Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Runaway Train of a Christmas Eve

Coffee cake, anyone?
We've built a few Christmas traditions for our family, based on carrying on old ones that I grew up with. One of those is having homemade coffee cake while opening gifts on Christmas morning. Another is having a baked pasta dish cook during Christmas Eve service, to be eaten upon the family's return from church. There's nothing like coming home from church, opening the door and having that good garlic-tomatoy smell waft out of the house. Aahhh!

For my family, this means that both dishes need to be prepared on Christmas Eve. My mom -- being the master organizer and planner that she is --  used to prepare them in advance and store them in the freezer until they were needed. Of course, that requires not only chunks of time not taken up by work, family and household chores, but also a nice-sized freezer in which to store the food, neither of which I have.

Christmas Eve morning started out with the highest of hopes and expectations to have everything done by the 4:30 church service. But this was soon derailed when we discovered at 8 o'clock in the morning that the pipe to our dishwasher has frozen. The appliances in our basement, located just under the dishwasher, looked like they had been rained upon, the floor trusses above were saturated and the floor was sopping wet. It was no longer leaking, but clearly had done so while the dishwasher had run overnight. A call was made to a plumber, with a promise of coming out to look at it...after the holiday. In the meantime, no running the dishwasher until we can determine the cause.

This means breakfast dishes had to be washed first, and THEN coffee cake started a bit later than initially scheduled, with dishes washed again while the cake was baking.

Coffee cake, or ugly cake?

Coffee cake! (See last year's post. And the year's before. Etc.)
In the meantime, I could feel a sniffle and occasional sneezing creeping up on me. Ignoring it, I told the girls we could go to the mall for lunch and possibly a visit with Santa, since we hadn't seen him yet this year and I was not up to making a lunch and washing those dishes as well.

But first... the eldest had to bathe and wash her hair which was long overdue for a washing.

They both put their new holiday dresses on and off we went to the mall. We lunched, and then got in line to see Santa. The line was relatively short; it didn't look like we were going to wait long. But this was a really good Santa, and he took his time with every child who came to him to tell him their wishes. There was a girl with a disability a few families ahead of us, and he took extra care in talking with her and her family. Seriously, how can you not love that?

Except that I was watching my watch as it crept toward 2:00, then past, then towards 3:00. And all the time I was standing in line I was feeling more and more run-down. I debated even going to the church service, but...really? Isn't that the whole point of Christmas, to hear the Christmas story and celebrate Christ's birth?

When it was finally our turn to see Santa we had been waiting an hour and a half. There goes my cooking time for dinner. is this going to work?

We arrived home at 3:20 and I shooed everyone out of the kitchen while I got to work, whipping up our traditional pasta dinner of stuffed pasta shells.

I learned that I can cook that dish in 45 minutes. Rock star. By 4:10 I was upstairs changing and we got the family out the door in 10 minutes.

All during the service my nose itched nonstop and dripped endlessly. My head was feeling heavier and heavier. This was now a full-blown cold and I felt like crap.

We arrived home and final preparations began for dinner. My blood boiled briefly when I heard "When's dinner? I'm hungry," from the child playing in the living room, the child who is perfectly capable of filling salad bowls and putting salad dressing out. She was promptly recruited for the job.

While hand-washing the meal's dishes after dinner, I informed my dearly beloved that there was no way I could do all the Christmas prep myself as I had previous years. Thankfully I had done most of the wrapping the weekend before, but there were still a few late gifts that needed to be wrapped, along with stockings to be stuffed and Santa gifts to be found from their hiding places and set under the tree. Of course, only I knew where the stocking gifts were hidden, which presents needed to be wrapped, and where the Santa gifts were hiding.

The two of us got it all done and went straight to bed. Thankfully I slept all the way through the night and was awoken at 6:30 by two excited little girls, which is relatively late for Christmas morning in our house.

It felt like it had been a runaway Christmas Eve, starting out slowly and calmly and eventually ending in a race against the clock and a cold.

I'm thinking that we may invest in a freezer so I can avoid this runaway train next year. Ah-choo.

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