so ... spring break is over, amazingly enough.
we had a good week. instead of the sun and fun of, say, disneyland or puerto rico, or having a historical adventure while visiting someplace like washington dc, we opted to spend our vacation days exploring beautiful st. paul.
yes, st. paul. minnesota. but i'll get to that.
spring break was actually kind of a two-week deal for me. the week before break, my mom was in town to visit. we did lots of shopping and wandering, she was able to attend henry's band concert, and she took care of my family while i had some 24-hour bug on friday. it was a little mini-vacay for me, because i got to just enjoy all the little boutiques and fun shops that i love but never get myself to on an ordinary day. and my mom is now a friend rather than just "mom," so it was great to girl talk and have fun.
saturday, the first official day of spring break, we celebrated harper's birthday while mom was still here. harp wanted to spend some time at heartfelt doing a craft with her bff, so that's just what we did. they chose to make little fairy cottages, then run next door to the bakery for a giant cookie. after that, it was special birthday dinner at the hibachi place.
sunday morning, harper's official birthday, mom left early and harper had the whole day to do as she chose. there were presents, then play time with henry, lots of drawing and crafting, and dinner at cheesecake factory so she could get a grilled artichoke. (really.) a perfect day for little miss 10-year-old.
on monday, we didn't do a whole lot of anything. the kids wanted to hang out at home, play on the computer. harper did more crafts (she got a sketch book for her birthday and spent hours drawing dragons and wolves and mermaids. then she moved on to making three-dimensional dragons out of clay.), marc and i spent quality time on the couch catching up on shows we hadn't had time to watch in weeks. it was a total lazy bum day.
we did, however, leave the house to get a burger at red cow ... and harper ordered an avocado cheesecake. seriously. this child's eating habits are beyond bizarre.
tuesday we got our irish on and headed into st. paul for the st. paddy's day parade. the sun was shining - even though it was a wee bit chilly - and the people watching was epic. my favorite part of st. patrick's day.
(i think the o'keefes started their drinking waaaay before the parade began.)
(st paul saints' mascot, mudonna)
(roller derby ladies)
(the bouncing club)
before and after the parade, we spent some time watching irish dance and music groups.
then we got some mini donuts from a food truck, said goodbye to ol' scott fitzgerald.
which ... hello ... fitzgerald. totally irish. also, one of my favorite writers.
then we were out of there, home to lazy bum away the rest of the day. i think we played some uno ... that was the extent of expended energy.
wednesday, harper was invited to watch "cinderella" with her bff's family, so marc and i took henry to see "kingsman."
hold on a minute: i have a beef with "kingsman" and, realistically, most movies out there ... especially in the "action" genre. (spoilers ahead, so if you haven't yet seen "kingsman" and plan to, avert your eyes and skip the next paragraph.)
"kingsman" is the story of a young man setting out on a hero's journey to become a secret society cia-type assassin/badass gentleman. he is called to action by the ever lovely colin firth (which is why i agreed to see this movie). the villain in the movie, valentine, is attempting to talk world leaders into following his (evil? necessary? that's up for interpretation.) plan, but one resists - a swedish princess. she refuses to go along with it, so valentine puts her in a cell "to protect her." she's a strong woman who stands up to a man and voices her disagreement and concern. however, at the climax of the movie, when the hero goes into action mode, he comes upon the princess's cell. through the bars, she says, "if you save the world, i'll give you anything you want." he replies, "a kiss? i've always wanted a kiss from a princess," to which she replies, "if you save the world, we can have the butt sex." and at the end, when he's killed everyone in place, he returns to her cell with a bottle of champagne, and he's greeted at the door by her naked rear-end. my problem? how do you take the ONE strong, independent woman who stands up to the evil mastermind, and turn her into nothing more than a faceless, naked reward? literally, a faceless, naked reward. infuriating. so, so infuriating. and i told my boys so. they, of course, only "saw" the action in the movie and completely missed the anti-feminist moment. they are so lucky to have me around to point out these teachable moments.
