Laugh So You Don’t Cry: What It’s Really Like to Celebrate Christmas With Little Kids

I decorate for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving and don’t un-decorate until well into January. In fact, I wrote this on January 9th basking in the warm glow of my Christmas tree. Although less warm than it was earlier in the month because a bunch of bulbs burned out. Probably because I turn it on ALL the time.

Christmas haus!!!! And yes, we have massive sections of burnt-out lights on our tree…

I had high hopes for Christmas this year because:

  1. I’m not pregnant (hello gin-and-tonics on Christmas Eve);
  2. Kidwoods is three years old, which seems old enough to “get” Christmas;
  3. We weren’t hosting or traveling!

So I thought: yeah! It’ll be a low-key, cozy, lots of adult beverages snuggled up by the fire type of Christmas week!!

Somehow I forgot that:

  1. There was no preschool so we had both kids home all day. Every day. Allllll day. Did I mention it was for 9,139 days?
  2. Kidwoods is only three years old. Sorry, rephrase: Kidwoods is a full blown three-nager;
  3. Littlewoods is 10 months old and learned to crawl the day after we put up the Christmas tree (coincidence? I doubt it);
  4. We’re weren’t traveling or hosting so there was no one to pawn our kids off on.

Probably should’ve thought this all through a tad more. Nevertheless, we survived the week and there were magical Christmas highlights interspersed with Littlewoods trying to eat the tree and Kidwoods trying to instruct Littlewoods on how to be a person and ornaments breaking and Mommywoods and Daddywoods wondering how early is too early in the day for spiked hot cocoa.

Today, for your reading pleasure, I present a series of real life vignettes from our Christmas week.

How We (Tried To) Celebrate Christmas With a Three-year-old and a Ten-month-old

1) Attend Christmas Eve service at our church.

Our lovely church on Christmas Eve

When traumatic events happen to me, I need time to process before I can write about them in a cogent, introspective way. I tell you this because I’m not 100% sure that enough time has elapsed since what will be our last Christmas Eve church service for several years.

On regular Sunday mornings, our wonderful church has a nursery room where Kidwoods and all the other toddlers go to frolic/scream/color/pull one another’s hair. On Christmas Eve, however, there is no such nursery room. And that is how Mr. FW and I found ourselves stationed at the back of the church with two kids at 5pm on a Monday evening. 5pm happens to be when our kids eat dinner. No problem, thought I, I’ll bring their dinner with us!

Here’s how I envisioned this going:

  1. Our children silently read books and play docilely with the bag of quiet toys I packed until they turn their precious faces up to me and whisper (whisper, mind you), “Mama, could we please have some food?” Note the use of “please.”
  2. I then smile and–hoping someone is overhearing and definitely seeing my incredible display of parenting/Martha Stewart-ing (minus the whole jail thing)–produce a healthful, delicious dinner made of organic, local, handcrafted ingredients. They’d also note–with awe–that I’ve brought a bib for the baby as well as a little blanket on which to spread this delectable picnic.
  3. One of our failed photo attempts

    My children coo (quietly) with delight and sit on this little blanket as they munch their nutritious, free-range, GMO-free meal and listen (silently) to our church’s sonorous choir and our pastor’s soothing voice intoning the true meaning of Christmas.

  4. Also, these fictitious onlookers marvel at what a good-looking, fit mama I am because–for reasons indecipherable to me now–I decided to do all of the following prior to church:
    • Shower. With soap. Can’t recall if there was shampoo.
    • Wear an un-stained black dress, black leggings, red ballet flats, JEWELRY, and a green cardigan (all of which I dug out of our basement on account of me never dressing like this and scarcely remembering I own such finery).
    • Put on some MAKE-UP (which you know is a rarity for me).
    • And the clincher: PAINT MY NAILS RED TO BE FESTIVE AND JOLLY.
    • I didn’t get around to doing anything with my hair, but it was clean, which is a level up from normal.
  5. The above line item (#4) is nearly unprecedented. I don’t think I’ve been that put together since before Kidwoods was born. So, ya know, I felt like a hot mama. I also had both girls DECKED out for Christmas in hand-me-down Christmas dresses that, while not matching, were indeed coordinated. You better believe I had them both in tights, patent leather shoes, and hair bows. Oh we were going to have fun and be MERRY. Got that? I said MERRY. Mr. FW was even wearing a green plaid shirt to add to the date-appropriate color scheme.

Allow me to now share what actually happened at 5pm in the back of our silent, reverent, packed-to-the-gills church:

  1. We arrived early (unprecedented) so that we could settle the kids in before service started.
  2. The children played happily enough as we chatted with friends and Merry Christmas-ed everyone in sight. “Happily” is a total overstatement: they were not screaming (loudly) and they were (marginally) occupied with toys.
  3. Service began and the children sat rapt in our laps, drinking in the music and candles and joy. (THIS IS SO WORKING! I whispered to Mr. FW).
  4. One of the more successful attempts. Likely because they’re collaborating over stolen ornaments

    Two minutes later, Littlewoods squirmed her way to the floor and, once there, released a wail in the pitch of a hyena with its tail caught in a car door (how that hyena managed to: a) locate a car; b) have the misfortune of getting its tail trapped is irrelevant to this conversation, but likely worth pondering at a later date). Mr. FW swooped her up and took her outside to walk around.

  5. I took Kidwoods up to the altar for the pastor’s “time with children” and she nestled sweetly in my lap while we listened to the Christmas story. PERFECTION, I allowed myself to think. I hope everyone saw my great nails while I was up here.
  6. One minute after returning to our seats, Kidwoods began to fuss. With a Mary Poppins-inspired flourish, I produced dinner and Kidwoods began to devour.
  7. Littlewoods–having recovered–similarly munched food, most of which made its way onto the floor. I hadn’t accounted for her gross inability to deliver food into her mouth. I furiously scooped discarded, partially-chewed food and deposited it into the bottom of our diaper bag, which, fun fact, was my college backpack. The more you know.
  8. We’re now roughly 10 minutes into the service. The kids are hoovering up the food I brought. Kidwoods is asking what else we have to eat. I empty the contents of the picnic dinner and they both eat like bears fresh from hibernation.
  9. People are starting to stare as food flies in many directions, particularly from Littlewoods because she jerks her head around every time there’s a noise, which causes whatever she’s eating to fling out of her mouth. Mr. FW and I try to contain the particles and continue stuffing debris food into pockets of our increasingly mangy backpack-turned-diaper bag.
  10. Littlewoods has now kicked off her shoes and is chewing on one. Finding it lacking in sustenance, she wails and I try to latch her on to nurse. I am not wearing a nursing dress. Was this wise? Unlikely. I maneuver my black wrap dress into position, which works, but involves A LOT more bare skin than I normally reveal when nursing in public. Mr. FW liberates the picnic blanket to help me cover up. Littlewoods won’t nurse on account of the intense excitement and also the picnic blanket on top of her head. The harder I try to get her to latch? The more she pushes against my body with tiny, angry claws. The collar of her Santa Claus-inspired dress rubs against the rash on her chin and she is flat-out furious while I try to conceal my body parts from fellow congregants.
  11. Kidwoods helping her adopted grandma (our awesome neighbor) decorate their tree

    Mr. FW again escorts Littlewoods outside (did I mention it’s 6 degrees and snowing?) while I turn my attention to Kidwoods, who is systematically picking crumbs off the floor and licking them from her fingers.

  12. The congregation stands up and starts singing “Joy To The World.” Oh RIGHT, it is Christmas Eve and this is a song we sing at church. Kidwoods’ eyes fly open and she says, “mama can I sing too?” Of course, I say! And so she starts singing–with the fervor and volume of Ella Fitzgerald–“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Although, she says “Tinkle, tinkle Little Stah!!!!!” all while the good people around us struggle to maintain composure and follow along with verse 98 of “Joy To The World.” I peer over the edge of my hymnal and realize my dress is wildly amiss after the failed nursing attempt. It’s super fun to re-adjust your top in church, let me tell you what.
  13. The lights in the sanctuary go out. Not on accident, but as part of the magical “candlelit” part of the service. Kidwoods looses it. She does not like this newly darkened sanctuary. And so what does she do? She grabs her bag of cheerios (I was kidding about the whole organic/free-range thing, you guys) and makes a beeline for the altar. You see, Kidwoods loves our pastor, which I love, which our pastor loves, and which is wonderful. However, not so wonderful in this precise moment. Kidwoods sees our pastor up at the lectern (delivering a solemn sermon, mind you) and she wants to hug her. Kidwoods advances up the aisle and she is not slow. I hiss an instruction to retreat but she’s beyond the point of obeying verbal commands. Left with no other choice–in my fancy wrap dress, leggings, and ballet flats–I crawl after her, hoping that if I’m low enough to the ground, few people will notice because, after all, the lights are out. And if they do notice me, perhaps they’ll be impressed with the red nails that are now clawing their way up the aisle.
  14. I (gently) tackle a three-year-old–who is wearing what I now realize is a dress with audible, rustling tulle underneath it–adjacent to the third pew from the rear. I clap eyes on my friend (sympathetic mother of three older kids) sitting in a pew to our right and I make a Hail Mary pass at foisting Kidwoods into her lap. No dice. Kidwoods wants our pastor, no one else will do.
  15. Be glad I don’t have any actual photos of the Christmas Eve Fiasco

    I get my arms around Kidwoods and she bucks in a spastic manner known only to recalcitrant toddlers and unbroken broncos everywhere. Cheerios are airborne like dust spores. People will get home and wonder who put Cheerios into the bottom of their shoes. There’s no way I can walk back this food-related devastation.

  16. Kidwoods and I continue our floor-bound tussle as her volume starts to escalate.
  17. We’re now about half-way up the aisle and I realize we’ve come to the moment of desperation. The moment every parent faces. The moment when you have no cover, no more tricks, no more pleading, no more negotiations. You just need to GTFO. ASAP.
  18. I haul Kidwoods off the floor and run–sprint–out the back door of the church as she rears her head back and belts a wail. Mr. FW–who’s been trying to mollify Littlewoods in the foyer of the church–wasn’t witness to our aisle floor skirmish and turns to me with wide eyes.
  19. “Grab the bag!” I hiss. “We have to leave NOW!”
  20. We run outside into the snowy night with two children wailing, a backpack spilling partially eaten food, and my ballet flats soaked with fallen snow. The service isn’t even half over.
  21. We wrestle both girls into their car seats in the back of the Prius and I return to the sanctuary to do a brief recon mission of our remaining detritus and Littlewoods’ shoes.
  22. I hand the girls the rest of their dinners; Mr. FW finds Christmas carols on the radio and–I kid you not–both kids cheerfully munch their dinners, laugh, and play the entire drive home. As if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

And that, my friends, is why we won’t be going to Christmas Eve service for the next several years. If you need me next Christmas Eve, I will be at home by the fire with my husband–after putting our kids to bed on time (or perhaps even early)–sipping a gin and tonic.

2) Let’s take a Christmas photo!

Brilliant idea, mama! We’ll sit still right here in front of the Christmas tree and both look at the camera and smile (or at least not grimace) at the exact same moment. Then we’ll rush over and hug you because you’re so great and we love you. Also your hair looks excellent.

-Said by no kid ever

This one is not terrible

I wanted a Christmassy photo of the girls SO BAD that I did the unthinkable: dressed them up and attempted to get them to smile (or again, at least not grimace/scream) at the same moment. Results were mixed. There were only two decent ones (which I used on our Christmas postcard), one of which is featured at right.

