Archive | December 2014

Christmas 2014

It was a day that we probably won’t forget any time soon.  It started out lovely, with our annual trek out for Chinese food on Christmas Eve.   We had sixteen people total, and it was just fun.  Everyone had a buddy or two that was around their age, and it was this peaceful little oasis in the middle of holiday chaos.

I do Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, and years when they all blend together are hard.  Too much holiday, all at once and no time to catch your breath.   This was a hard holiday season overall, with Marc working crappy hours.  Hanukkah got lost, somehow.  Because he was working so late most nights, we didn’t really get to focus on the holiday at all.  We did the BI Hanukkah night, and that was lovely.  We had my in-laws here one night, and then another night for my MIL’s birthday.  We got Glennys down one night and went out for dinner, so that was lovely.  And one night, we got hot cocoa and drove around to look at Christmas lights.  The whole holiday felt rushed, though, and I’m left wishing that we had a do-over.

I’d actually like a do-over for all three holidays, now that I think about it.  Thanksgiving was kind of crappy, and Christmas had some moments that… well, just keep reading.

The morning was a little rough, for a variety of reasons.  Part of it just has to do with the weight and drama that gets associated with Christmas – all this pressure on having this one day of utter joy and family love and peace.  It never quite lives up to the expectations, and I was not handling it all with the grace and aplomb that I’d like to have.  So I was a little fragile, and that was before Sam totaled the car.

We heard a crash, or a bump, from somewhere outside – but didn’t immediately react.  We were all busy, looking for shoes or coats or fighting with our hair.  Sam was the only one ready, and he headed outside.  What happened at that point is still up for debate – but somehow he managed to knock the car into neutral and rolled it down the hill into the garage.   A few minutes after the bump, Marc glanced out the side window and yelled over to me, asking where I had parked the car the night before.  I told him that I put it in the driveway, because of course, I DID, but it wasn’t there.  We both made the connection at the same time – missing car, crash a few minutes ago – wait, where the HELL is Sam??? and ran outside.

The car is a hot mess.  We’re still waiting to hear back from the insurance, but there’s no way that it’s not going to cost more to fix it than it’s actually worth.  It was an old car with really high mileage.   The garage isn’t all that bad, and the insurance will cover the property damage (and we had the added bonus of filing our first insurance claim listing our eight year old as the driver).  Most importantly – Sam was fine.  Terrified, and he bumped his head on the snow scraper, but he had (thank God) jumped from the front to the back and assumed the “crash position” once the car started rolling.

We’re okay – because we’ve got wonderful friends who offered a car before I even finished telling them what happened, and because it really could have been SO much worse.   I don’t always park in the driveway, normally I park on the hill.  Sam could have been so badly hurt, or done so much more damage – we were so lucky that it ended as well as it did.

And on the upside, we just stayed home for Christmas.  Marc and Jessie worked on her new dollhouse (completely taking over my dining room table for the foreseeable future) and Marc and  Sam worked on his dinosaur skeleton and model bi-plane thing that he got.  Julianna was very busy with her new tea party set, and we had friends over in the afternoon for dinner.  We finished up the night with Annie bringing Glennys all the way down from NH (along with a car we can borrow).

Then the kids locked the bathroom door shut, from the outside.  After a hour with youtube and google, a coat hanger and an itty bitty screwdriver, Marc gave up and took an aluminum bat to the doorknob.

Once Christmas was over, things got better.  The holiday vacation has been delightful – little moments of chaos, but mostly just fun.  Marc had Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the day after that off from work, so we got a lot of quality time with him.  Plus we’ve got Glennys here all week, and that really does make all three of the kids so happy.  All five of the kids, because Lilli and Sarah love it too.

Am I the only one who’s ready to wave goodbye to 2014?  I think 2015 is going to be fabulous.

 

Overwhelmed

Is it just the holidays?   I feel as though I’m running, running, running all the time and never quite getting caught up with all that I have to do.  Forget the housework, I can barely stay on top of dishes/laundry/vacuuming (those are my top three that HAVE to get done – everything else is a bonus).  And there’s stuff getting missed, I completely missed Julianna’s book fair this week, spaced that Jessica had an outdoor field trip on Thursday and sent her to school in a sweater instead of a winter coat, and Sam… actually, I haven’t forgotten anything with the Boy.  Or I have – but haven’t remembered it yet.

(a holiday pic from 2009 that was so cute, I threw it into the blog instead of an actual Hanukkah shot from this year.  Confession – I haven’t actually taken any Hanukkah shots this year yet.)

