Adventures with Santa

One of the things I most looked forward to while pregnant was Christmas and all of the traditions I planned on continuing from when I was little, as well as new traditions I wanted to implement for Baby E. I absolutely insisted to hubby that we had to take her for pictures with Santa.

I bought her a fancy Christmas dress and tights. I researched which mall had the best Santa. We got her dressed, packed her up, and headed out only to find massive lines that looked hours long. We tried three separate times on different days at different times and still no luck. I found out that some malls let you make a reservation to minimize the wait time, but you have to prepay for a package and it’s nonrefundable. One thing I’ve learned in my short time of being a mother is that infants are unpredictable and paying for anything in advance is a bad idea.

We decided to give it one last chance at a different mall near hubby’s job. I planned to meet him there in the afternoon. If it didn’t work out, then I would go on my own with the baby first thing on a weekday morning.

She woke up from her nap. I fed her. I asked her to please not poop until we got home. She smiled, which I took as agreement. I ended up having to buy her the same dress in a bigger size because she outgrew the other one in the short time we had it. I dressed her, putting a cloth diaper in between her disposable and her dress, just in case she had a poopsplosion in the car.

Everything was fine as we were driving. I could hear her in the back seat playing with her kitty. All of a sudden it got eerily quiet and for a brief second I thought I was fortunate enough that she had nodded off again. My excitement was short-lived, however, when I heard the first tell-tale grunt of a pooping baby. Not long after those brief strains did I hear the explosion of poop and I knew immediately that her outfit was ruined. And to add insult to injury we were stopped in traffic and the car was slowly filling with the stink of dirty diaper.

When we got to the mall, I had to take her out of her car seat and assess the damage in the car. I ended up having to strip her naked in the Macy’s parking lot and essentially bathe her with baby wipes. She had poop all the way up her back, on her legs, on her stomach, everywhere. Her white tights were ruined. The cloth diaper took the brunt of the damage, but her pretty dress was a close second. Luckily I had brought a backup dress with me, although it wasn’t nearly as festive.

Clean and dressed, we made our way to Santa and hubby. Luckily there were only about 5 families in line ahead of us. We waited about 15 minutes and then I had to hand her over to a stranger – what a bizarre feeling. I stood behind the photographer and called her name and waved and tried to get her to smile. Hubby tried the same on the other side. No luck. She refused to smile, but she didn’t cry either, so I’m calling it a win.

I’m a Woman AND I Can Shovel Snow!

Who woulda thought, right?

We got a dumping of snow the other day — about 12 inches — and I still had to go into work because obviously my job is super important and it is necessary that I physically be in the office even though I could have worked safely from the comfort of home in my jammies (it’s nice I’m not bitter about it). When I got there, my boss commented that he hoped my husband was the one who shoveled us out. I wrinkled my nose at him and said that we both did it and that I am perfectly capable of shoveling a little snow.

Only last month, during our Secret Santa/Yankee Swap afternoon at the office, one of the gifts that was unwrapped was a power drill and my colleague got very upset and announced that she thought we were supposed to buy unisex gifts only. Someone replied that girls can use power tools, too, and she retorted that she didn’t because she “has a husband for that.” She wasn’t joking or trying to be cute, you guys. She was completely serious and offended that someone chose to include an item that was so obviously unusable by women. It was at that moment that I made it my life’s mission to win that drill simply to prove a point.

I was raised by parents who did not believe in gender stereotypes. My mother would frequently rant about the issues of “girls’ toys” and “boys’ toys” and how there was no such thing. If a little girl wanted to play with a truck, then that truck was a girls’ toy. If a little boy played with a doll, then it was a boys’ toy. I still get a little worked up whenever I visit the Toys ‘R’ Us website and see the categories broken into Girls and Boys. I was an only child and I was given a variety of not only toys, but chores as well. I did the dishes. I helped saw the stump off the Christmas tree. I dusted. I BBQed when we went camping. I vacuumed. I emptied the garbage.

My husband and I have an equal partnership: all of the work is shared 50/50 regardless of whether the task is traditionally performed by a man or a woman. Hubby does the laundry, so do I (in fact, he is the one who taught me how!). I wash the dishes, so does he. He mows the lawn, I usually injure myself with the weed whacker, but I have been known to get bored with that and ask to mow for a little while. I can’t imagine a marriage where I was expected to do certain things just because of my gender, nor where I expected certain things of my husband just because he is a man. (I realize every marriage is different and this is just what works for us.)

Although I could have gone home with a heated neck massager, or that nifty little Ninja food chopper, I instead chose to steal the power drill from my boss and defend it to the death just to prove that girls can like things that are “meant” for boys.

Victory:

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ETA: I had lunch with my coworker yesterday and The Drill Incident came up. She said she was surprised I wanted it because it had been stated several times that the gifts should be unisex and she really felt like a tool was more for a man. She asked what I thought and I tried to be very respectful. I told her that I didn’t think so, that I have received tools as gifts, and that I think they can be for men or women. I said that I use tools at home all the time. She thought for a moment and then told me, “I guess you’re right. I guess I just see men using them more so I never thought about it that way.” So, way to go Erin for jumping to conclusions and trying to prove a point that didn’t necessarily need proving. Now I kind of feel like an ass. 

