I tried.  I really did.

I tried to be 'in the moment' and have everything done ahead of time so we could enjoy every second of the week before Christmas together as a family.

I decorated the entire house, created a plan for all the fun things we'd do over the break (and shopped for supplies), made ornaments with the kids, shopped and bought presents, ran lots of errands (including purchasing and decorating our tree and three trips to Publix for groceries and stamps), attended a couple of Christmas parties, made my Christmas cards (and mom's too) and all out went crazy trying to do everything that needed to be done in the weeks before Christmas. 

I worked up until the week before Christmas and on my last day at work I went out with a bang -- got peed on, stepped in poop *(yes, my job is glamorous), and had Logan get in trouble at school.  I also managed to have a very precious snowglobe broken into a million pieces (I bought it at a fundraiser for the Make a Wish Foundation the first Christmas Ryan and I celebrated together. I honestly didn't realize just how priceless it was to me until I found it shattered all over the tile).
But it didn't get any better the week of Christmas.  Ryan had the week off work and I had lots of things planned for us to do...one of which was not 'buy a new car' but we kind of reached a place where our 12 year old Nissan Pathfinder was either going to cost a lot to repair or had to be replaced.  This meant we spent a lot of time talking and researching and using up precious free time as a family deciding what to do and trying to figure out how we'd make that happen. On top of that, Lauren got a stomach bug - one which was totally random and like nothing I had ever seen.  Once she had not been sick for two days and we decided to go out to dinner she ended up throwing up all over me as we walked outside - we had just run into an old friend and there we were talking and Lauren is throwing up over my shoulder as we tried to dash into the bushes (my only saving grace was that we were indeed outside).  One day later Ryan threw out his back and was in a lot of pain - and as you might have guessed, I got the stomach bug.   Despite this, on Wednesday we left the kids at Mimi and Poppy's and drove all the way out to Starke to look at a Jeep and then to another local dealership where we decided we were officially tired, stressed and too broke to by a new vehicle (when you haven't had a car payment in at least three years it's hard to accept that the 'average' car payment will cost you about $450 a month).  Thursday we attempted to cram in seeing Santa and finishing up our present-shopping but the line to see him was a mile long.  So we tried to convince the kids it would be a good idea to just ride the little train they have that drives around the mall and they seemed to like that idea.  We walked over there only to discover it was cash-only and of course we had no cash.  so we went home and tried to be productive -- Lauren and I went to a local produce store to buy what we needed for Christmas Eve dinner (only to once again discover it was cash-only.  Lesson learned:  I really need to start carrying cash).  Ryan and Logan went to get estimates on the Pathfinder and purchase a couple of last-minute gifts.  I think we might have managed to look at Christmas lights that night but it's kind of a blur to be honest.  On Friday morning we ran out to try to see Santa and ride the train (this time it was a success) and then off to Oakleaf to snap pictures of Logan, Lauren and Camryn.  Five minutes into shooting we realized Logan had the stomach bug.  Fortunately we made it home before he got sick but it was about that same time that I realized we had really not finished Christmas shopping for Lauren.  So Ryan ran out to the store while I stayed home with Logan (who got sick four times and is the most dramatic child you've ever seen when he throws up).  Two hours later Ryan got home and I locked myself in the bedroom for the next five hours wrapping gifts.
I'll admit that somewhere in there I had a little meltdown. I was physically and emotionally drained.  And yes, I'll admit I have inherited my mother's 'holiday perfection syndrome' which is really cruel because back before I had kids I used to make fun of her for it.
But despite all this chaos, I really believe God answered my prayers for a peaceful, healthy, happy Christmas Eve and Christmas day.  I prayed for His mercy, for His answers, for His peace, and not only did I receive those things but also the reminder that I needed to slow down and remember this other stuff was just that -- 'stuff'.

I talk about remembering the true meaning of Christmas but get so caught up in all there is to do and we have going on that I forgot the basics.  The most precious gifts truly are those simple things that don't fit under a tree:  health, family, and most importantly, the love and of a God who sent His son to save us.
Unfortunately it just took a lot of things that went wrong to remind me of the way I should have been thinking all along.

So without further adieu, if you've made it this far I'll reward you with some photos (the few that I have) from our Christmas 'vacation'... 

(you can really tell just how bad he was feeling here)

Hope your Christmas was beautiful, peaceful, healthy and blessed with the true spirit of Christmas.