The 5 Stages of Christmas Eve Toy Assembly

Twas the Night Before Christmas
The kids finally asleep
And the hour when all parents have to dig really deep. 

It is the night where you'll make memories you later will tell
For moms and dads worldwide have entered Little Tikes hell

While you're wishing for mistletoe to get in the mood
Instead you are realizing you're totally screwed

The toys to assemble
The bike and that truck
The hoop and the dollhouse
A grill? What the F@*k! 

Come Dasher and Dancer and instructions in German
On Donner and Cupid keep those wrenches a 'turnin

Late into the night, and then the wee hours of mornin'
Miniature screw drivers you will be a scornin'

But before the kids see all the magic you've done
before the smiles and shrieks full of laughter and fun

Parents who've just pulled an all nighter for the ages
Will have journeyed through the joy that is toy assembly's five stages

1. Denial- 11 p.m. 

When you are still trying to tell yourself the following; Those seven Amazon boxes are really just full of stuffed animals. Is it  already 11 p.m.? Thank God this won't take long.  I see us asleep by midnight. Maybe most of them come assembled. I got this- 15 years ago I was German club president and breezed through shop class. Nothing needs batteries. I bought all the batteries we will need. I bought all the right size batteries. Of course I know where the drill is. The cordless drill is fully charged. Yes, I remember where the eyeglass sized screwdriver is. Yes, it comes with an allen wrench.  All the pre-drilled holes are actually pre-drilled. This year we won't need the 9 inch Santoku knife,  needle nose pliers, jaws of life, and a blow torch. I promise. We got this. 

2. Blame- 1 a.m.

Here come the smart ass comments from the parent that did absolutely NONE of the toy shopping, and was asked to start putting the toys together three weeks ago. Here also come the smart ass comments from the 'so over Christmas' parent,  who has been toy bargain hunting since Halloween, making sure to snag the hottest and most desired toy for that kid who has only asked for that one thing. (And you finally found it!) "It's your fault, the kids don't need all of this!" "Uh, NO.... it's your fault, you could have done this weeks ago!"  "Oh yea? Well it's your mother's fault, for going over board on her grandsons and sending all these toys HERE for US to put together."  "Seriously?  Go ahead and take that two foot long Hot Wheels track and shove it up your arse- I'm going to bed."  Nowhere in my wedding vows did the priest say, "Do you promise to love, honor, and hold your tongue on Christmas Eve when you haven't slept for 3 years and your spouse just lost the allen wrench?"

3. Reminiscing- 2 a.m.

*SIGH. Ohhhh the peace of Christmas Eve before children, just the two of you, a roaring fire, and dinner that did not contain a nugget shaped anything. And then sleeping in on Christmas morning, like until 11, followed by lingering over coffee and good conversation,  then the  exchanging of thoughtful and intimate gifts. There will be recalling of your first Christmas as a married couple together, expecting your first baby, and eager to have a little bundle the following year. Remember when we couldn't wait to have a kid old enough to sit, unafraid, on Santa's lap? One that would write adorable letters to the jolly guy, and believed with all his heart the magic that is Christmas? Memories, like the corners of this coffee table we haven't seen in years because it's baby proofed.  So here's to us, being awoken by said baby tomorrow at 5 a.m., admiring the thoughtful new hot water heater we bought each other for Christmas. Hey, what are you doing New Year's Eve? Make sure to set the alarm for midnight so we can wake up to smooch.

4. We're Done Having Kids- 3 a.m.

This usually happens two or three kids in, with bleary eyes and impatiently angry voices. When a hungry baby has woken up to eat,  the toddler simultaneously begins crying because of a bad dream, and you have three hours more of clicking and snapping your way to the perfect little boy's workbench. You both start saying it. Her, "Don't ever touch me again."  Him, "Let's have another baby you said! It will be fun you said!" Her, "Oh don't worry, because I'm never having sex with you again."  Him, "How could we? They are all in our bed!"  Her, "NO. MORE. KIDS." Him, "Agreed."  You have two more kids anyway. 

5. Acceptance- 4 a.m.

Conversations cease, you hunker down, and things get serious.  You work like little elves, in perfect unison, grasping at any last bit of alertness you can muster, and pump out toy after toy in your garage turned Santa's Workshop.  You laugh at the arguments you just had an hour ago, and instead you pause for a few minutes to be a kid again. You go outside in the cold night air and ride the shiny new red scooter, pedal the Schwinn, and play catch with some new pigskin. You write out "From Santa" on the now completed workbench, test push some trains along the track, and stuff the stockings. You grab some asleep, even if it is only for a few minutes, grateful for children that will squeal through the house with the sunrise. You've  accepted the fact you are in fact actually grown ups (and parents), and you've rocked another Christmas Eve as a mom and dad. 

This year, I have very few toys that will need assembling.   As little boys grow into young men, chaotic Christmas Eve toy assembly marathons are getting rarer. Train tables and skateboards have been replaced by cologne and cash. This year, it will be a quiet night before Christmas, and I will look back on those insane early years with great fondness, and zero regret. Had we been duly prepared and put all the toys together early, we would have missed some of the most memorable and hilarious nights of our marriage.  Nights like those are parenting rites of passage, when you find yourself ponderously asking, "How did OUR parents do this?" 

