We're home from our annual framily Christmas weekend away. Every year for the past couple of years we have taken a couple of days to head away somewhere with our pals and their kiddos. Nowhere fancy, nowhere far - just a few days to switch off and be together. Each year we grow in number, adding squidgy new babies to the chaos. It is beautiful chaos. This year on the eve of our annual getaway, Levi was up all night with an ear infection - in our bed crying, refusing medicine (never been much of a calpol hound). Us, shining torches in his ear, worried, tired, calling the on-call doctor for advice.
We kept him off nursery and got him to the docs on Friday morning. The moment we went into the doctors surgery he perked up. Sick? Me? Nah. Regardless, she had a look and sure enough - ear infection. Antibiotics for the ear (snuck into his juice 3x daily) and an inhaler for his persistent wheezy cough.
We took the risk and decided that he was in good enough form to plough on and go away anyway. He was excited about hanging out with his pals and so were we. We needed it.
We clubbed in to rent a big house on the outskirts of Enniskillen. A big house with an outdoor 8-person hot tub.
Most of the day we stayed in sweats/jammies, coffee on tap. We all brought soups and stews and baked goods to munch on. The kids played, didn't share well, kissed and made up, watched DVD's, chased each other and the adults floated in and out of duty looking after, feeding, refereeing. Each time we do it we think to ourselves, it's not going to be as easy next year...more babies, more chaos, but to our surprise and shame it has always been great.
When we finally got all 6 children off to bed, we snuck out for a late night dip in the hot tub. We lined the baby monitors up like soldiers on guard and kept an eye on the lights (we actually forgot ours, but hey-ho). We talked, we laughed, we drank wine and cherry brandy and craft beer. We wearily dragged our damp, dehydrated bodies to bed at respectable hours - happy, full and satisfied.
There is something lovely about waking up and having different company. Slow moving mornings, kids entertaining each other, toys scattered, rejected toast on the floor, us playing pass the baby and taking turns making hot drinks and food. It felt like the perfect kind of simple and exactly how it should be.
I stole a few moments to continue reading through 'Bread & Wine' (as I mentioned in my last post) and there was a chapter all about the significance of being present over perfection that has really stuck with me over the last couple of days. It's in me as a person to want to make things happen (my top strengthsfinder characteristic is that of an 'Activator', after all) so it is easy and normal for me to run myself ragged trying to make things fancy and well organised and candle-lit and impossibly homemade - especially so around Christmas. But what I'm learning is that sometimes, choosing simplicity and allowing yourself space to rest and be present is pretty freeing and a gift in itself. It's freeing for ourselves, but I think it's also freeing for others who probably find the expectations of this season just as frantic and impossible too.
Shauna put's it best when she writes: "But this season I'm not trying for perfect. I'm just trying to show up, every time, with honesty and attentiveness. Let's be courageous in these days. Let's chose love and rest and grace. Let's use our minutes and hours to create memories with the people we love instead of dragging them on one more errand or shushing them while we accomplish one more seemingly necessary thing. Let's honour the story - the silent night, the angels, the miracle child, the simple birth, with each choice that we make".
Don't you just love that? Maybe you'll commit to that this Christmas as well? There's still time.