okay ... back to spring break.
we saw movies, we ate burgers afterward with the bff's family, et voila.
thursday was Hang Out In St Paul day. we planned to walk around the state capitol grounds, check out the capitol building, then go through the minnesota history center. henry and i had been to both places years ago on a field trip, but it was a first for marc and harper.
we started out wandering the capitol grounds and looking at all of the monuments and statues:
USS Ward cannon ... shot the first shots of the pacific war after the attack on pearl harbor
monument to the living
roy wilkins memorial spiral
vietnam memorial, which is located in a sunken area shaped like the state of minnesota
promise of youth statue
WWII memorial, with monuments to the story of the war in both the atlantic and pacific, respectively, on each side.
at this point, i really had to use the bathroom, so we missed a couple of monuments, but we fast-walked into the capitol, which is under heavy renovation right now, and climbed stairs until we found a bathroom.
goal attained, we then realized we were right outside of the state senate chambers. we had a little chat with the sergeant-at-arms and he asked where we live. we replied, and a man walking out the door said, "oh! that's so-and-so's district! he just left ... let me see if i can catch him! he would love to meet his constituents!"
um ... we didn't vote for the guy. awwwwkward.
the nice man came back empty-handed, but it turns out that he was the state senator from the district next door. he walked us to our rep's desk and offered to take our picture. again ... didn't vote for him ... but the other guy was being so darn friendly that we said sure.
so that was that. we thanked him, wandered a bit more through what we could access in the capitol (which wasn't much), and decided it was time for lunch.
the history center was a quick walk from the capitol, and there is a great cafeteria on site. they were featuring a hmong lemongrass-pork belly dish in honor of a special exhibit on the hmong in minnesota, so we tried that, then it was on to the rest of the museum.
(it's super crazy how much henry looks like marc's brother in this picture. like, super. crazy.)
(did i ever tell you about the day i was looking through henry's 8th grade yearbook, and discovered the page with the class dignitaries and Most Likely Tos? yeah ... henry? voted the class clown. this picture makes me believe that 100%.)
my favorite exhibit was of a home that was built at the turn of the century (the 20th, that is) in st paul, and the exhibit followed its history and the people who lived there up until present day. "the little house" is my all-time favorite children's book, so this exhibit was fascinating and so moving.
friday was our big spring break road trip: we headed two hours south to wabasha, minn. ... home of "grumpy old men" ... to visit the national eagle center.
we left mid-morning so that we could get to wabasha in time for lunch. why? so we could eat at slippery's, the bar where max & john hung out in the movie. it was the same place in name only, but that mattered not a bit to me. and to capitalize on their fame, slippery's has the movie running on a loop all day long.
sandwiches and fries later, we made it to the eagle center.
this was harper's favorite. there is information about eagles all around the building, but in one room there are actually live eagles sitting on perches. all have been rehabilitated after injuries and can no longer fly. this was harper's happy place.
she even took a seven-minute-long video of a golden eagle, while one of the handlers was answering questions, and only stopped recording when the eagle turned around and pooped right at her. she was laughing too hard to continue.
we watched a presentation about the eagles and the eagle center, saw one of the bald eagles eat a fish, and found out that harper's wing span is as wide as a wild turkey, then we walked around a bit more before leaving for home.
saturday and sunday were our "get back in school week mode", with homework and laundry. marc and henry kicked my and harper's butts in settlers of cattan, we made some pulled pork, we watched "grumpy old men."
then sunday afternoon, as we were winding down from our relaxing break, it began to snow.
and on monday morning, as the kids were heading out to finish up the school year, they did so into 10" of wet, heavy snow ... the biggest snowfall of our entire winter, and it came three days into spring.
the snow is good, though ... it makes it feel as if time isn't moving as quickly as it is. when i stop to think that spring break is already over and we're in the final stretch to the end of the year, i get a little freaked out.
make that a lot freaked out.
i have more to write, but for today, there is this:
she is so utterly in love with him. and he is (generally) so very, very good to her.
today she is ten-years-old. double digits. growing too fast. and we said, "whatever you want to do today, you name it!" and her reply?
