The Rainbow Connection

For the past few days, I’ve had horrible jaw pain. I finally called my dentist yesterday when it was nearly unbearable. I was told the following: Take an ibuprofen before bed. Turn off the television/to-do lists/etc and massage the area between my jaw and ear for 15 minutes. I did. And although it’s still a tad bit tight today, it’s really a night and day difference.

I have admittedly been a bit stressed out this holiday season. Whether I’m working and not shopping or shopping and not playing or playing and not doing anything else, it always feels like the wrong thing. The good news, is that I have been trying. Trying to slow down and enjoy the moments that will be the memories my family remembers. The only drawback has been when I finish smelling the proverbial roses, I’m thrown right back into my stress spiral totaling up all the items I didn’t do while I was taking a “break.”

The jaw pain, probably caused from overnight teeth clenching because I’m apparently even stressed during my sleep, was a wake up call (bad pun was sadly intended, sorry). What difference does it all make? If I know anything about myself, it will all still get done. The work will be completed, the presents wrapped, the laundry done…eventually. Maybe it won’t be according to my Type-A expectations or timeline, but it will happen.

So, today, while the toddler was at school and the five year old was home on his first day of Christmas break, we took care of two Christmas errands and then headed to the movie theater. Nothing like popcorn for lunch and the Muppets to put you in a good mood. Then, in the dark of the theater, towards the end of the movie, my little man reached for my hand. There in the quiet, it was just me and him. No to-do lists. No distractions. Just his maturing profile in the film’s glow and his slender fingers taking up increasing room in my palm.

And that, my dear Kermit, was me finding my rainbow connection.

Well, that moment and the one where I laughed hysterically with him when Gonzo got Chris Cooper in the gut with a bowling ball. Cause if slapstick ain’t a stress reliever, I don’t know what is.

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Home for the Holidays

In the 13 Christmases that have come and gone during our marriage, the hubby and I have travelled back to the city of our formative years and spent the holiday with our families 11 times. Only twice since we had kids did we actually stay in our own home.

The first time, Peanut was one or two and by 11 in the morning, the hubby and I were staring at each other wondering, what now? I’m not sure if that’s why we decided the following year to go back up or not, but I’m sure it had something to do with it. Pumpkin’s first Christmas, we stayed here, too. He was only a month and a half old and traveling with both kids was just too much for us to handle at that point. That year went much better. We were kept busy by caring for a newborn, enjoying Peanut who better understood Christmas and friendly neighbors who invited us to brunch with their family.

Then last year, we went back up again. As we packed up all the Santa presents in the dead of the night so that the kids wouldn’t see them and struggled to fit everything plus all the kids’ gifts from the family back into the trunk at trip’s end, I turned to the hubby and said two words: Never. Again.

Yet, there I was this summer, looking ahead and figuring, maybe we should go back up again. The pull of my niece on her first Christmas was a powerful tug.

As Thanksgiving approached, we avoided the topic. We put it off. We constantly agreed to talk about it “later.” When Thanksgiving passed and we entered into December, we finally sat down and talked it through. Pros. Cons. Reality. And decided to stay home for the holidays. Well, at least for Christmas day.

I heard Perry Como crooning “Home for the Holidays” today on the radio and I nearly felt that tug of guilt again. “See?” I said to myself. “You’re supposed to want to go home for the holidays. The traffic sounds nostalgic. The pumpkin pie would be homemade…wait, what? My mom never made pumpkin pie.”

Sure, we’ll miss providing my parents with the Christmas morning magic that kids bring, but we’ll be giving our kids the magic of Christmas morning in their own house. Isn’t there something about waking up in your own bed while the moment dawns on you that this isn’t just any other morning? Something special has happened. Something unexpected is awaiting. Sure, we’ll miss my mom’s excellent Christmas dinner, but I’ll get to make these as a new tradition. And we’ll see everyone, just a few days later.

So, yes, Perry, we will be home for the holidays. Although it feels a little bit selfish, what wish list to Santa isn’t?

This year, we start creating the traditions and the magic and the laughter that will pull my children back home for the holidays when they are grown. That is, until they, too, have to decide it is time they stay home for their own sanity.

But I have a many more Christmases to go before that happens. And I plan on enjoying each and every one of them. Wherever we are.

Christmas is Coming, The Mama’s Freakin’ Out

Christmas is already hectic enough between holiday school performances, class parties, adult parties, gift shopping, decorating, baking, wrapping, card addressing, hauling, traveling, outings…I do my best each year to really make sure all those things are still fun and enjoyable, because why else do them, really?

This year, however, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Who knew that the holidays ARE a part time job? But they must be because my actual part time job has apparently taken that available time. I’m realizing that finding the time to accomplish the shopping and the organizing and the selecting is next to impossible when most of my free-to-just-me moments are occupied with work. Work I need to be doing. Work I want to be doing.

But I want to be working on Christmas ornaments with the kids, too. Only I haven’t had time to go to the craft store for supplies not to mention figure out what we’d be making. And I want to be carefully thinking of my loved ones and what I want to select for their gifts. I really do love those eureka moments when you’ve found the perfect gift for the perfect person. This year, I can’t even figure out what the kids are going to be getting – and they’re usually the easy ones. I want to be wrapping pretty packages of cookies for the boys’ teachers and creating family memories of warm apple cider and Christmas music.

I know. I know. I didn’t have the Norman Rockwell fantasy even when I wasn’t working, but at least I was attaining some level of postcard semi-perfection, if only for an hour here and there.

My strategy for the holidays, then? Anybody got any extra elves I could employ to either babysit my kids, do my shopping or clean my house? No? Or just not sharing? I suppose instead I’ll make lots of lists, fly by the seat of my pants and practice my deep breathing. That, and do a lot of shopping online in my jammies once the work is complete for the day and the kids are in bed.

And if I find myself starting to freak out, I’ll just pop in the John Denver and the Muppets album and boogie with the kids a little bit. I can’t freak out when belting out “five golden rings” with Miss Piggy, can I?