I Can’t, and It’s Okay (Right?)

Dear Millie,

The Family Prude does Las Vegas!  HA!  Oh, I love you.  We should definitely do Vegas together sometime, sans nudies.

Last month, I was feeling so frustrated that I was so behind on everything.  I have had a type of countdown to Christmas in my mind for years and have never yet been able to pull it together and pull it off.  Nor was I able to pull off timely Christmas cards with the photo from our session with Disaster (they arrived in the mail yesterday!  You may start expecting one in the mail in maybe a week or so.  Or later.  Valentine’s Day?).  We didn’t get outside lights up (we haven’t since we moved here!  Gordon used to enjoy the math of perfectly positioned lights.  I’m not sure if the cold here is the deterrent, or just that the house is a different shape and difficult to work with), the tree was never fully ornamented (on the spontaneous day of putting the tree up and ornamenting, I found a few boxes that had several ornaments each and we had the kids put them on.  I never got to go through the rest of the boxes, so our tree was pretty sparse as far as ornaments go), I had only two or three Christmas knick-knacks displayed (out of several boxes-worth like I used to display in our last home), and it was just so busy.

I did so enjoy the countdown I shared here, but I felt like I was constantly missing the mark, as far as picture-perfect holidays go.  As I was helping someone ready their home for a visit from CPS, I worried that if CPS were to stop by my house, they’d have to seriously question whether my home was up to snuff.  The walls are all dirty with handprints and Lucy has made a mural of nearly all of them.  The dishes were always half-done, as I could only get done what I had time to do.  The house always smelled like yesterday’s dinner.  There are piles of paper covering the high counter and more piles by my computer and boxes and boxes that still have yet to be unpacked.  I won’t talk about the laundry pile on the couch.  And I never, not during the entire month leading up to the holidays, felt like I had it all together.  My hair was never nicely done, my makeup was an afterthought, and my clothes always felt a bit frumpy and unkempt.  I was trying to gather presents and organize meaningful experiences for another family and coordinate meals for those who would be without otherwise.  My family ate a lot of frozen pizza, corn dogs, and chicken nuggets.

All these things added up to feelings of inadequacy.  One day in particular, I was picking up Kyle’s friend for an afternoon of sledding and other goof-offery, and as I pulled into his driveway, I was struck with such a sense of…I don’t know…imperfection?  Kyle’s friend is one of seven beautiful children, his dad is a doctor, his mom is a gorgeous, always put-together, unbelievably lucky-in-the-genetic-lottery type, and their home, wow, their home was amazing.  I looked it up on Zillow so I could know what I was looking for (I can’t follow directions.  Even with Siri.  And in the couple of times I’ve been there since, I’ve still driven past it!  But anyway, I’d seen pictures of the interior as well as the exterior and holy cow).  Anyway, I used to think that the mom could do it all because they had a nanny.  Of course she could do her hair and makeup and workout and clean her house and manage running children to and fro!

Well.  They let the nanny go.  With their recent move here, the dad has better hours and can help the mom.  They really don’t need her services.  Huh.  They do have things together on their own then.  Rats!

One day, a few of us moms were practicing a musical number for Christmas Day’s church services.  We started talking about what we wanted for Christmas (I wanted sleep!  And a clean house!).  Anyway, this particular mom I’d been admiring (and feeling a bit deficient compared to) just the day before, turned to me and said that her husband had offered, as a Christmas present, to hire someone to help with housework.  Not the deep-clean type of help, because they’d have to cut through the regular stuff to get to that, just getting dishes and laundry and vacuuming and the occasional mopping in.  What.  She went on to say that as she was also helping at the house where we were prepping for CPS, she wondered whether if they came to her house, they’d take her children away.  I laughed politely and doubted that was the case, because I’d seen pictures of her house by golly, but then she said, “No, I’m serious.  I’m not trying to say, ‘Oh, my house is dirty,’ and it really isn’t.  It’s BAD.  Like, scary, smelly bad.  The dishes are filling the sink and are on every counter and the laundry is piled and just…that’s why my husband wanted to get help.  We’re drowning over there!”

I couldn’t believe it.

She went on to say that she’d not had time to do her hair and just pulled it into a ponytail on the way (it looked as though she’d spent a lot of time on it) and that she was late, so she had to throw on whichever slip-on shoes she found first (they were the cutest ballet flats), and that meant she hadn’t put on socks and her toes were freezing.  I thought she’d spent time coordinating all the pieces of her ensemble, but no!  It was just whatever she could grab on the way out the door since we were meeting at the church and she had to quickly get out of her pajamas.  Huh!

