Writing a Christmas Letter

Once the dust and store receipts have settled from the Black Friday rush, I turn my attention to Christmas. My home becomes engulfed with age-old decorations whose worth are found in the memories and nowhere else. “One day I will buy all new decorations,” I say, but never follow through. Instead, I melt the wax to seal together a Santa candle that has seen better days.

Then, there’s the Christmas letter. I learned long ago that an outline goes far in putting together a writing project, and though the letter is short and must fit on one page, the outline is often the most tedious bit. I begin by looking back at pictures from the past year, memories of big days (that day I walked away with my Masters degree) and memories of not so big days (that day I took a selfie with a llama).

I make a list of these big and small days for my family, but also for each person individually, too. What big events happened to Baby G? Baby D? Baby W? The Man? Me? I even ask them – what memory do you hold most dear? And that’s exactly what I did yesterday that led to this post. Asking about a memory: Baby G’s memory.

Baby G had several memories: he stepped into the official role of a teenager with the blowing out of 13 candles, he maintained straight A’s for the entirety of his middle school career, and, most memorable to him, he enjoyed the company of our Italian family once again during our extended Euro trip. Specifically, he loved The Hague, home to his Nonna. “Her house overlooks an intersection where pedestrians, cyclists, cars, and trams cross constantly. There are window shops lined one after another. It’s so busy and I loved it”. In truth, we all loved The Hague, in part due to catching a full week of sunny weather brightening the North Sea rather than meeting the typical windy and drizzly condition that badgers the area. But, what we saw was beautiful and Nonna’s view was an amazing show of European life.

“Nonna said you could even go to the university there since it’s in English. It’s an option.” I offered this thought to my young boy because the world of universities and colleges and frat parties and drinking and being away from Mamma is a world that is out of sight. Right? Baby G responded, “It’s definitely an option. I have a couple of years to think about it and see where I stand”. Silly boy, you have more than a couple of years. You have decades, centuries, millennia even. But then his words struck me hard because, he does, in fact, only have a couple of years: three and a half, four at the most, and then he needs to decide where he wants to study, what he wants to study, or if he even wants to leave his Mamma. Surely he will decide to stay here? …Less than four years? I am not prepared!

I can recount what I wrote in my last four Christmas letters. I can recall where we spent the last four Christmas days. These last four years flew by in a blink. How do I stop the next four from doing the same? And, adding fuel to the fire, when Baby G is off to his first year of college – wherever that might be – Baby D is just seconds behind him with one foot out the door.

Parents out there, surely you understand: the panic is real.

So, my outline became fidgety and uncertain. I stopped thinking about the past and tried conjuring a way to slow down the rushing future. I didn’t want to write another Christmas letter marking the end of another year, but instead wanted to publish the headline: “Woman, crazed mother of 3, finds a way to slow time so she can enjoy every.single.second before the world of universities and colleges and frat parties and drinking and being away from Mamma takes hold of her kids.” In my mind, it’s quite the story, but not a solid reality.

So where do I go from here? There are hundreds of articles and blogs about living in the moment, absorbing every ounce of life while you can, and fulfilling corny bucket lists with your kids. I won’t write about those. I won’t even tell the lie that suddenly we will start cozying up by the fire to watch a great family show every night, just after finishing a game of Monopoly during which time no one will have argued about whether you can buy a hotel during the same round or not.

That’s not real.

What’s real, instead, is that for the next four years I will continue rushing to football games and basketball practices. I will continue pushing the importance of flossing your teeth and folding laundry my way. I will eventually meet whatever girl they bring home and pray very, very hard that I like her. I will continue worrying about not doing enough, not being good enough. I will continue being so proud of their successes and stand behind them when they falter.

I will continue writing our Christmas letter, and if you’re reading it in four years, I will let you know what the son of that crazed mother of 3 decided to do.