It’s the fourth night of Hanukkah, or maybe the third.  Or fifth.  I really can’t remember.  But I do know that we’ve only managed to light the candles at home that first night.  Marc’s been working every other night since, and by the time we get home from picking him up, lighting the candles keeps falling to the bottom of the list, with putting the kids to bed, finding jammies, reminding everyone to brush their teeth, etc – taking precedence.

Jessie and I went to a funeral on Wednesday, for my friend Annie’s mom.  Annie and her daughter Glennys are forever friends of ours from almost nine years ago when we moved to the apartment under theirs just before Sam was born.  Glenny is a year older than Jessie and I was so glad that I had taken her out of school that day to go, because when Glenny saw her she ran into her arms and then burst into tears when I hugged her.  She’s my fourth child, and I was extra glad to take her home with us on Tuesday night for a bonus visit before she went back up to NH with her mom.

That might be part of why I’m feeling so off – the whole week was confused with the mid-week trip to RI for the funeral, and then having Glenny here for Wednesday night and all day Thursday.  It’s like we’re on vacation, sort of.  School vacation starts next Tuesday.  Julie’s been sick with a cold all week – not sick enough to BE sick, just sick enough to be ultra-clingy and crabby.  She’s sniffly, and slightly feverish.  Our car overheated on Monday and had to spend the day at the mechanic – which meant that Sam missed school for the day because we couldn’t get him there, and both kids missed religious school.   Then he missed Wednesday as well.  He started complaining his stomach hurt, and I yelled at him.  I thought he was faking – or worse, just not even trying to go.  I knew he probably didn’t feel great, but he wasn’t running a fever, wasn’t throwing up – and had already missed Monday.  So he stayed home, but I was bitter – and he ended up vomiting about an hour after I left to go the funeral.

Ugh – it’s just been a crazy, stressed out sort of week.  On the upside, this has to be one of the least drama-filled Decembers we’ve ever had.  Part of it is simply that we don’t have a lot of extra energy to invest in emotional drama this year – between Marc’s job and the schedule and the running around – everything is so busy and rush-rush-rush, we don’t have TIME to invest in a big existential debate about the spiritual identity of our family and where Christmas fits into it.

But a bigger part  of it, I think, is due to  experience.  Last year, I struggled with the whole Christmas tree/Hanukkah thing – seeking approval from everyone.   I learned from that – and this year, I went into the holidays with a very different attitude.  There were two lessons that really resonated for me, and I’ve tried hard to keep them forefront in my mind. Number one, the holidays are what I make of it – and seeking out commentary on choices we’ve made is a recipe for disaster.  If I want the holidays to be happy and filled with light and love – I have to make it so.  And second – December is just going to be lonely for me.  I’m a Jewish girl with a tree – and my Christian family is going to be a little perplexed and a little hurt that I downplay the holiday, and my Jewish community is going to look at my tree and be a little freaked out by it.  There’s one time during the year when I’m going to feel the most distant from Marc – and it’s going to be the week or two leading up to Christmas. That’s okay – and if I don’t want to hear the comments, don’t ask.  I didn’t chair a December Dilemma discussion group this year, and very deliberately have avoided any pointed conversations with everyone.   December isn’t going to last forever, and a week from now, I’ll be breaking down the lights and repacking all my boxes.

I love the holidays, and suffer through them at the same time.  They aren’t easy, and they always raise questions about identity and heritage and I’m always going to over think them and analyze every little aspect – because that’s how I roll in December.   But I’m getting better at them, and that’s enough of a reason to celebrate for me.

 

Rearranging

I like to rearrange. Or rather, I like the results of having rearranged. I like the way a room looks completely new when you move the couch from one side to another. But I have a big couch and a little living room, and sadly, there’s aren’t a lot of configurations for my living room that actually work.

What I do have is bedrooms. And bedroom furniture that works for boys or girls, and kids who are always up for a change. This last weekend was the last one for a while where I’m home alone with the kids without other plans, so I figured it was a perfect opportunity. My husband does not enjoy rearranging – he’s always pretty sure wherever we last had it (whatever “it” happens to be) was perfectly fine, and moving it is a waste of time and energy. I’ve learned to limit my house reshuffling to days when he’s at work all day.

In theory, it should have been quick and easy – except that none of my kids got the memo on making sure their rooms were clean first. And once I was in the mood to move, I just plowed ahead, ignoring entirely the prep work that should have gone into it. Midway through the day on Saturday, with one bed broken apart and moved out into the kitchen, three bookcases emptied (with their contents strewn all over the living room) and bedding, laundry, and lego guys all over the place – I began to regret it. The kids were enthusiastic helpers, as long as what I was doing was fun – like emptying bookcases ( or the case of my older daughter, arranging all of her dust catchers, books, notebooks and figurines back on the bookcase). But they were not really all that helpful about shoving dressers back into place, or hauling giant queen size mattresses hither and yon all over the place.

