Christmas Fail? But Charity Never Faileth

Christmas is four days away. I feel like a failure in each and every way, and yet I am so grateful for all the acts of love and service that others have given to us.

The Okayest Family has been quite ill for quite some time, and my to-do lists have been ashamed of themselves.

My Christmas tree has looked like this for over a week now:

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My Christmas decorations are still in their boxes in the basement:

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My presents are still not wrapped:

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And my dresser looks like this:

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(Okay, let’s be honest: my dresser always looks like that. It has nothing to do with sickness or Christmas, but we can just pretend, mmkay?)

I feel frustrated. I feel sad. I feel like I’m failing. I promised my oldest that he would sit on Santa’s lap at the church Christmas party, but we couldn’t go when my husband was still too ill to assist me in child-wrangling. My kids didn’t perform in the church Christmas program this Sunday for the same reason.

Things aren’t going smoothly, and I’m so tired, and I want to cry all the time. However, most every mother probably feels this way around this time of year. Besides, I’m just okayest; I know how to take things down a notch, right? (I’m no Pinterest mom, but I do want my kids to have a Christmas.)

I force myself to pick myself up and remind myself to count my blessings. It slowly is starting to work. I am so thankful that my husband has a secure job with paid sick leave. I am so grateful that we got to cut down the Christmas tree together (even if it is still outside), that we can afford presents (even if they aren’t wrapped), that we have a warm home with room for storage of luxuries like Christmas decorations (even if they aren’t hung up).

christmas cookies (2)So many people have shown me love and service lately, and it humbles me. Every time I feel like I am drowning in illness and exhaustion and undone to-do lists, someone else shows me love and service. My in-laws come to care for the children when we can’t, even if they subject themselves to heinous viruses. My mother comes to have a “Christmas craft day” with my kids, and brings her cookies to decorate and makes sure we at least get out the only decoration that matters: my great-grandma’s nativity.

imageFriends check up on me via text. Church sisters offer to put up my tree, substitute teach my Sunday School class of six-year-olds, bring dinner, and even haul my twins into the beige minivan when I can’t physically maneuver them. One friend even makes my kids some “shake it” sensory bottles when I go to her for advice about some specific behavioral problems.

My church sisters’ love makes my heart full. My Mormon friends each have more children than I do, and yet they always help. Mormon women seem extra good at serving in specific ways. They never say, “Let me know if you need anything.” Instead, they say, “I’m bringing dinner,” and, “I’m teaching your class.” Sometimes they don’t say anything, but just pick up that runaway twin. They will do things like this for people they hardly know. They have always done it for other sisters; they will continue to do it in the next town they move to. It’s not just for me. They are a great example to me. I will pay it forward someday … when the kids are in school? I know heaven smiles on these women.

A friend reminds me to think of the one thing I can do each time I get overwhelmed. Maybe today I can play some Christmas music to bring peace, and maybe tomorrow I can read to the children about the birth of Jesus. They won’t care if the door has no wreath and the presents are “wrapped” in a brown cardboard Amazon box.

Most of all, I can remember to be ever grateful for my miraculous little family that was created against all odds. We are together, and of course, that is all that really matters.

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Dear readers: I wish you and your family peace at this time of year. I hope you find it quicker than I have! I know Christmas can be hard for many of us for so many different reasons, but I hope that you have love in your life and peace in your homes. Much love to you all!

60 Things I Want My Sons to Know About Their Father…. Oh, Nevermind.

I really did write an awesome blog post praising Mr. Okayest (who is way beyond Okay), but it ended up being too personal, so, oh well, you don’t get to read it. It really did have 60 things on it, and it really was awesome, and I gave it to him as a Christmas present.

So, you know, nevermind. Thanks anyway.