I had the hubris to write a post about how to photograph kids and pets last year and I will say that my tips proved useful, but there is no panacea for conquering the recalcitrant toddler/feisty baby combo.

After the C- level of the siblings photos, I tried to photograph them individually. I managed to get a hilarious shot of Littlewoods sticking her tiny tongue out. That, however, was the first and last photo of my individual attempts because right after I took it, Kidwoods scaled her trampoline, absconded with a breakable ornament and–wait for it–broke it. Shards of ornament skittered across the room, colliding with the sea of books and toys that comprise our interior decor.

3) Baking sugar cookies.

The photo is so much better than the reality

Apparently Kidwoods has done a lot of play-doh lately because she was a pro at rolling out the dough. She got in there with her mini rolling pin (thank you to my mother-in-law for that gadget) and rolled her heart out.

Then she cookie cutter-ed her way to cookie bliss. I let her self-direct the rolling and cutting so she ended up with six GIGANTIC cookies. These things were like two inches thick and three inches across. The satisfaction she got from doing it herself was worth me needing to scrape flour out of the interior of my shirt.

In her tower of power (which Mr. FW built last spring), Kidwoods is at counter-height and thrilled to do real, big people cooking. I’m amazed at how precise she is with the ingredients and cautious about measuring. I mean, we did take liberties with the recipe and I had to physically restrain her from eating all of the raw dough. And then, in the mode of toddlers everywhere, after 17 minutes, she was DONE with the cookie project.

So I remained in the kitchen by my lonesome (well, with a baby on my back in a carrier), toiling over cookie baking while marveling at all the places baking ingredients can sneak into when handled by a three-year-old. Don’t feel too bad for me, I was drinking egg nog with caramel vodka by this point, so all was well.

Later in the day, Kidwoods’ interest in baking reignited when she spied the green and red sprinkles. I let her go wild with the sprinkle shakers because it was Christmas and I’d had an egg nog with caramel vodka. I swear there’s a cookie under there:

Sprinkle utopia

4) Breakfast with Santa Claus.

That was a NO on lap sitting. Also, see me awkwardly holding Santa’s hand…

This was not an unmitigated disaster. Mostly because: a) it was in the morning, b) it involved food (A LOT of food), c) Mr. FW and Littlewoods stayed home, so I had a thrilled three-year-old all to myself. I wanted to get the Santa experience because I am ardent in my love of Christmas traditions. However, given who I am and what I do for a living, I couldn’t stomach the idea of seeing Santa at a mall or store where the prompts to buy, buy, buy would be everywhere.

The perfect solution: charity fundraiser Santa! There’s a quaint, local, ye olde country inn that hosts an annual buffet breakfast with Santa as a fundraiser for the local food pantry/homeless shelter. I am SO HAPPY to pay for my child to see Santa, but I’d much prefer it be in the form of a donation than a purchase at a store. I also figured this would be a wonderful way to teach Kidwoods about giving back and helping others.

Blinded by my whimsical vision of a three-year-old grasping the concept of charity, I handed Kidwoods some cash and directed her to put it in the donation box. She glared at me, she glared at the box, and then shouted (a loud shout), “I don’t want to donate!!!” So ya know, philanthropy is apparently more of a four-year-old thing. I also tried to have her donate the baby clothes we brought for the clothing drive and that didn’t get any traction either.

Breakfast buffet! That’s my girl.

The actual visit to Santa was decidedly not the highlight for Kidwoods. She was leery and encircled my hand in a death grip. Kidwoods refused to even sit NEXT to Santa, so we settled for her sitting on my lap as I sat on the floor next to Santa. I held Santa’s hand in the hopes this would show Kidwoods that he was a kindly soul, but all it did was look super weird in the photo the helper elf took… (see weirdness above).

The highlight was decidedly the breakfast, proving that Kidwoods is my daughter. She put away a serious amount of french toast and eggs. I’m pretty sure we ate for at least 45 minutes. Fine with me as they had coffee!!!! And muffins!!! And it was a buffet!!! (don’t worry, I donated more after I saw how much food my tiny child was consuming… ).

We are definitely doing this again next year and we’ll let Mr. FW and Littlewoods tag along.

5) Decreased emphasis on gifts.

This is something we decided to institute as it’s in line with our values and priorities. The cool thing about being a parent is that you get to decide how to celebrate holidays and you get to teach your kids why and how you do the things you do. Mr. FW and I are big fans of the phrase: “In our family, we do ____” and similarly: “That’s not something we do in our family.” I am not a genius and I did not come up with this phraseology; rather, I read it in my all-time favorite parenting book, Simplicity Parenting. This phrasing works SO WELL in discipline scenarios as well as with expectation setting. It’s also a super great way to end a circular conversation with a toddler about why we don’t eat oatmeal with a knife. Dear God, where do they come up with these ideas?! (that’s not swearing, I’m actually asking God this question).

Mr. FW and I don’t buy into the whole consumer Christmas concept and the idea that you need to buy a mountain of gifts for your kids (or anyone else for that matter). I outlined our full philosophy and tactics in this post, so I won’t rehash the whole thing here. What I WILL share is….

How we handled gifts this Christmas:

Beyond thrilled with her tool kit and guitar

Kidwoods’ grandparents each sent her several gifts for Christmas (thank you, g-parents!). I also had a little stash of gifts I’d gotten as hand-me-downs or from garage sales. I initially put these lovely wrapped presents under the tree. Ten minutes later, I walked in to discover Kidwoods unwrapping them (because why not?). I explained that we wouldn’t unwrap them until Christmas. “Why not?” she demanded. “Because that’s the tradition in our family.” See? That phrase works for (almost) everything.

All was well with the gifts, or so I thought. Three minutes later, I happened past the Christmas tree again and found Kidwoods stacking the gifts on top of each other and then climbing them in order to reach the breakable ornaments, which I’d (cleverly, I thought) hung out of her (incredibly long) reach. I explained that we don’t stand on gifts and repeated the old “in our family” line, blah, blah, blah. You’ve heard of the theory “management by walking around”? This is parenting by walking around.

Two minutes later, Littlewoods scooted her way over and proceeded to chew the corners of a particularly delicious-looking package. Being a baby who is immune to logic and reason, I decided on a new family tradition: no gifts under the tree. I escorted all of the packages to the basement, where they spent the month in unmolested silence. I kind of wish I’d been able to join them there.

I’m just here for the wrapping paper

While I initially removed the gifts for safety/sanity reasons, I started to dig this approach for another reason: it removes (in a physical sense) the focus on GETTING stuff for Christmas.

Kidwoods forgot all about the gifts and didn’t ask us a single time what she was getting for Christmas. By physically taking them OUT of her daily sight line, it had the effect of removing the focus from STUFF. We also didn’t ask her what she wanted for Christmas. We’re her parents, we spent 8,695 hours a day with her; we already know what she wants. The goal was not to remove gifts from our Christmas tradition, but to decrease the rabid focus that our consumer culture has on PRESENTS FOR ME, ME, ME.

Then, my husband had a wildly good idea: since Kidwoods has no idea how many gifts there are, let’s mete them out one per day over the entire Christmas vacation! That’s just what we did and this approach turned out to be amazing for several reasons:

  • It allows the child to focus in on the one gift they open that day. On Christmas day, Kidwoods played for hours with her new guitar (actually a Ukulele) from my parents.
  • The next day, she played for hours with the tool kit my in-laws sent her. By only opening one (or two small) gifts per day, Kidwoods was able to sink into what experts call “deep play” with each new toy. She wasn’t flitting around overwhelmed by too much at once, she was figuring out these new toys and utilizing them in all manner of settings. Who knew, for example, that you could play a guitar while sliding down your indoor slide? I’ll tell you who knows this: Kidwoods.
  • We also gave Littlewoods a gift (foam alphabet magnets), but only for the benefit of Kidwoods. I’m otherwise against giving gifts to infants because they have no idea. Littlewoods’ gift was intended to demonstrate to her older sister that Littlewoods is a person too and receives her own things, but that we share all of our toys.
    • This made for an easy way to explain why we share our toys because Kidwoods was desperate to get her hands on Littlewoods’ magnets, which meant she immediately shoved one of her toys into Littlewoods’ lap to share.
    • Littlewoods, for her part, could’ve cared less about any of these gifts because all she wanted was to do was rip, rip, riiiiiiiip the wrapping paper (and ideally eat it while we weren’t looking).
    • The message of sharing seemed to sink in with Kidwoods, which is why I selected those magnets in the first place–I knew both kids would go wild for them. Although let’s be honest, siblings want ANYTHING the other one has, no matter how dumb it is. Not kidding here, I found the girls fighting over an empty oatmeal box the other day… which Kidwoods had pulled out of the recycling. Really, guys? Really?!?

This gift strategy (of not having them under the tree and doling out one per day) wasn’t something we planned in advance, but it worked so well I think we’ll carry it forward to next year!

6) Building a gingerbread house.

The ill-fated g-house

“Building” is a term I use loosely here. It was more of a manic rush of Kidwoods trying to consume all the icing while I tried to use that very same icing to stick the walls of the house together.

I’m going on the record: icing is NOT a viable building material. I’ll tell you what it is good at, getting stuck in: a) hair; b) clothing; c) furniture; d) floors and walls of your actual house, but not your gingerbread house. Beyond that? Icing is worthless.

But no matter, both kids dissolved in hysterical laughter as the walls of this woeful house toppled again and again and again. Mr. FW and I then discreetly disposed of said tragic house as it otherwise would fall victim to our two mini food pirates. Next year, we’re going to do either a “healthy foods gingerbread house” or a “not made of food gingerbread house” and we are using GLUE (not the edible kind) to hold the walls together. GLUE, people. You heard it here first.

7) Pancakes for breakfast on the first morning of Christmas vacation

Ok one actually was fine because Mr. Frugalwoods made the pancakes by himself while the girls and I woke up and got ready upstairs. Turns out, for optimal success in creating a gorgeous Christmas memory with a toddler and a baby? Do most of the work yourself. Mr. FW (and I) LOVE creating our own family traditions and so this year we blended in a few Christmas traditions each of us grew up along with new traditions that we thought sounded fun. Pancakes were a new one and they were a hit. Only downside? Kidwoods now asks every single day when we’ll have pancakes again for breakfast. Uh, next Christmas?

There Is No Perfect Parent Here

Creative uses for a ukulele and a conductor’s hat

It is magical and wonderful and emotional to celebrate Christmas with tiny children. However, I’m uneasy with the superlatives I see used in marketing and on social media to describe this season–or any consequential “this is supposed to be fun” event with little kids. As I wrote a few months back, “the wonderful is so closely twined with the overwhelmed.” Yes, magic is there, but it is bedfellows with migraine-inducing frustration.

There’s a prompt to always love parenting. To always say that it’s the most important, most incredible job we’ll ever do. And while I do think it’s the most important job Mr. FW and I will ever do, I can’t say it’s the easiest or the most fun. It’s the most fulfilling and the most soul-gratifying, but that’s different than “fun.” These feelings are valid and they don’t mean I don’t love my kids and do my best for them. They mean I’m real. I’m a human person. With needs. Primarily for sleep and coffee.

