Chacos column: Ask me how I feel about the holidays in January
Without sounding too soiled about the holiday season, I can’t wait until I can rip the entire month of December off my wall calendar. The month is hectic, stressful, expensive and a complete cluster of emotions. Respite comes well after the new year.
Truth be told, one of my life’s goals is to streamline the last month of the year. I dream to effortlessly dance through December like a Sugar Plum Fairy, so that means I have to start kicking it into gear during the lazy days of summer.
For starters, my desire runs deep to conquer the impossible feat of snatching up perfect gifts well before Labor Day rolls around. However, I fail miserably at this task every single year because who wants to shop for Christmas in flip flops and a tank top sipping a summer margarita?
This year, I gave my kids a pair of much-needed socks and a couple of trinkets from the grocery store for Hannukah. I hope my children understand that eight nights of meaningful little presents is just too unrealistic for this maxed-out mom, especially when the holiday rolls around during the first week in December. When I gave them each a pack of grape flavored dental flossers one night, the look on their collective faces said, “Really, is this the best she can do?”
The bar was set low with presents so I set my sights on tackling healthy meal-making and feeding my family nutritiously for the holiday season instead. Since Thanksgiving, I’ve convinced my family that a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream constitutes a balanced breakfast. So, when I made a gluten-free, sugar free, dairy free treat for the holiday fair at the school, I was feeling pretty good about myself. But when my girlfriend took a bite and shrieked, “This scone tastes like a crumbly pinecone,” I fizzled.
I knew I could do better. So, I spent an afternoon making a homemade matzo ball soup. As the family was lapping it up, showering praise on my culinary skills, I knew I was winning. Later that evening though, our unquenchable thirst and sausage-sized fingers alerted me to the fact that my very tasty soup must have contained MSG. “Too good to be true,” my husband laughed, trying to ease the emotional blow.
Since then, I’ve climbed my way out of dinnertime hell by at least putting out a bagged salad every night to accompany dinner. Between hot cocoa on the ski hill, candy canes from Santa at the grocery store, and holiday treats at school, I hope my frazzled attempt at feeding my family a balanced meal offsets the sugar high they’ve been riding on since Halloween.
To add even more excitement to the month of December, our home also celebrates Christmas. Obviously, the kids want to go traipsing through the woods to chop down a tree, string lights and decorate the house. That’s simply unrealistic, because we’re like a family of mythical Yetis and haven’t been seen together in weeks. Therefore, we like to connect in parking lots, while shuttling to and from activities, or over a load of laundry. With the right mindset, grocery shopping with your spouse really can be a date.
Emotions run at an all-time high during December and managing them in our household becomes sport for my husband and me. We’ll high-five one another when one of us has finally talked our cranky teen into a better mood or when we successfully drag our tween out of bed without pulling out our back. We can always lighten the mood, however, when we find the Elf on the Shelf or Mensch on the Bench doing something naughty. Sometimes I like to believe we’re crushing it!
We try to juggle school reports, projects at work, volunteer commitments, festivities and meetings with some style, but we’re typically double-booked or simply run out of bandwidth to accomplish anything without looking like over-caffeinated, distracted parents. For example, just last winter, I went to work wearing two different black boots. For real. I didn’t even notice until mid-morning.
As I continue to fine-tune the flowchart for a stress-free holiday season, my higher self asks me to pause for reflection. This is a challenging task for me, but I can feel the magnitude of what this time of year means for so many individuals. I try to spend time thinking about family, friends and the celebration of life while buying a tree at the store and wrapping last-minute presents. And, although our house resembles a bomb shelter from the 1950s, I know the individuals who reside inside it are loved, cared for and cherished beyond measure.
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.
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