The way I feel about him can really just be summed up by this song from “Juno”:

All I Want Is You by Barry Louis Polisar

If I was a flower growing wild and free
All I’d want is you to be my sweet honey bee
And if I was a tree growing tall and green
All I’d want is you to shade me and be my leaves

If you were a river in the mountains tall
The rumble of your water would be my call
If you were the winter, I know I’d be the snow
Just as long as you were with me when the cold winds blow

If you were a wink, I’d be a nod
If you were a seed, well I’d be a pod
If you were the floor, I’d wanna be the rug
And if you were a kiss, I know I’d be a hug

If you were the wood, I’d be the fire
If you were the love, I’d be the desire
If you were a castle, I’d be your moat
And if you were an ocean, I’d learn to float

All I want is you, will you be my bride?
Take me by the hand and stand by my side
All I want is you, will you stay with me?
Hold me in your arms and sway me like the sea

 (Except for the bride part. But “groom” doesn’t rhyme.)

Please Consider Helping My Childhood Friend This Christmas

Dear Readers,

This post is a little different. I am asking for your help. Renee is my childhood friend. She has been through a terrible medical situation. As a Christmas gift to her and her family, I am trying to share their story to help her and her husband and children. Even though this link is to a donation page, I am simply asking you to please consider reading and sharing their story.

Renee’s Story- The Heart of the Family

Renee is an amazing person. She is so positive and happy, even in the face of such pain. She is a great inspiration to me when I am feeling down during a hard day with my three little ones. She always has an encouraging word ready for me! I can vouch that her story is real. If you can forward her story on your blog, webpage, or even your personal Facebook/Twitter/whatever, I would be very grateful.

I have never asked something of my readers before. Thank you for reading. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

Love, Melissa

Screwing Up Christmas: The Stories Behind the Pictures

I cannot stress enough to my readers – or to my children – how much effort it takes to do normal things in this house. If unloading the dishwasher is nearly impossible, the idea of Christmas is, um, whoa. “It was like trying to borrow a dollar, getting turned down, and asking for fifty grand instead.” (Although, don’t Google that High Fidelity quote, because it’s about sex, not Christmas.) You can look at the pictures of our Christmas season, and think, “Oh how cute/picturesque/normal…” BUT IT’S NOT! It’s only okayest, at best. I want my children, as well as other overwhelmed mothers, to know that providing anything “normal” these days takes great strength, planning, and patience. The pictures do not tell the whole story in my house, and I sure hope they don’t tell the whole story in your house either. Here are a few normal things that took Herculean effort in this house.

First snowman

Photo: Perfect cute snowman

Photo: Perfect cute snowman

Wow, so cute. So normal, right? Well, Daddy had to be home for this to get done. Momma couldn’t quite manage to get all three kids dressed in boots, coats, snow pants, hats, and mittens. I break out into a sweat just getting them dressed in a diaper with regular clothes. Plus, I don’t think we even have enough snow gear for all of them- they might have to share.

Reality: Babies hide snow gear and get stuck inside while crying "BUBBA!"

Reality: Babies hide snow gear and get stuck inside while crying “BUBBA!”

So, when Daddy was home, I asked him to take R outside to play in the snow. Getting him dressed involved about seven trips up to the bedrooms and down to the basement to dig out appropriate-sized snow gear (to include two boots that are the SAME). Meanwhile, the babies ran amok. I finally got all of R’s gear piled in one spot, and, while we wrestled him into these clothes, one baby managed to run off with the boots and hide them. The other baby took off with the mittens and dumped them behind the dog crate, I think. We finally got R dressed and out the door, and then the babies stood at the window, crying “BUBBA!” (“Brother!”) My mommy-guilt was sky-high. Daddy built the snowman with him, though, so I’m gonna go ahead and call this a victory.

Christmas-Tree Farm

Photo: Cute family at the cute Christmas Tree Farm

Photo: Cute family at the cute Christmas Tree Farm

Looks so picturesque, right? Looks so easy, huh? Let me impress upon you the amount of planning it took to even GET to the farm in the first place. Here is a window into the conversations going on between Mr. and Mrs. Okayest before and during the tree farm trip:

1)      What vehicle would we drive? We used to take the 1988 pickup truck. I used to squeeze in the middle, between Mr. Okayest and a carseat. Now, our family is too big. I would prefer just to throw the babies in the bed of the pickup, but we’d probably get arrested. So we would have to take two cars this year. Wait, no, maybe the tree could just fit on top of our VW? My husband found an old yoga mat to use as a pad on top of the car. Yep, we’re good to go. We would just take the VW to the Christmas tree farm this year so we could all ride together.

