Of all the things we did at Disneyland yesterday, the kids’ favorite was the Sorceror’s Workshop, where we spent more time drawing a series of animation strips–including butterflies, flowers, basketballs, soccer balls, and cartwheeling stick figures–than we spent anywhere else in the park. A close second was the Animation Academy, where we learned how to draw Chip. His nose is like a chocolate chip, unlike Dale’s clown-like adornment. Of course, they were also thrilled by the teenaged ducks diving under the moat around Cinderella’s castle. Which is all to say: I adore my small, innocent, artistic children.
It did not escape my attention that I posted only one time during the month of December. To be honest, December sort of got away from me. The holidays are one of my favorite times, and as a general rule, I squeeze every last drop of holiday goodness out of them. I begin checking out Christmas books and stocking supplies for holiday crafts in early October; I make lists of every last cookie I’m going to make, and to whom they’ll be given. I come up with fabulous plans to make the most of the holidays. Between advent calendars and daily ornaments and paper chains, we often at least four different ways to count down to Christmas.
Except for this year.
Early in December, I took a week to visit my sister in Scotland. Not only had I never been to Scotland in the seven years my sister has lived there, but I had yet to meet my beautiful new niece. Plus I’d never taken a trip so indulgently independent. It was a wonderful trip. I spent time with my sister and her family that is priceless to me, deepening a relationship that I’d long convinced myself was too difficult to develop given the distance. I helped them set up their Christmas tree and laid my niece down for her naps and put reality to what had long been just random names and places. No matter how hard it was to be away from my family–especially in December–I was tremendously glad I’d done it.
But reality is reality: when I returned home to the gauntlet of the kids’ last week in school, the presents to be bought and wrapped, the cookies to be made, I quickly realized that we were not going to squeezing all those drops this year. Very quickly, I set aside many of the “things” I’d convinced myself made the most of the holidays. We ended up with one advent calendar. Fewer cookies. Store-bought lasagna. Simply wrapped gifts. Stream-lined decorations. I put the Christmas craft supplies away for another year.
This will not come as a surprise to you, most likely. The holidays came just the same, even though we didn’t count their impending arrival with ceremonious fanfare. Presents were given and received. We still watched the beloved holiday classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, even though I didn’t plan their viewing down to the last detail, and we enjoyed them just the same. We hosted two parties but also spent many hours just puttering around the house the four of us, relishing cold mornings and warm days, late evening Christmas lights and early risers playing board games. There were days working out in the yard and around the garage mixed with Sea World and the Natural History Museum and days trips to see family.
The best gift I gave myself this Christmas was that trip, and the releasing of details it demanded. I panic sometimes, thinking that in order to really enjoy something I must do it in as many different ways as possible (just as my husband, who had to propose to me three times, just because I wanted to make sure I really relished the moment). This year, I realized that enjoying something simple–maybe just once, maybe because that’s all you’ve got–is not given up, and that all those years I was doing so much, I wasn’t quite enjoying the holidays as I thought. Not to say that those craft supplies are going to Good Will, but it may take us a lot longer to get through them. In fact, that’s next year’s goal: to leave something out, and leave room for some genuine enjoyment.
* The real love story? That I made 22 gingerbread houses–a gingerbread procreation miracle in itself–so that the kids could have 20 friends over for a decorating party. Because they could not bear to cut the guest list. Because they could not bear to use graham crackers. Because I could not bear to turn them down. Because I love them. The end.
Not nearly as pretty as the set, but a heck of a lot cheaper.
And on the last day of summer, too. I say we’ve done all we can do. First grade, here we come.
Of all the many skills I have, tying balloons is not one of them. But if there’s a way to acquire a skill, it’s by repeating it over and over. 107 times. With penalty of cold water upon failure*.
* Failure is much more likely when you are tying water balloons at 10:30 at night in the backyard–the nearest faucet with a threaded spigot–after an eleven hour day at Disneyland, hour-plus drive home, and three-layer cake-making. But at least there is no one to see you get soaked.
M: Mom, can you make my kangaroo a shirt?
Me: I’m sure you can find one in the clothes from K’s baby dolls.
M: But those are all too big.
M: So can you make him a shirt?
Me: I think I could make something.
M: Great. And could you make him pants too?
M: And something that can go on his tail? And mittens? And hat? And jacket?
I’m just really glad I stuck with the non-specific “something” when I had the chance.