree is up for Christmas. 2013. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My little elf, so pleased that the tree is up for Christmas. 2013. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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But, decorations at home did not stop there. Before the children were scheduled for the winter holidays, there was an eminent buzz of activity and excitement at their school, which encouraged all families in the community to participate in the spirit of Christmas. There were Candy Gram sales to participate in, raffle jars to win, carols to sing, a formal Seasonal Celebration party to enjoy, a Wear Your Santa Hat Day, and a Recycled Art Christmas Decoration Contest to enter.

I made a few raffle jars filled with toys, stickers, jewellery, and candy. While my own children didn’t win a raffle jar, they were taught a good lesson of how it’s still beneficial to give even if you, yourself, don’t receive anything. And for Wear Your Santa Hat Day, their only rebellion was to wear their elf hats instead.

The two most helpful, yet precocious elves in Santa's workshop. (c) Photo by Zara D, Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The two most helpful, yet precocious elves in Santa’s workshop. (c) Photo by Zara D, Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Michael’s hard work and creativity paid off in fun and prizes when he was awarded First Prize in the Recycled Art Christmas Decoration Contest at his school for his entry of “Santa and Sleigh, Elf, and Christmas Tree” creations. He was especially proud to hear his name on the P.A. during morning announcements and to receive a few small prizes directly from his principal. Good for you, Michael! (I especially love the egg-carton reindeer.)

Michael's Recycled Art Christmas Decoration Contest entry---and winner of First Prize! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Michael’s Recycled Art Christmas Decoration Contest entry—and winner of First Prize! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Though as a family, we’ve never really practiced the tradition of stuffing stockings for the season, the kids were lucky enough to receive some small, but thoughtful treats from their friends and a few of their classmates. Looks like the kids got the “A-Okay” from Santa this year with no signs of coal.

Looks like the kids got the "A-Okay" from Santa this year with no signs of coal. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
(c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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And while the last-minute mayhem of the Christmas season also brought upon a compulsion to have a cooking and baking marathon in which I baked three-dozen vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, one Mochiko cake, a cold pasta salad, and a pan of veggie lasagna, I also cheated by buying a fresh apple pie from my local supermarket. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to document myself in the kitchen, nor take pictures of all the food I made as proof, but you’re gonna have to trust me on this one. There simply wasn’t any time to pull out the camera to click on each dish! Instead my family and I rushed over to my parents’ house after my full day of cooking and baking to celebrate Christmas Eve.

***

Santa was particularly generous this year, as well as psychic—the kids got EXACTLY what they wanted for Christmas and more! Lucky for Santa, two of his elves were extra compassionate towards my children and overlooked some “naughty” behaviour in 2013. The two elves were also responsible in ensuring the toys were properly wrapped and delivered to the correct house especially in consideration that our house lacks a fireplace in which Santa makes his personal deliveries. My children’s packages were re-routed instead to grandma’s and grandpa’s house for opening.

Michael playing with his Number One gift: The Perplexus Rookie puzzle. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Michael playing with his Number One gift: The Perplexus Rookie puzzle. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

Xara's wish came true when she received the Playdoh Special Ice Cream Twist Maker! She's been making ice cream with sprinkles non-stop over the holidays. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Xara’s wish came true when she received the Play-Doh Special Ice Cream Twist Maker! She’s been making ice cream with sprinkles non-stop over the holidays. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

Michael was ecstatic to get the KRE-O Cityville Invasion Playset, which included six zombie kreons! What better to get a boy who's obsessed with LEGO and zombies. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Michael was ecstatic to get the KRE-O Cityville Invasion Playset, which included six zombie kreons! What better to get a boy who’s obsessed with LEGO and zombies? (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

My literary daughter was so happy to receive her favourite fictional character in plush toy form along with another book for her favourite series collection: Pete the Cat! She brings him everywhere she goes, he reads with her, and sleeps with her at bedtime.  (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My literary daughter was so happy to receive her favourite fictional character in plush toy form along with another book for her favourite series collection: “Pete the Cat!” She brings him everywhere she goes, he reads with her, and sleeps with her at bedtime. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

But, before we could fully celebrate Christmas in ease, we were also struck by a brutal ice storm, which knocked out our power for two days.

