Christmas Traditions and Mayhem


I love passing down family traditions to my children, especially around the holidays. I sometimes go a little crazy about wanting everything to be perfect and making sure everything stays the same from year to year. Logically, I know that traditions change and evolve over the years, but it is hard for me to let go.

My mother passed away when I was twenty, and continuing with some traditions is a way for me to keep my memories safe.  When I make Thanksgiving place cards with my children, I think of her. When I wake up early on Thanksgiving morning, so we have time to take a hike before we get to cuddle up and watch the parade and eat cinnamon rolls, I think of her.

Of course, many times my plan to have the perfect holiday moment is way off mark. This year on Thanksgiving morning, the kids wanted nothing to do with watching the parade and didn’t even like the cinnamon rolls. They preferred to spend their morning participating in wild sword fights with their cousin.

I was okay with that – mainly because it meant more cinnamon rolls for me. And, as I sat and watched them run through the room, shrieking wildly with swords raised, I realized that these wild sword fights are just as good as any other Thanksgiving tradition.

As time moves on, I’ve learned to expect that things will not go as perfectly as I want them, too. I have also started to realize that many of my holiday memories are definitely viewed through rose-colored glasses. For instance, I smile when I remember one Thanksgiving morning hike as a child.  I slipped on a rock and fell up to my knees in ice-cold water. So dramatic! What a story! My middle-child self was the center of everyone’s attention!

But, what I often fail to think about is the same memory from a parent view. I’m sure I spent the rest of the hike complaining and whining that I was cold. I’m sure I sounded just like my daughter when she moans dramatically on long hikes, “I just can’t go any more!” I’m sure my parents were wishing they could just be home already.  Now, as a parent, I know all too well, that those holiday memories also include a lot of frustration and drama.


Late on Monday afternoon, my husband suggested we go and get a Christmas tree. I hesitated. I hadn’t done all of my pre-tree decorating prep. I have such fond memories of decorating the Christmas tree with my parents and siblings. We ate homemade cookies, drank hot chocolate, and listened to Christmas music. Every year, my mother gave us each a new ornament to hang on the tree. Of course, I try to replicate this each year.


Sometimes it is successful, but many years I am left disappointed. With that in mind, I agreed to go get the tree. Perhaps without all of the anticipation and prior planning, tree selection and decorating would turn out to be the picturesque scene I envisioned.

And it did … for the most part. All really was wonderful until … the stink bugs.

On the tree farm, my children ran wild  – weaving in and out of the trees, gleefully shouting, “This is the perfect one!” at every tree they passed.

On the way home, we stopped at the grocery store and picked up slice and bake cookies. Everyone was just as excited to eat those instead of homemade ones. And, with hot chocolate and cookies as bribes, the kids actually ate their healthy dinner.

As my kids slipped into their new Christmas pajamas, my husband and I brought down all of the Christmas decorations from the attic, including the ornaments and lights for the tree. As we stacked boxes and wreaths and bags in the dining room, I noticed a few stink bugs crawling on boxes.

For those of you that might not have stink bugs in your area, let me give you the low down. They stink – literally and figuratively! They are brown, slow-moving  bugs less than ½ inch long. They are relatively harmless and just kind of fly around crashing into things, but they stink when you squish them. Oh, and there is nothing to do to get rid of them. Yay!

Every  year, their numbers seem to increase. On a warm fall day, they cover the side of my house, and then some sneak inside when it gets chilly. They have no shame. I find them on my lamp shade when I turn off the light at night. Sitting on my tooth brush in the morning. Hanging out on the rim of my water glass.

My kids have gone through various stages with the stink bugs: As a one-year-old, my son once ate one in curiosity, but now he shrieks in terror if he sees one and refuses to sleep with his covers on – just in case one might be in his bed. 

Usually, they are only a problem in fall and spring, and if we get something down from the attic a few might be crawling around.  Well, this year I don’t know if they are worse, or if one was like, “Hey, y’all, this attic is really cool. Come climb into boxes and SEALED plastic bins and chill out for the next couple of months until it gets warm again!”

They are EVERYWHERE in our attic. Seriously. We use those big plastic bins to store most of our Christmas stuff. Well, I opened one up and lifted up a Christmas dish towel and fifteen of those little buggers were hanging out underneath it.


So, needless to say, when we opened up the box of ornaments to decorate the tree, it was like a horror movie. Slow moving bugs wiggling and crawling about. My children screaming. And, me just kind of getting everyone riled up by making dramatic noises while flinging them out the door.

These were not the sounds of Christmas cheer!

My husband, thankfully, saved the day and took the offensive box of ornaments outside to de-bug them. My children alternated between shrieking on the bar stools in the kitchen or jumping on the sofa in terror. I detangled the Christmas lights, only to find that half did not work … of course.

Eventually, things settled. I made myself a glass of wine and baked the cookies. My husband brought in the ornaments, and we pushed play on the Christmas music. Besides the occasional false alarm of my son thinking he saw a stink bug, all was quite lovely. The kids enjoyed decorating the tree, and despite the fact that most ornaments ended up on only two branches, the tree looks magical.

After we finished the decorating, and the cookies, we turned off the lights and cuddled together to gaze at our masterpiece: my perfect Christmas moment. 

Thirty seconds later? My son pounced on my husband and tried to initiate a dinosaur battle; my daughter quickly joined the chaos. I sat back and watched my family and smiled. Perfect Christmas moments come in all sorts of shapes and sizes – and apparently involve stink bugs and dinosaurs.




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