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  • Melissa Westemeier


First, The Holy Eclair is heading to Common Household Mom! Carolyn writes often and beautifully about matters of faith and God and spirituality. It's a match made in heaven, right?

It's halfway through Christmas break and my oldest is on the couch recovering after having all of his wisdom teeth pulled yesterday. He's never suffered pain well, this experience is proving to be no exception to the rule. I made him mac and cheese from scratch for breakfast this morning since he can't chew food or suck it through a straw. Lest I impress you with the "scratch" part, do understand we had no boxed version in the pantry.  It's -10 degrees and I didn't fancy another trip into town in a freezing cold vehicle so while noodles boiled I made a roux and added milk and cheese to make the sauce. This process didn't take much longer than making mac and cheese from a box, I was happy to discover.

It was impressive how quickly he got through the surgery, less than an hour and a half, that includes the time it took to get him out of sedation and wheeled to the car. Times have changed since I had mine removed. I recall my jaw locking wide open as it had taken nearly two hours to extract those teeth--and I was NOT under sedation, merely numbed.

Meanwhile, the middle kid has been living large this break, sledding in negative temperatures while wearing his new winter gear, practicing wrestling, hunting, building a sled, going to movies, shopping with Grandma's Christmas money--he never takes a break. The youngest has killed a fair number of virtual bad guys, shot basketballs and hung out with his buddies.

I've shuttled people to and from appointments and practices and got retested for Lyme Disease. I took my final antibiotic for that last weekend and my body is happy to get back to its usual medication-free state. Some of my dearest friends came over the day after Christmas and we sat around catching up, drinking coffee, eating, and basking in each other's presence. That was a great gift. 

My other great gift was season one of Stranger Things, my new favorite thing ever.

Have you seen it? You must. It's fantastic. Plus it came packaged as a VHS tape, which cleverly threw me for a loop when I looked at the box. Sneaky! It was really DVDs in a VHS-sized box. Mr. T watched with me and I convinced Mr. D he might like it. He agreed to try it, the following night sat down to pop in the second disc and today announced he'd buy season two for us to watch over New Year's.  I would watch the first season over again, though, because I feel like there were lots of little things I missed. A lot happens, plot intersections and so forth, plus I feel like season two will reference the first one a fair amount. I can't decide which character is my favorite, I've always had a soft spot for Winona Ryder, but the sheriff grows on you by the third episode and the children are delightful. It's scary without being dreadful or gory (which I can't stand), kind of a mash-up of The Goonies and The X Files.

Now I'll tell you about my greatest gift. This Christmas I made a deliberate choice to not do anything I didn't feel like doing. Not in a selfish way, mind you, but in a sensible way. I decided I wouldn't burn myself out in some kind of frantic Christmas Race to Fabulousity and Perfection. Now, this seems obvious, I realize, but moms and wives do experience a particular amount of social pressure to DO IT ALL. Bake, wrap, shop, decorate, plant surprises, plan parties, stage elves and photo shoots, attend events, etc. etc. I know for a fact that God did not give us Christmas so I could end up resenting it by making the entire celebration all about work and a to-do list seven miles long. Forced labor completely defies the entire gift of grace through Jesus, specifically presented so that we do NOT have to work, but just take the salvation and rejoice. When did humans pervert this great holiday and make it all about busyness and work? For that matter, WHY? (Let's face it, the busy-work-work-work of Christmas intentionally distracts from the real focal point of God sending His son to earth as a living sacrifice for us.)

I talked this over with God one afternoon this fall while hiking in my favorite local spot. He assured me the world wouldn't fall apart and I'd probably enjoy the holiday a lot more if I approached it this way. So I did. I decorated until I felt satisfied, then I put the rest of the stuff away--or boxed it up to donate. Our tree is regular sized and I like that it doesn't take up half of my living room. I'm not cursing and feeling crowded and anxious with the extra clutter because there isn't much extra sitting about. I hung some wreaths, set out a few items and that felt perfect. It's December 28th and I'm not feeling frantic to get it all put away, which is a nice change of pace.

I didn't bake a single cookie, didn't make a single candy. We popped a ham in the crock pot for Christmas day and I bought some of those frozen eclairs and cream puffs for dessert. Everyone liked it. No one cared that I didn't make "special" recipes and fifteen side dishes. Maybe I'll feel like it next year, maybe not. 

I bought exactly what I wanted to give. No one seemed dissatisfied with their presents, I didn't tear my hair out having to wrap stuff, agonize over what to get who, and track various packages' progress online. I mailed cards because I like to do that. Someone from the home and school group sent me an email explaining that they decided teachers should get a little gift each day of the last week of school.  As the 7th grade room parent rep I decided not to scramble for last minute little gifts and to stick to my original plan with one big gift on the last day of school and G's teacher probably wouldn't feel upset. To my knowledge she's fine.

Christmas was very pleasant this year. I burned candles and listened to music, I drank hot chocolate and spent time with my family. We went to church. We went bowling. I thanked God for the peace I felt mentally and in my heart. Why haven't I always celebrated Christmas by taking it more instead of making it more? It's silly how we pressure ourselves and complicate what should be simple. But that's human nature, I suppose. We think we're improving upon something when we add more to it, when really we should dial it back and quit distracting ourselves from stuff that really matters. 

I did what I wanted, I didn't do what felt burdensome and my cup overfloweth. Spill it, reader. What have you decided NOT to do this holiday season?

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