I was running around between nursing sessions, stringing up half-burnt out strands of lights and trying to finish off our handmade stockings with faux-fur trim (I know y'all...I know). All around me bells were ringing and people were fa-la-la-la-ing and over at my house I was yelling, "pay no attention to the lady behind the curtain!" while making four different kinds of Christmas cookies I had no business eating.
It occurred to me that year that Christmas doesn't feel so magical when you're the one making all the magic.
That Christmas the kids didn't care about the presents I'd carefully selected and wrapped with love, they played with the Amazon box they came in and expressed their thanks by throwing up on the brand-new sweater the hubs had given me. I felt so defeated by the whole ordeal. There was no joy in my world, no jolly in my season. And ever since that insane Christmas as a family of four, I've tried to lower my expectations for what this season "should" look like at this stage of life.
I've stopped baking Christmas cookies almost entirely and rely on invites to the in-laws or my mom's house to have the goodies I'm so sentimental about. It seems I'm constantly needing to shave an inch or two off my waist anyway, so this is really a win-win.
Every year fewer boxes come down from the attic and fewer decorations make their way into the house. Gone are the twinkly glass Christmas trees that used to live on the coffee table and the massive snow globe that plays 'O Christmas Tree' (which was used as a bludgeoning weapon the last time I put it out...)
We still buy a real tree, but I've gone from hanging three boxes of ornaments on branches to only putting out a curated selection (on the very highest branches). We still hang stockings but I no longer change out my everyday kitchen linens for ones embroidered with Christmas trees and holiday sayings. Keep it simple is my mantra for the holidays nowadays.
If you're the crazy person behind the curtain at your house this year, might I make a few suggestions?
Pick one party to attend and decline all the other invites.
Maybe don't put up the holiday village this year?
Ask the grandparents to have your kids over to their house to bake and decorate cookies.
Get your tree from Home Depot instead of the gorgeous tree farm that is an hour away.
If taking the kids ice skating downtown defines the season for you, make that a priority but skip caroling with neighbors. If sending Christmas cards is a must, then order them online and pay a little extra to have them addressed and mailed directly to your family and friends.
Pretty soon the kids will care more about watching A Christmas Story than pulling all the ornaments off the tree and in the mean-time, no one will care that your gifts all came straight from Amazon instead of the local fair-trade boutique.
When it comes down to it, it turns out that Christmas is a pretty magical season even without all the Pinterest perfection.
More great advice on how to keep Christmas stress-freee from two moms I greatly admire:
Christmas Guidance for Moms (Clover Lane blog)
How Do I Make the Holidays Run Smoothly? (Wire Talk LIVE w/ Karen Stubbs)