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I have been writing this blog in my head all day long. Why? Because the smooth days don’t make for interesting writing. Even now as I type, at 10:01 PM there is a man child talking in his sleep. Yes folks it has been that kind of day.
I should have known when I awoke from a very strange dream this morning that it was going to be that kind of day. Or maybe I should have realized it was going to be that kind of day because it was the first day of April vacation for the kiddos. Whatever the reason, I started my day later than usual, with a full morning planned, and as I thought about the things I needed to do, time slipped away. We needed to be out the door for OT by 9:30, 3 boys needed to be fed, dressed, I needed to shower and dry my hair(oh and get dressed), I needed to pack lunches, make a pizza, cut and sautee veggies, pack snacks, have two boys pack waiting room items, pack up the car, start a load of laundry and do dishes. Ummm…
So I realized my plan was a fail when I started making pizza dough at 9 and realized we had to leave in 30 minutes. I quickly chopped veggies, preheated the oven and started dishes. By 9:20, my hair was still wet and there were more dishes than I started with. At that point I decided that today was going to be an exercise in flexibility. I scrapped the idea of dishes and laundry, dried my hair, made a pizza(and made it good, no point in rushing it and making a bad one), packed up lunches and recruited my people to load bags into the car. My exact instructions were, “put this in the front seat.” When I walked out the door at 9:40(yeah I know, 10 minutes late), the bags were on the deck. This is called, distraction, as in, “mom told me to do something but I saw a –fill in the blank– and forgot what I was supposed to do.”
We made it to OT just in time, or 3 minutes late, which was just in time…our time… not our appointment time and as my 5 year old headed off to play I checked my phone and had a text from my sweet husband, “Hope you are having a good morning. Love you. ” I texted back, “I thought I was superwoman but alas I am not.” His response, “U are super in my eyes.” Aww, my sweet husband, who didn’t see me overscheduled this morning with dishes exploding from the sink and drying rack. No matter how many things are on my to do list, there are still 60 seconds in a minute and I realized that some things would just have to wait.
That’s when my day started to unravel. The pizza lunch I had just made to share with a friend got cancelled. No problem. The kids were starting to get grumpy and tired. Starting to… it wasn’t even 11am yet. And then the arguing all blessed day except for the 2 hours that one child was at a friends house. As soon as he returned, the bickering picked up where it had left off, as we headed to the friends house who had cancelled lunch.
Hang on, that sounded like a rant of complaining but that is not how I meant it to sound. I’m laughing at my day now that it is over because sometimes God throws us curve balls and I can’t make enough time to do all the chores I need to do, I just need to figure out where to squeeze them in. I enjoyed a beautiful picnic lunch outside with 2 of my guys and then begged my 5 year old to please do the dishes. He laughed at me and finally said ok, but I laughed, hugged him and said, “just kidding buddy” and he watched a show with his big brother, and right there was enough time to do the dishes and start the laundry. We took my friends poodle Rosie for a beautiful walk on a small beach and found sea glass, and just enjoyed the fresh air, sunshine and our doggy friend. I made an unbelievable smoothie with our pizza dinner and I got to laugh about my 7 year old congratulating me on finally making a smoothie that he liked and I got high fives all around the table. My 9 year old agreed and said, yeah there was one other good one… once… People, I make excellent smoothies, most of the time, but my kids are hard to win over in that department I guess. And when bed time arrived I was completely relieved to tuck my people into bed, snuggle with my 5 year old who loves my wedding song, grabs my face for kisses, and tells me to smell his skin(so weird), read with my 7 year old, and chat with my 9 year old who has been sick all week and totally enjoyable and cuddly to hang out with. Today was a crazy day, a 24 hour on shift day(for hubby at the station and for me at home), but a keeper of a day. Praying you all have a blessed Easter and remember, “Silly rabbit, Easter is for Jesus!”
PS- I talk about my dishes A LOT. Thank you to anyone who has advocated for my need for a dishwasher to my hubby. But I promise, there is absolutely no way we could fit a dishwasher into our tiny kitchen, I am not deprived, I promise!!
Happy April Fools Day. I resisted the urge to prank my family today because I figured the weather outside was a good enough prank on everyone. Snow, freezing rain, cold. Spring in New England, an April Fools joke on us all.
