Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas History in Trees

Growing up there was always a real tree.  It seemed grand and magical.  I don't believe we have even entertained the idea of a real tree since we've blended our families.  I suppose that maybe one day that's something our kids will ask about.  Or they'll walk into a friend's home near the holiday and get a whiff of pine and inquire.  But really, it's not something I have any guilt over.

My very first apartment on my own, I had a small but full sized tree.  I decorated it with cheap, cute, trendy ornaments.  I was independent and happy.  I had a house warming party for myself near the holiday, and I was proud of my decorations.

Then I moved to Nevada.  My first Christmas away from home.  We came by an artificial tree.  I don't remember if we purchased it or if we were a charity case.  Most likely the latter.  I do remember we did not have any ornaments at all.  I spent long nights making paper ornaments out of construction paper.  I poked ornament hooks through the top and hung them.  I'm pretty sure he never noticed, although I distinctly remember doing it for him.

The following Christmases are all lumped together.  No presents, no family, no traditions.  The holidays were just an excuse for extra time off that was spent in a drug fueled haze (his) and tears shed behind closed doors (mine).  We were not welcome at any holiday gatherings.  Not even when Madeline was born.  His parents picked her up sometime on Christmas Eve and gave her gifts at their house.  They dropped her and her gifts off that evening before bed.  I hated him on Christmas Eve for making things so bad that I wasn't allowed to be with my baby when she opened gifts.  I wasn't the problem, he was.  But if I chose my baby and time with his family over him in those days . . . well the consequences weren't worth it.

The last Christmas, before I fled and came home. We had that same tree.  We had now acquired ornaments and the tradition of being away from our daughter when she opened gifts.  I remember being so sad, so home sick, so lonely.  My family had sent gifts.  I had been patient and had vowed to not open a single gift until Christmas morning.  But one morning a few days before, I woke with the tears already falling, and my heart breaking.  I crawled across the living room floor to the tree.  And I opened the gifts my mother and grandmother had wrapped and sent.  I opened all of them sobbing and shaking.  I wasn't impatient.  I wasn't unable to wait a few more days.  I was missing my family so terribly much, that at that point, I would do anything to be close to them.  All I wanted was to open those gifts and hold them close to me.  Those shirts, and socks, and baby clothes saved me that Christmas.  I was as close to home as I could get.

The following Christmas I did make it home.  Home to my mother's house.  Christmas fell in month two of my three months of living with my my mother, step-father, and grandmother.  It was a welcome holiday.  I wasn't in the proper mental state to enjoy it at the time, but my babies and I were home. That was what mattered to me, to them, and to my family.

The next year, was my first Christmas on my own again.  I didn't have the time, the money, or the inclination to put up any decorations if I recall correctly.  My children were little.  My tiny apartment was dreary.  It just wasn't in the cards.  After that came a new, more lovely apartment and the children were older.  I believe a table top tree and some decorations from the discount store were thrust upon me.  I was told to "do it for the kids".  It didn't make sense to me - the holiday wasn't celebrated in my home.  In fact, I distinctly remember after I got that tree up, Josh and his brother stopped by.  They spent full minutes in my living room making fun at my tree attempt.  All in good fun, but we all knew something was missing and it wasn't really Christmas at my house. 

Our current tree followed that table top tree.  The truth is, the tree we have that he came home with that first Christmas three years ago: I hate it.  It's tall and skinny and takes up hardly any space in our vast living room.  But it's my favorite tree.  It's a tree that represents love and happiness and respect and stability.  This holiday is celebrated in my home with traditions that are being established that the kids are looking forward to and asking about and anticipating.  I'm doing my job.  It's working.  We're coming together as a family.  A family that has a tree with the same ornaments they trim with every year.  A family that loves one another through all of the ups and downs. 

So, in the scheme of trees for me, this is the most beautiful, special tree I have ever encountered.  There won't be another one with which it compares. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Where Things Stand

It's four days before Christmas.

* I have yet to wrap one item.  I have high hopes for tomorrow night. 
* I still need to purchase food for Christmas dinner and Christmas morning. 
* Against my better judgment and happiness, I've accepted an invitation to a Christmas Eve event. I'm silently stewing about that. 
* Christmas cookies still need to be made.  I think we've decided on Christmas Eve morning or afternoon for that. 

So, there are still a lot of loose ends to tie up.  Some I'm not even listing here, like the small amount of gifts that still need to be purchase.  But despite all of this, I am not feeling overwhelmed. I am feeling happy and excited for the holiday.  I'm looking forward to the amount of things I have to tick off my list.  

I am looking forward.  I think that is the most important thing I can do right now. Peace.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ready.

This week should prove fairly easy.  Nothing out of the ordinary stands out on the schedule.  Tonight will find us meeting my sister-in-law and nephew for pictures.  Nothing says Merry Christmas like a picture of the grandchildren!  So that will be.  If the lines aren't too ridiculous, maybe a quick visit to the big guy.  I need Noah to retract his request for an iPad that was given on a visit to Santa to which I did not accompany him.  I'd much rather he make a case for a new, bigger bike.  Like say the one he will be getting.

