Did I Tell You The One Where Christmas Break Would Not End?

1476175_10202797128275919_1196886460_nTeachers everywhere were rejoicing. Of that I have no doubt. It started all extra-nice. (See above photo for evidence.)  It was snowy outside, warm and cozy inside, and the boys loved each other. I was having visions of piling up on the soda, toasty warm, watching our favorite movies, reading our favorite books. Cocoa would be in hand, complete with marshmallows. Zach in his footed pj’s, Evan in his flannel sleep pants, me in sweats.  The world shut out, and the ones I love shut in against the cold. There was no school for me, and only my 3 scheduled days of work per week. It was going to be great.

Then this happened:1480549_10202798469749455_592936327_nIt snowed. I love our street in the snow. The houses look so cute and cozy, the neighborhood becomes a Thomas Kinkade painting. We put up the Christmas tree together. This year, Zachy was really able to  participate, which was adorable. I kicked the OCD into low gear as he put the ornaments too close together, and somehow resisted the urge to tweak them ever-so-slightly the entire time that tree was up.

This year, I even managed to somehow get all of the Christmas presents for the boys wrapped before anyone knew what they were getting. This was about as successful a Christmas as I could’ve asked for, considering some of our previous misadventures. The whole next day, the boys broke  played with their new things. Then Evan remembered how fun toys can be when you are only 3, and Santa brings you things like racetracks for toy cars or little train sets. And it dawned on Zachy just how cool big-kid stuff can be.

Magic: Over. Bubble: Burst.

Next thing we knew, there were fights. “Mommy, Evan did________.”, squealed Zach. “Mom! Zach has my _______.”, whined Evan. And so it went all the way up through the end of their Christmas break. It seemed like the longest one in the history of winter breaks. I seriously thought I was going to die. To make matters worse, I was fresh out of school. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t have that distraction. With me home more, John felt he deserved a break, and left most parenting matters to me. I’m certain the grey hairs on my head have multiplied as a result.

The eve of their first day back to school, I was working the ICU. It really is a good thing my patient was in a medically-induced coma and couldn’t hear me or tell on me. The tv in his room was turned to the news, where I saw the update where the boys’ first day back was called off due to weather.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

I’m sure my wail reverberated off of the walls of the ICU, into the adjacent waiting area and throughout the rest of the hospital. Nurses from outside the room rushed in to see what had happened, as I’m not generally an alarmist at work.

That day. That day I had been dreaming of, hoping for, wishing on….My hopes were crushed. My spirit broken.

The fighting a home got worse as cabin fever started in. Snow kept dumping on us. Just when it would start to clear up, more would come. And then it didn’t. The boys were finally going to go back to school. I was relieved, and by that time, I think they were as sick of us as we were of them causing chaos.

And then that “Polar Vortex” bullshit happened. Anyone remember the “I can’t put my arms down” scene in A Christmas Story? Well, we will never have a modern-day version of that. They cancelled school because it was too cold. For not one day, but days-yep, plural. When we were kids, our parents would just bundle us up. We waited a little closer to last minute to go to our bus stops. But our bus stops weren’t at our driveway, either. Generally, we had to walk. If it was dangerously cold–as in losing digits to frost bite despite gloves or mittens—my mom would crank the heat in the car to warm it up while I was getting ready and then drive me to the bus stop, where I would sit in the car until the bus was in sight. The lowest it got here was 2 degrees, and I am sure that I remember it getting a lot colder. As a matter of fact, I just googled that and discovered we had temps as low as -25 in 1985 in Cincinnati. But they closed school. There was no snow or ice on the ground, no slick roads, no frozen pipes at the school. It was just cold.

It seemed like winter break was never going to end. John and I were never going to have a single moment of peace. Armageddon was going to strike, Hell was freezing over, and we would have to home-school the children from now on. I was on the verge, man.

Finally, on January 10th, the boogers got on the bus and headed back. They were out of school for 29 days in total. I sincerely hope they tack the extra unplanned missed days onto the end of the school year. I am now on a mission to treasure every moment of silence until June, and promise to never take a peaceful moment for granted for as long as I live.

