Friday, December 26, 2008

Great Expectations

I know, I said I wasn't coming back until next year... but here I am anyway. Now that Christmas has come and gone, I found myself with a little spare time on my hands this morning.

Well, in all honesty, I should also send a big "thanks" out to my husband. Seems that since he had a whole four days at home with me and Beans, he realized how much work there really IS to do at home, and was sweet enough to leave me with a very clean house before he returned to work this weekend.
Of course, me cussing at the Christmas tree -which the cat and Beans both tried to make into a "fort"- along with threats to throw the tree out the window were also likely to encourage J to take down the tree for me before going back to work.

Yes, I know... "Bah Hum Bug". Most years, our tree would go up the day after Thanksgiving and not come down until New Year's Day. If you read my last entry, you'll see that the Decked Halls were causing a lot of work and a lot of stress, so in the spirit of "taking it easy", the tree, the decorations, and the Holiday Cheer came down as soon as the food settled in our bellies (which took a long time, actually), and our guests left the house.

For inquiring minds... Christmas was wonderful in the Moose Nuggets home. Beans was awake exceptionally early (completely unrelated to any Christmas excitement, since she hardly understands the concept yet). But after my initial groan and laying in bed wondering how on earth I, of all people, ended up with a child who wakes up so early in the day, I realized it was Christmas, and I was filled with my own child-like excitement to rush downstairs and start the day.

With coffee in one hand, and Beans in the other, we moved the baby gate from the tree and let the chaos begin.

Ok. That's actually a serious exaggeration, actually. Beans initially giggled and tentatively poked at the gifts under the tree, but since she has spent since Thanksgiving morning being warned about touching anything, she ended up sitting down as close as she dared to the tree, quietly patting wrapped presents and saying (and signing), "No, No, No, Mimi."

I should mention that "Mimi" is the name she has dubbed herself with recently. No arguments here. My great-grandmother was known as "Mimi", and I am full of fond memories and feelings when my daughter uses that name for herself.

Larry, on the other hand, had no such concerns about not touching the tree, and quickly dashed behind it into a cozy spot where Beans couldn't torment him.

It took quite some time to convince Beans that it was truly acceptable to not only touch the boxes, but unwrap them as well.
It took a couple hours to unwrap presents. No, no... not because of any excess in our house (we planned to keep Christmas small, and did), but because Beans was fascinated with each package. First, the were bows to rip to shreds. Then paper to not only tear, but also try to eat. Then there was the discovery of things IN the packages.

I'd like to take a moment here and now to thank my mother profusely for sending plenty of things that make noise. Just letting you know that we will be sure to bring these along on any visits we make home in the near future. Beans LOVES the Leap Frog Phonics refrigerator magnets. I, on the other hand, have already half lost my brains listening to, "Every letter makes a sound, T says tuh!"

(Stop cackling to yourself mom...)

I digress...

All in all, Christmas was great. Our friend "Huff" came by for Christmas Lunch, where we had ham and plenty of trimmings. We were all successfully stuffed, and spent most of the afternoon lounging around, trying not to doze off, and rubbing our swollen bellies. J was sweet enough to do all the dishes, and even little Beans was compliant with amusing herself for a good bit of the afternoon. (It helped that there was chocolate and candy canes to use as bribes.) As usual, we watched our marathon of movies, including our Saturday Night Live Christmas Special, and hours and hours of A Christmas Story.

Huff headed off to the fire station for another Christmas meal with her sweetheart, and with Beans down for a nap, J and I continued to stuff ourselves with pumpkin pie and other goodies, the began disassembling Christmas. The evening was concluded with finally washing the cranberry sauce out of Beans' hair, getting her nestled, snug in her bed, and dozing off myself, with over-indulgence leaving nightmares of sugarplums dancing in my head.


I was watching the news this morning, and was (as I am every year) puzzled by the concept of "Holiday Let-Down".

Oh, I know... it's a real phenomenon. And it affects millions of people. But I got to thinking about the concept of it, and realized that this is a "problem" we self-create.

Let-Down comes from setting too great expectations.

I was talking to my sons yesterday. They definitely live a different life than we do. Their paternal family lavishes them with gifts (which is fine, that's what they do), and Christmas is a HUGE extravaganza. I listened to the boys describe their mountains of Christmas presents (though I must admit that after a while, the list was so comprehensive that even I lost interest), and at the end of the list, I was surprised to hear both of them report how "this was a 'small' Christmas, since the big gift was the house they have been building."

Oh, My.

