Relieve some holiday stress by slowing down

Dec 22 2010 - 7:29pm


This past week we hosted my husband's office party at our home. That meant I wanted the house in tip top condition. Now, I might not be a perfect housekeeper, but it's not for lack of trying. It's those blasted kids of his (mine, when they're good).

First on my list was toy removal. This is similar to snow removal, since the only way to clear them all out involves hiring a really big truck. You know how some parents wish their kids would play with all the toys they buy? Believe me, that's the last thing you want. I've got one of those. He's five, and I can always follow the trail of animals through the house to find him.

My list continued with seemly simple chores like "clean under bar". The problem with the kitchen bar is that every time I clean under it, Someone inevitably gets hungry. And that same 3-year-old Someone likes to throw her crusts/peels/yogurt lids/spoons/bruised grapes/paper plates/and kitchen sinks under the previously mentioned bar. Every. Single. Meal.

The guests were slated for arrival on Saturday around 5:30, and by Friday night I realized that my dreams of clean homedome were never to be. Thinking I could get away with at least washing the windows before the kids went to bed, I made my way from the windows in the family room, to the dining room, on into the living room, and back to the family room.

And there, pressing his nose and fingers and tongue up against my newly shined window, was Rex (5). And on the window right next to him, proffering the same exact pose, was his little sister, June (3).

How? How was I supposed to accomplish any of the 42 tasks lined out on my To Do list with those two little rats running around like they're at camp all the time? I stomped, yelled, re-washed the windows, and huffed back to my list. One down.

Just about this time Harrison (7) moseyed into the kitchen and asked for a snack. In case you're wondering, that's what my children do. They take turns eating to ensure that every 10 minutes of my day, like clockwork, I encounter a pre-meditated interruption. I'm quite convinced that they stay up late hours mapping out said eating schedule, just to make sure I never finish anything.

"Mom, I'm hungry," he said.

"Of course you are," I replied with all the tenderness of an armadillo.

"What can I eat?" Part of their attack plan involves me using my brain, just to make sure the laundry detergent I spend so much time with hasn't turned it to jelly.

"I don't know, have a sandwich." He opened the pantry door and removed the peanut butter and honey.

Next to the pantry door, on the wall, hangs a small magnetic board. On it you will find sentimental photos of my darling family, baby announcements, and what I like to call "be better" statements. These are quotes I find, print off, then hang in strategic places around the house to encourage good, grown-up behavior.

They're obviously working so well.

I turned and watched in slow motion as my son spied the loosely attached papers, looked at the door, then with all his 7-year-old strength, slammed the pantry door shut, creating an explosion of air that blew every single thing off the board.

(Cue really scary mommy music.)

It was the last straw. All the frustration and anxiety I was feeling about the party, and my constantly deteriorating house, bubbled up like the bottle of Sprite I'd found Harrison shaking earlier that morning. I exploded on that kitchen like a car bomb.

He stood there and (per my roaring suggestion) quickly started picking up the scattered pictures and announcements. I ranted on about how nobody helps me, they're all out to get me with their toys, and dirty undies, and fingerprints.

And right then, in the middle of my big moment, my boy looked me straight in the eye, and held up one of my sayings. It read, very simply, "Say Something Nice."

Talk about a vacuum. In one second flat, he'd removed every ounce of geological pressure from my eruption, and left me with nothing but speechless shame. What was I doing? These are my children, not my tenants (because tenants pay rent). Here I am, responsible for teaching them how to control their behavior, and the best I can come up with in the heat of the moment is tyrannical yelling?

The holidays are wonderful. They're also crazy and stressful and frustrating. Christmas only comes once a year; just think how nice it would be if everyone took the time to remember how important it is to slow down and say something nice.

I have the feeling Jesus would really go for that.

Annie Valentine is a Layton wife, mother and blogger/columnist. Readers can contact her at or visit her blog at

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