celebrating mediocrity

I am not one of those moms who does a lot of fancy stuff for the holidays.  It just seems like a lot of unnecessary work.  At Christmas, I'm lucky to get a tree up.  Every year at Easter my mother-in-law takes pity on the kids and dyes eggs with them.  On Valentines Day she makes heart-shaped waffles with them.  She always buys them cute seasonal shirts.  I'm beginning to see a theme . . .

But I 
am the mom who then forgets about the cute seasonal shirt until aprox. three days after the actual holiday, and then wonder if it would be weird to dress up my daughter in a brand-new t-shirt with a darling Happy Halloween logo on November 3rd.I have to admit, I am really ambivalent about this parenting choice.  Most of the time, I feel like I am trying to keep things simple, and all of the holiday clothing and decorations and teddy-bears and toys amounts to more "stuff" for me to store and ultimately forget to bring out at the right time.  When I pass by all the seasonal stuff in those dollar bins at Target, I'm certainly tempted to buy the antler headband, the bunny ears, or the green leprechaun hat.  But then the holiday passes and those things end up in the under the sofa or at the bottom of the toy bin until I finally find them and throw them away.

It doesn't help that a certain family member (my sister-in-law) is the queen of making holidays special.  She is the mom who will have the kids in matching orange shirts at the local pumpkin patch on the first day of fall.  She is the one who will have the kids in head-to-toe red white and blue on Fourth of July, or in matching Angels shirts and hats at the ballgame.  I love this about Sarah, and I also love that my kids get to benefit from her creativity and thoughtfulness.  Most of the time, I feel comfortable in allowing that every mom has their strengths, and that it's okay for me to slack in this area.  I have other special skills!  

Like reading sheet music, playing piano, British/Cockney dialects and tumbling.(Okay, those are the special skills from my acting resume ten years ago.  But my flips on the trampoline 
are impressive).

Anyways, I do still suffer from that horrible female condition of comparing myself to other moms.  This morning, I woke up and remembered it was St. Patrick's day, and frantically searched for green shirts for the preschool set.  Having not remembered the day in advance, I did my best.  Jafta's was more of an army green, Kembe's was teetering dangerously close to yellow.  I sent them off, and then sat down to catch up on some blog reading.  The first post was from a mom who served her kids Lucky Charms for breakfast, along with green milk.  Then there was the mom who pack her kids' lunches with all green items.  Then of course, the mom who handmade adorable green dresses for her girls.  I feel my shame rising.  I start the self-talk:
It's okay, Kristen.  That's not you.  That kind of behavior only gets you into trouble.  Keep things simple.  Those are just distractions.Then I pick the kids up from school, and notice the plethora of girls wearing matching green bows and socks.  It was India's turn to bring snack today, which I actually remembered, but apparently the generic snack I brought was saved in the pantry because another mom thought to bring green cupcakes for the kids.  As soon as we got in the car, my kids were going on and on about St. Patrick's day.

Mom, good thing we're all wearing green!
Mom, can we go looking for rainbows?
Mom, we could go find some gold.  And eat some chocolate gold coins!
Mom, let's have  a leprechaun hunt in the backyard!  (Wuh?)
Mom, are we having a special St. Patrick's treat?  It's a holiday!!

Argh.  Of course I have nothing planned, and I'm suddenly feeling like my "keep it simple" mantra might be laziness and indifference.  Obviously my kids are excited about holiday celebrations.  When we get home, I quarantine the kids to the backyard and start tearing the house apart for something I can throw together.  I search for cookies: none.  I search for frosting: none.  Cream cheese? none.  Finally, I find some random shelf-stable pudding cups in the back of the pantry.  I have NO IDEA where these came from or how long they have been here.  I empty them into fancy parfait glasses and add a few drops of pastel green food coloring.  Remember that scene from Better Off Dead when  John Cusack's mom serves a disgusting green slime that bubbles?

I am not kidding, that is EXACTLY what this stuff looked like.  In parfait glasses.  I called the children in and cheerfully announced that we had a St. Patrick's day surprise.  And they screamed and giggled and ATE IT UP.  They were so excited and thought it was such a special treat.

I'm not really sure what the moral of the story is here.  Do I need to try harder?  Or is this just proof that kids will be excited even if we try less?

Or maybe I just need to stop trying to be someone I'm not


  1. Hahaha. I love how you worded this post. I think your kids will benefit infinitely more from your obvious love for them all year round, then worry about the lack of green cupcakes. You are wonderful the way you are.

