Under one roof

So, I guess the holidays are officially over. We had the Menkedick crew over yesterday and the last of the gifts were ripped open by the kids. 

Time to put away the glittery centerpiece – the only remaining holiday item out of storage. All the other items were packed up and stored away within 48 hours after Christmas. Except for the lights strung around the trees in the front yard; they remained hanging until a few days ago due to the lack of desire to stand in the cold and try to flip the lights off the top branches without success. 

This holiday felt a little off to me. I still haven’t figured out what made it feel this way. It could be the kids being older.I believe Ri officially knows there is no Santa Claus. She doesn’t readily admit it but I can tell. She knows the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy are not real so why would Santa? I try to give her a condensed version of the precious articles I read on line by mothers who explained to their dis-believing children that Santa is simply a symbol of the season of giving and kindness. She nods and listens half-heartedly. She’s always been my old soul; she probably has always known there is no Santa but has kept it secret in order not to disappoint Jon and me. On the other hand, Mario seems to still believe. I don’t think he ponders it too much as long as he has gifts on Christmas morning. And when I put Elfie in his room with his Legos, he ran into our bedroom the next morning and was excited that Elfie liked his Lego men. The magic is somewhat still there, at least. 

It took 12 minutes to open presents Christmas morning. It was 7:17 am when we finished. You know you are in for a long day. You think “I just want to sleep for an entire day” but then the kids leave to hang out with grandma and you wonder “what should I do now they are gone?!” 

Or maybe it was the quick in and out with so many different family members. Christmas Eve at my mom’s for an hour ripping through presents and then to Aunt Susie’s with aunts and uncles and cousins and spouses and dogs (the cousins have chosen to own dogs prior to having kids). Talk to an aunt for five minutes, a cousin for ten. Sing caroles. Open presents. On Christmas Day, host my dad and Meg and then Jon’s mom and brothers. Everyone in for a few hours and then off to another home. Again, part of me is exhausted and ready for five minutes alone and another part of me wants a deep, long conversation with my family member. 

Maybe it’s all that yin and yang that leads me to find myself in a state of flux the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  What are my goals for 2016? What do I want for Jon and I? What do I want the kids to accomplish? I want to cook more. I want the kids to engage in more service and not whine when they have to do homework. I want Jon and I to hike. I want to sit still for an entire two hours. I wish Christmas could have lasted longer. I didn’t get to talk to Aunt Julie or Laura….

Step back. 

Take a breath. 

Try for one manageable feat at a time.  I am so bad about thinking of 20 different things to accomplish that I get overwhelmed and accomplish none. 

On New Year’s Eve, we went over to a friend’s house. A couple of Mario’s friends were there and a friend of Maria’s was there. The kids played upstairs and Jon and I hung in the kitchen talking to the adults and catching up with old friends. It was around 11:30 pm and Ri was knocked out upstairs. Jon and I agreed we should hit the road so we could be home at midnight. We were making the rounds saying goodbye when Mario flew into the kitchen crying in pain. 

“It’s broke! I heard it crack!” 

He held his arm. The way he was cradling it and the tears in his eyes had me nervous. A resident doctor was at the party and came over to look at it. She asked some questions and turned and probed it, and then told us we should take him to the ER. Lovely. She made a homemade sling for him and we were off. 

It was broken. 

We got home at 2 am drunk with fatigue. The rest of the weekend was long and tiresome and chill. I looked at Christmas pictures with Ri and reviewed FB posts of family. I cracked up thinking about Mario stealing the white elephant gift from Michael and Susie and Kenny leading us in caroles. I smiled remembering Ri open up her Molly baby from Grandma Lolo and Mario playing checkers with my dad. Alana and Gio excited to give me a box of chocolates. My aunt Julie and I exchanging duplicate pictures of each other in DC.  The girls opening American Girl dolls from Patty. Ri and Grandma Meg playing dolls together. Ben drawing random pieces of food on white papers, rolling them up, and giving them out to everyone. Maria and Anna taking Rocco on a walk together.

I love family. I actually get excited when I know there’s a get-together coming up. Nothing pleased me more than to have both my sis and brother in town a few years ago to share Christmas. This isn’t a new realization by any means. I’ve always been family-oriented. I could never leave Ohio because my parents and family live here. I wouldn’t want to not be close to them. And that’s one of the traits that attracted me to Jon right away. He loves family just as much. 

