Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Chaos (No More?)

I'm a big proponent of the less is more philosophy, but was raised in a "more is more" household.  That's not to say I don't appreciate all that I have or was given, because I do.  A couple years ago, I got fed up with all the "expectations" of what we should do and who we need to see and exchange gifts with.  I wasn't alone & luckily, my SIL and I were able to convince my mom to make some changes.  We stopped doing the Christmas day race; open gifts at home, race to g'mas to open more gifts, quickly put away all gifts & clean up bc guests were coming for early dinner, while being yelled at to hurry up.  Screw that.  We now celebrate/open gift w/G'parents a day or two before Christmas.  We nosh on tapas that everyone contributes and can take our time to open & appreciate what we've received.  It's a much better way to go.  Christmas morning is just our immediate family, so we can sit around in our pjs all morning and enjoy our time together.  This year, we even had Christmas Eve "off" as the hosts of the dinner we usually attend have moved a few hours away.  We decided to opt out bc we didn't want the kids to be up too late.  We were thinking we'd drive around to see the Christmas lights at some of the more dedicated homes in our area.  Instead, we had an impromptu dinner w/neighbors.  Turned out to be one of the best Christmas Eve's ever.  Kids all played together, I made mulled wine & we got properly tossed.  Very fun.  My folks even toned down the gifts this year.  They spent the same amount as usual, (I'm sure,) but when w/the focus on quality instead of quantity.  In the past, the kids have gotten "present fatigue."  This year was pretty much right on.  After opening gifts, all the cousins piled into a back bedroom to play.  They played some with their new gifts, but really, they played with each other.  They get it too, the part of this really being about having fun together.

For many years now, we've gone to see the Nutcracker Ballet.  This year, the Girl Scouts took care of that one for me.  We had a tour of the theater; including the back stage, large props (& how they work,) old costumes and practice stage.  Then we had a hour to eat dinner and then all watched the ballet together.  It was a late night, but the girls really loved it, and it was fun to go with our friends as well.

Christmas in the Park is another tradition we try to take part in every year.  Unfortunately, I got sick the week school got out.  My parents took pity on me (or maybe on my girls,) and took them to go see the event one evening.  (It's way more fun at night.) Not only did my kids get to do the Park at night, (like they wanted.) I was free to curl up on the couch with a blanket and not feel bad about feeling bad. 

We added something new this year.  New for my girls, but sort of a revived tradition for myself.  When I was a kid we would head up to Union Square in San Francisco every December to go see the store windows.   It's crowded and parking is lousy and forget it, if the weather isn't cooperating.  This year I was offered tickets to see "The Grinch, The Musical."  I thought the girls might really like it, so I said yes and invited my mom to join us.  The day of, I was kicking myself for getting us involved in it.  I had tons still to do and had no business driving up to The City.  The musical was awesome and my girls LOVED it.  In hindsight, I'm really glad we went.  The weather was perfect, we got their early, and got nearby parking.  We had time to see some of the store windows and each lunch before the performance.  We had ice cream at Macy's after and when we came out, the Christmas tree was lit up.  It really was a fun day.  I believe it's going to be added to the list of traditions that will continue on each year.

Lastly, one of the big traditions my mom has been big on continuing is Christmas baking.  I have the best kitchen set up for all of us to do this together, so it's at my house.  The day before, I mentioned to DaddySpeak that we were baking at our house & to say he was not pleased, might be a bit of an understatement.  He then voiced that his concern was that I'm always a wreak after we're done.  If it were just the baking or just the cleanup, I'd probably be ok, but all of it together does me in.  I realized he was right.  It was silly of me to kill myself for baked goods that will probably mostly get tossed anyway.  I'd already purchased a gingerbread village, so the girls could decorate, because decorating is really what they're most intersted in doing.  So, I decided not to bake.  I think it might not have been something my mom was thrilled about. But you know what?  I was fine.  I helped the girls with decorating their houses.  I helped my  mom & SIL w/their cookies.  And guess what? I was ok that night & the next day.  Totally doing that again.  One of the smartest moves I've made yet.  For the neighbors we usually exchange baked good with; I printed up 5x7s of their kids that I'd taken over the year & wrote in their cards, "Some people bake, I take pictures."  I got personal thank yous from each of them, so I think it was a hit.

I took a lot on, with being the room mom for LittleSpeak's class.  But I did manage to pace myself this year.  The kids still got to do everything they wanted. And I'm not a complete loss now.  In fact, today we all went bike riding, as a family.  Someone remind me to read this in October next year. This has been a great way to end this year.

