Sunday, December 10, 2017

I Need Christmas

If you know me, you know I love all things birthday/holidays.  I like to do it big, and loud, and over-the-top.  The cheesier and more celebrated, the better.  I absolutely love surprising people, and shopping for gifts, and wrapping presents for others...  I love it ALL.
As a kid, it was magical.

But then, I became a mama.  And the holidays took on an entirely different kind of magic.

But then.

But then my whole world was shattered, and when I tried and failed and tried again to put the pieces back together... I realized it was too late, it was too much and it was also not enough... and I couldn't repair my heart, couldn't repair our world, alone.

...

As I go through the grieving process - which is a process, actual fluid steps that are intermingled and intertwined and all tied up in an imperfect messy knot - I am learning that the world keeps turning.. the days keep passing.  Whether I am up or down, put together or falling apart - the sun comes up and the day asks for you to live it and each step has to become purposeful again.

This year, 2017, has been the hardest, most painful, most difficult, most emotional, most exhausting, most shocking, most excruciating, most soul-searching, most heartbreaking year of my entire life.

This season of my life, as I have already written about, has been awful.  

Brutal.

There it is, the honest truth.

There is no sugar-coating it.  And I will never attempt to do that.

And since I've shared even the tiniest bit of my pain, I've had so many people comment and message me and text me and call me and tell me over and over and over again how well I'm doing, how I'm so amazing, how I'm so strong, how I'm handling it so well.

Truth is, it is not all yellow and flexing muscles and focusing on the joy and smiles over tears over here.

I am trying to make it, almost fake it that way... for me, and for them.

But don't let social media fool you, and don't let my public smile fool you.  I don't want to seem like I have it altogether over here.

I am a mess.  I am struggling. 

Yes, I am trying with all my might to choose joy and see the sun and focus on what I'm grateful for and count my blessings...

But there are a lot of tears, a lot of confusion, a lot of pain, a lot of steps backwards, a lot of doubt, a lot of questions for Him, a lot of anger over the fact that my heart that will never, ever be the same.

And so I am doggy-paddling through this season... barely afloat -- surviving, really.  In a home that is now either extremely loud and chaotic or way too quiet and still, and in a home that is always messy and cluttered and in a home in which you cannot step on the floor without stepping on either a Cheerio or a light saber or a cat toy (I HAVE A CAT?!).

But it is also now a home with a Christmas tree and lights and decorations and a winter candle burning to make the whole house smell like the holidays.

And as many of you have said, yes, the holidays are hard when you are grieving.

Yes, yes, yes.

It is so hard.  So weird, and so hard.

It is so hard to be asked questions by my kids that I cannot answer right now, it is so hard to know we are all experiencing the joy of our yearly traditions, but it also just feels different.  It is so hard to want to protect them when I see and feel their pain and confusion... knowing that one day it'll all make sense to them, but right now, it doesn't.  It can't.

So we are celebrating as best as we know how.  And this weekend, as I sat in my home, surrounded by all things Christmas, I realized that yes, the holidays are hard right now.  But I'm almost more anxious about the time that will come after the holidays.

When it's quieter.  When there is less distraction.  When there are less places to go, things to do, ways to celebrate, gifts to wrap, surprises to plan.

When we have to really settle into a new normal that - a year ago - we never, ever saw coming.  In fact, if this time last year you would've told me that this year would look like this, I would've told you you were crazy.

But, it's where we are.  

And it hurts.  But I guess I have to feel the hurt to one day feel the joy again?  

One day, I'm hoping and praying and wishing with all my heart that the joy begins to overtake the hurt, that it is more steps forward than backward.  That certain thoughts/memories/truths stop making me feel so sick, and that the realization of broken dreams doesn't make me feel like I can't breathe.

So.

So we go see Christmas lights, and I cry when I see their faces...

So I keep the radio off in the car so that CK can sing all of her favorite Christmas songs, and I try to capture the sweet sound of her six-year-old voice so that I never, ever forget...



So I put up that dang Elf on the Shelf every night, with carefully planned and thought out shenanigans so that their laughter fills up the emptiness in our home...



So I have two different Advent calendars, so that I can hear their feet running down the stairs and across the hardwood floors every morning in excited anticipation (am I the only one who loves the sound of children running barefoot across a hardwood floor? <3)...

So we go to my favorite church service of the entire year, where CK sings and I am honored to do a reading in front of the congregation...

So I spend an embarrassing amount of time putting lights up on outside of the house, only to realize later that a third of them are burned out - and then decide to leave them as is, because they are much more representative of my life that way... And I also put "rainbow lights" (as CK calls them) all over the inside of my house, promising that next year we will have rainbow lights EVERYWHERE and maybe even one of those blow-up Santas...