I thought I would use the blog this month to share one of my favorite genres of writing, the genre that I go back to over and over again, the one that I have always felt that I could pick up a pen and paper and the words would just flow out of me. Poetry. I was first introduced to poetry in the 3rd of 4th grade, but it wasn’t until junior high that I made writing poetry a hobby. It started out simple, that I could look at a painting and write a poem about it, as I got older, it got deeper, writing about feelings, experiences, dreams, people… I parted ways with poetry for awhile, life got busy, and I just kind of forgot about it. But a few years ago I found out that April is National Poetry Month and Writer’s Digest holds a Poem A Day challenge with poetry prompts everyday for the month of April. So this month in addition to being fire wife and mom, I hope you will indulge me as I share some poems, 30 if all goes well. I can’t imagine I will get to share 1 every day, but I will try. I might even give some back story to go with poems, if there is any.
Today’s poetry prompt is a reminiscing poem. I chose to write about my first car.
My First Car
Shiny black, curvy, sleek,
My ’89 Mustang, oh, so, sweet.
Friends packed in, Backstreet Boys on the radio blared.
When we drove by, heads turned, eyes stared.
Jealous of my gorgeous ride,
Little did they all know the thorn in my side.
The night my muffler scraped the ground
or the time my power steering wouldn’t let me turn around.
Dropped my front end on the FDR Drive,
it popped my tire on the 4th of July.
This death trap, my car, my very first love,
Resting in peace, in car heaven above.
I’ll never forget the wonky driver’s seat,
or all the people we got to meet,
Thanks to my Mustang, oh, so, sweet.
Most days I think that my life as a fire wife isn’t much different than the life of any other wife/mommy out there. Other people have to deal with spouses traveling for work or constantly being on the road, long hours, perhaps a spouse in the military, police wives etc. Yes being a fire wife is different than being the wife of a 9-5 spouse, but not much different I imagine than the above mentioned occupations. The thing is, for us, it is a life of the unexpected. If we have plans and the radio lets out a tone and there is a fire, daddy is outta here. Fire life has been a learning curve. My husband has been on the department for almost 7 years and I am still learning not be disappointed when plans get flipped upside down or not to take it personally when he walks out the door for overtime or a detail. I realize that the fire life is a lifestyle and that I need to be flexible, patient and understanding; things that I can only get from the good Lord above, because on my own, in my own skin, in my own flesh, I am disappointed, offended, sad, or angry.
What does it look like to be a flexible fire wife? Well first of all I can not touch my toes when I sit down to stretch, so it is not a physical flexibility. I noticed last week that a lot of unplanned things were coming my way. Since I didn’t overschedule myself, I was able to be flexible with my plans. All of this while my husband worked 84 hours with only a few hours off in between… 24, 24, 12ish(at his part time job), 24, home for 30 minutes to shower and get his class A’s and head to a funeral for a fallen fire fighter. Flexibility, patience, and understanding really all work together as the trifecta of peace and harmony when it comes to dealing with things like 84 hours of work, yes he is working 84 hours at the station and at his part time job, but I am also working 84 hours at home, because I have got to figure it all out; the wake ups, the breakfasts, the bus stop(Lord please help us make the bus!), the drop offs, the picks ups, the lunches, the dishes(I don’t have a dishwasher, I am the dishwasher-but God loves me and made paper plates!), the home work time, the dinners, the dishes, the laundry, the baths and showers, the bed time stories, the bed time snuggles and prayers, I haven’t even mentioned time for myself to write, to read, to clean my testosterone filled house, to workout, to chat with a grown human and not just my small ones, and on and on and on…And lets be honest, when I get crabby that he is working so many stinking hours(which I sometimes do), it makes it worse for me, because I get lost in the yuck place in my mind where I am slamming cabinets open and shut looking for things, tossing the laundry basket on the floor, etc instead of in a place of gratitude where I am thankful that my firefighter is providing for us, where I am thankful that we have a home with 3 healthy boys that I have the absolute privilege of spending my time with.