I Survived Christmas and New Year’s Eve!

The past four holiday seasons have been difficult, to say the least. I’ve cried during all of them, and spent the days leading up to each wishing I could just stay in bed and ignore the world. This year? This year was different.

I embraced the fact that it’s OK to not feel OK at this time of year. There’s a lot of pressure out there to make the holidays perfect and happy and sparkly, but it’s actually really hard to make that happen, especially when you’re really missing your loved ones. Instead of forcing myself to make five different batches of cookies, we made two traditional ones and that was it. I allowed myself to feel kind of blah if I needed to, and I also embraced the moments of being really excited about everything.

When I walked into my sister-in-law’s house on Christmas Eve, she immediately placed a glass of her “signature Christmas drink” in my hand and made sure it stayed full all night. (Turns out it was just rum and triple sec with pineapple juice, but it was enough to keep me giggly.). Seeing my nieces and nephew open their presents made me smile and laugh and look forward to one day watching my own children tear open gifts from Santa.

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My dad has started a relationship with a woman he’s known for years, and although I haven’t met her yet and I have a lot of feelings about this development, it makes me calm and happy to see him calm and happy. This has relieved a tremendous amount of stress from my life.

We spent New Year’s Eve with hubby’s parents, and my brother-in-law and his wife. We drank mimosas and played some heart-stopping games of Jenga and then watched the ball drop. My mother-in-law stuffed rice and lentils into our pockets so that we’ll all be wealthy this year, and my father-in-law made a touching speech about family and going after your dreams.

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I’m proud to report that not only did I survive the holidays, I actually enjoyed them for the first time since 2009.

This year, I’m focusing on writing and reading every day. I’m going to start my day earlier so that I can work out in the morning and spend the evenings blogging, working on my book, and reading some of the five new novels I got for Christmas. I’m going to be more patient with others, be more positive, and make healthier decisions for myself. Just because I’m having a bad morning at work doesn’t mean I can eat six cookies and a Kit Kat at lunchtime (true story). I want to travel somewhere we’ve never been before, even if it’s only a day trip or a weekend getaway. Mostly, I want to get back to the person I was before all the loss. I want to find that happy, fun, and carefree girl that I know is lurking somewhere just below all the bitterness and anger.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Except it doesn’t feel like Christmas. At all. And it’s not for lack of trying, let me assure you. Our halls are decked, our stockings are hung, and we trimmed the heck out of our tree last night.

I used to be that completely over-the-top Christmas person, thanks in no small part to my mother and her infectious Christmas spirit. In high school, I would wear my red and white striped knee high socks with my uniform, wrap garland around my bun, and if my nails weren’t airbrushed with Christmas trees, then they were at least painted alternating red and green. With sparkles. My room was decorated with a miniature tree, garland was wrapped around my banister, and carols blasted from my stereo as soon as they started playing on the radio stations.

It wasn’t really the presents that made me excited (although they certainly didn’t hurt either), but it was the overall feeling of Christmas and the holiday season that got me going. The pretty sparkling lights, the happy music, the build-up to a day of food and fun with the family. What’s not to like?

Then my mom died.

I didn’t put up a tree that year or decorate at all. Hubby went to the store and bought pretty much the entire Christmas department at Target to try and cheer me up, but I made him put it all away because I couldn’t bear to look at it. We had Christmas morning at my dad’s like normal, except that we kept having to take breaks to bawl our eyes out or blow our noses.

My mom used to start preparing for Christmas months in advance. So when she died in mid-November, she had already bought several of our presents. The rest were delivered over the next few weeks, which was incredibly disconcerting to us to be receiving packages from her after she was gone. We put the unopened parcels in the dining room and finally opened them on Christmas morning. There was a package of tea for me, an Ireland shot glass for we’re-not-sure-who, and a charm bracelet full of Irish symbols for me. It was both traumatizing and comforting to be able to open presents from her even though she wasn’t there. We thought that was the end of it.

The following year, a package was delivered to the house addressed to her. It was two Irish ornaments: one for her and one for me, that she had bought in advance. We got two more last year. Also last year, my dad gave me a bunch of her Lenox decorations, one of which was a gingerbread house that we had never seen before. I opened it up and it’s personalized with my and hubby’s names on it. It was a gift she never got to give us. I imagine she was waiting until we bought a house, so it was fitting that we discovered it on our first Christmas in our house.

I don’t want to become the Grinch. I am desperately clinging onto whatever little Christmas spirit I can muster, for myself and for her. I know she would be devastated to see me so sad and struggling to find joy.