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When Fasting Doesn’t Fit

As any good Catholic knows, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40 day Lent season. As any good Catholic also knows, one should give up a vice (or other) as a form of penitence. Another option, one I find more favorable, is to not give something up, but rather take something new on. And that, my dear friends, is what this good Catholic is going to do.

Step 1: Admit I am not such a good Catholic. Truthfully, I ate both bacon and chicken today – both big no-no’s for a day of fasting. That should be our first clue that, for me, fasting doesn’t fit [see title].

Step 2: Admit there are things in my life that are inadequate or lacking and could benefit from some stimulation.

Step 3: Tell you all about it, you eager reader, you!

This life of no pretty in pink here is too often marked by rushed drives to football or soccer practice, folding a never ending pile of laundry, fixing broken bikes or deflated basketballs. I have watched Cars and Toy Story and Godzilla and World War Z enough times that I could easily come up with a script that combines all four in one movie. I hear that having a Valentine’s Day party is a waste and that crying at commercials is stupid (do not judge – you know you cry too). Amid all this roughness, sometimes I forget that deep down, these boys of mine, are still precious babies. I forget to talk sweetly to them, to hold them close, and tell them how much I love them.

This wonderful blogger I follow wrote:

“With me, you don’t have to be strong. You can cry, scream, and let out your true feelings. My love for you cannot be changed by revealing the feelings going on inside you—no matter how hard they are to say out loud”.

How often do we forget to tell our children – boys and girls alike – that in this fast paced world we live in, it’s ok to lean on someone – their mom or dad or whomever – and let their true feelings come to surface. We run and quickly mask emotions because who has time for them?

I assume my boys know I love them. I mean, all I do is for them – how many of us have heard that line before? I make sure they have everything they need and I go out of my way to make sure that things are pretty darn awesome. I tell them goodnight each night, and goodbye when they get on the bus in the morning. But do they hear me tell them I love them? I don’t think they do.

So, here is my 40 day Lenten challenge: I will be more loving. I will utter kind words: words of praise, of affection. I will hug and kiss more. I will tell my boys I love them every single day, so much that they will look at me like I’m a sappy girl; but also so much that they will have no doubt in their hearts that the love is true.

To take the challenge a step further, I will be loving to everyone I come across. I will emote graciousness, generosity, and overall kindness. Sure, I strive to do so everyday regardless; but this is a conscious effort to be gentle. Thank you’s will be accompanied by a genuine smile, greetings with a warm handshake or hug.

These next 40 days I plan on exhibiting the qualities that I hope to see reflected in my boys. They are qualities of a successful, rich in love, blessed person. And I am blessed.

nicnboys

 

What A Mother of Three Boys Actually Looks Like

I have written posts in the past about what it is like being the mother of three boys:  there are cars, trucks, footballs, dinosaurs, monsters, smelly sneakers, baseball practice, girls shyly knocking on the front door etc.  What I have never talked about before is what it looks like being the mother of three boys.  Let’s start by taking a swan dive into the past, a fourteen year old past:

ImageThat is yours truly, celebrating my sweet sixteenth birthday: pre-marriage, pre-babies, pre-responsbilities!  I find it amazing that Mother Nature makes girls – all of them – truly beautiful.  Young girls have the sweetest smiles and naturally bouncing curls.  Teenage girls, then, have a teasing sass that send teenage boys’ heads spinning. Mother Nature can be so nice.

Then comes marriage and a baby carriage.

Baby G was born when I was still very young – just shy of my 21st birthday.  My slight frame suddenly expanded to make room for that little being I was creating.  After he was born, my body and I had a chat:  I said, “Please be a dear, return to your normal size,” but my body replied, “Silly girl, this is your new normal size!”  And here I am post Baby G:

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By the time Baby G turned two, I had managed to trick my body into returning into a semi-decent shape.  After all, I was still merely 23 and Mother Nature sorta-kinda thought I was young girl.