Have I been stuck with disappointment? Of course. Who hasn’t been? Going to special ed meetings by myself, doctors appointments, school concerts, birthday parties, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, church etc… flying solo is just the way it has to be sometimes. I have shed quite a few tears in the past 7 years and I’m positive I will shed more in the many years to come. But shedding tears over flying solo temporarily is nothing compared to the thought I was struck with last week when my man attended the funeral of a fallen firefighter. In the midst of parenting through teachable moments for 84 hours by myself(the first 24 I failed at by the way), trying to be flexible and grateful, I put on the television to see a grief stricken fire family who would never see their fireman on this side of heaven again. That thought stayed with me all day. It was really the most wild thing, because my guy has been to several funerals for fallen firefighters, but this one just hit me differently, and when Kenny walked in the door that night, I was so thankful that he was home. And when I went to bed that night, even though it was hours after him(he was coming off of 84 hours plus all day at a funeral, so his bedtime was 7pm), I crawled into bed, so overcome with emotion, so thankful he was home, that while I prayed, tears silently streamed down my face and I cried myself to sleep. Tears of grief for that family, tears of gratitude for mine.
So what does life as a fire wife look like for me? It looks messy and loud. It looks like trips to the library and the playground. It looks like pajama days, snuggling on the couch with double feature movies. It looks like me telling my lunatic child that he has climbed too high in a tree and that I don’t want daddy to have to come with the ladder truck to get him down or in the rescue to take him to the hospital. It looks like trips to urgent care for any number of reasons. It looks like dance parties and Michael Jackson music blasting in the living room. It looks like vomiting children sharing one toilet(because children usually don’t vomit when daddy is home, why? I don’t know!) It looks like me texting daddy, “There is vomiting, don’t come home, save yourself” It looks like the same lunatic child climbing up a full flight of basement stairs with rollerblades on his feet. It looks like tantrums, from the kids and from me. Or one of my favorite moments today, in the car, on the way home from church, from the 3rd row of my minivan came the call of a 9 year old asking, “Mom, what’s a player?” My response, biting my lip, “Can I think about how to answer that and get back to you in a bit?” It looks like a text to hubby, “9 year old asked me what a player is, how should I field this question???”
Last week gave me a new perspective, a new way to look at my life as a fire wife, a new way to look at our life as a fire family. What does that look like? More of everything above, but with a better attitude. It looks like more laughter, more intentional family time, and a deeper love and appreciation for one another. It’s not just for me as a fire wife either, it is for everyone out there in blog land reading this. We don’t know when our time on earth is up. So let’s not make a mess of today and take that chance that today could be our last. Does that mean that we will never have a completely sucktastic day ever again? Absolutely not. But we sure can choose to look at things differently and have more good days than bad ones. I want to dance with my boys, laugh at the crazy, ridiculous, stupid things they do(but not the dangerous stuff), sing in the car(I started yesterday, ask the hubby), love, respect, and treasure one another. I want to live in the moment with my 4 lovable guys , stop being so serious, and enjoy the ride.!
I’ve been MIA since my last blog, when I had that incredibly crazy, chaotic day. I’ve been MIA since my last blog because every week has been filled with more incredibly crazy, chaotic days. The school nurse is my bff and I’m pretty sure she must have my number memorized or on speed dial by now. I have gotten a call once a week for the past 4 weeks, last week, excluded, as we had two snow days and my kids are now being bribed. The week before last took the cake. I was driving to prek pickup at 2:30 and I had a missed call from the school, I listened, it went something like this, ” Hi Cari, it’s the nurse from the school, I just wanted to let you know I saw Evan today, he fell at recess and hurt his ankle. We iced it and he went back to class…” This is usually where she tells me if I have any questions to call her back, but then… “And while I have you on the phone, I wanted to let you know I saw Christopher today. He bumped his head on a cabinet, we iced it and he went back to class.” Yes the message continued to say the rest of that dialogue that I have memorized by now but I laughed to the point of crying! What is up with my kids? Oh, they are clumsy, and they take after me. This is what I had to tell my husband when he was in shock that they both spent time in the nurses office on Monday, Monday, the first day of the school week. Then Friday rolled around, yup, Friday. Friday I got a text from my brother in law saying the school couldn’t get in touch with me so my mother in law was picking Evan up from school. Excuse me, what? Substitute nurse, don’t get me started. Anyway, exactly 6 minutes lapsed between the first phone call and the phone call to my mother in law by the time I got the message, Evan came home, took a nap, and was ready to play, I said heck no kid, you wanted sick time, you got it, now you can help me clean and then go read. Meanwhile Christopher went to the substitute nurse with a headache, she gave him Tylenol and no phone call to me, but guess who woke up with 102 fever Saturday morning? Christopher. We are really just going in a circle now, because I got the fever Wednesday night, and then last night Evan puked in his bed, a top bunk disaster that makes me yell, FOR THE LOVE!!!!
