Moms, It's Time to Get Your Joy Back This Christmas

It’s started. 

The lunatic race to the perfect Christmas has begun. 

The stores are swelling with garland, light strands, and good tidings of joyfully packaged perfume sets. Pinterest looks like a red and green glitter bomb exploded on its cover page, and TV commercials are running their cringe worthy “Give your family this $50K luxury car for Christmas!”  ads. Bucket lists like 25 Things to Do to Have a Merry Christmas, 10 Must Take Christmas Photo Ops, 30 Christmas Movies You Need to Watch, 20 Christmas Dinners You Need to Make, and 15 Easy to Make Organic Free Range Christmas Gifts, are spreading across the internet. The 24 hour Christmas music stations are already streaming, Christmas party obligations and dates are filling up datebooks, and mail order catalogs selling everything from toys to actual nuts are spilling out of the mailbox. 


I already want a long winter’s nap.

I am your average 40 something mom with a large family and busy household to run, and truthfully, the holidays scare the hell out of me. I felt the pangs of Christmas anxiety for the first time a few days ago, strolling through a store littered with holly berry and pine scented candles, 20 foot blow up reindeers, and shelves overloaded with peppermint bark and giant wheels of red velvet ribbon.  It was then that the mom's to do list maker in my brain cranked up……

All the Christmas bucket list crap

Decorations unpacked and put up

Baking, baking, cooking, baking

Awesome and appropriate gifts for teenagers…..which don’t actually exist

Christmas card family picture….need to buy dress clothes that actually fit all the kids, then find time we're all together and liking each other. And a patient soul to take the picture 

All the family's present shopping..all of it! 

Church plays, school plays, practices, costumes


The damn ELF

Parties, cookie swaps, gift exchanges

Christmas crafting with the kids

Mailing, shipping 

Charity toy drive, food drive

And those were only the thoughts off the top of my head. 

Imagine what’s below Santa’s surface. 

I walked out of that store sweating with more yuletide anxiety than Rudolph with a low nose battery. All I could think is I want the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” to hurry up and “Jingle All the Way” to New Years Eve.  Like NOW. And then I realized my holiday to do list was really just a written collection of first world mom problems, and I needed to put my Mrs. Claus panties on and start decking some damn halls. But even that doesn't feel right. Instead, it feels like my first world mom Christmas problems list were borne of first world Christmas ideas; ideas that come from big box retailers, Madison Avenue, social media, and the Jones’. 

Is everything on my list really necessary? Can I do less and still provide a memorable and joy filled holiday for my family?

Well Oh Holy Night! The answer is a Hark Heralding Yes! 

What do my kids and family actually NEED to have a Merry Christmas? 

Well, I think just one thing really. 


Just lots and lots of just time spent with a happy and sane mom and dad.

So if that means less decking of the halls and more saying no to obligations that only bring stress to me and the rest of the family,  then so be it.  

But will I  feel like less than a great mom for not  beginning to make it  look a lot like Christmas from now until the 25th?? 

Can’t peace on Earth start within the four walls of  our own homes? Yes it can. 

The only obligations I truly have this Christmas are the ones I choose to put on myself, and I need to ensure they remain the ones that also bring joy, peace, and maybe an actual silent night to our family. I refuse to let what was once considered a sacred holiday-but now wreaks of door-busters and debt inducers- bring resentment, impatience, and frustration to my family. 

There is nothing in a store, an online cart, or on the cover of shiny catalog that can take the place of a joyful parent. There is nothing worth pinning, baking, or creating that is worth more than peaceful time spent with my family. There is no Christmas office party, white elephant gift swap, or holiday open house that is more meaningful than an evening spent on the couch surrounded by all the kids, popcorn, and the movie Elf on TV. They will remember that. 

As a child, I once caught my mom crying while listening to Christmas songs.  
I asked her why the songs were making her sad. She told me that Christmas, the time of year where people are supposed to be the happiest, is often the time of year where people are the saddest. It wasn’t until many years later I understood this unfortunate truth-that for many, the cheerful explosion of the holidays are a stark reminder of another season of their suffering. It is a time when grieving spouses, parents, grandparents, and widows, are all trying to gracefully navigate an inherently joy filled time. 

