Monday, December 22, 2008

Letting Things Go

The holidays are a wonderful time of celebrating with our families, rejoicing in our spiritual beliefs, and eating great food. For many of us, it’s also a time of great stress. We have trees to trim, meals to plan, parties to juggle, sick noses to wipe, and shopping lists that need to say within budget. For us working moms, you can add the end of the year rush to finish up projects and clearing off of the desk. I’m not sure what extra “fun” hits the stay at home moms, but I’m guessing it’s just as bad.

My sister and I have worked out the holidays so that she hosts Thanksgiving, and I host Christmas. She is the better cook, so it makes sense for her to do the more important meal. Plus, staying home on Christmas day allows us to host my mother in law, if she’s in the mood. At least we don’t have to travel all over the place, making stops in several states.

A few years ago, I started doing a buffet for Christmas dinner. The spread included baked ziti, roast beef sandwiches from that hole-in-the-wall deli, and home baked cookies galore. Over the years, I’ve started adding items to the menu, like twice baked potatoes with shrimp, green beans with cashews, pies, homemade rolls, and even more cookies. Andy goads me on with dreams of even more. So, when I started planning the Christmas menu this year, I decided I was going to top the previous years and drop the roast beef sandwiches for something new, and even more “special.”

But, I couldn’t come up with anything. I was wracking my brain, scouring the internet, and looking through my cook books and magazines. But nothing was hitting me. Everything that sounded interesting required planning oven space, and juggling dishes, leaving me almost no time with my guests. Add to that the restriction on onions and ham, and a vegetarian guest, and I started getting really frustrated.

On Friday, I came across some articles about “Core Competency Mom’s” that really got me thinking. You can read them here:

On Not Doing Dishes: The Rise of the Core Competency Mom

Life, Uncluttered

On Wasting Time: Are you Reading This at Work? (I was)

A Happy Mom’s Secret: Don’t Do Your Own Laundry.

There were a lot of good points in the Authors’ blog articles, and they help me put Christmas in perspective. (She also made me want to hire a cleaning service, but some things aren’t in the budget. Thank God Andy vacuums.) So I asked myself what I valued the most about Christmas dinner. The answer came quickly. I enjoy spending time with my family. Yet last year, I didn’t get much chance to do that. In fact, I even had to kick my dad out of the kitchen several times because he kept getting in my way. In my attempts to outdo myself from the year before, I’ve lost touch with what the evening is all about.

Saturday, I dropped all plans for Christmas dinner. I’m just going to let it go. I will not be spending an hour waiting in line for roast beef. I will not be baking potatoes and pealing shrimp for a side dish. I’m going to make a simple, but scrumptious pasta dinner that will allow me to sit down with my family while we all enjoy the meal. We’ll laugh, eat too much, and then adjourn to the living room to share in the silly gifts we buy each other. (I’m betting five bucks that my brother and I both got my dad the same calendar.)

It felt great to just let go and simplify the meal. I didn’t realize it, but I was sort of dreading Christmas dinner. But with my revised plans, came a renewed excitement about the event itself. I’m focusing more on what we will be doing, and how it’s going to feel, than I am on where I’m going to get an extra oven for one day.

I also realized that making dinner misses out on my Core Competency. I’m not a chef. I’m a baker! So, while dinner might be simple, desert is going to rock! Cookies, pies and cakes will round out the meal. Come Thursday evening, I plan on there being a lot of over stuffed tummies sitting in my living room unwrapping gifts and laughing away.

P.S. No news on Mr. Fuzzy. I heard him for about 10 minutes on Saturday night. When I put my ear to the wall, it became clear to me that whatever it is, it’s not in the Chimney. In fact, much to my chagrin, it sounds like it’s playing in the rain gutter. I’m going to toss some mothballs into that corner of the attic and see what that does. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to talk with my neighbor and let her know that it might be in her attic.


LauraC said...

I'm toning it down this entire holiday season. No hours wasted spent crafting a holiday letter (everyone reads my blog anyway). Food is being made while the kids are playing with grandma and GiGi. Presents are few but thoughtful. (And Jon wrapped them.)

Have a great holiday!

Mel said...

My own mother-in-law struggled with this for years. She is an awesome cook, but the joy was not there for her when she could not spend time with the family. So last year we had a WONDERFUL meal of ricotta stuffed shells and a beautiful salad with Italian Cream Cake (from a bakery) for dessert. And we all have great memories of spending lots of fun time together as a family.

Steph said...

This is why I baked cookies all weekend instead of cooking an actual meal!