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The Christmas cheer began early this year.  Our tree was up two weekend before Thanksgiving and the decorations went up the following weekend.  Our calendar was marked with all the local Holiday celebrations – a different Santa event every weekend.

Then the evening of December 3rd happened.  The night the police showed up at our door to relay the devastating news that my Uncle had suddenly passed away.  The two weeks that followed included a trip to the West Coast for a memorial service where he’d lived for the better part of his life.  Aside from the sad nature of the trip, it proved to be the trip from hell on all accounts, the low-light being the day Mr. E and I both landed in the ER.

Upon returning home we prepared for the East Coast memorial, which took place last Friday, a full two weeks after the nightmare began.

December 21, 2009 – the day my Uncle was scheduled to fly East to spend Christmas and New Years with us, as he has done many times.  Having that day arrive without him weighed heavy on me.  We went ahead with our Solstice celebration and it was lovely, but I couldn’t help remember that he was here last year as we prepared for Solstice.  And we were having so much fun.  Two weeks of silliness, wine, and laughter.

Christmas is just around the corner, and I am not excited.  I know the day will be mostly fun, and I am excited to give Mr. E his big Christmas gift, but I know flashbacks of last Christmas will appear.  And then we’ll have New Years to get through.  Last year was one of the best New Years I’d had in a long time.  It was at home, and quite, but surrounded by family and good food.  You see, when my Uncle was around, everything was just that much more special.  More fun.

And so we move on. Each day getting up, and living for the kids, and focusing on making the season magical for them, but if I could I’d fast forward right to Mr. E’s birthday.

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It’s been a while.

We survived the holidays. There were some really bad moments and some really wonderful moments. My body physically took on the stress resulting in a very sore neck for days. Not fun.

A and I have always loosely celebrated solstice. This year we decided to claim it. We knew Christmas would be a zoo so we took December 21st as our special family time. It was the highlight of my holiday season and as things got nuts I reflected back on our yule log and our celebration.

dscn0715E was fascinated by our yule log – made from wood chopped on our property.

dscn0723We sat peacefully watching our lit log after lighting out intentions and tossing them in the fireplace.

After our small Christmas plans dissolved our Christmas Day celebration opened like a dam. Soon we had family and friends, and neighbors and other people’s friends for dinner. It was not small. But what I like to remember when I look back is the quiet time we spent first thing in the morning. The sky was just beginning to light, the house was quiet, and A, E and I cuddled by the tree. We helped E open his presents and he played. It was an amazingly peaceful time. And he had so much fun.

dscn0757He tore into the presents – no matter if they were for him or not…

dscn0735E loved our tree and spent much time taking ornaments off!

We enjoyed a quiet New Years at home. We made pasta carbonara with fresh pasta and a yummy salad. We drank cosmos, wine, and champagne. We even stayed up till midnight! (sorry no pictures.)

We enjoyed two weeks of A being on vacation. We got things done, we played, we got together with friends, we relaxed.

We started planning E first birthday party! We started talking more seriously about ttc. We rested.

Now we are back to the grind. A went back to work today and E and I are settling back into our routine. I was really sad but am finding that I am really happy to be back to normal. He and I have a busy week ahead with his cousins, starting Music Together class, and his BIRTHDAY! On Friday he turns one and I am an emotional mess. We are having a play date with three of his little friends that day and on Saturday we’re having a big old birthday party! Many pictures to follow.

I’d be a fool to think we could actually have a nice, small, stress-free, drama-free Christmas…sorry this is going to be long.

Holidays are big in my parents house. My mother loves any excuse to tap into her inner child. Their house (our house) has always been the gathering place for both side of the family for holidays. My mother spends copious amounts of time cleaning (read: being angry and generally making it not fun to be around her), my father runs errands, you need me to go to the store for the 10th time today? No problem. (read: wants to be as far away from my mother while cleaning/getting ready). Christmas morning has historically been over before we could blink because when you’re cooking for upwards of 20 people it takes time, so gift swapping, clean up, and breakfast needed to happen pretty quick in order to start the cooking, showering, and general getting ready.

Five years ago my mother’s father died very suddenly on December 20th. We buried him on the 23rd. That Christmas truly sucked. It also brought many people from out of town and generally made for an exhausting week of revolving door company. My mother does not remember much of that Christmas. The next year felt like the first Christmas with out my grandfather; my mother and her siblings, were navigating this new way of experiencing the holiday. My mother tells us, through tears, that it was her father who gave her her Christmas spirit. Not having him broke her. Not feeling the spirit, she tried to push it. We had three days of Christmas. Three days of full on meal prep, cleaning, company. It began with Christmas Eve with my Dad’s side of the family. Then Christmas Day with the usual cast of characters (mostly local family), and ended the day after Christmas with my mother’s brother’s family who came from out of town. And got stranded due to a blizzard.

The next day my mother and I had one of the worst fights we’ve ever had. Three days of her totally spazzed out was more than I could take. It was clear that she was just trying to cope in this, the first Christmas celebration with out her father. But in the process, she drove us all really crazy. As our fight concluded and we made up, I made her promise we’d never have another Christmas like the one we’d just had. That next year, it’d be small.

