can be amazing and trying at the same time. One tries to wrap up everything in a beautiful box: the beauty of the birth of Christ and the joy of giving, without going overboard. It always seems harder in the U.S., as vacations are shorter, people tend to work until the last minute (the no early release for federal employees on December 23rd did not go unnoticed in this household) and there is the stress of the over-commercialization of the holidays.
Oh, and then there is me. Between my mom's death in late 2005 and last year's debacle in the fall, the holidays have become harder for me. This year I tried to ease up a bit on myself, scale back on my expectations (in every respect) and simply allow myself time to enjoy things rather than hurry quite so much. True, I am still working on Christmas cards (they are coming, I promise!) and some of our holiday baking wasn't completed until after Christmas, but I think spreading things out adds to the joy of the season.
We still managed to have a bit of a push to get ready for Christmas Day. Going to the 'early' children's mass on Christmas Eve (both girls sang in the choir) helped, but there was still so much to do once we arrived home. We even went so far as to order a dinner for Christmas, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I really didn't have much time to cook, as I was up until 4:00 a.m. finding and wrapping gifts and then was too wired to sleep. This required not one, but two Christmas Day naps.
It was a lovely day, though. Nicholas slept until 9 a.m., allowing me to get a whopping 4 hours sleep. I also decided to try a different tack and just tried to record a few snippets of the morning. I didn't get everything, but managed to catch a few moments that will forever remind me of the loveliness of the day (and excuse the Christmas morning crazy living room). Instead of worrying about a huge breakfast, I made two casseroles the night before. I didn't have to fret about cooking and missing the kids opening anything and could relax versus worrying about burning the bacon (no worries, I scorched the pine nuts later in the day).
I also did not stress nearly as much about gifts this year. It seemed very simple, as the kids wants revolved around current interests. I thought about doing a 'make your own' Christmas, but only got as far holiday cookies for the neighbors and friends, though after discussing with Cait, we might shoot for that next year. We already have several (yummy) ideas for gifts for friends.
Gifts for the kids were so easy. Kelsey requested a Kindle (more reading, okay!) and drawing materials, Nicholas wanted Legos and Cait desired a wide variety of art supplies. Nothing really required batteries (okay, construction hat excepted...and loved!) nor did the kids notice the lack of candy in the stockings (yep, Santa forgot all but a couple of small "candy-cans" for them).
Perhaps the best part? Drowsily reading a book on the couch and watching the kids play happily together for hours. I think knowing that next Christmas might be slightly different, as Peter likely won't be here, added to my need to have the calmest day possible. From the fun morning to the long evening walk we took (just the two of us and the pup we were 'sitting'), I think we accomplished that.
Merry Christmas to all and a very Happy New Year from our home to yours!