Hey all your GEM’s!

The holidays are almost upon us and while most of us look forward to the holiday season, only us moms really know the huge amount of work involved and the stress that Christmas can bring.

So I think this great piece from our regular columnist Rachel Vidoni will have a lot of you nodding along in agreement… take it away Rachel…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I’d really like to shoot the marketing agencies that make holiday commercials. It’s the first week in December and while I started the month out strong, I already feel incredibly behind.

The turkey wasn’t even cold in the fridge yet, and I had already put up the majority of my holiday decorations. I designed and ordered our holiday cards and family collage calendars from one of those photo-sharing sites, within 24 hours of the on-line specials expiring. You do not want to miss the free shipping and 50% off calendars, or it ends up costing you two years of your 401K. I know this because I missed the deadline two years ago. My husband can’t retire until he’s 70 now.

But my holiday momentum has stalled. The decorations that are supposed to bedeck my downstairs are still in boxes behind the couch. I have not purchased a single present for my children. I haven’t even made the list yet of things we’re going to buy them. When I don’t even have my lists made, you know there’s a glitch in the gears.

The commercials on TV are no consolation and only reinforce that I am behind in my holiday spiritedness. Scenes depicting mothers bonding with their children over sugar cookie cutouts and pretty red frosting and sprinkles, giggling together while mom playfully dabs frosting on her daughter’s nose, make me feel inadequate. The reality of my kitchen is crap on every counter, food crumbs in floor corners, recipe papers printed with great expectation crumpled and shoved into the cupboards. My kitchen table is littered with pompoms, glue, and mini cupcake holders—my daughter’s latest craft excitement. Where the hell is my peaceful, cookie-smelling kitchen? The one that Nestle says I’m supposed to have?

Then there’s the Folgers’ commercial where the brother comes home from some far-away land in the dark hours of the morning. His sister joyfully opens the door, embraces him in a hug, sits on the counter (which of course is clean), and announces that his return is her Christmas present and all she needs. I admit that two seconds into this commercial I’m sobbing like a baby. Maybe it’s the clean living room that gets me, or the glow from the perfectly decorated tree in the front window, while snow falls softly on her brother’s shoulders as he stands in the doorway. It’s such a touching bit of faux-reality, I half wish my son would go overseas for a few months in the fall, just so I can greet him at the door with expectant tears in my eyes, feel that rush of love and anticipation warm me up like a shot of single malt scotch. (Or Folgers coffee). I know he’s only 11. But the feelings that commercial elicits in me are downright euphoric. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of tears in my eyes during December, but most of them come from exhaustion, frustration, and the fact that my living room is always cluttered. I’m pretty sure I love that commercial because of the clean living room.

Although my decorations are up, it’s difficult to enjoy them because every room in the entire house is trashed. I don’t mean a few things out of order or a pair of dirty socks outside the hamper, but destroyed. Toys, books, laundry, coloring pages, shoes, dirty jackets, and a glass chess set cover my floors like confetti. Every thing I look at is another item on my To Clean list. And while I may have a warm, roaring fire to enjoy, its beauty is offset by the wood debris, tree bark, and dirt that has come in with the logs, making the trek from our backdoor to the fireplace look like a weathered woodland path.

The sad thing is, I don’t have time to clean it. I need to send out Christmas cards, make presents for the kids’ teachers, bus drivers, and grandparents. I should be baking cookies and fudge and peanut butter balls 24/7. We’re supposed to be picking out our Christmas tree with joy and excitement, instead of shouting, “We are NOT paying over a hundred dollars for a tree that will die in two weeks, I don’t care HOW perfect it is!!” I’m supposed to be playing holiday music and dancing with the children in the living room instead of shrieking my “Please pick up your crap I won’t ask you again!” mantra. Can’t they see the decorations are up? Don’t they want that Christmas commercial life too?

This year I’m going to ask Santa for a map to that parallel universe, the one that looks a lot like mine, but exists only inside our 40” flat screen. I’ve repeatedly asked him to send me a gaggle of elves that would pick up my house while I sleep, but he’s yet to deliver on that request. Perhaps I’ll have better luck with that map that leads to cookie-scented kitchens, professionally decorated Christmas trees, and sparkling dust-free mantles. Where fresh greenery doesn’t dry up in the heat of a living room and sprinkle the carpet with potpourri on December 24th, and the gingerbread houses don’t look like some child sucked all the candy first and then glued on the sticky bits with their toes. You know, a Pleasantville-Stepfordesque kind of life.

Yes, I know. My three children are healthy, my husband is employed and loves me, and our roof doesn’t leak. And while I know that’s about as perfect as you can get, it still doesn’t stop this mediocre mom from wishing on occasion, that life was a little more clean, pristine, and peaceful. Even if for a moment.

Rachel Vidoni is a professional writer and blogger and former classroom teacher. She is a mediocre mother to three pretty neat kids. You can follow her humor and family blog at www.eastcoastmusings.blogspot.com. You might not be a better parent after reading her blog, but you will feel like one.