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,

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Why the am I Getting a Call From a Liquor Store at 10 AM?

So today, I am figuring bills, and just like every late-November/ December, there never seems to be enough money. The car needs new tires. My last car, a little compact, took about $300 to do this. My car now? Well, the cheapest estimate is $775. And then there is Christmas presents. Evan wants an iPod Touch, and music seems to soothe him, and he really uses the El-Cheapo mp3 player he has now, so he shall get what he wants. And he needs a new bike. And scooter. And anything else I can give him to get him active. In other words, we are long-removed from the days where several $20-toys satisfied him. And John broke the artificial tree the last year that we put one up–years ago. I know, I know. I’m a horrible mom. But those are expensive, and I really wanted to put one up this year…..

I was just about to have a mini Andi meltdown when the phone rang this morning. John had left to fill a prescription. And it was the landline, which never rings anymore. “Deters Liquors” said the caller ID. W….T….F?????? It was 10 AM.

And I answer. It’s John. My eyes immediately diverted to the desk, where his cell was wedged in between the modem, printer, and laptop. And then my next reaction: HE HAS ZACH WITH HIM! AT A FUCKING LIQUOR STORE! Parenting at its best, right there. And then my next thought, “This has got to be bad.” We don’t drink. Not wine, not beer. Once every few years, I will have a Grey Goose and tonic on New Years’ when I am not working. Every. Few. Years. Why is my husband at a liquor store that isn’t even on the way to the pharmacy, with my toddler in tow?

“Ummmm, Andrea?”

WHAT THE….”

” I’m gonna be a little longer. I got held up.”

“Whaddya mean, ‘held up’? You have Zach with you. At a liquor store, Dude.”

“Well……I-know-you-hate-when-I-play-the-lottery-and-say-it’s-a-total-waste, but…….”

“BUT WHAT?!?!”

“I bought a $3 ticket and…….I kinda won. Well, no, I did win. A thousand dollars. I’m waiting for them to cash it now, but she had to call her manager to get into the safe to get it.”

I couldn’t really be mad anymore, could I? Though I was still pondering the liquor store. And having visions of my husband having a secret problem that I didn’t know about. Hittin’ the bottle in the wee hours while I’m at work or something. But I should’ve known that that was never John’s style. He had a little incident while drunk in his Marine Corps days that turned him off a long time ago. That and cheating are the two things I never have to worry about with John.

It turned out the story was really innocent. He had stopped to get gas and bought the ticket at a gas station. The place was packed, with really skeevy-looking people. And while John isn’t afraid of anyone, he had enough sense to know that he did not want to get mugged with Zachy in his arms. He had the $1K, plus a substantial sum of my pay on his person, which equated to a pretty healthy sum. He was being protective. And smart. And he went to the liquor store that I used to stop at on the way anywhere to get a Diet Coke. They knew us there, because we would stop because they were never crowded. And he knew this. And so he drove a little out of the way to cash the ticket in where there weren’t skeevy eyes watching him fold the wad of bills into his wallet. I find it all incredibly cute, actually.

So the moral of the story is that we had $997 more than we had when he went to the pharmacy. I felt like I had to do something with the money, so we took a trunk-full of diapers to a local charity for single parents who said they were in desperate need of size 3 diapers. You know—Karma and all. And I replaced the Christmas tree. And paid some bills, all with free money.

If I were a religious person, I would’ve said someone was looking out for me.

Holidays

It’s cold outside. It finally is starting to feel a little wintery. Thanksgiving is next week, which means Christmas is right around the corner. I’m not sure what is going on this year, but it seems as if everyone is rushing the holidays this year. Stores and local businesses were blaring Christmas music immediately after Halloween. My neighbors, who usually grace us with their tackiest of tacky decorations, are already in full swing. There is a countdown on the board at work–X number of days left. The trees have been up for weeks now, and stores have all of their Christmas decorations on full display.

I don’t usually buy into all of this. Last year, I didn’t even put up a tree. Our only real holiday tradition has only ever been going to visit John’s family. Even for the years I have had to work Christmas, this has been the case. For those years, we would just celebrate early or late, depending on my work schedule. This year, things are a little different.

For some reason, I am feeling a little Clark Griswold-ish. I want the family Christmas.  I want to bake cookes with Evan. I want the tree, and the surprises on Christmas morning. I want wreaths and garland. The problem is that I want those things…NOW! It really is far enough away from my norm to be bizarre. I’m not sure what is to blame. Could it be that the stores rushed me? Or that John and I will have been married eleven years as of Christmas Eve? Maybe it is Zach, and that this will be the first real Christmas he will be able to enjoy. Or the difficulties we have had with Evan that make me want to be close to these three guys in my life. Regardless, I just want to be here with them, We’ll put up a tree, bake the damned cookies. I’ll hang stockings with my babies. There’s no fireplace, but we can burn candles and make this place smell like a pine forest. Of course, John isn’t on board for any of this. Well, he is and he isn’t. I’ve tried twice now to get him to go with me to a store to buy a new artificial tree already. (Thought about a live tree this year, but the thought of Zachy eating pine needles doesn’t do it for me.) Of course both of these attempts were shot down. I plan on trying again today, but he insists that we are to wait until after Thanksgiving. (Side Note: I bought a turkey this year, for the first time in many years–for our little family.) He’s right. hat has been the tradition for both of us growing up. After the dishes are washed and leftover turkey is put away, you’re supposed to watch a Christmas special–most likey Rudolph–and trim the tree. But I want to do it now. Not next week, but now.