FOR THE LOVE- this parenting thing is not for the faint of heart and if it weren’t for Jesus, my husband, and my dear sweet friends, I’d be in the fetal position right now but instead here I sit writing in hopes that someone will read this. Why? Because motherhood gets lonely sometimes. Forget motherhood, life gets lonely sometimes. It can feel isolating, especially when your kids are passing germs around like the darn wonder ball or hot potato, when you haven’t seen the outside world in days and you start to feel like things are never going to turn around because your finances suck, you are sleep deprived, hate your job, kids are whining, kids are fighting, the dishes are endless, the laundry from last week is still in the dryer, your husband is traveling, you have no family close by, your house is a mess, you are a mess, I am a mess, WE ARE NOT ALONE! Please hear me friends, we are not alone. We were not created to be alone. And I’m not even talking about marriage here because I heard an awesome talk on singleness last week(no I’m not looking to be single). I’m talking about doing life together, yes I do life with my husband, but when my firefighter is gone for 24/48/72 hours if I just sat here, I WOULD GO NUTS. I’ve been there, I’ve stressed, I’ve isolated, and I’d never go back there, for anything. Who are you doing life with? Do you have a friend you can call or text and drop honest truth bombs? “Like, talk me off my ledge here girlfiend, cause I’m freaking out!” or “I just exploded all over my kids/husband/everyone who would listen!” or “I’m feeling sad, I just want to cry, can we talk?” Do you have a friend you can do this with? In this day and age, it is easy to text a friend or get on facebook and feel connected to the world. But to be honest, facebook can leave me feeling empty. I see pictures posted on a Monday of families having an awesome adventure over the weekend and sometimes it rips my heart in two cause I was flying solo all weekend. I easily forget that I had my own awesome adventure not too long ago, but it gets pushed aside for instant gratification, I want what they have now! And texting is great, I do it way too much, just ask any friend I do life with, they will tell you. So yeah, texting is great, my sister and I live 2 time zones apart and it is by far the easiest way for us to communicate. But there is so much more to be said for face to face interaction. When we meet face to face, we can see in each other’s eyes how we are really doing, not how we are facebook doing, and really even a phone call, because don’t tell me you can’t hear that crack in your bffs voice when they are barely holding it together. When we do life together, it is ok to barely be holding it together because our friends can hold the broken pieces for us when we aren’t strong enough to do it ourselves.
Today when I couldn’t believe I had another sick kid in the house, I started to lose sight of my blessings and my purpose. The dialogue in my head was something about all the dishes, all the laundry and I believe the phrase I texted to a friend was something about all of this being endless. I lingered in that for a while until I felt sucker punched. I prayed, “God, I don’t want this work to end, I’m sorry that in this moment I’m taking it for granted and focusing on the wrong stuff, because if my boys weren’t here to be sick with a stomach bug, I would be so sad.” Do I want to put my 7 year old in a shower at 11pm after he puked all over his bed? No, I’d rather not. Do I want to fold laundry or tackle Mount Dish O Rama one more time today? Some days, let’s be honest, no, I would rather go sit on the couch with my novel, feet up, relaxing. But if having that moment, meant not having any of this, any of this incredibly crazy, chaotic, messy, cleaning puke kind of days, it wouldn’t be worth it. These are my blessings.
Recently I was introduced to the idea of kingdom work. If you are a Christian you believe that we are living in the between times. I just read this amazing book about the Lord’s Prayer and it talked about how even doing the mundane is kingdom work. So as I’m washing the pukey sheets I am doing Kingdom work. If I make a phone call or send a text to see how a friend is doing after a 5 day weekend from 3 snow days, I’m doing kingdom work. And I feel like kingdom work is my purpose.
If you are out there, and you’re not alone, and things are going pretty well, think of someone you can reach out to. Everyone needs someone.
If you are out there, alone, don’t. Grab a lifeline. Phone a friend. Text them if you can’t work up the courage to call. Do something. And don’t forget your purpose, because even in all the little things, you are doing an amazing job.
