Take Cover! Christmas Bells are Ringin’

The only people who think about Christmas in October are St. Nicholas, people who work in retail and sprinkle Halloween in one aisle and Christmas in the next and, of course, moms.

Although fall is by far my favorite season, a tiny bit of my autumn joy has been stolen since I got married and had kids. My fall to-do list has multiplied since becoming a mom. “Check out new fall TV line-ups” has now been replaced with less “fun” chores.

These tasks are dreaded all year by most moms I know. They include:

The “whose family are we going to for what holiday so everyone we’re related to can be happy and we can be miserable” traditional seasonal fight with your husband:

To be fair, we’ve got the cutest daughters in the world. Unfortunately, they are the only grandchildren in both mine and my husband’s family. So, we’re in high demand. And, of course, by ‘we’ I clearly mean the children. It’s very common for my husband and I to stay up all night packing everything we own so we can crisscross the state through a snow storm in the middle of the night with screaming children. We do this only to arrive at our destination and have our children snatched from our hands and swooned over while we collapse onto the couch without so much as a hello. Once we’re acknowledged it is with a well-meaning “You look awful. You really need to take better care of yourselves. You should get more rest.”

All this is done, of course, so that we can spend the night (if five hours counts as a night), wake up to share a meal with said family and then pack it all up, stuff it back into the mini-van and head out to a dinner hosted by the other side of the family—four hours away.

I have a friend who, in negotiations with her husband, traded every single major holiday of the year just so that Christmas could be spent in her hometown and she and her husband would never have to have this fight again. She should take that poker face to Vegas. I would’ve folded.

In order to please everyone and ensure you’ll still be married by Christmas, negotiations really need to start in the fall. Recently, our discussions on the matter took an interesting turn as we found we were each advocating for the other’s family to ‘get us.”


If there is ever a test of faith, it’s preparing for Christ’s birth in your heart while trying to find a parking spot at the mall. This is done to the soundtrack of car horns honking and people swearing at each other. Once in the mall, you can’t make a purchase without giving out your e-mail, phone number and zip code to the sales person, so you can be harassed and reminded of this experience all year long with ill-timed phone calls.

And there’s always those super uplifting human interest stories about humanity at its finest on TV. The one where people are willing to stampede each other for a $40 toy. Let’s not forget our favorite holiday dance: stretching that family budget to include buying gifts for people because they bought one for you/your kid last year and you were mortified they were not on your list and you were empty-handed.

The Christmas Card Picture:

Please tell me I’m not the only mother who turns into an insane beast of a woman when it comes time to take the photo for the family Christmas card. If I had to pick the worst four hours of my year, it would be taking the Christmas card picture. And, yes, it does take four hours. It is also the hardest workout I do all year, and for what? To capture the fact that my kids refuse to smile for a picture, someone is shoving their finger up their nose, the baby is crying and my make-up is dripping down my face with beads of sweat?

Between takes I scream, “Everyone shut their mouths, stop crying and smile or I’m canceling Christmas!” All of this just so we look like a big happy family in the photo card that has “Christmas blessings” scrolled across it. Last year, I attempted running this marathon while pregnant, and the whole thing actually put me into contractions. We’d already received cards form more successful friends who got their cards out the first week of December. Card after card made me wonder if all of our friends’ children had become catalog models or the face of dental offices.

If you look closely at our card from last year you can see me digging my fingernails into my husband’s leg because we were going on photo shoot hour three, and I was realizing that our photo wasn’t going to have the same fate as every other family we’d ever met. I was going off the edge. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a nervous breakdown over a photo card.

Enjoy the Season

This year I’m putting this on my list. Amid all of the stresses the holiday season brings to motherhood, our Church gifts us with the season of Advent. When everything around us defines Christmas by slapping a manufacturer’s label and price tag on it, our liturgical year builds in time for us to prepare our hearts for the real gift of Christmas, Jesus. We’re asked to quite our hearts and our mouths and prayerfully reflect on what this gift means to us.

We’ve decided that this year, no one is going to “get us” for Christmas Eve. You don’t have to travel to meet Baby Jesus. We’ll celebrate in our home and invite others to join us here. They can drive.

We’re not above bribes. We’ll use the kids to lure our families to our side of the state. We won’t tell them they’ll be sleeping on pink and purple twin sized beds in little girl rooms. They’ll also have to get up in the middle of the night to go out in the cold and create reindeer tracks in the snow to enhance the Christmas morning experience for our daughters.

Our daughters will receive three gifts from us. Because if it’s good enough for the baby Jesus, it’s good enough for us.

As for the Christmas card, maybe if I attempt to do a funny ‘out takes” type card we’ll finally get that Norman Rockwell family Christmas photo. It is baby Jesus’ birthday. If our Blessed Mother can ride a camel across her country while nine months pregnant, I think I can pack my kids into a mini-van and drive across the state to see family over the holiday season. I believe in Christmas miracles.

Now Thanksgiving, that’s another story. We’re still trying to work that one out……

10 thoughts on “Take Cover! Christmas Bells are Ringin’

  1. Kristen @ St Monica's Bridge

    We get pulled three ways, my parents, his mother and his father and step-mother. My parents lived over 600 miles from their families (we lived in NC they lived in NY) so we never traveled for holidays as kids. After playing the tote-a-longs for a couple of Christmases, I put my foot down. I want my kids to wake up in their own beds on Christmas morning. My husband’s family also wants him to come to them AND cook (because he is a chef, or was in his previous occupation)and I said no more cooking unless it was in our own kitchen. And our holidays are much happier now. I don’t worry about cards, we might do them, we might not. :) And we adopted the three gift rule too. After hearing my father-in-law describe our nephew taking four hours just to open the presents from his parents, that was all the inspiration we needed (and us both being unemployed for a long time helped us curb any over-indulging on gifts).

    You are on the right track…I’m still getting on it and boy does my life seem better around the holidays :)

  2. Karen

    This post gave me heart palpitations just reading. I’m dreading the holiday shuffle more this year that ever. Everyone’s going to want to have MG for Christmas this year and it doesn’t occur to anyone that maybe her parents want a bit of her too. I have so many Christmas traditions I want to begin with out little family but our extended families are going to make this difficult. I think I’m going to start the conversation with K tonight. I’m thinking we decide now how we want to go about it and just stick to our guns. If people don’t like it they’ll get over it eventually. And you’re right…Thanksgiving is a whole other story… :/

    I think your plans sound great! I was going to suggest the “out takes” idea for your Christmas card. I think that would be cute!

  3. Roxane B. Salonen

    Yikes, I am such a procrastinator with so much of this. Or have begun one. It depends from year to year. I get a little insane with the Christmas poem, always trying to outdo myself. Balance. It’s all about balance. And baby Jesus, right? :)

  4. Thankful

    Oh my goodness! This cracked me up. Have you been a fly on the wall in our house lately? I really like the three gift rule – good point about Jesus receiving three gifts. :)

  5. Molly M.

    Maybe for the Christmas photo use a really nice picture from elsewhere during the year. That’s what Chris and I do and occasionally my mother would do.

    While we don’t have children, we go through that dread as well. It was blessedly simple last year when my family came to us.

    Sending prayers and good thoughts on the negotiations, friend!

  6. Betsy

    We had a friend do an “out takes” photo last year, and I think it was one of my favorite cards we received. They explained in their yearly letter how that was the picture that described their family best. It was priceless :)

  7. Jessica

    Hi Holly!! Haven’t heard from you in a while but I saw your article on Catholic Mom!! I hope you and your family are well and that you have a blessed thanksgiving!! :)


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