Christmas Magic

Santa has been here, and an excited little boy will find gifts waiting for him in the living room in a few short hours. If the cats don’t destroy them, since they apparently find the smell of new rubber from Daniel’s bike tires intoxicating!

I am going to bed with a very full heart. In fact, I almost feel like I need to cry. From happiness. From nostalgia. From excitement. My emotions are a pressure valve that needs release.

We’ve had a great day, and we are confident that our little elf went to bed quivering with excitement about Santa’s impending arrival and beginning to understand a bit about the magic we are trying to impart to him: jingling bells suddenly sounding must mean Santa is approaching! A star for his Advent tree appearing from nowhere! Seeing Daniel take all of this in and peek outside the window to see if he could see Santa was thrilling.

These are the things we dreamed of seeing and experiencing for years and seeing them is so very sweet.

I’ve also been banishing some “shoulds.” Life has been a series of dashes lately, and I’m learning it is better to spend my energy where it matters most. Our Christmas prep & decor were haphazard at best. It took us weeks to have tree ready to decorate and once it was, I had an eager helper who liked to layer ornaments three deep along the bottom third. The external lights are all slightly different colors. I didn’t get around to sending cards. And perhaps most shockingly, we didn’t have a fancy Christmas Eve dinner and won’t have one tomorrow either.

I chafed a bit at not cooking. I felt that having a nice, special dinner on Christmas Eve or Christmas was required. But Jimmy felt like doing something simple, and the more I thought about it, the more I agreed. What did I want my memories of Christmas Eve and Christmas to be? Of a meal I slaved over that tasted great for 20 minutes but took hours to prepare? Or a great day with my guys? I chose the latter.

Today we made reindeer food (enough to feed an army of reindeer). Daniel got to use wrapping paper in his garbage trucks (his dream). Our dinner consisted of pizza eaten in front of the TV, watching old-school Rudolph. Low- key and perfect. I didn’t go into Santa mode feeling exhausted & worn out. We had a great, calm evening. Later I retucked my little boy, telling him how my beloved grandfather used to call and give me Santa updates when I was a little girl (because we didn’t have that newfangled Internet and Santa Trackers!). Generational lines continued.

I could tell myself I half-assed the holidays this year, but that’s untrue. Just who am I trying to impress? What am I trying to prove? My tree and exterior lights aren’t perfect – so what? Who cares? I didn’t make a 3-course meal. So what? My little boy enjoyed his pizza in front of the TV and most importantly, a calm & present mommy.

I love Christmas and its magic. I can’t wait to see Daniel’s face when he sees his gifts. I love making magic for him.

I may half-ass some things, but we make magic like experts.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!


Leaving on a Jet Plane

I’m getting ready to go out of town for work next week. I’m leaving Monday afternoon to fly to Nashville for a work conference, and I’ll return late Thursday night.  My brain is working non-stop and my anxiety level is high.  It’s a similar experience to when I was preparing for surgery in September, but I think I’m more anxious this time.  Daniel’s schedule is more complicated this week and it’s more complicated for a longer period of time: we have two days of hot lunch supplied by school and two days of lunch packed by us.  Snack to be packed every day.  A field trip to the nearby fire station on Tuesday.  Plus, he is the Star of the Week next week, so each day he is able to bring an item for show and tell as well as a cuddly for quiet time.  On Tuesday, his grandmother is coming to read to the class.  Oh, and I bet we’ll have homework on Monday.

It just feels like so much to keep track of, and I’m trying to get everything sorted and organized for Jimmy so he can handle it effortlessly.  It’s not that I worry about his ability to do it; it’s more that there is so much to keep track of. And this is only Pre-K!

Tomorrow we’ll make the morning snacks for the week as well as the lunches for Monday and Thursday.  I won’t think about what they’ll eat each night for dinner; Jimmy assures me that he can handle that easily. And I need to pack. And figure out what time my flight leaves on Monday. And gather my technology and its related chargers and plugs as well as the last 4 issues of Time magazine I haven’t read.  I’m sure I’ll forget something.