So we go to the community Christmas parade and eat way too much candy and dance and sing and laugh together...

So we put up a new tree topper, make new traditions in place of some old ones that cannot exist anymore (and, by the way, I found the PERFECT tree topper, thankyouverymuch)...


So we light fires in the fireplace, and spend extra time snuggling and watching Christmas movies... 

So we put up mistletoe and smooch as often as possible anytime we walk underneath it...


So we embrace an unexpected snow day after a very rough week, and let our hearts' holes fill up with snowflakes for a few hours...

So we keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Because what choice do we have?  God-willing, tomorrow will come.  God-willing, Christmas will be here soon.  And I don't want to just "get through the holidays" this year.  I will never have a 6-year-old, 3-year-old, and 1-year-old at Christmastime, ever again.  This is my only chance to breathe in this holiday season, even if it is smack dab in the middle of the most painful season of life I have ever known.

I know, I know I have so much to be grateful for, so many blessings I do not deserve.  So many people who continue to surprise me and humble me with their prayers and thoughtfulness and generosity.  So many reasons to smile and celebrate and dance and dream.

I also know that this year, though it is hard and it is painful... I need the holidays.  I need God, I need to celebrate Jesus' birthday, I need to remember why we're here and the sacrifices that were made for us.  I need the wrapping paper and the Jingle Bells and the Balsam candles and the Oreo balls and the cookies for Santa and the lights and the matching pajamas and the gingerbread houses and the countdowns and the Silent Nights.

I need to grieve, I need to let myself feel, I need to find the good, but also accept the pain.  I need to find forgiveness, I need to find myself again, I need to find more strength for them, I need to hold onto hope that smiles will soon outnumber tears.

But mostly, right now...

I need Christmas.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

It's CONFESSION Time

Let's start out with the biggest confession of today's post:

*Meet the newest member of our household.
Y'all - I don't even like cats.  And I won't even go into all of the events that led to me adopting a shelter-bound, eight-week-old-kitten.  But a week ago today, I ended up with a kitten in my arms and exactly zero things one needs for said kitten.  
But after about an hour, I had all of the basics and a heart that was smitten with all of her purring sweetness.  The best part?  The kids had NO clue.  Like, we hadn't even ever talked about getting a cat.  So imagine their surprise when we all walked into the house on Friday after traveling for Thanksgiving, and there she was?!  
It.was.awesome.  And they are all obsessed.  But mostly CK, who pretty much thinks the cat belongs to her and walks around holding her like a baby and wants to take her everywhere we go ("Can we PLEASE take her to church, Mama?").  
She was just what we all needed right now, I think.  And my therapist gave my spontaneous, cat-adopting decision two thumbs up.  OH.  And her name?  Perhaps the very best part.  MOXIE.  As in, Of Mess and Moxie, the book I am currently reading (and highly recommend).  Don't know what moxie means?  Look up the definition.  Perfection.  And so is our kitten. <3

*Everette was still in his crib until a couple weeks ago.  He could easily climb in and out, but never did when he was supposed to be in there for naps/bedtime.  I was scared to put him in a bed!  But, it was time.  And on his birthday, I surprised him with bunk beds in his room, which he loves!  And honestly, he's sleeping like a champ, and hasn't even skipped a beat.

*But whew, that boy.  I've said it a million times before, but he is t-r-o-u-b-l-e.  There may or may not have been two different occasions of items-lodged-in-the-nostril recently, which required the Nose Frida and lots of prayer to get out.  (First a piece of fake play money, and next, a sunflower seed - for inquiring minds.)  He also went through a stage of being curious about what was in the potty after he went #2. (No more details needed.)  He is wild and curious and energetic and pushes boundaries and plays rough.  He will also now spontaneously, and almost exactly when needed, say, "Mommy?  I love you SO MUCH" multiple times a day.  He is sweet, so sweet, and gosh I love him so.

*I must confess that we now have pizza at least once, sometimes twice a week for dinner.  Being a full-time-working mama of three solo ain't no joke, y'all.  But if I slap a vegetable on it, it has all the food groups, amiright?

*What's also hard?  Apparently getting myself dressed, since last week I realized at about 4:00pm that I'd worn my leggings backwards to work all.day.long.

*I had a hard time weaning Brooks from breastfeeding.  It just all happened so quickly... his first year of life went by in a fast-forward blur.  But, we called it a day, and bid all things nursing adieu.  And while I miss those sweet moments with him, it is nice to have my body back, all to myself, for the first time in almost two years.

