Back when I thought I'd be a perfect wife and mother -- a lifetime ago -- I read an article about how to get through the holidays.
I didn't question the need to get "through" the holidays. It is as if I already knew about all the angst of trying to bake cookies, trim the tree, buy all the presents and meeting all the other obligations that go along with Christmas and kids.
The article was in Family Circle, I think, or maybe McCalls. The ones where there are stories about how to clean the grout in your bathtub and get stains out of clothes or how to spice up your sex life.
I used to read and take mental notes, "I'll need to know that someday!"
I've never been the one who cleaned the grout in my bathroom, for the record. (The tip, though, was excellent. It said you could paint the grout with White-Out to make it look fresh. It would stick to the grout, but not the tiles themselves, so you could buff off the excess. I've always wanted to try that.)
The tip about Christmas, though, was one I have relied for many years. It is "Do what you think is important, and forget about the rest." I value baking cookies with my kids, making a gingerbread house, taking lots of pictures and having lights on the outside of the house.
I like going to Christmas concerts and shopping alone. I'd like to have a house decorated throughout with cute holiday ornaments, but I don't have the kind of house that is conducive to that (read: Cluttery) nor do I have the wherewithal to keep them all together and actually find them again next year. So, while I like that, I won't do it again this year. Cookies come first.
Other things that are important to me: Having my kids write notes to Santa, then delivering them at the mall. The advent calendar I made years ago when Granger was little. It's modeled after one my mom has that we used when we were kids. My kids aren't nearly as interested in it as I used to be as a child, but that's OK because I remove the tiny ornaments each day, and the tiny Baby Jesus on the 25th to go into our glass manger scene.
I love the ceramic tree I have that reminds me of the kind my Grandma used to make. Mom has one Grandma actually made but I got mine at a craft show because it is made from the identical mold and is always so special to me.
I love arranging Christmas gifts after the kids are asleep on Christmas Eve, and sharing the cookies with St. Nick when he arrives.
I also love wrapping presents, though it seems in past years I've managed to put it off to the point where it is a chore. This year, I am vowing now, I will do it as I go and also won't pay overnight FedEx charges to get things to Utah and Arizona and Virginia and Delaware.
But the thing I like most -- and the thing I've neglected for way too long -- is Christmas cards. I always buy them and have an amazing collection of boxed cards, but somehow never make the time to write them out and send them to friends. I like to write personal notes, and though a newsy letter may be gauche, I should include one of those, too. And pictures, pictures of everyone.
But wait. What I value is the personal note, and if I can't get my act together to send pictures, that'll have to do.
I am going to focus on what I love this Christmas.
Picture is from Christmas 2004, and yes, Walter is in just his underwear to decorate the Gingerbread House we baked ...