I booked this conference several months ago, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise but here it is! And it is a surprise. All of the thoughts in my brain feel like popcorn popping or marbles ricocheting. I never knew that juggling was a required core competency of parenting, especially when you are a working parent.

But then Monday night, I’ll be settled in my hotel room. No stories to read. No tantrums to manage. No nightly routine to orchestrate.  I’ll feel guilty but free at the same time.  I might work out. I might watch crappy TV. I might read a book. I might play on Twitter. I can do what I want!!!

Half of my heart will be at home, wishing I were dealing with the normal nightly routine while the other half will enjoy the silence.

Oh, and by the way? Daniel’s letter of the week next week is “F.” We’re already thinking of the “F” words for his homework LOL.

You have to laugh, right?

The Monday Snapshot: The Bad Day Do-Over

This is my FIRST contribution to part of a weekly feature called The Monday Snapshot over at PAIL.

Snuggle Bug

This morning did not go well.  When it was time for Daniel to get dressed, I found him reclining on the couch, and he told me he didn’t want to go to daycare and that he didn’t feel good. I cuddled him for a minute and asked him if his tummy hurt and if he needed to throw up.  He said no, but that he wanted to stay home.  Me too, kid.

His little face looked up at me slyly, and he smiled and repeated that he wanted to stay home.  I decided that he was “telling a story” as they say to get out of going to daycare.  He didn’t feel warm and hadn’t thrown up since Friday. We had a talk about things we have to do vs things we want to do and that mommy and daddy needed to go to work and he needed to go to daycare.

I told him again to get dressed.  He refused and the situation deteriorated quickly.  Next thing I knew, Jimmy was holding a screaming child while I struggled to dress him.

We were livid.  He was livid.  I wondered how a 3 foot tall little person could have so much anger at 3.5 years.  I wondered how adults in their mid-thirties could have so much anger at a 3.5 year old.   I carried my sobbing, raging child to the car and strapped him in, feeling defeated and miserable.

I tried to make amends on the trip to day care.  I told him he would have fun.  He would go outside and play with his friends and before he knew it, I would be there to pick him up.

Daniel replied, “No sir.  No SIR.  I will NOT have fun.”

“Fine, ” I sighed.

In his class, his lips trembled, and his face was still flushed from crying.  I cuddled him and told him I loved him and left, feeling like whatever creature makes cockroaches look like higher life forms.  There’s something about those little woebegone faces that make Mondays extra hard.


I had just pulled into a parking space at work when my cell rang.  It was day care.  Daniel had thrown up.  The policy is that a child has to throw up twice before you must come get them.  Having arrived late and left early due to illness on Friday, I hoped to snatch a little time in the office.

Forty-five minutes later, another call from day care.  Daniel had thrown up again.

When I got to his class, Daniel, dressed in too-short pants and odd shoes, ran to me, telling me he had “throwed up.”  He was so happy to see me.  I felt like shit.  He really had been sick. I assumed this morning’s obstinance had been from reluctance to change out of his new, cozy Thomas pajamas and desire to stay home and play with his toys.

I took him home, helped him into his Thomas pajamas and gave him juice.  I explained to him that mommy needed to do a little work.  He played in the kitchen for a little while but soon brought his trains to the dining room table where I was sitting with my laptop.

He played with his trains but decided that my laptop was more fun, joining me in my chair and pressing keys.   So sweet.  So little.  Still so much a baby though he’s almost 4 (WTF?).  I felt humbled that he wanted to be with me, cuddle with me after our awful morning.


In between emails and conference calls, we snuggled and goofed off.  I apologized to him repeatedly and tried to get him to eat a little bit.

I hope it made up for this morning in some tiny way.

Magic Fall: The Blathering

There’s a lot of crap swirling in my head, but when I woke up this morning, I felt cheeky and staccato, so I thought maybe another blathering post was in order.  Brain dump, commence!

