Merry Christmas!!

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Someday, when our kids are grown up and independent and trying to find polite ways of spending their Christmas holiday with their own families or in-laws or friends, I like to imagine Carl and I will rent a cottage in the middle of nowhere and spend Christmas reading books by the fire and catching up on movies and letting the snow settle into deep, unshoveled drifts.

But we are thick in the years of merry mayhem now, and I’m soaking up the special kind of magic that comes with hearing Iris, big-eyed, whisper “ho ho ho” to herself when she catches sight of one of the nursery workers at church dressed up like Santa or seeing Ollie snuggled to sleep on his aunt’s lap, an island of perfect peace while the holiday party roars around them.

These are golden times.

Not perfect times, because there will always be someone doing something requiring, at the very least, an eye roll. But good times. Happy times. Times of cavalierly setting aside an hour or so to assemble the new play kitchen on Christmas Eve and staying up until your eyeballs hurt, trying to figure out how to hold the screw-driver, the cabinet door, the thingumabob, AND the nut all at the same time (why did I think hanging the cabinet doors would be the easy job?).

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The weeks leading up to Christmas were tough for me. But I had some good conversations and saw some good friends and got the help I needed around the house and otherwise. I’m feeling more hearty, and the prospect of another long weekend ahead is nice too.

Not to mention the brand spanking new year that’s about the drop. I love new years. I love the celebrating and reminiscing and resolution forming. Besides all the usual rigamarole about drinking more water and implementing a schedule, I think I’m ready to try again with my creative Project 52. I did my first watercolor painting over the break and LOVED it. I also have Ollie taking most of his naps NOT in my arms, so I now have nap times to work with. Am stoked to give it another go.

Plus I have a new secret weapon for quick blog updates!

Carl has ALWAYS outdone me at Christmas time. If you’re into relationship health books, you’ll know what I mean when I say my love language is not gifts. I have trouble feeling confident about what people will actually want (I don’t want them to be politely grateful! I want them to get what they want!), so I put off buying anything until it’s too late and then I grab a gift card or just let the moment pass in a slump of embarrassed regret. Or I just buy from a list… but that’s kind of lame too, you know?

This year though I’ve known for months what I was going to get Carl. Between the house and kids, we’ve been trying not to spend much lately, but I decided to blow the budget and send Carl to the NHL Winter Classic. I was so proud of myself.

Until I opened my last present Christmas morning.

He got me the iPhone 5s.

Gone are the days, people. Gone are the days of toting my ancient flip phone (inevitably low on batteries). Gone are the days of carrying the big camera everywhere… and then tracking down the mini drive thing to plug the card into the laptop to download the photos and write the post.

I can even take video of our kids!! Our big camera has great video capabilities, but the focus is manual. Me + manual focus + subjects under 2 was such a foredoomed equation I had stopped even trying. I have a couple brief clips of Iris at 4 and 9 months and that’s about it. Nothing of Oliver.

Am so stoked. Feel so lucky.

Seriously.

Best Christmas ever.

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Afloat

IMG_2981 copyWell, Carl had his third and (we sincerely hope) final surgery on his ankle, this time to remove the 18 pins and 2 plates since the bones have healed well in the last (almost) two years since his accident. We were told the recovery should be pretty quick and easy this time—he’d be back to work in a day or so.

Which, incidentally, he was. He was back at work the next day, in fact.

But what they didn’t mention is that he would be on crutches and unable to bear weight on his ankle for the better part of two weeks. Holy mackerel, I’ve had a lot of flashbacks this week. I will say it’s better than last time. His pain is well managed, and he scoots around the house cheerfully enough. I just… Yeah. Two kids suddenly feels like a LOT when you have feed, change, dress them without backup; bundle them up twice a day to commute Carl; try to figure out how to buy groceries and do last minute Christmas shopping in the slim morning and evening margins when Carl can keep at least one of them at home. I do realize there are LOTS of parents who do all kinds of activities (in public!) with all their children totally on their own. But I am not one of them. It’s 12 degrees out and my oldest kid can’t even say her own name yet. No thanks.

So the week was challenging.

And then Iris decided to pop out four molars (she was up 3 times just in the 4am slot one night), and she STILL has an infection we haven’t been able to kick, requiring doctor visits and phone calls from pharmacy to the doctor’s office to find a medication our insurance covers.

We’re actually doing a little better than last week. Hence the time to blog (although Iris was upstairs sobbing a moment ago because she was alone watching cartoons and she would really prefer me to sit next to her because: toddlerhood). Also I feel like I complain a lot lately in my conversations with friends and blog posts, and while that’s true I haven’t totally lost sight of my basic privileges and blessings. And honestly, apart from the rough nights which are always hard for me, the work load wouldn’t be that bad.