"i want to have alone time with henry."
and they have been up in her room playing together ever since. laughing, being silly, like old times before he grew up faster than she did and life got less fair (in her mind).
today she is 10. and i look at this photo and think, "it's going to have to be a very special person to be able to win her over, because she will have high, high standards after growing up with her brother."
i hope their bond is forever. i hope he always protects, and she always knows how to voice what she wants and needs.
and listening to them today feels like old times. and it makes it that much easier to accept that she's 10 today. because the alternative? is that in my mind they still look like this ...
and that seems forever ago. and five minutes ago. all at the same time.
happy birthday, sweet girl. you are so very, very loved.
last week, i got a super fun/super unexpected/super inexplicable-yet highly flattering email from the community manager for the online store chairish, an "exclusive, curator approved, online marketplace for vintage and used furniture." in the email, she wrote: We understand when choosing a color palette for a room, it can be hard to step away from basic neutrals, and going bold is a big decision. We'd love for you to share your taste for color by creating a styleboard around a vintage rug by taking a room from white to bright!
um, has she seen my house? it's nothing BUT white! however, i do love color, and there are moments when i crave changing a room and taking it 180 degrees from where it currently is. budget and reality constraints keep those cravings in check, but i loved loved LOVED creating a styleboard around a rug that i likely wouldn't have ever considered for my own home. and now that i've done the work? i totally want this room to be real!
first, the rug i chose reminded me of my first job in minneapolis. i worked for an ad agency in a revitalized building in the warehouse district (before it was the trendy north loop). the job was meh, but i adored walking to the building from the bus stop each morning ... grabbing a coffee at moose & sadie's, walking the three flights to our office, which was all exposed beams and brick walls, large arched windows with steel frames, wide-plank floors that were more than a hundred years old. the space was wide open and raw, and i absolutely loved the atmosphere and desperately wanted to live there.
so my styleboard is just that: a single woman in the city lives in a small loft in an old warehouse. she's a writer for the city magazine, covering the local arts & travel beat, but she aspires to work for a larger publication, traveling the world and writing about the people she meets. her loft's main living space, while small, is open and bright from the large windows and tall ceilings, but her bathroom is cozy and whimsical.
i based my plan on a modified version of a bathroom in a loft in milwaukee.
so ... visualize with me:
you walk into the bathroom, and straight in front of the door is the beautiful antique louis vuitton trunk (filled with extra tp, cleaning supplies, etc.) that our homeowner found on chairish, and above it are the art pieces and a few other trinkets, which create a small gallery. the floor is the beautiful noir hex tile, and the walls are papered in the fun cities toile ... a reminder to our homeowner of all the places she wants to go and see.
to keep her feet warm while brushing her teeth, she laid down the baluch rug that she also found on chairish.
lucky for her, when the bathroom was added to the loft, the baseboard trim was fresh and white and new, and a lovely modern shower was added. the shower has basic white subway tile surround, but our lady got handy one weekend and added a decorative border of honey onyx tile to create some visual interest.
the pedestal sink, both modern and vintage at the same time - especially with the antiqued brass faucet, is lovely but provides no storage. our girl found this gorgeous green vintage cabinet while browsing chairish, looking for the rug. it is now on the wall behind the sink, so she has easy access to extra towels (white, with a simple black hotel stripe), toiletries, the usual. the tall window lets in decent light, but there is also a great antiqued brass ceiling light and two gorgeous nod-to-industrial sconces on either side of the round mirror. she knew a medicine cabinet made more sense, but come on ... round is so much more decadent!
a big fan of the little touches, our girl was thrilled to find these brass and leather wall hooks while poking around at anthropologie one day. they were the perfect size to hang a towel from, so she bought a few for her bathroom ... a single hook for the hand towel by the sink, a double hook on the back of the door for her bath towels.
it was a labor of love, and took more than a little of her paycheck each month to complete, but she is so happy every time she steps into her bathroom. and when her friends come over and gush over her amazing vintage finds, she says, "oh, you HAVE to check out chairish.com ... it's brilliant! i check it out daily to see what else i can find. right now i really need a cocktail table ..."
