Tomorrow, my children return to school. No more sleeping in. No more lounging around. No more letting them eat whatever they want for lunch as long as they make it and it's not candy or involves syrup. No more curling up in the big chair with my laptop and a steaming cup of coffee, taking my time to wake up and get moving.
In other words, back to normal. Sigh.
It's January 3rd. It's time to begin dismantling the holidays. I looked around tonight and my heart sank. My home always feels so warm during the holidays...I'm not ready to give that up just yet. I love the greenery and the lights and the festive twinkle everywhere (and I am not afraid of the festive twinkle, my friends). At Christmas time, I pull out all my favorite things -- my ancient, falling-apart cellulose Santas and their reindeer, my mercury glass collection, fresh greens in every bowl and vase, my Christmas ornament collection cultivated lovingly over my entire life (and that now includes ornaments for each of my children cultivated over their entire lives), my glass icicles and antique five-and-dime store glass balls that have become cloudy with age but were my grandparents', my strange assortment of folk art angels that my mom decided she didn't want any more -- everything has a memory or just makes me happy. But it can't stay up forever.
Or can it?
I mentioned that I need to start dismantling the tree tonight to Little Meems.
"Oh no, mommy, not just yet!" At the age of 12, if she's calling me mommy she's really in need of me understanding her. "It makes me so happy to come downstairs and see the tree. I know Christmas is over, but there's just something about the way it makes me feel when I see it, like hopeful or something."
We have spent the better part of our holiday vacation visiting with family. She has soaked up every moment of it, for no one loves family more than she does. It is not unusual for her to cry pulling out of a cousin's driveway, or watching her grandparents drive away. Nothing makes her happier than being surrounded by the people she loves most in the world and who love her just as much. As we are coming off of 2 weeks of nonstop family and fun and travel and laughter and holiday magic, I can see that to take the tree down would destroy her right now.
It's a beautiful tree. It's still fragrant, still green, still very much healthy and going strong. Which is unusual for us.
So it's staying up, for a little longer anyway. While she feels all the feels and until the empty hole that family left heals a little bit. Like a bandaid for her soul. To take down the tree right now would be to rip off that bad boy off mercilessly. It's not the tree itself, it's the feeling it evokes. The feeling all of the sparkle evokes.
It'll be dead within a week, which should be perfect timing. That'll give me time to do some other dismantling, although as I write this, I've been looking around in a quest for what can stay. It IS winter after all.
Why not enjoy it, ALL of it, just a wee bit longer?
I messed around in PhotoShop and created the perfect Christmas card. OK not perfect, but better.
Last year, I copped to stressing over the perfect Christmas card. See here. Anyone who has ever received a card from me knows that, clearly, I have not been stressing about it since then. My cards generally have an “it is what it is” feel. My kids are who they are, and typically our holiday cards are representative of that very concept – Tate’s always making a face or cutting up, Meems always exudes joy (usually with her mouth wide open), Will is smirking.
This year, my card photos were way less than stellar. In all the shots, I was lucky if one kid looked good, not to mention two. A good one of all three? Not so lucky. So I did what I had to do. I took Will’s head from one shot and moved it to another. Voila! The perfect picture!
Ok not perfect, but better.
Now we have an I’m-barely-tolerating-this half smile instead of an agonized omg-would-you-just-please-hurry-up-I-mean-seriously look. For sure, an upgrade. I call that success. My standards have lowered considerably through the years. It helps to keep me sane.
The other day in Sunday school we discussed the gloss we put on the holidays, when reality often looks so much different. We sing of Jesus’ birth as a peaceful, silent, calm night when in reality, Mary went through childbirth at age 14 by herself in a barn/cave with donkeys, on the floor with just Joseph there to help her. No one talks about the mess, and the screams and the fear and agony she must have felt. Let’s be honest, childbirth under the best of circumstances isn’t peaceful or easy.
I immediately thought of my Christmas card and felt guilty.
Thus, the Christmas card confessional post.
We are not a perfect family. Truth is, my kids were not happy to be posing for that picture. This morning I yelled at my children that if they wanted to ever leave the house for the holiday, they were going to have to help out a little. And then I gave them a laundry list of all they are going to do today while I’m at work, and a list of all the things we are going to accomplish when I get home this afternoon. They accused me of ruining their vacation fun (one has a holiday hot dog lax game this afternoon and another one has a Christmas party tonight). I told them that if this stuff doesn’t get done, no one’s going to have any fun. You know, the usual stuff. Good times.