Glamour shot! Kidwoods and I are not so much stirring together as I’m trying to strong arm the spoon so that she doesn’t fling it out and lick it…

When I talk about parenting–with my friends, here on Frugalwoods, on Instagram–I keep it real. My life is already too cluttered with expectations and insecurities. I don’t need to pretend that my children are ideal or that my experience as a parent is nonstop bliss. Because it’s not. I think we do a disservice to fellow parents when we gloss over the raw challenges because it makes other parents feel like they’re the only ones. Like they’re the only ones who have to peel their child off the floor in order to put on her boots to leave preschool (that was me last week). Like they’re the only ones who crave time away from their children in order to recalibrate and recharge (and/or eat a muffin in solitude). Like they’re the only ones who question their choices of book/toy/activity for their child. Like they’re the only ones who had to put a toy hedgehog through the dishwasher because he fell into a puddle of pee that the baby dumped out of the toddler potty (no comment).

It’s tempting to only show the fleeting, glamorous moments of parenting, such as the photo at right.

I mean how good do we look? Did you notice my nails? Please say you noticed my nails.

But you know the back story of this cookie baking fiasco episode and you know that the above photo represents a fraction of a second in what was a many-hours long endeavor. So no, I don’t just share that photo and say something like “baking cookies with my girls is a dream come true.” Because that’s not fair and that’s not honest.

Why You Should Laugh About Life With Kids

Christmas decor that was (mostly) out of the kids’ reach

I didn’t write about parenting all that much before Littlewoods was born because I didn’t know what to say. I was drowning, frustrated, and struggling with undiagnosed postpartum depression, so yeah, I fell back on those hackneyed interpretations of what parenting is “supposed” to look like. All the while feeling worse and worse and worse that my actual life wasn’t anywhere close to the idealized version.

Well, well, well. Once I finally had my PPD diagnosed, and got into therapy and onto medication, my perspective shifted. My view of my life as a mom cracked open and I was ok with admitting that I struggle to parent in the way that I want to.

Mr. FW and I get to the end of the day and, instead of berating myself for each and every thing I should’ve done better (which is what I used to do), we just laugh. We laugh about the ridiculous things our kids do, such as Kidwoods announcing to me (in total seriousness) that, “hopscotch is very healthy for your bum and your nose.” We laugh at our frequent ineptitude as parents. We laugh at the videos we take, such as a recent rendition of Kidwoods reciting Humpty Dumpty, which seamlessly transitions into This Little Light of Mine followed by her silently waving her hands in front of her face while looking dead serious straight into the camera.

Littlewoods! Tongue out for exploration. Kidwoods is breaking an ornament at this exact moment…

Mr. FW and I have a philosophy of never laughing at our children because in their minds, what they’re doing is serious and important. So after they go to bed, we recount the day’s antics and crack up. We laugh WITH them all the time, but laughing AT is not allowed because it diminishes the learning and growing they’re doing–they can’t help that they’re hilarious and awkward.

This levity didn’t come easily to me. It took having a second child and, most of all, it took treatment for PPD. But it’s been one of the best coping mechanisms we’ve discovered. It’s our release and our reset for the next day. It lets my husband and I emphasize what was sweet, tender, and encouraging about the day. It lets us talk through the day’s pain points without dwelling on them. I’m not in the business of offering parenting advice, because I clearly have no idea what I’m doing, but I will suggest this: try to find that levity. Make it part of your day if you can. If you have a parter or co-parent, make it a bonding moment. If you’re a solo parent, call a friend or post in a parents’ group online–they will appreciate the humor.

In conclusion: laughing about your kids after they’re in bed is highly cathartic. Also, “healthy for your bum and nose?!” Really?

How was Christmas with the kiddos in your life?

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177 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    this is excellent! Suggest you give Christmas Eve a miss for another 3 years because by then Littlewoods will be nearly 4 and Kidwoods will be well old enough. At that point you can go just to see what hapless new parents have come with their toddlers to enjoy ritual humiliation!!

    The trouble with Christmas often is that it involves several days of on-end change in routine, disruption and visits with people / to places kids aren’t necessarily big fans of. The actual morning-of is great of course, but otherwise… not so much. Often those relatives and distant cousins will be childless or have long-grown children and sometimes – in the grip of unaccustomed egg nog or similar – be prone to ”when I was raising MY children,they sat in total silence for 7 hours at a stretch and there was no back chat… I suppose things are *different now*”. Have an answer ready for this, whichever variation you get. I guarantee it will happen. Guarantee it. Write some test answers down and memorise them.

    The other thing with such lovely ideas as Simplicity Parenting espouses (and they are genuinely often quite practical, thoughtful ideas), they don’t take into account the inevitable real-world bumping up against others who do things extremely differently and by comparison, in a more fun way (I refer to lavish gifts and so on). There will be some backsliding. It cannot be avoided!

    Your girls are gorgeous and you are doing a great job, both of you. The hard ”first year with new baby and toddler” yards are just about done. Not that I’m suggesting wishing your time away at all, of course you’ve had some truly great times and learned lots and so on, but this next bit is actually considerably easier. Then, once everyone is potty-trained more or less, the world is your actual oyster!

  2. Irina says:

    Let’s be honest, it makes more sense than most advertising today 😉 At least Bum and Nose are both made up of your cells and covered by skin and have the same DNA and species and…

  3. Laura says:

    Just have to say your account of Christmas Eve Service rivals the Christmas Story by Gene Shepherd. I read it out loud to my husband just now. We’ve been there, done that with ours who are now 14/16/19/20! Love it! Keeping it real and loving life! Happy 2019 to you are yours!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh wow, thank you! I am honored! So glad to hear you’ve made it to the “other side” of parenting–that gives me hope 🙂

  4. Lana says:

    I enjoyed this post so much. I so wish I would have read something like this when I was in the throes of PPD 11 years ago. I definitely had moments of feeling like I was “the only one”. Keep it up! Your honesty is welcomed and needed.

  5. Tina says:

    I noticed your beautiful nails 😀

  6. Money Beagle says:

    Any parent should relate to this. You had to have gotten some sympathetic looks in church because I can tell you that there were parents that could easily remember those days. Your kids weren’t the first nor will they be the last to make that service an adventure.

  7. Laura says:

    Love this – recognise so much of it *still recovering from the trauma of Christmas service 2016*. Laughter is definitely the only way to cope with it 🙂 I waved them off VERY cheerfully on their first day back to school after the holidays 🙂

  8. Susanne says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this!!! I‘m a „recovering“ perfectionist and quite afraid of becoming a mum within the next few years and your stories encourage me to not worry so much!

  9. Crystal says:

    Really such a happy tale not involving electronics or over-the-top greed. Thanks for this.

  10. Inga says:

    This was hilarious!!! I kept laughing out loud through the entire post. Thank you so much! And let me tell you, time passes so quickly. My daughters are now 20 and 18 years old and I sometimes wonder how fast the years went by. I love your writing, maybe you could write a book about your life with kids? Have a good time with lots of laughter, Inga

  11. Susan says:

    Loved this. You definitely weren’t the first parent to have a church service like that. As a parent of now-teens, I’d have laughed with you and sympathized. Our church, thankfully, offered a live nativity on Xmas eve before the “family” church service. In the baby/toddler years, even the family service was too much so our tradition was to go to the 15-20 min live nativity. Animals! Singing! Done! Everyone home for dinner.

  12. I have helped raise children but never had my own. I was laughing my head off at this! Having been around step-grandchildren and seeing what truly horrible things they can do, I have so much sympathy for parents now. Someone mentioned you rival Jean Shepard’s storytelling and I concur!
    I particularly appreciated how you envisioned the Christmas Eve service versus the reality.
    You are an excellent writer, sharer of your honest experiences, and subsequent teacher. Keep up the marvelous writing!

  13. Victoria says:

    I empathise and sympathise with you. But OMG that was HILARIOUS to read!! I had to leave the room because I was laughing hysterically. I have tears. I have yet to have my facial muscles relax enough that I can move my face out of its “is she laughing or having a heart attack” grimace.
    Just, just excellent. I loved reading this and it’s up there with David Sedaris.

    It’s incredibly thoughtful of you to support others by sharing honestly. I don’t have kids but I do have depression plus additional chronic illness and many, many times there is a huge gap between expectation and outcome, especially for times like Christmas that are supposed to be wonderful. So, thanks.

    I’m going to force my face into a less worrying shape and go back to work. But I think I’ll add this to my “I feel rubbish, how can I cheer up” file 🤣🤣🤣

    • Victoria says:

      And if it makes you feel not alone, I accidentally hit myself in the head yesterday with the remote control. I can’t even say how it happened.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      You’ve made my day, Victoria! Being compared to David Sedaris is a life goal of mine. As is making people laugh so hard as to render their faces incomprehensible. Hang in there and know that you are not alone in experiencing that massive gap between expectations and reality.

  14. Vicky says:

    My husband is wondering why im laughing with tears running diwn my face. Im glad you’re enjoying your children. They will teach you lots.

  15. MM says:

    We have a tradition of giving one present a day throughout the 12 days of Christmas as opposed to a whole bunch on Christmas morning. We’ve found that it makes Christmas more of a season rather than a one-day celebration and that it helps ameliorate the “letdown” that often happens after big holidays. The presents are usually small (a pack of crayons, a new coloring book etc) but our kiddo loves the surprise of it. Our Christmas festivities culminate on Epiphany with a party with extended family where we eat King Cake (whoever finds the bean is king/queen for the day) and where the grandchildren receive their gifts from their grandparents. It’s been a wonderful way for all of us to make the most of the season.

  16. Wow sounds like an eventful Christmas! Hubby and I are almost afraid to take the kids out anywhere because they might start throwing a tantrum anytime they feel like it and scream at the top of their lungs despite their desperate parents standing by.

    Just yesterday our son was screaming nonstop in the neighborhood when we took him out to watch the snow. Some neighbors came to check on him. We had to take (drag?) him home. It took another hour for the tantrum to stop. Happy snow day!

  17. Stephanie says:

    Oh man… I get it. I get it all. My son was the calmest, most chill kid in the world; I took him to a stage play at age 3 and he sat quietly and loved the show, and was complimented heartily by people who had given me the stink eye when they saw me bringing him in. I knew at the time, though, that it was just who he was and it had nothing to do with my parenting abilities- but even that wasn’t enough to save me from the tornado that is my daughter. We’ve left more places with me carrying her out screaming and crying (usually her…), I’ve had strangers run up to catch her as she tried to hurtle herself out of the grocery store cart head first while I was turned to pick out a cauliflower, I’ve actually yelled phrase “Stop licking the hotel room carpet!” and I’ve had to ask a librarian for a plastic bag because she dropped her stuffed bear in the library toilet- I *think* accidentally… Every day brings a new maelstrom of chaos, the types of which I wouldn’t have believed possible until I had a kid like this.

    So thank you for keeping it real, for showing the world the joy and the pandemonium that being a parent to spirited kids can be. These kinds of kids- fiercely independent, stubborn as can be, creative in offbeat ways- will make for excellent adults who will take on the world and be amazing leaders…if we don’t eat them before they come of age. 😉

    Hang in there. You’re doing an excellent job!

  18. Kate Semple says:

    You are kind of in the slog part of parenting. Which may or may not actually lady 18+ years. My kids are 14, 5, and 4 and we still don’t put gifts under the tree until Christmas morning because of the same scenario you described above. But when my 5 and 4 year old were 1 and newborn, life was hard. It was hard for what felt like so long. And now I get to listen to them play and fight and have the most amazing conversations (like what hopscotch is good for). It’s important for us to be honest that parenting is hard. It’s part of our own self care and it helps us relate to each other as parents and extend grace which can be so hard for us to give to ourselves. Hang in there and enjoy your Christmas eves at home for a few years, eventually you will have that evening you envision and it will seem like the time it took to get there just flew by.