- end scene -
if you had to start with one of the gorgeous vintage rugs from chairish, what rug would you choose?
floor tile: noir hex 2x2 travertine
shower accent tile: honey onyx medley
wallpaper: anthropologie cities toile
sink: kohler memoirs
faucet: legion antique brass
mirror: gilt minimalist
wall sconces: ironside sconce
ceiling light: traditional urban semi-flush
trunk: louis vuitton steamer trunk
towels: hotel satin stitch
towel hook: equestrian hook
wall art: "me, in stitches"
wall art: "coney island"
wha ... ???
i'm having a very hard time wrapping my brain around this one, but yes: henry turns 15 today.
(technically, not until 6:50 this evening, so i have a few more hours of deniability.)
i'm truly floored each year, when i have another "my kid is how old?!" moment, that they are growing up so much more quickly than i am. but this? this 15 thing? no. i am not sure i can accept it.
i mean, come on:
that was 15 years ago?! granted, i barely remember ... but it wasn't THAT long ago!
little mr serious ... mr frowny face ...
this little buddha? he's 15 now?!
it happened way too fast.
just about one minute ago ...
it was all bob the builder and thomas the train, and he snuggled with me and was the cutest thing i'd ever seen. and he looked way, way up at his daddy.
he loved the water ...
and loved to read maps and instructions and figure things out.
truthfully, neither of those things has changed at all.
and there was a sweet spot, when he was so wonderful and funny, and we thought life couldn't get any better.
and then he became a big brother.
and he was in love with her, and she was in love with him.
but that hasn't changed, either.
he was such a sweet little boy, with so much personality.
but that hasn't really changed, either.
as fun-loving as he is, he definitely has a serious side. the side that wants to just do his thing, focus, achieve a goal.
he's always been ahead of the curve: held his head up the minute he was laid on my chest after he was born; consistently in the 95th-100th percentile for height; early reader, advanced classes. in many ways, he never felt like a baby. he's always been mature for his age, and now we are seeing the man he will become.
he is polite, kind, patient, intelligent, analytical.
he will be a great father if/when the time comes. and he's taken lessons from a great role model.
and the friends. oh my word, the friends. he's picked some great kiddos to surround himself with, since the very beginning.
it makes my heart so happy to see him with his friends, because they are always smiling and laughing with each other. always.
maybe he hasn't changed so much. maybe 15 years really isn't so bad. as long as i don't dwell on the "we've signed up for driver's ed and lifeguarding class, and he has to take the PSAT in the fall, and scholarship? he wants to try to get a swimming scholarship? for college in three years?", i might just make it through his 15th birthday.
it's been the year month week from hell, and thankfully it's now friday.
yesterday, i played complete hooky. i was so over all of the stress and heartache and major things going down in our world that i just hit the snooze button on life for the day. once the kids were fed and on their way to school, i made myself some breakfast and settled into the couch to watch tv ("designing women" - god, i loved julia sugarbaker - and, did you know bobby flay has a show all about brunch?! i'm all over that.), then headed upstairs for a bubble bath. after that, marc had some free time, so we headed to edina, where we had a delightful lunch at barrio, then i dragged him through anthropologie and paper source. birthday credits that expire next week were burning a hole in my pocket, and there never seems to be enough time to run out and shop just for fun. an hour later, i had a kitchen towel, candle, recipe box, spoon rest, and birthday gift for my mom, and a smile on my face.
