I’m super excited to announce that I will have an essay in the upcoming anthology Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestselling Memoir, celebrating the tenth anniversary of Eat Pray Love. The original book, in which one woman has a life-changing journey in Italy, India and Indonesia, was such an inspiration to me as a travel lover and as someone at her own crossroads while dealing with infertility.
(In an interesting coincidence, when Foggy Daddy and I visited Rome for our one-year anniversary — pre-infertility struggle — we stayed on the same street as Julia Roberts’s character later would in the film version of Eat Pray Love.)
I’m so honored that Riverhead Books and author Elizabeth Gilbert chose my story to be included in the anthology. Please share this exciting news with your friends! I’ve also posted to Foggy Mommy’s Facebook and Twitter so feel free to share/retweet as well 😉
My essay focuses on a life-changing hike I took while traveling to the little-visited Caribbean island of Dominica. Dominica was in the news last fall after being hit hard by Hurricane Erika — in fact, the eco-resort where we stayed and which arranged the hike for us, Jungle Bay, was completely destroyed. It broke my heart to hear this. But, the owner recently announced he is rebuilding the resort at a site nearby. I hope my story might help bring some attention to the island and to Jungle Bay for future travelers.
Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestselling Memoir is out March 29. Can’t wait for you to read it! Pre-order on Amazon now.
I’m a perfectionist. Some may argue I’m high maintenance (I like things certain ways). As life has thrown me curveballs, like my infertility, I think I’ve become more relaxed about things. But sometimes my old self flairs up, the part that wants things, well, just so. Something I’ve known for a long time: I focus too much on what I think my life “should be.”
Last weekend, just before the weekend blizzard, LM got his hearing aids. I was hoping that he’d put them in and then realize all the sounds he was missing. He’d smile as he heard my voice clearly for the first time. I’d see that look of “a-ha” on his face.
Instead, he burst into tears.
The weekend was a challenge. Housebound, it seemed the perfect time to get him used to wearing his aids in a setting that was familiar. We had nowhere to go, nothing else to do. But LM did not cooperate. Although there were periods of relief in which he let us quietly read him a book, more often he was crying or clingy or pulling at his new ears.
OK, let’s try something different, I thought. Let’s go play in the snow.
This did not involve his hearing aids, which shouldn’t get wet. (This fact presents lots of logistical challenges, but I was trying not to think about those yet). For now, we’re just trying to get him used to them little by little at home.
Even without the hearing aids, though, going outside in the snow requires other demands be placed on LM. The result? He didn’t want his boots on. He didn’t want his hat on. He didn’t want his gloves on.
As I continued to struggle with him, I asked myself who I was doing this for. I wanted to play in the snow with him. I wanted to go sledding with him. I wanted to take cute pics of LM with the kiddie shovel I had bought for him, helping Foggy Daddy clear off the driveway.
But what did LM want? Was I trying to force him into my vision of the perfect snow day?
Eventually, LM agreed to keep everything on and I got him outside. And…he loved it. We went sledding in the backyard. We played in the snow. I felt vindicated — I wasn’t doing it just for me. I was doing it for him, too.
But the next day, I wanted to go out again, and LM wasn’t having it. He had spent the morning trying to rip out his hearing aids, and I just didn’t have another fight in me. So we spent a perfect sledding day, a perfect snow day, inside. I saw pictures online of my mom friends’ kids, all looking perfectly happy to be in their snow gear, and I felt sad.
But all this wasn’t just about sledding. It was that my life right now is just not that simple. Maybe no one’s is. But see other moms who have “easy” children who do whatever is asked of them. LM is just not like that.
And now besides dealing with his “difficult” personality, we have this whole other challenge heaped on us.
I’m tired of being strong. I just wanted life the way it “should be.” I thought that when we were finally able to have a baby, that was what I had waited for, and everything would be OK now. Life would settle into the well-traveled path that everyone else I knew seemed to be on. Our detour down that rough path was done.
But that’s not how things work, is it?
At least for me. Everyone else I know seems to have it so easy.
Or do they? What right do I have to assume others’ lives are perfect? Yes, it does seem like lots of other moms are happy with their obedient children, pregnant with their second baby, living in a big home, taking vacations to warm places and generally being happy. But do I really know what’s going on?
