Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Summer 2011

I have finalized our summer trip plans.  I know, it seems early.  But even a year in advance, I was only able to get ONE night at the Old Faithful Inn, so I had to pin the rest down early.  Come to find out, it was just that inn that booked up so quickly...so I could have waited.  But there are a lot of positives to have secured dates and hotels.  Namely, my family's strange taste in lodging, which requires a bit more research than staying at Super 8s along the way.

The boys were in vehement agreement that our ranking for overnights is:

(1) Theme suites.

(2) Camping.

(3) "Boring hotel rooms" (direct quote).

So, our summer trip is a hodge-podge of several hundred dollar theme rooms and $20 a night tent sites.  We're sleeping in a treehouse suite, a teepee, a Camelot-inspired room, camping out at a bison ranch, and then some historic places, like the Old Faithful Inn.  Many regular campsites along the way. 

I'm curious to see if longer-term camping goes well, as we have it penciled in to road trip and camp through Europe in 2012.  I'd rather find out it was a dreadful failure without an ocean and an 11-hour flight back as an obstacle.  But I'm hopeful.

Should be interesting, no matter what.

To kick all of this off, Jack is spending his first time at summer camp.  Immersion Russian, no less!  My, what a strange summer.

I hope my children appreciate their wacky childhood.  So far, it seems like they're having fun.  :)  We'll see when they rebel and ask for a regular childhood...although part of me wonders if I'm even capable of giving them that, and being true to myself. 

Hopefully, the most important part of motherhood is an authentic spirit on my part, while also honoring them?  I tell myself that.  We'll see.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mom Day

Mom absolutely loved the Christmas Tree pattern from Spode dishes, and always talked about getting the set.  I was never quite sure why she didn't, as it certainly wasn't about finances.  I still think about it often, and wished she'd bought her special plates. 

I was at TJ Maxx a few weeks ago, and they had a display of that pattern.  I contemplated getting a few plates, but that seemed to run counter to what we're doing in our life - trying to experience relationships and life through memories and experiences, and not about "stuff."  Did I really want to buy a stack of dishes to move around on our adventures? 

Then I saw they had a paper plate version too, which made me laugh out loud in the aisle.  I bought a few sets, and will bring a pack with us to Vegas.  Eat our Christmas dinner on the paper plate version of Mom's special pattern. 

For the actual anniversary, though, there wasn't a strategy in place.  Last year, to honor the first anniversary of her death, we had a chore-free family weekend.  We just did fun things together...no laundry, cooking, whatever.  I remember marveling at HOW MUCH WORK it took to get to that place.  I spent a week to prepare for it. :) 

With the trip to Cancun and leaving for Las Vegas in a few days, a planned anniversary fell to the wayside. I was surprised by what a "Mom" day it ended up being today, without it being on purpose.

The three kids and I drove out to Newport News to drop off three of the Lost Boy families' presents for Christmas.  It'd been planned all week, as I wanted to make sure they got them before Christmas Day.  But when it clicked that today was Her day, I realized how truly perfect that was.  Her love for community and helping others was such a part of her motherhood with us, it seemed only fitting to be doing something like that today.

Peter had to leave before we arrived, so my boys missed out on playing with his two sons.  They've become good friends through our visits, so my boys were disappointed.  I wanted to replace it with something else special, so I decided to drive a bit farther up to Williamsburg and take them to the Yankee Candle Factory.  They don't care about the candles, but it has the area decorated with numerous trees and it snows inside over the bridge they can walk over.

It ended up being a huge hit.  They all dipped wax ornaments -  including the pink car Simone made for Grandpa.  I'm sure he'll appreciate his pink truck wax ornament. :) 

On our way home, we drove through the 42nd street lights.  And then came home, where Steve had pre-made the gingerbread dough so it could refrigerate for a few hours before we got home; that way, the kids just got to roll it out and frost it, without having the looooong wait beforehand. :)  

Today ended up being a perfect day for remembering Mom, and thinking about how she's still influencing our lives.  Christmas and Charity are two words that definitely come to mind with Mom. 

It makes me wonder what "words" my children will attach with me. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2nd Anniversary of Mom's Death

I was going through photos tonight.  Going through the box of mementos from mom's death and funeral.  The newspaper from the day she died and her obituary on Christmas day.  All the cards from loved ones.  The bulletin from her funeral.  My letter to her.  The pink pants she wore to all my children's births.