Other than that, I think this week will go smoothly.  The kids' Christmas break begins next week, and I have to say I think we're all ready for that.  Homework is being forgotten, tests aren't being studied for, papers aren't being turned in in a timely manner.  This isn't typical of their work habits, but it does seem to crop up when there's a need for a break or a schedule adjustment.  So if we can get through these next five days in tact, I think we'll be able to regroup and move forward for the rest of the year successfully.

Other than that, if we could just get a little snow, I think I'd be just about set for this holiday stuff to swing in.  Yep, I said it. I'm missing it this year.  I will be done with it by December 26th, and I will complain bitterly through the rest of the winter.  But right now, snow is the only thing missing from my holiday this year.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Santa's list ain't got nothing on mine.

A list.  If only to make me seem a little more coherent than I feel.

 - Last night I made peanut butter cookies.  Nothing fancy, but homemade just the same.  The littler kids were sitting at the kitchen table enjoying one warm from the oven, when Austin said to the other two "Do you guys remember the other Christmases when we made cookies in holiday shapes with Christmas decorations?  I hope we do that this year."  Oh my goodness.  I almost swooned on the other side of the kitchen.  My hard work at establishing traditions is working!

- I miss my camera.  It was nothing fancy at all. Simple point and shoot.  But it was mine and I knew how to work it and everyone counted on me to have a camera at the ready and I was fast becoming that lady with the camera.  I loved that.  But then, this summer, it was lost. Not by me and not in my home.  By someone else in yet a third person's home. (maybe, we don't know.  Could actually be anywhere.) But the point is, I miss it.  Taking pictures with your phone is fine for sending the pictures via text to someone.  And i do love my iPhone.  But I feel a little less mom prepared just whipping out my phone instead of a camera.  I guess the missing the camera thing could be a post of it's own.  I miss it.  Santa?  Do you read blogs?

- Wednesday my mom and I took our annual Christmas shipping trip around the county.  Just her and I.  No kids, no schedule, just list and money in hand with the goal to fill up a trunk or two.  We were successful and I had a nice time.  I'm happy we love each other enough to tolerate one another long enough for a shopping trip and lunch out a few times a year.  I'm fortunate to have my mom as my mom.  Though she drives my batty and some days I want to shake her.  I do love her and I know I'm very, very lucky.

- Busy weekend ahead.  Celebrating Josh's brother's birthday tonight at our house.  At least he's requested a specific birthday dinner that can be ordered in.  I'm throwing together some queso, throwing that in the crock pot to keep warm and calling it a day.  That's tonight.  Before that we have group, hockey, dance, and grocery shopping. Tomorrow is a Christmas party that no one really wants to attend save for the kids and Josh's father.  But attend we must.  That's what the holidays are about.  Visiting and re-connecting and maybe one year keeping that promise that we need to see each other more often.

-Time to close this list to go make a list of what needs to me done today.  Oh! And it's snowing outside.  This makes me happier than I'm used to snow making me.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Falling

I fall.  A lot. All the time.  Sober, during the day, going about my business, and splat, I've fallen.

I've literally fallen (slipped?) on a banana peel in a grocery store while walking with my mother.  One moment, upright talking, moving forward.  The next? On my by behind with my legs in front of me.

I've fallen at the gas station, walking from the store to the pumps.  I've fallen in the gas station walking from the coolers to the cash register.

I've fallen at work. Straight out of my chair at my desk.  I've fallen on all fours in a new department soon after I had taken a new position. I've fallen in the kitchen while walking to the coffee pot.

I fell on Monday evening while picking up the kids from day care.  Twice. In the span of about seven minutes.  This caused one of the teachers to ask, "Um, is there something on the floor over there?"  No. Just me and my feet.

I've fallen down ten of our twelve stairs. That left a bruise I can't even describe in a color I'd never seen before.
I've fallen up three or four of our stairs stoving my middle and index fingers in the process.  I've fallen down our basement stairs causing laundry to fly everywhere.

At a recent family gathering I fell while walking in from the garage carrying a twenty-four pack of water.

Once, when Josh and I first began dating, we had all of the kids at a small park in his neighborhood.  I though I would show him how young, carefree, and fun I was.  I began running.... and immediately tripped face first into the protective mulch beneath the play ground equipment. Arms, legs, hair and body splayed everywhere.  Yes, really.

Falling.  Always.  It doesn't even phase me anymore.  I can almost complete the fall and right myself again in one fluid motion. It's become quite impressive. It's become a running joke between myself and those close to me.  "Guess what I did on Saturday!" "What? Did you fall?"

But, I have to believe that it speaks to my resiliency throughout other aspects of my life.  No matter how bleak or dangerous things may seem, I right myself again and move forward.  Every time.  Because that's what I do.

