Right around Thanksgiving every year, I get all giddy and little-girl excited for the holidays. Since my extended family is so large and since there are so many other people who are far more capable than I, I never have to live in the fear and stress of actually hosting Thanksgiving. Therefore, I'm able to happily bring the rolls and enjoy not having to deep-clean a house in preparation for dinner for 30. Also, I don't have to make a turkey. Which is good for everyone.
Pretty much every Thanksgiving of my married life has been the same. I eat, I visit, I enjoy. And I bask in the delight of the coming Christmas season. In theory, Christmas is my favorite time of year. I like the colder weather because I can wear cute sweaters and pants that hide my ever-expanding butt. (Side note: Having been pregnant in both summer and fall/winter, I vastly prefer winter so far because it's a lot easier to look chic and polished when you're working with pants, rather than capris and skirts that show off your pregnancy-induced cankles and varicose veins.)
I love the lights and the snow and the hot cups of apple cider. I love buying gifts for the people in my life, and I especially love searching for the gift that I just know will make their day. I love the wrapping. I love the baked goods (refer back to expanding butt). I love the music. I love the decorating and the parties and the friends. I love, love, love it.
But sadly, theory and reality don't often seem to match up. Need an example? Ok, in theory, laying out clothes for the day for myself and L the night before saves time. Simple, right? In reality, morning comes and I dress myself and L in the clothes I've laid out the night before. Then I give L his banana and sippy cup of milk. L turns his sippy cup upside down and pounds the spout on his highchair tray until pools of milk form. When he reaches across the tray for his banana, he soaks his sleeve in said milk pools. Then, he mashes the banana in his hand, puts it in his mouth and smears it in his hair and on his face.
In reality, instead of being 5 or 10 minutes ahead because I've pre-selected his outfit, I'm actually 15 minutes behind because I have to once again wrangle his squirmy, uncooperative body, take off the now dirty clothes, mourn the fact that those perfectly clean clothes are now relegated back to the overflowing laundry basket, search for new clothes (which, depending on how long ago laundry was done, can take a significant amount of time - thus the PURPOSE of setting out clothes the night before) and somehow put them on L's person. And if I'm being honest, reality also includes hastily smearing a wet paper towel over his face, hands and hair and combing his mysteriously golden locks over the places where the banana was a bit more stubborn.
So there's just one example of how "theory" and "reality" don't even out. Back to the point.
Around Thanksgiving, I get all swept away by the "theory" of December. In theory, I'll have endless evenings where I can sit with D, warming my hands on a mug full of hot, delicious cider, talking and cuddling and watching Christmas movies by the glow of the fire and Christmas lights (aka my definition of bliss). In reality, every second of every day seems to be booked to the gills, leaving no time for fire gazing and cider drinking.
This year is particularly mind-boggling. I know it seems obvious why I would be much busier this year - I have a one year old. But really, I can't blame it on L. D and I made a commitment to each other that we would not get carried away with the unnecessary hullaballoo of the season, especially since L won't remember it. We aren't going berserk buying him tons of gifts. I saw this little rhyme someplace online - "Something to play with, something to read, something to wear, something you need" - and D and I agreed that it was a great way to keep ourselves in check. So we bought L one thing to fall under each category and that was that.
And even still, this year seems to be nothing short of pure madness. D and I don't buy each other a ton for Christmas, and we try very hard to stick to a feasible budget. (Actually, we kick butt at sticking to our Christmas budget, and I had to throw that out there because it's just about the only budget we somehow manage to stick to and I want to pat myself on the back a little.) And every year seems to follow a pattern. Right around Thanksgiving, when all the sales start showing up, D will usually decide that he never buys himself anything and that right before Christmas is the perfect time to go out and get himself a few things he wants. Right before Christmas. Right when I want him to give me a list of things he wants so I can buy them for him as presents. Knowing this about my husband, I usually can just go out and buy him whatever I want him to have, since he seems to think that it's a-ok that he is his own Santa.
