This tale of a Christmas long, long ago is what makes me appreciate the more uninteresting holidays of the past few years. Let me take you back to a time when daddy was gone far too much, and the children and I were stranded up in the cold north, far away from family.

I don’t tolerate the cold well. I think it came from growing up in Colorado where I have less than fond memories of trudging through the snow to school and freezing from October to April. My family moved to Phoenix when I was in eighth grade and I haven’t regretted that move ever since. I much more prefer living in an oven, verses an ice box.  So when my husband got out of the military and found employment in Chicago, off we went to brave the elements and the unknown.

Bundling up five little ones was a fearsome task. I would no sooner get the last one out the door before the first one was ready to be disrobed.  Mark was flying all over the place visiting warm and wonderful destinations while the kids and I battled winter on a daily basis.

When the work schedule for December came out, the look on Mark’s face said it all; no daddy for Christmas this year. While we were all disappointed I would attempt to make the most of the holiday. Christmas Eve found me wrapping, assembling, and wondering what my husband was up to in Miami.  I worked tirelessly so the “jolly one” could hog all the credit. That morning I got up early to make waffles and further spread the cheer all the way down to their little empty bellies.

Things were going good until a fight broke out about a small baseball card found in a Cracker Jack box. Imagine the scene, Christmas tree twinkling in the background with joyful sounds emitting from the stereo, presents strewn everywhere and my five kids shouting and chasing after each other over a one-inch piece of colored cardboard.  I’m sure Baby Jesus was crying in the manger over this bizarre scene.  Being the patient and loving mom who wasn’t in the least bit feeling slighted this Christmas morn, I barked out several  mommyisms like; “If you don’t stop fighting I will take away all your gifts.” Or the always popular, “don’t make me get the spatula.” My warnings went unheeded.

Christopher, who was nine at the time, decided this was the day to make his fateful stand against mommy and thus it began. Stretched to my limits, I used the last weapon in my arsenal…the “soap in the mouth” strategy. Not to be deterred, he blurted out the fateful words that sealed the deal. Left with no recourse, I scraped the soap under his front teeth and stepped back. The rest of the children looked on with baited breath, almost afraid to move and thus draw my wrath in their direction.  There was a distinct stillness in the air before he smacked his lips, smiled blithely at me and said… “ummm, tastes better than your waffles.”

Yes indeed, he went for my final button, the one with the big red warning sign, “push at your own risk.” I can’t recall exactly how I got on top of him so fast and what occurred next, but suffice it to say he is still alive and that Christmas has been burned into our psyches for life.

Another preposterous Christmas tale involved daddy working once again. This Christmas morning after going through the loot left by Santa, a fight erupted over some pop cans. Seriously? you might ask. Yes, the little ingrates fought over pop cans. We were all heading for a meltdown brought on by too much sugar, cabin fever, and another fatherless Christmas. Warning after warning went unheeded and then it happened, I snapped as mothers often do. Grabbing a black trash bag with as much flourish as I could muster, I proclaimed that they could all “kiss their Christmas gifts goodbye” and like the Grinch, I grabbed up each gift and tossed it into my bag. I marched upstairs, locked the door, and sobbed. I could hear them all outside the door crying. What had brought us to this moment on the most joyful morning of all?  It was then, through the door, that I heard one of them say what could only be described as ludicrous…  “I think she’s gonna jump.” If it wasn’t so sad it would have been comical. I tried to respond right away and was cut off by another saying between sobs, “if she jumps, I’m jumping too.” The sheer absurdity of such statements was farcical. What do you say to that? We should have all gone back to bed and started the day over again.

I share these crazy stories because it not only gives you a peek into my whacky world but I hope it also brings a little laughter to yours. God knows we could use more joy on this planet. May your family make some crazy memories this Christmas… ones you can laugh at for years to come.