Entry #1 for Holidailies 2011.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Speaking about Sunday.

Yesterday was an odd mix of a day, but I'll take it.

The morning was lazy.  Spent on the couch with my iPad, in front of the Christmas tree and fire.  Very cozy.  Very relaxing.  So relaxing, that I moved to the bedroom to catch up on some recorded trashy TV when I got a text from Marie saying she did in fact want to cash in on her birthday lunch. So I kicked it into gear and got ready.

We went to Bar Louie.  It was here I experienced my first po' boy sandwich.  Oh my. Heaven in my mouth.  I got the blackened shrimp version with the spiciest creamiest remoulade.  Amazing.  I would go back any time for that.  We also made it finally to Charming Charlie.  A co-worker told me about this store a year ago.  I am so far I finally made it.  I will be returning often.  That was the most fun shopping I have has in a long time.  And even though this time of year shouldn't be about shopping for one's self.  One did in fact get some very cute things for one.

Later we we to a mall I hadn't been to before. I'm so glad we did.  The clothes, the stores, the people watching.  The availability of items.  So much more fun shopping there than our Mall Of The Suburbs.  Boo.
we had some laughs as we always do, and it was great time to just be away from kids and boys.

Yes, the underlying drama is still there.  The drama bubbling at the surface.  We spent a lot of time talking about that and it was good to be able to vent to one another and bounce ideas off of each other.  Again, this is a situation that will be life changing in so many ways for so many family members.  I'm not at liberty to speak of it here yet, but once I am - well, you'll probably wish I hadn't.

Ok - so even after all of that talking and shopping and walking and carrying on, we still had one more stop.  Josh had planned for everyone to meet at The Liz for dinner.  So that group included Marie and I, Max and Austin, Eric and Candice.  Noah eventually made his way up there as well when my brother dropped him from his outing to downtown.  It was a great way to round out the evening.  I was still stuffed from my freaking fantastic lunch, so it was just a cup of soup and some Christmas Ale for me.

The day ended on a more positive note than I imagined it would.  Some conversations were had and decisions reached regarding the drama later on in the evening.  Pleasant? Awesome? Dream come true?  Nope, not any of those things.  But I think we're on the cusp of the beginning of the first part of the path to making things worth.  To acting sanely and to moving forward. To being okay.

Yesterday was more than okay.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Weekend Wind Down

Today will seem odd. In a few moments my mother will be picking Madeline up for the day. They will be embarking on their annual Day of Decorating a my Mother's house. Coincidentally, Noah also has plans for some holiday fun with my father. I think they're heading downtown with talk of reindeer, ice skating, and Christmas lights. Seems fun for both of them. How will I spend my day? Cleaning, shopping, resting? I'm not sure yet and I have a few hours to decide how I would like to make use of the day. Regardless, I'm looking forward to the day. And I am happy the kids have the opportunity for fun today.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Where Do I Belong?

This is a question I've been asking myself repeatedly over the last week.  I'm 32 years old and I'm questioning this more than before.

I spent Thanksgiving with the ex in-laws and that very extended family.  A trip itself that became extended due to my reluctance to take an almost puking but surely sick little girl on a plane.  A trip that was fun and very good for our souls in the end.  But a trip during which I walked into a house full of thirty "family"members and knew I didn't belong.  I love them all, I do.  This trip found them treating my children better than any visit in the past.  I had an amazing time with my brother in law and his wife and their charming children.  But there was something missing.  That sense of this happening again.  That sense of creating memories and history.  That sense of belonging and fitting in to a family.

Then I returned home.  Two days later than planned, but finally we arrived.  I walked into my own home waist deep into some issues and drama.  Waist deep into life changing battles that I don't have a whole lot of say in.  Why?  Because while we live here, while Josh and I are in a relationship that is beyond committed, while we're raising our kids as one family together - it's not MY family.  We are not married.  I have no say so in anything that happens in this home unless it directly effects me, Madeline, or Noah.  I can offer my opinion.  I can provide support.  I discipline as I see fit.  And for the vast, vast majority of the time this works.  This works beautifully.  We tweak as we go along and everything is fine on our bumpy road called life.

The fault in that whole plan is apparent when something like this happens.  Something that will change the trajectory of all of our lives.  But this something is something that is not happening to Madeline, Noah, or myself.  It's happening to one of Josh's children.  He gets the say so. I get to offer opinions and advice. But if they fall of deaf eats, I can't push it.  This is not my family either.

So, I've spent the last week or more wondering where I fit in.  Where my family is? I am not attempting to seem unhappy of ungrateful for the life I am leading.  I love it, I love my kids, I love our home, I love what is our life right now.  It just became apparent to me that I don't have a long, historical, authoritative role in anyone's life right now.  And while I make an effort to form history and traditions every day with these kids, the large picture long scheme jist is that I wasn't here first and it's not for me to decide and deliver.