  19. Cait Carter says:

    Loved this! I actually linked it to my husband as well–which I don’t do terribly often since he spends less time reading blog posts than I do. We have a 3 month old baby girl and I often realize–after the fact–that I set myself up for failure by having expectations for her behavior not in line with her age (ie, expecting her NOT to scream bloody murder the second we get into a quiet store, just because). We didn’t do much in the way of celebrating Christmas with her this year. We didn’t even decorate, because I knew (as an above comment-er mentioned) that the whole season was apt to be a little overwhelming for her, and I wanted to be sure that she had a safe space to come home to on days that we were visiting relatives/etc. But still, for about a week after Christmas, she was extra fussy and whine-y. Normally she’s great at self-soothing and self-entertaining (at least for her age), but she’d gotten so used to being held by relatives that it was ALL she wanted me to do–not the easiest thing as a Work at Home mom (seriously, do you have any tips for getting your writing done while holding an infant? I haven’t figured out how to do it yet)! I can’t imagine how much more complicated it will be next year when she’s mobile, etc…. But I can say that I hope I remember, a year from now, not to bring her to Christmas Eve mass 🙂

  20. LeighH says:

    Oh mama! Been there done that. Eventually we realized that Jesus would understand that we had to love him from home the first few Christmases of our twins’ lives.

  21. Jamie says:

    I find your honesty so refreshing. Every parent under the sun struggles with the same things you do, but most of us cover that up most of the time and try to present a good face to the world. You’re inspiring me to be a little more real in how I present my life—not just for my own sanity, but in hopes that it would benefit others like you benefit me.

  22. Colleen says:

    Your family is precious, challenges and all. I remember older women coming up to me, when my kids were little, and saying, enjoy this time it goes fast. My kids are older now and reading your post, I am glad I don’t have little kids anymore, lol. It definitely has moments of joy, but the daily grind keeps you on your toes. I have to tell you, for the same reason you had to leave Church, my family did not eat out in a restaurant for over 10 years (we have 3 kids).
    I love your ‘family ways, and the emphasis on less ‘stuff’.
    Thank you for your writing this, I haven’t laughed that hard in a while.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you! Yeah, we don’t take our kids to restaurants either–I’m just not equipped for that sort of experience 😉

      • Diana says:

        We end up at a bakery or a taqueria periodically with our 1 year old but that’s as far as we get. I could take him to a nice restaurant or I could just light my money on fire.

  23. Sara says:

    What nice nails! They have the color and sheen of plump holly berries and contrast so nicely with your emerald green sweater.

    Also, I would have loved to see your daughter run up and hug your pastor during the Christmas Eve service! My kids are older, 12 and 8, and we still don’t attend on Christmas Eve. Also, while some things are much easier with older kids, I’m still saying things to my kids I never thought I’d say. Like a couple of days ago I found myself telling my 12 year old “let’s try eating our soup without using our hands tonight.” (Boys 🙄)

    I wanted to share one of my favorite Christmas traditions that my kids still love: I have a bunch of Christmas books that I wrap and wrapping paper (used wrapping paper if it is in good enough shape) and every night counting down the Christmas Eve they get to pick and open a book that we read together. It’s both exciting for them (now nostalgic that they are older) and feels semi educational to me which makes me feel like a good mom. It does take effort, but I just wanted to share.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      LOVE the book idea!!! I bring out our Christmas books when I decorate, but I love the idea of wrapping them up! I feel your pain on eating soup with hands… why, kids? WHY?

  24. Diana E Sung says:

    I loved the whole desire for perfection, realizing perfection is overrated anyhow, and enjoying the moment. I also felt having a second kid released a lot of my internal pressure for “parenting perfect” and allowed me to sink into the joy and the mess of parenting. Your family is beautiful. Yes–levity is not easy to remember, but so very vital.

    Also, baking with kids takes practice. Keep going. Our seven year old measures out all the ingredients and doesn’t even make too much of a mess nowadays.

  25. Leigh says:

    I agree, your writing is wonderful and I too laughed out loud! This precious, exhausting time will pass so quickly and you will soon enough be one of those who are giving some other mom that look of understanding. I get to do that now as a grandmother and I see the frustration and humiliation on the faces of my daughter and daughter in law while they deal with full blown melt downs in the middle of everything/anything we might be doing. I try to be the voice of calm and reason and find the humor in the situation. They remind me it’s easy for me to laugh my head off at the situation and not so much for them as they are dragging a screaming toddler out the door with sweat pouring from foreheads and arm pits!
    There will be so much time for “deep couch sitting”, enjoying a movie or just going pee without company and 100 questions.
    Good for you for finding the Humor in your situation early in this time of your life. Those are times you will remember the most anyway. The funny, crazy, we got through it, times!

  26. Michael says:

    Christmas came and went so quick! The kiddos look so adorable in the pics. 🙂 Seems like a busy holiday season but full of fun and love.

  27. Pam E-P says:

    Your nails were gorgeous!

  28. Elisabeth J says:

    I love your posts on motherhood. They are not only honest and real, they are entertaining! Both because of the funny stories you tell and because of the glimpse into another person’s real experiences. I really look forward to them. 🙂

  29. So I opened this thinking, I would have an entertaining read while taking a short little break from my work tasks. BUT NO, I had to like cover my mouth and pretend I was laughing about something else. Like my whole body was shaking reading about the Christmas Eve service, so funny.

    I share that philosophy of levity and laughing about it after the kiddos are in bed. Well, we just have the one kiddo now. However, I’ll never forget when he was very itty bitty, my husband and I were home for our parental leave still and he wakes up screaming at 2:30 a.m. We both woke up with him. And well, he was just making the angriest face. So like, we fed him and laughed about it, because I guess at 2:30 a.m. you have the option of being sleep deprived angry or seeing the levity in the situation. We chose levity.

  30. Ellemarie says:

    What beauty in your authenticity. My little one is 22, but your words and pictures allow me to see myself, back then, with a compassion and even love heretofore lacking. Post-partum or otherwise, how can a sensitive, thinking, conscientious parent not have periods of sometimes profound depression? I hope you continue sharing your experiences with us, and that doing so benefits you as much as it does those of us who are reassured by your words.

  31. Nora says:

    Love the nails!!

    Also love the Christmas recap. We went to a small Vermont church while travelling this year and there were several unhappy children there. I’m pregnant so it was excellent foreshadowing to next year. My parents used to divide and conquer where my dad would stay home with the youngest and my mom would take 1-2 of us to church. We usually only got coloring materials (I remember this at 6+) and then promises of donuts afterwards. I was militant at keeping my siblings quiet for those donuts.

  32. Natasha says:

    Mrs. FW, as the parent of a 1.5 and 3.5 year old, and with a family who also did an at-home Christmas this year, I raise a martini in your direction in sympathy and solidarity!

  33. Eva says:

    Beautiful nails! Love your perpective and colorful style, the hyena made me laugh out loud!!! Your babies look angelic on the pics so it’s so much fun to read what they did in reality! Cheers (with gin and tonic!)

  34. Donna says:

    I really love this “honest parenting” series of posts you’ve started. As the first time mom of a ten month old I find them really encouraging, and I hope you keep writing them.

  35. Shaunna says:

    Loving your fancy nails! I do not have children but am surrounded by people posting their magical moments with their children on fb and it’s so refreshing to see ALL of the activity, not just the Hallmark moments. I’m glad your PPD is now subsided enough so you can enjoy parenthood and the holidays and thank you for drawing attention to how devastating it can be to endure it.
    Also, Wilton makes gingerbread houses that are preasssembled! I found them by accident at a local discount store for $4, though I’d pay much more for it as I am terrible at assembling them (as an adult without the additional challenge of ‘help’ from little ones).

  36. Pat says:

    My babies are 42 and 40 now. Your article brought back so many memories. The time passes so quickly. It is important to enjoy these moments. And laugh! You are both great parents!

  37. Mary Jo says:

    You might enjoy this Parent carol, which got us through a lot of Christmas Eves when our children were younger: https://shop.signaturesounds.com/track/dona-nobis-pacem-peace-on-earth-2

    It’s by a Western Mass based group then called Salamander Crossing, now called Daisy Mayhem.

  38. Magical and wonderful and emotional is right. Our kiddo is almost four, and I have to say, this was our best Christmas with him yet. Even so, the overwhelm sometimes happens. Christmas Eve service actually went pretty well for us (better than normal service) because he LOVES the singing and most of the service was in song. They also passed out glow sticks for the kiddos instead of candles, which was pretty great.

  39. kathleen says:

    you are my favorite. this is my favorite. we’re allowed to complain about other things without having to follow-up with BUT I WOULDN’T TRADE IT FOR THE WORLD — why not kid raising? what if people who were talking about their corporate jobs ended their complaints that way? they would sound completely crazy, is what. I joked earlier that I wanted to start a gofundme for a broken ornament fund.

  40. Whitney says:

    Oh man! I’ve been there (but with just one kid, who is enough trouble, I swear). When he was about that age, he had a role in a toddler Christmas pageant as a sheep. He’s very gregarious and I thought it would be perfect. So I made him a little outfit (tshirt with cotton balls glued on) and off we went. But no. He wasn’t having any of it. He REFUSED to get on the stage, bursting into tears in the middle of a song he knew very well. We had to run up and grab him during the middle of everything. We held him in the back of the room, where he yelled the song along in our arms, all while picking off the cotton balls from the shirt and dropping them everywhere. It was a long night.

  41. Hannah says:

    Oh my goodness, I am at working giggling trying not to howl with laughter at your Christmas Eve service debacle! I have a 3 year old daughter, a ‘three-nager’ also, and oh how I understand your plight. hahaha! Fiery and independent are very fitting terms for her wonderful personality. We will make it through this and come out stronger on the other side. ha! 🙂

  42. Laurie says:

    I have a 13 and 15 year old now (which comes with a whole new set of parenting challenges), but just reading this post brings me right back to the toddler days. Every parent has had the joy of a child having a very public temper tantrum or moments that they do something and all you want to do is find something to hide under while asking the question “where are your parents?” It also brought back the memory of my daughter when she was three. She found a pad in an old purse (unused of course) and without telling me stuck it to the outside of her very cute princess purse. While we were in Walmart she proceeded to show everyone in the store the “big sticker” she had found. That was the fastest trip around walmart in history!

    • Ros says:

      Oooh boy. The pad.

      .. if it makes you feel better. Last summer, I went to the grocery store with my (still nursing, relevant to the story) 16-month-old. As I leaned over him to get the apples, he (unnoticed by me) unbuttoned my shirt down to mid-belly, and, as I straightened up (with my shirt now gaping open), hollered “LOOK!! BOOOOB!” Fastest trip around the store I’ve ever done, omg.

  43. Ros says:

    I love reading your parenting posts, because, as a working parent of 2 kids under 5… sometimes, no matter how much you love them, you’re about thisclose to putting them out a window. Like that time someone who didn’t have kids tried to lecture me about how a time-out wasn’t a useful punishment and I was like ‘oh, it’s VERY useful. It gets them out from mischief and away from my strangling grip until I calm down and figure out how to deal with them!’ and they looked at me like I was a monster… yeah. Parenthood is rewarding, and I do love it as a whole, but the smaller moments are… not always quite so enjoyable. It’s hard.

