On the evening of the night before Christmas Eve, I realized: “everyone is busy doing stuff right now! I’m going to sneak out and finish my shopping so I don’t have to go out tomorrow.”
So I did.
I didn’t even tell anyone I was leaving, so that I could be free of any extra helpers. I just texted them to say that I had left.
My first stop was Old Navy, where I needed a sleep T to match Kaleb’s Christmas PJs, and I might’ve browsed for a few minutes for some things for me, too. I hurried, though, because I still had several stops to make: Hobby Lobby, In ‘n Out (gift card, not food), the mall, and Target.
When there was one person in front of me, my phone rang. For a second I thought...I should ignore that. Because how bad could they need me? But I was responsible, and answered the phone.
“Mom!” Nathan said, with That Tone in his voice. “You need to come home. Kaleb just cut his finger open and he’s bleeding everywhere.”
So I set down my pile of stuff, drove back home (calling the pediatrician on the way because it was nearly 8:00 and if you call much later than that, you’re headed to the ER or Instacare instead of the after-hours doctor), quickly assessed that yes, he probably did need stitches, and loaded him and Nathan in the van. (Kendell stayed home because he wanted to finish the laptop my sister wanted to give her daughter for Christmas, which he’d been working on all day, growing more and more frustrated because it wasn’t going smoothly at all, and can I just whisper that I was totally OK with him staying home because frustrated Kendell + hurt kid + waiting at the doctor’s office does not = a happy experience.)
He ended up needing one stitch, some medical glue, some glued-on steri strips, and a brace to keep his finger straight, as the cut is right in the crease of his top knuckle. As far as stitches go it was fairly non-traumatic for him.
For me it sort of felt like it might be the very last thing my flagging Christmas enthusiasm could handle, mostly because once we got back home all the stores were closed, so there was no getting out of last-minute, day-before-Christmas shopping.
I was up late that night, wrapping everything. But 2:30 a.m. bedtime or not, I was still awoken at 4:37 by the dulcet tones of Kaleb puking.
Apparently stitches were not the last thing I could deal with.
Because no holiday is complete without at least one of my children getting the stomach flu! Wheeee! And get it he did—over the next ten hours or so, he dry-heaved 19 times. Jake was downstairs, also throwing up. Two at once? Well, it means a lot of laundry and toilet flushing, but it also means the inevitable everyone-is-going-to-get-this-sickness-despite-how-much-bleach-I-clean-with fact goes much, much faster.
I didn’t even hope that Nathan and I wouldn’t catch it. I accepted that stomach flu would be in my immediate future. My only hope was that no one was actively throwing up on Christmas Day.
And guess what?
All my Christmas dreams came true!
I mean, I did catch it, but not until Friday. Nathan got it on Sunday. Haley, who was home for roughly 36 hours, did not catch it (guess that bleach and obsessive handwashing helped a tiny bit), and neither did Kendell, who is almost always immune to the tantalizing lure of the norovirus. But my hope, my frantic prayer, my placating the holiday deities with tradition, or maybe just luck—for whatever reason, no one vomited on Christmas. Kaleb felt awful, Jake was not his usual self, and I was nearly paralyzed with the dread of hurling...but no one puked.
No one puked! That is all I need out of Christmas!
As I’m writing this I’m realizing that I sound a little bit snarky. Sort of casual about the fact that my eight-year-old sliced open his finger and then puked his little guts out. And maybe not even snarky, but actually jaded. Especially if you knew how limp and lacking my Christmas spirit was this year, you’d start to believe that I was a direct descendant of the Grinch, not to mention the world’s worst mom.
The truth is, I’m seriously sick of the fact that nearly every Christmas, someone in my family is sick. How have I offended the holiday deities?
I’d like to lodge a complaint somewhere.
But instead, I am taking a big deep breath. I am chalking it up. I am putting on my big-girl Christmas panties (which yes! totally match my Santa suit!) and looking on the bright side:
I finished all the wrapping.
I survived the day-before-Christmas shopping madness.
I forgot to put only the following things in the stockings: headlamps (three boys), a Duck Dynasty soda-can cozy (Jake), cherry-lime Propel packets (Kendell).
And no one threw up on Christmas day.
