Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas at my house

I felt I needed to share how Christmas turned out. I will forget if I don't.

I couldn't do this Christmas by myself, so all of my big kids helped while I directed traffic.

Those who know me, know that I reaaaaaalllly don't like holidays. With the anxiety, it's even worse. BUT, I've discovered that if I turn Christmas into a game, it's not about the presents, it's about the fun with family. This year, though, I really wasn't sure how to do that. But we had a theme: Monsters.

On Christmas Eve, we had some surprise visits. Santa Claus showed up at our door and delivered presents to the kids. My husband and I about had heart attacks. Completely unexpected. And then another secret santa came and left several bags of presents on our door step. I have no idea how to express what a blessing that was. It was wonderful, and I am extremely grateful for it.

Ok, so here's what happened Christmas Eve night:

I put Daughter A's husband in charge of sorting presents into piles. One pile for each person, family presents to be put in mom or dad's pile.

I put Daughter B's boyfriend in charge of finding most of her small presents and taping them to the ceiling and walls throughout the house.

Daughter A, B, and C sat at the table and made monster footprints, eyes, and teeth. And a misspelled sign that said "Monsters in Trayning Came and Played with your Presents. Go Find Mom and DAD!!!"  - it was more misspelled, and quite cute, but I can't remember now exactly how it worked.

We had all the little kids sleep in the main room in the basement so the monsters could hide presents in their closets.

There were eyes and teeth on the dishwasher, laundry washer, and dryer. There were footprints on the walls, floors, and even ceilings.

Son-in-law separated gifts for the various closets and locations chosen for the monsters to have dropped or played with the presents. Boyfriend took extra presents that didn't fit evenly into the hiding places and taped them randomly around the house on walls. Daughter A helped sort presents and hide some in the tree.

Daughter B and C  helped formulate the scavenger hunt and game.

Here's how it went:

* Kids came in to mom and dad's room to wake us up. There was a note that said, "Go wake up Sister A and her hubster in Brother's room. While you're in there, grab one of the matchbox cars, then come right back to mom and dad's room."

* Instructions there said to read the Christmas story from the Bible, sing a song, and then have family prayer. After that, the dragon on the container of presents would allow them to open the gifts. At the bottom of the container was another note. "All monsters must race their cars down the hall to the little brother's room."

* Once in the room, they had to ... I don't remember now... do something crazy? Like dance? before opening the presents hidden in the closet. And from there, they had to go brush their monster teeth to get rid of their monster morning breath.

* Oh my goodness, there were presents in the tub. And a note that said they needed to do a rain-dance down the hall to sister D's bedroom. In that room, they had to work as teams to build the biggest tower out of blocks before they could access the toys hidden in that closet.

* From there, the monsters were led to the front room where Daughter A's hubster, the Monster Wrangler, had them play a game to not only find the presents, but play a matching game to figure out the clues to the next set of instructions.

* Which led them to the kitchen where monsters needed to make breakfast and eat it. Because monsters need to feed their bellies, right? Then they had to load their dishes in the dishwasher. When they opened the dishwasher and the teeth appeared, they squealed in delight. Oh the giggles when they found presents on the washing racks.

* then they had to follow the footprints to the basement. Oh no, the washer and dryer had tried to eat some of the presents. The dryer had managed to close his mouth around them, but the washing machine had thrown some up onto the floor.

* they were then directed to the family room where they had to dance the Charleston. Which Sister A taught them. Someone had to win at Just Dance before they could get the next clue and move in to Sister C's bedroom, where the presents were hiding under the bed.

* Then in sister E's bedroom, there was a pile of presents hiding in her closet under the stairs. (I can't remember what goofy activity we had to do there.)

* And finally we ended up back upstairs in the living room with stockings and hunting for the presents hidden in the tree.

-- I couldn't have done it by myself. No way. But it was FUN. It involved the entire family, we all had to play and do the activities together. It made the morning about much more than presents, AND it made the morning last longer than the ten second flurry of wrapping paper flying everywhere.

This is the third year I've planned out a complicated Christmas morning. And in spite of all the anxiety and overwhelm and emotional issues I have before the big day, I have never regretted it. This is the first year that my big kids have actively asked to participate. A holiday I've hated for 32+ years has finally become fun for me. On the plus side, my kids love it, too.

So while it's a purely selfish motive for me to plan Christmases like this, my kids love it enough to help me pull it off. In fact, the little kids were begging to have the Grinch come steal Christmas again. Now I just have to figure out what I'm going to do next year :)

Monday, December 15, 2014


It's been a while since I've written here. It's been a while since I've felt like doing much.

This addition of anxiety to everything has not helped my mindset at all. Things I have done my whole life now seem monumentally hard.

* going to church
* going to a restaurant
* going to my husband's work parties
* family gatherings
* letting my children be loud when they play

I have turned down several opportunities for graphic design work because just the thought of a deadline or working and failing to meet someone's expectations made it hard to breathe. Sometimes it's not even the thought of failure, it's simply the idea of being creative that makes me feel completely overwhelmed.

I am barely able to be a human mommy. I am tired and annoyed at being an animal mommy. That makes me so sad. I have raised these cats since we found them abandoned at 4 weeks old. And now having to care for them and clean up and vacuum after them is too much. I just can't do it anymore.

This whole last few weeks has felt like that. Like 'I just can't do it.'

I *have* done laundry. I *have* made myself go to church except the last two weeks. I *have* attended my daughter's school play, although it terrified me and I was shaking so bad by the time I got home. I *have* gone to my husband's work Christmas party, although he had to hold my hand a LOT while we were there, and by the time it was over, I was sure he owed me big time for making the effort and surviving.

So, obviously I *can* do it, I just have to force myself to try. And it is so hard.

And this year my three oldest daughters have volunteered to help me do Christmas. We came up with a theme and a way to make it full of games, and planned it out... and it feels overwhelming and hard now. Not fun. The idea of having to get out of bed, tolerate the sounds of the laughter and squeals hitting my eardrums and reverberating through my head, and deal with the mess of wrapping paper and packaging... See, those are all things that usually make Christmas worth it. The smiles, the laughter, the silly games and things we do to find presents. The ability to play.

And the especially sad thing right now, is that the idea of playing is hard. Once I get into it, it's fun and I enjoy myself, but it's work. And I'm so tired afterwards.

I often wonder if the phrase, "I never said it would be easy, I said it would be worth it" was coined just for me.

Because I *know* what I do is worth it. I know my friendships and family relationships are worth the extra effort it takes to keep at them. I know it's worth the effort of reading and doing homework with my kids. I know that time and effort pays off.

I just wish it wasn't so exhausting. I wish my brain worked. I miss it. I miss being able to do things that shouldn't be hard.