Suddenly, I had a realization.  "Steve, what day is it today?"  And without having realized it, I was doing all this on the eve of her death-day.  I knew it was coming, but I'm bad about dates...and that wasn't what prompted my going through the box.  I was just feeling sentimental, and wanting to sift through some memories. 

Tomorrow, she will have been gone for 2 years.  Her granddaughter was a lap-baby when she died - only 4 months old.  And now she is a spirited nearly 2.5 year old who speaks complicated sentences, dances and runs, and gets more beautiful every day.

I suppose many would say she's missed so much already, and will miss even more.  But I'm not feeling that way - and I have no idea why that is, on a logical level.   What I feel, in a deep place of myself: There is still so much unexpected comfort in how near and vivid she truly feels to me.  Looking through those souvenirs of our life...the photos and other keepsakes...I felt like she was smiling along with me.

In truth, I don't really sense this is true.  Do I feel like her soul is lingering?  Not really.  Do I feel like I am haunted by this ghost of my mom?  No.  But that's what her life and her love for me did...it created this imprint of her into me.  She is always, always there.

She would love seeing her grandbabies so much, I know.  And there's a part of me that aches for her to see them.  But there's a surprising part to the grief that loves what she did for them already; the elements that live on even after her.

This is how I want to live.  In a way that echoes beyond how long I'm physically here.  I want to comfort my children, love them, live in them...even after my body's machinery shuts down.

She would love how truly loved she is.  How often and how much she is remembered.  The fondness we feel towards her.  And how much her grandbabies speak about her.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy 4th Birthday, Andrew.

Sometimes, a mild panic can come over me when I do the math.  My sweet little baby Andrew is now 4, which is more than 1/5th of the way to adulthood.  My goodness, it's going so fast.  I have absolutely adored getting to know you, and want to soak up every minute of your tiny self.  You will not be little for much longer.

When people see you in passing, they always comment on your smile.  Your whole face smiles.  Or more accurately, your whole body.  Nothing about you is halfway.  You do everything - eat, run, hug, laugh, speak - at such levels of extreme.  Even your smiles involve your arms, your shoulders, your eyes.

When people see you for more than a few minutes, they comment on  how active you are.  You don't stop moving.  When you eat, you are bouncing.  When you draw at the table, you are hopping in place as you move your pen.  There are thuds coming from whatever room you are in.  And very often, things are broken within minutes. 

This energy can drive me crazy sometimes, but it's always about my own reserves that day.  There is no malice in you.  There is nothing that means harm or ill-intent.  You are just "Andrew."  Active and busy and exploring. 

When someone spends more than a few hours with you, they always comment on your hugs.  We joke that you'll be the Free Hugs guy, standing in Times Square.  You love so much and so raw.  It radiates from you, that love.  I have never in my life been given a hug like the ones you give: You wrap arms and legs around us...burrow your face into our neck...and just hang on to us.  There's not a clingy insecurity about you; there is just 100% pure, unadulterated LOVE.

I have loved watching you "become":  From that tiny little being that came from my body to this fabulous young boy.  You are wicked smart and so filled with joy and love, I can't imagine it won't take you to lovely places in life.

We were gone to Cancun for a wedding for 5 days, and it was the longest we'd ever been away from you kids.  We got home after midnight, and all three of you were in bed.  I went in to check on you, and my heart just melted as I saw your tiny little self asleep on the bed.  I wanted to wake you and hold you.  I kissed your forehead and crawled into bed, exhausted from the travel day.

And then we heard your little footsteps a few minutes later... and your sweet angel voice saying: "Mommy?  Mommy!"  Then you crawled into bed and curled up next to me unquestioningly, like it was the only place you were meant to be.  I will be sad when you outgrow those snuggles. 

You bring me so much joy.  Thinking about you, talking to you, snuggling with you in the morning.  Every time I'm with you, I know we were meant to be son and mother.  You are a perfect fit for me.

You are loved and adored and a beautiful ornament on our family tree.  Your sword fighting, Star Wars-loving self are just what we needed.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How do I love thee, Internet? Let me count the ways.

Even narrowing it to the last 24 hours, the internet has brought me joy by:

- Letting me send Amazon gift cards via email to the boys' teachers.  In my pajamas.  At midnight.

- Allowing me to finish my Christmas newsletter and upload a PDF file to Kinko's website.  Specify two sides, standard paper, color printing.  Have it sent electronically to the branch by the university where I taught today.  Pre-pay for it.  They email me when it's done.  And I run in and out in UNDER FIVE MINUTES.