we got home, harper got home, she started her homework and i started a little nap. when i woke up, she was still doing homework, and immediately launched into the What's Wrong With Harper Today? game. Tired of dealing with it still, i called the doctor, got her an appointment, and dragged her into the pediatrician's office to run yet another test and either a) find something we can fix, or b) call her bluff. as with the previous two visits in the past two weeks, she's 100% fine and healthy. just, apparently, batshit crazy. (we've also been to the therapist twice, chiro twice, talked to her teacher numerous times, she's been out of school for a day, i've driven her to/from school nearly every day and dealt with the sobbing fit and clinging as i try to extricate myself and shove her into the school before the bell rings. and from what she says, there is nothing at school that is bothering her. her teacher says she's happy and fine once she gets to class. it's just for me, this little routine. i feel so friggin' blessed.)
so, finding her healthy - still, we popped into a quick dinner (she ate a bowl of edamame. seriously. on top of everything else she's putting us through, she's also on a hunger strike.), headed home, and it was bedtime. amazingly enough, she seemed to go to bed without incident for the first time in weeks ... we talked, we snuggled, i read her a chapter of "little women." it was good, and i felt optimistic. until she came downstairs with new things to complain about an hour later.
regardless, it was a lovely day. much needed.
this morning started, again, with her complaints. and it's friday. and i have things to do this afternoon. but to center myself and calm my nerves, i've been pinning and drinking coffee. finding my bliss, so to speak.
here's what's blissful right now ...
it's becoming apparent to me that i'm craving a more spare, black/white/neutral palette. time to get the christmas stuff put away strip down to the bones of our rooms and edit a bit. these winter/life blues need to get shaken out so we can all find more calm and peace. it's a necessity at this point.
it's a new year, in more ways than one.
yes, the calendar rolled over. but beyond that, my personal calendar rolled over (41, thankyouverymuch), my mindset rolled over, things in our household have been rolling and tumbling and trying to figure out where to click into place.
as with every year, i started january 1st with the best of best intentions: i made my planner, wrote down my list of things that needed to get done, wrote down my list of things i wanted to get done, made a menu plan and a grocery list, filled out the calendar with all of the swimming dates and times, appointment dates and times, marc's travel schedule, etc.
and then it all went to hell.
we're 13 days into the new year, and pfft. just like that.
i'm not going to go into detail, but suffice it to say we're dealing with some major stress in our house right now, and it has gotten me off my game completely. the schedule is gone, all of the planning was for nothing, my mood sucks, i'm turning to ben & jerry for comfort when i had planned very carefully to have time for exercise and clean food.
but you know what? a whisper in the back of my mind reminded of the philosophy that i would tell clients when they wanted to book a photo session, then stressed over their coordinated outfifts and perfect location. i would say, "this is real life. come as you are. i just want to see YOU! and how YOU are together."
and then i realize: i'm not 29 anymore. i have wrinkles on my forehead and am no longer a size 8. there are days when i literally want to run away. my husband is no longer muscled and fine, and has become a voice of criticism when what i really need is appreciation and patience. my daughter is a handful of stress and anxiety and frustration. (and also joy and laughter and love. but right now? the other stuff.) my son ... well, he's actually doing well. except he's going to be gone in three and a half years and that is too hard for me to accept most days.
there are all these things that could push me over the edge and depress me daily. instead? i need to remember: this is real life. this is US. this is who we are right now, in this moment.
we had made tentative plans last fall to head to southern california for spring break this year. i didn't care where we went or what we planned; my only requirement was: family photos with tara whitney. she just GETS people, and i want that. need that. we haven't had family photos taken since henry was three, and that was just a posed portrait in a studio. as much of an advocate as i am for getting the photos and being in them, i have failed my own family. so: california. tara. and i thought, i have seven months to get in shape, look better. if we're going to finally do this, i want to look like ME again.
except? i've done nothing toward that goal. life has been way too intrusive, and i've been way too tired. but also? i do look like me. maybe not the me in my memory, but the me who i am right now. and i need to learn to love her again.
on my birthday, i had more than 100 well-wishes and beautiful messages on facebook from dear friends who took time out of their day to send me a message. and i realized, i am loved. no matter how i am feeling or how hard days can be, or how long i can go without actually seeing friends in person and being present in our friendship, i am loved. and it isn't because i'm a size 8 or have a successful career or perfect children. it's because of my flaws. they make me who i am. and the trick is to remember that no one is perfect, and we love each other because of those imperfections, not in spite of them. they are the things that make us real to each other, and real in our friendships.
and then i was thinking of our family photos and remembered something i had seen on tara's blog awhile back. something that spoke so loudly to me:
Well your body shows up every day, every breath and tries. Really hard.
