IMG_5293“Turn off the video.”  Those are the only words I spoke while my husband had his phone set up to record our annual tree trimming. That: does not bode well. It means I knew I did not want my next words and behaviors to be saved in perpetuity on his IPhone. (I’ve learned that- in 25 years of assorted tantrums caught on film of all sorts. There are a few celebs who should also learn this lesson- justsayin. I’m not alone.)IMG_0001_5

I should back up…. I didn’t plan it to be a too-cranky-for-cameras experience. It was supposed to be all: cocoa and cookies and Christmas music and memories made and shared…. A scene that took two days to set up and 12 seconds for me to wreck.

We did have warm cookies. (Yes- break and bakes count.) We did have cocoa. (I even made it the old fashion way that doesn’t involve packets or freeze dried marshmallows.) We even had Christmas music. (Gotta love shuffle on a playlist. Ba-ru pa pum pum.) We also had: college kids who had to get to work, and had other things to do, an elementary schooler who wants to horse around, dogs that want to steal cookies and cocoa and cost us an expensive visit to the doggy urgent care… (they didn’t- but they tried.) We had a father in the middle of trying to close a sale. And: a mom that felt compelled to clean the Christmas tree room before the tree was put up. (For the camera- of course.)

I should have known we were at risk when I tripped over the beagle and into the china cabinet while furiously cleaning. I really do mean furiously. Here is the soundtrack from that cleaning binge….”Why can’t anyone else see what needs to get done, and DO IT? Why am I the only one who can run a vacuum? Why am I the only one who does anything around here???? Why doesn’t anyone put their crap away?” Yup. Furious. I moved furniture, cleared the way for all the Christmas stuff to be brought up and set out- all while having an everlasting gobstopper of a tantrum. The truth is- by the time we finally got to the trimming “party” I was sore, exhausted and frustrated.

It was my own fault.

Here’s the thing: the fury was partly fueled by my lack of boundaries and teaching my family to be responsible. (With a side of stress and probably a touch of PMS.) The rest was fueled by my desire to make everything perfect.

Instead of perfect, it was one mess after another. Including but not limited to: a cocoa-milk boil over on the stove. (Multitasking gone bad, again. I may never learn.) A pre-lit christmas tree with all the lights: burned out. A Pre lit Christmas tree with most of the lights burnt out. A rash of undetermined but probably Lupus/autoimmune  or nervous origin. Dogs that insisted on either going in and out and leaving muddy paw prints on my just mopped floor- or peeing on it. (Next flooring will be dirt colored. For sure.) And kids that wanted to get the show on the road so they could move onto their lives- because they have them. (As they should.)

Boundaries and expectations. The truth is-I didn’t have to make it so difficult. I should have asked for help. (I have great kids- they help when I remember to ask them- but they are not moms- they don’t always “see” what needs to be done.) I should have set reasonable expectations. I didn’t. And because of that- I had to turn off the camera to protect myself from becoming “that” viral video mom. The crazy one yelling at everyone to smile or, I’d kill them. And the one telling everyone to put ornaments on the tree- and then moving each one into it’s “proper” position. (I know, I know- if I were my kid I’d say: “Why bother?” too.. “if you’re just gonna move them after you MAKE us put them on…”)

The topper? Guess what the first thing I  had to do once we put up the tree was? Vacuum. Again. (Yes- fake tress drop needles too.) The next thing? Dishes. (baking cookies just adds to the mess I have to clean.. WHY do I do this to myself?) Then- the cocoa boil over goo had to be removed. (Truthfully- there is still some on there. Maybe it will burn off. If I’m lucky.) And I needed Advil. (to say the least. My neck and back can only handle so much in one weekend- and this was more than that.)  And of course- I had to re-dust. Because somehow, even though encased in enough plastic tubs to create a new Hawaiian Island if it were launched into the pacific…..everything still manages to be dusty when we bring it out. Every. Single. Year. And here is what the rest of the house looked like after I cleaned the “Christmas room”   IMG_5290

Which is exactly why I didn’t want the camera running. I did however get a few still shots that captured our day…..and guess what? Messy and cranky or not- they are still precious moment of real life captured with my family…. My real- messy imperfectly perfect- family. who loves me even when I’m cray cray. And Whom I love even though they are afflicted with dirt blindness, and cannot all pose for a decent photo to save their lives…. (Which I may have futilely threatened to get the shots I did…) 

From my messy house to yours: Merry Christmas- and- chill out. Enjoy the moments and stop trying to make the memories perfect… chances are you’re just like me- making everyone miserable. Unless- of course, I’m the only one….

Dear Lord- I hate it when I get caught in this loop of trying to make things perfect and not setting or maintaining boundaries…and then getting angry that my family isn’t mind readers…..help me learn lord. Help me grow. I need you.. even here- in the Christmas Mess. I love you lord- thank you for loving me- even at my crankiest and messiest. Amen

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1441273_10201627269256256_1776938028_n1) Read this.   Let’s save the word “persecuted” for those who actually are. Like these people. And not just the Christians…. there are so many others. Just sayin.