I had woken up at 3:00 a.m. in the morning by Hydro One workers speaking through a megaphone attempting to fix a live electrical wire behind our house. The house was dark and cold. Houses all along our street were dark and silent, too. I woke my husband up who searched for flashlights, candles, matches, blankets in the dark. Our eyes adjusted to the dim of our surroundings. We both went into our children’s room and woke them up to move them both into our bed so we could conserve heat by huddling together to stay warm.

While the children thought this was an impromptu, adventurous game, and was excited to point the flashlights onto varying objects in the room, their restlessness masked our worry after more than an hour passed without any electrical power. How long would this storm last? When would we get our power back? How would we prepare for Christmas, only a few days away?

While I tried to coax the children back to sleep in a bed only really made for two-and-a-half people, but had to cram in four, my husband was on put on hold after calling the Emergency Hotline at Hydro One to report power failure for what felt like a perpetual hour-and-a-half. The wait not only killed one bar of electrical charge on his cell phone, but killed his patience, too. He fell asleep with the phone still hanging on his ear until an operator finally woke him to ask about which streets had no power. Thankfully he had stayed on the line because no one had reported a power outage for our street yet!

Eventually the Hydro One workers disappeared into the morning, but power had not returned. Food in the fridge and the freezer were at risk of spoiling so we proactively put our perishables into bins and placed the bins outside on our porch. Our children were confused about the lack of light in all the rooms. They complained of cold. We searched out clothes we could layer ourselves with though the children resented having to put on bulky sweaters, socks, and coats. The children were hungry, my daughter in particular, demanding her routine warm cup of milk. She would have to do without as my husband and I would also miss our morning cup of coffee. By mid-morning, our discomfort and agitation was high. To top off this unexpected emergency, when I checked my cell phone, its battery was nearly dead.

As we heard branches crack, snap, and fall to the ground, we started brainstorming a contingency plan. What were we going to eat for lunch? How were we going to kill hours of time in a house without electricity? How the heck were we going to do laundry? Would this be over in time for me to cook my planned dishes and baked goodies for our family Christmas dinner?

Looks are deceiving. While the ice storm of 2013 was catastrophic for most in Canada, it left in its wake, a gloriously beautiful landscape. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Looks are deceiving. While the ice storm of 2013 was catastrophic for most in Canada, it left in its wake, a gloriously beautiful landscape. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Foilage paid the price during the ice storm, too. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Foliage paid the price during the ice storm, too. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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But, the weather couldn’t kill the joy of the holidays, It instead gave us an opportunity as a family and a community to come together and act compassionately. It also gave my kids an opportunity to go tobogganing!

The kids tobogganing with their grandparents! What a great excursion! (c) Photo by Caesar S. Garcia. All rights reserved.
The kids tobogganing with their grandparents! What a great excursion! (c) Photo by Caesar S. Garcia. All rights reserved.

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While the kids literally crawled through the snow, their Daddy was the last man in the city to own a bag of salt! To keep warm and occupied we did a few things like: colour my hair cherry-red, play the Hungry Hippos board game, dress up in ribbons, visit the Ontario Science Centre, and play at Chuck E. Cheese!

The kids trekking through the snow. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The kids trekking through the snow. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

Daddy sprinkles the last remnants of salt on our driveway. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Daddy sprinkles the last remnants of salt on our driveway. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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My hair is now as red as my lipstick! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My hair is now as red as my lipstick! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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The kids compete during a game of Hungry Hippos. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The kids compete during a game of Hungry Hippos. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Xara extremely pleased to be dressed in Christmas ribbon. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Xara extremely pleased to be dressed in Christmas ribbon. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Xara hanging out with Chuck E. Cheese. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Xara hanging out with Chuck E. Cheese. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

So, even though the holidays have been jam-packed with last-minute mayhem, it’s also been filled with some fun—and absolutely the joy of Christmas.

The kids with Santa sending their Christmas list in person.
The kids with Santa sending their Christmas list in person.

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How have you enjoyed your holidays?

***

zara bird autograph

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2 thoughts on “Last-Minute Mayhem: The Joy of the Holidays”

  1. Sorry to hear you lost power! My parents are here and wondering what the state of their home is in Canada.

    But sounds like a great Christmas overall. Hope you had a great time. All the best for 2014!!

    PS. Love the hair colour, really suits you!!

    1. Thanks, Love. It’s been a trying time both in weather and health, but now that it’s 2014, I’m hoping for the best. Hope your year is as wonderful as you are! Thanks for popping by.

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