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.
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!”
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.