This parenting thing is no joke. If you have come here looking for parenting advice, you have come to the wrong place. I am in no position to give any parenting advice, so if that’s what you are looking for, thanks for checking in, but most days we fly by the seat of our pants and are living on a prayer(I love Bon Jovi).
I used to think that when my kids got older, life would be easier. Are you laughing? I am. If you’re not laughing, maybe you aren’t there yet. I will probably be laughing about that more in a few years when I am in the thick of it because I have been told, it’s all just beginning. My boys are 5, 7, and 9, all very different and have been since birth.
Ah(sigh), those blurry days filled with diapers, feeding schedules, and sleepless nights. Part of me misses those days. Part of me does NOT! I miss those days when I think of how simple each day was-although it didn’t feel simple in the moment. My days were scheduled, a schedule that changed often as baby grew, but the demands were always the same; wake up, feed baby, play with baby, change baby, diaper, read stories, nap, wake up, repeat all of the previous but throw in a walk, a bath, and as baby turned into a toddler add in trips to the playground and a Disney Jr. or PBS show. I miss those days when I think of how the cure to most things were so simple- food, diaper, hugs and kisses. I miss those days when I think of how I could dress my boys in jeans and sweater vests with no complaints or bribery. Most of all I miss those days when I think of how I wish I had lived those days(and nights) with more grace and joy. Back then, when we were raising babies, we were thinking of the next stage. It was always about what comes next- baby smiles, baby laughs, baby babbles, rolling over, clapping hands, first words, crawling, standing, walking, now we have a toddler, let’s have another baby! (Repeat x2) We were always looking forward to the next thing and I think it is really hard to live in the moment with a baby because they are always changing and even though it doesn’t feel like it, it goes by fast. A mommy mentor once told me-the days are long but the years are short. This saying I feel is even more true when your kids get to school.
Two of my boys were home with me until they went to kindergarten at almost 6 years old and slightly over 6 years old. My youngest has been in preschool since he was 3 so that he could receive services for developmental delays. Now with a 3rd grader, a 1st grader, and my baby in his last year of preschool, you would think life would be easy peasy lemon squeezy… Wrong! I thought I would be bored and lonely… Wrong! Because as I write, I am sitting across from my 3rd grader with an ear infection(who I had to dismiss after the school nurse called me not once, but twice today) at the public library while he does his homework. Why didn’t I take my sick child home, you may be wondering? I didn’t take my sick child home because we live 10 minutes from the school(15 if I get stuck behind a really slow driver). Ten minutes isn’t a lot, but let me give you a time line. I dropped youngest at school at 12, got home at 12:15, nurse called at 1:15, got to school at 1:40 to get sick child, needed to be at preschool pick up at 2:45. I did the math, 20-30 minute round trip 3 times, no thanks, been there done that, lived to tell the tale, and learned from experience. So as I waited to hear back from the pediatrician to hear if the ear should be better by now, I contemplated how I would do preschool pick up, squeeze in a trip to the doctor, be home in time for the bus to get the boy with middle child syndrome, and then make it to the dentist for an ortho check at 4:30. My head was spinning. The phone rang and hubby said, I’m being held at work… THIS IS MY LIFE AS A FIREWIFE, and he wasn’t even at the station today. It’s a laugh so you don’t cry kind of day. It’s a roll with it kind of day. It’s a , oh you had a to do list? ha ha ha kind of day.
These are the days I never could have imagined when I was hollering, “may day may day, I need back up!” when the diaper explosions were too much to handle alone.
Bigger kids bigger problems… A classmate threw out my 3rd graders egg at lunch a few weeks ago because it was smelly. The next day hubby and I became aware that our 1st grader has severe middle child syndrome and we are raising Cain and Abel(I’m not kidding), and our preschooler is in love and wants to marry an adorable blonde because she gives him hugs and kisses(Lord have mercy child, that is not a good reason to get married).
