Adjustment Period

It’s been awhile since I posted. Part of that was calculated. The election season was fraught. The aftermath even more so.

And a lot of why I wasn’t here wasn’t on purpose. Not consciously. But the fact was, I was struggling with what to say. Struggling with a lot of things.

Struggling since the move.

A few weeks ago, some ladies on my street got together for breakfast and invited me. I had a wonderful time getting to know these different and wonderful women I can see as part of my new village. They are good people. Fun people. People that get it – most of them have also moved here from somewhere else at some point. But I got in my car afterwards and felt a strange compulsion to cry.

And I didn’t know why.

The next day, I was meeting up with some ladies that also live in my neighborhood that I had only met through an online exchange about helping to coordinate an upcoming event for the neighborhood kids. I was a little nervous about this meeting. I didn’t know these people.

My husband told me to try to have fun as I walked out the door.


That’s what it was. I was just so tired of trying.

We are settling into our new lives, but there is a constant amount of trying. At our old school, I had already gone through the random volunteering to finally land the position I wanted as newsletter writer for the PTA. A position I sadly had to abandon after a year of shadowing when we moved. Now I’m starting over. I’m back to randomly picking up shifts at the book fair and spirit night events. It’s all great – these are all events I love – but I’m taste testing, meeting folks, working out where I best fit here.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s all great. I love our neighborhood. I’m in love with our school. Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) has been nothing but welcoming and supportive.

But it’s still all new. All the time.

Even yesterday, I wanted to take the boys Christmas shopping to pick out gifts for the cousins. I had to Google where the independent toy shops were. Then map them so I wouldn’t get lost.

And Facebook reminds me daily of all the Christmas traditions we had in Atlanta. The santa we visited every year. The lights at the Botanical Garden we visited each Friday after Thanksgiving with the rest of the city and their out of town guests. The neighborhood Christmas party. The streets with the best lights. We knew how early to get to church on Christmas Eve and to head straight for the cathedral’s gym since the cathedral itself and overflow room were filled hours in advance.

Now, I feel like I’m starting from scratch again. And while the boys are just happy that their Elf on the Shelf is back and our advent calendar of activities is as comforting and fun as usual, I’m left trying to make sure that I find a Santa with a real beard since my kids have never been to one with a fake one (something that probably means nothing to them and I have latched onto as being of the utmost importance).

Trying. Again.

Then there’s today. Today the boys went back to school. They’ve been out since Veteran’s Day. Adjusting to year round school means adjusting to their three week breaks every nine weeks. The bonus was we took a nice trip to Washington, DC – partly because we love our old stomping grounds, partly so I could do some research for the current book and partly because most everything to do in DC is free (yay Smithsonian!), we hosted Thanksgiving in our new home, we hung out with my sister-in-law in town from Louisiana, we went for walks, the boys learned how to ride their bikes (no more training wheels here), we shopped small business Saturday with my sister in our new, adorable downtown. But through it all, I didn’t do a lick of writing except for scrawling down on a post it note the physical descriptions and mannerisms of a guitar player at a concert the hubby and I went to who will most definitely be showing up in the work in progress.

But when I sat down in the chair today. Ugh. I had lost it. Three weeks was too long to be away. I reread the last two sections I wrote, determined not to edit as I went but to find the thread. I went back to some research materials I collected on our trip. And hopefully the words will start to come back tomorrow.

So I sit here blogging instead. Trying.

And that’s all I can do. I keep trying. Trying to meet people. Trying to find new experiences. Trying to balance being near family during a time of year when we were used to being alone. Trying to write this impossibly daunting work in progress.

The trying isn’t bad. It’s everything really. It’s just that sometimes the trying can be, well, trying.

So if I’ve been missing or I’ve been distant, it’s not you. It’s me. Trying.



Happy New Year!

It’s the first day back to reality after a long holiday break, the chaos of Christmas, travel to visit family and a cold that knocked my socks off so badly I’m six days in and, although markedly improved over days 1 and 2, still in need of afternoon naps and my ever-present box of Kleenex. The boys were both surprisingly easy to wake and emerged bright eyed and focused this morning. This was partially due to my get them up early yesterday and systematically wear them out all day so they’d go to bed early plan, but I think they were just as eager to be rid of me as I was of them. I love my kids, but two-plus weeks of non-stop together time is a lot even with the cousin time, parties and play dates.