Foggy Daddy says I’m acting very “woe is me” lately. Maybe I am. Maybe I’m just dealing with the grieving process of what I thought my life was going to be like. I know this is valid. This is what parents of children with disabilities go through.
And just as LM’s personality doesn’t make it any easier to get him to wear his aids, my personality makes it harder for me to deal with the unexpected adjustments I must make. I try to be adaptable. But I still have this vision of the “perfect” life that I just can’t seem to shake.
Every time I think, if I can just get this part of my life under control, or that part, then things will be OK, I know I’m setting myself up for failure.
I have to learn to be OK with the messiness of life. Or at least with the messiness of my life. I have to stop comparing to some perfect ideal that I have in my head.
I have to learn to embrace my own version of perfect.
Are you a perfectionist? Do you have an idea of what your life should be, and does it upset you when things don’t go as planned?
We always romanticize the past, don’t we? I suppose that goes for parenting as well. But faced with all of our current challenges—hearing loss, uncontrollable tantrums, worrying about what special preschool to go to—I miss when the only thing I needed to worry about was LM. I miss my newborn.
I miss not having to worry about leaving the house. Sure, I felt like I was going stir crazy most of the time, but there was no pressure to attend activities or expose him to new things. All he needed was me.
I miss being able to lay on the couch and know that that was all I was supposed to do. Skin-to-skin contact is important. I was doing my job. My job was taking care of LM. And it meant that I had to just lay there.
I miss not having to worry about socializing him—or me, for that matter. I have gained so much from my mom group, but as an introvert, sometimes the mere act of talking to other people wears me out.
I miss nursing him as a calm newborn, not the crazy all-over-the-place acrobatics that is nursing a toddler.
I miss settling into my little nest at home and not feeling any pressure to be anywhere else. Now, if we stay home all day it is a recipe for a cranky kid with a lot of pent-up energy.
I miss not having to think about the bigger picture of the future, like where he’s going to go to school, or how I’m going to have to fight with our school district over the special services he needs for his hearing loss. True, we did have our newborn problems to work through (breastfeeding, for one), but once we got those figured out it seemed like smooth sailing.
I miss not having to worry about work. As much as I love this blog, lately I’ve been struggling to fit in the time to write. I have so many ideas floating around in my head, but I don’t have the time or energy to harness them. I see submission opportunities passing me by. I worry that I’m not pulling my weight financially. I miss when I wasn’t thinking or worrying about work at all, when my only responsibility was to LM.
I miss how newborns don’t move. LM can climb over any gate possible, so he has the run of the house now. I worry about his safety. I remember when I could just put him on the floor and go to the bathroom, because he couldn’t even roll over.
I miss the bucket seat. Getting LM in the car seat is a struggle every single time. I miss the days of just sitting him in the bucket, carrying it out to the car and clicking it in place. So much easier.
I miss that I could actually watch my TV shows and not have to worry if LM was in the room. I’d simply face the rock ‘n’ play away from the television and keep the volume low. But now, we’re fighting the battle of screen time, so I have to keep my own to a minimum.
I miss not having to worry about food. LM is such a picky eater and mealtimes are another battle. Having a newborn meant whipping out the boob. That’s it.
I miss being up in the middle of the night with him. What, am I crazy? Maybe, but it was like another world, where only the two of us existed.
I know, I know, this is all rose-colored glasses, right? Don’t I remember the sleep deprivation, the crying, the overwhelming, all-consuming life-sucking rabbit hole that is life with a newborn?
Yes, but knowing what I know now, it was easy compared with life with a toddler. Wait until you get to life with a teenager, you say. Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems.
Sometimes when I’m putting LM to bed I sit with him in the glider and I remember how it was. My mind is so full right now, but then it wasn’t. There was one, and only one thing I needed to worry about. My baby. Everything was for my baby. All that extraneous stuff didn’t matter. I was utterly focused.
I know it will never be the same. Even if we have another baby, it won’t be just me and a newborn. It will be me and a toddler and a newborn. Something tells me that will make it very, very different.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my toddler. But I miss that newborn baby bubble. I miss it ever so much.
Do you miss life with a newborn? Or do you prefer the stages when they are older?
Lots of heavy stuff going on in my life with LM right now…but it’s Christmas Eve, so let’s do a fun post of holiday movies. I haven’t gotten around to seeing all of these this year before Christmas, so I deem it perfectly OK to celebrate Christmas past December 25, right through the end of the year. Isn’t Christmas supposed to be 12 days, anyway?
