Like I said though, it's a love/hate relationship. I love Thanksgiving. It's actually my "slow down" time. We head to my sister-in-law's house each year. It's wonderfully relaxing. It's Monster's favorite holiday b/c we get to go to their house and see the cousins. When we get home, Oee, our elf, is normally waiting. This year was no exception.
By Saturday, things normally calm down and we are all merry and bright again. This Saturday was a bit different only because I had to take Puppy to the vet and found out he needs surgery, which he had yesterday. Other than that slight change, the rest of the weekend is filled with craftiness and fun.
Gifts for others are wrapped and under the tree. Half of the teacher gifts are made and ready to go (one actually gets delivered today and one was given yesterday). Only our kids gifts remain to be wrapped.
With all that we've shoved into the past 5 days, I've had to write this in installments. I started Sunday night. I've been editing since then. Funny thing is, a blog that I follow pretty much beat me to what I was trying to say. "He who hesitates is lost," right? It's OK since she has a better way of putting how I feel than I do. You can read the post here, but I'm going to sum up a few things that I think are most important about this season.
The stuff goes away. Relationships do not. I see this as this as the number one thing to remember about this season. I know that Jesus should be, but since I'm lacking the complete faith my kids have, I'm putting more on this season being about doing unto others. Each person you encounter in life comes into your life for a reason. Be that to challenge you or help you. It's important to remember that YOU are in someone's life for a reason as well. Try to be the help, not the challenge, to each person you meet. Now, this is my "religious view", or as I say my philosophy on life, for the entire year. During the holidays though, it's even more important to remember this. People are more stressed out and worried so it's even more important to show kindness to others, especially those who are grouchy to you. A "relationship" doesn't need to mean something long lasting, necessarily, but a touching of a life in a positive way.
To go along with this is something that Husband and I have been trying to tell our families for the past 7 years. Our kids don't care about the stuff. They want time. If you want to give them a physical gift, fine, get a book or a crayons and paper and sit and DO something. Draw, read, talk. Sunshine wants nothing more than for people to just listen to her talk or sing or watch her dance. Monster wants someone to sit and read with him or listen while he explains a drawing he has made. Yes, it truly is that simple. One day, it may not be. My kids will eventually turn into teenagers and it may be all about what they get, especially if they see time spent with them isn't valued above the things they get.
Always say "thank you" to those working at the stores. And look them in the eye. And smile. This goes along with the first point. Make a positive difference in someone's life. The people who are working during the holiday season have a very difficult job. They have pressure put on them from their employers to be speedy. They have pressure put on them from their customers for all sorts of reasons. It is not their fault that the toy you are buying isn't ringing up the sale price or that the store was out of stock of the tights in the size you needed. They are swamped and doing their best to just get through the day, like all of us.
A handwritten note is always worth the effort. I have always believed this. This is why I have always handwritten thank you notes and started my children writing thank you notes from the moment they could hold a crayon. And it's not just thank you notes. It's anything. I write Monster a note in his lunch every day. Before he started first grade, I would write him notes on the fridge each day. This is a good reminder to me to start doing it with Sunshine again. We also have an "I love you because..." board that we write on. My kids write me and Husband notes every day. Sometimes, that drawn picture or a simple note saying "I love you" written in big block letters by the hand a 4 year old means so much more than when it's said.
The number of presents received does not matter. This is more for parents than kids. Again, young kids don't care. It's the parents that are conditioning their kids to expect a lot of gifts. This is something I repeat to myself every year when I start to feel disappointed about not getting a bunch of stuff. The number of presents received does not matter. It's how you feel inside and the joy that you bring to others that makes the difference. It feels good to do good.
Give to others first. And giving back isn't just a December thing - make it a year long thing. I love that she put this on her list. It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine. It frustrates me to no end when people act like they are such saints for giving to the giving tree at church during Christmas yet they do nothing for others the rest of the year. We make it a point at our house to help others throughout the year, in whatever way we can. There are times that Monster really wants to donate something to those less fortunate and we just can afford to do it, and we talk about it. We do what we can, when we can. And it circles back to giving of ourselves. We discuss that we can help others by our actions as well as donations of money or items. Sometimes, a smile is the best thing you can give someone. Monster truly understood this at church several weeks ago. He came to service with me instead of heading to Sunday school. During the greeting, he firmly shook hands and smiled at those around us. The looks on people's faces showed it all. There was no one who was grumpy or looked unhappy, but after shaking hands with Monster, their smiles were brighter. He touched lives and he saw that. He didn't just shake hands and smile because that's what you do at the greeting. He put his whole heart into it and by doing that, gave part of himself to others. When we talked about this after service, he told me that it made him feel good to make others happy.
Even if life isn't perfect there still can be beautiful and joyful moments. Life is never "perfect". It's unrealistic to think that it could be. Perfect is perception though. I've come to learn that "perfect" comes with the acceptance of flaws. Something I always tell my kids is that they are perfect for me. I remind them that we all have flaws, but it's OK. I also remind them that perfect is different for everyone. What is perfect for us may not be perfect for someone else, and it's alright. We can still have a perfectly flawed life that is different than someone else's perfectly flawed life. It's about accepting what we have and being our best selves. It's about always trying our hardest and putting ourselves out there. There are many, many times that I get down about my life not being "perfect", but then, I look around and realize my life may not be text book perfect, but it's my perfect.
Finally, after 5 days of trying to finish this, I'll summarize. The Christmas season is a love/hate relationship for me. Why? Because unrealistic pictures are painted of what this season should be. Commercialism is constantly trying to suck the joy out of this time of year. I won't let it though. I know that this next month there will be guilt of what my kids can't have, but there will be more happy moments and memories that will out shadow "stuff". I have been blessed with a perfectly flawed life and will fight to celebrate it each day, not just this month. I'll also be super crafty and do fun projects with the kids because that's just who I am.