Finally,

Lucky 13

The rest of the world was preparing for Christmas. I woke on the sofa in our living room after a night spent binge-watching Netflix the night before. On one side of the sofa was the twinkling of the lights of our Christmas tree, and on the other side was John, also asleep on the loveseat for the same reason as I was.

John.

Our thirteenth anniversary.

And I just stared at him for a while without his knowledge. I never took note of how his hair has started to thin at his hairline just a bit. I could see that the way his eyes have started to crinkle in the periphery when he smiles completely go away when he sleeps. He has Evan’s and Zach’s dark lashes, that curling, dark fringe women buy high-end mascara to achieve.

I found myself doing what I always do at any milestone: reflecting back. What our thirteenth year of marriage has brought us. It was just a few short months ago that I stood there with all of my medical knowledge flooding my brain while the cardiologist told us what he had found. When he said those words to me: “He really should have open-heart surgery, but my colleagues and I just do not think he would have survived long enough to get the blood thinners out of his system first.” He used my husband’s name and “survive” in the same sentence. And more than anything, I was afraid of that combination. For the first time in our marriage, John became a mere mortal like the rest of us and the idea that there will come a time when one of us will die entered my mind. That’s been hard to deal with from that day and beyond.

And the day they told us that some weird symptoms Evan was having were signs of a brain tumor. We each dealt with it in our own way—he with blind optimism and me with incessant tears— but we did it together. We seamlessly kicked into action as a team to get Evan the imaging studies, the appointments with specialists, and anything else we needed. And when Evan wasn’t looking, we held onto each other and we got through it to the news that Evan was fine.

He finished school this year. He belittles that in the face of what I accomplished this year. But it is what he wanted and he did it on his terms. He has spent years taking a class here or there, in the background while I was in the foreground doing something of my own. And he has started and stopped his classes with no complaints and no questions asked, based on what I was doing or had planned. Whenever it just wasn’t in the cards for both of us to be in school at the same time, he was always the one to drop out or put his on hold. He never would let me make that sacrifice.

And my MBA. Oh, John, my MBA. His MBA. The man has tirelessly chauffeured me around from this class and that class, this meeting and that meeting. he has rubbed my back when I studied and my shoulders were holding just too much tension. He has awakened from a dead sleep to run to the nearest 24-hour store when the printer ran out of ink for that big paper that was due in the morning. My favorite was, while I was pulling an all-nighter in preparation for my huge finance final at the end and my financial calculator died, he returned with both the replacement and a box of my favorite chocolates. And wasn’t it him, all of those years ago, who made that now-famous (in this family, anyway) statement to his dean? “My wife is too smart. What can I do to help her get back into school?” He saw in me what my mom once saw, what I had stopped seeing in myself. What I had given up on.

Those were some of the big things. In between, there were a million little things. And our marriage isn’t perfect. He pisses me off at times, breaks my heart at others. And at the end of each year, in the mashup of Christmas, our anniversary, New Years, and my birthday, I always wish for us to have an easier year next year. This year was no different. But the fact remains that we have been together long enough that our lives have become this intricately-woven tapestry, and you simply can no longer tell where his thread ends and mine begins. He understands me, and I understand him. We belong together. We will get through the bad, the trying, and will celebrate the good together. I cannot live without him.

Here’s to another year. And all it brings us.

This’ll Be My Year

So my 36th birthday is coming up in few days. Blech. I feel like this is the year I need to start going backward on my age. How can I be that old? That’s, like, a grown-up. That cannot be me. But with my birthday comes the dawning of a new year, and I am excited for 2013. We may not see huge changes here, but there are some good things coming out of this year, barring major complications. First of all, we will finally get some answers about Evan. This has been such a long time coming, and even though I will probably be upset when the other shoe drops, I know this is what is needed to get him some help. I’ll need someone to remind me of that when we finally get the official diagnosis.

And I will be finishing school. Me. Finishing. With my masters. No more school for me after that. I swear. I’m finished.

And John will be finishing school. We won’t even go there. Big source of frustration there.

So I hear this song by Train. Yeah, Train. I know they aren’t considered cool by many, but I can actually listen to their music with my kids in the car, which is something I cannot say for most of the music I like. But anyway, this poppy, annoying song gets stuck in yuor head, and I cannot help it–it makes me smile. Because A) it recaps most of the major events in my life. I can remember everything in that damned song. And B) Why yes, Train, this WILL be my year, damnit.

