Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Tree Tales

Last year, our first year in our new house, I thought I wanted to switch up our Christmas tree. I thought wanted something less colorful. Something with lots more white, with pine cones maybe. Our tree suddenly seemed garish to me in our new space, a little tacky or kitschy.  But the kids would have none of it. And besides, I didn't have the money to switch it up anyway.

By the time we were trimming it last Thanksgiving, I realized the error in my thinking. Christmas trees, like most things in life, should serve a greater purpose than being a fashion statement.

I distinctly remember gathering the things for our very first Christmas tree. Sena was nine months old, and I had saved a hundred dollar gift certificate to Pier 1 my aunt had given me for my wedding. With Sena in the sling, we ventured out on our own, which didn't happen very often. I usually did everything with my mom, then as now. But my mom had just bought a house in North Carolina, and she was busy doing all the things that are involved in buying (and most importantly, decorating) real estate.  Anyhow, Sena and I went shopping and made what felt like very important design decisions, just the two of us.

I was really proud of myself. I was proud of the pink and turquoise ribbon and the brass star. I was proud of all the bright wood and felt ornaments, proud of the glass bulbs I later found at K-Mart. I was 20 years old, and it felt like the most adult thing I had ever done, and I had done it without second guessing myself.

None of this is particularly significant, but you couldn't have convinced me of that at the time. I was setting the tone for my family's future holidays.

Every year, each of the kids gets an ornament to add to the tree. Buying those ornaments might be the part of Christmas shopping that I put the most thought into. The year we went to Paris, that's where Sena's ornament came from. Gus got a carved shark back when every book we read was about those scary, beautiful beasts of the sea. I'd be lying if I pretened that I didn't try to find ornaments that fit with the style of our tree. The tone I set that first Christmas stays with us. The tree tells our story, and our story is important to me. Tradition is important to me, more important to me than creative change.

So our tree remains bright and full of jewel tones and memories. It might not be the tree I would pick now if I was starting fresh. But that's the moral of the story. I'm not. I already have a half written story, and there is no need to change it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

This Weekend We / Back at the Farm

I think that the best testament to a good weekend is the absence of dread on a Sunday evening. I am a working mom, which is a term I have a hard time with for lots of reasons, but maybe chief among them is that I have so much help from my parents that sometimes it feels like I have unfairly appropriated that title from women who face much greater challenges than I do. That aside, unlike non-homeschooling, stay at home moms, Mondays mean that I have less time rather than more. Mondays mean that progress stops on most fronts, and that I have to enter survival mode. Do enough laundry that Tom has clean socks for work. Make dinner and do the dishes, but ignore that the refrigerator needs cleaned. Wipe off the bathroom counters, but don't bother trying to scrub the tub.

After the most fun weekends, I feel ill prepared to face the week ahead. After the most productive weekends, I feel disappointed about the lack of fun had.

However, after this weekend, I felt pretty content with the state of it all. Part of the secret is discovering that one of my very favorite ways to spend a Friday night is at my sister's house. It feels like I have done something without actually doing much of anything. When I crash their house with my entire brood, they make us dinner AND breakfast. They entertain the kids with midnight chicken visits, and since it's family, I don't even have to be too embarrassed when my two year old freaks out for an hour and a half because he wants to "go home." Plus, she has the nicest guest rooms in all the land. One of these days I'll get around to doing some sort of house tour because their house is cute, really cute.
The weekend also managed to involve an all grown-ups city dinner, lots of True Detetictive, and p
lenty of cuddles from another one of the common cold's victims. Now all I have to do is get through a few more days of work before two full weeks of every sort of good thing.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Home Scenes

I think about house projects so much lately-- what corner I want to attack next, what needs painted, what needs cleaned, where to move things around. I suppose it's a nesting instinct, but despite the fact that this is my fourth baby, it's the first time this bug has bit.

What has plagued me in pregnancies past is a wave of anti-social tendencies coupled with a sadness over my lack of social engagements. It's a strange and confusing combination of forces. Basically, I don't particularly want to make plans. What I want to do is burrow into my hole and think about all the ways I can make said hole cozier and cuter.  But then it occurs to me that I'm not seeing my friends, and I worry that maybe, somehow, I managed to lose all my friends. I convince myself that this pregnancy completely and profoundly changed my basic personality, and I am no longer a raving extrovert. I worry that I have become family-centric homebody who still possesses a great deal of fear of missing out.