That week left me feeling… inadequate to say the very least. It made me re-evaluate everything I was doing and everything I had ever done as a mother. That week made me think that my kids have free will and no matter what we do, no matter what we teach them, they might be put in some less than stellar situations, they might make choices, or do or say things that we never in a million years hoped or dreamed would come out of their mouths. That week made me feel that even though my kids will do stupid things, my husband and I have a pretty important job right now. Our job is to raise these boys to be independent, responsible, hardworking young men, who grow up to love God and do good in this world, and our role in that is to pray for our boys, to lead by example and to be present in their lives. I’m not saying we aren’t present, I AM ALWAYS HOME. But I have been spending a lot of time giving them space to figure out differences on their own, when it appears they might need some direction. I have spent so much time trying to plan family activities that I stopped thinking of them as individuals. So lately, when an argument has come up, instead of hollering from the kitchen(where I live) to pipe down, I drop what I am doing, go to those little boys who are hurting one another with their words, or sometimes their fists, knees, fingers, or other body parts and help them find constructive words to say to one another. My husband and I found time last week to take each boy out of the house individually, to give them that special one on one time.
This parenting thing, is hard, it is tiring, it is a labor of love. Tonight as I contemplated how I would reward myself for surviving this day(coconut cashew ice cream or coffee chunk ice cream or wine or Kahlua or wine or Kahlua poured over ice cream), I tucked my boys in, who were a little upset that I wasn’t giving in to every demand. I only snuggled with my youngest for 1 song because I still had to read with my middle who I only read with for 10 minutes because I still had to read with my oldest… I said to my 5 and 7 year old, “I’m sorry you aren’t happy with me right now, but I am doing the best that I can and that is all I can do when daddy is at work, the best I can, and I love you.” My 5 year old nodded and my 7 year old told me he wasn’t upset. While everyone drifted off to sleep I enjoyed both ice creams covered in chocolate sauce.
Why do we knock each other down? Why do we judge and discourage one another when instead we could cheer and encourage? Is this a culture thing or a human nature thing? I love building up my friends, cheering them on, supporting them, listening to them. My heart cries out for people who are struggling with life, financially, emotionally… I just want to help people, people I know, people I don’t…
Want to know who I admire? There is a man that I met when I was in high school. He was my history teacher during my sophomore year. Mr. Bley. History was not my subject. Neither was math or science… But my life was changing that year. My parents were getting a divorce and things were weird at home. On top of all that, I was 15, being 15 is an awkward enough time. I was really hurting, really struggling. Mr. Bley saw the hurt, the sadness, the struggle and he made himself available. He didn’t just say, “hey kid, I’m here if you need me.” He met me in my sad place and said, “Ever feel like a fire hydrant and every dog in the neighborhood is stopping by to visit you?” He sat with me in the stacks of the library and let me talk, let me cry, let me be real. He didn’t judge me, didn’t discourage me. He went above and beyond the classroom. Mr. Bley didn’t try to tutor me to raise my gpa.Mr. Bley helped me to learn about life. He retired after that year. I was able to pull myself out of the dark hole I was in and went on to make many rebellious mistakes throughout the rest of high school and the first year of college. But I never forgot Mr. Bley and what he did for me.
In 2011 I had my first story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Just for Teenagers. It was about Mr. Bley. I found him on facebook and we reconnected 12 years after being in his class. In November 2016, my husband, boys and I flew to Denver, CO to spend Thanksgiving with my family. One of the coolest parts of the week long trip was getting to have lunch with Mr. Bley who lives not too far from my sister. It was an honor and a privilege to be in the company of a man who dedicated his entire career to paying forward the kindness a teacher showed to him when he was a kid. I am blessed to be a recipient of this kindness. I loved that my husband and my kids got to meet a man who played such an important role in my past.
It has been 18 years since I was in Mr. Bley’s classroom and he is still teaching me, still inspiring me, still encouraging me. I want more of that in my life. Does that mean that I want more cheerleaders in my life? No. I can’t change people. I can’t walk around with a sign on my forehead saying “stop knocking others down and judging them. Peace, love, and happiness ya’ll!” Well, I could… But wouldn’t it be much more effective if instead I practiced holding my tongue and not letting every thought run out of me like hot lava. If my kindness and gratitude spilled over more at home, maybe just maybe I would be sending 3 kind, grateful, compassionate boys out into the world who then might pay it forward. It all starts at home, and while I will never be perfect, while I will always fall short, I will not give up on myself, or on my family. Life is hard. Parenting is hard. Marriage is hard. But things that are worth it are worth working hard for. I am so thankful that there are hard working, compassionate, kind, and generous people in this world to pay it forward. Do you have someone in your life who has encouraged you? Do you want to be that person for someone? Yes? Then do it. Be it. Live it.
