Oklahoma City family fun is everywhere this time of year.
There are holiday events of so many varieties: charitable causes, Winter Break camps, Santa breakfasts and advent recitals. Church, school and family seem to all converge in honor of what is a beautiful occasion and I do want to be there.
Sometimes, those Christmas lights shine so brightly, they dizzy me. I squint in their radiance and try to plan my December with just enough merry and bright for a happy season.
I feel there's a certain amount of pressure to create the ideal Christmas for your family, foster visions of sugar plums and perfect evenings with hot cocoa and homemade marshmallows, neat and tidy as a neatly wrapped gift.
Balancing holiday prep and extra events to attend with an already-full schedule is what I'm looking at this week as I turn the calendar to December. So many of the dates are already filled in with deadlines, performances and commitments.
I'm sure it'll all be great or at least great when it's done and peace on earth reigns, post-holiday.
It's too easy to lose real joy in this season of all-things Christmas. As a mom, I don't want to just go through the motions and tick off the days counting down to Dec. 25.
There are plenty of tips from other moms on the internet for how to create a perfect family Christmas and focus on what really matters. I can only speak for myself and what has worked for me is just not planning as much.
Learning to say no is really difficult but time is the ultimate gift and my family gets more of it when I turn down what doesn't pass the "Will I remember doing this next season?" test.
Spontaneous fun isn't something I really have time for; now and then, though, it does find you, as long as you're looking.
Yesterday, I went to pick up my son, Isaac, at preschool and noticed a food truck stationed on a college campus corner. We drive by the university every day but this was the first time it was there, the shiny silver RV that houses Snow S'more. Snow cones and s'mores sounded kind of perfect for an after-school snack during the only November warm enough to eat shaved ice and not have chocolate bars melt into mittens.
"No," I thought. "I'm too busy. We can't do that. I have things I need to get done. There's just no time. Where would I even park? I don't have a student or faculty permit. There's no real reason to buy a s'more anyway. Let's just go home." I steered the car toward the familiar.
I went inside for Isaac, who didn't say "hi." Instead, he said "I'm hungry. I missed you. Are you going to be busy working tonight too?"
This week was unusually busy and we were feeling that. It's just harder to admit for adults, I think.
I took what Isaac said as a sign and decided to take a few minutes and just go with it. It wasn't only about what I needed; Isaac was ready for some quality time.
Isaac, Gabriel and I marched out to the parking lot, put a thicker jacket on the baby and unfolded the umbrella stroller. We rushed across the parking lot in the wind and hurried through a student crosswalk.
Isaac asked me to read him the Snow S'more menu and I managed to talk him out of a snow cone as we shivered on the sidewalk; the day was turning cold and we did have to be going. "Too cold, too messy," I chided. There's only so much I can let go. I just wasn't going to deal with a snow cone mess.
We settled on the Curious George s'more and I did see a spark of joy as Isaac tasted chocolate and banana.
He jumped up and down to stay warm but also because he was happy.
Part of the s'more slipped from his fingers and fell on the sidewalk, banana-side down. Isaac stared up at me with his own chocolate brown eyes, anxious to see what I was going to say about dropping part of it.
Nothing. I said nothing.
He kept smiling and jumping. It was something different. No one scolded anyone. No one said "Hurry and eat that. We have to go." No one said "But I want a drink too." We were just happy.
Melted chocolate oozed between Gabriel's fingers and marshmallow sticky clung to their coats. I asked for extra wet wipes and got them cleaned up.
We walked back down the long sidewalk, chasing our shadows as we kept moving. Isaac sang his class song, "Away in a Manger," against the wind. "Away in a manger, no crib for a bed…" How many more years will he want to sing that song? I want to remember it, not skate past it in the rush of the day.
We crossed the street and loaded everything and everyone back into the car. I kicked the stroller and loaded it into the back, unfolded. Why are those things so difficult to fold? The chocolate was still thick in my mouth as I came back to an ordinary Thursday.
I think Isaac will remember the s'more we shared for no reason at all. I hope he'll remember it more than me working late. I know I will and maybe even more than anything else this season.
If you're looking for a festive event to make local memories, check out MetroFamily's Winter Fun Guide here.
Find the joy in Oklahoma City this season! It's there, I promise.