So on New Year’s I will be working. It’s my holiday. I’ll be taking care of patients when the ball drops (wow, for the first time in my life without Dick Clark-sad!) , when I turn 36, when 2013 starts. So in advance, to you and yours, Happy New Year.

The Christmas That Never Was

blog_christmas_no-santaI have done Christmas differently each year. I know, I know. This is not going to win me any points in the Mother of the Year Race. First came the years where we didn’t have a pot to piss in, and I would have to count to know exactly how many paydays I would have before the holiday to come up with a game plan. Then came the years after my first degree, where I would end up working Christmas and Evan would never know if we were going to have Christmas early or late. Then, when Evan got old enough to make his voice be heard, I would let him choose whether he wanted Santa to come early or late. (Always, always early.) And then there was the Great Christmas Con, when Evan decided to celebrate late, went to spend actual Christmas with John’s mom, and conned her into believing that we weren’t buying him gifts, inducing her to spend even more money on him. I could go on, but you get the general idea. Christmas is always an adventure in this home.

This year, I wanted it to be different. I wanted us to have the close, cozy family Christmas. I bought the stuff to bake gingerbread men and chocolate chip cookies with Evan. Nevermind the knowledge that I cannot bake for crap. I’m smart, right? Well that was a disaster that I do not care to recap.

Regarding gifts, I got smart this year. I bought the boys’ gifts online. We were going to do the whole cookies for Santa, Christmas morning surprise thing. I even told some white lies to throw Evan off so he would be surprised that he got what he really wanted when the day came. I am smart. I am clever.

The problem is that my kids are smarter than I ever will be.

Because instead of delivering the packages midday during Evan’s last days of school before the holiday, as was supposed to happen, Fed Ex decided to knock on the door of this small-ass house in the middle of dinner. John and I recovered nicely, though. Instead of bringing the boxes in through the living and dining rooms where the kids were, he ran them around to the basement.

Then Zach wandered into the basement, following John, who was doing laundry. He found one of the small gifts, a Super Grover, his favorite Sesame Street character. John didn’t have the heart to tell him that he couldn’t have it, so Zach carried it around the house, with it still attached to its box. That is when Evan saw and, thinking it unfair that his brother got a gift early, went in search of the loot.

The moral of the story is that I returned from work one day to find that the kids had found all of their gifts and were even playing with some. The incessant begging ensued. Mom-can-I’s started. One by one, with each of the gifts, I gave in. And by the time I had the time, I had absolutely no desire to even put up the tree. No gingerbread men and milk for Santa. No Christmas morning surprises. All of it, gone. Except the turkey. John insists on cooking the bird, but I got the flu and spent Christmas unable to even hold down clear fluids. The result? Christmas dinner the day after Christmas.

You could say this holiday has been a huge failure. I’m choosing to think of it as Zach’s speech therapist described it: this is truly a Christmas we will never forget. And after all, aren’t those memories the whole point of all of it:?

 

The Great Independence Day Cupcake Fail

What to bring to a 4th of July Parade and Picnic when you only have one good arm? Sugar-free chocolate cupcakes. Makes perfect sense. I had visions of this, except with red, white, and blue sprinkles.Image Well, this isn’t what I got. Let me start from the beginning.

First of all, the plan for cupcakes was so ill-conceived that I really should have seen it coming. I am right-handed and my right arm is the one that is totally effed up. Bad idea indicator #1. Still, like the Little Engine That Could, I was convinced I could make it work. I mixed the ingredients into the mixing bowl and tried to stir. Problem is that my left arm is weak and awkward, and had about as much rhythm as Poindexter at a rap concert. Enter the help of John to beat the batter for me . Then I tried to fill the cupcake liners. Instead of neat little filled cups, I ended up with the chocolate batter slopped all over. I just figured no biggie, so long as the actual cupcakes come out ok.

And they did. They really did. I played online while I waited for them to cool, all while verbally confronting Evan over the harrassment I was receiving to “just eat one now”. I resisted.

Time to ice those bad boys.

Shit.