Despite donuts, pop, chips, coffee or pie.
It shows up and puts out effort for you.
And if after every heartbeat, step, every breath, and grocery bag lifted, you have the nerve to say
“Why aren’t you thinner, or rounder or longer, or lusher, or more radiant?” then I think you need to take a long look at the way you treat the best friend you have, your body.
Your legs are shorter than a supermodel? But they carry you?
You have 50 bones in your feet, paint those toes!
You have hips that sway and a belly that houses the mechanical miracles that ensure that the odd carrot or glass of milk turns into what you need to keep going.
Give your lungs a walk in the air.
Give your hair a shake.
Stop being a bitch to your best, best, only best friend.
Be grateful, be mindful, show some friendship to your parts of your partner.
It is not your body’s responsibility to decorate the world for the gaze of others. It is not a guarantee of love or an advertisement of your worth.
You are not your ass, your hair or your dress size
Take care what you put in it, where you run it or walk it, and treat it with the love you’d give to a helpless baby.
No one else is going to do it if you don’t.
-The Speech From The Crone
i mean, really. right?
and extrapolating more deeply: we are not our current situation. we are not the stress in our home. we are not the frustrations and ugly cry and ben & jerry's and swearing and hiding away. we give and give and give, and sometimes good things come back. sometimes not. and that's life. but it's LIFE. there will always be bad and ugly and stressful and sad. but there is also joy and beauty and laughter. and that's what gets us through the other stuff. so we need to embrace it.
i need to embrace the current environment, because right now it needs an embrace. it needs to be told that it will all be okay. and even if it isn't okay, that's okay, too. i need to look at myself in the mirror not with a critical and disappointed eye, but an eye that says, "who cares. you are healthy and smart and loved and who the fuck cares if you are no longer built like an athlete? that only matters to YOU. no one else cares."
and if life isn't run like a neat checklist, with schedules and plans and tick marks beside all of the things i accomplished in a 12-hour period, then so be it.
life is dynamic. we have to roll with it, not contain and control it. embrace it rather than smother it. "it is what it is" may be a philosphy, but so is "peace."
lately, i've been preoccupied with the "have to" items ahead of me, and it occurred to me that if i look at everything as a "have to" i will get overwhelmed and throw in the towel because i feel like i can't get it all done in the manner and/or timeframe in which i want them done.
i've begun to jot down rough drafts of the sort of daily/weekly/monthly planner that would make all of those lists bite-sized and therefor less intimidating and overwhelming. i'm just about ready to make the pages i need and print it out and get going.
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during the process, though, i've realized that a) i miss writing things down in a planner that i can flip through and organize and change ... i'm just not a "gadget" girl; and b) i need to see both the big picture as well as smaller lists that feel doable; the have to and need to and want to items.
back in the day (college) i was attached to my day planner like it was my lifeblood. in fact, it kind of was. keeping track of school work, work schedule, deadlines for the school paper, activities, volunteer hours, etc., was mandatory. i had a large month-by-month calendar on my desk for further out deadlines (the "big picture"), but i also had my book-sized day planner that didn't leave my side. it included multi-color highlighters for different things, multi-colored sticky notes, and every last bit of information i could possibly need at a moment's notice. i was hyper-organized.