Kind of made me feel a little bad about sending them a couple Alaska sweatshirts and hats, until my middle son mentioned how he was wearing his sweatshirt, and wanted to know if I could send him another one, so he would have one to wear while the other one was being washed.

Well, I mention this, because I received another call the next morning, with reports of how they had spent their Christmas money (already? Jeez. I'm still in a pumpkin pie stupor and couldn't imagine having been out shopping already!) And the boys were anxious to hear what I got for Christmas, as well as Beans' gift list. I think they were equally surprised to hear the short lists.

It got me thinking...

I was quite content with our Christmas. In fact, as much as I appreciate all the things I received, as well as Beans and Josh, I still feel like there was "too much". Several of Beans' new toys were put away for a day when she is finally "bored" with a couple of the new ones we left out for her to play with. Several of my own gifts were stashed away for another day (mostly because my gigantic pregnant belly isn't going to fit into that beautiful sweater J bought me.)
J got mostly useful things (since he has a very practical wife). But even a few of his gifts will have to wait for his next hunting trip to get good use out of them.

No one in our house was disappointed. No one in our house has Holiday Let-Down. No one in our house has any plans to go out and buy all the things we didn't get that we really wanted, or exchanging, returning, or otherwise re-gifting unwanted items.
Well, other than the fact that I bought a couple belts for J that were too big. But in my defense, he HAS been putting on a couple pounds. Seems that he is "eating for two" along with me. AND, I didn't really think that there would be such a difference between a size 36 and size 38 belt, but apparently, there is. Not like women's clothing, where you might wear a size six OR a size eight, or even a size ten depending on the designer, how much water you are retaining, or what time of the month it is. But all is well... I'll exchange the belts for the smaller size, and everything will be just fine. Luckily J also has a sense of humor when it comes to his wife thinking he was a little chunkier than he actually is. I think his response was, "Yeah. I know I'm getting fat, but I don't really want to grow into that one, babe."

Nope. Everyone here is pretty content. And above all, the house is cleaned up, the refrigerator is full of leftovers (as well as a ham bone for ham and bean soup), there are a few slices of pumpkin pie left in the fridge, and the true spirit of Christmas (that whole "togetherness/family" thing) is intact.

I'm wondering if Holiday Let-Down comes from expecting too much. Way too much.
We expect to get everything on the "All I Want For Christmas List" (when our lists are usually too long and filled with stuff that we'll likely become bored with all too quickly anyway).
We expect gift givers to select the "perfect" presents for us.
We expect too much of our families and friends in lots of various ways.

Maybe we need to reevaluate our expectations.

As a side note, I was watching Little House On The Prairie Christmas on TV the other night. I know, I'm a dork. But it's one of my favorite series.
I read the series of books as a child-several times, and, in fact, received the set of books for Christmas this year. (After telling J about a thousand times how I had always hoped I was going to "inherit" my mom's set that stayed on my own bookshelves during my growing-up years.)
Anyway... I have always been intrigued by the sense of awe and thankfulness that the Ingalls family has for the simplest of "luxuries". There was the Christmas that Mr Edwards braved horrible weather conditions, just to be sure the packages from "Santa" arrived at the Ingalls' home. Peppermint sticks for the girls, their "very own" tin cups (before that Christmas, they had spent years sharing the same cup, as that's what they could afford). Ma had made beautiful red mittens for the girls. And aside from oranges, maybe the most "luxurious" item was the sweet potatoes (or yams) that Mr Edwards had brought Ma for her Christmas dinner. A little white sugar for coffee (instead of sweetening with their usual molasses, which was cheap and abundant in their day), and Christmas was complete.
There was little expectation that Christmas, so ANY gift they received was welcomed with joy and amazement.
I think I can honestly say that there was probably not a hint of "holiday let down" in the Ingalls' home that year, or any other year, for that matter.

It left me thinking about the concept of gratitude. Sometimes, when we are disappointed (whether from "holiday let down" or otherwise being let down) we need to take a step back and think,
What were my expectations?
Were they realistic?
Was I expecting too much?

This has been a valuable lesson for me this week, as I have dealt with some of my own disappointments (not holiday related!) that have occurred over the past few weeks.
Reviewing those things through those questions has left me feeling less disappointed, and able to find "solutions" to achieve contentment with those situations.

I hope your holiday season left you feeling content.
Meanwhile, Beans is again showing her discontent with the concept of nap time, so I am off to rescue her from crib-prison.

Until next time,
Happy Moose Trails!