Sometimes a girl just wants to feel really great on Christmas morning. And I did. Tired but great. Peaceful. I had it coming because it had been about, oh, seven years or so since I felt like I wanted Christmas to last more than just one day. Seven years of holy day survival mode is a tough thing. It's not that I was unhappy. It's just that I was a bit overwhelmed by too much too much too much. Chronic illness... club sports for several kids... challenging pregnancies and sweet new babies... house construction that was never quite finished. After finding a way to manage illness, quitting club sports and finalizing some home projects, I do feel like I can breathe a bit more. I feel a little more like me, if that makes any sense.
So this was a messy Christmas. An imperfect Christmas. (That's so mommy blogger cliche, of course, but it's true.) Fortunately, I am long past Christmas perfectionism and aim simply for a Christmas morning that dawns with a rising hope rather than a shocking knock to the head. On this sixth day of Christmas, I am sitting back and marveling (and laughing) that not only has my energy and hope NOT been dashed on the rocks of "seasonal distress" but that I am ready in every way to enter the New Year with passionate and cheerful commitment.
*awkward pause* (I remember this feeling but it has been awhile... Just give me a moment...)
The temptation is to view this hour as an anomaly and slide back into what I have become accustomed to. My initial reaction was to narrow my eyes suspiciously at what looks like false hope. Is it really possible that I have been granted a moment of space and room to breathe and build? Sure! Why not? I have been in survival mode since about 2007... why not a little breather? As I wait in trepidation for the flu or plague to descend upon my family (because the whole world seems to be suffering but us), I'm enjoying this slow moment of clarity in mind, body, and spirit and recalling the slow progress that God has allowed me to make physically over the past few years.
My health is dramatically improved. A miracle and priceless gift.
No one has a sports tournament this weekend (or the next or the next or the next...)
We have carpeting in our family room and a dining room table that we all fit at.
Our family van (which has been disabled for months... mea culpa) is now running without stalling in the middle of busy intersections.
Small things that are big things.
I feel somewhat exhilarated as I look around and acknowledge that although crazy is the norm for my household... I can still thrive. In the optimism of the moment, I am taking a risk and peeking out into the future. I have the courage to look and begin again. Bring it on, New Year!
There were a number of little things that eased the immediate strain of a typically frantic Christmas. One of those was that we actually weren't sick. You all know what I mean. Especially those of you who spent your Christmas day in the hospital or laid out flat on the couch or cleaning up vomit. I know your pain and I've been praying for you. This was our year off and I'm grateful.
Other than that, a few other elements contributed to a relatively easy celebration...
I'll start right at the top. I had to slow down a few times to get rightly ordered but I managed all right in the end. Thanking God for a van that can carry the whole family to a last minute visit to Jesus before His birthday.
The whiteboard usually makes an appearance before the big feasts. The numbers on the right are all followed by some variation of "Clean something." But the primary function is to keep us focused so that we can keep our eye on the Prize.
My dear Cookie baked and decorated Jesus' birthday cake while I was out shopping. If she hadn't done it, no one would have. So grateful to my girl. It was very motivating to see this beautiful cake after coming in from the cold night. A reminder of Him to keep me going.
I didn't actually get to see this in person. I was sidelined from Midnight Mass with an injury. Most people fall down the stairs but I fell UP the stairs. So I went to an earlier Mass at which I did not have to juggle an exhausted toddler with my damaged appendage and the rest of my family went at Midnight. Sad but it worked out fine. I'm thankful to my husband for remembering to take this picture. I do love seeing my boys serving together.
My oldest son drove his choir-singing sister and altar-serving brother to Mass a couple hours earlier. As much as I don't love that my kid is driving, I fully appreciate the new freedom it allows our family.
This one went up on Instagram the minute after I took it. I love that this girl still asks me to do her hair sometimes even though she is capable of doing it herself. I miss putting her little toes into too-long white tights but I really enjoy watching her grow in confidence and beauty.
So the big sisters not only get themselves ready but they also help get the little ones ready and take care of them like little mothers. The boys are good, too, but the girls seem to be uniquely suited.
I caught this photo of the shoe ritual. I was smarter this year and made sure that all shoes were paired up the night before since there are few things more stressful than missing shoes before Mass. But they still need to be applied and tied.
FABRIC GIFT BAGS
It used to take me hours to wrap gifts after Mass on Christmas Eve. It was not unusual for me to get to bed around 5am after nursing interruptions, wrapping, and final preparations. Painful. I have memories of being sick and pregnant and crying my way through the final present wrapping. So I came up with a solution. I sew basic fabric gift bags in various sizes and just stuff the gifts inside. I shop Joann's holiday clearance racks after Christmas and add to my collection of prints and sizes every year. The gifts don't sparkle like paper and bows, but they are still pretty... and a happy mama is much better than perfect wrapping. My kids agree unanimously on this one. Not to mention the satisfaction of folding all the opened bags into a flat neat little pile at the end of the day.
The picture above was taken after the final gift was wrapped. The little gift bags are pretending to be "stockings" since we dropped the ball with new stocking purchases years ago.
Homemade gluten free french silk pie. Cookie is on a roll this year. I rarely eat this much sugar but I have no regrets. I promised myself I would be a good girl for Easter if only I could get a couple servings of this pie. So good.
I love little babies at Christmas but postpartum fatigue is no joke. Having a toddler this year allowed me a bit more energy and also the tremendous satisfaction of watching a little person really enjoy Christmas independently for the first time.
When the rest of the house is in chaos, a clean and pretty bedroom is a wonderful place to refresh and recharge. I have promised you this full post and I will get it up when I finally have my pics organized. But in the meantime I will just say... what a difference it makes to have a peaceful space.
Peaches loves our new room but eagerly knocks to get out when she hears her siblings playing on the other side. The wall fire place heater is a new addition and one of my favorite things about our room. I wasn't sure whether it was going to be silly or wonderful. My vote falls solidly on the side of wonderful. And in this climate, you will never hear me complaining about an additional heat source!
Now, I have to go order a beautiful planner before we fall victim to the flu. I hate to be a glass-is-half-empty kind of girl, but odds are not in our favor. If we make it to Spring without a nasty illness, I will count it a miracle and do a happy dance. Until then, we are stocking up on Clorox and Jello and enjoying the fantastic breather.
Merry Christmas to all! May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts now and forever.