And so for the last four years we’ve been trying to keep it small. As our immediate family grows (my parents, brother, SIL, two nephews, A, Me , and Mr. E), it is becoming more and more important to keep it small. Instead of having everyone for the meal we invited everyone to come for dessert – later in the day. And we (attempted) to keep Christmas Eve just us. We started drawing names, so we only had to buy one present each, plus gifts for the kids, and our partners.

Every year we start the let’s keep Christmas simple conversation in September. This year we decided we’d only buy gifts for the children and our partners, we’d keep Christmas Eve only to our immediate family, and we’d have a pot luck Christmas dinner with a Yankee Swap. It seemed in previous years we’d talked about keeping Christmas simple, but then my mother would end up inviting someone, usually for very good reasons.  We also made it known to our extended family that the Yankee Swap was to replace individual gift giving, as we can not afford to buy things for everyone, and we’re trying to keep it simple. I remember being 8 months pregnant last year before remembering that I had to give gifts and wandering around a local store…miserable…crying…and finally just told A to buy a bunch of candles. Where’s the spirit there?

So we’ve put a lot of effort into making this year simple and really trying to redefine it for what we want for our son. And hopefully we’re making it easier on my parents -easier on all of us.  A and I have spent time thinking about what we want Christmas to be for our son. We do want it to be about family, we don’t want it to be all about gifts and madness. We want it to be magical and fun.

In addition to our immediate family one of my mother’s brother has been coming to Christmas on and off since my grandfather died. While he is loud and obnoxious, and drinks too much vodka, he and my mom have a very special relationship and it really makes her happy to have him here. When he’s here they spend a lot of time together visiting my grandparents grave and generally enjoying each other. He is single (between wives, if you ask him). And for the most part we enjoy having him around.

I’ve been twitting around for the last three or so weeks, listening to Christmas music, singing, teaching Mr. E about Santa, celebrating advent, attending our church, and really feeling connected to family and the spirit, and really looking forward to what seemed like the Christmas Nirvana we’ve been striving for for five years.

But what I’ve learned is that unless you board a plan with the people you want to be with, and don’t tell anyone else where you’re going, you’ll never achieve that Nirvana.

Last Friday we learned some of my mother’s out of town family will be joining us. For a week. They are loud, obnoxious, self-centered, oh, and my mother’s brother, the one flying in from the West Coast, r.e.a.l.l.y. does not get along with them. My mother has planned a two week vacation – to spend time with her brother and is now pissed that they will be here too. We’re all sort of wondering where we can go hide out. A will be on vacation too. We were looking forward to some relaxing time together, as a family. My mother thinks if she tells her brother he’ll cancel his trip. She’ll be broken if he does, and if she does not tell him, he’ll be pissed upon arrival. There is so much drama I can’t stand it. I want my nice peaceful Christmas that I’ve been working on. I want my son’s first Christmas to be enjoyable.

We’re all just kind of shaking our heads trying to figure out how our perfect plan just blew up. I am determined not to let it ruin Mr. E’s first Christmas, it may take lots of wine to achieve this… We’re holding strong and my mother has made it clear tto her out of twon family that they are welcome to come on Christmas, but that we are booked Christmas Eve. I am thankful for that. Thankful that we’ll have our intimate family gathering followed by candlelit church service. Hopefully this will help us center for the zoo on Christmas day.

from Mr. E:

Oh, right. I’m a parent now. Expectations of us are different now.

Easter falls one weekend before our nephew’s birthday. His birthday is far more exciting and important to me than Easter, so I told my family we’d be coming for his birthday. In the weeks that followed I picked up on many subtle hints from my mother and SIL suggesting they’d rather we come for Easter. That somehow Easter was more important.

I finally told A about these weird vibes and after talking about it, I felt pretty stupid; of course my parents think it’s important for us to come to Easter, with our son. There’s a whole new set of expectations once you have a kid. So we decided to go. A actually admitted that she likes Easter and she’ll take any chance she can to attend the UU in the town where I grew up. She’s already built a good social network there for when we move.

My family is happy. A is happy. And me? Well, I am happy because I got to splurge on the cutest Easter outfit for Mr. E! Seriously, I didn’t know they made clothes so cute for boys! You’ll have to wait till after Easter for pictures!

It’s a quiet New Year’s Eve in our home this year, and that’s just what I wanted. Each day I tire easier and easier and by afternoon my energy is almost depleted, so going out, in any fashion tonight is out of the question. We’d considered going to the local fireworks, but after returning home this afternoon, and walking through the cold and wind from the car to the house, we decided to put on our pjs and settle in for the night. There’s a pot of chili cooking on the stove and soon corn bread will be baking in the oven. It’s so very quiet here and we are enjoying being. I can’t imagine a better New Year’s Eve for this particular time in our lives.