As a Christmas movie aficionado I feel myself qualified to name the movies you should watch, and ones you should skip. It will be tempting to share these all with your kids while they are home for winter break and driving you nuts, so I’ll include some parental advisories.
Do you agree with my list? In no particular order:
Love Actually: This is definitely one to watch after the kiddos have gone to bed. Lots of cursing and (possibly unnecessary) nudity. And some latent sexism. But despite all that, it’s hard not to love the spirit of this movie. How can you not feel a rush as the kids put on “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” or choke up as Colin Firth declares his love in broken Portuguese? Despite it’s flaws, for pure Christmas spirit, this one makes the list.
Elf: Will Ferrell goes all in, in his hilarious portrayal as a human adopted by elves who comes to New York to find his birth father. It may bring up some questions about adoption for kids, but everything is presented positively. The clash of Buddy’s pure innocence and his father’s New York cynicism is a great combo. So many great lines, it’s hard to pick a favorite, although “Santa, I know him!” comes close.
Holiday Inn: I’m not a huge fan of White Christmas — I prefer a younger Bing Crosby and the original version of the song, performed in Holiday Inn. Yes, there is a very unfortunate blackface scene (which is usually shortened for television). One could argue that’s just a reflection of the times, although that doesn’t completely excuse the bad taste it leaves in your mouth. But if you can move past that, this wonderful movie starring Fred Astaire shows off dancing and songs from the golden era of Hollywood.
Christmas with the Kranks: OK, you might think I’m a little crazy for including this comedy with Jamie Lee Curtis, Tim Allen and Dan Aykroyd. But after discovering it on cable a few years ago, I can’t stop watching. Why? I think I’m intrigued by their neighborhood, which, although for most of the movie is extremely nosy and all up in the Kranks’ business, at the end comes together to save Christmas. I wish I felt that way about my neighbors. As JLC says at the end, they have shown her “the true meaning of community.” Love that. Oh, and “Free Frosty!” Hilarious.
Meet Me in St. Louis: This year-in-the-life movie takes place in turn-of-the-century (you guessed it) St. Louis. I want to live in their house, a grand old Victorian. I want to wear those gorgeous dresses. Full of nostalgia for a time that probably didn’t even really exist, this movie features my favorite Christmas song, Judy Garland’s original “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” And the family dynamic, four sisters and one brother, makes me want to be part of a brood of five kids.
The Family Stone: This is another recent movie that might surprise you to see on the list. The characterizations are multi-layered, and I notice something new every time I see it. This year, I realized that each of the five grown kids in the family (yes, another big family) has a sweet, cathartic moment with their mother, played by the great Diane Keaton. It’s a very bittersweet, even sad, film, but it’s beautiful. Bonus points for paying homage to Meet Me in St. Louis. Some adult themes, so probably want to save this one until the kids are older.
It’s a Wonderful Life: OK, how can you beat this one? I would go far as to say this may be the best movie of all time. So relatable — the frustration at life not turning out the way you want it to. But then the realization that he did make a difference, that everyone makes a difference. Jimmy Stewart’s elation when he realizes he wants to live is so palpable, it’s impossible not to share his joy. And as he reunites with his kids and his wife, wow, such a beautiful scene. I would say, though, there is a lot of dark stuff in this movie. Not for small kids.
A Christmas Carol with Patrick Stewart: This version of the many that are out there was actually made for TV. I wrote about it when I was an editor for DirecTV’s television guide, and attended an event at the Plaza in New York. So I may be a little biased. But I love Patrick Stewart’s interpretation of this character. Watching it last weekend, I realized how timeless this story is, nearly two hundred years after it was written. How perfectly it illustrates why we should have generosity of spirit, as well as with our money. The ghost of Christmas future is kind of scary, though, and there is much reference to death and dying. I’m a big fan of Mickey’s Christmas Carol, the animated Disney half-hour version, which is more appropriate for kids, but still a bit scary at the end.
Home Alone: The ridiculousness of this movie doesn’t stop me from loving it. Beyond the pretty stupid (not to mention violent) antics of the burglars, it’s a heartwarming story about the importance of family, even as they drive you crazy. Watching it as a parent, I have a new appreciation for the mom’s desperation at trying to return home to her son, as well as her expression of pure love when she actually does.
