Unexpected Perfection

Things have felt difficult lately. The kids are out of school and Camp Mommy is not going very well. I haven't been getting as much work done as I need to; Ry has had to do more than his share. Because we all do everything together – especially this summer – it has just been too much. It feels too hard. No one is having fun. 

"I need a break. We need a break." Every day, the same sentences.

And then came the holiday. Usually one of my favorites, but this year I just couldn't get excited about it. We let our plans go until the very last minute. "What do you want to do?" I would ask Ry and get the same question in response. Endlessly. 

But once in awhile, when I most need it and least expect it, something perfect happens. This time, perfection was made up of dozens of tiny moments, strung together into just what we needed.

It was taking the kids to the drive-in, hoping they would fall asleep before the second half of the double feature so that Ry and I could watch it – and they actually did.

It was the way that a day at the lake stretched into four days and three nights, because we just couldn't leave. 

It was watching T jump off the dock "all by himself" and not cry when he went under water.

It was hearing A say "Auntie La-la, can I feel the baby kick again?" 

It was sitting on the deck with four generations laughing, talking and remembering. (I won't mention the hair braiding and the ice cream truck, because then you will just think it was too perfect. And it almost was.)

It was sunset cruises on the pontoon boat, watching fireworks displays from all sides of the lake.

It was grandparents listening for little feet first thing in the morning, so they could wisk tiny humans away for breakfast before they woke up Mama and Dada. 

It was having no service on cell phones, being happily disconnected and unplugged.

It was seeing Ry relax and unwind, playing with the kids until their stomachs hurt from laughing so hard.

It was the way A tried to kiss the frog that Uncle Nick caught for her, and the way she proudly carried it around until it finally hopped away from her. 

It was watching the tiny humans play together, nicely, for most of the time.

It was completely disregarding bedtime, and being rewarded when they slept late the next morning.

It was being in the company of people with whom you can say anything or nothing at all and having both things be equally comfortable.

It was going to leave and having no idea where my shoes were, because I hadn't needed them for four days.

It was all those moments, and so many more. It was perfection. It was our much needed break. 

Tomorrow, we will go back to normal. I know there will be fall out of so many days with lax rules and nights with late bedtimes. But tonight – as I get ready to tuck them in for what I expect will the the easiest bedtime in recent history – it feels like it was worth whatever price they decide I will have to pay tomorrow.

 

Birthday Traditions

We don't really "do" kid birthday parties. We have birthday traditions, but in recent years they don't include a huge birthday party. For T's first two birthdays, we did the big family party – aunts, uncles, cousins, the whole nine. Just like everything with the first child – we did it BIG. And it was a lot of fun, but it also felt like too much. Too much planning, too much food, too many presents. And while it was lovely to have so many people and so much adoration for our little guy in the same place at the same time, it didn't feel like it was for him. It felt like it was for us. 

By the time A's first birthday arrived, our house was on the market – and possibly under contract. I didn't have it in me to do the big party. We did a joint birthday brunch with just the kids' grandparents, aunts and cousin. It seemed like a great idea – the people our kids loved the best and a smaller, more manageable celebration. And then my dad, sister and nephew all got sick and cancelled. So our already small scale celebration became even smaller. And thus began the birthday tradition of mommy scrambling to create small celebrations to make up for the lack of the one big party.

Over the years this has included trips to Friendly's, visits to the toy store to pick their own gifts, and sleepovers with my best girlfriends and their kiddos. And since the kids' birthdays are within a few weeks of each other, often they get joint birthday traditions. I think it is fun because it stretches the birthday fun out to a month or so instead of just one day. 

Until now. T is five now. He has his own friends and some pretty specific birthday expectations. So we made a list and sent out an Evite for fifteen kids and their parents. I bought party favors and created a board on Pinterest. The weekend of the party, my best girlfriend arrived with her husband and two kiddos in tow. I felt like we could do this – the big party.

And then there was a cough. Followed by a runny nose. Followed by a fever. Times two kiddos. Of course. We postponed the party, and we did cupcakes and presents just us. We let T pick out his own gifts from Target. Which I know, at this point, feels normal to him. But I feel like I failed.

So stay tuned, because T is going to get the big friend party this year. Even if it doesn't happen until May. 

‘Tis the Season for Charitable Giving

It is finally December. Around here, we've been in holiday mode since the day after Thanksgiving. But for some people, Christmastime doesn't begin until December. Either way – it is here. "The most wonderful time of the year." 

For me, it often also turns into the "most emotional time of the year." More love, more laughing, more fun but also more stress, more anxiety and more sadness. Most commercials make me cry and the voice inside my head is louder than usual, shouting at me to "do something for someone else. Now." 

We are very fortunate but we try to keep Christmas on the small side. Partially because these tiny humans do not need anything and partially because their birthdays happen so soon after Christmas. But still – they are spoiled, by us and our families. They get new things that they have asked for, and they always get more than they need. Don't we all, in this family?

Each time I pick up a little something for my kids, a nagging voice in the back of my head wonders "what if I couldn't afford this? What if we couldn't afford anything for the children at all? What if instead of this being "the most wonderful time of the year", it felt like the worst because I didn't have enough money for food for a holiday dinner or heat during the winter months, nevermind enough left over to put presents under the tree?"

Luckily, each year around this time, everything begins blowing up with charitable giving opportunities. We try to help, to do what we can, but there is always more that can be done. Especially now that the kids are at an age where they are more aware of the world around them, I want to focus on teaching the kids to give back. At the holidays, especially, but all the time. 

Some of the things we have done in the past around holiday charitable giving include:

  • Salvation Army: Such a simple one, but I try to make sure to carry cash at this time of year so that the kids can drop money into the red bucket. It doesn't have to be much – I know they appreciate every bit, and it reinforces the messages about charitable giving and teaching the kids to give back in a way they can actually see.
  • Supporting a Family: Every year since I was pregnant with T, we get the gender and ages of all the members of a particular family through DHS who could use a little help. It is the most fun when the kids are of ages that my kids can identify with because then I let them choose the gifts. 
  • Donating Gently Used Items: We usually do this in the fall – we go through our toys, books and clothes and round up things that another child would enjoy more than the kids are enjoying it. 
  • Gift Card Exchange: Last year a couple of my favorite blogs set up holiday charitable giving programs based solely on the honor system. If you needed help, you asked. If you could help, you said so. And these mommy bloggers worked day and night through the whole month pairing the "need help"s with the "can help"s. 

It is important to me that our tiny humans realize how lucky they are that there is food on the table at every meal (and what seems like every hour in between as well) and that they have a home to live in that is safe and warm. Not to mention the overabundance with which they live every day. It seems like the best way to teach the kids to give back is to practice charitable giving throughout the year but especially around the holidays. What we can afford to give may not be a lot, but I hope it feels like something to whoever receives it.

Now I have some "can help" emails to send.