Perhaps it is those people that can teach us how to embrace the holidays; how much more important it is to make moments, not molasses cookies. 

They can remind us there is only one thing on our holiday to do list that is mandatory. One thing that needs to be done above all the others. One precious gift we need to give our family every year. 

The gift of time. 

And that is all I want this Christmas. I want to live the holidays in the present, not because of presents. I want to wrap my patience and my arms around my children, not boxes. I want to hang on their every word, not hang more wreaths. I want to picture my family in their best selves, not their best clothes. I want to swap stories with my family, not baked goods with strangers. I want to create organic memories, not forced traditions. And I want to keep  perspective and keen awareness in my thoughts at all times, reminding me that the only one true thing on the holiday to do list that is a MUST DO is this…..

To be together with the people I love.  

That is the gift I am giving myself, and my family, this year.  

Moms, let’s help each other keep Christmas joyfully simple this year, and remember that ourselves, our sanity, and our time is the best gift we can give our families this Christmas.

Are you in?

Stop Wishing Away the Noise

I love silence. Total quiet. No background white noise, chatter, or random sounds. Just total quiet. God thought it would be the ultimate in ironic noise inducement to put me in a setting saturated with loud commotion- a house full of boys. 

I hate the clamor, and I wish away the noise on a daily basis.

I just need it to be quiet! I need to hear myself think,  process,  marinate the day! 

What must that be like?

I did a house call this week. A few times a semester I teach technology workshops at my local community college for senior citizens, and on occasion I will visit their homes to help set up their desktop computer or get their tablets connected to wifi. I had a house call last Tuesday.

As I walked up to John’s house,  I could see him pacing in the front room. His yard was exquisitely  manicured-no stray footballs, empty juice boxes, or snack wrappers. He opened the door eagerly, and I knew his whole day would be planned and centered around this one hour we would spend together.  John is in his early 80s, a great grand parent, a former higher up in our state’s department of education, and a recent widow. 

While he went to gather his iPad and his list of hand written questions for me,  I looked around the house. Everything was eerily still, and perfectly in its place; chairs pushed in, pillows fluffed, books standing tall and flush on shelves, and framed photographs of graduations and anniversaries  dusted clean and arranged to precision on end tables. Nothing gets knocked down or broken here I thought. I imagined when he brought groceries home and put them away, they would be in the same exact place he left them on the fridge shelf the next day. And the day after that. When he set down the TV remote it would stay there, and be there when he went back for it. The glass patio doors would remain open if he wanted, and would stay that way all day- nobody sliding them open and shut and open again- and they were fingerprint free. Like forever. Indoor plants were scattered around much of the house and on the porch. They were lush and green, their long leaves spilling out over the sides of pastel ceramic pots. You could tell they were taken care of with an abundance of love and care.  I bet his wife was a plant lover I thought.  

He sat next to me on clean, crisp couch cushions, and as I worked updating his phone and iPad, I anticipated and listened for the noise. But there wasn’t any. Where was it? Whenever I am on my phone or computer or iPad, a cacophony of insanity is playing in the background; someone singing "Hey Jessie…hey Jessie," microwave beeping, fridge opening, pantry door closing, teens stomping up the stairs, phones trilling,  washer spinning, dishwasher whooshing.  Here, now, there was just silence, total quiet. If his houseplants could talk, I imagine they would tell me, “It’s always like this. It’s great for hearing yourself think, to process, to marinate your day. But it’s not great for LIVING. Don’t wish away the noise. Noise is life.”  

The peacefulness around me was quietly soothing, but it was also deafening. It didn’t hurt my ears. It hurt my heart.

We finished up, then shared small talk about college football. John is a lifelong University of Florida fan, and I enjoyed every single second of him showing me his Gator sports memorabilia  room, and talking about rivalries and how wonderfully loud it gets in his stadium. How the loud noise just makes you feel alive.

I’m going to be living in a house like John’s in a matter of a few blinks. In between the blaring TV, the constantly crashing furniture, and the raucous play of boys, years will pass in warp speed. The noise of life in this house will float out my front door, in the form of young men leaving and waving goodbye, who will be ready to produce their own noises in their own homes. 