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for days, and I just read a post over at Robin’s Chicks that completely sums up what I am feeling in much better words than I could formulate. It made me realize that I’m not alone in my feelings and that it’s not just the motherless (fatherless, sisterless, etc.) that struggle through the holidays.

Don’t Think About Pink Elephants

I realized this morning when I opened Facebook that it’s Veterans’ Day, which means it’s November 11, which means that three years ago today is when my mom was rushed to the hospital. As soon as I realized this, I told myself not to think about it. I did pretty well all morning, but the afternoon went downhill quickly. The more I tried NOT to think about it, the more I couldn’t STOP. It’s not that I want to remember this day, in fact I would prefer to have no memory of it whatsoever, but those horrific images still pop into my head against my will.

I went to Target after work to pick up a few things (which of course turned into $152 worth of things, as is common with that store and all it’s wonderful goodies), and I saw the Christmas display. I knew I should avoid it. The little voice inside my head told me to ignore it and go check out. I didn’t listen. I wandered over, almost in slow motion, the whole time knowing that it was a bad idea. I picked up a penguin mug and started to get emotional, so I choked back the tears and hurried out of the store.

I got in the car and turned the radio up to almost full volume, hoping that would drown out the awful memories. It didn’t work. I cried the whole way home. And rather than deal with my emotions in a healthy way like a normal well-adjusted adult, I instead proceeded to eat them in the form of miniature croissants, leftover Halloween candy, and various cookies. And now, rather than drone on and on about the same old things – because what good does it do, really? – I will go on trying to ignore the pink elephant and pretend that everything is fine and I am happy and not dreading the next two months of festive merriment.

New Beginnings

Today I cleaned out our new kitchen and wiped down every single cabinet. I had to wonder if the previous owners EVER cleaned:

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It was pretty gross, but I feel much better now that it’s done. There’s still a lot left to do, but it’s close to being ready for us to move in. The goal is to sleep there next Saturday.

I’m hoping that this year will be better than the past two. At least we’re starting over fresh in a new place, although it’s going to be hard to leave my dad. I worry about him being by himself and it made me feel calm living with him. Hopefully the house he made an offer on will work out, because then he’ll only be three blocks away – close enough that I’ll feel comfortable, but far enough that we all have our own space.

And, here is today’s picture…

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Blue Christmas

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My dad, husband and I decorated our tree tonight. It was just as hard as I imagined it was going to be. Last year, I was still so numb from just losing my mom that I don’t think the permanence had sunk in. This year, my second Christmas without her, I’m realizing she’s never coming back. I couldn’t help but look at my pile of yearly ornaments (I get a new ornament every year) and see the one from 2009 and think that that was the last one I chose while she was still alive. That is the last box that has the date written in her handwriting. Last years and this years are written in mine.

I knew I was going to find the ribbon ornament that Christina made and I was expecting a breakdown. I can remember sitting at the kitchen table in my old house, watching her cut up pieces of ribbon scraps and put them together to make this kind of starburst. She gave it to my mom and it has gone on our tree every year for the past 20 years. It’s up there again this year. I found it and immediately started crying. I couldn’t look at it; I had to close the box and try to calm down. I opened the box and picked it up and handed it to my husband to put on the tree because I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I can’t believe that they’re both gone. I’m trying my best to get through the holidays without being a complete Grinch because I know how much they both loved Christmas and how upset they would both be to know how sad I am. It’s just so hard to be happy and joyful when I feel so empty without them here.

Wish List Wednesday

Tomorrow is December 1st and my husband and father have been hounding me for gift ideas. The problem is that I don’t really want anything. I’m not in an overly Christmas-y mood this year, although I’ve noticed that I can stand to look at decorations and lights without breaking down, so I think that’s progress. Even on a good year I have trouble thinking of things I want.

So I went on Amazon.com and started browsing through things to get some ideas. I have a list of 10 items, and 7 of them are tea related. The other three are a book that doesn’t come out until January, a Kitchenaid stand mixer, and a sparkly pink cell phone case for my brand new Samsung Galaxy S (great phone, and it was FREE from Target!).

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If all goes well and we get the house we made an offer on, I’ll finally have plenty of counter space for one of these.

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Joshilyn Jackson is my most favorite author ever, as I’ve already mentioned. I really can’t recommend her books enough and I can’t wait until the new one comes out.

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Pink and sparkly = love.

Other than those three things, I want a bunch of tea from Teavana and a new package of Bewley’s. I pretty much lived on their gold blend when I was in Ireland last year and am now obsessed with it, but I can’t get it in the stores here. It is absolute perfection with some lemon and honey. I’m drinking a cup of it right now actually, pretending I’m back in Kenmare at the Brook Lane Hotel. One day…

If we do end up getting the house, I’m sure there will be a TON of things I want, like, oh I don’t know, maybe some furniture and a fridge. The thing I am most looking forward to about this house? The jacuzzi tub. I plan on lighting some candles, opening a bottle of wine, and having a nice relaxing bubble bath as soon as we move in. Yes, a bottle of wine. It’s been a really tough year.