Monday, December 13, 2010

Failing Christmas

I went into this past weekend with a really hopeful outlook. Jacob had a good day at daycare on Friday, ate wonderfully at dinner, and was great at the hockey game. He went to bed pretty easily once we got home, and I started my cookie weekend (in preparation for our cookie swap at work today) by making colored sugar to decorate the cutouts I was planning on doing at some point over the weekend. The sugar turned out perfectly, and I spent the rest of the night catching up on things, finishing up a Christmas present-related project I had been working on, and pretty much feeling like I had made good progress for an evening where I only had a little bit of time to work with.

Saturday started out pretty good, too. We had a relatively lazy morning where we slept in until 8:30 or so, and then I eventually got myself out the door to do some shopping at Kohl's, where I got two gifts. Ultimately Saturday was supposed to be THE big shopping day for us because that was Craig's last weekend day off until Christmas. Not only does he have two games this weekend, but I'm pretty sure Saturday he's heading up to Canada for a lacrosse thing. Lovely. And considering most of our Christmas shopping this year is for his family (my parents' anniversary/Christmas/birthday gifts were all wrapped up in their new iPad and we don't exchange with my brother and sister-in-law because we just focus on the kids), I was really hoping to get the vast majority of that stuff done because I'm not a fan of making in-store judgment calls on Craig's behalf. I feel more comfortable picking out stuff for my family, and I'm sure he feels better doing it for his--not that he wouldn't love for me to handle the details, of course! But once I got back from Kohl's, things just went downhill from there. Lunch ended up later than I wanted it to be, so Jacob's nap started later than I wanted it to start. And then he proceeded to nap FOREVER, so by the time he woke up it was nearly 5pm and we were already behind on our day of shopping. Craig wanted to go to Red Robin to use his free birthday burger coupon, and thank God they move people in and out like cattle, because we only waited a few minutes despite the crowd, and then ate and headed off to shop. But two stores and one mall later, we really only bought a few gifts. It was not quite the success I was hoping for. I was stymied by my search for the perfect holiday photo sweater for Jacob, and had to settle for second choice, but I did manage to get three other items for a total of about $13...an awesome sweater for $5, nice pants a size up for $4, and a hockey sweatshirt (also a size up) for $4. Children's Place has had some insane clearance lately and while I have plenty of gifts to buy, I am more than happy to replenish Jacob's wardrobe for the next size up if the deals are good. $4 stain-resistant khakis? Yes, please. Adorable $5 sweater? I'll take it. Hard to resist when you can find staples!

We were at the mall until it closed at 10pm, and Jacob was still wide awake. He made it home awake, too. Thank goodness he dropped off quickly once we were home. But ugh...a 10:30 bedtime is not ideal. After he was in bed, I checked on some cookie dough I had put together to chill hours earlier during Jacob's nap. It ended up so sticky that I don't think any amount of flour would have rescued it. It was awful. I probably should have worked on it a bit more, but it had been such a rough night that I think my patience wasn't what it should have been. So my attempt at stained glass cookies failed, practically before it started.

Sunday morning we slept in until 9:15. Ahhhh, the glorious bright side of the late bedtime. It's always short-lived joy when it gives way to a cranky kid off his schedule, but it felt good anyway. I was actually planning on skipping church because I wanted to take Jacob to the kids' Christmas program in the afternoon, and I figured that I'd be pushing my luck with two rounds of church in one day, and preferred he be a good boy for the kids' one. I had a fun few minutes snuggling with Jacob in our bed shortly after he woke up, and I was hoping that was a good sign for the day. We had another lazy morning after Craig went off to work, other than me making another batch of cookie dough, this time for traditional cutouts, so it would be chilled by Jacob's naptime. That took longer than I'd hoped and by late in the morning I decided it was time to start working on our Christmas card photo. That was why I got the one sweater the night before, and I was determined to get a good picture so I could get them ordered and sent out ASAP. And this is when my day really started going downhill. I took 34 pictures. I probably would have taken 34 more if I could have. Or maybe I would have needed half that if my dear child had any interest in listening. It took a few attempts before I found a pose that worked, and then once I did, I could not get Jacob to do what I was asking. Truth be told, there are probably a handful of acceptable photos in the batch, cute pictures for sure, but I'm not sure I LOVE them as our Christmas card. But most of them are just a touch off--Jacob not holding his prop quite right (I tried two different ones), or not looking at the camera, or not smiling, or doing his cheese face which makes his eyes all squinty. He looks sleepy or like he's trying too hard, and I'm not sure any of them are exactly the look I was trying to capture. Like with his original baby announcement, I want to capture his essence--one look that shows the people who don't see us often what an awesome kid we have. I even tried showing him other cards we've received to inspire him to listen to my instructions, but no, it did not go well. By the end I know we were both frustrated. And I even put him in his crib for a while, both because he needed a break and so did I. Yes, Mommy needed a timeout. I knew that all that time was unreasonable to ask from a two year old, but I did it anyway and was beyond frustrated when it didn't work out. Well, duh. I almost made him take a nap before I gave him lunch (and it was already late) because he was refusing lunch, but eventually he calmed down and so did I. He ate his lunch and watched me get the first batch of cutouts ready, and then I put him down for his nap, which went pretty smoothly. I then worked on the cutouts and miserably failed. I don't know what went wrong, though the prevailing theory is that my baking soda might be past its prime. There are a couple other thoughts, but I really have no idea. The cookies ended up crumbly and misshapen compared to what I know my mom's look like every year, so that was disappointing. And it meant that I was behind the 8-ball for getting cookies together for today's cookie swap.

