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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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?

>On White Death, Lot Stalkers, and Missing Winter

> It’s that time of year again. The White Death, as we jokingly refer to snow at work. Because, I am sorry to say, but Midwesterners cannot drive in snow. At all. And this pic was taken from my front doorstep. Gah!
I had to work last night, and the common note all night was “How are/ were the roads????” All night, I heard this, from people coming and going from the hospital. It was just a little bit of snow, hyped up by or local media. A headline from a local channel’s website: “Continuing Snow Likely to Produce White-Out Conditions”. Seriously.
As you can see from the picture, the roads were pretty clear. And this was a non-treated side street! And it was far from a white-out! Still, drivers went anywhere from 2 to 10 mph as if we were driving on foot-thick ice. If they weren’t going that slow, than they were going 60 mph. There is no happy medium from sensible people, which is where my fear of winter driving comes in: the idiots. Too-slow or too-fast driving means you are likely to cause an accident that may involve me. These people just don’t get it.

Of course being home in the Cincinnati area is much better than when we lived about 4 hours’ drive south of here. Those people freaked with a mere few flurries of the white stuff. Schools would shut down for a week with just an inch of snow, which is pretty ironic in an area where the vehicle of choice is a huge 4×4 pickup truck that practically begs to be driven on the stuff. And at the slightest hint of snow in the forecast, the grocery stores would be jam-packed with people stocking up on canned goods and bottled water as if we were on the brink of a nuclear holocaust. The only thing I can even compare it to was when we lived down there on 9/11 (not that I would compare snow to that, but that is the way people reacted). Gas stations had lines of people down the block, grocery stores were full, and everyone was running around in mass hysteria. I, on the other hand, was 10 days out from my c-section with Evan and home with my newborn, clutching him to my chest and full of fear for the world I had brought him into and fear for my husband who was still classified as “Inactive Ready Reserve” as a sniper for the Marine Corps.

Of course all of the public schools closed today. All of them. I have to hand it to the Sisters who run Ev’s school: they don’t panic. Ev had school today as a result. Last winter, when public school students had weeks upon weeks of snow days, Evan’s school only had 3 days where the normal schedule was disrupted: One day was closed from the start after we had a literal dumping of snow overnight (the day it came up to Evan’s waist!). One day was a one-hour delay because everyone was closing and they delayed to find out just how bad driving conditions were. And there was one day where they called all of us parents to tell us they were dismissing at noon because they had called for an ice storm, and for once it was accurate and the ice had started, so they sent the kids home before it got too bad. So all-in-all, about 1.5 snow days for the entire winter, where the public school kids had scads of them. (Incidentally, Evan got out of school for the summer over 3 weeks before they did because they had so many days to make up! Just in time for Evan to be there when his new baby brother entered the world!)

Of course the concurrent White Death and the need for Christmas shopping brings on a whole other phenomenon, and I wonder if the rest of the country experiences this: Lot Stalkers. A Lot Stalker, in case you don’t know, is the person who will start a traffic jam at a store/ shopping center/ mall in order to wait for your parking space. I am the wrong person to stalk, because unless you have some disability that is indicated by a tag on your mirror or a specially-marked license plate, I will intentionally make you wait. I’ll take my sweet time loading my purchases into the car and taking the cart to the little cart corral. I will wait for the defroster to clear every smidge of frost from every window of my car instead of just using my ice scraper. I will allow it a full 20 minutes to warm up if need be (hey, they can’t tell by looking at my car that I have an engine-block heater that makes this redundant!). I will search through my glove box for my mp3 player and scroll through thousands of songs to find that one tune. I will take time adjusting my mirrors and securing my seatbelt. I will turn around and double-check the integrity and position of Evan’s seatbelt. I’ll make a phone call. Finally, I will start to back out of the space. By that point, if you are hardcore enough to wait for it through all of that, you deserve the damned space. Of course this year, it is even easier for me to torture them because I now have an infant to secure into a carseat or carseat base, and a stroller to put away before I can even load my stuff into the car. Ha! I should explain what made me so cruel. A few years ago, when I was in the midst of the interview process for jobs, before I accepted my current position, I had gone to a local discount store to buy pantyhose in a hurry. I was on my way to an interview when my hose got this horrendously obvious run up the leg. Lo and behold, lot stalkers attacked and I ended up in a line of traffic because the driver in front was waiting for a spot. I’ll never forget it, because the lady who originally had the spot occupied had, like, 3 kids to get in the car, and it took her forever to free up the space. But there was an already-empty space two spots down, and the driver in front of the line of cars couldn’t possible walk that extra distance! No! So I ended up sandwiched in, and subsequently late for my interview. That was the only interview I have ever had that did not result in an offer, and I blame lot stalkers! So now it is my personal mission to teach all of them a lesson: walking just a bit further is not going to kill you!

Of course I gripe about all of this, but secretly I am in love with winter this year. Our snow didn’t really start until late in the season last year. Translation: I missed it all. There was no sled-riding or snowman-building with Evan. I was on bedrest. My experiences with snow last year involved John coming into whichever room I happened to be camped in and opening the blinds so I could see our yard prettily-blanketed, or the short drives when I had to go to the hospital for the umpteenth time. Of course for those outings, I was contracting 40 or so times a minute and couldn’t have cared less what the weather or roads were like. So other than Evan sipping hot chocolate and playing board games with me in bed for his 1.5 snow days, I missed winter last year. I didn’t clear any sidewalks or worry about driving because I wasn’t allowed to drive. I missed the days John had to struggle to get the car out because I was contracting like crazy and he just knew I would end up at the hospital at some point that day. I just knew when I needed to go, the car was already at the top of our hill of a driveway and warmed up for me in all of my pregnant glory. My only worry was getting from house to car without slipping on ice at a time when I was already clumsier than normal.

So Lot Stalkers and White Death be damned, I am determined to enjoy winter with my family this year.

>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.