Holidays can be hectic times, expensive times, stressful times and enjoyable times. Thanksgiving is my favorite because there is no shopping for gifts, no expense, little preparation and LOTS of food and time with family. Plus, it's on a Thursday so you get the next 3 days to recover. Christmas is great, and while I do enjoy watching my children and my nieces and nephews open their gifts with their sparkling eyes and anticipation of what the carefully wrapped presents might hold, Christmas requires much preparation. For me, it involves shopping for a month, making lists of what I want to give for gifts and then trying to find the best deals and coupons so I don't break the bank and can get the most bang for my buck. Only when all the gifts have been opened, all the food made and the house in seemingly good order, am I able to relax and enjoy the holiday. Halloween is fun as long as it's not too cold and the kids are happy with their costumes, but I can take or leave that holiday. I enjoy the summer cookouts that come with Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day, but we always seem to have 2 or 3 cookouts on the same day and then try to make an appearance at each, making for a long day and a cheeseburger, potato salad, corn on the cob coma-induced evening.
I've never been big on pushing the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus with my kids. I grew up celebrating the real meaning of Easter and Christmas, and our gifts were never tagged "From Santa" or "From the Easter Bunny". Once I became a mother, I realized how commercialized these 2 holidays can be, and during the month of December it seemed everyone asked my young son what he had asked Santa for and if he was excited for Santa, and then in April, what did he hope to get from the Easter Bunny. I tried to do Santa when he was about 3. I wrapped all his gifts from me and labeled the gift tags "From Santa". He was too young to know my handwriting, so I thought I was good to go. He ripped through his gifts with the excitement that only a 3 year old has, now that he could open them by himself and knew that all kinds of fun and exciting new toys were hiding under the Christmas paper. There were ooh's and ah's and big smiles until they were all unwrapped. Then he started crying. I asked if there was something wrong, something that he didn't get that he had really wanted, and my heart broke as he answered, "There is nothing from you, only Santa. Don't you love me?" I tried to get out of that one without giving away the secret, not that it would have disappointed me as much as it would have his paternal grandmother who loved to play Santa. The following year, I was careful to tag the labels some from Santa and some from me. But that year, he questioned why Santa and I had the same wrapping paper. The following year, I took him to get his picture taken with Santa at the Greendale Mall, and the line was really long so we went to the Auburn Mall where there was a shorter line. However, I knew I was in trouble when he was less concerned with telling Santa what he wanted and instead began interrogating Santa about how he had gotten to that mall so quickly when he was just at the other mall and he hadn't seen him pass us on the highway. Santa said "the sleigh, of course". Then Jake asked how his beard got so much longer on the trip because when he just saw him 15 minutes ago, it wasn't as long. Santa was speechless, and I think at that point may have been more comfortable with a screaming 1 year old on his lap, or even a peeing child, rather than my inquisitive one. That was it for Santa at our house. From then on, my answer to "Is Santa real?" was always "If you believe he is, then he is for you. But if you don't believe, keep it to yourself because some do believe." And last year, I overheard my 8 yr old daughter telling my 10 yr old son that she didn't believe but said she did, because you got more presents if you believed.
In the past few years, as my children have aged and can all read and go up and down stairs safely, I have stepped up my game. I no longer hide quarters, candy and gum in the plastic eggs and hide them, but I now make a treasure hunt with clues leading them to their Easter baskets at the end. Each child has their own color eggs and starts with a clue. Once they decipher that clue, and some are tricky based on their ages, they head to the hiding place and retrieve their next clue. There are 10 clues, and the baskets can be found in the last location. I think I have as much fun preparing the clues with my "plays on words" and sending them up and down the stairs, watching them perplexed sometimes with clues such as "Let us find your next clue", not knowing until they say it over and over, that they need to go to the lettuce drawer, or "You're on a roll" sending them to the toilet paper holder, or "Do you want to be a boxer when you grow up?" and heading to their bureau drawer. Today's hunt took about 20 minutes, and Allie was done first, and Jake last, but to his credit, I did send him back and forth to the car, upstairs, downstairs and up again. Good times, and you can't help but smile when your 6'2", 200 lb almost 20 year old son is running around looking for colored eggs for his Easter basket.
I am blessed, blessed to have children who will humor me, who are appreciative and thankful, and who enjoy each other's company, and blessed to have a husband who stays up with me while I wait for everyone to be home and go to bed so I can hide my clues hidden in the eggs and the baskets. I pray for all of you reading that you too will enjoy your family today, as I most certainly will enjoy mine, not just because it's a holiday, but because you love them. Treasure them as they are treasures and each day with them is a gift ready to be unwrapped and enjoyed.