On Christmas and Pushing Watermelons Uphill

We live at the tippy, tippy top of a steep hill.

Our house pretty much looks just like this…

which makes biking a real bear, particularly when I’m packing my 40-pound twins in the Burley behind me.

True confession: this summer, when I was out biking with my kidlets, I bought a watermelon at the local fruit stand. It was gigantic because I have 5 children, so everything we buy is gigantic. For example, you call Costco a big box store; I call it a store. Plus, my Burley has a super convenient storage area in the back just begging me to load it. Plus-plus, it made perfect sense to try to bike up my hill with 80 pounds of children and a gigantic watermelon. And I think I’ve made it pretty clear over time that sense-making is one of my best things.

All 80 combined pounds of these dudes agree that they have a sense-making mama:

I like to plan ahead. I like to be self-sufficient. I like to be the Mom Who Does It All. (“Like to be” doesn’t always equal “am,” but I doggedly pursue independence the same way I tenaciously swing at full night of sleep; just because I’m not likely to hit it out of the park anytime soon doesn’t make it a pursuit that’s not worth my while.) That’s why I knew I could totally handle my bike, my kids, and a watermelon the size of a VW bus all my byself!

And I did it, too. I made it up 25% of that hill, you guys, before I cried “uncle!” (or, in this case, “cousin!”) and begged for Rescue by Minivan. My cousin Wes-a-wee arrived at the Park Where I Collapsed, loaded my children and my watermelon in her van, and chauffeured them up the hill. And she only said, “Seriously? A watermelon?” six or seven times. (Frankly, I think she deserves a medal for her Extreme Act of Verbal Restraint.)

Hey – a 25% success rate is, like, infinitely greater than a 0% success rate. Right? Right, guys? Your answer is important because it’s the day after Thanksgiving weekend, and the holiday pendulum is swinging inexorably toward Christmas.

Wheeeeeee!

Also, yikes!

I love Christmas. Love it, love it.

I love family movie nights, munching on homemade caramel corn as dusk and dark creep earlier and earlier.

I love watching my little kids trim only the bottom of our tree so that the lowest branches dip with their heavy loads while the upper branches remain pristine and splendidly naked.

I love hanging our stockings on weighted holders that, without my constant attention and admonishment, threaten to tumble down and brain my rambunctious children.

I love the carols. I love the peppermint bark. I love the family time.

I love that my mom makes a birthday cake for Jesus and makes my kids sing “Happy Birthday” to him every single year. And I love that my dad insists on preparing the world’s slowest cup of coffee while 5 anxious children writhe in Waiting Pain to open presents.

I love Christmas. Did I say that yet? I love it. Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, which, as far as I can tell, means that God has officially christened the Christmas ship, and we’re finally free to climb on board without fear of jumping the Christmas gun. Whew! What a relief!

So I was surprised to find that sometime during all the Thanksgiving clean-up and Christmas decorating this weekend, I misplaced my holiday mojo. I woke up this morning, looked in my metaphorical Burley, saw a whole lot of kiddos I’m responsible to shepherd lovingly up a steep holiday hill, and I felt tired. Amidst the baking and buying, pageants and parties, decorating and dining, there are children to be wowed, teachers to be thanked, friends to be celebrated, and family to be honored.

As a non-stuff-centric person, I spend a little time during every holiday patting myself on the back for not buying into popular culture’s “stuff” expectations. Our gift-giving tends to be modest, our kids don’t seem to suffer for it, and we’re not saddled with thousands of “things” to manage. For us, it’s a win. I forget, though, that watermelons don’t just come shaped as purchases.

I paused this morning as I started grimly pulling my Burley up the Christmas hill, and I jumped off the bike. I took a hard look at my load, trying to see all that’s weighing it down. And – wouldn’t you know it? – I found the back end heavy with this mama’s activity and event expectations, my stowaway watermelons. (The sneaks!)

Since it’s not enough to start chucking watermelons around – babies and bathwater and all that – today’s the day I assess which events and purchases are ballast, providing stability and momentum for our joyous celebration, and which watermelons I shoehorn into our time and budget that aren’t worth the Herculean effort it’ll take to lug ’em up my Christmas hill.

I’m thinking, I’m planning, and I’m preparing. But I’m also purging our calendar and protecting more than our budget; I’m protecting our time. Because, although I like to be the Mom Who Does It All, “like to be” doesn’t mean “am,” and, interestingly, it doesn’t even mean “should.”

I’ll tell you what; my Christmas pendulum feels a lot more free without all these watermelons hanging off of it. And I feel a lot less tired.

Steep Christmas hill? Bring it.

