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Is the Christmas craziness driving you crazy? It's all worth it

A Christmas card came in the mail of my friend’s gorgeous family with a caption that read, “This photo has zero resemblance to our actual life.”

I can totally relate.

I just spent the better part of two hours listening to my baby cry himself to sleep. As I type this, my older two boys are running around, too wired to sleep, and my giant black puppy dog is shedding (so much for a nonshedding dog) on my freshly washed white sheets and won’t stop cleaning himself loudly next to me.

It’s all very relaxing.

I called my mom in tears, begging her to impart some of her wisdom in raising kids. How did she do it? When does it get easier? Why do I feel so completely inadequate?

“Carmen, my favorite times of the day were naptime and bedtime,” my mom said laughing. “Almost every journal entry of mine starts out with the phrase, ‘I am completely exhausted.’ But then there are little moments where you go, ‘OK. This is worth it.’ Look for those.”

Sunday night was one of those moments. We drove up to Salt Lake City for a family dinner at “Grandpa’s mansion” (the Governor’s Mansion). We laughed and reconnected with cousins, aunts and uncles. We had a talent show and my boys sang a few songs. The small children dressed up as shepherds, sheep, doves, palm trees, wise men (or “wise humans,” as my son Beckham calls them) and Mary and Joseph as my oldest brother-in-law read Luke 2. We sang “Silent Night.”

In that moment, all was calm.

Afterwards, as we stacked chairs and rolled tables, my husband’s cousin came up to me and said, “I don’t know how you do it.”

I was confused for a minute. “What? You mean my boys?”

“Yes!” she laughed. “I don’t think you stopped moving that entire time.”

I laughed, too. She was right. Someone constantly needed a face wiped, a gentle arm grab, to be helped on or off a chair, and an occasional gentle, back-of-the-head smack. And that was an easy night.

Even though it was late, my husband, Brad, and I wanted to take the boys downtown to look at the lights at Temple Square — until we found out it was about 10 degrees outside. We quickly switched plans and drove to the gorgeous Grand America to look at the life-size gingerbread house and incredible window displays.

Standing in the elevator with all my boys buzzing around suddenly made my heart swell. Looking at them all in their matching Christmas sweaters, eyes lit up with wonder and excitement, made me marvel at how just 11 years ago, it was only Brad and I standing in that very elevator on our wedding night.

“I feel like this is a moment we’ll want to remember,” Brad said.

Sunday night, we walked/ran the perfectly vacuumed halls and pressed noses to the window displays depicting a penguin who traveled all over the world for different Christmas celebrations. We stopped in front of the big fire in the lobby, and breathed deeply the scent of fresh flowers.

“Look at those boys,” I heard a woman whisper to her husband as they sipped hot cocoa and watched my sons Boston and Beckham stare at the fireplace. “Oh, here comes another one!” Soon Briggs ran to stand next to them. “And another one!” She exclaimed as Benson toddled over. Watching them smile at my children made me want to burst with pride.

“Fie-yer … plaaaayce,” my 19-month-old slowly said, looking up at me.

“That’s right!” I said. “Don’t touch. It’s hot.”

He slowly backed away, toward me. “Bye-bye, hot.”

We rode the elevator back to the parking garage and quickly changed the boys into their jammies so they could fall asleep on the way home (Only two did. Thank you, hot cocoa). But as we drove home, there was a definite feeling of peace and joy in our car. Some of it had to do with our dinner and outing. But mostly, it was because we were all together.

Now, as I finish writing, my house is calm and quiet. All of my rambunctious boys (dog included) are finally snoring peacefully in their beds, with visions/nightmares of Elfie, our Elf on the Shelf, dancing in their heads. I have just a second to reflect and be grateful for my little life before today turns to yesterday.

And my mom is right, as moms usually are: It’s all worth it.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News. Her email is