It was with great anticipation and eagerness that I, too, sat down at my computer a half hour ago. The last few nights, while drifting off to stuffy-nosed dream land, I’ve been hit with scene inspiration. Fully formed somethings that were too good not to sit back up, turn the light on and jot down as quickly as possible so I didn’t lose them overnight. I naively assumed that was an indicator of a prose back-up in my system that just needed fingertips to keyboard and an empty house to let loose. Until I sat down. And I realized how early 6:15 was this morning, how noisy the dishwasher seems today, how fascinating twitter is after a break, how long my to-do list is, how quiet it is (noisy dishwasher notwithstanding) without my boys here.

The boys are my constant companions. My entertainment. My annoying coworkers. They are the distractions and inspirations of my day-to-day life. The night before any holiday break finds me anxious and nervous about how I’ll make it through so many days that need to be filled with play time and movement and food and activity with nary a moment of quiet to myself. Strangely, the night before any break’s end finds me anxious and nervous about how I’ll make it through the day without them and their silly jokes, cacophony of laughter and disputes to be refereed.

Today, I’m easing back into my own independence. It’s short-lived as preschool pick-up looms at noon, but here it is. I’m hoping that my fingers have warmed back up and will soon provide me the words I need for the work-in-progress. I’m eager to jump into a New Year with some goals that are broken out into achievable tasks with realistic (I hope) deadlines that have excited me about what’s possible in 2015. I’m shored up by happy Christmas memories and appreciative of the alone time I haven’t seen outside a 10 minute shower in the last two weeks. I’m ignoring the mess, the dust on the desk from weeks of non-use and the lure of organization projects and trying to remind my mind that this time is mine, ours, the page’s.

Here’s to 2015! May the best be yet to come.

My Perfectly Imperfect Christmas

We live in Publix country and I disclose it is my grocery store of preference, partly because I can walk there (though I rarely do since I stop there on my way home from nearly every activity), partly because the store is always clean, the produce fresh, the prices reasonable and partly because most of the employees have been at the store since it opened in our neighborhood eight or nine years ago (there is a lot to be said for staff sticking with a retail employer that long) and they all know me and my kids by now.

I also confess to loving their ads. They truly hit a soft spot. There was the young doctor on call on Christmas ad, the pregnant mom Mother’s Day ad, the “real” Thanksgiving ad that so sums up the chaos and mishaps of preparing the “perfect” meal, and then there is this year’s Christmas ad:

Tissues needed for every. single. one. Each and every time I watch them.

So, yesterday morning, I had to laugh when I finally saw beyond the sweetness of the commercial and saw the ad a little differently. It’s set-up as a Christmas Eve afternoon, the couple are quietly finishing up some decorations, the daughter is helpful and engaged. She suggests making cookies “for him” at the last minute and mom’s a-okay with that. They meticulously cut-out and decorate cookies calmly as the windows darken into evening behind them when the doorbell rings and it’s not Santa, as we anticipated, but Grandpa. Cue the “awwwwwws!”

But wait?

Where was the last minute wrapping? The overexcited and oversugared children bouncing off the walls? The dinner preparation for guests? The realization they forgot something imperative (a gift, a dinner ingredient)? The frantic calls to your spouse who still had to work but was hoping to leave early? The search for shoes, snacks and coloring books in order to get to Christmas Eve services early enough to get a seat and armed with enough distraction for the wait until the service actually starts? The rush to get dinner on the table after services so you can maybe, just maybe get them in bed at a decent hour knowing that they’ll be out of their beds at least 17 times, too excited to sleep?

I do try to keep the reason for the season at the forefront of our Christmas preparations.  We try not to let the chaos take over and truly attempt to revel in the specialness this season provides. I try to keep the magic alive with meaningful family activities in our advent calendar – from ice skating to ornament making to Christmas movie watching to toy donating. But whether the boys want to do an activity on any given day is a toss up and my fridge is currently littered with the activities we have still yet to finish because they’d rather go play football with the neighborhood kids after school.

And that’s okay. I’m happy to let this season play out and have their days as normal as possible with just a hint of anticipation. I know we’ll get to Christmas. I know I’ll stress out at least three more times before now and then. I know I’ll question my decision to host a Christmas Day Open House until about five minutes before the first guest arrives. But I also know my memory of the season will still be their faces when we saw a house insanely lit with tens of thousands of lights, snuggling in a floor fort for movie night, fellowship with friends, Christmas morning snuggles, bourbon and Die Hard with the husband as we wrap gifts, the 5 year old singing Away in a Manger 153 times a day, the 8 year old’s blind belief, and not the rush of how we got there.

Maybe Publix has it right. Maybe they’re showing us the memory, not the reality. After all, we don’t see the chaos of Santa’s workshop, right? Just the joy of the end result. And Santa must only remember the cookies and the wind in his hair as he flies from country to country delivering surprises and magic to children around the world or else how could he do it every year? We don’t remember the pain of Good Friday on Christmas, even though we know how the story ends, we remember the hope of a new life.

