holidays

#MicroblogMondays: ISO Holiday Spirit

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It is 6 days before Christmas, and I am in dire need of Christmas spirit. Our tree is up, but that’s about it due to the wiring/fiber project and frankly, scope creep.  I’m off work for the rest of the year, and there is plenty to do, but I can’t find my motivation.  It’s been a year. Between health issues, work issues and more work issues, kitty cat issues, 7-year-olds going on 13 issues, and the election, we – the adults in the house – just want to hibernate until…until when? When things are better?

It’s a year for things to be up-ended, even our holiday celebrations.  Jimmy and his brother both starting new jobs means less vacation time, so we had his family’s Christmas celebration on Sunday when we usually have it after Christmas.  Instead of spending the day after Christmas baking goodies, I made only two small batches on Saturday since they are flying back to NJ instead of driving. We will have Christmas with my family later this week and then actual Christmas at home and then we’ll be done.  It isn’t bad; it’s just different. Everything feels different this year.

It’s been quite a year.

But we will muddle through as my favorite melancholy Christmas song suggests. We have an excited little boy who is counting down to Santa – maybe one of the last years for Santa in our house – and two Advent calendars to maintain. Cookies to bake for Santa and for us.  We introduced him to the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies recently, and it is so special to watch his wonder as he discovers those worlds.

So maybe the wooden Advent calendar is underneath the stairs and there is a TV in our fireplace. So maybe one strand of my carefully-checked lights on the bushes outside stubbornly refuses to work. So maybe the $1.39 lights for the windows I bought refuse to work consistently (thanks, China!). So maybe I’ve already watched Christmas Vacation three times. So maybe my Christmas cards still aren’t done despite actually having a formal family portrait this year.  So maybe I prefer to read Trixie Belden fan fiction instead of engaging with the news because reality is too much.

It is what it is. And maybe, just maybe, Christmas spirit will find me.

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This may represent the entirety of our decorations this year.

 

Thanksgiving: the Aftermath

  
And then after a delightful dinner, you are left with the detritus.

I was surprised how exhausted I felt by 8PM last night, considering that our day was low key and we were cooking for only the 3 of us. However, a friend reminded me that whether we are cooking for 3 or 30 (heaven forbid), the amount of work is the same. True that.

At least we have a refrigerator full of yummy leftovers.

2014: Kilroy Was Here

In prior years, I felt very sentimental on New Year’s Eve and spent time plumbing the depths of the year to acknowledge the good and bad, come to terms with my feelings and (often tearily) say, “godspeed” to the year, recognizing this year would never occur again.  More recently, I can barely be bothered to shrug and raise a glass. Heaven knows I don’t see midnight very often any longer.  The shrug isn’t meant to denote antipathy; it is more of a “holy shit. The year is ending already?  How is that possible? It feels like it just started!” Life has become a blur, and I’m not sure I could sift through it comprehensively if I wanted to.

But our year deserves something on its way out, doesn’t it? A virtual “Kilroy was Here.”

I don’t think I’d describe 2014 as a great year, but it wasn’t bad.  It was stressful and full of worry and anxiety, especially about Daniel’s school situation.  Full of change. I went through another re-org at work, got yet another new boss (who is amazing by the way) and moved offices twice but packed three times. When I return to work on January 5, I will be in a(nother) new space in a new building.  We’re up-ending systems and technology, and there are so many new faces at work that I have trouble keeping them straight. Jimmy went through a lot of the same although he is now able to work from home, which brings its own highs and lows.

2014 brought lots of snow; snow is different as an adult with school-age children, especially living in an area which still shuts down at the threat of snow.  We had two months of sickness, and I wore glasses for 6 weeks thanks to episcleritis.  No, I don’t think I would classify the first half, definitely the first third, of the year as good.

Our second year of Listen to Your Mother was a success with two nearly sold-out shows, and I can add another dozen wonderful women to those I met in 2013 during our first production year.

Daniel is thriving at his school, and his kindergarten year is going well. He is reading and doing simple math. He is sassy, funny, bossy and sweet.

It sounds so positive, yet why do I feel so down? Part of it may be my own over-sentimentality when it comes to change and endings. Part of it may be due to the holidays.  They were stressful, as they tend to be when you the adult in charge of making magic.  It didn’t help that it rained on Christmas Eve, as well as several days before and several days after.  The back yard is soggy, and little boys need to expend energy they haven’t been able to.  I think we all have a touch of cabin fever, and I feel precious vacation time seeping away faster and faster, making me fret: “have we made memories? Have we done good stuff this year? Can we point to any accomplishments or successes? Are we happy???”