  2. This post was from my heart. I find myself being annoyed by the grand celebrations of every calendar note, only to suffer guilt when the day arrives and it seems to be such a big deal to everyone else. I'm familiar with the last-minute scramble to come up with SOMETHING...
    At least now I know there are two of us. I have a feeling, however, that my grandma years will be more like your mom's.

  3. I didn't do anything either, in fact the fact that the kids had anything to wear was a fluke... we keep it pretty simple around here for all thos smalll holidays, Christmas and Easter is about all that gets any attention.

  4. Oh, I'm so with you! The stuff the stuff the stuff. It's endless. Having four kids takes up enough space not to mention the endless stuff that comes with them. I love my kids to have toys, but seriously, they wear out of them in five minutes.

    I have a friend that will still not let go of the fact that she bought my baby a halloween outfit and forgot to put her in it.. It's a running joke now.

    I once bought my daughter day of the week undies. She was putting on some Wednesday panties and she asked what day it was. I said it's Sunday honey. I'm so sorry, you didn't get the kind of mommy to get those kind of details right.

    Love them I say....who needs the stuff.

  5. Anonymous6:41 AM

    either you have the "holiday gene" or you do not. forcing yourself to have the "holiday/seasonal gene" will just result in feelings of inadequacy b/c some more creative mom (more creative ONLY in the holiday department) will do it better.
    i do not have the "holiday gene" either. i am too practical. i hate that about myself, but when i try to do it any other way, i fail miserably and waste a lot of money and time. here's something horrible to admit - i don't even like to have birthday parties. how's that for good mom? it's not that i don't love my kids or that i don't want to celebrate them. it's just that, again, i lack that gene. we do however, have the tradition of breakfast in bed for the birthday person. and we have cake for Jesus on christmas eve. and we take a picture of the whole family in front of grandma's red door on thanksgiving day. simple. whenever i try to go beyond, i end up looking at the haphazard christmas display on top of the entertainment center in the family room....till march 18.
    btw - no offense to those who have the gene. it's always fun to go to someone's home who has the gene. my kids think it's a "outing" and i feel like they've exposed them to a something different than what they are used to.
    it's a beautiful thing to be different from each other. how boring would it be if we were all the same?
    keep it simple, my friend. and above all, stay true to yourself.

  6. :). We went to an Irish dance festival and were the only family that managed to not wear anything green.. Love, J

  7. So funny! And I completely understand.

    Perhaps as the kids grow a bit older and they understand you're not wired that way, they will take initiative and you can just hand it over to them to create the enthusiasm.

  8. My youngest, black, adopted child's BIRTHDAY is on St. Patrick's Day.

    And I went to Austin with a bunch of women for the day.

    Feel better?

  9. This is why I read your blog. And why I deleted all the ones with craft and sewing projects. I didn't even know it was Wednesday yesterday, much less St. Patrick's Day.

  10. Oh my goodness, if you're going to beat yourself up about a holiday, don't make it ST. PATRICKS DAY!!! I was mad about that stupid holiday all day yesterday. What on earth other ethnic holiday stalks and punishes people who don't care to participate? It's madness, I tell you...

  11. I love it! we went to the mall yesterday with some friends and the first thing they said was, "where's your green?" It never even crossed my mind not once. Could have cared less. In my mind, not every single holiday has to be celebrated. And though I sometimes by a halloween shirt for my kids, I think it's a waste of money b/c they can only wear it for 3-4 weeks or I'm considered crazy for letting them wear it in public. So, I'm with you. Your blog is on my favorites list b/c you make me laugh and you keep it real. You encourage me to love my kids, not feel guilty b/c I'm not busy crafting and sewing and making everything we do from scratch. Keep it coming!!! : )

  12. I'm so glad to read this and know I'm not alone. I, too, am missing the "gene". I reluctantly do birthday parties (usually a small affair) and I have NEVER put treat bags in the cubbies for OTHER kids on all the minor holidays. It actually kind of bugs me when my kids get them, like who needs another pumpkin pencil? But I get that other people have that creative outlet and that's great for them.

    I struggled in my early mommy days thinking I wasn't a "fun" mom or I somehow was supposed to just try harder. Then I let that all go and settled on the truth that God wired me perfectly to be the mom he designed for my (HIS) children.

    Here's some hope for you. Your oldest is only 5. The days are coming when your kids will dress themselves in green or cut out Valentine hearts and hang them around the house. My daughter made a leprechaun trap yesterday. Fun, festive, and she did it!