A Christmas Story: I used to think this movie was kind of depressing when I was younger — not sure why, maybe the dark and somewhat dreary 1940s-era home, or the seeming-meaness of the dad. It wasn’t until I was older that I fully appreciated the irony that the one person Ralphie didn’t think to ask for his most wished-for present — his father — ultimately is the one to give it to him. He’s actually not mean at all! So sweet. The atmosphere of this movie, which is supposed to take place in Indiana, reminds me of Syracuse, where my parents are from and where I spent most of my childhood Christmases. Somehow I picture my dad as a little boy experiencing Christmas in Syracuse the way Ralphie does in this movie.
Miracle on 34th Street with Natalie Wood: I actually think the remake of this movie is pretty good, except that they change the ending explanation for “proving” that Santa Claus is real — why was that necessary? The original is a classic, though, even for someone who never believed in Kris Kringle. Although, I have a bit of a problem with the notion that just because a kid doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, or fairy tales, that means they have no imagination or magic in their lives. I think kids are perfectly capable of having a rich inner life of pretending and imagining, without actually believing such things are “real.” This movie, though, may bring up the question of why people wouldn’t believe in Santa Claus, so that might be something to consider if your kid does.
EDIT: Number 12!
The Family Man: I totally forgot about this great reverse-It’s a Wonderful Life, in which successful bachelor businessman Nicolas Cage gets to see what would have happened if he had married his college sweetheart. At first he thinks family life is dull, and inferior to his previous existence as a man about town, but he comes to see how it’s richer with people you love. What I love about the ending is that it sticks to the rules of the premise — this was just a glimpse, not permanent — but it is still thoroughly satisfying. It’s not totally a Christmas movie, but it is obviously inspired by Wonderful Life, and imbues much of the spirit of the season.
Close, but didn’t make the list: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (a bit too ridiculous without enough heartfelt sentiment at its core, like, say, Home Alone), The Holiday (a sweet romantic comedy but not really about Christmas), The Polar Express (never saw the whole thing, can’t get past the creepy animation), The Santa Clause (too silly).
Do you agree with my list? Did I forget any? Have yourself a merry little Christmas if you celebrate! I will be taking a bit of a holiday break but will see you in the New Year!
Every month I look forward to getting my Martha Stewart Living magazine. It’s beautifully photographed and just by opening it, I believe I am affirming myself as an organized, crafty, together person.
But once I’m done, I find out it’s actually made me feel worse.
Truth is, I have never once made a recipe from the magazine. I’ve never once attempted a craft I’ve seen there. And although I do enjoy gardening, I do not have the green thumb that the people featured in Martha Stewart Living do.
I have Martha Stewart Syndrome.
Also known as the “Plague of Pinterest,” this condition draws you in, luring you with beautiful pictures and easy-to-do activities. It promises to make you a better housekeeper, a better wife, a better mother. It holds you up to a standard of excellence that you come to believe we should all be judged against.
One of my favorite things to read in the magazine is the opening column called “Martha’s Month.” It details what she’ll be doing on each day, prosaic activities like “gutter cleaning,” “replenish baking supplies,” “schedule doctors’ visits for 2016,” to take some examples from this month. Readers also get a glimpse into her life, as she lists friends’ birthdays, events she’s attending, and dinners she’s having at her country estate in Bedford, New York. Oh, and she includes her exercise schedule, with two to three days a week of yoga, pilates, cardio and core, or weight training.
Maybe this is what I need. “Gentle reminders,” as the column’s headline reads, for all the things I need to accomplish in a month. Maybe if I could write it all down, see it in black and white, it would seem manageable, doable, organized.
I contrast this with the chaos of my life as the mom of a toddler. Is it possible to do it all like Martha? Or is that just wish fulfillment? Does Martha actually do all of the activities listed here, or are they just for the benefit of her readers, to keep up her image? When she says, “clean out closets,” does that mean her assistant is doing it? I’m sure she definitely has a housekeeper to “clean out refrigerator and freezer thoroughly.” She probably does go “cross-country skiing in Vermont,” though.
Especially at this time of year, it’s almost impossible to keep up. Christmastime is both the best and most stressful time of year. Things that are supposed to be fun, like shopping, giving gifts, baking, even putting up the tree, seem like chores. It’s a mad rush to get it all done by December 24.
