Wake up and smell the Chaos


I heard that line in a TV show lately. Wake up and smell the chaos. I have kind of adopted it since hearing it. It is a fitting description for mornings in this household. You know you are going to wake up to it, but then there is usually some other forms of it wrapped into the day. The fact of the matter is that with this many people in a household, someone is bound to have something go wrong and there is a good chance it will affect everybody.

And with that, let’s flashback to Christmas. Well, not actual Christmas, Karaffa Christmas! Our blended family was a divided family for a good bit of the Christmas season. The kids all got to spend actual Christmas with their other parent (the girls because it was their year to, and the four because we gave the time away so the kids didn’t have to wake up to a non Christmas on Christmas.) What this meant for me was crazy amounts of planning! I had a chart for keeping Christmas gifts within reason and budget, I had lists for Karaffa Christmas Eve (Jan 6), Karaffa Christmas morning, and Karaffa Christmas afternoon with the extended family. I planned food, treats, books, Scriptures, activities, more food, schedule, and anything else that could be planned! Karaffa Christmas would not be a fake Christmas-it was going to be OUR first Christmas as a family and I couldn’t wait!

January 6 came and David and I were ready to get everyone back! I had gotten sick two days before, but that morning I was feeling on the mend. We had prayed the night before for flights to be on time, and drop offs to go smoothly. Presents were wrapped and my list for Christmas Eve was out and ready to be tackled to make preparations for all I had planned for that evening. The four arrived home and we had an hour to kill before heading to the airport for the girls, so we made cookies for Santa. Let’s be honest, mommy is a bit of a micro manager at times so “we made cookies” really means I made cookies and I let them touch them a few times. Same difference though right?

While the last batch was in the oven, David checked the girls flight on the airline website-“on time”! From where I was standing in the kitchen, I  looked up and said, “Thank you, Jesus, for that answered prayer!” I continued on in the kitchen and started thinking about what time I should start working on the three dishes of baked ziti I was making today to have ready to bake on the next day. There was also the overnight cinnamon rolls I make traditionally every year; they would need to be started today too. But that could all be done around the hot chocolate I had planned, the finishing up of our Advent book, reading The Night Before Christmas, making Christmas presents for Jesus, getting tucked in for those visions of sugar plums, and then all the being Santa we had to do. It was going to be a busy day, but a great day! Then David got the text.

“Hey hun, the girls flight got cancelled.” My heart sank and out popped all of the questions he couldn’t answer. “What?? Well what does that mean? What happens now? Do they just get a later flight? Will they still be home? What other options do we have? Will we have to cancel Christmas? Should we tell everyone? When will we get them??” As I spiraled out of control, my level headed husband brought me back down to the ground. The only answer at that time was: wait. Ugggghhhhhh! Is there anything worse than waiting? Is there anyone who is actually good at it? If there is, I want to meet them. Not that isn’t true. I would probably think things I shouldn’t think. Anyway, we waited, and while waiting I thought back to that moment so recently when I looked up and thanked the Lord for answering our prayer for an on time flight. Before I even got to asking why…or maybe a few second after…I reminded myself of all I had learned in the upheaval time of my life about God’s ways. I don’t always understand, but I am sure of this-He can be trusted! Who am I to start asking why now, in these little annoyances of life, when He has proven Himself so trustworthy in the big ways?

At the end of the waiting, we found out that the earliest flight they could get would be three days later. Cancelled Christmas, missed school, broken hearts. All I could think was “no”, but David, who was thinking a little more clearly, thought out his “no” a little more. He asked for a halfway point meet up….asap. Being as the change up caused problems on the other side as well, an agreement was made easily. With that began the whirlwind. There was no time to both discuss and pull things together, so we did both at the same time. We were throwing together all the things we would need to make the trek while discussing who should go and what our options were. Option 1 was that David would go and the rest of us stay. This option made sense since I had so much to do and the kids could go to bed at a regular hour, but I just couldn’t imagine us not all seeing each other at the same time, or having any kind of Christmas Eve festivities without the girls here! Plus, David gets so tired on that drive and I like to be there to help him get through. Option 2 was that David and I go and get a sitter for the kids or drop them with family on the way. This would still mean us staying separated longer and having to figure out how to get them back super late at night so they could wake up with us on Christmas. Option 3 was that we all just go. Twenty minutes after deciding to meet half way, we were loading the van with activities, food, chargers, my lists for rewrite, and the children. We were doing this-all of us! Everything else would wait. Image (2)