*Yes, please.  Anyone else? -->

*My kids love Ranch dressing, y'all.  They are like dipping machines.  They always want to dip any and every food item into ANYTHING.  But mostly Ranch dressing.  I'm going to put some in their Christmas stockings, in fact.  #dontjudge

*I have to confess that I was so, so scared to publish this post - probably the most real and raw thing I have ever written in the six years of keeping up this little corner of the internet.  I also confess that I'm not sure how I'll ever be able to thank everyone for the love, prayers, and completely overwhelming outpouring of support I've gotten from friends and family, near and far.  And even anonymous sources... It has been the most humbling experience of my entire life.  So thank you, thank you all.  And please know that I will do all I can for the rest of my life to pay your kindness and selflessness and love and generosity forward.  I promise. <3

*I don't have cable/satellite anymore.  And the struggle is real.  I miss it more than I should probably admit.

*This is a little late, but I have to confess that we went to Babyland General for CK's birthday in lieu of a party, and it exceeded my expectations.  Several of her girl cousins, aunts, and her Bammy came into town, and it really was just the cutest experience.  
I've admitted it a time or two, but I absolutely love all things birthday and holiday... I love to surprise people and make them feel special and go over the top on the border of annoying and it just brings my cheesy heart so much joy.  Especially when I get to see this face out of it:

*A couple weeks ago I tried to get the polish off of my toenails for three straight days with no luck.  Like, I'd be sweating from scrubbing so hard with the cotton ball.  I finally realized I'd bought non-acetone polish remover.  Who even knew they made that?!  It was like a cruel joke.

*My friend's brother started this company and I'm so mad I didn't come up with the idea myself!  Brilliant!  I've used their services once and will absolutely use them again and again.  Need a new pair of running/walking shoes?  KICKFIX to the rescue!

*Cameron prefers to be naked.  Like, she more often than not walks around shirtless and pantsless.  #lesslaundry?  Truthfully, though, my mission is to always make sure she feels so confident in herself!

*Speaking of my girl, can we please talk about how incredible it is to see her learning how to read and write?  I mean, I'm a teacher for Pete's sake, so I work all day long with kids and watch their little minds grow and see the lightbulbs go off as letters become words and sentences and paragraphs and stories.  But oh-my-mama-heart ~ seeing your own child become a reader and a writer is one of the coolest life experiences I've ever had.

*And can we please give props to her amazing kindergarten teachers?  She got in trouble today for being disobedient and had to have some quiet time in her room.  I confess that I couldn't even be upset with her, when she snuck out to throw the following notes down from the top of the stairs:
 "please please please please come up here and sing you are my sunshine"
"my heart feels all crushed up and sad"

Look at that inventive spelling and phonemic awareness!  Also?  Girl can't stand to disappoint her mama. <3

*And one more thing about my mini-me - she is 100% obsessed with school supplies.  Like, she watches YouTube videos about notebooks and binders and markers and organization.  Ha!

*Brooks is over a year old and I finally just put pictures in the frames in his room.  Mostly because the other day Everette pointed to a frame with the fake, inserted picture that comes in it and asked me, "Mommy, who ARE these people?"

*I confess that I just discovered the Swiffer WetJet.  Why didn't anyone tell me about this glorious thing?!  I give my floors a good mopping every week (ish), because I have a one-year-old who likes to eat ALL THE THINGS.  But man, this little gadget is a floor-cleaning game changer.

*I am the WORST at keeping plants alive.  Like, give me all the tiny humans and I am 100% confident in my ability to be in charge of them.  But throw a potted something-or-other in front of me and it's basically a countdown until it dies.  So, don't ask me why - within the past three weeks or so - I now have five new potted flower arrangements outside, a lucky bamboo plant in my bedroom, a handmade succulent assortment, and three other mysterious indoor plants (because the sign promised they'd purify the air in my home #sucker).  Add in the cat and three kids (and a Christmas tree) and the list of living things I'm now in charge of is up to like fifty three. #sendhelp  I may or may not have to write "WATER THE PLANTS" in my daily planner.  But at least I don't have to write "FEED THE CHILDREN," right?

*And speaking of that Christmas tree, my last confession is that I have - for obvious reasons - been a little anxious about the holidays this year.  But I decided to dive right in to all things Christmas, because as my pastor reminded me through his sermon this morning, we need the Advent season, we need Christmas and everything it brings.  So it may be hard, but dangit, I'm going to try to choose joy as much as possible within each holiday moment.  I mean, how can I not when I get to experience it all through their eyes?
We decked our halls and got our Christmas tree at the local tree farm and hung up all the ornaments... I decided to tuck away my type-A for a minute and let the kids go to town decorating the tree.  It was so, so awesome.  I've got to put some lights up outside on the house and get a new tree-topper, but things are beginning to look a lot like Christmas around these parts.  And you know what?   I think it's helping all of our hearts not feel so "crusht up anb sad." <3

Have a wonderful week!!