Let me just tell you that I suck at cake/ baked good decorating anyway, even when I am not impaired and trying to do it with my non-dominant hand. What I ended up with was what I imagine Rain Man with advanced Parkinson’s would create. It was horrible. So I scraped off the icing and started with a fresh batch of frosting. This time I took my time, painstakingly putting tiny dabs of icing on at a time so they would at least look edible and not like someone took a big shit in a cupcake liner.

I did okay. They didn’t look like my vision, but fuckers, I am impaired and I tried.

So today, we are getting ready to go. John is wresling with the big one and little one while I am trying to get ready. I was trying to pack up the cupcakes to go when I stepped on a Lego. (Please tell me why there was a Lego on my kitchen floor!) It hurt like hell, all of my tons of woman-ness coming down on that damned thing. Before I knew what was happening, the cupcakes bit it. Hard. A few ended up smooshed against the belly of myy pristine white tee (layered with a cute red tank and denim capris because I am a patriotic bitch, thankyouverymuch) and the rest of the two dozen ended up compleely upside down on my white tile kitchen floor, resulting in a gooey chocolate mess, complete with red, white, and blue sprinkles.

Really? Really???? Yeah.

This is why I do not bake. This is why Evan’s class gets cupcakes from the upscale trendy gourmet bakery on his birthday. This is why “bring a covered dish”, to me, will always mean mac & cheese or some shit. Because I suck at the Mrs. Fields shit.

So Happy Fourth of July. No cupcakes for you!

%&#! You, Easter Bunny!

Yeah, you read that correctly. I am cursing out the damned Easter Bunny. Well, I am sure there is something sacreligious about that, but, well, we all know I’m a heathen, so I won’t even act like I care.

Here’s the deal: When it comes to Easter, I….”suck at life” would be putting it mildly.

The Easter saga started a few years back. I was in the throes of pre-medicine while working more than any human should work. And since I am a heathen, I just didn’t even think about when Easter was. So I go to work. It’s Saturday night. I work every Saturday night and have for the past six years. Weekends are my gig, man! So I go into work with all of the responsible parents, and they are all discussing Easter. Then damb-ass me, I pipe up, “When the hell is Easter, anyway?” To which I got crickets chirping and blank stares, as if to say, “This bitch produced children?”. So in desperation, I call John. I tell him to take my debit card and go to the store and get Evan an Easter basket right then! There! Problem solved. So I get off in the morning and I discreetly asked him if he, you know, handled business. Yeah, he did in his mind. He handled it the John way. As in, he bought a package of those Reese eggs and handed them to Evan, saying, “Here, kid. Happy Easter.” Seriously? No grass? No cute basket? No waking up to a surprise? Seriously, the kid’s childhood is probably in shreds as a result. So I made a mad dash to the store instead of going to bed. And there were no Easter baskets. The closest thing I could find was a hamper. Yeah. In desperation, I bought the damned thing and ran through the toy section, tossing smallish toys in there and whole bags of candy. And I ran home, left the basket in the driveway, and shouted to Evan that the Easter Bunny must have been in a hurry and dropped it off out front instead of bringing it in. And I swore that next year, I would do better.

The next year, guess who was working! Yeah, me. And this time, I won’t even give you a story. I forgot the fucking Easter basket. I gave it to him in a laundry basket. Not even a pretty wicker one, but a beige plastic Rubbermaid one. He got candy, though. There was always the next year.

The Laundry-Basket-as-Easter-Basket still lives! Here is Zachy playing in it as proof!

The next year–SURPRISE!—I was Pregosaurus Bitch and on bedrest, only permitted to break orders unless I was going to a doctor’s appointment or something. Well, that year, options were limited. Evan was with us as I rode the damned Handi-Scooter thingy through Target. By this time, all illusions of the fucking Easter Bunny were dashed, and I just wanted to get the stuff and go home.

This year…

This year, I was so …GOOD! I was Uber-Mommy. I bought the baskets way in advance. I made them up. I got the boys their Easter gifts. We don’t usually do monster baskets full of candy. I always give some, and then make up for the small amount by buying a decent present–who needs that many jelly beans???) I was good. I managed to conquer Easter. Ah-HA!