Unless you’re Martha, right?
When I was a magazine editor we had a meeting to discuss what effect our magazine was having on readers. How did it make people feel after reading it — better about themselves or worse? And did that make people more or less likely to buy it?
For Martha, it seems that her readers are gluttons for punishment.
I will keep reading, though. I will keep aspiring to all of the life “hacks” that others post about on Facebook and Pinterest. “Want to have your house smelling wonderful?” one friend recently posted. “The next time your kid eats a clementine, take the peel and put it in some water on the stove. Add a cinnamon stick and some nutmeg, and it will smell great!”
Sounds simple. And I will probably never, ever do this.
All of this stuff sounds so easy. That’s the key to the marketing of Martha and everything else — it seems easy, like anyone could do it. It’s within reach. But taken together, how does anyone have the time to do all of these so-called “simple” activities?
It’s keeping up with the joneses, ’50s housewife-style. And I admit I’ve bought into the posturing. Haven’t I posted pictures on Facebook of my homemade strawberry jam? Haven’t I shown my son helping to decorate our tree? Haven’t I talked about delicious meals
my husband has we’ve cooked?
Facebook, like Pinterest, lies.
It seems like Martha is perfect. Even the “oh see how normal I am” attitude evident in the everyday activities she lists in her monthly calendar are calculated to make you believe that not only is she good at everything, her humility makes her human, too.
I don’t know Martha, so maybe she is perfect, or as close as a person could be. Maybe she’s one of those highly productive people who doesn’t waste time and only needs four hours of sleep.
Or maybe she’s just a fantasy.
Do you feel like you need to aspire to an unrealistic expectation, too? Do the holidays have you feeling like you can never accomplish enough?
My son’s favorite word is “more.” Some might say it’s mine, too. For Thanksgiving, I’m working on a different word: “enough.”
When I say I want more, I’m not talking about material objects or bigger cars. I’m talking about just wanting more out of life: accomplishing more, doing more, seeing more. I’m constantly feeling like I don’t have enough time to do all the things I want to do. I struggle to fit in everything, and with a toddler, that’s hard.
I have a difficult time sitting back and enjoying the moment, of not thinking about the list of things in my head that I have or want to do. I’m constantly comparing my life to others, as least as I see others’ lives on Facebook (and we know FB lies). I always want more.
So this Thanksgiving, as trite as it sounds, I’m going to focus on being grateful for the things I do have. This is not an easy task for me, and probably for many people. In our privileged world, we want the best: The best schools and the best jobs and the best vacations. We want to eat at the best restaurants and wear the best clothes and stay at the best hotels. We want our children to have the best. In our jobs, we want to be the best worker, the best of what we do, the top of our game.
Many of these goals are admirable. I grew up always striving, always determined for more. I get annoyed at myself when I don’t do the best job, or when I think someone else has done something better than I have. Or when someone else has more than me.
I wish I could just have more children without infertility treatments or adoption.
There are many things I wish for.
But if recent world events have showed me anything, it’s that these are small, small problems. There are parents in this world dealing with much harder challenges. I know this rationally. So how do I find the balance between striving for more and being grateful for what I have?
I never thought I’d quote Oprah, but today I read something she said that resonated with me:
Be thankful for what you have, you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
I’ve felt my own shortcomings recently, as I have seen so much that others are going through while I grumble about my own life. So this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my son, my husband, my family. I’m glad I have a roof over my head and food to eat. These are no small things, because many people don’t have them, or have lost them.
I have enough, and I’m realizing that enough is more than enough.
What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?
Today is my birthday. I don’t really want to acknowledge that fact, though, as I get older. (I won’t dignify my age by revealing it; although if you read last year’s blog post you can probably figure it out.)
I’m still plagued by this feeling of trying to catch up to other women my age, something I will never actually be able to do. I still am dealing with the loss of those six years trying to have a baby. I’m six years behind. How old will I be when LM graduates high school? College? Will I be too old to enjoy my retirement? Will I be too fragile to travel?
Some would argue that I got in my traveling before I had kids. But that was different. Those were take-my-mind-off-all-the-trauma-in-my-life kind of trips. They weren’t I’ve-completed-my-goals-in-life-and-raised-my-children-so-now-I’m-going-to-enjoy-it kind of trips. Not fair. I want my Viking River Cruise, damn it!