- Oh, and:  Google for a coupon code for Kinko's (in my pajamas) and in under a minute find one that saves me $25 off my order.  Not a bad hourly wage. 

I love you, Internet.

Also of note:

- Instead of hassling my friends who moved this year (I attract nomadic friends...I can't imagine why!) ;) I could find most of them on whitepages.com.  Christmas cards done in no time.  One of my absolute favorite traditions, made significantly easier in the last few years.

- Pay bills through my bank's website.

- Have my dad send me scanned newspaper articles via email.  I used to find stacks of them on my bed when I came home.  This is one particularly sweet way my dad shows affection, so it's nice to get my regular sampling even from 1000 miles away.

- Order my new curriculum for the co-op econ class.  In my pajamas.  At midnight.

- Do online scheduling for my haircut.  I LOVE PLACES THAT LET YOU ONLINE SCHEDULE!  In your pajamas.  At midnight. 

- Check Cancun's weather for the week.  How did people do those things before the internet? How did you pack for vacations?

- The obvious one:  Grade final papers online for a school I haven't stepped foot in for the last 8 years.  Having 90% of my livelihood be online makes me especially grateful to the World Wide Web gods.

So much more, I'm sure.  I didn't even mention Facebook, which brings me joy on so many levels.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

When life hands you a fake fichus, make it a Christmas tree




































This has been the Year of Living...Strangely.  We've done crazy things that we would have thought were (well...) crazy before, but there's been this drive within the family to scale back, live authentically, have more fun, and eek as much out of life as possible. 

Which leads us to this tree.

When I was little, I loved my grandparents' tree.  There was a color theme (rose and silver), it was frosted white, and all the ornaments matched.  It looked straight of Macy's.  When I grew up, I was going to have a gorgeous matching tree.  Not one of those hodge-podge trees my parents put up every year, with handmade ornaments and other such nonsense.

Enter Motherhood.  The cinnamon ornament of Jack's handprint when he was 18-months-old is one of the most precious things ever.  I have my mom's knitted baby sock in there.  The Skwish Classic toy that my mom gave to Simone for Christmas the year she died.  I was there when she bought it.  Is it an ornament?  Not officially.  But if it fits in the tree, it passes.  The clip-on toy we bought in Amsterdam, when I was pregnant with Andrew.  All three grew out of needing toys clipped to their shirt, so now I'll clip it to the tree. :)

The dress hanging from the tree?  Simone's first holiday outfit.  I found it dirt-cheap at a garage sale when I was pregnant with her.  I hung it on my dresser knob and stared at it in wonder that I was going to have a little girl who'd wear that outfit.  I still remember that feeling so vividly.  I'm thinking about sewing along the bottom of the dress to turn it into a baggie of sorts.  Maybe put slips of "holiday activities" in it for the kids to pull out during advent? 

The other years, we've had an actual tree.  But in scaling back 90% of our belongings, it didn't make sense to keep a huge artificial tree.  And I'm allergic to the real ones.  So this is our tree.  It came with the furnished rental. 

To be honest, I completely adore it.

We used to have boxes galore of Christmas decorations.  I'm a nut about Christmas.  My mom and I would stand in line the day after Christmas to get 50% off of decorations. 

But now...the decorations have completely changed.  I used to want a beautiful, matching, Macy's style Christmas.  I pretty much donated every single one of those decorations.  If it's actually beautiful and I saved it, it's just coincidence.  Because I saved all the handmade child-art ornaments, our super-cool giant stockings, and not a whole lot else. 

That our whole Christmas now fits into one tub?  I love it.

This year, we're using Christmas a new way.  Borrowing others' decorations, like going to Hunt Club Farms, Polar Express at the Botanical Gardens, the oceanfront lights.  There are so many beautiful ways to celebrate Christmas.  They don't all have to be in the house, right?

This is proving to be the sweetest, most stress-free holiday yet. 

And for the actual day?  Spending a week in Las Vegas.  Ha!  That should be interesting.  We're trying a year of NOT driving 24 hours through blizzards to see family, and instead having family meet us in Vegas. 

I'll report back on that one.

A busy dude!

Jack (6.5ish):

"When I grow up, I'm going to be an astronaut... and a paleontologist who draws pictures. Not like a dinosaur-looking-at paleontologist, but a drawing-paleontologist. And a bookmaker and toymaker.

I'm also maybe going to be the president. I'd make laws, like that everyone can eat ice cream at Christmas."