  13. When my older kids were little, I never got around to anything cute for any holiday, except to throw something together at the last minute. Now that they are 10 and 13, (and I have a collection of younger kids, too) I seem to be trying a little more - but still nothing too extravagant. A themed vinyl tablecloth and some sort of themed centerpiece usually does the trick - the centerpiece is sometimes just a bowl of holiday candy - but the kids think it's festive, thankfully. My guilt comes because I was raised by a talented, crafty, thoughtful mommy who made everything special all the time. I hope my kids aren't too damaged . . . ha.

  14. I found your blog through a link to one of your posts about Haiti and I'm so happy I did! The most I did yesterday was make some green frosting for the after school cookies I made. I totally forgot to wear green myself and my 2 year old had no green on either. I think the only reason my 12 y/o twins wore green was so they wouldn't get pinched at school. No special meals or anything. I feel a little guilty when I hear about so many holiday traditions and we don't do any of them...but I'm starting to accept that I'm okay if I don't do it all.

  15. I had a sudden flashback to my freshman year at college. All of the other students were getting some pre-made care package their parents bought. I called my mom and gave her a hard time -- she said..but you don't like anything in that kit. Well, yeah, but obviously their parent's miss them more than mine...

    Well the next day by overnight fed ex arrived the greatest carepackage ever! 2 starlight mints, 1 piece of gum, a half of a lifesaver package, a handful of dried beans from the cupboard... you get the idea. My parents scrounged around the house and found stuff and then the best part is the labeled them with very funny names. "Mom's Magical Mung Beans" was my favorite :)

    They never had to send me another care package through college - that one showed the love and TRUE spirit of my family. We were never the pre-packaged holiday kind of folks.

  16. Anonymous8:24 AM

    I stopped at McDonald's and picked up shamrock shakes. They weren't dressed in green before but ended up in green since they both managed to spill at least some of the shakes on them. But don't worry, I don't do all of the holiday stuff either. We do a tree for Christmas and not much else. I have friends that have boxes and boxes of stuff they bring out. I have 1.

  17. Ahhhh! Better Off Dead is my FAVORITE movie!!! I am not a holiday decorator -- we don't even bother with a Christmas tree since we visit relatives for Christmas. Every once in a while I get inspired, though, and actually organize an activity. So we made leprechaun traps this year, which were a huge hit and made me feel like a super mom, despite my inadequate decor.

  18. I wouldn't beat your self up over it. I give props to Mom's who can go all out, all the time, but I don't know where they find the time or energy.

    The Kid came home from his mothers yesterday, and since he didn't have anything green, he decided to draw all over his arms in green marker...

    And then I got the dirty looks for not getting any corned beef and cabbage for him to eat. Oh well, there is always next year.

  19. Anonymous9:57 AM

    You did better than I. Got to school with kids in any color but green and realized it was ST. PAT's then. Oh well!! I chalk it up to having added child number 4 this past year; With #1 & #2 I did mangage. Lately, I must admit, I'm happy to keep up with the day to day routine. Pity was betowed upon my daughter in the form of a green shamrock sticter she put on her shirt:)

  20. laughing sooooo hard! loved Better off Dead back in the day. my preschool wore a GRAY shirt...how lame is that? And I had planned to make Shamrock Shakes as a dessert last night to do SOMETHING for the kids...but oops! out of ice cream! So nothing. Oh well.

  21. 1. Cupcakes are not snack.
    2. You're just allowing your mother-in-law to share these special times with your kids. It's a gift.

    I'm turning into a curmudgeon. All these holidays are just turning into opportunities for more junk food. I suggested making my son a lunch with all green things in it, like broccoli, celery, lettuce. He looked at me like I was crazy.

  22. Anonymous11:51 AM

    You know, we never did anything big for the holidays, and I turned out fine. Well, with respect to holidays, at least. If they actually mean something? Great! But buying green just to spend money and then have to put it away (also known as CLEANING, a big no-no) and find it again later..um..not so much.

    I think you're awesome. You found them shirts so they could be happy, you made them delicious green pudding (you think it looked gross but like the green milk idea? THAT is stomach curdling to me!), and let them chatter away with their excitement.

    Go you!

  23. In the long run, less is more! My 1.5y/o son ate green egg salad at a party, and, yup - green poop is the theme for today.

