Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Stuff, the Encore

I have spit up stains on both my shoulders. I have not left the house for two days. I am wearing sweat pants and I just picked a piece of candy cane out of my hair.

Christmas is in full swing around here. Brent and I have been pulling some late nights hard at work drinking seasonal beers and watching Downton Abbey. Having a baby has forced us to slow things down around here. Christmas will be simple this year, and I am thinking I like it better this way.

Now that Clementine is getting a bit older (almost 8 weeks already!), I've begun to realize that my maternity leave just might be my only opportunity to visit the boys at their schools. I popped in for Sawyer's preschool class's holiday singalong. There he was, front and center, wearing a reindeer hat and singing and dancing his little heart out. It was just as cute as you think it would be.

The next day I braved freezing rain and ridiculous parking to attend Jack's school assembly. He didn't see me there, standing in the back, trying to keep Clementine from howling along to the music. There were Christmas songs in French, a troupe of ukelele playing 4th graders, and then the entire school jumped to their feet and danced the Macarena.

(The entire school except for my kid, who stood awkwardly with his hands in his pockets and looked like he couldn't wait for it to be over. Don't worry, we've been practicing at home. Sawyer's Macarena is coming along nicely, and Jack's isn't half bad. Predictably, mine still sucks. Kate?)

I couldn't help but notice an armed police officer at the assembly. And I guess he was there to make us all feel safer, but it just made me sad. I've been thinking about those kids in Connecticut a lot. It's hard not to. I sent my kid off to school that morning, just like those parents did. I wonder if they hugged them goodbye. Was anyone angry? Feeling rushed and yelling at their kids? Had I been nice to Jack that morning as I helped hustle him out the door? Did I kiss him and tell him I loved him? Before I had kids I could have heard about this kind of tragedy and simply thought, "Those poor people" and gone on about my day. But having kids has changed me and now I can't not walk around with a heavy heart as we all try to understand this horrible thing. What a fucked up world we live in.

But my kid did come home that afternoon and I hugged him and loved him and reminded myself that this is now and will never be again. Now is, really, all we have.


We humans are a resilient bunch, which is a good thing since we do such atrocious things to one another. I think, though, that I don't want to "get over" this tragedy. I think I want to carry it with me, in a dark corner of my heart like a secret, so that I remember to hug them as they walk out the door each morning. So that I take their hands when we cross the street even when they are old enough to do it on their own. So that I hug and kiss them. So that I always remember to love them.

Jack is in charge of his own presents this year. He made a pair of pink flannel pants for Clementine, but a gift for Sawyer was proving to be more of a challenge. I was trying to help him by asking what he thought Sawyer was into. "Well, he likes Legos. He likes candy." I told him that I didn't think he could afford Legos and reminded him that we'd be making peppermint bark. "I know! He loves One Direction! Let's get him a One Direction CD!" And of course you know that this is the PERFECT gift for my little pop music junkie and just leave it to his big brother to figure it out. I knew Brent could absolutely not tolerate an entire CD of One Direction and so I convinced Jack to make Sawyer a mix of his favorite top 40 hits. It's going to be gawd awful, but Sawyer will LOVE it.

Santa stopped by our house and terrified the children. It was really, really, REALLY hard to keep a straight face for this.


We had another visitor this week... Amberlee! I was excited enough to stay up past my bedtime to surprise her at the airport. Then Clementine was excited enough to wake up in the middle of the night and demand to meet her. Babies sense important people.

This slower paced and simplified Christmas has given us more time to just be with our friends.

Friends who know the perfect gift to bring from Washington DC (yes, that is a Lego White House!). Friends who will gladly make you your first (and possibly only) Irish coffee of the season. Friends who are really more family than friends.

They say that the greatest gift we can give to our children is our time. I think the same can be said of our friends.


So Merry Christmas, friends. Let's have an Irish coffee together. Or brush up on our Macarenas. I will even change out of my sweatpants just for you. Please tell me if I have food stuck in my hair.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Stuff

The first non-rainy Saturday of the season found us loading the family into the family mobile and joyously caroling our way to the Christmas tree farm to find and cut the perfect tree.