I am a Christmas baby, born December 27th 1981(check the title so you don’t have to do the math). Holidays and birthdays were not a huge deal in my house growing up. My parents were non practicing Jews, my dad worked nights Sunday-Thursday, and we didn’t have any family close by. We celebrated Hanukah by turning an orange light bulb on the menorah for 8 nights every December until I was about 10. We were the family at the movie theatres on Christmas day. Christmas had no meaning to me until my parents divorced and I went to friends houses to celebrate with their families. I knew there was something special about Christmas but I didn’t know what nor did I know why we lit that plastic menorah.
Every year, 2 days after Christmas was my birthday. While my birthday was usually marked by a slumber party with friends, it was an incredibly special day because I was born on my mom’s birthday. From the ages of 16-27, my mom and I would call each other and sing happy birthday, I can still hear her voice.
So now I’m 35 and holidays and birthdays are celebrated differently in my family than they were when I was growing up. While my husband works odd hours like my dad did, we make a big deal out of these special days. We decorate our house for Christmas and have tried hard to make traditions during the Christmas season(watching certain Christmas movies and reading Christmas books, doing the advent calendar, making salt dough ornaments, using a paper chain to count down the days…) and for birthdays we make the birthday person a special meal, have a party or this year, took our oldest son on a special outing with his best friend. But for me on my birthday, there is a bit of melancholy and bittersweet memories. December 27th is still my birthday, and I am thankful to God for giving me another year here, in my cute little house, with my crazy little family, but as we drove home from the movie theatre it occurred to me that I was sad all day. It wasn’t a sit in my room alone and cry sad. It was an, I’m reading a good book and my mom would have liked it, sad. It was an, I’m having fun playing Frisbee with my boys and my mom would have loved to have seen them, sad. It was an, I’m laughing at this silly movie and my mom would have loved it, sad. And as we drove home, tears filled my eyes and I just wanted to cry, but I didn’t want to explain it to my kids so I held it all in, bottled it all up inside and felt like an unsettled volcano. I missed her so much. And then we got home for birthday cake, I got my delicious dairy free, gluten free cake that my wonderful husband baked for me and my family got my mom’s favorite cake that we buy in remembrance of her every year, a Carvel cake. And after the cakes were eaten, even though I wanted to throw in the towel and just be sad, I also wanted to treasure this time with my family. We lit the menorah and played the dreidel game, then we did our usual bedtime routine of stories and snuggles. I wanted to tap out on stories and snuggles so badly, I wanted to pawn it all off on my hubby and go take some “me” time, but God gifted me this day, these boys, this life, and I don’t want to take a moment of it for granted, especially on my birthday, my moms birthday, I wanted to live a little extra for her, even though I was so sad inside.
After I tucked my boys into bed, I snuggled up on the couch next to my hubby and said, “I miss my mom.” He simply said, “I know.” And I know he does.
I would love to have a plan for how to have a “happy” birthday, like a little checklist, I just love my checklists. But if having a “happy” birthday means not thinking of my mom, I don’t know if that is something I would want. She has been gone for 7 years, it feels like yesterday and a million years ago all at the same time.
It is weird how life changes. It is always changing. Every year as my kids get older, life is different. Tonight is New Years Eve, a time of reflection. I have thought about how the past year has gone, what I have accomplished, what I have slacked off on, what I want to do in the new year, who I want to be. The start of a new year is like a brand new start. A chance to start new habits, break old ones, begin a new chapter. The incredible thing about life is that in having a relationship with God, believing in Jesus, I know that God’s mercies are new every morning, not just at the start of a new year. But as Julie Andrews said in the Sound of Music, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” So when we wake up in 2017, what do you want to do differently? What habit do you want to start and which one do you want to break? Last year I decided that instead of resolutions, I would make goals, I will share some of mine with you… write a book, read the bible from cover to cover, finish that hook rug that I started long ago, do needlepoints for Logan and my nieces Ella and Eden, finish those baby albums, be a quiet person, and my biggest one, which was really hammered into my stubborn brain today(another story for another day) is to be content. Because even though I don’t have everything I want, I have everything I need, and that is enough.
Happy New Year.