The must-have item on the Christmas list this year? Children’s ibuprofen. It’s not exactly what I thought would be the most requested item, but I’m awfully thankful I had an ample supply ready for the holidays.
My kindergartner and first grader kicked off Christmas vacation two days early, thanks to the winter storm school cancellations. My kindergartner celebrated with a fever on the couch those two days, glassy-eyed and wiped out. Since this is the season of giving, he shared with his siblings, too. A few days later, the fever and glassy eyes moved on to our littlest one. And one by one, each kid complained of being “so cold” even though their bodies were burning hot.
The night before Christmas Eve I count as one of my worst nights of sleep in a long time, and I don’t exactly have high expectations in the sleep department. Good nights of sleep ended seven years ago, and they haven’t come back yet. Getting out of bed once or twice is the norm, as is getting woken up at 5 AM by a half-pint.
That night, though, was a monster. We had three different sick kids crawl into our bed in the course of the night looking for snuggles. Thank goodness for king-sized beds. Although, the size of the bed doesn’t seem to matter: any child takes up at least half, and then my husband and I get squished onto whatever remains. I lost count of how many times I crawled out of the crowded bed to dose pain reliever, drinks of water, or find missing blankets. When morning came on Christmas Eve, my Christmas spirit was decidedly surly.
Naps, though, do make things much better. A nap for us all helped everyone feel functional enough to head to Christmas Eve church, and of course, kids mustered the energy to open a few presents before heading to bed that night.
Even with a crew of sick and half-sick kids, I have to say, on the night of Christmas Eve I felt filled to the brim with happiness. As I held our 20-month-old and she nursed to sleep, I had a moonlit view of a snowy yard and our barn and silo. On that peaceful, silent night, it felt like Christmas, and it felt like home. I held a sweet, funny, beautiful little girl in my arms. A few hours before, our family filled a church pew with four kids decked out in their holiday clothes. Nobody lit anyone else on fire during the candlelit portion of the service, and until they petered out, we had a lot of joyful noise in our house on Christmas Eve.
I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.
My ideal Christmas is a little Norman Rockwell mixed with a little of the Griswold family from the movie Christmas Vacation. And that is pretty doable. On Christmas Day, we had a fine candlelit turkey dinner at noon in our pajamas with a few sides of ibuprofen.
Afternoon naps (highly valued at our house) followed by warm baths for achy kids gave everyone enough steam for a Christmas supper at Grandma’s. Thirty-seven people, if my tally is correct, made Grandma’s house bursting full and slightly chaotic. And if you’re from a big family like me, that feels just about right.
Having too much fun to leave early from Grandma’s, we earned ourselves a full-fledged Christmas Meltdown because we got home late, and three kids cried during most of the bedtime process.
The day after Christmas felt like holiday hangover. Two very sick kiddos, one so-so, and one just tired, all of us were worn out from the rush of Christmas excitement. On days like that, I don’t know where the time goes, but it stretches on and on in repetitive motions of holding, comforting, dosing, and stepping over Christmas toys. I never have enough arms.
In that exhausting day, one of the highlights was seeing my sick, listless six-year-old eat two bowls of steaming homemade turkey noodle soup. She hadn’t wanted anything because her throat hurt too much, but I put some in front of her anyway. Slowly one bowl disappeared, and then another. Afterward, she perked up and said her throat felt better, at least momentarily. It was a small triumph in an otherwise exhausting mothering marathon.
My other highlight that day was seeing my husband pull in the driveway with a trailer full of wood in tow. He and my brother-in-law spent the afternoon cutting and loading wood, and happiness is the sight of plenty of wood for a cozy, warm house. Happiness is also seeing another parent return home to help share the load of sick kids.
And today, my Christmas vacation outing will be a visit to the Fast Care Clinic with my daughter. We’re making the 45-minute drive to Rochester to play every parent’s favorite game: “Is It Strep or Is It Just a Virus?” If we guess correctly that it’s strep, we’ll be rewarded with a bottle of pink amoxicillin. If we guess incorrectly, we’ll go home with some wonderful parting gifts: free new germs from the clinic, and a complimentary wasted afternoon. The best part, though, of the “Is It Strep or Is It A Virus?” game is that win or lose, every player receives a generous clinic bill just for participating. Oooh, I can hardly wait.
‘Tis the season for sore throats and achy bodies, but all isn’t lost on this Christmas vacation. As I write this, we’ve still got five days of vacation time left. I predict a full recovery of the household, and ringing in the New Year with busy bodies ready to hit the sledding hill. Just the same, I’ll replenish my stash of medicine while I’m in town today.
Wishing all of you a healthy New Year!