caring for a grandchild, Self-care

The Twelve Disasters of Christmas

Our four generations ranged in age from one to one hundred and one. They arrived on different days in planes, trains, cars, and an oversized rental “boat.” It’s been—shall we say—a chaotic week. Some have gone home, some are still here, one is coming again. I’ve escaped for the day.

It wasn’t all disaster, by any stretch, but it makes a catchy title. One thing I’ve discovered in the years of this blog is that readership zooms when the title smacks of crisis.

In a special treat, my daughter-in-law’s father joined us from Indiana.

1. When Papa Marc arrived at the Indianapolis airport, he found there was no pilot for his flight. I dunno, he/she just didn’t want to work on Christmas Eve? Instead of arriving in Seattle at noon, he didn’t arrive until 8pm.

A car had been rented to haul the littles—the adorable and funny 19 month old and the brilliant, wild and crazy nearly four year old, along with Papa Marc. When they picked it up, they were given an unsolicited upgrade to an 8-passenger Suburban the size of a boat that took up half the parking area at the house. (Do people really buy those things?)

2. They left their little Subaru at the airport for Papa Marc to drive himself down, where there were no available parking spots under cover, and came on down the 70 miles of I-5 in the boat as it began to snow. When Papa Marc arrived, he couldn’t find the car. The lot numbers, aisle letters, and cars were covered in snow.

I overheard an unconfirmed report that there hasn’t been a white Christmas where I live in ten years.


Out on the deck alone. This was Adrian’s first snow on two feet.

We spent Christmas Eve afternoon cutting out and frosting sugar cookies to leave for Santa. Wonderful chaos, modest melt downs.


Before the sprinkle top went into the frosting.

When the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, the story read, the littles bedded, and cuz-uncle Joel arrived from Seattle by train, the four grownups present settled down to Bailey’s Flat White martinis in the martini glasses I never get to use because I don’t drink martinis. They were yum. (You can find the recipe here, along with 11 other recipes for Christmas cheer on the blog of a friend I’ve never met.)


3. When we got up at 5:30 on Christmas morning—the littles, their moms, and me (Papa Marc and Joel wisely stayed in bed, the others had not yet arrived)—the power had been out for hours. It was cold. And dark. And cold. Also there was no coffee.

Fortunately the wise man in the red suit had brought sleeping bags for Elliot and Adrian, and a head lamp was found in a stocking. I supplied lanterns and firewood. The power returned at 8 after the stockings had long been emptied. It was a Christmas morning to be talked about when the littles have their own littles and I am the great grandmother.


I was very pleased with my gifts to the youngest and the oldest generations. I fantasized about squeals of delight from the younger, tears from the elder. That didn’t happen, but it definitely doesn’t go on the disaster list. One thing I have learned about Christmas, and life in general, is to let go of expectations. No good ever comes of it. Really, it was enough to have enjoyed the creating and the giving.

The moms liked the 88 wooden blocks I made (with my neighbor’s help); and my mother will come to appreciate the book I formatted of the story she recorded, my sister transcribed, and I edited. Her reaction was underwhelmed. She couldn’t see it, and…well, I won’t make excuses for her; she’s old and her emotions about anything are mostly nonexistent. They were really good gifts though. And Adrian loved his umbrella!

It’s blocks! It’s more blocks! What? More blocks?




4. Our like-family friend Sue had a medical crisis a few days before the Day and was hospitalized for a few days. She didn’t feel up to Christmas as usual with us and we missed her terribly. She’s also primary chef for dinner; I pretty much did it by myself this year. (This is really three disasters, but that would make more than 12 total.)

The turkey was perfectly cooked. Go me. The mashed potatoes were not a disaster.

5. Who knew nephew Joel had to work the day after the Day and left after just a few hours with his parents (my sister and BIL) who didn’t arrive from Virginia until mid-afternoon on Christmas Day. Made for a scheduling nightmare: when to get Mama to the house for dinner and gifting and back to the Manor before she got too tired, and have our own adult round-robin gifting after the oldest and youngest were bedded and before the train arrived? We managed.

6. Elliot loves donuts. I mean he really loves donuts. But he didn’t necessarily want to help me make them on the day after the Day. (Again, letting go of expectation.) Adrian did though! He dumped the entire bottle of decorative candies into the batter while my back was turned for a nano-second. He didn’t see it as disaster, so it wasn’t really.


Sprinkles rule.


I successfully pre-made boiled cider to make said donuts. i.e. I boiled apple cider for four hours until it was the consistency of syrup without burning it. Pretty yummy stuff.

7. The cider-infused donuts are glazed with more of the boiled cider along with sugar, corn syrup, and water. I let it boil over on the stove while taking donuts out of the oven. Need I say more? I burned my hand on the hot glaze. I burned my other hand on the oven door.

Emma, daughter extraordinaire, who—like most of us, I suppose—remains calm in other people’s disasters (and, unlike most of us, also her own) cleaned it up.

8. Meanwhile, daughter-in-law Wynne, making oatmeal for the littles, added too much water. She put it in the microwave to reduce the liquid and it boiled over.

I cleaned up her mess. It takes a village. 

9. I got the tiniest drop of glaze on the sleeve of Elliot’s clean shirt that he had just come upstairs in. His mom prevented the inevitable meltdown by quickly ripping it off him and getting another.

Adrian loved, no, I mean LOVED, eating the donuts. Tickled him crazy. Or something did.



Sledding happened, and a snowy woods walk. Birds were fed bread crumbs.


Hiking with Papa Marc.


10. The littlest little slept in my room for three nights. He goes to bed early and, like me, gets up early. Seemed like a good idea: the moms, weary of dealing with energetic children, could get a little extra morning sleep. Except the little one woke up in the middle of each night, and stayed awake for two hours. I averaged about four hours of sleep a night.


On the up side, when I moved the wee one from his bed to mine in an only moderately successful attempt to get him back to sleep each night, I got to snuggle with a tiny human.

11. One of the martini glasses was broken, and now there are three. And a Pyrex bowl lid was melted in the microwave.

But no matter, I was so happy to have my sweet niece from Seattle here for a day longer than I expected.

12. The 15th annual Boxing Day party—hosted by sister and Sue at Sue’s home for the past 14 years (an escape from being in charge for me each year I’ve been back in the PNW)—was at my house at the last minute. (See disaster #5.)

All in all, everything turned out fine. Small disasters are just rocks in the path to negotiate. And now I’m well past my word count, but you can’t have too many photos of cute children. Can you? (I just realized there’s not much here about the three older generations present. Christmas is about the children, what can I say?)


Thank you, dear readers, for being in this crazy world with me, and for reading my ramblings. I wish you past or future good cheer, whichever of the 29 winter holidays you celebrate. See you in the new year.



7 thoughts on “The Twelve Disasters of Christmas”

  1. What a lovely story you shared it all so well in the book of your family is priceless you are a wonder each and every day love you lots


  2. Sounds to me like the perfect Christmas ! Wonder, mischief and stories. What could be better ? And was that the famed green bowl ? Loved the pictures. Joyful ! Those boys are beautiful *


    1. It is the famed green bowl. If that had gotten broken, I would not have been so charitable. And if all “expectations” had been met, you are right, there would have been no story! Who needs some sappy Norman Rockwell Christmas anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Looks like a good time was had by all! We really should eventually remedy the “friends that never met” thing….or, perhaps, that’s part of the mystique. 🙂


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