This year, with all the peace and quiet I will have on the  24th, I will start compiling a list of presents for my future grandchildren. You can bet your little hex key I will be sending my sons and their wives an unassembled six story dollhouse, a bicycle in 85 parts, a three foot wide 300 piece lead free wooden puppet theatre (made in Germany), and a make your own glitter machine. Oh, and a case of moon sand. I soooo plan on being THAT grandma. Merry Christmas kids! 

3 Ways to Fail (But Win) At Christmas

Moms, we are heading into the heart of the  holiday season, and you know what that means: it is all up to you. YOU. Yep, you! You are the shopper, the baker, the tree decorator. The cookie swapper, the secret Santa giver, the garland swagger. The family picture taker, package delivery maker, and holiday party planner.

Exhausted much? Me too. There are neither enough hours nor espresso jolted chestnut lattes for this mom to be able to do all that  I am supposed to (expected to? assumed to?) get done before the fat jolly guy in the red suit comes. But that's ok, because I have a few  ways you can totally drop the glass ornament ball on some of your holiday to do list, without looking like a grinch. Moms of the world, how about we take off just a touch of the Pinterest perfect Christmas pressure? I'm calling for a collective round of caroling out "Let it go!" holiday style- where we  spread the joy of not giving a crap about the to do list, and instead, we actually allow ourselves to feel joyful, instead of burdened by the season. Then after Christmas, we may actually have some joy left to spread throughout 2015.

 I've got a few ideas.

Embrace the Imperfect Tree

Put down that copy of Southern Living with the 20 ft. impeccably decorated Christmas tree on the cover, because it's never gonna happen.  Don't even eyeball the department store trees. Nope. Also not gonna happen. And you know what? It shouldn't. If you have little ones in your house, let go the idea of having a perfectly trimmed tree. Heck, when I had infants crawling all over the place, and climbing on everything,  I actually put the tree up inside a pack 'n play.  A few years later, after spending hours trimming it to perfection, a four year old ran into it head on in the cozy coupe and knocked it over. From that year on, my boys have trimmed the tree. All of it. I just let it go.  Sure, for a while it only had ornaments on the bottom half, but they have grown taller, and now it gets trimmed all the way to the top.  It is not magazine cover worthy, and  sometimes I find things hanging on it that aren't actually ornaments (a little league trophy?) but they love it. It's their Christmas tree. And it's perfect. Win.

Don't Wrap Every Single Present

I am not a present wrapper. Nope. Hate it. I realized years ago I could not wrap presents and leave them under the tree with a house full of boys. Five seconds after I walked out the door they were unwrapping to see the contents, then attempting to re-wrap. From then on, all presents stay well hidden, until they magically appear under the tree Christmas morning. Seriously, there are no presents under my tree until the 25th. My idea of wrapping is sticking on a bow with a "From Santa" label, or a recycled gift bag if I am feeling nutty. If my older boys want to help wrap gifts for the little ones, they are more than welcome, and no style points given or expected.  Often it becomes a competition of who can wrap the worst. I let it go. Bonus, there is a lot less garbage Christmas morning, and I've saved a few trees. Earth Day should totally be in December. Win.

A Real Family Christmas Card Picture

The best, easiest, most successful holiday family photo I took for our card was the one with all my boys ASLEEP. It is not physically  or mentally possible to get four boys (and one grown man) to dress formally, smile joyfully, and stand still for any length of time beyond two seconds. Trust me on this. It CANNOT happen. So I let go of the notion of the perfect holiday portrait. One night, in a eureka! moment that may have been clouded by a few too many rum balls, I took a picture of all of them sleeping.

That became our family Christmas picture.

The card read, "Finally, a Silent Night!" Never before did I have friends personally call me to tell me how awesome our Christmas card was until that year. Win.

We will spend the next few weeks most likely feeling way more stressed than blessed. The season sends many moms (and dads) into a frenzy trying to just get it all done. And why? Because it is a 'season,' and we feel like we fail if we don't do it all and do it all perfectly.  It is all the great things we do as people, but forced and shoved into about 25 days. We save it all for Christmas; the charitable gift giving, the delicious food, drinking hot chocolate and snuggling with our kids, the parties where we come together with friends, the bringing of home baked goodies over to a neighbor, the telling our loved ones near and far what they mean to us. We save it all for one month. And then we stress out about how it has to be perfect and done, all before the 25th.  Well it doesn't. There are 12 months in a year, and lo and behold, they all have a 25th. Be the season all year. In the middle of June, bring food to the food bank. Throw a party in April, just because you haven't seen your girlfriends in a while. Road trip to your aunt and uncle's house for Sunday dinner, in August. Bring fudge to your neighbor in July. Send coffee to your kid's teacher in February.  We have the capacity to love and give in abundance, more than just in December. In 2015, try to be a little bit of the season every month, because that is how you really WIN Christmas.