Angels, shepherds and festive dresses: My chaotic Christmas Eve

Local 4′s Sandra Ali shares family’s Christmas Eve story

Local 4's Sandra Ali with her children on Christmas Eve (Sandra Ali)

How many times have you seen a mom with little ones out in public -- like at the mall, the grocery store or wherever -- and they seem to totally have it altogether? Not a drop of sweat, their children behaving like angels, everyone is getting along magically and they look like a shiny picture of perfection. Like the pictures you get in that insert that comes with a new picture frame.

I know I’ve seen those moms. I feel like they’re everywhere -- or at least, that’s what it looks like from my perspective.

On Christmas Eve, I worked the morning show, which means I was already sleep deprived. I still had last minute shopping to do afterward and I powered through the afternoon so my family could celebrate.

My youngest two children were all set to make their first-ever appearance in our church’s Christmas pageant. They were so excited. One was a shepherd, the other wanted to be a lamb. I wasn’t sure how it would go, since they’ve never done anything like that before.

We had to be at church no later than 3:15 p.m. to get all the little ones lined up. So, that means no afternoon nap for me, and I had to rally somehow.

I had matching plaid outfits for all four to wear to church. My three boys had the exact same shirts, and my little lady had a plaid dress. If you know me, you know I love matching outfits. I managed to get myself ready to go.

Local 4's Sandra Ali with her children on Christmas Eve (Sandra Ali)

We were all set, until my daughter said she couldn’t breathe in her Christmas dress. Scrambling to get out the door, I said, “I’m sure it’s fine, I promise you can change before we have dinner.” If you have a 9-year-old daughter, you know that doesn’t work.

I finally gave up the fight and said, “Just wear something festive and dressy, then.” Remember: we were trying to get out the door and get there in time.

All along, I thought we were winning. We made it to church on time. My oldest found a pew with room for all of us, front and center.

Full disclosure, I felt on display walking into church with four children on Christmas Eve, worried about if everyone would behave and if the twins would have a meltdown in the middle of the Christmas pageant.

I ran around for most of the mass, making sure the boys were OK. Up and down from the back of the church, then to the front, then back again. It was a Christmas miracle. All four kids were on their best behavior. I couldn’t have been any happier.

The boys were great in the pageant. They loved it. I felt on top of the world. Like I had accomplished the impossible. I was winning.

Or so I thought?

Local 4's Sandra Ali with her children on Christmas Eve (Sandra Ali)

After we had walked up again for communion and came back to our pew, I looked over and noticed my daughter’s outfit for the first time. I had been so sleepy, so worried about the boys being up on the altar, and everyone’s behavior, I never noticed what she was wearing. When I told her to pick something festive, I had no idea she would decide to wear an ugly Christmas sweater that said “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal” on the front.

Christmas sweater worn by the daughter of Local 4's Sandra Ali on Christmas Eve (Sandra Ali)

I was so angry, but surprisingly calm. I leaned over and whispered, “Put your coat on and zip it up immediately. You are not taking your coat off for the rest of this service.” I was mortified and so embarrassed. I couldn’t wait to get everyone out to the car.

That’s when the nicest grandmother, who had been sitting behind us the whole time, came up behind me and put her arm around my shoulders and gave me a squeeze. I thought she was trying to be supportive after the whole “Home Alone” sweater incident.

That’s when she said, “Sweetie, did you mean to wear your dress unzipped all the way down your back like that? Or do you need my help getting you covered up?”

Suddenly, my daughter’s Christmas sweater fiasco paled in comparison to the fact everyone at mass saw my whole back exposed running around with my dress unzipped on Christmas Eve. So much for “winning.”

Remember, we only see the glossy pictures where everything always appears to look perfect, when we know life isn’t always as it may seem when you’re on the outside looking in. Or in my case, when you’re kneeling in church on Christmas Eve in a green dress.

But, still, we smile.

Local 4's Sandra Ali with her children on Christmas Eve (Sandra Ali)