If there’s one indisputable fact about motherhood, it’s that kids change everything.

The holidays are no exception. When you have kids, you can practically hear the pitter-patter of reindeer feet on your roof. Santa is alive, well and magical. There are tons of cookies, impossibly cute baby outfits and handmade toddler ornaments for the tree.

It’s all adorable…until 5 a.m. on Christmas morning, when your toddler is jumping on your stomach, “quietly” asking in his best whisper-yell if you’re awake and it’s time to check if Santa brought presents. Didn’t this used to be the morning you could sleep in, guilt-free? In your early-morning, sleepy-eyed stupor, you feel like you’ve stepped into the Twilight Zone for a Christmas makeover you’re not really sure you wanted.

By the time 5:30 rolls around and you’ve seen the sheer delight on your toddler’s face as he rips open his presents, you’ve got a smile on your face again. The holidays are definitely different, yes, but that’s OK…as long as the coffee keeps coming.

Here are 6 other ways having a kid changes the holidays. Thank God those little cherubs of ours are cute. Really cute.

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Then: You spent the night before Christmas with your significant other, basking in the glow of the glowing tree, cuddling on the couch, giggling and kissing under the mistletoe.
Now: You spend the night before Christmas assembling toys with instructions that were obviously written by Satan.

DECKING YOUR HALLS
Then: You decorated your house from top to bottom with gorgeous, sparkly, breakable things.
Now: You keep those breakable decorations in a box until your kids are past the we-break-everything-just-for-the-hell-of-it phase—you know, like, 25.

SHOPPING TILL YOU DROP
Then: You got ridiculously excited about snagging a deal for yourself in the midst of holiday shopping for everyone else.
Now: You get ridiculously excited that you’ve snagged the last three-foot-tall My Size Elsa doll in the entire Northeast. Mommy win!

TRAVELING FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Then: You stuffed your car with bags of presents and belted out classic Christmas carols on the ride home.
Now: You stuff your car with bags of presents and 8 tons of baby items that you’ll need for one day away from home, then pray that your kid falls asleep for the duration of the trip while listening to A Very Chipmunk Christmas.

MOVIES ABOUT CHRISTMAS
Then: You have warm, fuzzy memories of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, even though you haven’t watched it since you were in the single digits.
Now: You wish those memories had stayed warm and fuzzy, because now when you watch that classic with your little one, you realize that Santa’s a jerk, Blitzen’s an emotionally abusive dad and reindeers are bullying assholes.

SANTA
Then: You overindulged at Santa Con or dressed up as a naughty Mrs. Claus in the privacy of your own ho-ho-home.
Now: You stand on an endless line in a fake winter wonderland till your feet feel like they’re going to fall off, and you’re in serious danger of strangling a way-too-happy elf so you can meet the “real” Santa. And you pay a pretty penny for the privilege of getting your kid’s crying picture with him.

This post was originally featured on Dawn’s blog, Momsanity. Photo via

’twas Christmas Day night,

And my humble abode,

Looked like a toy store had almost explode (ed).

The day started off, all shiny and new,

With kisses, and hugs, between all the Whos.

How fun! Santa came! Who would ever have known?

Since the anger and the fighting between Twins had grown.

The Elf on the Shelf helped so much, and how!

I weep to myself, for what do I do now?

There are too many days until Christmas comes here,

I wish there was an elf for all months of the year.

Still, the morning starts off great, paper thrown in the air,

As Santa got the credit for everything there.

But then it went bad, all so very bad,

Twin A’s Iron Man costume fit better, more rad!

Twin’s B’s mom, (I mean, Santa) had thought he was smaller,

When the costume was bought, but he had grown so much taller.

The arms were too tight, the legs came to his knee,

Little Who looked  like a teeny, tiny Ed Grimley.

We hurriedly sought another gift to appease,

While Twin B ripped off the costume, quickly with ease.