Two beach trips.  Lego Fest. A house over-run with Legos built by a little boy who has become an amazingly proficient Lego builder. Snow. Maybe too much snow. Good food. Lots of books. Lots of good shows watched on TV.  A $250,000 grant awarded at work. Rewatching The Office. Making friends. Defending loved ones and standing up to people when they need it. Laughter. Love.

Not too shabby.

I have stopped making resolutions, and I’ve realized that years are seldom good or bad but usually a mix, especially as we age. So I’ll say this:  goodbye, 2014.  Welcome, 2015. It’s a blank slate, and may it be kind to us all.

 

#MicroblogMondays: Excitement

Last night, Daniel tried to put brown marker on our cat’s white fur. And that’s after he chased her up and down the stairs in an attempt to “race.” While the energy might have been the result of the sugar he consumed at the cookie decorating party we attended earlier that day, I think it is safe to say that someone is VERY excited about the holidays.

While the daily increase in excitement and energy can be exhausting for the adults (and cats), it’s sweet to see. Daniel really gets the holidays this year. And no, he doesn’t yet understand the history and meaning of the holidays but associates them with Santa Claus and presents; it is sweet and somehow satisfying to see him rip into a gift. It’s a purity of enthusiasm and delight that lasts only a short while.

And he had us in stitches over his answer to what the meaning of Christmas is: Hanukkah!

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#MicroblogMondays: the Gingerbread House

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A combination of cold rain canceling a much-anticipated holiday activity and subsequent, ever-present parental guilt led me to a snap decision in the grocery store over the weekend: we would build a gingerbread house with Daniel!  I selected a kit with what looked to be a simple house with a straightforward assembly.  It would be fun, right? A bonding moment! A holiday memory we would all cherish.

It took only 5 minutes for the doubt to creep in. I carefully removed the gingerbread pieces and the candy. I studied the instructions closely. It was cutting a hole in the bag of icing and treating it like a pastry bag that did me in. This was going to be messy. And take a lot of time and attention to detail. Could I and an excitable 5-year-old handle this project? And then I cut the slit too wide on the icing packet and had flashbacks to my ignominious cake decorating class. This type of activity is NOT a core competency for me! I am not crafty. Nope, not at all.

We managed. It was fun. And messy. Very messy.  Daniel consumed some of the decorations, but he took the craft very seriously and had a ton of enthusiasm. After an hour, we both looked at the house and declared it done. He wanted to draw. I wanted to do…something else.

I told Twitter that it would be my first and last gingerbread house, but now, a scant day removed, I’m thinking that maybe if we made a few modifications to the icing situation, it would be more feasible. And less messy. So maybe we can re-engineer this project for next year.

This is what memories are made of, right?

The kit and its potential

Our kit and its potential

 

 

Our gingerbread house

Our gingerbread house

 

 

 

Small at the Holidays

Jimmy and I briefly looked at the calendar for November and December tonight, and I started thinking about when we would take vacation, what we were doing for Thanksgiving, what we were doing for Christmas Day, when we’d celebrate with other family members, etc.

We aren’t hosting Thanksgiving this year. I kind of enjoy hosting and having a big meal.  We’ll still make our meal a few days later, but this year it is leaving me a bit hollow. When I looked at Christmas – not as far away as we might like – everything seemed so complicated. We are trying to make our own traditions plus celebrate with both sides of the families plus not travel on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. And we’ll have Jimmy’s family Christmas a few days later when his brother and his family come to town. But everything feels so small, which is the sad truth as our family is becoming smaller due to age.

I sighed as I contemplated the calendar and the various occasions. It’s my own hang up. As an only child, I grew up with small events, often feeling apart, longing for some huge family celebration. I want the Currier and Ives holiday.

And that is my problem. I’ve wanted the huge family holiday that has been presented to us in advertising, but I know the reality is far more complicated. The rational part of me understands that while my heart feels…a bit sad and lonely…at our holidays.

I’m sure I’ll feel differently once we get into the sturm and drang of the holidays (pizza on Christmas Eve last year? Yes, no shame!), but tonight, this moment, I feel a wee bit sad.  I love our family of three, but sometimes, we feel so small.

Deep, Dark Confession

Yesterday was chilly & rainy and it snowed further south. I joked on Twitter that it made me want to start decorating for Christmas.

And then later in the day, Jimmy and Daniel both declared they wanted the Christmas tree in the house.

And I agreed. By 6 PM, November 1, our Christmas tree was in the house and working.

I know. I know. My family is the reason we can’t have nice things. We are a teensy bit from being white trash.

The truth is, the tree makes us happy. We won’t decorate it for several more weeks, but hearing Daniel’s excited gasp of “wow!” yesterday made it worthwhile. And Jimmy loves it too.

And let’s be honest. We haven’t been great at managing our time lately considering that we are always carving our pumpkins on Halloween. We are great at making plans and then life gets in the way. Better to set up the tree now and make sure it works (an issue in prior years) instead of a few days before Christmas.