And, also…

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
20 comments
  1. Because, although I like to be the Mom Who Does It All, “like to be” doesn’t mean “am,” and, interestingly, it doesn’t even mean “should.”

    This is amazing. This needs to be on a bumper sticker. Or a t-shirt. Definitely somewhere in all the overload of baby and parenting advice that’s available these days.

  2. “my dad insists on preparing the world’s slowest cup of coffee while 5 anxious children writhe in Waiting Pain to open presents”

    My father did this exact same thing to us when we were little. Oh I hated hated waiting on him! I know he did it on purpose. I got a nice little chuckle reading this!

  3. Someone (I can’t remember who) gave me the genius idea of making my Christmas cookie dough in mid-November and freezing it. Not only does this allow me to jump the gun–because it is IMMORAL to make Christmas cookie dough without sampling it and/or making a few ‘test’ cookies, but it’s one less thing to try to cram into December. Now I just defrost, preheat, and go.

    …I think maybe we should have Christmas cookies for dinner tonight. And caramel corn, and hot chocolate. That’s a balanced Advent meal, right?

    1. As a mama who fed caramel corn (hello! whole grains and dairy!) to my kids for dinner just 2 nights ago, I’m in whole-hearted support of your Advent meal.

      As for preparing my Christmas cookie dough in November… well, I might have time in January. 😉

  4. LOVE this blogpost. Thanks for sharing your heart;-)

  5. yay, it’s the Christmas season! I confess, I love jumping the gun too. 🙂

    (p.s. how is WW going? would love to hear…)

    1. Yay! Another gun jumper!

      P.S. I should do a post on my good friend WW! Two pounds down – for which I’m THRILLED given that we just holidayed – and 8 to go. And then 30 more to go, but I’m gonna go ahead and focus on the 8. I should do a WW post fo’ sure.

  6. Fortunately I only have one thing on my ‘Christmas to do list’ this year: birth baby #4. I think I can do that. And I’ll just leave the rest up to others. Love it 🙂
    But first: Sinterklaas! (let’s just hope this baby understands the importance of staying inside until AFTER December 5th…)

    x C

    1. Happy St. Nicholas Day to you and your family! We lived in Belgium one year and enjoyed learning a little about your customs.

    2. Happy Sinterklaas! Merry Sinterklaas? Either way, have fun! Only a few days to go… ’til Sinterklaas AND ’til that baby’s allowed to come. Yippee!

      1. Thanks Judy&Beth! You’re so nice! 🙂 (I think it’s Happy Sinterklaas, not sure though…)

  7. I love this. It is SOOOO hard to protect that time so we don’t just FLY through the holiday and then it’s all over. I’m on the same wavelength. I need to practice saying “no” though — otherwise I will be the metaphorical watermelon, being drug uphill by the inexorable, burley busy-ness of the season. Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Thanks, Dreena. So sweet of you to say! It’s the hardest thing, saying no!

  8. I feel like I should know what peppermint bark is, being an adamant Christmas Crazy myself. I will make a concious effort to remember to try some. Seriously. I’ll try.
    I wrote an entry today about my Christmas baking disease and not having started on any of my shopping yet. I also mentioned that I wanted to wait until this weekend to put up my tree, when it is officially December and therefore the perfect time for decking the halls and trimming the tree. I have no willpower. I put it up this evening. I see you already have yours up, so I feel a little less crazy. Thanks!

    PS – I put my kid on a chair for tree trimming. We cannot hang ornaments on the bottom of the tree, as the zoo would knock them all off in a moments time and as much as I like glass in my feet…

    1. Your November 28th entry is one of my favorites, Amber. Good writing, and very funny!

      Perhaps sometime this season, I’ll post my recipe for peppermint bark. In the meantime, here’s a cheaterpants version:
      1) Take your favorite bar of plain chocolate – milk or dark is fine. 2) Melt white chocolate chips in the microwave ’til smooth and runny. 3) Drizzle white chocolate in crazy fun patterns all over your chocolate bar. 4) Sprinkle wet white chocolate with crushed candycane so candy pieces stick to the white chocolate. 4) Let set, and eat. Mmmmm! It’s sinfully delicious!

  9. I hope you aren’t cutting out the peppermint bark. In fact, I think you should probably double your peppermint bark intake this year.

    1. Oh, no! Peppermint bark is here to stay. Here to stay on my hips, especially, but that’s what the New Year’s resolution is for, yes? 😉

  10. So, is this a good time to ask for your family’s wish list? 😉

    1. If you have a giant bucket of World Peace sitting around, I’ll surely take it off your hands!

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