But I had a bad case of baby blues when Iris was 2 or 3 months old, and it looks like I’m going back for seconds. Something about that rough stretch when the adrenaline high of birth is gone and the baby hasn’t quite managed the 3-6 month developmental milestones of (slightly) improved night-time sleep and day-time predictability.

I remember that the clouds pass, but that doesn’t always feel comforting in the moment.

 

 

Dr. Iris

IMG_2979Poor soul. She was due for a double dose of immunizations on Monday, and it was tough. She’s old enough to know exactly what goes down at the doctor’s office, but I have to tell you, she was pretty brave. I was pretty proud.

A couple of days later she trotted off to play by herself and after it started to feel like a long time, I went upstairs to check on her.

And there she was, sitting in bed, sticking a crayon “shot” into George’s thigh and then covering the spot with a sticker. I’ve been finding stickers on all her stuffed animals… and Oliver… and sometimes when I overhear her playing there is a quiet but definite “ow!”

So cute and interesting to see her play starting to take on story lines, rehearsing past and trying out futures. I think I’m going to love this stage.

 

Resolutions

 

IMG_2744I am wedged between two sleeping babies, propped up in bed with a Japanese cartoon still blaring, my laptop open and a nice inroad made in my Christmas shopping. These are the moments I have.

It’s always tempting to describe my life as so busy, but it’s not really the busyness that gets me. There are lots of people who are so much busier. It’s more the constant flow of things that gets me. Like there is nothing particularly frenetic about trying to organize a closet and buy a couple of Christmas presents and make dinner, but when you add the needs (both real and imaginary) of two kids it somehow feels incredibly blurry and busy.

It takes effort not to believe the hype, especially when I am my own best spin doctor.

So I’ve decided that I really only need two resolutions for this January: to work harder and to be less attached to the results.

By harder, I don’t mean busier. I don’t need to do more stuff. I do stuff every minute of my waking life. But it’s not always the stuff I want to be doing. I do a lot of unintentional, mindless stuff. A lot of reactive stuff—letting my day be dictated by diaper changes and juice requests and wow-it’s-been-a-long-time-since-I-loaded-the-dishwasher. I would like to be more intentional about my days with the kids and more disciplined about my own work.

(Speaking of, I finally got my files back from the laptop that died right around the time Iris was born. 3 novel manuscripts, hundreds of pages of notes, poems, essays. I spent an evening going through them… now I just need to make a plan for where to best focus my time and get back to work.)

So yes. More focused, more proactive and less reactive.

But less attached to the results too. That’s the other thing that causes a lot of frustration and ego bruising. I feel like I work really hard to keep clean laundry at the ready and the kids happy and meals prepped and a certain number of words chalked up at whatever deadline I have set for myself. So it’s frustrating—either I actually get to everything on my list and it STILL doesn’t mean the house is tidy or the kids are happy or the book is worth reading, or I don’t get to everything on my list and am frustrated for obvious reasons… or maybe I do get everything done and everyone’s great but somehow I feel like I should really get a little more appreciation.

Because ultimately I still believe that the results of my work say something about me. I actually believe I have control over them.

I’m sort of addicted to label sticking. Gold star if the day goes well! Like I have control over whether or not Iris slept well or Oliver decides he only wants to take milk from a bottle for the day. (Whaaaaat? Yes. He’s a slow eater and occasionally decides he would rather have pumped milk from a bottle because—contrary to what most of the books will tell you is normal—my body is sort of like “oh, you want milk? I’ll give you milk. IN YO FACE!” And also contrary to what you might assume, kids can be completely different. Iris had no problems except her own impatience—at times she would literally cry if I tried to feed her from my not-quite-so-fast side. Go figure).

Yeah, this is not the stuff I can control.

I would like to do my work because it’s the work I’ve chosen to do.

And that’s it. Anything else seems to lead me into the swamp. If I “have to” do it, then I become bitter. If I’m doing it because it makes life better for my faaaaaaaaaaaamily, then I start feeling like they owe me. If I do it because it’s commendable to be hardworking and achieve stuff, then I feel badly about myself if the day doesn’t go as planned or (even more annoying) find myself saying mildly defensive things about how busy life is with kids when I’m chatting with friends. Busy is a spectrum. I don’t even know what busy means anymore. I’m just raising kids, and sometimes I enjoy the sensations that go along with that and sometimes I don’t. That’s all.

I think maybe it’s called integrity, that thing where you do the stuff in front of you to the best of your actual ability (and not your imagined ability, because we’re all awesome in there) and don’t get all freaked out and needy about the results.

Yeah. I think maybe I’ll just grab me some of that next year.

Anyone else have resolutions brewing?