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Wednesday, October 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Family

The Full Suburban: For better or worse, chaos creates magic

By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

The Ditto family survived Christmas this year by the skin of our teeth. I literally skinned my teeth while army crawling away from my kids as they were fighting about who had to sit in the back row of the Suburban on our way to a holiday light show.

I can relate to my 3 year old, who got in trouble a few weeks ago and retaliated by yelling, “I HATE Christmas!” And then, after being informed that little boys who hate Christmas don’t get any presents, grumpily retorted, “FINE. I love Christmas.”

I love Christmas, too. I love the surprises, the planning, the food and the goodwill that abounds. But by about Dec. 20, I am pretty much spent. I very much identified with a quote I saw earlier this month: “I’m going to lay under the tree to remind my kids that I’m a gift.”

Yes! It’s as if my little eggnog guzzlers don’t realize that every fun and worthwhile thing they experience during the holiday season is not in fact conjured out of thin air, but is orchestrated by ME, the mother they all just whined at because I told them to change out of their basketball shorts and into pants.

Being a mom during the holidays is a bit of a thankless job. For reference, here are a few of the things that I dealt with in the days leading up to Christmas:

Orchestrated a last-minute request for two white elephant gifts, a homemade pie and four kids to be at three different holiday events happening at exactly the same time.

Untangled shoelaces for a kid who had tied his shoes together in sailor-grade knots and WORN THEM THAT WAY for two days.

Convinced a first grader that the “Yeti for Bed” jammies he had chosen for pajama day at school were in fact too small and showed his bum crack.

Helped manage the affairs of our Elf on the Shelf, who left a note for my kids refusing to return to our very merry household until everyone stopped fighting about everything.

We watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” as a family before Christmas, and I cringed as George Bailey had his major temper tantrum on Christmas Eve. He’s just learned that he might lose his business and go to jail, and he returns home to find the house a tinseled disaster, with one kid pounding out songs on the piano and another one following him around asking how to spell “hallelujah.” As he yells at everybody and just about murders a loose banister cap, I looked around sheepishly at my kids – because I have acted exactly the same way on more than one occasion.

“George Bailey, I see your tantrum, and raise you one hour of laying on your bed in the dark, listening to a white noise machine so you can’t hear anything besides the sound of your finger scrolling through Facebook.”

Sometimes those who matter the very most get our very least, don’t they? George Bailey needed an angel to help him realize that he had a wonderful life. I could be reminded with just a couple more hours’ sleep and maybe a little less glitter on my floor. But really, when it comes down to it, I much prefer the chaos of December to the relative wasteland of joy that is January.

In January, all the hedonistic tendencies you’d leaned into the previous month can no longer even be remotely justified (I’m not talking anything major; more along the lines of downing a couple king-sized boxes of Junior Mints every night before bed). Instead of bursting with delightful Christmas cards, my January mailbox limps along with mammogram bills and pizza ads. There are no more Christmas lights, festive music or online shopping binges in the middle of the night. It’s all slim down, set goals and get in control, none of which is particularly my strong suit. And I swear, if it gets bad enough, I’m going to buy a pogo stick on Amazon at two in the morning just for old times’ sake.

Christmas might be over, but the chaos that defines the entire month of December is also what makes it so magical. January could use a little bit of that magic; maybe I’ll conjure some.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and random menagerie of farm animals. Her view of family life is firmly rooted in the Spokane Valley. You can reach her at

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