Three weeks ago I ran into our senior pastor’s wife, someone I respect both as a woman of God and a mother who raised four amazing children to become God-fearing, successful adults. When she asked me, “Are you looking forward to two weeks with your kids?” I hesitated before I answered. In all honesty, I was looking forward to Christmas break with more apprehension than excitement. In the past, I’ve been known to be a bit like Clark Griswold from the movie Christmas Vacation, building up expectations that “no family can meet” and finding myself disappointed when my pie in the sky dream of presents, gratitude, and family unity on Christmas morning disintegrates to arguing, time outs, and lots of tears. This year I was trying to be more realistic, so I answered, “Well, I love Christmas and all the celebration surrounding it. And I love my kids, who don’t handle schedule transitions super well, so I’m expecting there to be some grumpy times mixed in with the fun. And probably just the time we’re all used to a new schedule, it will be time to switch it up and go back to school.”
My evaluation was fairly accurate, but this year, my expectations were surprisingly exceeded. The past two weeks have had their share of grumpy moments, a few time outs (both for kids and for Mommy), and since our house is loaded with women, a fair amount of tears. But the past two weeks have also been crammed to overflowing with family, friends, laughter, relaxation, gratitude, sleeping in, good food, and bonding time together. For the first time EVER, all four Stilp kids figured out how to “sleep in” and being a non-morning person, this was a highlight for me. Each morning we all slept later and later and this morning it was 8:30 before we were all up and functioning. (Given the fact that the bus picks them up at 8 a.m. every morning, it will be a rude awakening tomorrow when we’re all yawning and dragging our hinders to the bus stop!) We laid around in our jammies, watched movies, colored, and went to the gym. The kids helped me this year with present wrapping and Christmas baking, and we all argued (mostly good-naturedly) over who got to open the piles of Christmas cards that came daily in the mail. We ooohed and aahed over all the new pictures and since our paint seems to be tape-resistant, have spent a good part of Christmas break re-taping the pictures that fell off the wall during the night.
Christmas Eve with extended family was a wonderful mix of chaos and calm, and this Christmas morning was the first one in nine years of having children that played out even better than my pie-in-the-sky picture. I’ve had the chance to spend individual time with each of my four precious treasures and in the process have fallen head over heels in love with them all over again. My kids bring such joy, depth, laughter and growth to my life and I love how God continually brings me back to the place of awe and wonder that He chose me to be their Mommy! We’ve played games and haven’t lost any pieces, snuggled, eaten more junk food than should be legally allowed, and read chapter books out loud. Even though we need to get back to a normal schedule, I am really sad that the kids have to go back to school tomorrow and completely stoked about a Christmas break that exceeded expectations.