So for the past few nights, I have been working. The Easter baskets are hidden in the house and all John has to do is sit them on the coffee table before the boys wake up on Sunday morning. Good to go! Saturday morning, I am sleeping off a twelve-hour night shift. I wake up. I stagger to the coffeemaker, when John tells me, “Hey! Don’t let Zachy touch you! He’s all sticky.” Oh. Okay. WhatthefuckEVAH! I continued my old-lady shuffle in my slippers before thinking about it. Why is Zachy sticky?

So I do a double take. And Zachy has a huge sucker/ lollipop thingy. Hmmmm.

“John, where did Zachy get the lolli?”

“Oh, I don’t know. He brought it to me, so I opened it for him.”

“Yes, but WHERE DID HE GET IT?!?”

“I SAID, ‘I DON’T KNOW’!”

I’ll tell you where the midget got it. He got it from his fucking Easter basket. That he found. And raided. Along with his brother’s. Screw “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”. This is the tale of The Zachy Who Sabotaged Easter. I tossed all of the pastel-foil-wrapped shit back into the baskets, tried to arrange them so they didn’t look like the Easter Bunny took a pastel-colored poop in them, and tried to save Easter. The boys still got their candy.

Fuck it.

Next year????? Next year, we’re having a Passover seder. L’ Chaim!

Sauced Memories

Nothing brings back memories of my mother like this picture. Mom was…well, just Mom. Like me, only a little softer around the edges. And scented with Anaiis like I rock out Versace Bright Crystal.

Every single year for Thanksgiving, all of my grown siblings and their gaggles of children would flood our house. Mom could cook. Her specialty, which she swore was no big deal, was her homemade lasagna. Somehow, over the years wihout her here, I have learned to make her lasagna. But anyway, Thanksgiving dinner…

Mom would have been slaving away in the kitchen, even in the years she was really sick, for days. It started with her having to take breaks. Then there was the grren-blue line of oxygen tubing stretching across the kitchen floor from her oygen concentrator, which was too large and heavy to be moved. Then we got to the point where she had to sit at the table and have me bring her stuff to peel, dice, slice, season. But still she insisted on the elaborate holiday meal, made completely from scratch. But there was one thing she would not make. Ever.

Cranberry sauce.

Nobody in my family liked it or even ate it just to be polite. But apparently it is required of Thanksgiving dinner. It simply had to be there on the table. So every year I can remember, Mom would buy the canned cranberry sauce that comes out in a gelatinous mold with the rings of the cans still tattooed on it. I know now that most people who cheat and use the canned stuff will at least slice or chop it so it is no longer in can-formation. But this is my mother we’re talking about. And by the time she had finished making yeast rolls from scratch, roasting the turkey, cooking the sweet potatoes/ mashed potatoes/ veggies/ homemade stuffing/ gravy/ from-scratch pumpkin pies (not even canned pumpkin in her recipes–she used the real thing), she really didn’t give a damn about something nobody ate. But yet it had to be there.

So she would get a standard cereal bowl–most likely Tupperware–and just thunk the can, upside down, into the bowl as the “sauce” slithered out. And rings and all, she would put it on the table amidst all of the dishes she would prepare from scratch, all artfully displayed. It was like the bastard child of the Thanksgiving meal, that ugly plastic bowl with the can-shaped mold. But it was there, per tradition.

The last Thanksgiving she was here, she forgot the sauce. And though I have never seen anyone so much as take a spoonful from the monstrosity, she fretted over its absence. Finally, one of my brothers-in-law went to the store and bought it so she could rest easy.

Most Thanksgivings, we go to John’s mom’s. She can cook, too. Her food is delicious, made from recipes passed down from her mother. But it has never been the same. And each year, I miss my mom. I keep waiting for the time that the memories fade and missing her isn’t so palpable. Somehow, that time never comes. I wish John could have met her. His mom makes homemade cranberry salad. He laughed when I told him the story of the canned sauce. Each year, as the cans take their prominent place on grocery store shelves for the holidays, he asks me to repeat the story for him, and he laughs like it is the first time hearing it. He would have loved her.

I could take or leave Thanksgiving dinner. It has never, ever had the same appeal for me since Mom’s death.

There’s more missing from the holiday than a Tupperware bowl with a can-shaped mold in it.