I got the idea (albeit a less psychotic version) from a blog post my friend Jo wrote called Finding Christmas. Her plan was to avoid some of the material focus of Christmas and the ensuing let-down after all the presents were opened, by planning something fun and Christmasy for every day in December leading up to Christmas (an advent of sorts). This way, her family could enjoy Christmas longer, without it being all about the gifts. I loved this. We've always tried to keep the material side of Christmas to a minimum, but I loved Jo's idea of filling the space leftover from removing consumerism with fun memories and loving actions. Somehow though, I hijacked Jo's perfectly charming idea and went way, way overboard.
My downfall was two-fold.
1) I am an introvert masquerading as an extrovert. Which means I over-plan, over-schedule, and over-commit, completely forgetting that activity and being with people sometimes just plain wears me out and I need some secluded time alone (preferable with a good book) to recharge. Really, an uninterrupted potty break would suffice some days. (What can I say? I have two toddlers and going to the bathroom uninterrupted now constitutes as leisure time.)
2) Then, when the wiped-out-from-mothering and/or over-scheduling side of me would become a bit lackadaisical about my list of daily Christmas activities, the over-achieving, perfectionist side of me would start to twitch. Like a Yuletide dictator, I would force myself to play catch up and shove three-to-four activities into one afternoon. As you might imagine, this did not usher in the holiday cheer.
While operating under the duress of these personality "quirks", I tried to figure out what our family's Christmas traditions should be. Clearly this meant I needed to try and do every single blessed one of them. All in the same year. With twin toddlers, a five-month-old, and a new (but old and in need of some love) house.
Good plan, Jen.
There were some really good memories made in the process (despite my tomfoolery). And there were other days that my cheermeister attempts resulted in tantrums and timeouts for the twins and a new set of frown lines for me. I'd start out the day with the cheery aspirations of Mrs. Claus and finish the flurry of festivities feeling like my heart was two sizes too small.
Like when I wanted to bake sugar cookies with the twins. I pictured a Norman Rockwell-eque scene where we would create memories and bond through an over indulgence of Christmas music and cookie dough.
It started out like this:
(because obviously one needs protective goggles when baking)
This adorable moment lasted all of two-and-one-forth minutes. Turns out that expectations minus reality, times three-year-old twins, divided by one unusually fussy baby, equals a stressed out Mama who just about HAD IT with this "best Christmas ever" nonsense. I finally sent the twins outside to run off some energy and finished the darn cookies by myself.
As I mentioned, not all my attempts have been fraught with stress. One of the traditions that everyone actually enjoyed was making Christmas gifts for the homeless. This is something I did once when I was single, but it was even more fun as a family. It created great opportunities to talk with the twins about giving, abundance, and loving others as we made cards and filled gift bags with goodies. THIS was the kind of Christmas magic I had pictured.
Okay fine. I also felt the magic whenever we went to view Christmas lights. And anytime I heard Michael Bublé sing Jingle Bells. Because honestly, how could you not?
Now, I've got less than seventy-two hours until Christmas Day. Instead of trying to figure out which holiday traditions I'll squeeze into the last glimmers of the Christmas season, I think I'll just sit back and enjoy the sparkle of Christmas lights reflected in my sons' eyes. I'll sing along to the carols on the radio and cuddle up on the couch when one of the twins ask me for the fifteenth bazillion time to read How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I'll remember that this is meant to be a season of joy and giving and love and grace (extra thankful for that last one this year). And those things are hard to find amidst the over-scheduled hustle bustle of stress and busyness.
I still want to create fun traditions and memories for our little family (and with our extended family), but maybe not quite so many of them all at the same time. Here's hoping that I can remember all of this next year. ;-)
*If you're curious what kinds of goodies our Christmas gift bags included: socks, water bottles, pretzels, mixed nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, candy canes, and a hand-made card.