Even though Jacob had only been asleep for about an hour, against my better judgment I was determined to get him up and go to the Christmas program. I was truly excited to take him there, for a number of reasons. First, he's got his own Christmas program at daycare on Tuesday night, and I wanted to give him a little preview. Second, I thought he'd get a kick out of seeing kids doing the whole show. Third, I think he'll actually be old enough to participate next year (I think Sunday School starts at three), so I figured it would be nice to get an idea of what we could expect next year. I knew he'd be tired, but after skipping church I really thought it was important to go. So I got him up and we rushed off. All things considered, he was actually really good. He was quiet on the way there and sat quietly on my lap for 2/3 of the program. He liked watching the kids a lot, I think. By the end he wanted to draw with the pew pens as usual, but he was even good while doing that. I was very relieved that it went well. However, as I sat there, I was seriously fighting off tears. I don't know what was doing it, I think a lot of emotions were converging. First, I'd had a rough day where I'd taken all of the joy out of Christmas--ruining cookies, yelling at Jacob for not listening even though I knew full well I'd pushed him beyond a normal two year old attention span--and all of that in the aftermath of our rough night of shopping. Second, I think I was having a hard time believing that my baby boy is within a year of participating in that program himself, and the speedy passage of time got to me a bit. Third, I was thinking back to all of the Christmas programs I participated in, how annoying the preparations were sometimes, but how in the end they were programs we were so proud of. And in doing them year after year (two, no less--one for school and one for Sunday School), they really became a fundamental part of the Christmas season for me, and I really do miss being a part of that stuff these days. Amidst all of the rehearsals and stress over memorizing parts and speaking into microphones, it really did always drive the point of Christmas home by the end. And I think when you wrap all of those elements up, it just got to me that I could be so frustrated and so out of the Christmas spirit, despite being so blessed all of these years to have had fabulous Christmases each and every year. I'm so fortunate to have the fun and family that have made my Christmases so great. Of course, it's made my current Christmases a little more complicated, since now I feel like I have to make Jacob's Christmases that great as well. My circumstances are certainly different than they were for my parents, considering my mom was a stay-at-home mom for many years (and worked part time beyond that) and we didn't have to travel at Christmas, so I know it's worthless to compare, but still...you get used to a certain level of success, and it's hard when you can't live up to that. In any event, I held the tears back and tried to enjoy the singing children and the fact that Jacob was content. We headed off to Wegmans afterward for more cookie ingredients, among other things, and it was a trying visit. Lots of yelling and swatting at me from the cart. I just don't get it sometimes.

Dinner wasn't much better and neither was the post-dinner time, but he went down easily and I managed to whip up two successful sets of cookies after that. Thank goodness. So even though two sets came out ok, the failure of two other sets, plus unsuccessful shopping and the usual Jacob frustrations (and my accompanying parenting failures) just led me to feel like I had failed in my opportunity to have a lovely Christmasy weekend with my boys. I truly love Christmas but I hate that it brings with it so much stress. So many things to do, to buy, to make...and neglecting any one of those can disappoint a loved one or cause a major social faux pas, neither of which are ideal. Every year I stress about the same stuff--what to get for Jacob's teachers or my boss or my good friends or any number of family members--or worry that I won't get around to making holiday traditions or simply just enjoying the season. And you know what, every year it works itself out. No, things may not be ideal, but Christmas is still always a special time anyway. So I know I need to stop stressing out because it all works out, but I do know that it doesn't happen without a lot of hard work. There's a balance in there somewhere, and hopefully one of these days I will find it.

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