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The 36-Hour Day

with Lylah M. Alphonse

I'm a full-time editor, a part-time writer, and a mom and stepmom to five amazing kids, ages 1 to 14. For me it's not about finding balance, it's about the daily juggle-- my career, my commute, freelance work, homework, housework, married life, social life, and parenting-- and finding the time to get it all done.

To learn more about Lylah, check out her Work It, Mom! profile and read her blog at

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like… Work?

Categories: Making Time, The Juggle


xmas-tree-2.jpgI hate to admit it but, this year, I’ve had a hard time finding my Christmas spirit.

It’s not that Scrooge has taken over, or that it’s been a hard year, or anything like that. In fact, it’s been a pretty great year. I’m just tired. And all of the gift buying and present wrapping and package mailing just seems like that much more on my already-long to-do list.

I’m all about the planning — I’ve had things planned out for months. Batches of homemade jams and chutneys and pickles were canned back when the weather was still warm. I’ve had other little gifts ready to go for weeks. I made candies yesterday – can’t really do candies too far in advance.  My dining room has turned into Santa’s workshop, with boxes and ribbons and cellophane bags ready to hold all the treats.

But instead of being good to go, I’ve ground to a halt.

This Christmas stuff… what, just a few weeks ago, was fun and festive, now seems an awful lot like work.

Like most working moms, when it comes to work, I’m full-up without adding anything related to the holidays.

Lest some crutch-wielding waif starts getting on my case, though (I’m looking at you, Tiny Tim), I’ve tried to jump-start my holiday motor.

On Saturday, before the latest Nor’Easter hit New England, I went out and bought The Tree, and my husband dragged the snow-covered fir inside and soon the whole house smelled fresh and piney. That was a boost.

Yesterday, while the snow flew and the winds raged outside, I candied orange peels and dipped them in chocolate while my youngest two kids raced around the kitchen like a couple of tiny, sugar-fueled banshees. There’s nothing like loud, excited, happy children to make you remember what the holidays are about.

When it got dark, I strung the lights on The Tree, declared it officially Christmastime, and gained the undying admiration of my 3-year-old for creating a “twinkly tree” of our very own. She helped me decorate it, happily hanging everything on the same two branches. When we were done, we fished the bits of tinsel out of the 1-year-old’s gaping maw, turned out the lights, turned up the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and admired our handiwork.

I never thought to hang all of the red ornaments in the same place before, but it looks kinda festive.

And, you know what? I think I feel a little Christmas spirit coming on.

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11 comments so far...

  • I had and then lost and then got back my holiday spirit. It may go again before Christmas but a sure fire way for me to get it back is to turn out all the lights and sit alone in the dark with just the lights of the tree. Ahh. So relaxing.

    Leandra  |  December 17th, 2007 at 7:45 am

  • I wish I had appreciated Christmas more when I was kid. All you had to worry about was being good so Santa would come. None of this, did I get the right gift, am I spending too much, did I make enough cookies it all becomes way too much. I so took for granted what all my mom did to make Christmas so great for me. I miss those days. I’m trying to make those same memories for my son but sometimes I feel like I lose the Christmas spirit during the process.

    Heather  |  December 17th, 2007 at 11:28 am

  • Leandra, the funny thing is, I almost feel like I have to apologize for not feeling Christmassy yet! The amount of pressure we put on ourselves is atrocious, isn’t it? Sitting in the dark with my 3-year-old on my lap, looking at the twinkly tree, made me remember that the little things matter the most.

    Heather, I hear you! I was thinking that same thing last night. I had no real appreciation for what my parents did for us kids at Christmastime until I became a parent myself. Recently, I’ve been so focused on what “has to get done” that I sucked the joy right out of doing it. I’ve been trying to recapture the joy these past few days, and it’s creeping back in, slowly but surely, I think…

    Lylah  |  December 17th, 2007 at 11:41 am

  • I feel like Christmas is just sneaking up on me. I’m actually not in bad shape as far as having stuff done, but it seems like suddenly it’s gone from “oh, we have time to get to that” to “OMG, Christmas is next week!”

    But I feel like some of the pressure comes not exactly from the commercialization of the holiday, but the fact it starts up so long before, so we feel like we’re supposed to be “in the spirit” weeks ahead of time, and then by the time Christmas actually arrives, we get burnt out on it. I’m trying to emphasize the old-fashioned “Twelve Days of Christmas” more - start later, last longer. We’ll see how that works out. :-)

    Florinda  |  December 17th, 2007 at 1:42 pm

  • I used to be a basket case by the time Christmas day rolled around, I wanted to make sure everything was perfect!

    I had to learn to relax, not do so much and just enjoy the holiday. I sure makes Christmas a lot more enjoyable! Now I just focus on spending time with my family.

    Melody  |  December 17th, 2007 at 3:56 pm

  • Florinda, I think I’m going to take a page from your book on this, and try the old-fashioned 12 Days… I couldn’t even listen to the radio around Thanksgiving time, because I didn’t want to deal with Christmas music!

    Melody, how did you learn how to relax about the holidays? I could really use some tips on that!

    Lylah  |  December 17th, 2007 at 4:02 pm

  • My presents are bought and wrapped,the wreath is on the door, the tree is up, the baking is done (I don’t do a lot), the cards are mailed, the lights are up, the iPod is loaded with Christmas carols and plays them for a few hours each day.

    I think I’m ready!

    And somehow, it’s STILL sneaking up on me, and I’m still not feeling hugely Christmas-sy.

    So maybe the 12 days is a wise idea. Focus in on Christmas *after* the day, relax and savour the event in a slow decompress. It’s a thought.

    MaryP  |  December 17th, 2007 at 7:41 pm

  • Melody has it right. For the first time in years and years (seriously…YEARS) I do feel Christmassy. I put it down to the fact that we have completely downsized Christmas this year. Present buying is to minimum (I sent an email to a bunch of people usually on the present list - it can be seen on my blog along with a link to another post that inspired me…

    I decided not to make everything myself, the kids and I are doing some gingerbread men and the Christmas Day trifle, the rest I will buy in. I did as much present shopping online as possible and have been using the time normally spent frantically racing around the stores to actually enjoy time with my family.

    It has been bliss, I have finally, proudly, acknowledged my limitations and stopped trying to be all things to all people. And I’m actually remembering what Christmas can (and should) be like.

    Of course it’s still busy but I’m getting some perspective on what I’m prepared to be busy with.

    Merry Christmas everyone!

    Caitlin  |  December 20th, 2007 at 5:30 pm

  • I’m glad you found your Christmas spirit. Christmas as an adult is a lot harder than Christmas as a kid. (We got our tree up late this year too.)

    Laura  |  December 21st, 2007 at 1:09 pm

  • MaryP… I’m so glad to know that I’m not alone in this feeling!

    Caitlin, thanks for the link — what I read there and the post you wrote on your blog make so much sense! (Also… love your blog!) I need to work on acknowledging my limitations in general, and about Christmas in particular…

    Laura, you’re so right — I think on some level we adults still long for that innocent Christmas we expected (or wanted to expect) as kids.

    Lylah  |  December 22nd, 2007 at 3:45 pm

  • Some of my friends and colleagues give me a hard time for my “list,” but it does keep me organized and often ahead of the game. That’s a real bonus when the kids are wild and there’s so much to do, but I can say, “I’m done shopping” and mean it.

    Daisy  |  December 23rd, 2007 at 8:33 pm

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