I feel like my age is a secret. I won’t tell the other moms in my mom group how old I am (although if they’re reading this they might find out). They are young and in the prime of life and many haven’t even hit the point of “advanced maternal age.” But I have. I’m done.
I know I shouldn’t base my identity on my ability to have a child — plus, thanks to infertility that was actually gone long ago. But it’s hard for most women, I think, to have this cut-off point that defines them as “old.” Men don’t have that. Not fair again.
I should just let it go. So why am I hanging on to these negative feelings? They are so inextricably wound up with my feelings about what I went through to have kids. If I hadn’t had to waste all that time, I wouldn’t be behind. I wouldn’t have to mourn my reproductive capabilities because I would have already fulfilled my womanly goals. It would be an acceptance of growing older instead of a regret.
I hear you, feminists. Don’t define yourself by your reproductivity! you say. And you’re right. This is an emotional response I’m having, so please let me have it. It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to! Wahhh!
Luckily, thanks to good genes I don’t look my age. So I’m able to sidle my way in with the young moms, moms who are having babies in their early thirties like I was meant to do. Do they know I’m faking it? Would they care if they knew? Would they see me as any different, as some old lady who they couldn’t identify with?
I feel like I’m living a lie. (I know I’m being dramatic.)
Some people say that I should be proud of my age so they can marvel at how young I look. Yeah, no thanks. I’d rather have people actually believe that I’m young.
I am going to celebrate my birthday. Tonight my mom group is having a private wine tasting (not for me — it’s just a happy coincidence). Tomorrow is dinner out with friends. Saturday is a spa day in the city. And next month Foggy Daddy and I are taking a real, honest-to-goodness weekend getaway. Yay!
But still, there’s a cloud of old age starting to hang over me that I can’t seem to get rid of. I’m trying, I really am, to let the sun shine through it. I know my life is good. I know if it ended right now I would have accomplished something, including my wonderful son. As he ran into our room this morning and I saw his smiling face pop up as he climbed on the bed, I thought how he was the best present anyone could ask for.
Where are my older moms at? Do you hide your age? Do you feel “behind”?
The season of giving seems to have turned into the season of being pissed off — at non-traditional Santa displays, at coffee cups that don’t adequately express the holiday spirit, at the people who are pissed off about the Santa displays and coffee cups. But the biggest so-called controversy is when we should start celebrating Christmastime, as every year it starts creeping earlier and earlier in an attempt to capitalize on the holiday shoppers who are chomping at the bit to start spending money.
Some stores are rejecting that notion, in a savvy marketing move to gain publicity (and therefore, dollars) by bucking the trend. “See us, we are keeping the sacred holiday timeline!” they shout. “We uphold all the traditional values you hold dear!”
Normally, I would agree with them. I hate the commercialization of Christmas, I hate change, and I love companies that seem to stand up for what’s right in the face of what makes money.
But not this time.
“We haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving yet!” you exclaim. “The day after Halloween, the stores roll out the Christmas decorations! It’s just wrong! Can’t we have one holiday at a time?”
This is a fair point. But here’s the thing — Thanksgiving just doesn’t have much of a lead up to it. It’s one day, and besides a bit of preparation at the grocery store or a day of pie-baking, there’s not much that happens in advance of the holiday. It doesn’t need time to celebrate besides the actual day.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Thanksgiving. It’s just not that exciting. It’s a cozy, stay-home-and-stuff-your-face-and-watch-football kind of day. It doesn’t need nearly a month of lead-in time.
But Christmas does — and more. Every year after Thanksgiving, I scramble to get in all my Christmastime reveling in the month before the holiday hits. Never mind the shopping — what about Christmas parties and cookie baking and Christmas movie watching and Santa trains and tree trimming and caroling and card writing?
It’s nearly impossible.
I’ve often thought that the holiday season needs to be more spread out. Wouldn’t it be great if we could take the calendar and just move things around a bit? There’s really nothing of interest that happens between January and April. It’s such a boring, dreary time of year. What if we could add in a little more time between the summer and Halloween, and then between Halloween and Thanksgiving, and finally (and most importantly) between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Then all the holidays could get their due, no one would be complaining that Thanksgiving is getting the shaft, and we’d be saved the boring-ness that is the winter and early spring. (At least the winter has the possibility of snow days. Don’t even get me started on the drab, dull, brown month of March.)
