Saturday, December 29, 2012

Too Much Christmas!

Total mess.  TOTAL.

I'm finally getting a chance to write after the craziness and busyness of Christmas and the days surrounding. We had what was, in all respects, a happy and joyful Christmas - we got to spend time with many different friends and family, we enjoyed much good food, exchanged many gifts, got a couple beautiful snowfalls, and there were no mishaps or fights or anything like that. was stressful.  The social obligations ended up just being too much.  Tom and I are already planning out ways to ensure that next year's Christmas is calmer and simpler.

The thing that made it hardest was the fact that Sly was kept at an intense level of excitement for days on end, which was inevitably followed by many huge "crashes".  He did nothing but go to parties, see lots of fun people he loves, eat cookies, eat candy, drink pop [soda, for those of you who don't call it the right name], miss naptimes, and stay up way past his bedtime.  He turned into an ABSOLUTE mess for a few days, and made us all miserable.

Here's a rundown of the past week:

Friday the 21st
Our community had a little Christmas party.  Sly ate nothing but cake and ice cream for dinner, and then met Santa.

Saturday the 22nd
We had a cookie exchange party at our house, an annual tradition dating back to our college years. It was a wonderful time.  So many of our friends have scattered across the country since college, and many of them travelled back to Pittsburgh just for this party.  It made seeing them all together so much more special than it was back in the early days of this party.  Overwhelmingly positive.  But Sly ate nothing but cookies, helping to set him up for future disaster.

Sunday the 23rd
Mass, then brunch with friends who had stayed with us the night before.  Then, unless I'm forgetting must have been a blissfully activity-free rest of the day!

Monday the 24th
On Christmas Eve, we went downtown to see the Christmas displays.  We ate lunch there, and my dad  met us there.  Sly got to meet Santa (again).  Stella screamed her head off while we were waiting in line because she wanted to be swadled, but the only thing we had in our under-packed bag was a travel changing pad - so yes, we used that instead.  We enjoyed the seasonal stuff downtown, and when we were all too tired to move, we went home for the briefest of naps.

Then it was time to get dressed up and head to my mom's house.  We ate some appetizers there, and opened all our gifts from her.   My mom went completely and utterly too far with gifts the kids, and we need to have a serious talk with her to ensure that it never happens again!!  Our intention is to keep gift-giving for various holidays on a moderate scale.  For Sly's birthday so far, we have given him one gift.  For Christmas, about three, plus some little dollar-store stocking stuffers.  I think this is plenty.  And we are, of course, factoring in the expected additional gifts from family members.  But I don't think any grandparent should be giving the kids more than "Santa" gives, and my mom gave many times more.  We had to totally rearrange the kids' bedroom just to fit all the new stuff!  It's a ridiculous situation , and has been causing some tension between Tom and me.  I hate to be so strict about it, but we're going to have to establish a "one gift only" rule for the future, at least for my mother.

After exchanging gifts with my mom and brothers, we went to my aunt's house for a little party with my mom's side of the family.  We loaded the car with the absolutely ridiculous number of gifts from my mom (and we actually had to come back later for a second trip), and I realized that my camera was missing.  We were already rather tired and stressed at this point, and Tom and I had been snipping at each other a lot, and I just kinda lost it.  I got upset and started crying, insisting that we had to find my camera right then.  I was convinced it would be destroyed if we didn't find it.  Either it was lost inside wherethe dog would likely find it first and chew it to bits,  Or it had dropped on the ground somewhere outside, where there was a freezing rain falling.  I searched all over with a flashlight, but couldn't find it.  Resigned, we finally left for the party half an hour later.  Sly stayed up way too late, and ate nothing but junk, and got very riled up by my three brothers.  But luckily, at the end of the night we found my camera!  Stella had been sleeping on it in her carseat.

Tuesday the 25th
On Christmas morning, we pried ourselves out of bed around nine.  We had to rush through present-opening more than we liked, so we would have time to get ready for Mass at eleven.  Sly kept having little tantrums throughout the morning.  He opened one gift from "Santa", which was a drum (in great shape, found by us at a thrift store).  He was excited for a moment, then asked where the drumsticks were.  Uhhh...oops.  We didn't really realize he knew what drumsticks were, and wouldn't have thought he needed them anyways.  Can't kids just play with their hands?  But he flipped out because he wanted drumsticks.  Tom grabbed two wooden spoons from the kitchen, and showed Sly how to use them instead.  Sly was elated and asked to try.  But as Tom handed them over, Sly realized they weren't actually drumsticks, but were spoons, and had a screaming, wailing break down.  Ughh.