    Though if you haven’t seen the SNL ‘best Christmas ever’ skit, I do recommend it… I was whining about our Christmas to a friend (racist relatives! Stomach flu! 5am wake-up! stepping on legos!) and he showed it to me and I just about cackled – creeeeepy did someone put a video camera in my house? https://www.scarymommy.com/matt-damon-best-christmas-ever-snl/

  44. Carrie says:

    Alcohol makes parenting easier. lol

    And we TOTALLY hot glued our gingerbread house this year. Why had I not done that before????

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Next Christmas will be brought to my house by: alcohol and hot glue. Love it.

      • Lyna says:

        My husband is oldest of 10 (twins twice then 6 singles, I kid you not) so the Tree got hung from the ceiling after first being fully decorated and toppled. He quotes his mom, “You hate to drink in front of the kids, but if they’re not around, who needs it?”
        A favorite tree–in a small house with 3 littles–was printed on plastic and taped to the picture window. No floor space wasted, no needles, quick up and down, good for several years.

  45. Clancy says:

    I cried so hard while reading your recount of the holidays with tiny humans! Seriously Liz, your humorous writing is as glorious as your serious articles on frugality! Bravo to you and your adorable family for “ surviving” this first Christmas season with two kiddos! I’ve been a long time follower of Frugalwoods and have to admit that I was always curious how your frugal ideas would stand up to the chaos of parenting. I greatly appreciate the “real ness” of your writing AND your ability to be flexible with your methods while still keeping a priority on your frugal family values! Thank you for sharing this brilliant post! 😂😂😂

  46. kat says:

    I so appreciate your honesty. My kids are grown now but I remember envisioning how some activity was going to go with the kids and the reality did not match up! Its like talking on the phone with the kids present, all of a sudden emergencies and disasters abound until you get off the phone, then all settles back down. You will remember these days very fondly when they are grown. Sometimes I wish my kids were that small again.

  47. Loved everything about this! I can very much relating with having a toddler! I’m also 9 +/- months pregnant though, so no gin for me.

  48. Donna says:

    Noticed your nails. Love your nails. Laughed out loud, with you not at you, I hope. My two are all grown up and I’m good with that!

  49. Norm says:

    “I don’t want to donate!!!” had me dying! You know what they say, from the mouths of babes…

  50. Ben B. says:

    What a brilliant, laugh-out-loud recollection of holidays with small children! Thank you for sharing.

  51. I can relate to so many of these scenarios, oh boy. I remember one time in church when I had to use my “whisper-shouting” voice with Little ThreeYear and manhandle him out of the church before I lost my ever-lovin’ mind right there in the house of God. I love your idea of giving one gift a day. We had Christmas with my whole extended family this year and I admit, it got a little out of hand. There were sooo many presents. And now we’re dealing with the aftermath, where the boys’ rooms are so crammed with stuff they can’t even play. And the putty got stuck on the bedspread, so now there’s a huge putty stain . We also have a puppy this year so I can relate to all the Christmas tree/present shenanigans, because Lucy tried to eat every ornament/gift within her reach, and succeeded several times. Glad you’ve decided to laugh about it! I need to adopt that attitude a little more with the puppy, because I’ve actually forgotten (don’t know how!!) how rough it was when the boys were little. Love those nails by the way!!

  52. Deb says:

    I am long past the child rearing years, so was able to laugh heartily at your Christmas tale(s). Note that we who have been there are all laughing WITH you, not AT you! Your ability to see the humor in these years will stand you in good stead. You are doing a great job of staying focused on what’s important to your family, and being flexible about learning as you go. Two thoughts to share with you — 1) you can buy pre-assembled gingerbread houses, and they are solid as a rock! Not only did they survive the holiday, but we put them out for the birds to enjoy after. 2) the nails were FABULOUS!! Thanks, as always, for a great post.

  53. Anne says:

    I got a gingerbread house kit from Costco this year. House came preassembled with icing and candy to decorate it with. Perfect level for my toddlers!

  54. Lucinda Wagner says:

    I remember from years ago a little girl who’s mother sang in the choir. Dad must have gotten her dressed because when she sat down on the bare bench the first time she yelled”That’s cold Dad, you forgot my pants”. The congregation smiled , and the mother, up front for all to see, had a very red face.

  55. Northeast Mama says:

    This is amazing. And so accurate for those ages. I have a 7.5 and 5.5 year old and it gets slightly easier as they get older but this year was NOT my year to get a Christmas card photo with both of them, together, lovingly with arms around each other. Nope. So after 25 minutes of outtakes, I settled upon one nice pic of each child individually and just used the 2 separate photos on our annual card. Keeping it real is so important – nobody is perfect, despite the cards you get or the social media people choose to present. It’s great you’re not letting yourself fall into that trap of Mom Guilt because I guarantee you, we are all just as tired and laughing at the “fails” ourselves. And yes, it goes without saying that we all love our kids and would totally die for them because duh, we’re moms, but first could I just sip my coffee while it’s still hot?? Happy new year!

  56. Amanda says:

    Thank you for the realistic picture of parenting! I’m actually pregnant with my first right now and, while I know theoretically that it won’t be easy, your realistic portrayals are helping me manage my expectations and give me ideas for making the most of *challenging* situations. Plus, your writing is hysterical! Keep it up! You’re an inspiration to this future mama!

  57. Cate says:

    We made the brilliant decision to have our 10 month old daughter baptized on Christmas Eve at 7 pm service (wanted her baptized by the pastor who married us, in my parents hometown, which is not where we live). 7 pm is her bedtime so you can imagine how that went… i love your writing about parenting, my daughter is about the same age as littlewoods, so super relatable!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh baptisms… we should have a whole category on those!!! Glad to hear you all survived the Christmas Eve baptism and it’s sweet to have it on a special day that you’ll always remember 🙂

      • Janyahoo.co says:

        Or things that happen at church. One of my 4 broke my “pearl” necklace while we were setting on the back pew. (Does anyone know why we were on the back pew?) The uncarpeted floor sloped to the front of the church. The “pearls” really made a racked rolling down to the front. Maybe sometime you could have people post about things that happen in church. God must have a sense of humor.

  58. Mary in Maryland says:

    And then there was the year that the tree had to be tied to the wall because a toddler was given to hugging it and falling over backwards. Did you know that flushing Christmas ornaments down the toilet results in a fabulous swirl of colored metallic shards? And I say–in a kindly, calm way because I’m old and not at risk–fuck gingerbread. Our littles spent hours every season turning a cardboard box into a stable. A hole in the upper back for a single light from the tree and hay made of construction paper. We needed more hay every day as both the youngest and the dog developed very colorful poop.

  59. Jennifer Caldwell says:

    Just wanted to say I love it and I can totally relate. Thank you for being real and please keep it up.

  60. Mary in Maryland says:

    If it’s not clear, the stable was for baby Jesus. It was sort of a zombie apocalypse crèche, as Joseph’s head was nearly chewed off. Not clear if it was the creeper or the dog.

  61. Irena says:

    Thank you so much for sharing it! I am so glad that i am not alone! I used to think that “everyone” is out and around on Christmas eve with their children, doing different activities, except us! and I was feeling so bad that we had to simplify, and scale back from what I originally planned for us, after, well, looking at Instagram. My husband always brings me back to the ground by saying something like “it is not possible to do all of this in one day, pick just one activity”. and yes, our way to get around is me taking our 3-yr old out to the Christmas parade, library, etc, and a husband staying home with 11 months old – because we learned to be careful about our energy/time the same way we are careful about our finances.

    The one thing we did as a family of four this year – we drove to see the Christmas lights display, all in a comfort of sitting in our own car, and on a schedule that works with the kids naps, and then came home for a hot chocolate ;)) The hot chocolate was home-made with a few marshmallows on top for a treat! It was great! So simplifying is my new goal as we are adjusting to being a family of four!

  62. Joanna says:

    In our family, we place the gifts under the tree after the kids (all older teens and up now) have gone to bed. I like it as it’s a surprise for the kids to see everything at once. I think it’s a holdover of my father’s family, where my Nana and grandpa would put up and decorate the tree Christmas Eve after the kids were asleep.

    I really like your idea of meting out the presents over the week/Epiphany/a certain timeline.

  63. Lisa says:

    Good to know I’m not the only one who has to deal with toys that the baby dumped into the toddler’s potty… and various other “situations” 😉

  64. Susan G. Dwyer says:

    Yep, millions of mothers have done it and survived.

  65. Erin K. says:

    I am not done reading yet but had to scroll down to comment that I am LOLing in public about you holding Santa’s hand. Ok, back to reading…

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Haha, I know right?! It looks so awkward in the photo, but it seemed like a good idea at the time… 😉

      • Jenny says:

        It looks adorable! I think I see the little girl still in you **holding Santa’s hand**! My nephew not only is afraid of Santa Claus, he’s like a watchdog about it- screaming and running at any sightings of him, wrestling his Mom to get away. Makes for very funny photos sometimes, but poor parents- lol. Great post.

  66. Gwen Bridge says:

    That was hilarious writing about the church! and for the record, I had noticed your gorgeous red nails in your previous post and i said to myself and i even showed 2 of my kids, “look at her nails:, with stabs of envy and admiration!!

  67. Christy Jacobs says:

    “Best blog post of the year award goes to Frugalwoods!! And I had to laugh about your Christmas Eve story. My husband is a Sr pastor & just yesterday at church while preaching, had a toddler decide to join him on stage. It also happened to be said toddlers 2nd birthday… so he stopped everything …asked if “he could hold his hand & if it would be ‘ok’ for all of us to sing happy birthday to him”? Toddler grabbed my hubby’s hand & shook his head yes! So the whole room sang happy birthday! It was fantastic!!! Our heart is that every single child in our church will know they have value & that they matter …because then, they’ll become adults who know they have value & matter. My friend posted a pic (on FB) of their toddler on stage & every response was so incredibly heartwarming. This particular toddler is working his way slowly to our nursery area, but he’s not quite ready yet. That’s ok ….our congregation is loving & patient & learning graces we all need with everyone. I love your honesty & transparency & hope more parents will settle into “progress not perfection”. Blessings to the Frugalwoods homestead.

  68. Nicole says:

    Kidwoods’ hair always looks ADORABLE with her little bows. I love your candor and wit and I would love to read a step-by-step toddler hair tutorial.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you! So re. the hair… Kidwoods has really thin, fine hair that (for unknown reasons) grows forward, so I pull it back so that it’s not constantly flopping into her face. My secret is that I use a spray bottle of water to wet it down a tad and then use a comb and a brush to pull it up into tiny elastic hair ties. I put the bows on over the hair ties, but they are purely ornamental–it’s the little elastics that actually hold the hair up. Since we do this every day, she’s gotten really good about sitting (mostly) still for it. I let her pick the spot she wants to sit in for me to do her hair and that seems to help a lot. Good luck!!

      • Nicole says:

        I never thought of using a spray bottle with water. That’s going to be a game changer for me and my fine-haired toddler. I was using either nothing at all and ending up with nonstop flyaways or using detanglers which = limp, sad hair. Sometimes it’s the simple things that all make the difference. Thank you for taking the time to reply 🙂

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          My pleasure!! yes, the spray bottle of water was a total game changer for us ;)! Also, I practice new hairstyles while she’s either eating or watching TV!