2)      When would we go? Every Saturday is filled with obligations and/or chores and/or homework. Okay, we could go on one of Mr. Okayest’s Fridays off. Yes, that would work. Wait, what do you mean the tree farm is only open from 2-5 PM on weekdays? That’s naptime! We have to skip nap to get a dang tree? Uh-oh. It’s worth it, right? It’s only once, right?

3)      How would we get around the farm? Hmmm. Our babies can walk, but they can’t exactly cover great distance on uneven, snow-covered, mud-puddle-ridden ground. We usually take the triple stroller with off-roading wheels for situations like this, but we knew that with the recent snow melt, it would be far too muddy for that. Hmm. Maybe we could use the Ergo carrier and the hiking backpack? What is the weight limit on those things? We haven’t used them in a few months. Would the babies still fit? Would they tolerate not walking? How would we wear an Ergo with a coat again? Would the buckles of the hiking backpack fit around my big husband and his coat?

Reality: Daddy has to saw the tree down with one twin on his back, while R saws with a plastic saw and cries.

Reality: Daddy has to saw the tree down with one twin on his back, while R saws with a plastic saw and cries.

4)      How would Mr. Okayest cut the tree down with a baby on his back? Maybe he could take the hiking backpack off and set it on the ground, with the baby still in it? Oh, wait, it’s too muddy this year. He could just cut it down with a 28-pound kid on his back. Saws and babies – that’s cool, right? Yes, that would work.

5)      How would we make sure  R is included? R insisted on bringing his own saw to the tree farm. He has three toy saws (hand saw, hack saw, and chainsaw), and he knew the right one to bring. How could we argue with that? (You can see him using it in the pictures. He got a face full of sap for that.)

6)      How would we even pay? What do you mean you only take cash or check? Holy crap, we never carry cash or check. Ugh.

It would have been so much simpler and cheaper to get a tree from the grocery store. I’m not even going to write about how long it took us to get loaded up to go home.

Putting up the tree

Photo: Perfect Tree

Photo: Perfect Tree

1)      First, where would we even put it? We bought one of those baby fences (actually two), but we ended up using them around the fireplace and the speakers and other untouchables. Hmmm. With one kid, I totally trusted him (or could just watch him well enough), so this wasn’t an issue. With three kids, I can’t manage. I just can’t. We decided to put it in the dining room and keep the whole room gated off.

Reality: To get this done, we had to gate ourselves into the dining room during the babies' nap, while Momma had a migraine. R put a million ornaments in one cute spot.

Reality: To get this done, we had to gate ourselves into the dining room during the babies’ nap, while Momma had a migraine. R put a million ornaments in one cute spot.

2)      How would we do the ornaments? There is no time – or, more accurately, no energy. Last year, we put lights on the tree, but never got around to the ornaments. This year, R was old enough to be excited about decorating. (He says  the word “decorate” in about 17 syllables.) I had to find the energy to do this. I had to. Mr. Okayest put the tree in the dining room and got all the lights on it – but the ornaments were up to me. I had a 4-day migraine. I could barely see or handle basic life, but I had to do this. I got the ornament box from the basement, gated R and myself in the dining room during the babies’ naptime, and started to unwrap the ornaments. R was tremendously interested and gentle. He helped me for a good hour with his lengthy attention span. He put about 25 ornaments into two square inches of tree, but it looked cute and I left it that way.

I fail at a lot of things with this many small children. I can’t make the cookies I used to make; I forget to put Christmas music on; I am not reading them Christmas stories; we have no Christmas lights on the house this year; all their presents are hand-me-downs or consignment sale toys. But, THIS, this is the one thing I did right:

Photo IS Reality: My son plays with the nativity that his Great-Great-Grandma made by hand, and learns about the birth of Jesus. Win.

Photo IS Reality: My son plays with the nativity that his Great-Great-Grandma made by hand, and learns about the birth of Jesus. Win.

And it’s the only thing that matters. Here is a picture of R playing with my nativity set that my Great-Grandma made – and by “made”, I mean she hand-cast the porcelain and painted it. He was playing with his Great-Great-Grandma’s nativity, and learning about the birth of Jesus. It’s the only thing that matters. I did it.