As always happens after I spend time with older folks, I learn something invaluable. 

I’m going to miss the noises of life here in my house. 

The quiet is not all its cracked up to be. 

And don’t, just don’t for one single second, wish the noise away.  

It is those loud rowdy sounds, that although may hurt our ears, they fill our hearts. 

They are love. They are LIFE.

Surviving the Parenting Roller Coaster Ride

I live on a street mostly occupied by retired couples. They spend their days doing retirement type things; golf, tennis, walking, working out, volunteering, reading, gardening. I watch them go about their golden years,   smiling and seemingly enjoying the slow lifestyle and relaxed days. 

And I just want to ask them one question.

 I want to walk up to them, grab them by the shoulders, look into their calm faces and at the top of my lungs ask, 


Just that one question. 

And then I want them to spill their guts about the insane roller coaster ride of parenting they just spun around a billion times on , and are lucky enough to have finally been told “Take your personal belongings (anything that is left that the kid’s haven’t destroyed), grab your spouse by the hand (if you’re still talking to each other), and disembark. You’re done people!”

How did you do it? 

How did you make it to this point? 

How did the stress and chaos of the parenting roller coaster not actually kill you?

I think about asking this question to them more and more these days, as our family is in what feels like a great transition. I have a high school senior getting ready to leave the nest, but still a hatchling in so many ways. I have another teenager navigating his own adolescence, in the shadow of the first kid who is stealing the college spotlight, yet more mature and still 2+ years away from his own independence. I have a newly minted middle schooler, who I just noticed for the first time this week, is sporting a body now that is sightly changing, his chin structure losing a bit of chubby youth, and squaring out slightly. His self-reliance is both satisfying and guilt enduring. Is that autonomy the result of my neglect? Or is it accidental free range parenting? And then there’s the one we still call “the baby.” He’s eight.  He’s loud. He has grown up  with one desire and one desire only; to do everything the big boys do. God help him. 

Everyone is changing so quickly, the ride is speeding up. 

I want to get off for a little while. Did they ever want get off?

I want to ask the retired couples how they made it through the tough weeks, the ones where words are spewed between kids and parents that are filled with anything but joy and kindness. The weeks where kid logistics planning takes precedence over marital intimacy. Weeks where uniforms are lost, homework is lost, patience is lost, and we are out of toilet paper. Again. Where cars break down, hot water heaters explode, business deals go awry, and a well planned and graciously prepared dinner sits uneaten on the kitchen counter, because exhaustion, attitude, selfishness, and disrespect all converge at the same time and among every member of our family. Just because. 

Just because some weeks are tough like that. 

The retired people I have the pleasure of seeing everyday sometimes actually help me get through the tough weeks.  They made it! They did it!  Maybe I can too! They had newborns and sleepless nights, toddlers and tantrums, they had rough and tumble kids and goofy tweens, they had mind numbing teenagers and partying college co-eds. They helped navigate fledgling graduates into new apartments and new careers. They married off sons and daughters, moved them across the country, or even  across the world. They bravely rode the parenting roller coaster, they probably screamed and cried on it, undoubtedly at the beginning, most assuredly in the middle, and definitely at the end.  

But they got off smiling.

I won’t ever actually get the chance to ask them my one question, and there’s a wonderful and perfectly good  reason why I can’t. Because when we talk, right after they ask me about my family, their face brightens and their grin widens. “Wanna see a recent picture of the grandkids?” they’ll ask. And just like that, all the tough weeks they endured as parents, the years struggling on the parenting coaster, all of it will melt away in memory. Gone. Like they never happened. 

In my heart, I already know the answer to my big one question, so I don’t ever ask it. 

“The ride was great!” they will say. “Man that ride went by so fast. I wish I could ride it again!” they’ll add. “Stay on the ride as long as you can!” “The best part is I get to ride it again, with all these amazing grandchildren. Wanna see a recent picture?”

Turns out I'll make it off this insane ride eventually, and from what I can tell, the next one is a well deserved reward for the first. You see, you can get off when you want (send the grandkids home.

Now that's a ride I can handle.

#getyourmammogram #nomoreexcuses

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