  • I took 10 minutes and brought out my Fall decorations last week.  OK, let’s talk capitalization.  I know that technically, you are not supposed to capitalize the seasons, but I think that rule is asinine.  You can get away with not capitalizing spring, summer and winter (even though I bet the majority of the world will think you are making a mistake by NOT capitalizing them) and be fairly certain that readers will understand you are referring to the seasons even though they might think you are a moron.  Fall, however, could very easily be confused with usage other than the season.  Plus, it offends me on some level not to capitalize the seasons.  Let’s agree that on this blog, seasons will be capitalized, rules be damned.  Where was I?  Oh yes.  My Fall decorations.  They are on display, and it makes me happy to see them.  It also makes Daniel happy because he can climb on a chair and grab one of the pumpkin lanterns.  Like his mother, he’s a sucker for Fall and Halloween decorations, especially pumpkins.
  • Speaking of Fall (I rather like my new rule of capitalization), it’s like the trees finally got the message and are starting to change colors en masse.  I love it.  I love pointing out the colors to Daniel on our way to and from daycare.  My campus is really beautiful this time of year too.  Trees in front of buildings are turning flaming red.  The trees around the lake are changing too.  Right now, it’s just a hint of what’s to come, but in a week or two, it will be a stunning backdrop to the water.  I don’t really think I can explain it, but Fall thrills me.  The way the intensity of the sun has dimmed, giving a slight sepia cast to the days; the way the blue sky is so intensely blue but golden as well.  The vivid leaves.  I can feel my body respond and almost hum.  Some energy that courses through the changing environment calls to me.  I feel it and I welcome it.  I feel alive, which is interesting since in a way Fall is the last gasp of a dying year.  I know.  That’s weird.  I’m weird.  I guess Fall makes me feel connected to the environment.  It’s elemental.
  • We bought pumpkins.  We have Daddy, Mommy and Daniel pumpkins as well as a bunch of little pumpkins.  We’ll likely carve the Mommy and Daddy pumpkins and call it a day.  Despite our best efforts, we’re always carving at practically the last minute.  As for the rest of the pumpkins, Daniel has claimed 4 as his; I still maintain hopes of creating something decorative with the rest.  Don’t hold your breath.

    Interesting use of baby pumpkins

  • I had a lot of meetings this week.  I realized that the rest of October and quite a bit of November will be full of meetings as well.  When I told my staff that I’ll likely be in and out due to meetings, my newest staff member asked, “Why do you have to go to so many meetings?”  I wanted to tell her, “because I’m a masochist,” but I didn’t want to scare her off.  I get through the meetings by doodling copiously and irreverently:

    My doodles tend to be seasonal

  • This week I discovered that the construction area along my commute to work is going to be a new Sheetz.  I am thrilled by this because I love Sheetz.  Sheetz is like the anti-gas station.  It’s clean.  It has great coffee and genuine food options.  It’s colorful.  It’s mecca.  I’ve gone from hardly ever encountering a Sheetz to passing TWO on my commute to work.  Someone is throwing me a bone.
  • I started and finished Tana French’s Broken Harbor this week.  This is the 4th book in her…Ireland detective series?  The characters are loosely connected from novel to novel; she often has a minor character in one mystery who goes on to become the main character in the next.  I love her books because they are moody, lyrical and dark; the story grim and gripping.  Ireland is as much of a character as any person.  That said, I didn’t like Broken Harbor as much as the previous three.  It’s definitely worth a read, but it just didn’t work as well as all the elements in the previous three.   If you like UK mysteries, I also highly recommend Elizabeth George’s mysteries.  Very, very good.
  • The State Fair is in Raleigh this week, and we haven’t gone and probably won’t go.  I thought that maybe this was the year to take Daniel to see the animals and eat some fun fair food but then I decided against it because of the crowds and logistical nightmare of getting there and parking.  I also that he doesn’t know the fair exists, so maybe I shouldn’t borrow trouble before I need to.  There’s also the 40+ pesky cases of E.coli that have been reported. Then I felt guilty and decided I was denying him some vital experience but realized that due to schedules, I may have missed our window of opportunity to go.  Now I’m back to trying to convince myself that he doesn’t know what he’s missing and it’s OK.  Also, E.coli.
  • Along with the rest of the world (so it seemed), we watched Felix Baumgartner’s jump last weekend.  Jimmy and I were riveted, and we told Daniel that Felix was making history.  Daniel’s response? “Skip!” he commanded, the same command he utters when he wants us to skip a section in a movie.  The world?  Seriously awed by Felix.  My three-year-old?  Not so much.  Tough audience.