2) “No” Is a just fine answer. We tend to think we have to do it all. If we can’t, we feel compelled to give a valid justification for why we can’t. We don’t have to. Sometimes, “No.” Is enough.Let’s practice- say it with me:

No, I cannot bake cookies for 14,000 elementary students.”  (Each with unique allergies, including but not limited to: gluten. nuts, milk, eggs, chocolate, fruit etc…..I’m pretty sure those options leave you with beef jerky cookies. But then there are vegans.. so- you lose. No matter what.) “No, I can’t host the Holidays this year.” “No, I can’t buy gifts for every human being I’ve ever had contact with.” No, I can’t re-decorate to accommodate my picky inlaws before they come spend the holidays with us.”  “No, I can’t donate to every heart wrenching cause just because it’s the holidays.” “No. Just No.” Pretty much- Insert whatever thing it is someone wants you to do- and add: no.” You can soften it with a “I’m sorry, I wish I could.”  Or, offer something that you CAN do. Like find a restaurant where you could all meet to celebrate, etc. However, the key is NO. Anything else is  not necessary, and opens the door for trying to convince you for how you COULD or SHOULD. “No” Is not a mean answer. “No” can be an honest and loving answer. An answer that saves you, your family and your holidays from becoming chaotic and miserable.

If saying “no” is hard for you- I give you permission to buy this. It might help. I have one. I’m wearing it for a talk on boundaries in a couple of weeks. (That was my justification for buying it:P)

Here’s the thing: We also need to ACCEPT “No’s” from others. Without guilt tripping or probing. This goes both ways. It’s called: Respect.

3) Keep the main thing the main thing. I can’t tell you what the main thing is for you and your family. however,  I suggest you make a Holiday mission statement and stick with it. If it doesn’t enhance or support the mission: See # 2.

4) Smile. Be nice. This is a season when that’s Ok. You’re not going to be at risk of being thought of as creepy. (Mostly, unless you ARE creepy. But don’t be creepy. Ever. Ok? Thnx.) Also: Don’t be that mean person who’s angry every time you have to wait during the holiday season. It’s busy everywhere. Bring a book. Google something. Wait nicely, smile and say: “Thank  you” to those who help and serve you. Even if it’s busy. Bonus round:  Don’t be a jerk- leave a tip. Tip as well as you can. Sometimes tip well even if the service isn’t stellar. It’s called “Grace.”

5) You can’t do everything. Don’t try. You’ll just make yourself and everyone around you: miserable. Trust me. I’ve tried. See again: #2.

I could go on…but really? You won’t read more and I won’t do more. As you can see by the current state of my Manger- I need to get things set straight. (The dog ate baby Jesus = years ago. Literally.)

So-  let’s try to start here. I have a feeling it could change the holidays for all of us.

Dear Lord— The holidays are upon us… and honestly? Sometimes it feels more “Game of Thrones Winter is Coming” Than: It’s a Wonderful Life The Best Christmas Pageant Ever or even Elf. Please God- help us to get things straight in our hearts and minds before we let ourselves get caught up in the crazy that can me the holidays. Let it be more Silent Night than Black Friday. I love you Lord- and need you desperately to help me make the best decisions I can and to focus on you. Let your mission be mine this year….I love you Lord- Amen. 

Readers: So what are your holiday challenges? Saying yes too much? Wanting everything perfect? Being Nice in stead of Naughty? (A snarky meanness is sometimes the soundtrack in my head.  Trust me- I get it.) Keeping focused? Feeling persecuted? Tell me….. And tell me your solutions! I can’t wait to read them!

“That can’t be right.” I said to the calendar, mocking me from it’s place of honor on the fridge.

I double checked.

It was. *Sigh.* I’m not sure how I managed to do it.  I’m leaning towards blaming Apple for a syncing problem, how’s that?  I have one appointment on the house calendar and one in my iPhone- for the same day.

I am double booked for next Friday.  Speaking (On Loving Your Strong Willed Child ) and Second Grad Math Mom, in my youngest son’s class.

When I really looked at the appointments, (Skimming can cause undue panic- will I ever learn, that?) I discovered they don’t overlap.  This time. It hasn’t always ended so well.

As a Work From Home Mom, I am on the short list for the school to call.  I get calls to help with parties, to purchase and organize crafts and snacks and yes, to help with math explorations. I don’t just get the calls, I’m expected to do it. Don’t get me wrong,I want to be involved.  I also have other commitments. Like speaking,  meeting deadlines and writing. I can’t do it all. Sometimes I have to say “No.”

Saying “No.” in itself,  is hard.  People make it even harder. I hear things like: “Oh- I thought you were at home?” Or “But, you’re home during the day, right?” Sometimes it’s just a look. A look that communicates the same thing or worse.

I  thought that being a Work From Home mom- would be the perfect answer for mothering. I’d always be there for my kids and always be able to do my job.  It’s not. Sometimes, I have to leave a sick kid with his older brother, because I’m the scheduled speaker.

Sometimes, I can’t have three 7 year olds running through the house- even if it is midwinter break.  I have a book proposal to complete.  (Second graders playing hide and seek, while I write  are a challenge even for this Multi-Tasking-ADD Queen.)  I can’t do it all.

I can do what needs to be done.  I am.

Work From Home Moms-

  • Do you sometimes feel guilt tripped because you can’t do it all?
  • Do others always respect your schedule?
  • Have you ever found yourself double booked?  What did you do?
  • What kinds of things do you have to say “No” to?