Back in October, when the first chill was in the air and the days were just beginning to get shorter, I started having my usual holiday fantasies...hot chocolate by the fire...cuddling up to read the Christmas story together...shiny new red-and-green pajamas for the kids to wear on Christmas Eve...a pile of beautifully wrapped gifts under a picture-perfect tree...
Has anyone seen my Kohl's gift card?
It didn't help that I picked up a couple of those "perfect-homemaker" magazines in the Vancouver airport for our flight back home. The Canadian versions are every bit as stress-inducing as their American companions: gorgeous tables set with homemade feasts, beautiful decorating ideas, and picture-perfect families posing in front of the designer themed Christmas tree.
The holidays can be exhausting.
I never found the heartwarming article about the son who has refused to get a haircut since Halloween, or the humorous column about the daughter who talked her grandparents into getting her rats for Christmas. No advice about where to stash a week's worth of undone laundry before the house fills with guests. And not one photo-spread of the exhausted, cranky mom and dad trying to sneak the presents in from the freezing garage at midnight.
Introducing Thor and Odin, newest members of our menagerie...
Every year I seem to lose touch with reality and create the same unattainable picture of Christmas in my mind. And every year I have to learn the same lesson: as a mother, wife, teacher, business-owner and middle-aged human being who needs sleep and downtime, I can't achieve a magazine-style Christmas. And you know what? It doesn't matter!
Wonder which one I'll step on tonight?
The truth is, I never got around to cleaning the bathrooms before our company showed up, the food was 90% store-bought, and I made the coffee too strong. At one point, Nana and Papa's two Yorkies escaped and we had to chase them outside and into a neighbor's yard. In spite of our efforts to coordinate, Dude got two of the same Lego set, and the cute boots I ordered for Super have yet to arrive. In short, we had a disorganized, messy, chaotic, fantastic, fun Christmas this year!
We bought a bakery bûche and improved it.
Here's the thing: no one noticed the bathrooms (or, at least, they didn't say anything!) The food got eaten, the coffee got creamed, and the Yorkies were caught. Dude is actually delighted to have two of the same set and Super will wear the boots whenever they arrive.
Dad made an elf bowling game for the Scouts.
During this month, we celebrated Hanukkah with dear friends. We went to a couple of holiday parties and hosted a Scout party. We decorated cookies, had a Secret Santa exchange with our employees, made crafts with the kids, watched movies together, and drove around looking at Christmas lights. Just for fun, we had our very first solstice celebration, complete with a Bûche de Noel. Last week we brought blankets outside, lay down on our front lawn, and watched the total lunar eclipse together. I suppose I could have been cleaning my house or making dinners from scratch. But this time with my family has been perfect.
I actually took this photo! Me!
I hope to get my Christmas cards mailed soon. I hope to catch up on laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, and all that other stuff that all grownups, no matter how imperfect, eventually have to do. I need to organize lesson plans for the second half of our school year. There will always be bills to pay, dinners to prepare, and dogs to bathe.
Yikes! Kids and candles!
Christmas should be a time to put the mundane on hold and focus on what's truly important. And the holidays should definitely be free of perfectionist ideals that keep families from enjoying their time together. Maybe I should write a note to myself so I'll remember that next year. Or maybe I'll just keep Dude's note to Santa handy...
Dude left fruit salad and coffee for Santa this year.
Here's hoping you also had a perfect holiday...whatever perfect may mean to you!