  69. Kate says:

    I’m a church musician and my favorite part of a Christmas Eve Services is watching the kids. Babies screaming, toddlers squirming and sometimes running, kids playing with fire for the first time. It’s a reminder of life. So, yes it may be difficult to bring your kids to a Christmas Eve service but I think it is an important time for kids and a reminder to the church that Jesus said “the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children. ”

    For full disclosure I’m not a parent and I’m sure it is embarrassing and stressful when your child is doing whatever they want and is not fitting into the social norms.

  70. RG says:

    Oh dear, that was tricky, trying not to laugh while my 7 month old sleeps on top of me! I’m calling that a successful Christmas, at least from where I’m sitting.

    I so feel you on expectations versus reality. Enjoy the mess. I and my daughter are Jewish. She has pooped on the Rabbi while possetting onto the floor. But he’s got 3 kids himself so didn’t blink an eye.

  71. Zach Holz says:

    I can’t tell you how much I love your writing and family and that you let us in. Have you ever thought of doing stand-up? I’m serious! Please never stop writing!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you so much! I appreciate it :). I think I’d be a hot mess at stand-up… but I appreciate your confidence!

  72. Carolyn says:

    I love this and you are so awesome for keeping it real! You are doing a great job, and those difficult moments for you are very entertaining to read about after the fact, so thanks for being so open and vulnerable. 🙂

  73. Mary Hall says:

    I almost would have paid money to see you slinking down the aisle at the Christmas service. Sorry, but I laughed so hard at that. (Been there, done something similar.)

    Is now the time when I can share the story about how one Christmas Eve service, the kids and I and a few friends went to service where they had little candles slightly larger than birthday cake candles with ACTUAL FLAMES that you ‘shared the flame’ with a neighbor. Eldest Hallkid (who was about 11) dropped her hymnal and LEANED DOWN TO PICK IT UP with the LIGHT CANDLE IN HER HAND. Yeah, the front of her very fluffy hair started to flame. Quick thinking and quicker acting, we quickly snuffed it out. Yeah, burnt hair. It smelled beyond HORRIBLE. Then the nervous/terrified giggles set in and we silently laughed under our breath until tears ran down our faces. (Think of the infamous scene of Mary Tyler Moore at the funeral.)

    It was many, many years until we set foot in a church.

  74. Jill says:

    I feel your pain and can laugh heartily at your retrospective as only the mom of grown kids can do. At 8 months pregnant in a snowy Ohio winter I decided that my son and I needed out of the house so I bundled him up and headed to the library. Said two year old son decided to take off at a full blown run once inside the library and proceed to throw books off the shelves while giggling and looking at me. As I reached down to grab him the first time he wriggled out of his coat and ran further away. I caught him again and finally on my third try of scooping him up, as I crouched down to pick him up my maternity jeans split all the way through from front elastic waistband to back. Did I mention that there was a gardening club meeting going on? I mustered up what little dignity that I could with my pants wide open and got out of the library with one kicking and screaming two year old in my arms – and my pants falling down. When my husband arrived home that night from work, I showed him the pants to which he howled with laughter. This story is a legend in our family. And that son is turning 30 next week and getting married in October which proves he has made it to adulthood despite constantly trying his mother’s patience.( And believe me there are many, many, many other stories about this boy)

  75. Emily says:

    This is so, so, so true (written by the mother of a 2 and 4 year old). Although I didn’t have diagnosed depression, I can relate to how difficult life is with small children at home. For me, I gave up a career that was meaningful (and stressful and incompatible with how I wanted to raise my kids) but that transition was difficult and made more difficult by my unrealistic expectations of mothering. I’m working part-time now and have generally loosened up my grip on my parenting. Life has drastically improved!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I am so glad to hear you’re in a better place now! Finding that balance between fulfilling work and parenting is tough–it’s something I navigate daily and I think many parents find themselves in a similar boat. Sending you strong mama vibes!

  76. Holly says:

    Eggnog with caramel vodka sounds delicious!

  77. Bec B. says:

    I am awkwardly laugh crying in a coffee shop over your church experience. My stepmom loves to tell the story about how when I was a toddler, my dad picked me up during prayer (when the entire church was silent) and my undergarments must have adjusted because I started loudly shouting, “My panties are in my crack! My panties are in my crack!” I’m cringing typing it so I can only imagine how embarrassed they must have been because of my wedgie word vomit.

  78. Angela says:

    Thank you for your honesty on your holiday experiences. Your nails look great!!
    We have a strict, “Santa brings one gift” rule. One thing that caught me off-guard this year, my daughter wrote a letter to Santa, at school. There was more than one thing in that letter, and we talked again about Santa only bringing one gift. With that said, this year was by far the most we have ever bought our children for Christmas. Most of which were things were needed to get them anyway. More construction paper, new markers, water shoes for their water play days out side during the summer.
    We did start a new tradition this year. We took the kids to 5 below, and had them pick out gifts for me and my husband. For a total of $20, we were able to watch them think of others, and be truly excited to give a gift to another person.
    We also had them donate old toys to charity, but they didn’t have the same level of joy in giving from that.

  79. Mark says:

    I would encourage you to keep going to Christmas Eve with the kids. My wife and I have been living your eve for 18 years now with all of our kids (youngest is now 3). Good memories and good traditions (minus the gray hair from all of it).

  80. Glenna says:

    This brought back great memories of my kids (now grown) and their church antics. I used to pack several “quiet” toys for church service. My son somehow managed to sneak in a Buzz Lightyear TALKING action figure. When the pastor began the morning prayer, everyone in the room heard “BUZZ LIGHTYEAR TO THE RESCUE!” I was mortified then but I can laugh about it now! P.S. Your nails look great!

  81. Sandra & the 2 Spaniels says:

    Hands down, the funniest Christmas story of 2018!! What a lovely and full life you guys lead!

  82. Connie Hubbard says:

    Love your stories.I have a tip for making gingerbread houses.Buy the one cup milk cartons,cover with icing and place graham crackers on it and cover with candy.Works well with young and old.

  83. Martha says:

    HAHAHAHAHA! Love it, all of it. Could totally totally relate, 20+ years ago. Maybe some day you’ll write a post about Christmas Eve with girls in their 20s.

    Here’s mine: my youngest (22) insisted on decorating the table with Instagrammable pine cones and branches from our yard. Which was great except that there were spiders in the branches who came out to dance at dinner. Middle daughter (25) brings serious boyfriend to Christmas Eve Dinner, during which my father (81) can’t stop farting and my mother (80) asks the happy couple whether they are considering living in a “menage a trois”. I kid you not. Oldest daughter flies in from LA (where she works as a church office administrator/Theme Park dancer/YouTube vlogger/Dog walker/Postmates delivery gal. Her flight arrives at midnight…because….no one knows. The girls love each other and our whole family madly, and every year we pile up more and more stories of Christmases Past, all of which are pretty nutty because “that’s how we do it in our family.” Keep up the great work!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Martha, your Christmas Eve dinner sounds hilarious!! Glad to hear I’ll have material about my kids for many year 😉

  84. Staci says:

    I fully admit to having read this post at work this morning, and I had to work INCREDIBLY hard to keep my laughter contained while reading through your Christmas Eve service – because it so closely mimicked ours! Our kids are each about 6 months in age behind yours, but we were tucked into the back of the church – granola bars, pouches and whatever snacks I could quickly grab on the way out of the house to help with that whole 5pm service-at-supper-time. Our eldest spent her time running around of the back of the church, clomping around in her big winter boots and our baby just couldn’t understand why we weren’t at home getting ready for his 6pm bedtime…. It was hilarious and comical and luckily moved very quick 🙂 Happy New Year!

  85. Katie Camel says:

    While I certainly sympathize with your Christmas Eve plight, it certainly made for hilarious reading and will serve as great memories for you down the road. Loved the photos and your attempt to teach Kidwoods the benefits of charity, though she’s probably a little young for it yet. I struggle teaching my 11-year-old niece the importance of charity, but it doesn’t help that Christmas in her family is grabfest. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story! And, yes, your nails look fabulous! Btw, I LOVE the green sweater! Sweaters with flowers on them were all the rage a few (probably more than) years ago and I still love to wear mine too.

  86. Holly says:

    Sounds about right! Y’all are doing great!

  87. HappyCouponMama says:

    Oh what a familiar feeling read this was! You are spot – on. Find the levity… My son is 10, and I can relate on so many levels… I will say – beware of 1 gift a day for too long, or they’ll expect it… hahaha… I don’t put any gifts under the tree until about a week ahead for that very reason… And we don’t really buy him gifts – he gets enough from family… Unless he’s sizing up – then, yep, I’m the mama who will wrap the new socks/undies/PJs and other clothes and give them as gifts! Ain’t no shame in my game either… Enjoy the ride – they are only little once…

  88. Emma says:

    Love this piece, mrs. Frugalwoods! You really are a gifted writer— I’ve been following your blog for about 6 months now and always get a kick out of your humor, especially as it relates to parenting. Good for you getting your girls all dolled up for the holidays. Putting tights on baby girls is one of the more challenging tasks, that’s for sure. Happy new year!

  89. Amazing stories! I love how honest this is. Sounds like a great holiday, and made me laugh a lot- especially the church story. Hope your new year is as great as your nails!

  90. melody says:

    Our tradition was we didnt see our presents till Christmas Day. Not even the stockings. You are so lucky right now. It will be intriguing to see how you do when they get older and hand me downs just won’t work. I agree with you about the materialization of Christmas. I think it is just too plastic. I didn’t bring out my dogs Christmas presents until Christmas Day either. I used to love the boxes the most. I made kitchens complete with utensils and dishes. I also made robots. Crayons in Christmas stockings are the No. 1 thing. I color to this day. In your case the washable kind. lol Thanks for sharing.

  91. JD says:

    I loved this! It takes me back to having my two little girls at church on Christmas Eve (one of mine used the altar rail for gymnastics and showed her underwear to the entire congregation; another was an escape artist who always managed to get halfway down the aisle before I caught her). Then I hear what my now-grown kids tell me their kids are doing, such as when one daughter told her two girls ( ages 4 and 2) to stand together so she could get a picture of them in their new princess costumes (Christmas gifts from extended family) in front of the Christmas tree. They stood together alright — with their backs to her, snickering.
    Sometimes I would get so aggravated or so upset at the holiday we were having instead of the “perfect” holiday we were supposed to be having, but now, I remember it with laughter. I should have laughed, then; it was funny! At least I have maybe been able to help my grown kids with loosening up — when they hear tales of my disasters, they can get some perspective on their own.
    Tip for future cookie making: A friend of mine walked into her sister’s house at Christmas time just in time to help her sister get her daughter’s ponytail untangled from the beaters on the mixer they were using to make cookie dough. The tip is, even when you are standing right there with them and their hair is pulled back, it pays to always have a finger on the “off” button.

  92. Kelley says:

    Love this post! I do not have children, but I would hope that if I did, I would use your advice! 🙂 In the last few years, I have had to be a caretaker to my father in law and have had to learn to “let go”. Why do we all strive to make everything so perfect? Truthfully if we didn’t overdo it, no one would notice. At least anyone that was a good friend. This Christmas I got to have 16 people over for Christmas Eve dinner with NO working refrigerator. Oh yes, it was fun. It was the old story of the store saying it would show up in two weeks and it taking over a month to arrive. I had to change up my whole menu and we ate and drank out of about five coolers that I commandeered from all of my friends. We all had a laugh about it and had a fabulous time! Happy New Year all! BTW your red nail polish is awesome!!

