So I’m really trying to simplify and slow down this holiday season. I thought I would do a series called “31 Days of Exhale” in the month of December but those 31 day series’ scare the pants off of me and I don’t think trying one in December is a wise idea. So I thought we would do “15 Days of Exhale” and that scared me too so I thought perhaps we’d do ten but now we’re just going to call it “Time to Exhale” and we’ll stop when we stop. Because that’s how I roll. Hopefully, you do as well.

The point is this: Let’s slow down. Let’s remember to remember what we’re doing. Let’s not lose our heads over getting the newest My Little Pony dolls. Let’s not get cranky and drive away in a huff with a cross hanging from our rearview mirrors. Let’s just roll with it and lower our expectations a bit. Oh, and I’ve been posting daily (at least I try to do them daily) prayers over on the Facebook page and they tend to be on this subject right now as well so head on over and click “Like” if you haven’t already and you won’t miss them!

Before I had kids, I had grandiose plans to trim the tree with hot cocoa and carols playing in the background with a light snow falling outside and my children living in peace and harmony.

Clearly, I didn’t understand that those images are only for Norman Rockwell paintings.

No one has Christmas decorating stories like that. No one. And if you do, we don’t want to hear about it.

In fact, while getting our tree last weekend, I saw a family I adore and know from church.

“Time to get the tree?” I asked him as we stood in the parking lot. With a knowing look, he replied, “Last year, we invested in one of those pricey stands because it wasn’t pretty.”

And I knew. Oh, boy. Did I know.

Moments later, I saw his wife – who didn’t know I had already talked to her husband.

“Man, we almost got divorced over putting the tree in the stand a few years ago,” she said.

And I knew. Oh, boy. Did I know.

Before we ourselves invested in the same pricey tree stand, it wasn’t pretty either.

And it’s not really much prettier now – there’s just fewer choice words uttered while putting the tree in the stand – which, of course, doesn’t go along with my Norman Rockwellian Christmas Dream.

The reality is this: my expectations have been far too high.

It’s easy to dream of what it will be like when you have a family when you don’t actually have a family because you don’t know what you don’t know.

Then we grow-up and have our families and trimming the tree looks more like this:

We trudge ornaments down from the attic. We open the boxes and pray to God we don’t find dead mice (as we did one year and yes, we threw all of those decorations out. Gross.) Within seconds, the boys have almost everything strewn all over the floor, even though I told them not to do so because it freaks my need for order out, and they start to play catch with the shatterproof Christmas balls. All ornaments are hung on the lower half of the tree and it’s loud and I think one year, Jason might have turned on Metallica or something like that. Sibling bickering is usually present, too.

Pretty much the complete opposite of what Naive Natalie envisioned when she didn’t know what she didn’t know.

But you know what? This year, I expected it to be this way and guess what? I actually enjoyed the chaos that is OUR way to trim the tree – not the PERFECT way, but OUR way.

Not to mention I found a new Norman Rockwell painting that is the real deal – see the above image? Yep, that’s real, friends.

So this holiday season, exhale and know that 1) lowering expectations will make you have more fun and 2) looking sideways at others and buying into what the media tells us is the “right” way to do something may not be the way YOUR family does it.

And that’s OK. Now exhale.






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