I just want to be with them. Only them. I don’t even want to buy gifts for anyone else. Just them. What is wrong with me?

>Have Baby, Will Travel

>So we are getting ready for our exodus to John’s mom’s for Christmas. How appropriate that we will spend Christmas Eve (The Great Ten-Year Anniversary, incidentally) in the very house where we were married in a civil service all of those years ago. I’m also excited for John’s mom to meet Zach again. The last time she saw him, we could count the number of his weeks on Earth with 2 hands. He’s a completely different baby by now. What am I also excited about? 6 entire days off! I didn’t even have to use any vacation time, just some creative scheduling and no overtime this week. (side note: It’s amazing I have any vacation time, but I do–2 weeks’ worth. It accrues by the number of hours I work, and I have worked that much since my return from bedrest.)
Anyhow…
What am I not excited for? The trip. Zach is on the verge of sitting, but not quite there. After a minute or so, he will do a complete face plant. Which means baby bathtub must go. Bumbo must go. Pack’n’Play, of course, must go. John is unloading the stroller from the car as we speak, and I am opting for just the Ergo for our travel needs. And then, just when I was singing the praises of the way we have chosen to feed Zach, I found the only drawback: travel. Between frozen and fresh breastmilk, homemade baby food, and more, I have to transport a lot of stuff that must stay cold. I’m trying to get creative because I don’t think I could fit a standard cooler in the car if I tried. So I finally found the benefit of buying all of those pumps, in that each one came with a day carrier. Plus I bought an extra day carrier. And then there are also all of those little ice packs sent in my shipments of breathine to keep the syringes cold. I knew I kept them for a reason. But regardless, it is a Big Operation.
In the meantime, John is out there right now, cleaning out the car that looks as if homeless people live in it. He just came in and said, in complete amazement, “Ha! The mystery is solved!” As he proffered about a half dozen Avent pacifiers that he insists he found in just one floorboard of the backseat. We had been lamenting the disappearance of the binkies just yesterday. I buy them by the truckload, it seems, but can only manage to find one at a time. And I am OCD enough that I match his pacifiers to his outfits, so this has driven me a little nuts. (I know I may need professional help, but hey, my kid always looks good, right?)
Of course this is all going on when John reminds me that I work at the urban ER tonight, which doesn’t have a cafeteria. And so I have to pack food for my shift tonight, my entire pump because there is no lactation room, and more. So God help me, but there is also a huge stockpot of homemade ravioli cooking away on the stove for both my to-go meal and the big boys’ dinner.
Zach keeps farting, and so I know the Great Poop is coming.
Evan cannot find his car charger for his DS. (Seriously, can’t the kid just read a fricken book???)
And speaking of chargers, where in the Blue Hell is the charger for my camera?

And, holy crap, I forgot about all of those Christmas gifts I have to take.
I should’ve Fed-Ex’d ’em.
Screw that. I should’ve stuck with my ghetto, giftcards-for-everyone philosophy. I mean, did I really need to get John’s stepdad the UK Snuggie because it was so cheesy that I found it hilarious?

I need a bigger car.
I still refuse to buy a minivan.
Screw it.

>Zach’s 6-Months Pictures

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I don’t like them. I was terribly disappointed. It wasn’t the photographer. God knows she tried everything! Zachy’s heart just wasn’t in it today. Normally very easy to smile and laugh, today he just looked at her like she was crazy. During the Christmas poses, he was more interested in taking down their tree than at looking toward the camera. But anyhow, here they are…

>No Longer a Believer

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Picture the scene: I am sitting on the floor, playing with Zach and asking him (though I know he won’t answer) what he would like for Santa to bring him for his first Christmas. Evan, who is sitting beside us, erupts into giggles. I ask him what is so funny. He doesn’t answer at first, but after some prodding, he whispers, ” We have to keep up appearances, you know, for Zach.” I ask him what he is talking about, and his reply was, “Zach still believes.”

So we started this whole conversation in which my 9-year-old baby boy confessed that he no longer believed in Santa. When I asked him where all of his Christmas presents come from, he told me he knows I buy them. “Not Daddy because he doesn’t work”, he said. I first tried to deny this, then told him that the money I earn is Daddy’s money, too. That Daddy works taking care of him and of Zach so I can work. He bought this, but still denied Santa Claus.