However, I have been down this anti-social path. I have crossed this introverted bridge. I am certain that in a few months, long as those months may seem, I will suddenly remember that I like going places on weekends. I will simultaneously forget all the little tasks I had hoped to accomplish around the house, I will be back to the non-baby bearing me, a woman who is less productive, but quite frankly, more fun.

This weekend we have plans, and I am equal parts excited and prematurely exhausted. 

The first winter cold has found its first victim. Gus coughs and complains, and I let the clean dishes from last night's birthday dinner remain on the counter so that I can sit with him and watch a movie in the waning afternoon sunlight. I reheat leftovers and send Tom and Sena to the library for provisions for a storm that exists only in my imagination. A few flurries this afternoon leaves me wanting a real storm,  an unexpected day off with my kids by my side, books and DVD's piled by our side. 

However, I do want to go to all the places and see all the people- a sleepover at my sister's farm on Friday and a night out sans kids on Saturday.  But still, the thought of sleeping in overwhelms me. Sometimes when I start to feel deprived of sleep, I start to pick off plans one by one, so that I can fall asleep early, stay asleep late. However, the busy weekend leads into the last week of school before a two week break, so imaginary storm or not, there is rest in my future, or so I tell myself. And there will be time for the projects that dance through my head like sugar plum fairies. And if there isn't time, it's because they just weren't that important. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Arlo Almost Two

Tomorrow Arlo will be two years old.

Like me, Arlo is the third child. From the start, that small, insignificant detail made him feel just a little more mine, as though our birth order gave us just a little extra in common.

He came when I was older and a little more prepared. I had learned that it would happen quickly, this thing called childhood, so I had better savor it.

He's my buddy, at my side while the big guys are off on their own adventures. I'm certain I spent just as much tickling Sena and Gus when they were Arlo's age. Just as much time shucking their chins, hiding under blankets, smelling their little toes and declaring "pee yew." But right now it is Arlo's time to engage in these small joys, and I think that this time around, I might get even more pleasure from them.

He has been a mama's boy from the start, and for better or worse, I've encouraged it. He is who needs me most, who wants me most. He is my shadow. He beams when I walk in from work, cries when I leave. He seeks me in the middle of the night, wanting to lay in the crook of my arm.

In a few short months, my time will be divided. I'll struggle with how to put him to sleep while an infant demands me. I know how big he will seem the moment I return with a little bug in my arms. It won't be much longer after that when he starts to seek independence over cuddles. When he no longer needs me the most, no longer wants me the most.

But for now, we can be each other's best friend and play while the big kids run off without us.

I spent a few too many hours over the past few days looking back.  The joy and torment of nostalgia.

The most painfully nostalgic thing I may have ever written. 

Arlo at one month

A smiling lump. 

Arlo at two months. 

Arlo's first summer.

Arlo's Birthday Brunch.

Arlo's Firsts. 

Arlo and Felix.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

This Weekend We / Memory Garden

For a few moments on Saturday night, the house was quiet. Tom had already taken off with the kids before book club began, and the tribe of women had not yet shown up. And I carefully and quietly lit candles and enjoyed the few moments of silence, a rare and lovely sound.  And the house was clean and the beef bourguignon that I had painstakingly made following each and every one of Julia's directions simmered in the kitchen.

A few more moments and friends filled the space and we replaced the silence with conversations about education and about transgender identity and about the ethics of eating meat. And as expected, we talked about the book, Memory Garden, because we take pride in being a book club that actually discusses the book.  Eventually the talk moved to childbirth and fertility, as it always seems to on these evenings, which only makes sense since there always seems to be a new baby and at least one more on the way. I guess this is what it means to be in your thirties?

When there are so many conversations-- huddled in the kitchen, gathered around the coffee table, tucked into the dining room corner-- it's hard to grab the camera and remember to capture the women whose company I so value. They may have teased me for the lack of friends that don the photo magnets that cover my fridge, still I talked rather that click.

The rest of the weekend included eating lots of leftovers and some sister induced inertia. Nothing saps my motivation like a few sisters next door who happen to be doing gloriously little with their morning or evening.

It's back to work for two more weeks before Christmas break. So far my December blues have been held at bay. In fact, I'm actually feeling downright cheery from time to time. Oh the power of faking ittill you make it.