Mass was spent mostly in the back of the church where Sly was being b-a-d.  It lasted until almost one, and then we had to stop home quickly to pack diapers, presents, etc.  Leaving the house a huge mess, we headed over to my dad's house to exchange gifts with him.  Another load too big to fit in the car.  After that, it was over to my uncle's house for Christmas dinner with my dad's whole side of the family.  Again, Sly ate no real food whatsoever.  And he developed an aggravating new habit of picking up full cups and dumping them on the floor intentionally.  Ooh, did that make us mad!  We punished him so many times on Christmas day, but I think he was too tired and cranky and full of sugar for it to have any effect.  We ended up leaving the party earlier than I've ever left it in my life.  I hated having to "answer" to everyone about why we didn't want to stay.  But it felt so nice to just go home and go to bed.

My dad's side of the family, minus 26 people.
Wednesday the 26th
We let Sly open more presents, which had been mailed to us by various relatives.  I was intending to hit the stores in the morning to score some great discounts, but there was a snowstorm, and the roads didn't seem safe.  I really think this was a grace from God, as it forced us to spend part of a day just staying home as a family.  Tom decided during naptime, though, to drive over my mom's to pick up the rest of the gifts.  What should have been less than an hour round trip took him more than three.  Poor guy.  As soon as he got in the door, it was already time to leave for yet another family party.  Again, Sly was spilling people's drinks on purpose, and making his parents very angry!

Thursday the 27th
I went to see Les Mis with my best friend.  It was the only day we could do it, but Tom was working a half day, so I had to get my dad to come over to watch the kids until he got home.  I was out of the house about four hours total, and Stella screamed her head off and refused to take the bottle the whole time.  Awesome.  Tom's parents came to town for a visit.  We went out to dinner, then came home for yet more present-opening.

I think we managed to pull off a fairly holy Advent this year (not to say that there isn't room for improvement), but we have a long way to go on celebrating Christmas appropriately.  I feel like there are too many family obligations on us right now.  While they should help make it festive and jolly, they instead have felt like they were weighing us down this year.  Christmas was just much more stressful than it should have been.  Each individual activity, party, etc. was enjoyable.  But added up, and in such quick succession, it was just too much.  We barely got a break between activities.  Sly was a total nutcase for about five days, missing naps, going to bed late, and being the crankiest we've ever seen him.  One good I can say about this year is that it was a useful learning experience for us.  Next Christmas, we will just have to put our foot down.  We will insist that the grandparents cut down on the present-giving, and prepare them for the reality of us possibly arriving late or leaving early from parties.  Also, I want to insist that Christmas day itself be "immediate family only" time, at least up until dinner.

Things have calmed down a bit now...except that Tom and his dad are currently constructing built-in bookshelves downstairs so the dining room is a wreck.  Oh, and Stella is sick.  I feel like I've finally officially joined the "parent club" because I've actually been thrown up on now.  Sly has never - literally never - been sick.  So this is all new to us.  In the past 24 hours, poor little Stella has vomited on basically every blanket and sheet in the house, and also the Boppy, the couch, the floor, and a few other things.  The pediatrician's office says she probably just has a virus and to keep breastfeeding as usual, but to monitor her for dehydration.  And luckily, she's still been pretty pleasant and smiley, so I don't think she minds too much.  I'm glad I don't have to drive her to the doctor (yet), because there was another snowfall this morning, and the roads are not looking friendly. Overall, yesterday was a success because I finally had a chance to catch up on many little projects while Sly was entertained by Grammy. 

How was everyone else's Christmas?


  1. Wow, that does sound like a lot!! I felt kind of stressed this year but we had less "events" to go to than you. I kind of want to institute the "family only until dinner" Christmas day rule too.

  2. I am so glad that we aren't at your house right now! That would have been so unfair. Seriously... tell us NO!

  3. Well, I was sick as a dog until the 24th, so that was the first day I could do anything, so that day was cleaning and prep from wake-up until bedtime.

    Because of being sick, I hadn't been able to buy Pippa the two (2) presents I wanted to, and I let her unwrap the one (1) present I had already gotten (the Nativity set) Christmas eve. On Christmas morning I knew we wouldn't have time for presents, so we just went straight to morning Mass. When we got home it was nap time, and while she was napping I put out the presents I had received in the mail from relatives, plus the presents from our houseguest, her godfather. When she woke up we did presents; she opened all of them... only about 5 of them were for her. Then we had Christmas dinner just the four of us.