Plus there were these favorite moments:
- after opening pajamas, the kids opened their sibling gifts. (They draw names.) This is always one of my favorite moments because it makes me happy to see how happy they are at giving. (Haley gave Nathan a new RUCA hat and a sketch book; Jake gave Kaleb some sketching pencils and a drawing book; Nathan gave Jake a thumb drive and some gingerbread-flavored reindeer-shaped peeps; Kaleb gave Haley a picture of the two of them together in a pretty frame he picked out and some peanut butter M&M’s.)
- A few days before he got sick, Kaleb asked me to help him with a project. He wanted to give everyone a presents, and he loves making notes. So we designed a “merry Christmas” card together on the computer, and then he spent hours coloring and writing on the insides. He gave them to each of us on Christmas Eve. So sweet!
- Making the wassail. I also baked a Mary Ann cake, sweet rolls, and the sausage-egg-hash-brown casserole it wouldn’t be Christmas morning without, but it was when I stirred the wassail and the scent swirled up into my nose? That is Christmas Eve.
- Haley stayed up with me. She mostly talked to me while I cooked, but when it was time to get the presents out, she carried packages downstairs, put all the bows on, and helped me organize. I told her some of the secrets I use in my Santa-Claus roll. It felt like seeing what is on the other side of the end-of-childhood door. Glimpses of her as a grown up. I love her so much!
- But I made her go to bed while I stuffed the stockings. Some things can still be a surprise! As a testament to my exhaustion, I did not remove a single price tag from any of the things I put in the stockings. And I didn’t even think twice about it!
- Kaleb woke up when Haley and I were in the process of carrying the Santa presents downstairs. He was sure it was time to wake up, and was confused about why I was up if Santa couldn’t come until everyone was asleep. (I believe he’s beginning to suspect something...) I always worried about a kid waking up, but this is the only time it’s ever happened. Is it weird that I’m happy it did? It seems like a classic Christmas moment I almost missed out on. I sat with him in his room until he fell back asleep.
- Right at the beginning of opening presents, I snapped a few pictures, and Jake (who hates having his picture taken) said "Mom, will you please not take a photo of everything?" and while I wanted to protest and say "I never take pictures of everything," instead I decided to take fewer pictures. I still have plenty...but there was much less picture-taking tension.
- On Christmas morning, Jake opened a four-pack of Monsters. Kendell said, “hey! That’s what I have: a four pack of monsters!” (Awwwwwww.)
- Jake opened a video game called Dark Souls (don’t judge...I am so discouraged about the video-game thing and it is only between Kendell and Jake). Kaleb said “Great! A Christmas present from Satan!” (Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.)
- Last year, Santa brought books only to the kids and forgot to bring them for the parents. A Christmas without books is desolate indeed, so he was making no such mistake this year! Kendell go the book Darth Vader and Son, which is a graphic novel with the premise of...what if Darth Vader raised Luke? (It is hilarious.) Kendell, Jake, and Kaleb (my three non-readers) sprawled on the floor together and read it, laughing. It wasn’t only an awesome Christmas moment. It was maybe the best moment of my entire adult life.
- I always give the kids socks for Christmas. After we were done opening presents, Nathan told me that his socks (tall, colored Nike gym socks) were probably his favorite gift.
- We always open the “big” gift from Santa last. This year, there were gift bags (the only ones Santa used) left at the end. Haley’s was the biggest and it had a sweatshirt she had been dying to have (18-year-olds are hard to surprise); Jake’s had a Visa gift card so he could finally get some League of Legends skins; Nathan’s had a gift certificate for a new butterfly knife, and Kaleb had a little note that lead him to a new sled. It was a fun twist!
- At my mom’s for Christmas dinner, all of the Bigs sat at the Adult table. They all sat together and teased each other and listened a little avidly to the weird things we discuss at the grown up table
- I was so excited to have my mom open her gift from me, a calendar I made with photos from Italy. I think she liked it!
- Doing dishes with Becky and our niece Lyndsay. Is that weird? It was just so...companionable. Friendly and low-stress and happy. I am glad that my relationship with some of my grown-up nieces is starting to get stronger. (I just wish it could be like that with all of them.)
- Everything about Christmas night at my mom’s. Kendell was happy, the kids were all getting along, dinner was delicious, the desserts turned out well, everyone loved their gifts, everyone had fun. It was tension-free. Was it the last one? I don’t know. But I loved it.
See...that’s what I needed to do. Flush out the cynicism by focusing on the good stuff. It helps me remember that despite the illnesses, the dragging spirits, the stitches, and the just-fairly-average gifts, it was still a good Christmas! How was yours?