Monday, December 24, 2012

Getting in the Christmas Spirit

The Christmas spirit has been eluding me this year. I've been too tired, too busy, too stressed out. Not to mention, the emotional overload this year has been intense. It took us a full week to get our tree up and decorated because the kids could only handle small increments of festivities before melting down. We took it all slow, leaving plenty of breathing room out of respect for the fact that holiday or not, mommy and daddy aren't here and it hurts.

But yesterday, as I trawled the aisles of Shoprite (me and just about every other person in town), I finally started to get in the spirit. I am one of those odd people who enjoys going to the supermarket and going without kids is practically Nirvana. I took my time, perused each aisle as I made my purchases, enjoying the Christmas music. Although the store was crowded the other shoppers seemed to be in a peaceful frame of mind as well. Nobody pushed or shoved or got irate. People went slowly, were courteous to each other. Honestly, the whole experience was so Zen, so soothing, I felt sad when I got to the end of my list and knew I was going to have to leave the store, but I consoled myself with the thought that at least a lot of the holiday cleaning would be done when I got home.

How did I know this? Because I had made a list and left the kids in charge of doing the items on it, of course! Before I left for the store I lined all four of them up, read off the list, explained each item, charged the two big ones with collaborating on a plan to make the cleaning fun for the two little ones, told them if they had it all done by the time I got home the girls and I could bake cookies while Baby Brother napped and Big Brother would be free to roam with his friends. As I finished the rest of my errands, jostling through crowded store after crowded store, the thought of coming home to a clean house became more appealing than ever. It would be so nice, I thought, to be able to relax for once and not see more chores waiting for me everywhere I looked.

When I got home I found Big Brother vacuuming in the kitchen. Unfortunately, he wasn't vacuuming up dirt. He was farting then sucking the fumes up, while Princess Jasmine laughed hysterically. In the living room Baby Brother was pulling things out of the toy box and throwing them on the floor. Princess Ariel, as usual, had slunk off to go hide somewhere and play in secret, leaving everyone else to do the work. Everywhere I looked, chores had been half-started, then abandoned. I'd been gone for three hours, which should have been more than enough to finish the ten simple things I'd given them to do. I reminded myself that three out of four of them are under ten, that I couldn't expect them to do things as quickly or as efficiently as I would have. And, I stressed to myself, it is Christmas. It simply would not do to get upset, yell, ruin the holiday vibe.

Trying not to look at the mess, I rousted the MIA lazy Princess from her hiding spot and told the two older ones I was going to put Baby Brother down for his nap and then lie down for awhile myself while they finished up their chores. The dog, cat and I retreated to my room and I settled down to read. I was only a few pages in when I heard the TV go on downstairs. Seconds later a text popped up on my phone from Big Brother, informing me he was "going out for awhile." I came down stairs to find both Princesses cozily ensconced in the recliner, treating themselves to a Disney movie, with Big Brother nowhere in sight. The groceries I had asked him to carry in were sitting on the kitchen floor. The school papers and artwork projects I had asked the girls to sort out were in a messy pile, untouched, on the coffee table. The dinning room table was still sticky, the plants hadn't been watered, nobody had washed the dishes. Of the ten items I had asked them to do, the only thing they had managed to accomplish (and only partially at that) was to vacuum the floors.

I would like to say that the Christmas spirit I'd felt while strolling through the baking supplies isle in Shoprite prevented me from yelling. It did not. I'm pretty sure they heard me up at the North Pole, directing two little girls and a teenager to light a fire under their keisters and get to work immediately. Princess J, naturally, tried to argue. "We can't. Baby Brother ripped up the list." She said, smugly, as if that was the end of the matter and I should now leave her alone to go back to her TV viewing. Boy, was that ever the wrong response! In ringing tones I instructed everyone to use their initiative and get busy cleaning something because, if they didn't, I would find them plenty to do. There was also something in there about mom feeling extremely unappreciated, if I recall correctly. Shortly thereafter two sulky little Princesses got busy sorting through their school papers while Big Brother wiped down the dining room table, grumbling self-righteously under his breath about missed social opportunities.

As for me, I stomped back up the stairs and retreated to my room again. I stayed in there, with a dog therapeutically lying across my feet and a kitten purring on the pillow by my head, until I no longer had the urge to eat my young. By the time Baby Brother got up from his nap the cleaning (most of it, anyway) was done and Big Brother was feeling contrite. After putting the TV back on for his sisters he had gone out and bought a new table cloth for the dinning table so it will look nice for Christmas dinner. He and the girls put it on and arranged the accompanying new place mats just so. They beamed with pride at their own handiwork when they showed it to me and I thanked them all profusely.

In the end, the Christmas spirit returned and we enjoyed pancakes for dinner (by special request of Baby Brother) followed by a holiday movie. Once the kids were all tucked in their beds Toby, Luna (my peeps) and I lay on the sofa, watching the lights on the Christmas tree and enjoying the peace and quiet in a clean living room. That is where the spirit of Christmas is for me, this year, in the quiet moments in between the hustle and bustle and Big Feelings, when my heart is calm and open and ready to receive the gift of Christ's Peace, albeit Slow Lane style in bite sized portions.

Wherever, however, whatever Christmas means to you this year I wish you a happy, healthy, peace and love filled holiday, hopefully with your loved ones close by.

Toby the mountain goat dog poses with the Christmas tree in a now clean living room
The lovely Miss Luna, posing with the new table cloth and place mats artistically arranged by the Princesses


  1. Merry Christmas Kelly! I enjoy going grocery shopping too (sshh I do think we are rare). I don't put up a tree anymore, just a few simple tabletop decorations. I'm not really sure if there are any families with kids that follow the no tree thing? Maybe those minimalist types! The pics are beautiful and I wish I could give you a big hug. Love...Tan

  2. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one out there who enjoys grocery shopping! Merry Christmas to you, too, and I hope the year to come is one of peace, health, happiness and lots of good blogging. :)