It’s a tall order to cram a year’s worth of news in one Christmas letter. I strive to not be braggy, and to be realistic without sounding negative. Certainly there is a lot I don’t say, both for the sake of space and to keep it positive. The realities of the lives beyond the letter are noteworthy, however.
A Real World Christmas letter
What I said:
Merry Christmas 2015 from our family! We hope this letter finds you happy, healthy, and spiritually filled.
We have had an eventful 2015. Through many months of studying, Hubby recently completed three major designations for work (letters after his name and all that), and has one test remaining to finish his fourth (and last?!). Passing the tests earned him a business trip to Hawaii this fall where I got to tag along—all of it free! We had a nice time together for 6 relaxing days in Waikiki Beach while my parents experienced the *energy* of our house.
What I didn’t say:
I had asked my parents to come the night before our trip since we had an early flight, and instead of spending the time instructing on home routines, I was feverishly cleaning the house to a standard somewhere near my mother’s standards for cleanliness.
Soon upon arrival in Hawaii, I realized Waikiki Beach was not the place I would have chosen myself for a vacation. I like nature, not designer handbags. Our experience vastly improved when we found the nature bus tours that took us to the northern parts of the island, but it was also HOT. I love fall weather in the Midwest, where I live. When we got home, I felt sad to have missed the peak fall colors, but the crisp 50 degree temperatures were a great consolation.
And my parents? They survived. However, one kid did not do well with the separation, and we spent more time than I would have liked trying to smooth things out from thousands of miles away.
Everyone tells you to get away from the kids once in a while. It had been seven years since our last kid-free vacation, and it felt needed. The quiet meals were relaxing, the activities fun, and the opportunity for travel appreciated. However, it is hard to determine if the benefits outweigh the difficulties.
What I said:
Most of my recent house-work has been to keep things out of the house (water, critters, and flies) and add privacy (planting trees). It’s still my dream house, and renovating an old house is something I have always wanted to do, but it’s hard to juggle with four small children. I am lucky to have Hubby who picks up my cleaning and child-rearing slack during my projects (when he’s not studying), plus my Mom and Dad who live close enough to come by at the drop of a hat when I have a house crisis that needs help fixing. Our house cycles through varying states of disaster. It’s one of my goals for 2016 to work on our home’s inside: reducing clutter, unpacking boxes from our move 3.5 years ago, and finishing the painting projects I started in 2012—all for the goal of making our space calmer & less chaotic.
What I didn’t say:
I am honestly the worst housekeeper ever. When you imagine the boxes from our move 3.5 years ago, do you picture a shelf or two in the basement? Try four full sets of four shelves, two layers of stuff against a wall in our furnace room, and junk filling the middle of our workroom. I still don’t know when I will be able to work in our workroom. One of my recent projects was to clear off the counter in the laundry room which has been my repository for things I didn’t know what to do with for the past three years. Yes, THREE. Years.
Why am I so awful about cleaning up? Usually I just don’t feel like it. I would rather do anything else. It is too overwhelming. I’m too tired from working on the house. I’m in too much pain from working on the house. I would rather be working on the house. I would rather be reading. I would rather be cuddling my kids.
The kicker is that having a chaotic space affects all of our stress levels. So starting with the worst spaces, I am slowly going through things. I WILL be a better housekeeper in 2016. Maybe I will even invite people over with no advance notice. A girl can dream, right?
What I said:
The kids are all having an exciting year.
E competed in her first kids’ triathlon with a group at school. She is our athletic, self-professed “tomboy” and proud of it! Bud had his First Holy Communion in the spring, and is now doing a great job in third grade. In his spare time, he designs creative structures in Minecraft. Kyle’s kindergarten teacher told us he is blowing them all away with his quick learning. He is meeting grade level benchmarks for reading! Mr. S is growing nicely into a little boy—he’s not my baby anymore. You can see the gears turning as he observes everything around him. I delight in every minute of our days together while the other kids are at school.
What I didn’t say:
They don’t tell you at your first childbirth class that you will be learning how to parent for the entire span of parenting. By the fourth kid I am slowly starting to figure things out, but yet, still learning!
Over the past year I have learned more about advocating for my kids than ever before, including making tough decisions about Kyle’s schooling and arranging for extra help for another kid. I have also sat through church mortified of my kids’ behavior, glowed with pride at school music concerts, and overflowed with emotion as they leaped off the diving board for the first time.
Our house is loud, messy, and chaotic for most of the kids’ waking non-school hours. Their rooms are a state of disaster reflective of the common areas in the house. Structure is what we all need, but half the time we are flying by the seat of our pants. All we can do is our best, and hope that it is enough.
If anyone has the number for a good professional organizer or affordable house cleaner, please pass it along. In the meantime, I will keep chipping away at the mess and chaos in all of my spare time (when I’m not reading, fixing my house, or receiving the world’s best hugs).
Have a blessed and happy Christmas!!