So, yeah. We’re those neighbors. But I don’t care. Daniel begged me to plug in the tree from the time he woke up today. Jimmy loved seeing the lights reflected throughout the house. And I love how cozy it made everything feel when it was raw and chilly outside.

I’m a few steps away from singing Christmas carols. And we all feel so happy; what could possibly be wrong with that???

Where’d You Go, 2013???

I’m in my last full week of vacation before returning to work. I have coworkers who will return to work on Thursday. I still have several days left to go but at the same time, my time off has passed in a blur.  Each day filled with a hum of activity, yet a lot of nothing out of the ordinary as well. I’m not even sure I could tell you how we spent each day, mundane though they might have been. It’s just a blur of meals, cooking show reruns, and whatever we had scheduled that day.

And that perfectly describes 2013. Somehow we’ve made it through 365 days and, to put it colloquially, shit happened, but at the same time, it happened so quickly that I barely had time to lift my head up and reflect.

2013 was a roller coaster of work drama (low), Listen to Your Mother (high), and Daniel starting Pre-K at his new school (one of those sickening highs that thrills you and leaves you with your stomach in your throat). We went to the beach twice, which was much needed and some of my favorite memories of the year. And I spent way too much time in meetings, a major low. Overall, though, the pace of the year was so fast that I don’t even know if I could describe it as bad or good. It just was.

So, yeah, this is my obligatory 2013 farewell post only I’m not sure exactly what I’m saying farewell to. I don’t want to make any resolutions because that seems destined to fail. I’d like to set goals but we’ll see. I honestly haven’t had a chance to reflect upon any but hey, I’ll give it a try.

What I’d like for 2014 is calm. I know I cannot control my environment but I can control how I react to it, so this is a personal goal I suppose. I want to figure out how to obtain a more zen-like focus. There’s a lot of shit in my day-to-day life that just. doesn’t. matter. Truly. I need more teflon and less fly paper.

I need meaningful change. I can think of a few areas in which change would be a good thing, and I want to pursue it.

I want more books! I think I read more books this year than I’ve read since Daniel was born. Probably at least 30. I honestly cannot remember. I want to read more in 2014, and I plan to keep track of my “to-read” list as well as my “completed” list here. I’m an eclectic reader, so consider yourself warned 😉

I want more family activities. Daniel is at a great age, and it’s wonderful to be able to do so many things that were…challenging…when he was younger. We made a good start with Friday Family Fun Night (pizza and a movie), but I want us to to more places and get out of the house. There are so many places and activities that he can appreciate and participate in now. Along with that, Jimmy and I need to leave the house more when we have a child-free night as well as look into babysitters. A few hours apart is good for sanity, no?

2013 wasn’t bad. We have our health, jobs, housing, spoiled kitties and frankly whatever we need or want. There were a few dark nights of the soul related to work, which in some ways is pathetic when you think about it. Shouldn’t existential crises be saved for more important matters?

So 2014, be kind. I’m 36 years old. I’d like to think I have a measure of control over my life, but I know that might be an illusion.  My little boy will start kindergarten in 2014. My little boy. No matter what each year since 2009 has brought, I’m so blessed and grateful to be able to include him in my thoughts and plans for each upcoming year.

So maybe, maybe, 2014, help me make this year be a great one for him. Because then it will be a great one for us.

Happy New Year and Happy 2014. I’ll raise a glass although I seriously doubt it will be anywhere near midnight 😉

 

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!

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No More Meetings in 2013

No more meetings

No more paperwork

No more stifling

Dirty looks *

Tuesday at 4:30, I closed my office door and practically skipped out to my car.  I was finished – DONE – with work until January 6, 2014. Cue confetti, popping champagne corks, cheers of jubilation.

I was desperate to get to the last day.  The weeks before had been insane with Jimmy being on call for 2 weeks and then more meetings than I thought possible. My stress levels were through the roof: I even started itching like crazy last week, and I think it was stress-induced hives.

But vacation is here at last.  Daniel is in school until tomorrow, and Jimmy’s last day of work for the year is today, so yesterday and today I have had the house to myself and have been purposefully slothful. It has been blissful.

Tomorrow the sprint towards Christmas begins. I need to attempt cards, finish shopping, wrap gifts, figure out a menu for Christmas Eve, make ornaments with Daniel. Oh and Santa is coming through the neighborhood on Saturday, and we are headed to Mocksville on Sunday for Christmas #1. Whew!

It always seem like everything happens at the last minute during the holidays, but it comes together somehow. I’ll think about that on Friday. For now, I’m going to put my feet up and read. I have a few more hours of solitude left.

* my apologies to Alice Cooper 🙂