Actually we drove 20 minutes with a screaming baby, then briefly lost one of the children at the Christmas tree farm before our failed attempt at a holiday themed family photo shoot. But we did end up with a pretty decent tree.

We NEVER get family photos taken, and while usually I am happier behind the lens, every once in awhile it's good to cram everybody together and try to coax simultaneous smiles from your children. You know, for the sake of posterity.

Take one. Jack! What the hell are you doing?

Take 2. Dad is on to you. Knock that shit off.


Take 4. Oh fuck it. Nevermind.

So yeah. Christmas cards. They might be late this year. But let's focus on the positive! The tree is nice and fragrant and full of Christmas spirit and all that. Also, it has not fallen over yet, so that's a plus.

Guys, get in front of the tree for a picture! What the? I don't even. Grrr. Sigh.

But I do love this picture because, well,  way to capture the moment, Brent. The dishwasher is always running. A kid is always blurring his way past me. The living room is always trashed. My pants are always falling down.

I bought Sawyer these shorts at a thrift store for $1.50. They are gigantic on him and it is December, but that doesn't stop him from trying to wear them every day.

We let the kids decorate the tree by clustering every single ornament at eye level and then Brent and I adjusted things once they were in bed. As we meticulously rearranged the tree over pints of Sleigher, I began to notice that we seem to own a lot of odd and downright ugly Christmas ornaments. Also, I am pretty sure my mom saved every single ornament that my brother and I ever made and let me tell you, artistes we are not. What to do with all of these non-tree worthy ornaments?

I started to put them back into the boxes and then I stopped. I have saved a lot of my mom's things. Some of it is sentimental and important, but some of it is just stuff.  And even though it was valuable to her, I have my own kids' ornaments to save now. The truth is, no matter how many boxes of dusty memorabilia I hoard in the attic, it won't bring her back. I can close my eyes and remember the sound of her voice and the smell of the perfume she wore when she went out dancing with my dad.  No hand painted ceramic stocking ornament that I made in 1986 is going to change that. And so I let go. I cleaned out that box of ornaments with the enthusiasm of spring cleaning. It felt good.

I didn't stop there. While Brent took the kids up to Lake Creek to see the salmon jumping the fish ladder, I cleared out the closets, heaped a gigantic pile of clothes on the kitchen table for donation, and bagged up just about anything in our house that hasn't been used for the past year.

I paused when I came across our collection of board games. Some were easy to toss, too complicated, missing pieces, too many pieces, etc. But then I got to the Sorry game. We've always played Sorry as long as I can remember and I was in possession of my family's original game. The box was long ago broken, repaired with duct tape, and then broken again. The plastic player pieces went missing longer ago than I can remember and have been replaced by beheaded Parcheesi men. I am sure the deck is missing cards. But my family spent countless hours playing this game, splitting sevens and cursing those backwards fours. On the day my mom died, Nick and I played this game over and over and over again simply because we did not know what else to do with ourselves.

I read somewhere that you should photograph items that are sentimental before you give them away.

But then at the last minute, as Brent loaded the car for the Goodwill run, I just couldn't do it. I don't know why, but I just had to keep that game.

(Can you guess what I found in the depths of the hallway closet?? My fucking passport. OF COURSE. FML.)

Okay, one more try, guys! Let's all practice for our Christmas card photo shoot!

Getting closer. Just have to get you out of those Halloween shirts and then well be... wait! What are you doing? NO! Stop that right now, you guys!

At least Clementine finds them amusing. For now.

Cleaning out your closets and hauling away some of your emotional baggage is a good way to start the holiday season. I now have room in my life for a new tradition: Christmas candy! Mary and her sister Susy taught me the Wagner Family Super Secret Candy Recipe. It was an honor.


There will be a bit of nostalgia this Christmas season. The holidays are always sad when someone is missing, no matter how long it has been. But this year I'll also be making fondant and dipping chocolates and making room on the tree for my kids' ugly handmade ornaments.

And playing Sorry.
And getting a presentable Christmas card photo.

That one might take awhile.