With a smile on his face, we sighed in relief,

Until he jumped A, grabbing his costume, that thief!

The rest of the day drug on and got worse,

As the twins made bets to who would break us first.

We did not break, we kept to our station,

While secretly longing for an extended vacation.

Finally the twins were chained, oops, I mean tucked in their beds,

With visions of their mean parents ingrained in their heads.

We stare at the carnage, while hopped up on caffeine,

As we rock, paper, scissors, which Who gets to clean.

I begged off the cleaning, as that would behoove me,

And popped in a zombie apocalypse movie.

Next year, I thought, reaching for the popcorn bowl,

I’m giving them nothing, nothing but coal.

This post was originally featured on Carrie’s blog. Photo via

When my first marriage ended, the day before Thanksgiving in 2003, I took a deep breath upon returning from court and began meal preparations for my first major holiday on my own. I set myself (and my raw nerves) to the comforting task of marinating pears for a compote, then started on the bread-sage stuffing. Why? Because for as long as I can recall, I’ve cooked elaborate dinners for the holidays.

During my first marriage, our family shared hosting duties for the holidays, but the times when it wasn’t my turn didn’t mean I was off the hook. I contributed side dishes and desserts to the groaning board so the burden of cooking an entire meal wasn’t borne by the host. That, however, was all in the past. My son would join me, and my cousin, for my first post-divorce Thanksgiving. That was it. Taking the smallest turkey I’d ever roasted out of the oven, I marveled at its lightness. And cried.

One month later, at Christmas, I said goodbye to all that and performed a variation on the theme. My cousin brought her nephew, my son came with his girlfriend at the time, and I rounded out the rest of the table with a young violinist from the Ukraine, who was studying at the conservatory where I worked. She brought her mother along. And, for the first time in my entire life, turkey was not featured on the table. Instead I prepared a standing rib roast from one of Ina Garten‘s Barefoot Contessa cookbooks.

This was my new family dynamic, and the start of a new tradition.

It can’t have been easy for my son, who at the time was in his early 20s. He was now required to divide all of his holidays in two; the first half of the day was spent with his father, the latter half with me. Those mornings and early afternoons dragged on so! It seemed strange to be alone in the house on a holiday. I probably hugged him far too long and far too tightly when he arrived. But so it went, each year, until the year I remarried.

My new husband had taken a job in Virginia, and I was now living nearly 500 miles from where I grew up and lived my entire life—and 500 miles from my son. Whereas holidays had presented a mere logistical inconvenience, now the geographical stakes were raised to challenging heights. Would I be able to spend at least one holiday with him? And what of my husband’s sons? How and when would we see them? The oldest is in graduate school in Illinois; the youngest had just started college in Ohio.

As it turned out, I wasn’t able to see my son at all that first year after our move. His work schedule simply didn’t allow him enough time off to make the trip. I cannot tell you how that rocked me. Things fared a bit better with the other boys; they drove to Virginia the second week of December to have an early Christmas with us. But again, what orbits they had to navigate! The eldest and his girlfriend drove from Illinois to Ohio to spend time with his mother and brother. Then, with his brother in tow, he drove from Ohio to Virginia. Then it was back around and up to Ohio to drop his brother off, and westward to St. Louis, so his girlfriend could see her family. And back to Illinois. It was like a 1930s movie, where a map of the United States with moving, dotted arrows illustrated a character’s travel progression from Point A to Point Whatever. The mind reels.

Last year, John and I decided that it was our turn to give the kids a break and do the driving. We left for Ohio early in the morning the day before Thanksgiving. Once there, we stayed with my son and his girlfriend. John’s sons joined us the next day, and we all enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner together in a suburb of Cleveland. In a restaurant. For Thanksgiving.

That took some getting used to. Never in my life had I set foot in a restaurant on a major holiday; it went against every cooking and baking gene in my body. I had always felt nothing but sadness for Ralphie and his family in A Christmas Story, forced to eat Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant after the Bumpus hounds devoured their turkey.

