Merry Slacker Christmas

Each year, when the Pottery Barn and William-Sonoma catalogs arrive in November, I have ideas of grandeur about how I will decorate for Christmas:  A big, beautiful tree, new tartan plaid pillows on the couches, fresh greenery on the mantels, holly in all the vases … But those thoughts are only fleeting because I soon remember that I don’t “do” the holidays anymore.  My kids have outgrown the over-the-top holiday hoopla, so I’ve scaled back in response … Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself to assuage any lingering guilt I may feel.

Last year at the Tarr house, it was The Year Without a Santa Claus — mainly because we were out of town for the holidays.  This year, it’s what I’m affectionately calling, “Slacker Christmas.”  You see, I really enjoyed our stress-free, minimalist approach to the holidays last year and decided to build on that in 2015.  Earlier in the year, we celebrated Slacker Valentine’s DaySlacker St. Patrick’s Day, Slacker Easter and even Slacker Halloween.  Now, it’s Slacker Christmas.  It’s all part of my attempt to live a simpler, calmer, better life.  To cut back on stress and cut myself some slack in order to be happy.

What does Slacker Christmas look?  It’s simple:  No family excursion to find the perfect tree and cut it down ourselves with a hand-held saw.  No color-coordinated, professionally shot Christmas cards mailed to 200 of our nearest and dearest.  No catalog-inspired decorations or grandiose outdoor light display.  No Elf on the Shelf, mistletoe or homemade cookies for Santa either.  Not at the Tarr house.  Instead, it’s a store-bought tree displayed in the only decorated room in the house, a small wreath on the front door with simple outdoor lights and an e-card that uses a nearly year-old family photo because it’s the most recent decent one we have.  Practical and understated, with just enough holiday cheer to keep my boys happy and me sane.

I admit it’s easier for me to accept Slacker Christmas now that my kids are older and don’t believe in Santa Claus or the Elf on the Shelf.  When they were younger, I went all out decorating for the holidays.  I felt obligated to create a picture-perfect scene and tradition-filled memories.  I became a lunatic for weeks, spending tons of time and money on something that really only excited them for all of 10 minutes before they were on to the next thing.  Now that they are older (and I’m older), I feel less obligated to make my home an over-the-top, Pottery Barn-inspired wonderland.  I have two boys.  They don’t care about tartan plaid pillows.  All they want is a tree with cheesy, colored lights, their stockings by the fireplace and an endless supply of candy canes.  Easy, peasy.  Slacker Christmas, I think I love you!


Our tree: cheesy and simple, just like the boys wanted.

I do get a little envious momentarily, opening all the beautiful holiday cards we receive from family and friends.  And I still get occasional pangs of guilt, wondering if I’m cheating my kids out of lifelong memories or pushing them to grow up too fast.  But like my grandiose decorating ideas, these feelings are fleeting because I know that forcing a 9-1/2 and 12-1/2-year-old to sit on Santa’s lap at the mall or finding time to host a gingerbread house-making party amidst our already packed winter schedule is just too stressful and, frankly, not worth it.  The same goes for filling the yard with plastic skeletons and styrofoam tombstones in October or dying and hiding three dozen eggs that no one will eat once found.  I’m learning that less really can be more.

So whether you’re a holiday powerhouse or a holiday slouch, do whatever works for you in order to have a very Merry Christmas, stress-free!



The Week I Went On Strike

Two weeks ago, I wrote about feeling grateful despite all my bitching.  I promised to find the silver lining in all situations and remember how lucky I am.  I even swore off complaining for 24 hours … Well, times up!

This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year — at least according to the song.  But not for me.  The days between Thanksgiving and Christmas stress me out.  I never seem to have enough time, money or energy to do all the things I want or need to do.  I feel more like a Scrooge than an elf and I am anything but jolly.  Consequently, my fuse runs pretty short these days and the kids’ bickering and sassiness doesn’t help the situation.  Like most moms I know, I’m stretched, stressed and feeling under appreciated and overworked … It’s not good.


Then last Sunday night, I reached the end of my rope.  I had spent the better half of the week yelling at my kids for various offenses, most of which boiled down to them not following directions.  In my book, repeatedly not following instructions is the same as not listening — something I find both frustrating and disrespectful.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, their level of back talk and impudence had reached a new high and I had officially had enough.  So at 8PM, I declared a strike.  As of Monday morning, I was no longer “doing” for them … At least not for the next five days.


I’m pretty sure the boys thought I was bluffing … That is, until 6AM Monday morning rolled around and I was not at my middle schooler’s bedside, waking him for school.  Nor was I downstairs making him an omelette and oatmeal or cutting up a melon for breakfast.  Instead, I was in our basement, getting in a quick treadmill run before heading out to the gym for my morning workout.  After school was more of the same:  I did my own thing while they did theirs.  I let them know what time we needed to leave in order to get to their respective practices on-time, but I didn’t micromanage the afternoon.  I also reminded them of our ‘schoolwork-before-sports’ rule, but it was up to them to pace themselves in order to get their homework done, cook dinner, clean it up and be ready to go at the designated time.

The first two days were a bit rocky and there was still a little bit of yelling on my part and sauce on theirs.  My husband stepped up and supervised the early morning routine, for which I was very grateful, and by day three, everyone knew what to expect.  They weren’t thrilled, but sloppily and begrudgingly they survived five full days of me “not doing.”


Now that it’s Friday night and the kids are asleep, my strike is officially over.  Was it successful?  Did the boys learn anything from this experience?  Will they appreciate me more now?  I don’t know.  Possibly not.  But I learned a few things from my five-day work stoppage.  Most notably I learned that …

  • being off-duty as a mom doesn’t mean much when your kids aren’t old enough to drive
  • boycotting laundry for a week really only hurts me
  • my boys are fully capable of feeding themselves, but their dishwashing skills need work
  • afternoons are much quieter when I don’t supervise homework (fingers crossed that they actually did their homework this week)
  • my husband got the short end of the stick this week and suffered the most (sorry about that, S!)
  • next time I go on strike, I’m doing it from the beach

It’s going to be hard to give up my kid-free morning time next week, but now that I know the boys can handle more morning responsibilities, I’m going to cut back on what I do for them.  Not because I don’t love them, but because I want them to be more independent and self-sufficient … and because I need time to check my emails and sip hot tea.