    Boxing Day we did almost nothing. We went out in the early afternoon for shopping that was a wash-out.

    Even with a fairly low-key holiday Pippa was still a little more stressed than usual. I think I mentioned that she had two tantrums Christmas Day, bringing her total lifetime tantrums up to four. She hasn't had any more tantrums since.

    I think you've got the key already... it's all about keeping naps and bedtime and balancing out the junk foods. I would add that I think another key piece for Pippa was that the putting up of the Christmas tree and other decorations added a new source of "no, no, no". She was really very good about obeying the stricture against touching the tree but I think it drained away at her patience reserves and that's why she melted down when I denied her something in Mass. Just tired of hearing "you can't do that".

  4. This sounds very much like some of our Christmas's past. This year, however, we did put our foot down and say "ONE house per day, NO traveling between events on Christmas day," etc. It was much more peaceful. People got a little miffed, but it was a necessary change.

    1. That's a great idea. I can already foresee upset grandparents, but we'll have to consider something like this for next year.

  5. Our Christmas was nice this year, and I truly mean that.

    I totally completely understand the overwhelmed feeling of frustration that too much party and too many gifts bring. I'm sorry that your family endured that. You have made a good choice. Put your foot down. Do it, even if it hurts people. You need to do what is best for your family, and this is not it. Don't let your children's Christmas memories be like mine, please. When I was a kid, we woke up Christmas morning, opened our small amount of simple gifts from our parents, and went to Mass. Happy times, good memories. The day would go downhill rapidly from there. First, my mom's family. Gifts, sweets and pop. Then my dad's side of the family with his mom- several garbage bags of gifts, more sweets, rich food. THEN, my dad's stepdad's family. Gifts nearly up to the roof in the back of the Jeep, bags on the floor between our feet. I remember driving home Christmas night, feeling sick and crazed from overexcitement, and just wanting to throw the gifts out the window. And when we got home, watching my dad carry bag after bag, armful after armfull, into the house, would make me cry. It was more stuff than I wanted. I knew the house would be a wreck for days afterwards, as we purged toys by the bagfull and rearranged and tried to make room. My mom would make us throw out toys we loved to make room for the new ones, and we would cry. To this day, I have no idea why my mom and dad could not learn to say NO to their families. For the sake of Sly and Stella, I hope that you do.

    Merry Christmas! I hope you find some peace and quiet in the remainder of the 12 days.

    1. Wow - this sounds just about where we are headed. Thanks for sharing your story.

  6. We frequently show up late or leave early from parties and people's houses. Nap times are pretty scared around here and so are bedtimes. So far everyone has understood. And even if they are baffled, they never dare mention it. lol It was hard for me to adjust to at first, but now sometimes I am so thankful for the needing to leave early. It has gotten us out of some not so fun situations.

    In terms of gifts from the grandparents, we don't have an issue. Both sets have been incredibly generous yet not in an overwhelming type way. The amount of gifts they give are totally reasonable. (Thank goodness!) I think Santa actually went a little nuts this year in our house. ;)

    I am sorry Stella is sick. Hang in there! Noah is on round two of antibiotics for a double ear infection. Not fun. :( Tis the season!

    Have a happy and peaceful New Year!

  7. Wow, what a Christmas! We were pretty booked as well, mostly with out of town guests staying with us, one family one after another. Thankfully, this does not mean packing our kids up and taking them places, so it made things easier on us in a way.

    My mom has responded really well to my hints about how overwhelming the kid's clutter is to my life (and she remembers what it's like, being slighty OCD herself). Every year my parents give us family memberships to our local zoo or science museum. We love them, use them all the time, and they take up only a miniscule amount of space in my wallet. They also bring the kids stacks of sticker books so that they have gifts to unwrap and play with. Those are loved to death for a couple weeks and then I get to throw them away. Perfect. I am sure it helps too that all of our siblings are either buying presents for their own children or else just really thrifty, so we either get one family gift or nothing at all from aunts and uncles, and that's fine with me.

    1. Yes! I love the idea of gifts of an "experience" (such as zoo memberships), or gifts that get loved but eventually used up (like craft supplies)! I've been thinking along similar lines. Unfortunately on the sibling end, none of the kids aunts and uncles have their own children yet, so they are still excited to spoil our kids, and buy them all the "great toys" they had when they were young.

  8. Hi! I hope things have calmed down by now. I'm a little late to the party but my mother-in-law said as soon as we have kids we should not leave our house on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. People (including grandparents) should come to you! I hope you find more peace next year.