Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas

It was Christmas Eve. The eleventh hour. And I was still scrambling to get everything done.

Presents wrapped, house cleaned, food made.

We were hosting Christmas this year for my side of the family. Hubby kept reminding me that it was just family. Just 18 people.

Who were family, by the way, so why did it matter what the house looked like? There would be enough food, and everyone would have a wonderful time, he kept assuring me.

I knew this. I knew it. But Christmas always stresses me out, almost to the point that I dread it. With the snowstorm on Thursday and the boys being off school, there were a few things I didn't get done - namely, getting Hubby's special gluten-free cookies. Which makes me feel really awful since he always makes Christmas special for me (he actually did all the shopping for the boys this year!).

And I forgot to get the ingredients to make cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. I always make cinnamon rolls.

I'd been snapping at the boys. Making demands. Pick this up! Clean this mess! Put this away! Everyone has to help!

I was feeling horrible. Why do I get so stressed? Why do I wait until the last minute to get everything finished? What makes me forget so many of our special things?

What's wrong with me?

The boys were invited over to their cousins' house to play Christmas Eve morning. I think it was to keep all the boys occupied so my sister-in-law and I both could finish Christmas preparations. I planted myself in the basement with my wrapping supplies, and I wrapped like a mad woman.

I was listening to Pandora, and for some reason, there was a heavy volume of children's songs being played. Each time I heard their sweet little voices singing carols, my eyes welled with tears.

It made me think of Joey.

But I pressed on and kept wrapping, thinking to myself how lucky it was that I had told the boys that elves are messy creatures. And how lucky it was that my boys wouldn't care about bows or ribbons.

I was all done by 11:30 that evening, and morning came quickly, before 7:00 a.m.

6:50, actually, and it was all said and done by 7:06 a.m.

The boys tore open each present in a matter of seconds with shouts of, "COOL!" "IT'S JUST WHAT I WANTED!" quickly moving on to the next gift.

And as I sat on the couch, still in a sleepy haze contemplating coffee or tea, I realized that no one had expressed disappointment. No one had simply said, "Oh," and moved on.

In fact, I heard seven-year-old Knox exclaim, "This has been the best Christmas ever!"

We had celebrated with Hubby's side of the family on Sunday. Hubby's huge, chaotic, loud, wonderful family which is now made up of 57 people! All but eight were there.

This isn't even half of his family. There are more somewhere!!

I have always wanted to be a part of a big family. The dynamics among the cousins and in-laws are warm and sweet and sometimes simply hilarious. It's truly a gift that everyone gets along so well. And even though I sit and observe the chaos with no gift in hand (Hubby opts us out of the gift exchange, and I am no one's godmother), I never feel left out. But rather, blessed.

And then there was that moment yesterday, as I was standing in the kitchen. I was still dressed up from Christmas mass - heels and a pencil skirt and a cute peplum top. I had my apron on and Hubby was next to me chopping onions for soup. The boys were playing with their new toys in the family room and someone yelled into the kitchen, "Mom, what's 8 times 8?"

As I answered quickly and kept stirring whatever it was I was stirring, I felt a wave of gratitude and happiness wash over me.

For this.

This is what I had always wanted in my life - this "kiss-your-frog-marry-your-prince-and-live-happily-ever-after" life.

I have it. Standing all dressed up in my kitchen with an apron on making Christmas food for my family while my children play. This.

However, this life may not be perfect because we are grieving the loss of someone.

This Christmas may not be perfect because Mommy kept forgetting to move the elf and she forgot the cookies and the cinnamon rolls and wrapped the presents hastily and snapped at people.

But no one really noticed that except for me. So it didn't really matter after all.

And Slim has made sure that Joey has been with us all Christmas season. He brought Joey's beloved stuffed animal, Stripey Kitten, downstairs to "help" us decorate the tree Thanksgiving weekend. And even though I keep telling him to put her back, he keeps bringing her out every time we do something Christmassy. So I know he's thinking of Joey, too, and giving us a little reminder of his presence.

So in the end, I didn't really screw anything up too badly - not that anyone noticed anyway. My small family all said they had a lovely time celebrating at our house, and there was even food left over.

 Hmm, maybe if I'm still hungry, I can lick
some of the frosting off that adorable face.

It's clear to me as I sit and reflect on how the holiday went for us all, despite my perceived failures and foibles, it was a pretty great Christmas after all. I think it's safe to say that everyone had a simply wonderful Christmas.

I know I did.

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