Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Recipe for keeping the holidays real

Holiday stress has been more real for me this season than at any other time I can recall. Yet I can't recall a more wonderful long weekend.

Throw in the hassles of traveling 10-plus hours with children, their excitement just because it’s Christmas, the challenge of juggling schedules and no less than four time zones’ difference among the family members, and the worry of making sure that the rest of the family’s expectations matches yours (yes, even “greener” parents worry whether the kids are going to feel that Santa stiffed them this year).

And for a little extra spice, toss in an ear infection and pharmacies closed for the holidays.

Top it off with a blizzard, about-zero wind chills, snow that drifted hip-deep in places and popped exterior panels out of vans, a “check engine” light that glared surreptitiously in the night, a niece that was stuck a city away and highways that were closed.

Yep. It was a recipe for a Christmas disaster.

But here’s the thing about Christmas 2009. It was one of the best holidays we’d had in a long time. (And it was nearly as good as two years ago, when we brought my baby boy home on Christmas Eve.)

We watched my little guy with his new-found obsession with his train set, even without enough wooden tracks really to play with.

We watched my daughter prance proudly in her new gymnastics leotard, jumping up and down with joy when we told her that her grandparents got her gymnastics lessons when she returned.

We teased my niece – who arrived home literally after stomping through snowdrifts to get to her mother’s car after the worst of the snowstorm had passed – about her very toothless grin.

We saw aunts and uncles and cousins who hadn’t gotten together for a positive reason since, very likely, the Christmas we left Kansas City.

We watched the Chiefs lose on TV. (But that was no surprise.)

The road conditions and wild winter weather brought an added blessing: An extra day of togetherness. No racing to cram in Crown Center, the Plaza and other holiday activities. Just hanging out with one another. While I’m happy to finally be back home and in my own bed, sometimes a little slowing down with family is worth the wait. Happy holidays!

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