  24. Sweetie: You have four very small kids. Embrace imperfectionism and chaos and cut yourself some slack. It sounds like they had a wonderful St. Patty's Day, so no worry. It's not like you forgot to get a Christmas tree or anything like that. (Note to self: email Kristen in December to remind her about the tree.)

  25. Ditto to everything everyone else has already said. Your children were healthy, happy, fed, dressed and well-cared for. Please tell me that you don't care about this holiday that has become way overblown (cupcakes!? you've got to be kidding me) - and remember every day that YOU ARE ENOUGH.

    I did laugh out loud throughout the post, though, because my kids definitely didn't wear green...they actually wore their jammies to school...cuz they wanted to.

  26. Anonymous3:18 PM

    we took our daughter to see the St. Patrick's Day parade -decked her out in a cute green shirt and a yellow skirt, and off we went. Got there and remarked how easy it was to find parking. Took her to the playground and saw that all the temporary barriers were stacked, not upright. Then it hit us, we were a day late and a dollar short. That's how we roll.

  27. Anna Schaufler4:53 PM

    You are far from mediocre. You moved mountains to bring your babe home from Haiti. So St. Patrick's day is off your radar. Big deal. At least Kembe was home with you to not celebrate it. :-)
    I didn't wear green yesterday. I look better in blue.

  28. I'm not that mom either. So far from it. The world needs us though! Without us, the holiday-ers wouldn't look so good, now would they? ;-)

  29. Anonymous7:07 PM

    You are too funny!! Your blog is such a treat to read!!

  30. EXHALE! Thank GOD I'm not the only mom who isn't a poster child for Ladies Home Journal. I feel dread as every holiday approaches and I have not the slightest inclination towards the hoopla and sugary sweet. Though must admit a pang of guilt when my lovely 10-year old daughter informed me that at Valentine's Day I should *at least* give her a card. Ok, I'll try to muster that up next time.

  31. This is what grandmas are for.

  32. Someday we have to meet. You know, when you're hanging out in Minnesota just killing time! Why? Because you are me with better writing skills. Yep.

    I hate Christmas. No, that's not true! Really I love Christmas, I hate the WORK of Christmas. In the past 13 years, there have been three when I put the tree up just a day or so before the big birth, only to take it down the day after. I really want to buy a tree that pops open, all decorated, and goes back into the box the same way. Only, can it PUH LEEZE not weight 50 pounds? And can it fit right in the front corner of the storage room I can't get into because it's full? Really, the only reason I put the tree up anyway is because I feel guilty that my youngest (the last one left at home, who is 13 and has Down syndrome) wonders why her house doesn't look like Christmas when all of her friends' houses do! It reminded me of when I was about 14 or 15, and my mom mumbled something about, "Help yourself to the tree decorating, because I don't feel like doing it." And for the next several years it was "my job" to decorate for Christmas.

    So this year i did the tree thing, and guess what? My daughter could have cared less! Yep, she got my genes! And, based on my teen experience, it's clearly an inherited condition. So, my husband and I have decided that next year Christmas will be spent in some warm, tropical place. No Christmas tree, nuthin. Just a beach and sunshine.

    And yesterday for the green day, I too, had to rummage for something resembling green for my daughter to wear to school. PRAISE GOD for the shirt that fell off the shelf that was white with green stripes. That was all my daughter needed to feel included in the wearing of green.

    Most of the time I don't feel bad about my inadequacies as a mom. I just figure I have more important things to occupy my thoughts, like...well I'm sure there's something.

  33. Holidays wer always special to me because my mom was THAT mom. Lots of traditions, so much thoughtfulness, the small and big touches that just came so naturally to her and made everything so special for everyone. When I became a mom all I knew was what I had learned from her, so I started doing the same things. And about five years ago I had an epiphany that the years of Christmas Magic I had so loved while living under my parents' roof? It's nothing more than moms working their a$#$% off! But it's too late to stop now because my kids look forward to the holiday magic in this house. I really do love that they've developed a fondness and an appreciation for our family traditions (the majority of which don't involve purchasing stuff), but their little minds remember EVERYTHING from every different year and Lord help me if something's amiss from year to year.

    I admit I colored the milk and contemplated going further with leprechaun mischief and green little footprints around the house, but I stopped myself because I know if I go the distance it will be expected next year and the year after and the year after that. I gave myself a little (Saint) pat on the back as I served them green pancakes for breakfast but was brought down hours later when my daughter came home telling me how Sophia's house had been ransacked by a leprechaun who left green milk, green eggs, blah, blah, blah.

    And I was the only one who ate cabbage for dinner last night.