    What’s so special about him, Mommy?

  • The governor of North Carolina was the keynote speaker at one of the meetings I attended this week.  I happened to be sitting on the aisle, and as she passed by, greeting people, she clasped my shoulder and said, “hi.”  That’s my brush with greatness this week.
  • We may have quit soccer due to life.  By that I mean, car trouble, rain, hacking coughs, etc.  There is one more session and then the “skills showcase” next weekend.  My guilt says, “GO!”  My brain says, “Just stop and don’t worry about it.  Life is too crazy right now and Daniel won’t really care.”  Talk me down, people.  Please.
  • We have 3 elderly, increasingly crotchety felines whom we adore.  All I can say is that I hope Daniel takes as good care of us when we’re that old.  Lucky pusses!

How was your week?  Am I insane?

Working Mom’s Lament

My eyes fly open, and I sit up. I look at the clock and curse. 2 AM. I’ve been asleep only for 4 hours. The only sound in the room comes from the monitor from which I can hear Daniel’s wheezing and coughing, sounds so weird that it seems he is almost speaking in tongues.

I listen to his labored breathing and hope he’s better by 7AM because I need to go to work for a two-day workshop after two sick days at home. Unable to go back to sleep, I surf on my iPhone, visiting blogs and trashy celebrity gossip sites.

My alarm goes off, and I stumble to the shower to start getting ready. Daniel wakes up, and I get him from his room. His forehead is hot, and his face is flushed and puffy. He’s whiny and crying, “Momma, hold me” while I kiss and hug him and turn on Super Why so I can finish getting ready. He begins to cry, and my heart breaks. He should stay home today. I should stay home today with him. Finally ready to go, I put on his jacket over his cozy footie pajamas and feel grateful that he is going to his grandmother’s house where I know my sick boy will receive lots of cuddles and hugs.

At work I make his doctor’s appointment, booking the only available time, a time that of course is the most inconvenient one. I exhale, pull myself together and go to my workshop, prepared to razzle and dazzle despite sounding like I swallowed a frog and having a scratchy throat and throbbing head. Calm and focused on the outside, twitchy on the inside as I await the verdict from the doctor’s office: an ear infection. I immediately replay the last 4 days in my head, searching for any clue that would have told me Daniel had an ear infection instead of letting him suffer longer than necessary.

Class over, I head to the required evening dinner and working session, checking in with Jimmy. Daniel is miserable: no nap, feverish, needy and clingy. He won’t eat or drink anything. Guilt, today’s constant companion, waves hello. I should go home. A good mother would go home. Previous generations of women fought hard so I could sit at that table and think about being at home. Should, should should. Always should.

The moment I swallow the last bite of braised lamb shank (while Jimmy is eating leftovers if he has even eaten at all), I make my excuses and fly. I race home, but I’m too late: Daniel is already in bed. Jimmy and I chat about the evening and how pitiful Daniel was. No longer racing anywhere, I slump, my body reminding me I’ve been awake since 2AM.

I get ready for bed and wonder why I do this routine each and every day. Why I go to work. I have good days during which I accomplish a lot and make a difference:  I’m queen of the world.  I have bad days during which I feel tied in knots and tripped up by processes and people, making no progress and feeling like it is impossible to make even the smallest impact.  On those days I resemble that poor guy in Munch’s The Scream painting.  He looks like he might understand the special hell that is working with bureaucracy.