The meal was traditional enough and tasty enough, I suppose. But that was hardly the point. The goal was to be together: one scattered family gathered for a few brief hours around a table laden with food that might (or might not) allow us (allow me?) to pretend we were in the old homestead, however new that homestead might be.

It was more than enough that we were together and healthy.

It’s true, as the old song says, that there’s no place like home for the holidays. But when you create a new family, and circumstances toss your family hither and yon with no viable base of operations, it helps to remember another song—one that can serve to brighten your thoughts with a clarity that allows comfort and joy to shine through:

Home is where the heart is.

This post was originally featured on Marci’s blog, The Midlife Second Wife. Photo via

So, it’s T-minus-two-weeks before Christmas, and not only have we not shopped, decorated, or completed the Christmas letter, I’m not even tempted to arrange the reasons why in a  cute Twas the Night Before Christmas format.

And for that you’re welcome.

Of course, because I’m a giver, I’m going to put off all the holiday rigamarole for another little while, pour another cup of coffee, and contemplate the

3.5 ways I will have destroyed Christmas before it even gets here

1. I’ll probably have a melt-down while decorating. Jack suggested we skip the tree this year. Our fourteen year-old would rather SKIP CHRISTMAS than see me blow a gasket putting up our fake tree that wore out years ago. Every year, we drag the thing up from the basement, stack the sections together, place them in the holder and painstakingly pull out branches and fluff them up to look artfully not-fake.

In the process, I’ll be stabbed by a thousand fake-pine-needle-pins, something I’m sure has been outlawed by the Geneva Convention.

I’ll have to figure out which things plug into which things, forgetting that an entire section of the handily pre-attached lights has Never. Freaking. Worked. Eventually, I’ll twist the tree around so the dark side side is neither visible from the street nor from inside.

Then I’ll collect the ornaments from the upstairs closet that always reminds me of that scene from The Grudge where the ghostly, stringy-haired, Japanese woman with no jaw rushes from the shadows to eat your face. I’ll make twenty trips to and from the closet and the boys will hang ornaments for five minutes until they start fighting about which side of the tree belongs to whom. I’ll kick everybody out and they’ll go play video games, which is what they wanted to do in the first place.

three_treesOur friends Steph and Bob put up three Christmas trees this year. She’s OCD about Christmas and he’s an enabler. Mike suggested we put up four trees, because we’re competitive about stupid stuff. I thought about it for a minute longer than I thought about punching him right in the junk for coming up with the idea. It was a toss up.

2. I will whine about Christmas traditions. I’m pooped of pictures with Santa. I’ve skipped four parties already this year. My waistline takes too long to recover. I’m pretty much ready to scrap every Christmas tradition there is.

Except family time. I appreciate that there’s an excuse for everyone to get together. I love my family and the fact that 92 percent of them don’t throw in much for the holiday tradition thing either (except for sister-in-law Suzy’s festive plate-o-cookies. That tradition’s a keeper).

And “Tom and Jerrys.” Sugary froth and nutmeg and hot water is the only way I’ll drink bourbon, even though I shouldn’t drink bourbon because it gives me an outrageous headache.

Oh, and on Christmas morning: egg casserole with sausage, and coffee, which are the only things that taste good on when I’m nursing a headache and trying not to yell when people are strewing scraps of paper and unassembled pieces of toys around which we would have assembled the night before except we’d had too many Tom and Jerrys.

3. I’ll get hung up on the idea that Christmas presents should be modest and not make us feel like materialistic bastards. At least until Christmas morning, when I’ll realize I look like the Grinch. It’s a fact: We have too much crap. What I really want is space and time and the ability to eat food without my waistline testing the stretchability of my stretchable jeans. I want to drink Tom and Jerrys without getting a headache. I want everybody to be happy and well and I want it to happen without it requiring a single trip to the mall.

and the bonus …

3.5 I’ll finally be motivated to get in the spirit, but for the wrong reason.

Okay, this isn’t destroying Christmas, so it only warrants half a point. I decided Mike’s idea was BRILLIANT, which is how we ended up spending the second to last Saturday before Christmas at WalMart buying three new fake trees rather than doing any of our Christmas shopping.

