Perhaps by the time this issue of the Dairy Star shows up on your kitchen table (or wherever else you happen to read it), I will have found Christmas. But, as of today, my Christmas is still missing.

I haven't set out a single Christmas decoration. Our Christmas tree is up, but only because the kids hauled it from the basement and, impressively, figured out how to put it together. Despite their tornadic searching, the kids couldn't find the lights and ornaments, so the tree remains unadorned. Every night I hear the question, "Mom, when are we going to decorate the tree?"

This morning before school, Dan added extra urgency to his request: "Mom, it's the 19th of December. We only have a few more days to decorate the tree."

"I know, Dan," I said, calmly. But inside of me, the looming deadline of Christmas and the resulting anxiety are wreaking havoc on my happiness.

I don't commit to a lot when it comes to Christmas, but Christmas doesn't feel like Christmas without some decorating and baking.

Yet, I haven't baked a single Christmas cookie.

We already had our first Christmas gathering - and we all had a wonderful time - but I felt like I skidded into it in an unprepared rush. Yes, I am an incurable procrastinator, but a decade with kids and cows has taught me to work ahead at least a little.

Not this year. Between chores and kids' activities and meetings and deadlines, Christmas shopping and cookie baking and house decorating have been scheduled and then postponed multiple times. And, it has left me feeling rather grumpy.

I subscribe to the line of thought that our happiness equals reality minus our expectations (happiness = reality - expectations). When something exceeds our expectations, it tends to make us happy. Conversely, when we have certain expectations and fail to meet them, we're more prone to unhappiness.

My Christmas expectations aren't outrageous - and they're definitely flexible. Some years, we only decorate the tree with lights and LEGOs; some years, we hang all the ornaments. Some years, I bake one or two different Christmas cookies; other years I finish a dozen varieties. Some years, I give thoughtful, carefully selected gifts; some years, I give gift cards. I gave up mailing Christmas cards several years ago and now just publish a Christmas letter on my blog.

So, my expectations aren't grand, but this year my reality is not even close to meeting them. I tried to tell myself that it's OK to have a minimalist Christmas, but my kids have certain expectations, too. (Plus, we have two birthdays to at least recognize this week.) Letting my kids down makes me feel even worse.

Some happiness experts recommend lowering expectations to increase happiness. But I'm not going to alter my expectations. They're already low enough as it is.

Instead, I believe it's important to know when to expect and when to accept.

At this moment, I still have six days left to bring my Christmas reality closer to my Christmas expectations, so I can still expect to have a festive Christmas. And, because I'm a glass-overflowing optimist, I truly believe that - and will keep working on it - until the kids go back to school after Christmas vacation. So what if we only hang the stockings on Christmas Eve? So what if we only decorate cookies on New Year's Eve? I know my kids won't care. Thankfully, my own flexibility has taught them to have flexible expectations, as well.

And, if my Christmas expectations remain unmet, I will do my best to accept that this year was crazy. I will do what I can to make Christmas as joyful as possible for my children. More importantly, I will remind them that Christmas isn't all about decorations and cookies and gifts - it's about opening our hearts and celebrating together with family.

Perhaps next year, we'll decorate the whole house and bake oodles of cookies.

Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 75 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have three children - Dan, 9, Monika, 7, and Daphne, 3. Sadie also writes a blog at She can be reached at