Birth and death and sickness and health and change and carpet beetles cycle around and around. Lately I feel like I’m constantly moving and running and getting nowhere, especially during times like this. Exhausted, I wonder why I bother. I gave up ambitions of setting the world on fire years ago; I’m just a rat in a cage.

I go to bed, thankful that the breathing coming from the monitor is smoother and less labored than the night before.

Four hours later, my eyes pop open. It’s 2AM. Time to do it all over again.

The Sting Comes When You Least Expect It

After 2.5 years, it finally happened:  we were judged about our parenting because we – I – work outside the home.

It’s been a stressful time for our family with J’s grandmother being in the hospital recently and doctor appointments to make as well as family dynamics to referee.  We’re all a little torqued.  On top of the health issues, Daniel has suddenly been behaving naughtily at preschool by hitting other children.  His teachers tried time outs and redirection but yesterday, they had to call MIL to come and pick him up early.

They also want to have a meeting with me and J to discuss Daniel’s behavior.  Intellectually and after feverishly Googling of “toddler misbehavior at preschool,” I know that hitting is very normal behavior for a 2.5 year old, especially one who hasn’t been around other children much at all.  After all, that’s why he is in preschool. Despite knowing all of this, my anxiety and worry creep up until I have a pit in my stomach.

So yeah, I get it.  We’re all stressed, so I can understand how a phone call can get out of hand and next thing we know, J and I are being told that we don’t see Daniel as much and therefore don’t know his daily routines and behaviors as well since we work.  I know it was a thoughtless comment. I hope it was a thoughtless comment

But after the anger settled to a simmer, the hurt remained. Despite working outside the home, J and I both feel strongly that we know Daniel – his moods, his feelings, his likes and dislikes and his routine.  I don’t think that our working -my working – means that our relationship with him suffers.  He knows who mommy and daddy are.   He comes first with us.

Why does it always have to come back to quality vs. quantity for time spent together?

I love Daniel with all my heart and then some.  We went through hell and back to get him and live for his hugs and smiles.  Isn’t that enough?

Stream of Consciousness Sunday: Tis the Season…for Guilt


Now that we gave Thanksgiving its obligatory 15 minutes of fame, it’s time to turn our attention to Christmas.  We put up our tree today – it’s artificial (not my first choice but it’s grown on me over the years and is a pretty nice tree), and if we’re really lazy, it might stay up through Epiphany or Mardi Gras.  Probably not through Easter (I have family that did that one year.  I come from class).

Daniel is too little to help hang ornaments, but he watched us, and he was SO excited by the tree.  At 2.5, this is the first Christmas he really sort of understands that something big is happening.  Right now he loves the lights, but I’m sure he’ll want to touch the ornaments soon.  We showed him the special ornaments and told him the meaning behind them: the ornaments from our 2004 trip to Paris; the tiny stocking I bought at Biltmore House the December before he was born; all the other ornaments from various other annual trips to Biltmore House; the ornaments from the year he was born; and many others.   He loves the “Kiss-miss tee.”

This year we are spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day just the three of us.  I’m feeling conflicted about it because that’s what I do, but at the same time I’m wondering at what age am I finally allowed to be an adult and dictate how my family spends Christmas?  The answer, of course, is now.  10 years ago.  5 years ago.  I’m an adult.  My little family of three is allowed – nay, required- to build its own traditions.

Lately, the holidays bring out some seriously bad feelings.  Obligation warring with Self-Preservation.  Farce and Charade battling with my Motherly Fierceness.  I’m tired of providing opportunities for interaction with my sweet boy when he is ultimately ignored, yet I’m accused of keeping him away and not allowing participation in our lives.

I want to be acknowledged as an adult who is entitled to make decisions for her family, not resented for daring to grow up and move away. That won’t happen, so I will take the role of the bad guy.    That is what my son, my family needs.

Happy Holidays.  This is only the first instance of guilt; I’m sure it won’t be the last.  But along with that guilt comes bitterness and anger and a growing awareness that things must change.