But perfection is overrated and stressful. After the chaos, comes the calm. After we scramble to get everything done, we get to enjoy. Just as it is, which will be perfect in our memories, but not in reality. After Mary finally delivered, she held her baby and rested and enjoyed the most wonderful feeling in the world. And that’s what we remember and celebrate.
Next year, I vow to embrace the chaos and give you a REAL glimpse into my world, agonized omg-would-you-just-please-hurry-up-I-mean-seriously look and all. Because that’s the truth behind the facade. That’s the real memory, not the “not perfect, but better” shiny almost smirk squinty look I will grace my friends and family with this year.
Yesterday, one of my son's teammates injured his neck in their lacrosse game.
Watching a child go down, having to call 911, standing by as parents who are medically trained assess him and keep him immobile, helplessly waiting as the paramedics strap him to a gurney and rush him to a trauma center, witnessing the fear and panic on his father's face...
It seemed like a simple fall.
I hugged my W extra hard this morning. Gave him a few more kisses. An entire weekend spent on the sidelines watching your children do what they love...it's a gift. A true blessing. Yesterday was a reminder not to complain, not to take for granted that there will be a next time. Yesterday it all could have ended for one family, their lives irreversibly changed in the blink of an eye.
It could have been my child. It could have been yours.
The boy will be OK, thank God.
This life is precious. Childhood is fleeting.
Hug your babies. Embrace the chaos. Relish the early mornings and long drives and freezing temperatures.
One day, you won't need to do that any more. Enjoy it while you can.
Fourteen years of laughs and craziness and nonstop motion.
Fourteen years of purpose. He gave me the greatest gift of all.
As he turns 14, here are 14 things I want him to know:
1. Always be kind. You have a compassionate heart, I’ve seen it. I know you don’t always feel comfortable with that, but listen to what it tells you. It just might save you.
2. Be yourself. I think you’ve got this one in the bag. You are so very authentic. You have always been exactly who you are. People like you for that, so don’t change.
3. You’re a late bloomer. In many ways. And that’s OK. I know it doesn’t always feel OK when there’s social stuff going on and voices are changing and growth spurts are happening and other “things” are transpiring (mentally, physically and socially) all around you and you’re not quite there. It’s OK. It will make you interesting later, trust me. I know firsthand. The kids that peak early…often peak early in many ways. Bloom where you are planted. You’ll have your time.
4. Shower. Regularly. Even if you took one this morning. If you ran in a cross country meet, followed by lacrosse practice, for pete’s sake, SHOWER. Because you stink.
5. Be nice to your siblings. They look up to you and adore you (trust me) but they are different than you. Be gentle with them. Root for them. Encourage them and support them. Everyone likes to know there’s someone looking out for them. In turn, they’ll return the favor.
6. You have to work harder. "Enough" isn't always enough. I learned that the hard way. Your hard work could be the difference between good and great.
7. Respect girls. They are more sensitive than you, but they are also meaner. They will confuse you and mesmerize you and break your heart. Respect them anyway. They're trying to figure this life out too. Do not treat women like objects. You have a sister - think how you would want her to be treated. You will be someone's casualty, and you will have a casualty or two of your own as you figure all this out. Respect them anyway. Be that guy.
8. Stand up straight. It will impart a confidence you might now always feel. Just try it, you'll see. You'll also breathe better and be taller. Both very good things.
9. Let me hug you. This is a selfish request, but you have no idea what I went through to have that privilege. In turn, I promise to take it easy on you and respect your boundaries.
10. Stop balling up your socks and flinging them around. When you come to me and tell me you need socks, yet I can't open your sock drawer because it's so stuffed, I know that you have an entire drawer full of unmatched socks. Really? Some of those socks were ridiculously expensive (for socks). Also, I'm tired of finding balled up socks behind the computer armoire, on the mantle, behind your bed, in your closet, under the playroom sofa, on top of the curtains in your room...
11. You can tell me anything. I know it might be awkward because I'm a girl and I'm your mom and some things are embarrassing and I couldn't possibly know what you're going through, but I do and I will always be here for you if you need advice, or a willing ear. If I don't have the answers for you, I'll find them. I remember a conversation I had with my dad when I was about your age, about a boy who liked me. He gave me the best advice (and here I thought he wouldn't have a clue) because he knew my heart, and it made me feel safe and understood. Trust me. I'll always do my best.
12. Laugh. A lot. Just not in church.
13. Put yourself out there. You may succeed, you may fail, but you'll regret not trying.