“Mother, do you really expect me to believe that one man goes to all of those houses, all over the world, in one night??? It would take him all night just to get here from the North Pole.”

First of all, “Mother”????? When did I stop being Mommy or Mama and start being Mother??? Secondly, I tried to explain that Santa is magic, to which I got this reply:
” No way. Magic is just an illusion. And besides, like I said, he couldn’t posibly get to those houses. He would have to travel at the speed of light and no human can do that.”
It became apparent that I was not going to win this one. And then I became sad.
My baby is growing up too fast.
It isn’t that I am so distraught over Santa. I am sad over the loss of innocence. The loss of wonder at the holiday season. He will no longer give that little gasp of surprise and have that little spark of amazement when he sees the gifts under the tree on Christmas morning He won’t hurry to the plate of cookies left for Santa, just to check if they had been eaten. And for him, from now on, Christmas will no longer be magical. He’ll know I worked to pay for those toys. He’ll know John and I stayed up late wrapping them for him. He may even say he is too old to visit Santa and get the cute annual low-quality photo we get to chronicle that year’s holiday season. I can literally see him grow in those photos over the past nine years. And because we are not a religious family, Christmas will just be about gifts.

(Image: Evan at 2 years: when he still believed, when I was still “Mommy”, when Christmas was still magical, and his innocence was still intact.)

>Ghetto Me

>I’ve been bringing out my inner Ghetto self here recently. The evidence is as follows:

Exhibit A:
I have resurrected my maternity coat from last winter. I had been making my other non-maternity coat work–a lovely charcoal wool peacoat–until the lining got snagged and ripped. It came time to buy a new one. I had put it off over and over, but then I bought this beautifully tailord black wool peacoat from a maternity bouique. The thing cost a great deal more than I woud ever spend on a coat. And then I got put on bedrest. So other than a few rogue outings that were against doctor’s orders, it never saw the light of day because I didn’t. Unless you count the gazillion trips to the hospital in which I was so miserable that putting on my coat nver even came to mind. The beauty of this coat is that one could never tell it was maternity witout looking at the tag, and I noticed last weekend that it easily fits around Zach in his Ergo carrier. So I am wearing it this winter.

Exhibit B:
After our run-in with cooties, I need new furniture. I am seriously disgruntled about the bed. But the problem is our home. We live in a 2-bedroom. At the time, the price was right. Plus I was in school, and had no plans of any other children beside Evan. So here comes Zach. It was no biggie at first because I wanted Zach in my room, and if we lived in a 15-bedroom mansion, I still would have put his crib in my room. Plus, there is too much of an age gap to have him share a room with Ev. Evan will be in the throes of ‘tweendom when Zach is a mere toddler. Well, my plan has fallen through. Zach has so much crap that it is taking over the entire house. (Incidentally, I forgot about this part of having a baby.) He needs his own room, and I refuse to move until we are ready to buy. I’m a big girl now and am tired of renting, but we are’t exactly ready to make the leap because I cannot, at this time, afford a house that suits my above-my-means taste. So, as I am perusing furniture, I come up with what I think is a solution: a sleeper sofa! That’s my bright idea. This way, as we are putting our life back together, Zach can have his own room complete with more room in other living spaces bcause his crap will be PUT AWAY in his new, all-to-himself, spcious room. John and I will sleep in the living room on the sleeper sofa. This means that is the only piece I have to buy, too. Of course I realize this will suck afer a while, but I think we can make it work for the interim before we buy a house that fits us better as a family. Then, once we reach that stage, and can be an extra bed for guests. Ghetto!

Exhibit C:
I really don’t give 2 craps about this one! Unless you are my child, you are getting giftcards from me this Christmas. Sorry ’bout it! But odds are, if you got a card or gift from John and I, as a couple, in the past 10 years, I was the one who fought the crowds at the stores, fretted and waffled over what to buy for people who are as unlike me as anyone can get, then waited in line forever, ony to get home and gift-wrap the damned thing I bought. Quite honestly, I don’t have time or energy for that shit this year. I have endured a hellacious pregnancy, fought cooties I brought home from my job taking care of sick people, and subsequently lost everything from said cooties. I attach myself to a milking device every 2 hours, whether I need sleep or not. I have a new baby and haven’t done this crap in 9 years. And I work too much—so much that every offday is another opportunity to work more—about 70 hours per week. No matter how much I love you, I am not going to spend even more time away from my babies on your gift this year. Forgive me. I’ll be less self-centered and tacky next year. Look at the bright side: your acceptance of a thoughtless gift means I may actually find time to take my offspring to see Santa, or give me a chance to bake Christmas cookies with Evan. My children will thank you!

So there you have it: Ghetto Andrea. Just a few examples of how I am losing my class.