This was our first Christmas in our new house, and I really wanted to make it something sweet and memorable. In years past I have leaned heavily towards the Scrooge camp, leaving up my pumpkin decor until the jingle bell peer pressure forced me to drag home a tree. This time around, we decided early on to trim some of the fat from our typical holiday obligations, and it made all the difference. We actually were so excited that we had some greenery up outside before Thanksgiving! Full disclosure, I even did a little sketch of how I wanted to decorate... and then we took turns nearly killing ourselves on footstools and ladders executing that seemingly simple vision (worth it!).
The funny thing (maybe more hopeless than funny) is that even with all my advance planning and good intentions, we ended up totally unprepared and hustling in the final days and hours, just like we always do. Every day in December, I would see these Instagram mavens pull off insane crafts and wrapping marathons, and I just could not compete. In fairness, it is always a busy time for both of us with work, but that's probably not the main cause. The truth is that this is just our style. Put the tree up and leave it without decorations for three weeks. Debate gifts endlessly, and then finally order them with rushed delivery, anxiously refreshing those tracking stats. Start making gingerbread cookies for Santa an hour before the kids' bedtime on Christmas Eve. Pull all-nighters assembling play kitchens, and ripping apart brown paper bags to offset an emergency wrapping paper shortage. I think we both just work best under pressure, it makes that moment when all the presents are opened, and it sinks in that you did pull it off, all the sweeter. Also, the buzz from lack of sleep coupled with spiked eggnog gives that euphoria an extra boost.
The kids seemed to enjoy this Christmas more than ever too. It's probably their ages, 2 and 5 really seems like a sweet spot for the magic of Santa. Smith actually never asked much about Santa in years past, and he would wake up on Christmas morning and need to be reminded that there was something special about the day. Not this year! He could barley sleep he was so excited, and Roo (always eager to catch up with her big brother) seemed more aware of all the rituals than any of us. She started demanding a larger play kitchen from Santa as soon as Halloween wrapped up. Smith couldn't figure out what he wanted... but she was laser focused.
I'm still learning how different my kids are. We were doing some last minute shopping at the mall when Roo spotted Santa in the big photo-op, and announced she wanted to sit on his lap. This floored me, because the one and only time I ever attempted to get a Santa pic with Smith, he pulled down eight feet of garland making his emergency exit. He's always been very clear that he wants no part of a Santa visit, and I don't even know where our girl learned the whole lap bit... but she wanted in. So we hit up Hanna Anderson and swapped the pajamas she was sporting for some tights and a skirt (hey, if I was going to get my first kid on Santa's lap, I wanted to do it right!), and a few minutes later she was telling a pretty decent looking bearded dude to bring her a kitchen. Smith thought she was nuts and totally refused to entertain any idea of joining, but he did ask her to put in a word for some items on his wish list, just in case. I hope these two will always make a good team, pushing and reigning in one another as needed.
Balance. I think we found it this Christmas. Just enough planning, just enough travel, just enough laziness and jigsaw puzzles, not enough sleep (I still imagine a day where we get eight hours of sleep and wonder what that will even feel like!), just enough snow (at the eleventh hour.... I didn't even mention the heat wave and our t-shirt barbecue on Christmas Eve). It was a totally satisfying holiday. Quietly, one for the books.