It’s Just One Christmas

This year my family’s holiday celebrations are low key, low effort, and carried out with even lower expectations. You could call it a lazy Christmas, a minimalist approach, or a scaled-back yuletide season.

I am calling it survival, and I’m one hundred percent, guilt-free, okay with it.

The festivities we skip, the traditions (only a few years old anyway) that fall by the wayside, the days we are decidedly not merry  … they are all just days, and it’s only this one, decidedly busy, Christmas.

Being 99 weeks pregnant with our third baby, I have to let a lot of things go. Like, most issues of daily life, and every single extra thing that comes up. My energy is intensely prioritized: actual trauma; basic necessities; remembering how to form sentences and when to pick up my 4 year old from preschool; and then celebrating Christmas. On a separate list, there’s prep for baby number three (if you could really call a box of diapers, a car seat, and a clean outfit hanging around somewhere “prep”), plans for where everyone else will be, and some things resembling food stashed away in the pantry and freezer.

Completely maxed out. Sorry Christmas, but it’s just this one year.

Chances are slim that we will get pictures with Santa in matching outfits, if we even make it to see him. With our non-existent budget, there are fewer decorations, fewer outings, and not a single holiday party (family gatherings aside).  Our (let’s face it) super fussy kids, have caused us to happily abandon many festive plans because they are JUST NOT WORTH IT.

I even have to skip my favorite tradition: an annual cookie baking extravaganza, followed by delivery of treats to friends and neighbors. But hey – we made some 2-minute-fudge yesterday, and cookies from a mix. My little bakers, whose hearts and sugar obsessed bellies are full, got in their messy mixing and used way too many sprinkles. (Although … if anyone wants to supplement our holiday cookie fix, we don’t turn down donations.)

And it’s all good – really. It’s just one Christmas.

What we have found so far, with a couple weeks left, are a few simple joys.

Since I spend a great deal of time coaxing the kids to let me sit and put my feet up these days, we’ve cuddled on the couch with our favorite Christmas books and movies over and over (and over).

The kids have spent whole days in Santa jammies, listening to holiday music, and making simple construction paper chains (in lieu of Pinterest style daily crafts).

We’ve made special trips out to buy simple gifts for each other, and made inexpensive and low effort homemade gifts.

Energy, time, money and patience have been spent on a few things we can’t live without. The kids require all things possible relating to the Grinch – movies, books, songs, and holiday shirts. I don’t have an ounce of merriment without hanging up my mom’s 12 Days of Christmas decoration and watching our shared favorite movie: Christmas in Connecticut. Kevin cannot go without a tree or hanging lights along the eaves of our cozy home. And Penny doesn’t get into the holiday spirit without stealing a stick of butter from the counter, left out from making (human) treats. All of those bases have been covered, and there’s still some time to spare.

It’s a simple year, all we can manage, and I am surprisingly okay with it. In the grand scheme of family life, it really is just one single Christmas.

Happy holidays to all my friends and readers out there – however much or little you are celebrating! More from this human after the New Year, or when I come up for air after labor and newborn number three.

39 weeks. I exist like this all day, and yet I don’t see how it is humanly possible …

Friday Funsies

Fun and pretty Shamrock Suncatchers (with barely any sun to catch). I love crafting with these two, especially when they can both participate AND we all like the finished product! For us, the tricks are to keep it simple and go in with low expectations. That should be my motto for life.

Presidents’ Day Hike

Puppy Penny – 6 years ago at Schollenberger Park

Three-day weekends mean a day off to sleep late. A bonus day to get things done, have some fun, and get some chill time. An extra day with my main squeeze, an extra night to stay up late. Right?

HA. HA. HA. I have kids.

Holidays now mean Kevin is home from teaching, Addie is home from preschool, and I don’t babysit my part-time third child. They do not mean my kids sleep past 6 am, or refrain from climbing in our bed and complaining, or torturing the dog before sunrise. Monday holidays mean the third day in a row of this, and their pent up energy leaves us no option but to get out of the damn house.

Presidents’ Day was no exception. The morning snuggles were nice, but didn’t last. We bitched and moaned over coffee about needing to get out, but it was so windy and freezing (40 degrees, 55 within the hour). Northern CA winters are rough. Indoor activities would be too crowded for adult anxiety and toddler wildness. With no better options, and the kids trashing the house room by room, we decided to brave a hike at Schollenberger Park. A wetlands area close to us, with stroller-friendly paths, and nice views, it was a free activity: low risk if it failed.

I tricked Addie (3 ½) into getting ready by asking her to pick a ridiculous outfit, and she rose to the challenge: flowered leggings, neon striped shorts, pink tutu, purple rainbow shirt. Owen (almost 2) announced he would be riding his scooter. Kevin and I shared a panicked glance when we heard “DOO RIE!” (scooter ride). The scooter (which he only pushes backwards) means meltdowns over going in the street or heading home, and constant screams of “SELF! SELF! O-OH DO IT!” With an empathetic “sorry sweetie, today will be a hike and stroller ride”, we responded to every cry of “DOO RIE!” with “mm hmm, hike”. He was not comforted, but did get in the car, after a quick 90 minutes of getting ready. Poor Penny Dog ran in anxious circles, begging not to be left behind.

We all had vastly different ideas of how this hike should go. Kevin wanted to run, like we did in our pre-child days. I did not. Penny was delusional about getting ALL the birds. Owen never got over the scooter; he jumped in and out of the stroller, fussing about walking off the path (strictly forbidden). My genetically predisposed klutz, Addie, ran while looking behind her, holding sticks and fruit snacks, until her coughing fits confined her to the stroller. We strapped them both in and walked together in peace, looking at the water, noticing the new SmartTrain in the distance. For 12 seconds.

Halfway around the 2-mile loop, we were in divide and conquer mode. The cold wind in my ears failed to drown out demands for snacks, complaints of kicking, and WHYWHYWHY’s. My shoulders ached from pushing the 70 pounds of double beast stroller over gravel. I wondered WHYWHYWHY we thought this was a good idea. Kevin and Penny were stopped ahead, off the path (I saw passersby frown). I jogged toward my handsome husband, recently clean-shaven after his winter break beard. Fresh air and love lifted me a little. My pretty Penny, my first baby with flopped ears, wagged her curled up tail. Kev waved and assessed the scene, glanced at approaching dogs and clutched the leash tighter. He was waiting to check in, see if I wanted to switch off, or relieve me of a whiny kid.The way he oversees our family is his own brand of romance; he is the glue that holds us together.

Flashing back to those pre-kid days, I imagined K and P had sprinted ahead as I caught up for a second lap. I pictured the leisurely lunch we might have after. Maybe we would go downtown for a beer. Or lounge on the living room floor; I would devour a novel for fun and he would strum the guitar. We would make a little dinner, watch non-Disney-channel TV. We would sleep ALL NIGHT. A wistful pang stopped me.

Then I heard pure joy:



I pulled back the stroller canopies to see their faces: Addie’s spunky smile and wild eyes, watery from the wind. Owen’s toothy grin and shaggy hair. I looked again at my main squeeze. I saw his heart shine through his whole face. Those old days are gone, but they got us to this perfectly imperfect one.