Friday, December 09, 2011

All I Want For Christmas Is A Full Night's Sleep

So Mir, wrote this post that pretty much encompasses how I'm feeling right now. 

Since beginning of November, (right after our trip to Maui,) I've been feeling overwhelmed.  It's been building and is more or less coming to a head this week.  I'm averaging about 4 hours of sleep a night.  Six day of this, so I'm kinda a mess right now. 

Required Annual Santa Pix
Usually, I'm more or less done w/my shopping by December First.  This year, I started my list on Monday.  December 5.  Gah!  I'm pretty organized about it, Thank Gawd!  If I wasn't I'd probably be institutionalized by now.  I have spreadsheet of everyone I buy for and add new columns for each year.  It has columns for item purchased, budgeted amount & actual dollars spent. I can see how much we're spending each year and where we can cut back if needed.  But, this year, I'm having trouble w/what to get everyone.  I've sat staring at the list for several nights now.  I'm working on it, and it's getting done, but I'm nervous that it's ALL going to happen before the actual holiday.  I'm pretty sure the gifts that have to be sent are either going to be way over budget (shipping charges,) or be more like New Year's gifts.  Maybe even Lunar New Year, at the pace I"m keeping.  I'm also doing a lot of online ordering bc I can't get away from my kids.  My Fibro isn't great (lack of sleep and cold weather contributing,) so I've managed to go on three shopping trips so far.  (1 a day.)

Part of my problem is that my mom is one of those people who thinks Christmas should be nothing short of a "Norman Rockwell-esk" event.  (It's been drilled into me, and I'm getting over it, but old habits die hard.)  A few years back, us kids rebelled & told my mom to pick a day BEFORE Christmas to celebrate as a family. (She goes nuts w/the amount of gifts they bestow on the kids, so it takes a while to get through them all.)  We were tired of getting up at the butt-crack of dawn to do Santa gifts & rush through our families' opening of gifts on Christmas morning. Just so that we could rush through gifts at her house before all the extraneous relatives showed up.  We were lucky to have a cup of coffee, much less breakfast during those years.  Moving it to an earlier date, has taken some of the heat off, but not all. 

It's also important that we participate in several family traditions.  I'm not taking issue w/these.  For the most part, I want to do this stuff and want my girls to have these experiences.  Mostly, I'm just bitching bc it's my blog and I can, (neener-neener- neener,) and bc this is part of what makes me feel like I'm going to lose my ever-loving mind.  There are three "must-do" Christmas related activites: 1) Christmas in the Park, 2) Nutcracker Ballet and 3) Christmas baking.   This year, BigSpeak's brownie troop took part in a special showing of the Nutcracker, so we got to go to a tour of the back stage, costumes and props departments before the performance.  Had an hour dinner break, and then got to see the actual performance.  (I'm pretty sure, it was their dress rehearsal.)   Kudos to the Girl Scouts for arranging that one for me.  Christmas baking has become my thing in the past few years.  Not because I love to bake, but because I have best kitchen for all of us to work in.  I mentioned to DaddySpeak that the baking event is occurring Saturday, and he rolled his eyes & muttered under his breath.  (I believe that he feels about Christmas the same as what he feels toward Disney.  Told you I married the anti-Christ. I think Christmas would be okay, but it comes right in the middle of college football AND basketball seasons! Yeah, he's not real motivated to participate in anything else.)  I told him the girls had actually been pestering me about doing it.  To which he replied, he was fine with it, but he's not fine w/how I'm always wreaked for days after.  And he's right.  I had already purchased a "gingerbread village" for the girls to put together & decorate.  (All they really care about is the decorating anyway.)  I decided that I'm not going to bake.  I might use some refrigerator dough & cook a few batches, maybe.  I'll helping the girls decorate.  No one cares if I make cookies or not. Except my mom, so I'm not telling her till she gets here.  Not participating in the actual baking would throw off her Rockwell vibe.  The last thing is "Christmas in the Park."  It's really cool and we try to get to it every year, but it is the same every year.  Last year my parents were upset that we weren't taking the girls, so they took them.  I liked that version.  I think they should continue doing that & make it the new tradition.  Personally, I'm not all that into hanging out in the cold.  A few years ago, DaddySpeak and I mapped out the best local decorated houses & take the girls to see them.  We've hit Vasona's Fantasy of Lights, in past years, but it's pretty crowded & it had more cache w/the girls when they were younger.    I think there's something extra cool about seeing a house or entire street all decorated.  Even though we know it's there, there's still something unexpected about it, that makes it seem cooler.

I hadn't written anything, bc I was feeling so overwhelmed.  Maybe getting it all out there will help and I'll start sleeping again.