Bam. I’ll see your three live trees and raise you another. Well, only one of them is live since Mike agreed to retire our regular fake and get our first live tree in seven years – a Douglas Fir, which smells heavenly and isn’t a bit stabby. The others were cheap, 3-footers we set up for the picture, then donated.

Because decorating for Christmas is arduous, but decorating to punk a friend is rather motivating.

 

Originally posted at Beth’s blog.

Photo courtesy of Local Food Tours.

Between the families of my dad, my mom and my step-dad, there are enough relatives to make even the sanest person lose their minds during the holiday season (and to begin with, I am not “the sanest person”).

First of all, there is the logistics issue. How on Earth are you supposed to attend THREE (or more) celebrations!? And don’t you even dare mention to one of them that you won’t make it, because you will pay for it every day until the next Christmas (believe me!).

So you devise a pretty clever plan, and know exactly how long you get to stay at each place. But then wonderful cousin Alfie arrived late, because he also happened to be with his girlfriend of one week’s family, so celebration #1 goes on for longer. Now you are late for the second one! You quickly excuse yourself, even though your grandma is giving you that guilty look (I might not be here next Christmas, but fine, leave… I will be okay… hopefully… if this little mole turns out to be benign… but who knows…). Yes, these words are all there, in that one look.

You finally arrive to celebration #2, which has started without you. They are already halfway through the gift pile. Suddenly, there is a gift for you. “Oh, auntie Muriel, I love this knitted sweater! I had always wanted a 3-sizes-bigger sweater with a weird-looking reindeer! How did you know!?” Oh, there is another present, this time from your “funny” cousin Gil. For some reason, he thought it would be hilarious to give you what you can only assume is something taken from Christian Grey’s Red Room of Pain. Suddenly, your old aunty exclaims “oh, what an interesting spatula” and the whole room falls silent. You pray that the ground swallows you whole. But thankfully, now it’s time to go to celebration #3. By now, you are exhausted and have answered a million times “I don’t know, possibly next year” when asked when exactly is your next child going to be conceived (I was lucky I never got asked the “You are (insert age here) and still single!!!?). Of course you are forced to eat yet another meal, because the second you imply that you are actually full, they give you the death stare and exclaim, loud enough for everyone to hear: “We slaved in the kitchen since 5am for you to reject our food!?” and everyone just shakes their heads at you. You are forced to smile and say thank you for the 500th time when you receive a bag of candy from that great-uncle, who by the way, insists that your resolution for next year should definitely be to lose some weight. You nearly snap back: “SERIOUSLY!!?? I HAVE BEEN FORCED TO EAT AT LEAST THREE ADULT PIGS AND YOU EXPECT ME TO LOOK SKINNY!!!” but all you do is nod politely and smile.

After all that, you get to go back home, and relish in the thought that you won’t have to endure this again for another 364 days. You have survived three sets of relatives and came back in one piece (nearly) and that is something to be proud of! I am now a master at this art of family gatherings, as every single year since I was little I have divided my time amongst all three families, but it has taken years of experience. My best strategy? nod. Nod and smile as much as you can. People get confused as to why their comments aren’t getting the expected reaction, and that way maybe they’ll shift their focus away from you and towards that little cousin who (shock horror!) decided to dye her hair blue and magenta the other day.

This year, however, I am at a complete loss. You see, my in-laws are coming from New Zealand and spending Christmas with my whole family, and I am pretty much sure that it will be an exact replica of “Meet The Fockers” (yep, my family are the Fockers for sure!). I can only pray that “funny” cousin Gil doesn’t gift me “spatula” this year…
Any advice is extremely appreciated!