I really should know by now to eliminate all expectations when it comes to doing anything with my kids!

Every year I make the mistake of thinking to myself:

We should take a holiday lights tour with the kids. It will be so magical. I'll make homemade cookies and cocoa. We'll listen to Christmas Carols as we drive about looking at lights. And the children will "ooh!" and "ahh!" It will be whimsical and memorable and set the perfect mood for this holiday season.

It's like I've forgotten who my children are and the chaos they bring with them everywhere they go.

Seriously, Christmas Brain Fog rolls in and wipes away every practical, actual example of what a logistical nightmare it is to herd these cats (kids) of mine into one direction--even to get them out the door to school in the morning!

So each year, as other people beautifully decorate their homes with skill and symmetry (mind you, fear of heights, lack of time and a dog who refuses to poop in the back yard keeps me from joining these people in this tradition of decorating, but that's a post for another day) I start to daydream and plan for the perfect time to whisk the children off for a holiday adventure.

And each year I am reminded, after about 5 minutes, why we can't have nice things or go to nice places!

It's definitely not for lack of planning. I plan. I bake. I map the route. I make sure everyone has gone to the bathroom BEFORE we leave, and that they're wearing warm clothes, and have a hot beverage in hand.

I am, after all, the mother of four. It's not my first rodeo. We leave the house ready.

But it's what happens immediately after the seatbelts click that starts the avalanche of disappointment that I should already know is coming, but refuse to acknowledge until it's on top of me! (These are the same children who will talk through and ruin any childhood favorite movie of mine, which I try to show them. This really should not be such a big surprise to me!)

Let's take this year, for instance. I worked all day to prep. I had dinner done early so we could eat and get ready, and hit the road when the sun had set.

The cocoa and cookies were all packed up. The kids had changed into their jammies and had their hats and coats on. We hopped into the van, with our route all printed out (Thanks for the amazing folks at The Bangor Rotary Club for putting together this amazing resource!) The Christmas Carols were playing over the stereo.

I put the van in to drive, and from the very back seat, it started.

"He's touching me! "

"My cookie fell. It's all muddy now because of her boots."

"I'm too hot!"

We stopped, literally two houses down (thanks to our neighbor's cool display, which was the first on our list to check out) and the trouble-shooting started. I cleaned off the cookie, separated the two who were touching and rolled a window down for the hot one.

We made it a little further and someone started to cry. And then someone started to pout. And then.... you get the picture.

I was throwing out threats of punishments and counting out loud (it's a parent thing...we count, without any real meaning usually, hoping the kids will stop whatever naughty thing they're doing before we hit 1 -- or 10 -- depending on which direction you're counting!) between the versus of Jolly Old St. Nicholas. There was absolutely nothing jolly about what was going on, to be sure.

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We got to the first big commercial display, GE's amazing set up off of Maine Ave. It was impressive. But the most glorious thing about it is that they were all quiet for a few minutes as they perused the scene, taking in all the different sections.

But as quickly as the Christmas Peace came, it went. The littlest one, despite having gone to the bathroom before we left, had do go again. So we doubled back around to the house for what would be the first of several bathroom breaks (which wouldn't be too much to worry about in the summer time, but with layers and snow pants it's a time-consuming ordeal.)

To make it from the outskirts of Bangor, through downtown and in to Veazie and back took us three hours. Three hours! I live right in Bangor. It's not like we had to go far.

I'm pretty sure all of the folks who ended up behind us at one point or another must have thought I was intoxicated, or at the very least, out of my mind.

And while I was sweaty and at points very frustrated--mostly because I didn't think they were getting anything out of the experience as we were going along, when we finally got home, and I got hugs and smiles and thank-yous, all of that other stuff melted away.

Bottom line; they did enjoy themselves, as themselves. And I despite my better/worst efforts, I wouldn't have had it any other way.


Cori's Tries To Take Her Kids On A Holiday Lights Tour

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