It’s three days after the fact, and we’re still not done. Oh, the furniture is moved, and the beds are made. The bookcases are even restocked. I donated three bags of toys and outgrown clothes this morning, and filled another two bags with broken toys, trash (and why kids think that stuffing trash under their dresser is a good idea is a mystery I’ll never solve….). But the giant pile of dresses and jackets that need to be hung up in my daughters’ closet is still waiting, and the stuffed animals appear to have mated and reproduced while we weren’t looking (where else would they come from?? There are thousands…).

My goal was to have everything all organized and put away before decorating commences. I dug out the Christmas/Hanukkah boxes and even managed to get the Hanukkah candles purchased. But we are a long way from organized. Fortunately, the next three days of rain postpones our tree shopping, and I’ll have the rest of the week to finish putting the house back together and ready for the holidays.

Mornings still aren’t my favorite

It’s the only time when I’m really alone, and awake.  I end up falling asleep after I get the kids in bed (actually, I’m ashamed to admit that Jessie has stayed up later than me on more than one occasion…).  But mornings – that’s the time when I’m awake, can get things done without little voices talking to me, and prepare myself for the upcoming battles.

(this is from a few years ago, but she still sleeps with a dozen stuffed aniumals and looks like an angel)

Not that I’m battling with the kids – because mostly I’m not.  It’s not perfect, but for the most part, they roll out of bed, and start getting ready.  But getting them to eat, finding socks (WHERE do they all go???), and packing the lunches are never ever fun, never ever easy, and on mornings like this, when I’m still groggy and the two cups of coffee haven’t done anything to help… the idea of getting up and actually starting this process is overwhelming.

I woke up at five thirty, and then remembered that Jessie needed her GSA t-shirt.  I thought it was in the dryer,but if it wasn’t, I’d be in trouble.  It was, so in theory, I could have gone back to bed for a bit, but then I saw the Elf.  Marc didn’t move him last night, so I had to find a spot to shove him.  At this point, the coffee I’d started when I got up was ready, so I poured some and decided I’d take advantage of being up so early – and promptly tripped on the laptop cord, dumping the coffee and dropping the computer.

Tempting to give up and go back to bed… but the minutes keep clicking by and the time when I need to go poke kids is creeping ever closer.

Is it Friday yet??

 

It creeps in regardless

I vowed that this year would be different.   It would’t be a repeat of last year or years before that.  But it sneaks in anyway.

The kids wanted to get antlers for the car this year.  And a red nose, of course.   My car isn’t anything to brag about in the looks department, it’s super old and a little battered (my fault, I ran into a snowbank last year and damaged the undercarriage of the front of it, and backed into a fire hydrant earlier this fall and cracked a tail light.  In my defense, I’m in the car a LOT.  I don’t hit things a lot more often than I do).  So I was totally in favor of sprucing it up, so to speak.  Give it a little style, a little holiday flair.

Except… we’re Jewish.

We’re Jewish and celebrating Christmas, and as much as I try to pretend that it’s totally smooth sailing and easy-peasy to straddle this cultural divide, it’s still kind of a hot mess.    Because the thought of decorating our car with such a public symbol of Christmas made Marc uncomfortable, especially in light of our new schedule that involved me parked outside the synagogue five days a  week (if we survive the next three months leading up to her bat mitzvah – I’m going to go into synagogue withdrawal when it’s over – between studying with the cantor, meeting with the rabbi and regular religious school, I spend more time there than in my living room).

So we didn’t get the antlers.  I started to go the route of over-analyzing what this meant – where we saying that we needed to HIDE that we celebrated Christmas?  Would the kids be getting the message that they need to be ashamed of traditions that come from my side of the family tree?  But then I stopped.  Because it’s a deliberate thing – this whole peaceful acceptance and focus on celebration and family and togetherness, and as easy as it would be to sink into the angst – it’s not helpful for anyone.  If I want December to mean more to my kids that the advent of my annual angst-ridden drama fest, I have to make it happen.

I got them an Elf on the Shelf instead.   I explained that it wasn’t really respectful to have the car decorated for a non-Jewish holiday and they were okay with it.  Especially because I followed it up with “… and I’m getting you guys an Elf on the Shelf tonight because you’re so awesome.”  The older two, especially, really, really wanted one.  And as much as I hate the thought of adding on another task (because you know I’ll forget to move it), they were so delighted about our new Elf (named Chocolate Chip Cookie) that they promptly forgot about the antlers and focused on that.

And the added bonus is that Marc was so appreciative that I didn’t push for the antlers that he moved the Elf for me last night when I forgot.