Though I have to say that the holidays as such weren’t the real problem. Not even when my brilliant plan of de-stressing our Christmas celebration (on Christmas Eve as is traditional in German) by making the traditional Christmas dinner a Christmas lunch before putting up and decorating the tree afterwards, and opening the presents in the afternoon instead of in the evening when everybody is cranky and tired, went wrong because the wood stove acted up, and our Christmas lunch was three hours late. (I have to say that at least these days we know how to handle a crisis like this: when you realize that nothing is going right, let everybody have a sandwich.)
The holidays also weren’t the problem when on Christmas day we decided to have goose leg with red cabbage and my husband said that we needed to have potato dumplings with that. I keep forgetting because in the Northern part of Germany where I grew up people don’t eat dumplings much. Usually when we make dumplings we buy them almost finished, you just have to boil them, but this time I had to try and make potato dumplings from scratch. They didn’t taste that awful but the next time I try this I will put more flour in so that they actually stay dumpling shaped when cooked.
I don’t exactly know why but this year’s Advent was the most stressful I ever had. First there was my husband’s pneumonia which left him weak for weeks. Since he didn’t have a fever, and since my son and I had been coughing for weeks too we thought he just had a bad cough, and he didn’t went to see the doctor until just before Christmas. Of course he didn’t stop teaching (that’s the joy of being self-employed, you never stop working if you can stay upright, and still possess all your limbs). While my husband was mostly out of commission my son had the ongoing waxing and waning coughing-sneezing-tummy aching-fever having-malady. That added a bit of excitement to the last two weeks before Christmas because we never knew if he would be fit to go to the kindergarten Christmas thing, where the children did a play, or his own birthday party.
I didn’t feel that well myself, I had been coughing for six weeks at that point, and just when I felt almost human again (and hoped to maybe be able to sing again some time in the future) I got the next cold. On top of that I had to be Santa’s little helper and organized all the presents we gave anybody for Christmas, and all the presents anybody gave my son for his birthday and Christmas. I also wrapped them all, baked three batches of cupcakes, and organized my son’s birthday party which left me totally drained after having spent the entire afternoon thinking that now I knew why everybody always tells me that my son is so well-behaved and quiet – it’s the truth. And that doesn’t mean that my son really is that quiet, it’s only that all the other children are less well-behaved and much, much louder.
The party seems to have been a success with everybody, except for me and my son who told me that he doesn’t want to have a party next year. He was suffering from the noise and chaos almost as much as me.
I can tell that I was stressed out beyond what I’m used to at this time of year by the fact that my period was ten days late, something that never ever happened before. (No, never, not even when I got pregnant.) Of course that just added another layer of stress to these days, the whole panicking if I could be pregnant in spite of birth control, the buying of pregnancy tests, and the wondering if the tests could be wrongly negative, or what I should do if I were pregnant. So that in he midst of thinking about what games to play with my son’s friends I wondered if I knew anybody who wanted to get rid of their baby stuff, and whether my marriage would survive a second child.
As I said before, I’m not really sure what stressed me out so much but I think that it might have been the sheer amount of tiny organizational detail. I promise that I haven’t been a perfectionist about Christmas. This year I didn’t even put up the Advent decorations. I didn’t bake Christmas cookies.
The only things I might do better next year is:
- Next year when I order my son’s presents in mid-October I’ll wrap them right away.
- Instead of baking the cupcakes four to five days in advance and freezing them I will bake them at the beginning of November.
- I will buy the special birthday candles sometime in January and put them away for next year.
- I won’t volunteer to play guitar at the Christmas party. (That was my way of avoiding to have to act in the play the parents did for the children. Instead of meeting with the other parents three or four times I only had to play the songs through once before the event.)
- I will make an appointment for my husband to get a flu shot in September.
- I hereby give up the notion of baking Christmas cookies. Not even the ones I bought all the ingredients for in December 2007.
- I will make hair dresser and beautician appointments in November.
- I will make a list of games to play, and what to do at my son’s birthday party in November too.
Since Christmas I have been sitting and recuperating. At first I was at a point where I was too tired to knit but since the weekend I have been improving, started a new intricate shawl project, and might even do some housework. (Well, I already cleaned a bathroom for the first time in ages but I have great hopes for the future.)
I still don’t have to teach until next week so I hope to get some time for contemplation. I hope your holidays were peaceful and happy.
(I just re-read my list of things to do next year, and you know what that list means? It means I will have both a stressful November and December. Or maybe not. I’ll give it a try anyways.)