  34. Totally LOVED this post! I managed to get my son a St.Patty's Day t-shirt, and my daughter wore green, but it reminds me of this past Christmas. Why? Because this year was the first year where my son was old enough to really be in to stockings (he's 4)...my daughter not so much since she's not even 2. In any event, this Christmas was an "on" year, meaning my sister and brother-in-law and their kids and my husband and I and our kids were all together. We put the kids to bed and then shortly thereafter my sister said, "It's time to load the kids stockings". What? What stuff? She had gotten fun little things to stuff her kids stockings and I had COMPLETELY forgotten! Whoops! My mom ended up unwrapping little things she had bought and we stuffed them in there. Phew! I was saved! Really, truly, I think it's the time that we spend, more than the money that we spend. Your kids will have fond memories of things like funky pudding cups ;)

  35. Anonymous8:13 PM

    Okay, that's totally me. I don't have the holiday gene or the decorating gene (much to my husband's chagrin -- I don't get it most people's husbands would be happy their wife isn't bringing home crap for him to hang or put together -- but mine...no way!) Anyway. My kid wore a green sticker (that we got from school). No treats, nothing green, except maybe broccoli or green beans with dinner... and yes,I've got some irish in me. Just not the gene.

    I've also wondered if what I really was is lazy and the truth is, I really don't know. Some of it seems like an awful lot of trouble for very little return. But, if it's important to the kiddo's then I do my best, otherwise I just look the other way!


  36. Oh Kristen-So funny.
    First of all the fact that I am a teacher really helps out. I am always looking ahead to special day and planning them to the detail in advance. I LOVE dressing my kids up in holiday attire, then taking them to get their picture taken.
    The line about having my kids in orange outfits the day the pumpkin patch opens in not a stretch at all. TRUE STORY. I LOVE IT!! I love making things a big deal. I love special things. I feel so blessed to have 2 amazing children that it is fun to make things into a big deal for them.
    On St. Patrick's Day I took the kids to my class where we sang songs and went on a hunt for gold. What do you know we found a big black pot full of drinks and gold coin candy. SHOCKER!! Our class loved it and so did my kids. This is so how I am. I think the best part about me is that I am mom. I really think it is one of the few things that I would say I am good at. There is no way that I could write the way that you do and touch people the way that you do. So not my thing.
    Lucky charms is a good idea. I am so doing that next year.

  37. Kristen, St. Patrick's day is the one day you CAN celebrate without prior notice. When your kids come home from school and start asking about special activities, you just sprinkle a little glitter around the toy-strewn areas of your house and blame it on the Leprechauns! Then send them looking for gold--it usually shows up as the last of the toys are put away. It's perfect!

  38. i do almost nothing,as well. my kids have given up, phew. i love better off dead, we watch it every christmas eve. thats a tradition!

  39. Hold UP! When was St Patricks Day?

    Do not color Easter eggs.
    Do not own a Christmas Tree.
    Do not feel guilty until you point out how much we both such here in this post.


  40. I need you to know how important this post was for me THIS MORNING...it is far past St. Patty's day but I struggle with this on such a level, it's ridiculous. I "met" you through Jamie & Aaron (real life friends of ours)...anyway...I am TERRIBLE at birthday parties, I am terrible at holiday stuff...and I am FULL of good intentions. I have no follow through. I do in a lot of other ways...I just feel like a failure as a mother in the ways I fail instead of feeling like a success in the ways I succeed...so thank you.

  41. That is me all the way.

    Is that a bad thing?

  42. Rachael in Australia6:56 PM

    Hi, I've just found your blog and am enjoying reading. I almost clicked away when I checked your "about" page and saw the words craft, creative and scrap booking! I laughed out loud when I read the recommendation to go elsewhere to find such things!

    I also am hopeless at remembering to celebrate and "make special" certain days throughout the year. I used to beat myself up about it but now I just accept that I'm not wired that way. I have to remind myself that there are other things I do way better. I'm passionate about travelling and exploring new places and I take my children with me. Last year hubby and I took our 6 children on a two month tour of Australia (we live here). Previously we took 4 kids to New Zealand for a couple of months. And in 3 weeks I'm taking one of my daughters to England for a holiday (did the same thing with daughter number 1 four years ago.) We are not wealthy but live simply the rest of the time and choose to do this with our children.

    Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and that's what gives each family that special beauty that is unique to them.

    PS. My 14 year old daughter is also called India. It's a fabulous name and still not very common.


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