Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Decorations

This post could also be titled "Comfort and Joy", because I'm here today to share my pitifully boring but meaningful-to-us Christmas decorations with all the mothers out there who are as creatively challenged and talent-less in this area as I am. (Or just too darn broke to do anything about their creative fantasies!)

I read very few blogs, for two reasons. One, I just don't have that kind of time, and two, I get too easily sidetracked by all the visually beautiful and creative things other moms are doing.  It's easy to forget what I'm good at and what my goals are as a mother when I'm salivating over the homemade adorable-ness created by other mothers. (Did you read NieNie this past week? Sigh.) 

Most of the things I'm good at are not visibly apparent. Not all--I can cook, play the piano, and write. But none of these things make me, my children, or my house look stylish or beautiful, which seems to be the focus of many blogs and magazines read by mothers. The most successful work I do as a mother can never be seen at all. But that's the fate of many men and women who do all kinds of "invisible" work. I can get my kids to talk, and I can listen (not always). I can plan and execute fun traditions and outings. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to best help our kids develop their talents as well as learn to work hard and be more self-motivated. I'm pretty good at slowing down to enjoy the moment with my kids, and--at times--I can be patient. Really patient. (But sometimes I can't tell if I'm patient or just in a state of exhausted resignation.) 

None of these things garner much praise and attention from others, even other mothers. I have a secret dream of mothers everywhere complimenting each other on things such as their ability to keep it together when several kids are freaking out at once, to reach a child with a tough personality, to balance well the varied responsibilities that fall in a mother's lap, or the myriad other "invisible" talents in which mothers so often excel. Maybe then we won't feel so compelled to spend an inordinate amount of time and energy on the more visible talents that hog all the praise and attention! 

We're so quick to lavish compliments on each other for looking good - our homes, our children, our bodies. And while I know it's fun for some people to shop ad nauseum (my worst nightmare!), having a gorgeously decorated home and uber cute clothing and accessories just never seems to make it too high on my priority list at this stage in my life. Not only because it bores and overwhelms me (too many options!!), but because I'm just not very good at it.  You women who can create beauty out of very little and in no time at all--my hat goes off to you!  

I don't mean to be a scrooge here, and please don't misunderstand.  If I were to become independently wealthy and all my children were either in school or - heaven forbid - I was an empty nester (I know, an inevitability I must deal with), I would be the first in line for a professional decorator to come fulfill my wildest dreams. But, for now, it just doesn't interest me enough with everything else on my plate.  (And I'm kind of cheap that way.)

So if you're anything like me and have had it up to here with the latest, cutest, most adorable way to wrap your gifts, set your table, trim your tree, and dress your kids on Christmas Sunday, here are some pictures of Christmas around my house. (And you really must read to the end.)  

I am here to say that Christmas can be magical and meaningful for you and your family even if you haven't decked your halls to the gills, even if the only thing you make by hand is paper snowflakes, and even if the only boutique you frequent is (with a French accent please) . . . Targe´ t.  Maybe even more so because you will be spending your time with your family instead of the check-out clerk. 

(All you interior decorators and Martha Stewart types - please don't take offense.  You know I'm just jealous, right?)

Tree trimmings: hand-me-downs from my childhood (the best!) and Targe´t:
Do you really think the kids care if you don't have matching, monogrammed, velvet stockings, hand sewn by mom? No, they don't. I know it's everybody's dream, but if you can't afford it and you don't know how to sew, just throw out the Pottery Barn catalog and enjoy your reality. Our stockings and mantel: Targe´t and Big Lots, with the exception of the first two stockings from the left (Brandon's, then mine) which we purchased from the Amana Colonies when Kate was just a wee little baby and we didn't even think to get her a stocking of her own for our mantel-less apartment in Iowa:
I know some people collect nativities and have a bazillion variaties all over their home, but the thought of storing and setting all that up every year (and then taking it down again) gives me a headache. (And it really only takes one to get the point, right?) This is actually one of my favorite decorations, especially when we light it on Christmas Eve and read the Christmas story from the Bible. Brandon bought this for me on a whim from a kiosk one year as an early Christmas present when we lived in California.  It's made by Partylite Candles:
The only homemade decorations around our house are the ones that come home from school.  I have some favorites that I hang onto year after year, and I have a dream of someday finding a fun, permanent way of displaying the seasonal art projects that come home. Which is why I need to hang on to my favorites, because by the time I get around to that little project, no one will be making these little projects anymore:

Okay, I lied. Years and years ago, when Kate was just three months old, I made no less than THREE sets of these - one for me, one for a sister, and one for a dear friend. It took FOREVER and (I just realized this) could in fact be the reason I gave up on homemade crafts so early on. I have no patience for little details and the time it takes to make things look good. But it really is a gem of a project--if you have the time and patience. I need to replace one of the dowels in back, so the adorable camel is missing, but check out my HOMEMADE nativity hand puppets: 
This is one other exception to the homemade rule and my absolute FAVORITE  decoration: a tree angel made by my mother-in-law (not me!) from the leftover fabric of a bow I removed off the back of my wedding dress.  How cool is that? 
Targe´t mix in a bowl with a few pinecones my kids found:
Okay, this is kind of cute, right?  I'm trying here:
You know this framed baby gets a special spot every year:
I just had to document these truly adorable fingerprint gift tags Elizabeth made at school before they got used or lost:
I finally have a bannister to decorate! My mom pointed that out when she came to visit back in September. I honestly might not have even thought about it if she hadn't said something. I only buy one new decoration each year if there's a "need" (using that term very loosely of course - who needs any of it when kids are starving in Africa) and this was it. Again, Targe´t special, on sale:
I couldn't even get the lacing through the rods right, and I was too lazy to fix it.
Last but not least, I must share what happens to the rest of the house during the Christmas season when moms are busy decorating, baking, shopping, partying, concert going, and Christmas picture/card preparing. Even as I write this, I'm in my jammies with a whole lotta housework calling my name. So if you're on my Christmas card list, received my annual letter and are under the impression that I live a life of familial perfection and bliss, let's all just admit to each other right here and now that THIS is what happens when we're doing all those other do-goody things:

Here's a great link to make you feel better about all the Christmas messes you're making.  Only 3 more days!!


  1. I knew from one of the first emails I ever received from you that I loved you. But this post really confirms it. You are great! And we are so eerily similar. My 'interior decorating friend' has visited 3 separate times to work on my Christmas garland that hangs from my banister--she doesn't get why I haven't caught her vision. My other 'classy' friend cringes at the homemade (by kids) decorations all over. Yet I love it.

    My talents have always seemed to be the 'hidden' type ones. And it's only been in the past few years that I am content with that.

    Great post. As I think you know, I LOVE honesty.

    Have a great Christmas.

  2. Just wanted to say Thanks for sharing your feelings. It's just what I needed to hear right now. I'm so wrapped up in being MOM I don't have the time, or more importantly, the energy to do all the extra "fun" stuff with the kids and I've often felt guilty about that. My prayer is that one day my children will look back and remember that I was always available to listen and help with whatever they needed. Thank you for reminding me of what truly has value!

  3. An excellent post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. Christmas time is great not just because it is leisure time but it is the time for family and children. You can almost feel the love in the air. Everywhere.

    All the best in 2011!


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