Off we went. In the rush, I didn’t even think about the fact that warmth in Florida didn’t equal warmth our whole trip. At one stop, the four kids with us got out and played in a small patch of snow in t-shirts and shorts. Oops. We made it to the girls around 7:30, reunited in a cold, run-down gas station parking lot, and then caught up over fast food. After answering a few questions about our family size to complete strangers, we hopped back in the van for the journey home. The kids started dropping like flies as we headed south until it was just David and I discussing what Christmas would look like now. As the hour got later, the lull of van over the dark highway made things difficult. Image-1 (2)We stopped for gas and I saw a beautiful pink and orange sign in the distance. It was midnight and David assured me it would be closed, but I was believing in a Christmas miracle! After the gas was pumped we drove toward the building. We saw the glow of an open sign but the inside looked dark and deserted. We pulled up to the speaker, rolled down the window and David gave a meek, “Hello?” “Hi, welcome to Dunkin’!” I don’t think she quite understood all that followed: the slightly deranged laughter, the praise for just doing her job, the slight bow David gave as he took the coffee. She was my Christmas angel.

We arrived home at 2:30am and woke the beasts so they could make it inside to PJs and their beds. No one fought us on bedtime that evening, and all were tucked in by 2:45am. David and I came out of the last bedroom, took a deep breath, and donned our Santa hats. In yet another whirlwind, we made cinnamon rolls (yes I am stubborn), filled stockings, set out the Santa gifts, wrapped and placed the baby Jesus (opening Him signifies the moment we stop everything and read the Christmas story), hung the ribbon meant to remind the kids to stay in their rooms and call for us instead, moved furniture to hide what Santa brought, aaaaaand we even remembered the cookies and milk! High five, hug, collapse into bed at 3:30am.

Before 7am, the first call came. Nothing was going to slow these kids down or take away Image-1 (1)from their excitement. They bounced into the living room and joy started spreading. Paper was flying and smiles were abundant. Faith unwrapped the baby Jesus and everything stopped as we turned our focus to Jesus. I sat there listening to David read the real Christmas story and wondering if Mary had had a plan. I wonder if she had a plan that she felt was suddenly up heaved by a decree and a journey. A plan that was re-planned on the way to a new place, but was then again turned to chaos as she settled into a stable knowing her baby was coming. In all of her chaos, Christmas came. I looked around the room and had a Grinch moment:

And the mom with her mom-thoughts all stuck in her head, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without perfection. It came without plans. It came without schedule and timing and lists. And she puzzled and puzzled till her puzzler was sore. Then the mom thought of something she hadn’t before. What if Christmas, she thought, can be perfect with chaos? What if Christmas, perhaps, is perfect IN chaos?

By most standards, our Christmas wasn’t perfect: my sick took a turn and got worse through the day, I made three pans of ziti between Christmas morning and company arriving. Company arrived with a chaos all their own. But our home was filled with love (and equal amount of wrapping paper), and we were all together, and at the end of the day, we could only laugh at yet another example of the beautiful chaos that surrounds this family.

What if Christmas she thought, can be perfect with chaos? What if Christmas, perhaps, is perfect IN chaos?

Here are some pictures of our Karaffa Christmas <3

Ashley Karaffa

Ashley is mother to a blended family of 10 and appreciating the beautiful chaos of it all. She enjoys creating systems - because how can you survive a family with 8 kids without systems - and spending time celebrating her family.

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