  93. Teresa says:

    As a mom to 7, ages 2-20, you can either laugh or cry is my life motto! I also have a home daycare so I have an influx of 10 kids under 5 for about 50 hours a week, so I do a LOT of laughing.
    We started opening gifts over several days too. Grandparent gifts on separate occasions, sibling gifts on Christmas eve morning and parent gifts on Christmas morning. Is nice to enjoy the gifts more. We also open them one at a time, youngest to oldest, my brother and I grew up doing this and we love the tradition.
    Our church doesn’t have a nursery so every week is interesting. Our Christmas eve service wasn’t till 8:00pm this year so my 2yo actually fell asleep. In my arms and it about killed me to carry her out after holding her through the whole service, but I still took it as a win!
    Thanks for all the laughs, you are doing this parent thing wonderfully.

  94. Rebecca Nels says:

    This article lifted my spirits today so much! Glad to have the realness of parenting young kids explained so well!!!

  95. Jeanne Swygart says:

    Love your humor. I had twins so I can identify with all your adventures.

  96. Jess says:

    I vastly prefer the one gift a day method for the reason you already explained. (Perks of celebrating Hannukah)

    Your church story was hilarious. My three year old nearly set her hair on fire when we got to “candles and silent night” portion of the evening.

  97. Crew Dog says:

    We had a very stressful and not terribly enjoyable Christmas a few years ago when we decided to host my entire family for a week. Reality missed expectations by such a wide margin. But, going forward, when I find myself in Christmas situations that fall well short of expectations, I’m going to hear this phrase in the back of my head: “I said MERRY, people!” Laughter keeps us sane. Thanks for sharing your Christmas reality. I think I’m still too traumatized to share the details of mine.

  98. To be fair, I saw your nails in that baking photo and thought, “Her nails are so nice!” 🙂

    I’m sorry it was an ordeal, but you guys handled it in stride! It’s all about life’s seasons, right?

    In the spirit of laughing so you don’t cry, I just had to clean up cat diarrhea from the floor and WALLS of my home office. Oh, and this happened five minutes before a very important phone call.

    Just gotta laugh it off! Happy New Year!

  99. Megan says:

    I loved this! No kids of my own yet but I have a niece and nephews and am a children’s librarian and please believe me when I say you are not alone! I do a 2 year old storytime and have parents who are embarrassed by their kids’ behavior and I try so hard to put them at ease. They’re 2, not 4, 5, or 6. I expect tantrums., meltdowns, running around the room, snacks in the middle of storytime, etc… This too shall pass. You have a great sense of humor and I love hearing about your kids’ antics.

  100. Megan says:

    Thank you for a brilliant post – I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!! When our kids came along we packed away the breakable ornaments and opted for knitted ones (thanks to my grandma) and homemade ones which the kids would make at kinder/playgroup… they are now 7 and 10 and after last Christmas my husband and I discussed MAYBE next year getting the breakable ones out again!! Big milestone!! We also don’t put anything under tree till after the kids are in bed on Christmas Eve… I agree it limits the discussion around “what am I getting” and “why are his gifts bigger/more plentiful than mine” etc… Thanks for keeping it real and telling it like it really is with kids 🙂

  101. Sue says:

    This was a hilarious read! I just love your wry sense of humor and your family values are remarkable! I think you should keep in mind an anthology of your parental blog posts! This one, preceded by your PPD post are just stellar offerings to the reality of what makes up this life. You’ve got to grab the one or two minutes or even 30sec of connection that you can get in a day with kids of any age and count it a win and a treasure! You’re so good at showing this and giving “permission” to others to ease up!! Love, love your writing!

  102. Cindy Brick says:

    I know it wasn’t fun, living through all of this, but boy, did it bring back some interesting memories. Our girls are now 30 and 32… and continue to rearrange the Nativity scene in weird ways to this day. Including Bigfoot, and a T-Rex our oldest is particularly fond of. Go figure.

    http://cindybrick.blogspot.com/2019/01/nativity-follies.html

    I do have a vivid memory of discreetly trying to breastfeed younger daughter, sitting in the back row in church. (So she’d quit screaming during Communion — she’d been kicked out of nursery for making a racket there.) She let out a HUGE belch, and suddenly all eyes were on me. Er, us.

    So hang in there, girl. This account was REALLY funny. And some day, you will laugh more about it, too. P.S. You’re both doing just fine. Don’t worry about the little stuff; it won’t matter in the future. Promise.

  103. Simone says:

    I love everything you write but this is my favourite post ever. With kids 19 months apart I have definitely been there, done that! They are 14 and 12 now but the memory of a wailing three-nager ( my daughter, the difficult one) refusing to do anything Christmas night at my parents’ place except sit in front of the screen door with HER gifts and scream if anyone came near her, is all too vivid. We lived 2 hours away and despite everyone in the house trying to sooth and settle the delicate princess, we had no choice but to bundle both kids ( including son, the easy one) into the car at 11.30pm and make the long trek home. For days after she designed, drew and stuck “No Christmas” signs all over the house. ( FYI, a “No Christmas” sign is similar to a “No Smoking” sign – a red circle drawn around a Christmas Tree with a red line drawn through it.) I think the word I said the most throughout these early years of motherhood was “HELP!!!”

  104. Elaina D Barbaree says:

    Diggin’ the nails!! 👍👍

    I found myself saying, “Mmm-hmmm” through your entire post. I have never celebrated Christmas but I did take my little kids to religious services at night and frequently wondered when we would make it through a meeting where I actually heard the discourse or had time to look up a scripture to follow along with the reading. I seriously think I spend 5 years going and barely comprehending what was going on around me. However, my children (the little sponges they were) absorbed so much that once we got home to say prayers and crawl into bed, they would frequently tell me something they overheard.
    My children were teaching me.
    It became the lesson I shared with every new mom. Your children will teach you. They will teach you to have realistic expectations. They will teach you how unimportant your looks are (to them…not judging how Mom’s *need* to feel spruced up). They will teach you that their wonder will always come before their wisdom (in that, they have none). They will teach you that your fond memories of holidays took years to build and so will theirs; so in the meantime, nothing compares to the “what-I-see-in-this-very-moment” that your child experiences.
    I tried to keep the “they will teach me” attitude even through the adolescent years and into young adulthood because I feel that I’ve made some of my greatest leaps in who I am as a person through what my children taught me.
    You did a marvelous job with your kiddos! Next year, pack a flask. 😉
    And keep up the good work in managing your PPD. Good mental health is imperative for good parenting. Kudos to doing everything you can to maintain it.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you so much, Elaina. I love the perspective of learning from our kids. I really like your mention of “what-I-see-in-this-very-moment.” I am going to keep that phrase in mind this week (and into the future). Thank you!

  105. Jen says:

    Your post left me in stitches and tears. I haven’t laughed so hard at a blog post, ever! My kids are 13 and 15 now, but the Christmas Eve Service of 2007 is a family legend. My then 5 yr old son was Joseph in the Nativity Scene at the 5pm( why do they do this) service with no nursery for the almost 3 yr old. During the quiet moments of the service, she declared in loud-toddler-voice, “I’m hungry,” and “I want to play outside.” You know, the little voice that the entire congregation can hear, right? But we didn’t want to scoop and run, because we had to see our son’s big moment! So, my husband lets her sit on his lap and she’s momentarily distracted by pulling up her dress and playing with her belly button. Then, during a hushed moment of reverence, she says “Come on Daddy, put your dinger in the hole! You know you want to! Touch it!” (You know dinger (finger), hole (belly button)). The people sitting around us are laughing and covering their mouths trying not to die laughing. He clamps his hand over her mouth and she licks it and says “Stop killing me!” Then, and only, then, he did the red-faced run-of-shame to the church lobby and missed the rest of the service and didn’t get to see our son do such a wonderful job of holding a staff and gazing lovingly at the Baby Jesus. I’m pretty sure we skipped the Christmas Eve service the next year. We still laugh about it though. And I laugh at my kids daily. To their face. 🙂

  106. Jacinta says:

    Hey come to charols by candle light with us! ah hell no! lol Something I learnt as a parent, especially a single parent, is any event that involves leaving the house will be hella stressful and not in the least enjoyable for me. I cant just sit and enjoy it and tag team with a husband. Nope, I will be sprinting across peoples picnic mats after a fast 4yr old and furiously throwing peoples belongings back at them over my shoulder as I pry them out of his hands.
    We also did the many gifts over many days this year but mostly because no one is ever around on the same day so we just opened presents as we got them. I really miss the excitement of that big pile of presents on Christmas day under the tree but it just isn’t happening with a pre-schooler. Maybe next year….

  107. Angela Allen says:

    So honest and we can all relate! We don’t celebrate Christmas but do attend a place of worship 1-2 times per week with our wriggling 4 month old. She chatters, emits all kinds of sounds and bodily fluids (inc loud farts everyone thinks are from me as a lingering pregnancy gift) and it’s hard work. Laughter helps enormously. Love your work!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Can I just say that it’s unbelievable how loud baby farts are?! And the burps. I mean seriously! Hang in there mama :)!

  108. Nora Sullivan says:

    Loved this! I teach special education preschool, so I could really envision all of the chaos you described! : )
    May I suggest gingerbread cookies next year instead? That way nothing has to stand up, which is the (literal and figurative) downfall of a gingerbread house. Plus, there are so many great gingerbread books (The Gingerbread Man, The Gingerbread Girl, The Gingerbread Bear, The Gingerbread Cowboy, etc.). My students always get such a kick out of them!

  109. Sandy says:

    Best holiday story ever! I enjoyed every word. Nice nails, too!

  110. Liz says:

    Thank you for this post, I was reading and laughing at it and really connect, We have a 6 month old and as you said we expect some things to do with her on her first Xmas but life happens and we lived a very different Xmas ’cause she was very sick, so a lot of visits to doctor, a lot of medication, stress and fear but now that she is better we can enjoy a little more, on Jan 6th we took our first photo as family of 3 in front of our Xmas tree and we are trying to live by the day not expect so much and give her a lot of kisses and hugs.

  111. Lindsey says:

    We found a kit for making the manager scene out of chocolate that you melted and poured into molds. Proudly we made it the morning the grandparents were to arrive for the Christmas Eve dinner. Proudly I took them to see the manger…to find the heads had been bitten off Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus and the two camels. The wise men were not beheaded.

  112. Judy Welles says:

    One of my most vivid memories of Christmas was when my 4-and 2-year old daughters were “helping” me bake Christmas cookies. I finally got so frustrated that I screamed (yes, screamed at them LOUDLY) “Just leave me alone! Can’t you see I’m trying to make a perfect Christmas for you????!!!” The stricken look on both of their faces made me INSTANTLY lower my expectations and relax about Christmas. You can still love Christmas without doing All The Things.

    Also (retired woman minister here), forget about crawling down the aisle after your toddler who has escaped. Everyone can see you anyway, especially the minister. If you have to go after her, stand up and be proud that your daughter loves your minister and the feeling is mutual. One of my happiest memories of conducting the Christmas Eve service was when the little girl (totally decked out in red velvet dress, white tights, patent leather shoes) came running down the center aisle toward me. I squatted down and said “Hi sweetie!” at which point she veered left toward the piano, where our Music Director patted the piano bench beside him and she squirmed up to sit next to him for the rest of the service.