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marc mocked me a bit for it, but i didn't care. i needed that book like it was crack.
after graduation, my planner became much lighter. while i needed to keep track of work and life things and wedding planning, i no longer had all of the class and social commitments. and five months later, when we were married and moved to minnesota, i had literally nothing to write down. i got out of the habit of needing my organizer. i moved from an extrovert, super Type A person to a much less organized, much less harried, much more "relaxed" personality. marc's laid-back nature began to rub off on me once we started living together, i didn't find a permanent job right away in minneapolis so i had less to schedule, and we had no friends or family with whom to make plans. i tucked myself into our apartment and went days without any real need for a plan.
that became a bad habit. even when i did start working, my heart wasn't in it. i no longer felt the drive i had felt only a year before. all of my big ambition and plans went out the window, and i became - literally - a shadow of who i had been and who i thought i would be.
we bought an old fixer upper in a downtown neighborhood and i briefly became Motivation Girl again, but then was surprised with a pregnancy that kept me sick and tired most days. after that, motherhood, choosing to stay home, post-partum depression ... i became a shadow again.
now, i'm no longer a shadow, but rather a blur. the calendar is once again full of things, but they are things like the kids' swimming schedule, marc's travel schedule, people needing to come to the house to fix something or install something or have access to something, and i am the one trafficking it all. so while the need for organization has come back to the forefront, my own personal ambition still has not.
but that changes this year. this year? i To Do like a mothereffer. and to be solid with that? i need a planner.
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i'm ready. i'm psyched. i'm pumped. in fact, i'm a One Little Word flunky, but this year?
that's my word. i'm going to put it where i can see it daily. i'm going to live and breathe it. 2015 is going to be the leanest, meanest, most streamlined and efficient year yet. and i have to think that all of that lean, mean efficiency will remind me of who i am and who i was meant to be.
as 2014 drifts away tonight, i'm spending a few final moments on christmas.
when i was a kid, there was always the anticipation of christmas, then the actual holiday; it all seemed to just morph and swell, and i didn't notice the crazed pace of the days preceding it. but now that i'm the adult, and the buying and planning and cleaning and prepping and decorating all fall on me, the month of december seems so short and frenetic.
in my desire to make things lovely and magical, somehow the season also becomes chaotic and stressful; likely because i forget to factor in things like schedules and chores and business trips and swim meets and grocery shopping and laundry and addressing christmas cards, etc.
but all the work is worth it when, at the end, you are sitting in a warm and twinkling home, sipping a cup of coffee and awaiting the arrival of family, and it seems like time can finally slow down so you can enjoy every moment of christmas.
but then the family arrives, and the luggage is brought in, and the bags are deposited, and the food is put away, and the laughter starts, and the kids run around, and suddenly - time goes even faster than it did the day before.
we had four solid days with my parents and my sister and her family. we made sure food was bought and things were made ahead and the plans were for "simple and easy" so that we had more time to just relax and enjoy. it was all very intentional.
and it worked. at least, it worked better than other years. but yet time still went so crazy fast.
monday morning, henry had swim practice. so while he was off doing that, harper and nora watched "my little pony"
while marc blew wyatt's mind with the sheer amount of legos in our basement.
we did puzzles, we hung out, we ate a quick dinner. then henry was off to a current team vs alumni swim meet, and we all got to attend and cheer him on. best part? he raced one of last year's captains in the 100 free and, even though henry didn't win (by a nose), he got a lifetime best :52.70. the crowd (well, OUR crowd) went wild.
after the oldest and youngest went to bed, matt and becca and i pulled out our phones and played several rounds of heads up ... and laughed until we cried.
the next two days were full of games - both board and video (stratego, five crowns, settlers of cattan, tenzi, pokemon, etc.), snacks, wine and more wine, hanging out.
and nora kept an eye on the sky, looking for snow that never came.
we also managed a quick family photo, despite the cold wind.
my mom and sister and i had come up with the idea to get stuff to make ugly christmas sweaters, which we did on christmas eve. it ended up being such a fun activity for everyone that we've declared it our new family tradition.
there was much laughter, enthusiasm, and photo-bombing.
oh, and cookie-making. there was much cookie-making.
