On Christmas and Pushing Watermelons Uphill

Nov 28 2011

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…