So this year, I’ve decided I’m OK with the blatant disregard of Thanksgiving in favor of a jump-start on Christmas. Turkey Day, I haven’t forgotten you. I will look forward to your yummy deliciousness, Macy’s parade, football, and my favorite (only?) Thanksgiving movie, Home for the Holidays.
But Christmas, I welcome you early. I don’t mind if radio stations have started playing Christmas music already — just today I heard “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” my all-time favorite holiday song from my all-time favorite holiday movie, Meet Me in St. Louis. I don’t care that I’m currently watching a Christmas commercial for the Hess truck that came on during a football game in which the players are dressed in bright red and green (a subliminal message?).
I embrace the winter-themed decor in stores, traditional or not (after all, I never believed in Santa anyway). Even though I’m still eating Halloween candy (what? better me than my two-year-old), I will start thinking about my holiday eats and actually might start my Christmas shopping.
I love Christmas, so I don’t mind jumping on the early bandwagon.
How do you feel about starting Christmastime early? Do you think we should wait until after Thanksgiving?
Actually, it’s more like the other way around: Our son surviving the first weekend away from his parents.
Foggy Daddy and I were faced with a dilemma for an out-of-town wedding: To bring LM or not? FD was in the bridal party, necessitating two nights away — one for the rehearsal and one for the wedding itself. The festivities were to be held in Cooperstown, NY, so not too far but still a bit of a trip. Our options were:
- Bring LM, and have him attend the wedding.
- Bring LM and a babysitter (probably my mom and/or dad) to watch him during the wedding. This would necessitate paying for second hotel room.
- Leave LM home.
- Some combination of the previous two, like have LM come with my parents for one night but then have them bring him back home for the second. This would mean less time away from us.
We really, really didn’t want to have LM at the wedding. It would mess with his bedtime and mean that at least one of us couldn’t really enjoy the wedding. And after we thought about it, it didn’t seem to make sense to bring LM to Cooperstown at all — he’s old enough, we realized, to be away from us for a couple of nights. So, we chose option 3.
Driving up to Cooperstown without LM in tow felt very strange. He had known something was up as we loaded the car and bustled around getting ready. He was crying when we left, and I think FD felt worse about that than I did.
But in many ways the road trip harkened back to many similar trips FD and I had taken before we had LM. Just the two of us, listening to our favorite music and talking and not having to worry about whether stopping to pee would wake up LM. It felt like a return to our old selves, just us.
As much as it’s hard to admit, LM has changed our relationship. It’s not always easy figuring out how to add in this third person to the well-oiled machine that was FD’s and my coupledom for nearly a decade without kids. We didn’t plan it to be just the two of us for that long, and it had the unintended effect of making us a little set in our ways. So adding a child to the mix was not exactly effortless.
But here we were, revisiting our past. I felt like I was missing something, and the feeling continued as we arrived at the rehearsal late. FD was ushered off to get briefed on being an usher, leaving me utterly alone in a room full of people I’d never met before. Luckily, everyone there was super friendly, taking me under their wing. An introvert can ask for no more than that.
After the dinner we sat around the outdoor fire pit, drinks in hand. Again I felt a sense of flashback to our pre-kid years, drinking with other couples who also hadn’t yet had children.
So what was LM up to during all of this? Surprisingly, although it felt a bit surreal to be without him, I can’t say I was overwhelmed with a sense of missing him. Is that terrible? In fact, at one point I realized that I hadn’t even really thought much about LM all night. I checked in with my parents, who said he was finally asleep.
The next day FD and I had a leisurely breakfast in town, followed by a quick trip to the Ommegang Brewery with the groom and best man. Then FD had to leave for groomsmen duties and I was on my own. I sat in the lobby of the hotel and called my mom. LM had a rough night, she said. I wondered if I should FaceTime with him, but my mom said that probably wouldn’t be a good idea. It would only make him miss us more.
Feeling a big guilty, I headed to our room to get ready. I put on makeup and jewelry and heels and did my hair. It’s strange how what you’re wearing can affect your mood and even your sense of self. I’m so used to seeing myself in my mom attire that I almost didn’t recognize the person in the mirror. Again, it was if I’d gone back in time.