then: christmas eve traditions. the stockings, the letters, the reading of "the night before christmas."
followed by the traditional "get the kids to bed because we still have an hour's worth of wrapping and stocking-filling and present-under-the-tree-putting to do!"
three days in, one day to go. it all had been so fun and had gone so quickly. usually, we have only three days altogether, but four was so much better because christmas day goes faster than any other. and it was so good that i took hardly any photos.
i've learned over the years that i prefer to just be in the moment and soak it all in.
we ended the day with our ugly sweater family photos
then put the tired, happy kiddos to bed, pulled out five crowns and a bottle of gin, and capped off a great holiday in style.
as fast as it went, and as great as it was to be together, and as much fun as we had, on december 26th the house was quiet: marc was watching tv, the kids were playing new video games, and i sat alone in the kitchen, drinking a glass of wine and flipping through a new cookbook, while listening to annie lennox sing "georgia on my mind" and "summertime" on vinyl on my new, perfect crosley record player. and it was just as good to enjoy the stillness as it had been to enjoy the chaos.
maybe that's what christmas is all about when you are the adult. the crazy fun is for the kids, but it's a whirlwind for you. but the 26th? that's just for you, the time alone to reflect and be grateful and exhale, and eagerly look forward to the next year.
i blinked, and christmas is over.
don't get me wrong: we had my family here for four full days. and they were FULL. DAYS. but yet it flew by.
and i'll write more about that later.
first: giving snowflake her proper wrap-up.
day 16: snowflake got a little crafty with some glitter paint, a glass ornament, and mica flakes.
day 17: snowflake was hiding, adorably, in our container of chocolate chips. sadly, though, harper never saw her. she woke up at 3 a.m. vomiting, and kept going until lunchtime. she spent the entire day in bed and didn't once venture downstairs. i did tell her that i found snowflake while making lunch, and took my camera upstairs to show her a photo. that was good enough for my poor sick girl.
day 18: still sick but no longer vomitous, harper spent most of the day lying in bed, watching "magic school bus" episodes on the ipad. she had company, though. snowflake and gray kitty were sitting on her dresser, offering moral support - with proper safety precautions.
day 19: harp flirted with fever status on and off the day before, so on friday, she missed her last day of school before christmas break. she was, however, feeling better, and convalesced on the couch. snowflake kept a cheeky eye on her from inside a bowl.
day 20: one last crazy day of cleaning before my family arrived, one last day of rest and recuperation for harper. snowflake, meanwhile, channeled her inner miley.
day 21: harp woke up sunday morning to discover snowflake sitting in the little tree in her room, bearing a gift.
the note on the gift read, "santa knows this is my favorite job as your elf!"
what job was that?
bringing harp's christmas jammies.
day 22: snowflake was part of the family festivities, but from a safe vantage point.
day 23: snowflake and gray kitty hid a dozen candy canes, and harper had to hunt for them. much like easter, she zipped through the house, glancing at eye level, and declared, "i can't find any!" while we, the rest of the people in the room, looked around and said, "uh ... we can see five just from here."
eventually, harp decided to Look.
day 24: our last day with snowflake. she celebrated the arrival of christmas by sitting on the mantle with a banner declaring, "one more day until christmas!" and there was much excitement.
bonus day 25: before she flew back to the north pole, snowflake let me take a photo of her with a little gift that she left for harper for christmas morning: a book, entitled "sparky." if you know harper at all, you will understand why this is the most perfect book in the world for her. it's about a little girl who desperately wants a pet, and her mom says no to them all, then says she'll say yes if the girl can find one that doesn't require care. so the girl orders a sloth, which is delivered via express mail.
harp was super excited to find this little special gift in her room christmas morning.
and that was our month with snowflake. i'm challenging myself to put a bit more effort into the elf thing next year ... this year was pretty ... let's just say basic.
i'll get to actual christmas ... maybe tomorrow.
here's a teaser of just what you can expect, though:
hope your holiday was merry and wonderful!