Monday, December 28, 2015

The Year We Canceled Christmas

Okay, we didn't quite cancel it - more like postpone. (But "canceled" makes for a better title. Literary license, y'all.)

So... Christmas.


Well, I can say that we're not dead. (Yet.) We're not in jail, deported, or on our way to Australia. (Yet.)

But all the same, this has been quite a week.

I won't go into all the details. (I have a weak stomach, and you probably do too.) But Christmas week contained one scary-traumatic incident for our family, three injuries (two of them serious), and one round of stomach flu that felled every single one of us.

Merry Christmas!

Here's how Christmas Eve normally looks for us:
  • Cooking
  • Church
  • Driving to look at lights
  • Tamales
  • Reading the Christmas story and putting candles in the window

Here's how Christmas Eve looked this year!
  • 11:30 p.m. I started throwing up.
  • 12:00 a.m. The 9yo started throwing up.
  • 4:00 a.m. Visiting houseguest #1 started throwing up.
  • 5:00 a.m. The 1yo started throwing up.
  • 8:00 a.m. Visiting houseguest #2 started throwing up.
  • 12:00 p.m. The 6yo started throwing up.

The only people not included in the above were the 3yo, who had brought the bug home two days prior (and who started throwing up on the way home from the doctor's office while we were dealing with one of the aforementioned injuries) and was done throwing up, and my husband, who didn't start throwing up till Christmas Day.

Our other two guests, who were staying at a hotel in town, prudently headed for home (12 hours after arriving), heeding our gentle admonitions: "Flee! Flee for your lives!"

Thus, Christmas was canceled. At the time, I was too sick to care, or even really notice. We officially rescheduled it for the following day (we were still feeling pretty awful, but our houseguests had to leave the next day) and officially mandated that everyone ignore reality and realign with our household dates.

"No! Don't say Merry Christmas! Today is NOT Christmas! It's Christmas Eve!"

We ended up serving a very simplified Christmas dinner that took us about 20 minutes to put together (ham, harvest potato casserole, peas with mushrooms, orange jello salad), and the children enjoyed unwrapping the presents that I'd - thankfully! - wrapped earlier in the month.

Even in the midst of a really nasty stomach virus, God's grace was evident in the storm. I was so thankful, for example, that the baby slept through the worst of my stomach bug - so that by the time she was ill herself, I was physically able to care for her (which I wouldn't have been an hour or so earlier).

Additionally, my husband stayed well while the rest of the house was ill, and was able to clean up messes, serve Gatorade and applesauce, change diapers, and do endless loads of laundry. He said that he came out of the experience with a whole new appreciation of my role at home. *Smile.*

Secondly, this Christmas was a great lesson in the benefit of fulfilling Christmas obligations (i.e. shopping and wrapping gifts) early in the month. If I'd tried to do what I did last year - i.e. wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve - none of it would have happened. As it was, I was able to pull out the box of wrapped gifts that had been ready for some time and simply hand it to my husband and son to put under the tree That was lovely.

(Ditto for Christmas cards and handing out Christmas treats to the neighbors. Early is good. Things that I left till the last minute - like baking Christmas cookies - didn't get done this year, though I still have hopes for next week.)

Lastly, an odd thing happened.

Usually during the Christmas season, and especially during Christmas week, I indulge in the heinous habit of driving myself (and the family) batty with long, overly organized, self-imposed to-do lists. I really can go nuts with this. It's my personal despair-inducing self-destructive behavior.

This year, I had those lists all ready to fill in. But they're still blank. With all of the crises we had this week, I simply didn't have time to prepare them. Every time I thought, "Okay, things are calming down, maybe now I can get back to normal (and making my to-do lists)," another emergency or crisis would hit.

But oddly enough, we still had a lovely Christmas. Even without my rustling volumes of neatly tabled hour-by-hour to-do lists.

The lesson isn't too hard to learn here. Busyness doesn't mean a happier or better Christmas.

Why do I keep having to learn this lesson?

Hopefully I can keep this year's lesson fresh in mind during coming years and let myself relax during the holiday season, instead of the usual frenzied madness of stressed-out "Dear Lord, I can't wait for this horrible time to be OVER!" Christmas insanity.

Lessons learned this week:

(1) Earlier is better for Christmas shopping, wrapping, cookies, and cards.
(2) Simpler is almost always better for the holidays.
(3) God's grace is present even in the midst of emergencies and stomach flu.

Right now, I'm thankful that we're all still alive, and I'm praying that the near-constant state of emergency and illness is drawing to a close for our family.

I'll close with a few pictures. (We don't have many, as our picture-taker, i.e. my husband, only lasted a few minutes out of bed on our "Christmas" morning.)

(Actually, I find that I had only two pictures from Christmas morning, so I'm going to pad this with a couple of pictures from earlier in the month.)

A paper doll Nativity set sent to us by family members:

You know this wasn't Christmas, because my husband is sitting upright and isn't throwing up.

The two pictures of our actual Christmas morning:

This year's Christmas gifts were a big hit. This was a huge triumph for me, because finding gifts is not my strong point!

Some of the children' favorites were their Revolutionary War hats and (adult-size) tool belts, a rocks and minerals identification book, boots and a tape measure for the 3yo, and a set of sorting cupcakes for the littles from Learning Resources.

All in all, Christmas this year was wonderful. (Though I pray it doesn't repeat itself like this too often.)

Merry Christmas, dear readers!


  1. After reading this, I think I'll take a leaf from your book and start getting things ready early instead of waiting until the 23rd.:) Glad you're on the mend!

    1. It was a good change for me this year! I want to do it EVERY year - so much less stress, even when there isn't a stomach virus in residence!! :)

  2. Aw!! Poor guys!! Stomach bug - never nice!its like labor, you know it ends but you kind of separate your desperation from your body, and know it'll end eventually! Mind over matter.. Or in this case - vomit! Hugs!!

    1. Thanks, Cathy!! We're feeling much better and it's already making a great family story. :)

  3. Aw!! Poor guys!! Stomach bug - never nice!its like labor, you know it ends but you kind of separate your desperation from your body, and know it'll end eventually! Mind over matter.. Or in this case - vomit! Hugs!!

  4. Oh! I'm glad you're all feeling better, and I'm glad your Christmas was joyful in its simplicity.

    Ours was good and simple, too. :)

    Merry Christmas to you!!

    1. I'm so glad to hear you all had a good Christmas - your first as a family of fourteen! Merry Christmas!!



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