A posted her year in review. I am far too scattered of a writer to synthesize a whole year in any coherent manner, so I’ve decided not to try. I will say that 2007 will forever be the year we FINALLY achieved our baby dreams. As long as I live, I will always remember the utter shock I experienced on May 15th, 2007 at 4:30am after receiving our first +hpt. It feels like just yesterday that we were standing speechless in the bathroom, staring at the +hpt. We hugged and kissed, and I think we were mostly in disbelief that it was really happening. My pregnancy defined much of the remainder of 2007.

It’s been an amazing journey. 2008 holds much change for us. The biggest, of course, the birth of Moon, but also a career change for A, a move “back home” to plant roots and to raise our kid(s) near family, and me stepping off my career path in search of something new, or maybe just to indulge in a long break from higher education. Eight hours of this year remain and tomorrow we’ll enter Moon’s “due month”, the kicks, turns, and somersaults, I feel as I type will soon be felt on the outside. Our time together will change, and A will, as she said recently, know how Moon is with out having to ask me. I’m ready. I’m ready to meet Moon, to hold him/her on the outside and I am ready for A to hold Moon and continue her bonding process.

2007 was super, but 2008 will be great! (Sorry…I couldn’t resist!)

I wish everyone a happy and safe holiday!

It’s only been four days since Christmas and I have yet to post all about our holiday and by now I am not sure it’s worth posting about. But here goes…

We had a wonderful last holiday with out a baby. We spent four nights at my parents house (despite the uncomfortable bed situation…) and gleaned lots and lots of quality time with our nephews, which is what we were most excited about. Nephew #1 was so much fun this year. He is almost three and it was the first year he “got it.” This, of course put the magic back in the holiday for all of us. I enjoyed visiting with family members one last time before having the baby, and it was special to receive gifts for “baby” and “cousin.” We also hauled home a bunch of hand me down baby gear that our nephews have outgrown (infant car seat, bassinet to keep on our first floor, tons of clothing!). Oh, and while most people we saw think I am having a boy, based on how I am carrying (which I am not sure I buy into), Nephew #1 is certain it’s a girl. I’m still getting the boy vibe.

Christmas was a mellow day for us. We did the traditional present exchange in the morning, with Nephew #1 opening everyone’s presents for them, followed by a big breakfast, and then lots of napping, followed by a big dinner. We don’t do any running around and my parents keep the number of people coming for dinner to a minimum, since our immediate family has grown to six adults and two kids, plus a few more. I have really come to like the smaller gatherings. Everyone is far more relaxed. When I was younger we often had both my father and mother’s siblings and their kids, plus other friends. And I loved it as a kid. Now the more people, the more my parents stress, the less fun it is for everyone…so small has become my preference. This has been balanced by hosting a more casual gathering on Christmas Eve, which A and I took over this year. For me, the night before Christmas is more fun, and filled with anticipation, so I prefer visiting with extended family on Christmas Eve.  All in all, I felt blessed to spend time with so many family and friends over the holiday, and to hold on to moments of my life as I know it, before the baby turns our world upside down.

A and I traveled home the day after Christmas and spent the whole next day running errands before our friend came to visit for two nights (There were lots of errands, but the highlight was getting A a new cell phone, which is way fancy and cool. As she drove us home I was playing with the gadgets on it and found it has a stop watch function. It took me more than a minute before realizing this would be helpful to time contractions as we’ve recently begun to wonder how we’d do that since neither of us own a watch. Cool, eh.) That was the same day I started to come down a cold that is starting to kick my but. It was great to see our friend, so much fun really. And he was super understanding of me feeling under the weather, and also of my pregnant state, but man, was it still exhausting to host. At times I was too tired to talk. As soon as he left this afternoon, I just felt a bit more relaxed. I’ve never felt so exhausted while hosting and it was a good preview for after the baby, and also reinforced the need for boundaries around guests.

A had her last class EVER today! She’s home now, putting all her school stuff away. We don’t go back to work till Wednesday of next week, and then Friday is her last day at her job! She starts student teaching the following Monday! I can’t believe we’re at this transition! I can’t believe we’re about to live on one income! I can’t believe we’re about to have a baby! It’s all happening so fast. Like we’ve been climbing a hill for months on end, and now the avalanche of change is tumbling down.

28 days till my estimated due date. That’s the same amount of time as a normal menstrual cycle. Woe.

Christmas was great as was spending time with family. More on all of that later. I am getting sick now, which is totally pissing me off because our very good friend is heading into town today to stay with us for a few days. We were supposed to tour the hospital today, but I feel too crappy so we’re putting it off for now. Blah!

In the good new department…Cali may be expecting! As we all say a line is a line. And I can’t wait for tomorrow’s beta!

Nephew #2 will have a stocking after all! Given that it does not usually take too long for me knit a Christmas stocking, I sure took a long time to finish this one. Life, it’s just been too busy. But here it is all ready to hang with the rest. I can’t imagine what it will be like to knit our baby’s stocking next year! I better start as soon as we have a name!

For eleven blissful days. I don’t have to go into work tomorrow as I previously thought! I am so excited! And sooooooooooo freaking in need of this break. That’s all I have to say!

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