So I know that my Christmas Eve reality will look a lot different from the Publix ad (did you see how clean their house was on Christmas Eve? Who are these people?), but it will feel the same. A season of anticipation, doing for others, moments with our children and big hugs. What more could I ask for?

On the Road Again…Or Not. Deciding on Holiday Travel.

It’s that time of year. The hubby and I pull out the calendar each year around now and start coordinating holiday travel.

There was a time in our early marriage, pre-kids, when we’d travel home from Washington, DC, at the drop of the hat. We even had season tickets for UNC football and made it back for most home games. At that time, we were four hours away and could leave North Carolina on a Sunday afternoon and still have plenty of time for take-out and the Sopranos when we got home to DC. These trips were easy, relaxed, enjoyable. We didn’t have to stop for meals. Sometimes we didn’t even have to stop for coffee or bathroom breaks. Holidays made sense to travel home for, too. Yes, I wanted to experience waking in my own house on Christmas morning, but to spend the day with the hubby seemed lonely or selfish or both. It was much more fun to go to midnight Mass with my parents and challenge dad to a sing off of Silent Night to see who knew more verses without the missile cheat sheet, sleeping in late the next morning and lazily opening presents with coffee and my mom’s apple bread before making the rounds to see other family in the afternoon.

Once we had kids, the traveling became exponentially more difficult. And yet, we did a lot of it anyway. I nursed in parking lots and rest areas, changed diapers while balancing kids on laps in gas station bathrooms, stopped at Chick-fil-A playgrounds just to get their wiggles out. Departure times coordinated around nap times and bed times. Getting home in time to start the laundry and make a quick grocery run were suddenly necessities. Re-entry became a thing that was not to be trifled with and can set our family routines into chaos for several days no matter how short the trip before it was.

Holidays? Even more complicated. After packing up Christmas for two kids into the back of our SUV just once, I declared it enough. Never again. We officially stay home at Christmas, going up after the big day to visit family and extend our boys’ enjoyment for days on end, which is exhausting, but fun to watch.

I realized, as we sat with the calendar the other night, that I am finally becoming much more confident in making these decisions. After several years of doing what I thought was right or expected of us, I am doing a better job of listening to our family’s needs and understanding what makes our nuclear family’s experiences more fun and enjoyable. It’s not about not wanting to be in North Carolina or visit with family or help when needed, it’s about also realizing what tolls these trips exact on us physically (pre-packing, wear and tear on the cars, routines thrown out the window) and mentally (how many times can I tell B we are not in North Carolina yet when we just left the house 10 minutes ago and still have 5 hours and 25 minutes still go?). It’s also about taking into account our day-to-day life that we’ve built, love and want to enjoy as well.

Staring at us on the calendar this year was the November 15th Homecoming game in Chapel Hill. We’d missed the last couple of years and had decided back in the winter that we’d try to go this year. Then the hubby’s aunt passed and we made a trip to North Carolina to mourn and spend time with family in late September. Much needed. Well worth it. Then we hit up North Carolina’s coast for Fall Break, a trip on the calendar for quite some time. We desperately needed the vacation and had a great time. No regrets. But within three weeks, we spent nearly 30 hours in the car and with the 15th looming, I just couldn’t do it again. We opted out. I’m going to miss seeing friends and being back on the Hill and watching my boys in Carolina blue cheering on the Heels. But there will be other opportunities. And this year, we need us.

Seems strange to say since we have us all the time. But we are the us I need to protect. And if going up exhausts us all again and right before the big holiday rush, I can guarantee by the time we hit the road after Christmas, I’ll be resentful, counting up the miles and hours in the car that we’ve spent that others haven’t or don’t need to. Not the holiday spirit I’m hoping for or is fair to anyone else.

I used to second guess these decisions, wondering if I was hurting anyone’s feelings by deciding when to or when not to travel home. Now, I’m content. I know I’m doing what’s best for us. I know that we are building traditions as a family of our own that our boys will take with them into their own worlds one day. And I know that one day I will need to be just as understanding when those traditions change as they make way for their own families. Now that we’ve finally made our holiday travel decisions, I’m excited. Excited about trick-or-treating and birthday parties and Thanksgiving and even that pesky elf on the shelf. I’m looking forward to our  traditions.

It’s taken 16 years of living away from our home state to finally get to this place of feeling comfortable with acknowledging that home is where my boys are. And it’s good to be home.