This year, I finally saw fruits from all the nagging and teasing I subjected D to about his habit of buying himself presents at an extremely inopportune time. D has not bought himself a single thing. But not really because he listened to me; more-so because he couldn't commit to wanting anything specific. So instead of doing what I usually do and making my money stretch as far as possible at my annual outlet shopping trip with my mom, I waited until he could tell me what he wanted, thinking it would be a bigger gift that would use most of his budget.
And do you know what he wants? A wallet. That's it. A wallet. That's all he could come up with. So now I'm scrambling to not only figure out what else to get him, but also find the time in which to do it. No small task. I literally had to pull out my calendar this morning, grab some paper and do a good deal of creative planning. And basically what I could come up with was shopping on the 3 lunch breaks I have between now and Christmas that do not have meetings or appointments or work lunches scheduled. Now if I could get those 3 hours in one chunk, it might be productive, but having them spread out over 3 different days? Not so much.
And the decorating the house and putting up the tree? Unfortunately, it's become something my mom and I are trying desperately to "squeeze in". We both had to come together and enforce an iron-clad blocking off of this Sunday afternoon (in addition to the baking I need to do in lieu of gifts for my bosses and co-workers) because if we don't do it then, we seriously doubt it will happen at all.
Which makes me sad, because decorating for Christmas has always been one of my most favorite things to do. So I'm vowing to myself that it will be a cheerful, enjoyable time. I'm going to make sure there's Christmas music playing and a ban on any Grinchy moods will be enacted. No irritation, frustration or general unhappiness allowed. And of course, hot cider will be made. We will have fun decorating the house for Christmas if it kills us.
Then there are the Christmas cards. I actually really wanted to do Christmas cards this year, but the universe seems to be working against me in this one as well. I had planned to do a photo card with a printed message on it so that I didn't have to do anything but stick the card in the envelope and address it.
But that means there has to be a good, holiday-ish photo to use, and since there was no way in the world I would ever get D to agree to professional holiday pictures, it would be up to us (us = me) to come up with something. Unfortunately, our camera is one small step up from a rock, and the quality of pictures it takes is not so good. Further unfortunately, we don't have the $600 it would take to buy a semi-decent SLR camera that takes better pictures. And perhaps most unfortunate of all, I can't even find the crappy camera that we already own. Needless to say, all of this combined with the fact that it's already December 7 means it's not looking good for the Christmas cards this year.
This morning at work, I realized just how stupid I've been rendered by all the hustle and bustle (and I mean "stupid" as literally as possible). I have a new boss (and I know I'm not allowed to talk about work because I don't want to lose my job, but I have to say - you know those distant "Hallelujah" choruses you've been hearing and you can't figure out where they're coming from? Yeah, it's me.) and it's been a little crazy for me trying to help him get settled into our office.
One thing I had to do was order him a wall clock. So the clock comes this morning and I'm taking it out of the package and getting the time set and everything. And I get it to the right time but the hands aren't moving. And I'm looking all over the clock, trying to figure out why the heck it's not working, and I'm reading the little pamphlet that came in the box, trying to see if there's a special tab I have to pull or some magic words I have to say to get it ticking. And I'm getting pissed off that the pamphlet doesn't have any instructions on how to set it or how to get it going, because it's not like it's common sense or anything.
Want to know why the stupid clock wasn't working? It didn't have a battery in it. I. Am. An. Idiot.
I am going to make a conscious effort to take it a little bit easier and not put so much pressure on myself to get everything done. What gets done gets done, what doesn't, doesn't. This is usually the attitude I adopt approximately 2 or 3 days away from whatever event is stressing me out, when I'm completely fried and my brain is on overload and I'm ready to burst into tears at the smallest thing. But I'm going to adopt it early and give myself a break.
I want to enjoy Christmas this year, and every year in the future. I don't want to be the scary mommy who yells and self-medicates with cheap wine from Kroger. (Well, I don't want to be the scary mommy who yells, anyway.) So I'm resolving to be more go-with-the-flow, less crazy lady from the Target commercials.
We'll see how it goes.