The downside of having a spouse in the wedding party is that you don’t get to spend as much time with him as you’d like, but again I was happy to be with my new pals (all so friendly! I felt as though I had known them for a long time even though I’d just met them). I could drink without worrying about driving home or having to take care of LM later on or getting up early with him. We danced and ate our meal without worrying about feeding our picky eater.
I won’t lie: It was really, really nice.
The next day I asked my mom if we had time to see the Baseball Hall of Fame before coming home. She said LM had a better night and that they were actually going to take him to my sister’s Halloween party, so we needn’t rush back.
After touring the museum, we grabbed lunch from a local deli and got in the car to drive home. I hadn’t been able to get in touch with my parents or my sister, and as the trip went on I started getting worried. What if something happened, and I wasn’t there because I had gone to the Baseball Hall of Fame? But as we pulled onto our street, I finally heard back — they had just gotten to our house.
I expected to be greeted with open arms, but instead we were met with angry cries. It seemed that LM was mad at us! Mom guilt started to kick in, but I knew that the weekend away had been a good thing for me. And I know, although I don’t always put it in practice, that much of being a good mom is being a happy mom. We needed to take time for ourselves — and for our marriage.
And LM hopefully learned that even if we leave, we will always come back.
How old was your little one when you left for the first time? How did it go?
My son has not carved a pumpkin yet and it’s October 29. I have a feeling we won’t get around to it before Halloween.
I know this doesn’t make me a bad mom. But as I drove down the road today, looking at the yellow and red leaves blowing across the street, I realized that Halloween was almost over, and I hadn’t taken time to truly relish the season.
The thing is that life with a toddler doesn’t work like that. We’ve done Halloween-themed events, but the notion of actually enjoying them as a parent is tricky — we are like the puppet masters behind our kids, making sure they are fed and clothed and clean and safe, not too cold and not too hot, not about to run into traffic or shove something in their mouth that isn’t food or trip and fall and bang their head on something. So we go to a Halloween party, or a pumpkin blaze, or a pumpkin patch, but it’s hard to really take in the moment.
And then there is the business of life. I’m still trying to figure out how to balance taking care of LM and writing part-time and keeping my house clean, while at the same time doing things I enjoy, like reading and blogging and watching TV. It sucks when the shows on your DVR end up feeling like one more chore to get through.
On top of all the normal busy-ness, the thing that been occupying my mind for the last couple of weeks and made me have less time to update this blog, has been what’s causing LM’s speech delay. Because it turns out there might be more to it than speech. He might — well, actually, likely does — have permanent hearing loss.
As I was driving on that leaf-strewn road today we were coming back from a failed non-sedated ABR test, which will tell us for sure where the hearing problem is coming from. It was a fail because LM wouldn’t sit still no matter what we offered him. Typical two-year-old, I know. So that means I have to schedule another test, this time under sedation. Yikes.
But the audiologist said that based on the information she was able to get, he does have some permanent hearing loss. An overwhelming feeling came over me, a feeling that superseded Halloween and blogging and the normal busy-ness of life. But we still went straight from the appointment to his school, where he was late for his Halloween party. I struggled to get him into his costume without crying. It all just seemed so pointless — to me. To him, Halloween is still something fun. He has no idea that he’s facing a lifelong medical issue.
I know hearing loss is not the worst diagnosis. I do know that. But anytime your child is dealing with something that could potentially make them different or not “normal,” it’s hard to accept. There are going to be lots of tests and doctors and hearing aids that aren’t covered by insurance (WTF insurance???). Maybe special schools or at least special therapy.
I walked into the classroom to see LM happily sitting at the table in his dinosaur costume eating his snacks. The other moms chatted around me. It all felt surreal. They talked about things their kids had said to them, and I couldn’t help but feel left out. LM doesn’t say a whole lot to me — because he can’t. I want him to enjoy Halloween, but does he even know what it is?
My head is still reeling. I want to be able to enjoy these everyday moments. Holidays, traditions, birthday parties, seasons. But it’s so easy to overlook them, to do them but really just go through the motions, when your to-do list of things to worry about and try to accomplish just seems to get longer and longer. I feel like I can’t keep my head above water. But I have to, for LM’s sake. I hope that no matter whether I’m able to do it myself, I can let him have special moments without worry. I need to give him that much at least.
Do you sometimes feel like life gets in the way of appreciating or enjoying life? How do you deal?