  113. Renea D says:

    I read the Christmas Eve portion out loud to my kids at dinner time (now 15 & 12). I said, “See. what you do to us?!” I then reminded my son of the Borders Books incident of ’06 (which I believe is partly why they are out of business today. Nothing has been legally proven so far on that though :). Just know you are not alone and we all love to hear other parents’ misery…because it wasn’t ours! In the upcoming years, if people ask why you are not attending church on Christmas Eve, you can tell them you prayed about it and Jesus replied that you should stay home and not ruin his birthday…..again! 🙂 🙂 🙂 It gets better, hang in there!

  114. Soggy Suzzi says:

    This was the most hilarious thing I’ve read in ages. I was laughing so hard at the church fiasco that my eyes were watering. ;Your writing keeps getting better and better and I know we all appreciate your honesty and talent. Your kids will enjoy this when they are older and recognize all you both have done and are doing for them. Happy 2019 to all.

  115. Sharon Mullery says:

    We have a Nine lessons and carols service (traditionally in the evening on the Sunday before Christmas) – the Christmas story is told in readings from the bible interspersed with carols which match the readings. The year that dear son 3 was born (DS3) my husband happened to be home (he worked 300 miles away) so he looked after the boys and I went on my own – it was blissful and beautiful). The following year, because I had loved it so much, I decided to go with the boys (husband was at work). DS1 was 6yo, DS2 was 4yo and DS3 was toddling.

    I started off holding DS3 but by the second carol he was squirming to be put down and then proceeded to explore the church, followed by me, doing the toddler thing of walking/ staggering/ running – mainly in the side aisle so not too distracting for anyone else. Until eventually he fell. Hard. On a stone flagged floor. I pounced and ran for the back door as his mouth opened wider ready to emit cries and yelling.

    I made it into the porch but was followed by the sidesman on duty (not sure if you have those – lay people on a roster who greet people coming into church, hand out hymn books/ service sheets as appropriate and take/ organise the collection). He said it was far too cold to take the little one outside, took me into the tower room at the back of the church and pulled out a box of toys. DS3 sat on the floor playing and after a while he offered to watch DS3 whilst I returned to my seat.

    To find DS2 in tears. DS1 could read the hymn book. DS2 couldn’t. He was just starting to learn to read. He was fine with ‘Away in a manger’ as they had learnt it at school. AS it is one of the choir’s ‘showpiece’ events of the year, they did a great deal of processing. They started at the front of the church, sang the first hymn at the back of the church by the font, the second as they walked up the central aisle to the choir stalls and came back down the central aisle at the midpoint. DS2 was in a panic because he thought the choir (‘those people) were going round checking who was not singing (think he expected to be dragged to the front of the church and ‘exposed’).

    I felt like I had run a marathon by the end of the service. In the pew in front of me were the vicar’s wife and an elderly lady and her daughter who I knew from the early morning service.. They were chatting about how lovely it had been and then turned and asked me (with a wicked twinkle) how I had enjoyed it. They all thought I had done exceptionally well in the circumstances. The vicar’s wife told us about one of her children once disappearing mid-service until spotted playing ‘star wars’ with the crib figures.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh that is a memorable one!!!! Oh goodness these children do give us a run! I agree–it really does feel like running a marathon. It’s unbelievable how exhausting it is to parent small children!!!

  116. Stephanie says:

    I can so identify. I had to do a similar crawl up the darkened aisle and wrestle with my three year old who wanted to get on stage at his older sister’s school Christmas concert. I ended up carrying him fireman style out of the gym while he screamed “I want to dance onstage with the kids!” …and then walked him past 4000 kids lined up all along the hallway awaiting their turn to perform… eventually my husband came out with my daughter and we strapped him kicking and screaming into the car…two minutes into the drive he calmly asked for a snack 😶

  117. Christina says:

    Nailed it! Loved this post and the truths you share. I was crying laughing at your epic Christmas Eve story – my husband came into the room to ask what was so funny, I had to read it to him. Thanks for sharing and happy new year to you and your family <3

  118. Kelly says:

    Hi, since you like pancakes and creating traditions, I’ll share mine. Everyone, including parents, gets Birthday breakfast in bed with candles in the stack of pancakes. One present from each person, made, drawn or otherwise created themselves. We have a tray, and one special birthday mug that the birthday person gets to use all day. Just fun. And you don’t have to wait until Christmas for pancakes.

  119. Jane says:

    Heeyyy, nice nails! I’m envious. The few times I’ve painted mine since having kids, they’ve lasted all of about 5 minutes before getting chipped.
    Hilarious post! I could related to all of it, having a 4yo and 11mo.
    I also attempted to make gingerbread houses this year for the first time, and here’s a tip for you in case you ever try it again: stick it in the freezer after applying the icing. E.g. Apply some icing and stick the roof to the walls, then shove it in the freezer for a few minutes to harden. Then take it out and stick another part on, pop it back in the freezer, etc. I learnt this the hard way, I can tell you.

  120. Jenni says:

    I LOVED this post! You are such a talented writer and your sense of humour is wonderful! I remember those days and got to relive them today in reading your post. Your nails look fab, by the way.

  121. Debra Campbell says:

    Love your comment! I am in total agreement, and I so needed a laugh tonight. Thank you Mrs. FW!! And thank you both for your kindness and for sharing your experiences and your thoughts. All the best and Happy New Year to you and your families!

  122. Laurie says:

    Christmas church service 2012- Church goes dead quiet for silent prayer and reflection. Newborn fills pants with the wetest, loudest fart. Hubby makes a beeline to the restroom with baby to avoid hazmat situation. We can’t stop laughing as O Little Town of Bethlehem drowns out our sniggers.

    2013-2016- I can’t remember. Pretty sure we stayed home.

    2017- 5 year old insists we sit in the front row. Has a fit when we suggest in the back. Both him and 3 year old will only be quiet if they build a lego Duplo tower in the aisle. Start throwing duplos at the altar.

    2018- 6 year old and 4 year old insist on standing on the pew. Get antsy and crawl under pew. 4 year old starts “swimming” down the aisle on the ground. Hubby gets pissed and rushes them out the door. We take turns leaving with the kids so at least one of us can enjoy it. After the service, I can’t find them. Walk to the back gravel lot in heels, have to call my husband and wait for him with the keys. Kids start crying when I take the m&ms away that they give the kids as they leave the service.

    • Laurie says:

      Not trying to one-up you, but certainly a “I’ve been there!” post. Also, this reminds me of the Easter Sunday I wore a sweater dress and had to leave most of the service to nurse my baby in the bathroom with my dress pulled up. Ugh, what was I thinking!

  123. Krysten says:

    Ah the Christmas Eve service… my boys are 4 and 8 and we haven’t been back yet…

  124. Krysten says:

    Oh. Re gingerbread houses: Costco preassembled gingerbread house. 9.99. Worth its weight in gold. I make many, many things from scratch. This I am very,very happy to buy.

  125. monica says:

    Ohhh I recall those toddler and baby days through the mist of time, and now that my kids are teens, of course I miss i! I am a Single Mom by Choice and my kids are 3 years apart, so all I can say is imagine your life WITHOUT Mr. FW!

    Our family (santa) always put presents under the tree after we were in bed, so christmas morning was magical for us kids. When we were little, my parents followed their german heritage traditions and the tree itself was also decorated by santa – so we were really wowed as kids when we cam down on christmas morning and saw the beautifully decorated tree AND the presents! I followed the tradition, so no presents to tempt my kids, even now as teens, until christmas morning!

    I managed church services in the “family area” when my kids were toddlers. My favorite memory was when I found one of my kids eating a cheerio – and I had not brought cheerios – so he definitely found that leftover on the floor!

  126. Mel says:

    Your nails looked quite lovely and the green cardigan so Christmasy. All of your photos were of reality and beautiful. It is real life. I appreciate the honesty in which you write. I was laughing and wishing someone could have helped. We don’t have children and try to help them with their children. I never knew their lives might look like this or they may feel this way but even those of us that have no children have these kinds of days where the “merry” isn’t there and the idealism that seemed so simple is completely out of reach. It’s called being human. I think y’all are doing an amazing job with your family, both of you are strong even when you think you aren’t! Hang in there and keep up the great writing!

  127. Kim says:

    How hilarious! It always seems like the fun and big days are the hardest for littles. Thanks for sharing your mishaps in motherhood.

  128. Tara R says:

    So candid, so real, so sweet. I appreciate the raw memories shared here. Happy New Year!

  129. Noel says:

    I just put a hold on Simplicity Parenting at the library! Thank you so much for your parenting posts. I have been struggling with what to do with my 2-year-old in social settings when our friends buy their toddlers toys and treats. I want to be strong, but feel like a bad parent for his tantrums at my refusal to buy buy buy. Maybe what I’m lacking are the right words and confidence to stand behind them. Also solidarity- I want my toddler to be the perfect, well-behaved little one who is not screaming through the store and running from me, but alas here I am trying to get this right and feeling like a failure as my attempts to influence his behavior are only working half the time. Little ones are amazing and wonderful and worth it, but DIFFICULT! And it’s a daily struggle! Thank you for talking about this- it’s amazing to discuss parenting in all of it’s reality without glossing over the tough moments.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Parenting is so hard and such a struggle for all of us!! I hope you enjoy Simplicity Parenting! There’s both the Simplicity Parenting book and the Simplicity Parenting Discipline book, both of which form the basis for a lot of what I do as a parent. Can’t recommend them highly enough!! They really helped pull me out of a fog of not being confident in my parenting. Wishing you all the best and sending you mama love!!!!

  130. Cindy in the South says:

    Nice nails…lol. When my kids were little, we did not buy them presents. Why? Because we went to my mom’s house and they received the motherlode. I remember one time my ex husband and I took our four kids to the Christmas Eve service. My youngest, (while he was in my arms) somehow managed (without my knowledge) to grab the lady’s necklace who was behind us, and she yelled out a very loud “stop that”. My mortification did not end because he produced a pouty face (he was a little over a yr old) and he stuck his tongue out at her. EVERYONE was looking at us. I whispered to him he better stop that in my strictest mom voice and he did. I told him to say sorry to her after the service, and he did….”sowee” and everyone laughed. I do not think I ever took all four back to a Christmas Eve service again….lol. My daughter HATED Santa and there is a picture of her screaming her head off with me trying to grab her before she ran off. I so feel you on all this kid stuff…lol

  131. Lizanne Schmidt says:

    Soooo relatable! I love your transparency! My kids are the same age and I also had PPD. So refreshing to have someone talk about PPD.
    Love reading about your parenting journey.
    Blessings, all the way from South Africa

  132. Natalie says:

    We also don’t put gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve. And we also spread out the gifting. Partly bdcause we celebrate Channukah as well, so we give gifts sent by out-of-town folks at Channukah. We often have our big Christmas gathering on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day, so we open visitors’ gifts then, so on Christmas Day it’s just exchanging gifts between in house people. Finallh, I LOVE the phrase “in our family we…” I heard something similar from a friend regarding parenting choices: “it works for us”. I wish I’d heard it earlier! So great for keeping your own boundaries without making the other person feel attacked.

  133. Ray says:

    Laughed so hard I cried, thank you.

  134. Dianne says:

    I have so much respect for you and Nathan. I wish I would of had enough confidence to raise my kids as both of you do. I love your philosophy of child-rearing. Generally, this knowledge does not come to you until you are a grandparent, or in my case, more than old enough to have be a grandparent. You and Mr. are doing a great job! What a wonderful outlook on life. Keep that closeness of wife and husband. Don’t ever let that go neglected.

  135. zigzag says:

    Wasn’t there but I’d try Christmas Eve service next year, and the following year, and so it goes.

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