But I do realize how my expectations on what the holidays will bring need to be adjusted. I am not gonna get 30 minutes to sit down with my cousin to talk about the insanity of politics or to talk with my brother about the meaning of life. There’s too much chaos and revelry and excitement and people to see. So I just get to ask my cousin about her new house or my aunt about her classroom and move on to the next conversation. That’s fine. If you want a longer time, go out to dinner in January. The holidays are not structured for long-winded dialogue but for hugs and brief updates and cooing over new babies. 

So, here’s to my crazy, amazing family and all the fabulous times we have together – mostly over the holidays now since we are all doing our thangs, ya know…. Christmas 2015 will be appreciated for reminding me that the simple act of being together under one roof is a gift for which to be grateful. 

   
    
    
    
    
    
 

Putting up the tree

I can’t believe we got our Christmas tree up the Sunday after Thanksgiving. That is a record for us procrastinating folks.

Sundays have been deemed “mom-not-allowed-to-run” days by the kids. Sunday morning, Mario hopped on our bed with a huge smile on his face and announced “mom, no running today!” Maria jolted into our room 30 seconds later and we all laid together (thank god for a king size bed). These moments are some of the best. Inevitably, Mario will say something that makes us laugh hysterically and Ri will follow up with some witty response. Then there’s lots of hugging and squeezing … and wrestling. It all makes me so pleased.

After Jon had enough of Mario’s jackknifes into his side, he got up to get his coffee. The kids and I decided to head to Stauf’s for breakfast (actually I begged and they gave in). I made them both walk with me rather than scooter or bike. Lots of whining at first but then they realized that it wasn’t so bad, especially when you play 20 questions. The kids picked a bar table and chairs for us to sit at Stauf’s. We got our bagels and cream cheese (all three of us got the same Black Russian bagel but three different cream cheeses) and started in on Go Fish. Mario whooped on us. Usually it’s Ri. We moved on to War and when Mario started killing us in that, we had to shut it down (Ms. Maria gets a bit competitive nowadays). 

   

 On our walk home, we played Pac Man on the brick enclosure in front of the real estate office. It was all fun and games until Mario tripped into the middle of the flower bed and fell on a Thanksgiving wire ornament. Ri and Mario died laughing while I reoriented the ornament. 

About two blocks from home, Ri announced “we should put up the Christmas tree!” Mario agreed. We’d never put up the tree this early but we had nothing planned for the day so I thought we better crank it out. We use the tree my Grandma Menkedick gave us when Ri was  a baby. She used it for years before handing it down to us. It is about eight feet tall and looks kinda real…. The kids love putting the branches on and could not fathom a “real” tree. 

Mario lost interest as we started on the ornaments. Ri tried to entice him by putting on Christmas music. It helped for a bit. He just wanted to find the pickle ornament. He loves to hide that ornament every year and dare people to find it. Ri got out some old, precious ornaments that I had bought my grandma in the 1970s. We found some of Jon’s when he was little, too. The kids loved to hear stories of our childhood.  

I see all these pictures of friends’ trees – they are so organized with matching gold ornaments and icicles sprinkled throughout the fir. Our tree is a hodge podge of randomness. An old 1970s ornament alongside a handmade paper ornament along side a plastic M&M guy alongside a plastic dog. But I wouldn’t change it at all. 

It was Ri’s turn to place the “blue star” on the tree. It is more like a North Star compass- every year we talk about getting new tree topper and every year we fail to do so. Mario begged to put it on instead of Ri but for once Ri didn’t give in to him.    

He didn’t get upset though (he really is getting so much better at letting things go)  and we all posed for a picture by dad. Rocco even joined us (after his tail knocked over two ornaments – a warning Jon had given us three seconds prior to it happening).

 After Jon took the picture, we begged him to get in one with us. It took the kids’ longing eyes to convince him (he has no problem saying no to me!). Of course, none of them turned out Christmas card worthy but at least he’s in one. I keep telling him he will appreciate that I made him get in these pictures when he’s old and can’t remember these times – these pictures will help him out….

  

So here’s to Christmas 2015 and a holiday filled with family and laughter and gratitude for those who have left us – Grandma would have just adored our little tree.