Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas 2014: An Inventory

Five things I have not done / not done well this Christmas season:

1) I thought I would get ahead by ordering my Christmas cards at the end of October. (For those who received one, that is why the reference to autumn is in the present tense.) Because I was so proud of myself when clicking "Confirm," I didn't double-check my account information. The cards shipped to my old address, which is 1,600 miles away from my new address. Luckily, the very kind family who now lives there accepted the box, took it back to the UPS Store, and shipped it to me ℅ the house where I actually live. The box arrived November 3, which was two days before I received an "early bird" 30% off coupon in the mail from  I put the coupon on my desk and thought about calling to see if customer service would retroactively apply the discount. I am still thinking about it.  The cards sat in their unopened box on my office floor until December 14.

2) I never put a single treat in the Advent Calendar. The Equestrian is OK with that. "I think we can live," she says. (She's twelve.) The Drama Queen, on the other hand, claims I now owe her 21 pieces of candy… with interest.

That's enough, right?
3) I haven't decorated the Christmas tree. We hosted an office Christmas party at our house on December 6 (when your husband works for a Catholic hospital system, you're actually supposed to call it a Christmas party rather than a Holiday party), and Nick came up with the brilliant idea to save a few hours of prep time by just putting lights and a star on the tree that we bought at 9:00 p.m. on December 5. Did I mention that he is brilliant? The drawback, however, is that the tree remains lit and starred but not ornamented… with the exception of four handmade ornaments the DQ received from her fourth grade Secret Santa. I am now wondering if anyone will notice. What if I just add more presents under the tree to draw the eye down?

4) I volunteered to be in charge of the school holiday decorations. OK, technically, this is something that I did not think through well last spring when I was cornered by two Parents' Association VPs who already do far more than I do for the school and also happen to be really nice people. (Funny how all December projects seem doable from eight months away.) In the end, it was actually really fun to spend a day decking the halls with a great group of parent volunteers who gave of their time and energy to make our kids' school festive for the season. But I think I may have gotten all the decorating out of my system a little too early. (See #3.)

5) I have not yet shipped gifts to my family. It is December 21. In my defense, my older daughter hasn't finished her Christmas crafting / shopping, so the box is not yet complete. Yes, I could have shipped it incomplete last week and then brought the last few items with us in a suitcase. Could've, would've, should've. Now I may no longer be able to afford to ship the darn box. Has anyone already done the math on the price of buying and checking another suitcase dedicated to gift transport vs. the price of the surgery required to remove my left arm and leg, which is what UPS may now be charging to get a package across two time zones by the 26th? If so, you can email me via the links below.

Five things I have done / done well this Christmas season:

1) Every day I take a moment to sit down, open Christmas cards from friends and family, and appreciate all the love and laughter and memories the senders add to our lives. For those who may wonder whether it is worth it to keep sending, my vote is a definitive yes. We love you all.

Christmas magic
2) I made cookies with the DQ. For the first time ever. I don't come from a Christmas-cookie-baking family. It just wasn't one of our traditions, and, as an uptight perfectionist (WHAT?!?), I am a very nervous baker. Please know that I am in awe of everyone who Facebooks and Pinterests multiple wire racks of cooling confections. I have one wire rack and usually cannot find it. However, I was again invited to a cookie swap and decided to be brave and attend with a tin (see what I did there? I may not bake, but I can create linguistic humor) rather than chickening out like I did last year. After all, these cookie swappers are people with whom I want to hang. And since the DQ is always very excited to use the whisk Santa once gave her, I invited her to jump in and help. We totally botched the first batch, and it didn't even matter. She thought all the ugly ones were delicious. I have come to the conclusion that deliciousness is inevitable when you use two sticks of butter per batch.

3) And speaking of butter, I have exercised three days in a row. On the first three days of my kids' winter break. I don't think that is technically enough repetition to claim I've formed a habit, but it sure is a better start than I've made since… ever. Plus, it is one hour a day of focused, healthy, sweat-out-the-guilt-about-all-the-things-I-haven't-done-or-done-well time. Win, win, win.

4) I let my twelve-year-old miss four days of school mid-December to travel through the midwest with her horseback riding instructor to look at horses for sale. I realize that this one isn't very self-evident in terms of "things I did well." On the surface, it seems much more like a "things I let happen because I overindulge my children." But the trip was an amazing experience for the Equestrian--imagine a combination educational adventure, road trip with your favorite aunt, and opportunity to see some of the best competitors in the sport about which you are most passionate. She came back more grown-up, more appreciative, and feeling completely satisfied that she had already had her Christmas. She didn't come back with a horse, which is not to say there isn't a new four-legged friend somewhere in the near future, but for now we're all content--the tweener included--to be patient and wait. That's about the best lesson she could have learned by driving across Kansas.

5) I had one of those parenting moments that reminded me I sometimes get it right. On the last Monday before Christmas break, when it was getting REALLY hard to get the girls out the door on time, I was hollering "Let's go!" as my ten-year-old stepped over the dog gate from the kitchen to the back hall. She was holding a raspberry-blueberry(-and kale--SHHHHHH!!!) breakfast smoothie in one hand and her school snack and water bottle in the other hand. Her foot caught on the top of the barrier, and she fell chest-first to the floor, knocking the wind right out of her tiny body. She lay there, gasping for air, wide-eyed and on the verge of panic, in a puddle of purple slush. *Big confession moment* I had the briefest flicker of a thought about grabbing a few paper towels on my way to comfort her. Kind of like Elaine from Seinfeld grabbed a box of Jujyfruits before leaving the movies when she found out her date had landed in the hospital. But I didn't. I suppressed my inner Elaine, ignored the clock, and went to give my baby exactly what she needed--a mom who didn't care about whether we were late to school or how much smoothie was on the floor (or the ceiling… no, seriously, on the ceiling). A mom who, for a few moments at least, cared only about helping her feel better. I rubbed my little girl's chest; in quiet tones I promised her that it would be OK and she would catch her breath again soon. I was 100% focused on how much I loved her and how thankful I was that her loss of breath was only temporary. It may have been the calmest and most present moment I've had since Thanksgiving.

Oh, there is one more thing I haven't done this Christmas season: Clean all the smoothie off the ceiling. I find the purple splatter a good reminder that it's not about my to-do list. Or even me. It's about the child. And the Child.
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