The snow is flying and the chill of winter is already very familiar to us around where I call home. My life changes so dramatically as the seasons do. From my wardrobe to my driving habits to my whole daily routine, they all shift to fit the cold and snowy world I live in more than half the year. The winterized lifestyle can take quite a bit more effort. That’s why I look forward to the Christmas holidays, where there’s a nice break from the regular winter routine, though it can be just as taxing as running a company.

Every year all 14 members of my family come together in one house for a 10-day period.  Remarkably, no one has been seriously hurt nor my mind been irreparably broken due to sustained assault on our regular lives. You know you love your family when you endure Christmas with them and actually want them back the next year. It’s love or my mind is broken and I’m completely unaware. Regardless, they are descending on my house soon and I have to prepare.

The first job is to find a bed for everyone. The extra mattresses, pillows, and blankets come out to accommodate the game of musical beds I have to play. Trying to fit everyone has its challenges and it is never a perfect situation, as someone always has to share a room with my dad and his sawmill snore. And every year I have to convince my boys to share a bed together, which is becoming an increasingly harder sell; as they are now into their teens and bunking with your bro is just not hip as it once was. Somehow I manage to accommodate everyone as long as they’re accommodating too.

Once everyone is settled we like to spend the first few days catching up, exchanging gifts, and indulging on an indecent amount of candies and snacks. The goody gorging during the holidays can get quite out of hand when there is no voice of reason amongst us. Our normal healthy ways are thoughtlessly thrown aside as we descend into sugar fueled altered state where shame has no place. The candied roller coaster can only last so long before we start looking for an activity to distract us from the Christmas treats. We have learned it’s the only way to break from yuletide vices.

The process of deciding and organizing a plan can be quite complicated, however, with 14 different voices and opinions, with the youngest, at 3 years old, having the strongest opinions of all! The negotiations about whether it be skating or sledding, or who sits where on the ride over, can turn into a heated family summit with no one willing to budge. Once we finally come to an agreement, the task arrives of getting everyone ready with their proper pants, socks, sweaters, scarves, hats, mitts, boots, coats, sleds, skates, and all the other things we forget about until we’re in the car ten blocks away.

It is quite a challenge to corral seven kids who are too busy catching up with their cousins to care about my silly concerns and directions. You would think more of the adults could assist but unfortunately my two brothers, dad, and husband get so overwhelmed by the organizational nightmare of it all, they shut down their brains to only respond to very clear and slow orders from my sister-in-law, my mom, and me.

Once we are in the vehicles and on our way to wherever we’ve chosen to go that day, things are smooth. Then it doesn’t really matter where we are going or how we are spending our time. Even a day at the mall two days before Christmas can be a fun time as long as we’re together. (I know it sounds hard to believe but I have witnessed it with my own eyes!)

After the Christmas chaos calms and I get back into my old routine again, I look back on our pleasant dinners together, the sledding and skating days, and the nights of board games or movies:  all the times that make our Christmas so cherished. I also remember other times, full of chaos and shameless indulgence, which, in all honesty, make me really look forward to Christmas this year! I’m so grateful I’m free to do that and for the people I do it with:  my awesome family, who are my most cherished Christmas gift. I hope your holiday time is full of joy, laughter, and abundance with the ones you love.

Thanks for reading and Happy Happy Holidays

Angela Santiago