Gordon sent me a post Jake had linked to on Facebook about “lifestyle porn” and I while I don’t necessarily agree that Mormons have a monopoly on fake-life blogging, etc., I loved so much of it!  I can relate.  I know what we see online is often contrived and the picture we see is the best picture out of hundreds (even on food blogs!), but it’s hard to not be sucked into thinking that’s the reality–clean counters with beautiful food and kids cutting out cookies while sitting their flourless bums on the counter.  Where are the scribbles on the walls?  Where are the piles of papers from school that need signatures or the pots and pans from the beautiful meal or the children still in footy pajamas from that morning?  (Mine is right behind me.)

Of course the pictures of my gorgeous friend’s home were amazing…they were from the realtor trying to sell the house!  If you look on Zillow at the pictures of my home, you’ll be blown away by my palatial quarters.  I can tell you right now that I was disappointed when I saw the house in person.  Obviously, I still liked it enough to buy it and the land it came with can’t be beaten, but the fireplace looks horrendous, the cracks in the walls and terrible cover-up paint jobs were not in the pictures…not even in the video walk-through the realtor had done for us.  The rooms are much smaller than the pictures portrayed, and I guess it all (reality, metaphors, and all) comes down to angles and lenses.

I lead a messy life.  I’m resigned to (and now embrace) this season of my life.  I love it, fingerprinted walls and all.  I’m not saying I won’t keep cleaning and washing dishes and working on the maddening laundry (if everyone would just stop wearing clothes, we wouldn’t have this problem!  Hmmm…I think we have too many windows to pull that off), but there were/are so many good and more important things: Gordon got all A’s in his master’s program this semester, even after the lit review we thought would kill us.  We were so ready and excited for Christmas, Santa came a day early.  We spent Christmas Eve sledding with friends instead of prancing around, perfectly coiffed, taking pictures and never enjoying the snow outside.  Ten families had turkeys and hams and all the fixings delivered to them courtesy of the ward, and another family had Christmas covered for them and the three extra children they were welcoming into their home.

Christmas at my house looked less like the magazines and blogs and more like what my kids will actually remember: a big mess of wrapping paper, squeals of glee and laughter, and a vague smell of onions and garlic.  While I do hope I ever get to do the advent I have in my mind (and maybe serve dinner all dolled up because who doesn’t like to feel fancy now and then?), I’ll be happy if all our Christmases look like this one did.  I hope yours do, too.

Happily “can’ting”,

Grace

PS  I had bought all the stuff to make this Sparkling Cranberry Cider and other things for our fancy Christmas dinner.  I don’t remember what we ended up having for dinner on Christmas (frozen pizza??), but we just had the chicken cordon bleu, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and veggies last night.  Ha ha!  I made the cider New Years Eve and we loved it!  The kids were sad that I’d halved the recipe.  Since I haven’t been able to find any Hawaiian Punch concentrate for Gordon’s family’s traditional Christmas Punch, I think this will be our go-to!

PPS I do remember what I’d made for Christmas breakfast before church!  I don’t think Gordon tried it, but the kids and I loved it!  It was this Cinnamon Roll Monkey Bread.  We all love Monkey Bread to begin with, so that was a big draw.  The fact that it used premade cinnamon rolls meant it came together in just a few minutes (score!  We usually just have cereal out for the kids on Sundays since there isn’t much time for cooking).  I usually steer clear of Pillsbury dough because it has a bit of a chemical taste or something, but this tasted nothing like that.

I wondered, though, how I could make it without canned cinnamon rolls, since I’d never bought those before now and I doubt I’ll have them in my fridge when I have a hankering for that recipe.  A couple of days later, Mel from melskitchencafe.com posted these Flaky Buttermilk Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls.  They worked out great (well, except that I didn’t notice the cream I used had passed its expiration date.  That definitely affected the flavor of the icing.  Oh, and I ended up making two batches of icing [second batch with milk instead of soured cream] because there definitely wasn’t enough to drizzle around.  The pictures show a good amount on them, but the recipe only produced enough to have half a spip per roll.  Unacceptable!  Ha ha)!  Anyway, I’m thinking the biscuit cinnamon roll recipe would work great since you’re not working with yeast and risings, etc.  Either way, now you have some recipes I’d recommend you try!

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