I didn’t wait too long, however, to add to my family: I decided to have another baby.  Baby D was born at the end of my 23rd year.  He was a great baby because he did not make me turn into a bison during pregnancy, but weighed like a bison himself when he was born (almost 9 lbs!).  Within a couple years post-Baby D, once again, my body met me in the middle.

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Fast forward a few years, and Baby W is born when I am now 30 years old.  Let me tell you, it’s a different experience having a baby at 20 than it is at 30.  It seemed that one day, I saw the first ultrasound of that little blueberry growing inside me and the next morning, my hips grew 4 sizes.  “Body, this isn’t even possible??” but my body simply replied, “You’re not 20 anymore, Mamma, you’re not 20…”  By the time we welcomed little Baby W to this world, my body had expanded like a mini Big Bang.  In my heart, deep down, I just knew that when I left the hospital I was going to prance home in my skinny jeans and flaunt my awesome bod.  But I lied to myself.  I barely fit into my stretchy yoga pants that coincidentally, never saw a yoga mat.  My belly was still overpowering the boobs – and we all know that’s a sight for sore eyes.  I told myself, “It’s ok!  This is your third baby, you’re thirty, give yourself some time!”

Time has passed by.  Baby W is now seven and a half months old.  He’s all smiles and giggles and – well he’s a boy – so all cars, trucks, footballs, dinosaurs, monsters, and the smelly sneakers, baseball practice, girls shyly knocking on the front door are just around the corner, I can sense it.  My body, however, has not done its part: it hasn’t changed much at all since I brought Baby W home.  Those yoga pants still fit, but thankfully they slide off easily (mostly because I have worn them 5 million times).

I decided to up my morale and shop for some new clothes that fit this body of a mother of three.  One particular dress I bought made me feel like one hot mama – short to accentuate those pretty legs of mine, loose in the top so my still huge boobs were slightly disguised, and paired with my high healed boots, I made it hard for The Man to leave the house without undressing me.  Score!  But as we were out shopping, the absolute worst thing happened.

A little old woman approached my shopping cart and began cooing and sweet talking Baby W.  “Oh he’s so cute, oh he’s so precious, oh the time flies…and when is your next baby due?” What, what, WHAT?  Next baby?  Oh, her eyes were planted straight on my belly, my not so flat anymore belly.  Maybe even on my not so small hips either.  I almost thought she was going to reach over and pat that non-existant baby belly.  Had she, I might have knocked her sideways.  A long trail of thoughts raced through my head: mean comments, how to hold Baby W while I ran the old lady over with my shopping cart, or how my lunch suddenly started regrettably churning in my belly.  But mostly, I thought how hurt I felt.  After all, she was a woman too, I can assume she had children, likely grandchildren, maybe even great grandchildren.  She must have known how her comment was hurtful, insulting, painful.  I just smiled, “No – no more babies. This one marks three boys for me and they make me happy.”  Her face cringed with embarrassment, she muttered an apology and continued with the Baby W compliments.  It was too late. She knew it, I knew it: my feelings had been hurt because someone decided to put a mirror to my face showing me what I already knew: my body at thirty is no longer the body of a 16 year old, or a 21 year old, or a 24 year old.  Things are different now.

The entire drive home I contemplated what the woman must have seen to make her ask about the non-existent baby number 4.  “I won’t eat anything but salad,” “I won’t drink anything but water,” “Gym every day, twice a day!”  But here is the truth: today is Taco Tuesday and my kids love tacos and so do I.  The gym is about twenty minutes from my house and I have laundry to do, homework to help with, children to bond with and a husband to entertain.

It might take a few months or years, but eventually things will shrink back to a somewhat acceptable form.  Maybe they never will, but even that is acceptable.  I will just have to hope that I don’t encounter those people who feel so inclined to assume that mine is a baby and not just an extra curve or two.

So, when you’re out there and you see a woman who you think might be with child, please refrain from making any judgments and comments because you might not be as lucky as the woman was today when she met me.  Next time, even I might run you over with a shopping cart.

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