Some holidays are high on oxytocin, the mothering hormone that makes you actually love these little people who are running you ragged all year long. Other years the holidays are a matter of survival. Put one foot in front of the other. Focus in on their eyes. Listen to what's actually being said. Tune out the little monologue in your head and help yourself to another plate of turkey--tryptophan as mommy's little helper.
I'm having one of those Thanksgiving weekends this year. Nothing too tragic, just the overall awareness that nothing's perfect and there's more than a little repair work to be done in this fixer-upper life of mine. Here's my Rx for holidays that are more feel-better than feel-good.
Send in for the supersisters. Go ahead, lock yourself in the bathroom for five minutes and dial out. Your supersisters can totally hang with a five minute conversation to help you regain your equilibrium. An even better option? See if that tried-and-true friend will do the holidays with you. Everything got easier for me on Thursday when Fatou walked in the door.
Do what's right in front of you. That's right. Focus in on the next task and give it all your attention and love. If that means chopping, chop. If that means sweeping, sweep. By drilling down to this one essential moment, you open yourself up to a new point of view that isn't quite so glum.
Leave the heavy lifting for later. Now is not the time to fix your marriage or figure out the intricate missteps of your complicated childhood. No, leave that for another day when you have time and energy to make real progress. If you really cannot leave your family dysfunction on the back burner for now, throw in a movie and let someone else's fictitious rendition distract you. My dysfunctional family favorites? The Family Stone and One True Thing.
Let a little child lead you. Kids know how to have fun any day of the week, whether the turkey is ready or not. See if you can insert yourself in whatever game or activity has them going right now. A little lego-time, one chapter out of a favorite book, even running around and making noise--all of it will help you get out of your head and into the now.
Eject if necessary. Every mother has years where she needs a little break from all the chaos to get her bearings. Volunteer to run the errand, pick up the butter, take the dog for a walk. Even fifteen minutes out of the house can turn things around in a major way.
What helps you turn the holidays around?
What makes a great thanksgiving?
Being with great friends
Stand in grandparents when you can't be with your own
Turkey rubber duckies
Oscar the Cat
The edible pilgrim hat cookie craft
Playing highly competitive board games late into the night, boys vs. girls a must
Let's relish in the holiday a moment longer before the next holiday rolls over us. What made your Thanksgiving great? or not so great?
At this time of year, it seems like it's the middle of the night practically 70% of the day. I wake up in the morning and it is pitch black out. Five o'clock? Pitch black.
So the other morning part of me cringed when I laid in bed. I was sure it was 3 a.m. when I heard the pitter patter of little feet moving across the bedroom floor. Wordlessly his father pulled Nate into bed and plopped him down in the middle of us. I remained silent and didn't move a muscle. Sometimes playing possum can buy you a few more minutes sleep.
He began to chat with great animation in his garbled baby talk that is slowly growing into big boy conversation. His father grunted responses but I remained silent. After about five minutes, he realized I was in bed too.
K: Good morning, Nathan. Go back to sleep. It's night time.
He flipped over to face his father and said "MOMMY."
Derek: That's right. Mom's in bed with us. Go back to sleep.
Nathan: (sighing happily) Mommy.
With that he began to awkwardly pat my back.
Nathan: 'ove you.
Kristen: I love you too, Nae.
Nathan: 'ove you.
Kristen: I love you too, Buddy.
I flashed to the moment Lindsay from Graco told the world on Twitter that her two-year-old had told her that she loved her (unsolicited) for the first time. I remembered not being able to remember when Ethan had done that and feeling a little sad. Now here I was in bed in the middle of the night (it was actually 6:28 a.m.) and I was having this incredibly sweet moment that I would remember forever because there were no other distractions from life to draw me away.
Moments later his brother joined us in bed and it just got crazy as they started a tickle war. As tired as I was, I laid there for just a few minutes more, basking in the delight that is my life. These funny, spirited, wonderful kids and their amazing father: it's what I am most thankful for this year.
I used to have visions of lovely tables with artful placecards and cloth napkins, freshly bathed children and of-the-earth side dishes adorning a perfectly cooked organic free range turkey. This would be secondary, of course, to our long cherished holiday traditions rife with homemade charm and heartfelt sharing (see lovely note above). We would be one of those families, the ones that make your mouth gape open when you read about them in Mothering magazine. The ones who are so casually down to earth that surely they can only be nothing but absolutely perfect.
The real Thanksgiving (at least at my house) is way more complicated. There are no discernible traditions to speak of. We are more the pajama, wear-what-you-had-on yesterday kind of celebrants. The dishes are laden with preservatives, cream, butter and an ungodly amount of bacon. The guests are from down the street, up the block, around the world--a collection of stray friends with no where else to go, not to mention the occasional stranger.
This is how we do the holidays--laid back, open to outsiders, and for the most part, fairly stress-free.
There's no way to know which pieces of our holiday habits our kids will hold on to twenty Thanksgivings from now. I don't think my mother had any idea how all those years in the kitchen would turn out to be the most cherished memory of all--even if in reality she spent years doing all of the cooking before we were old enough to help. Still, these little quirky things we keep returning to are the stuff of our holiday stories. Our attempts at perfection will quickly be forgotten, but all the rest? That will stay, and for this I'm so, so glad.
Here's a little holiday survey to take with your kids. Use these questions on your own tribe or answer for yourself.
Do you have any memories of Thanksgiving when you were a little kid? (Little kids especially love to answer this kind of question.)
What's your favorite thing about Thanksgiving?
Do you have a secret Thanksgiving wish?
Comments are open for your favorite replies.
I always feel like Thanksgiving somehow gets lost in the shuffle between Halloween and Christmas. It's the less glamorous holiday but it continues to be my most favorite.
My sisters and I have to call each other a minimum of 684 times preparing for the day and that's if we are spending it together. Lord only knows the number if we are not.
It is a tradition to talk excessively about what time to put the turkey in and how it is never ready on time anyway. Who cares about the turkey, it's all about the side dishes. The recipes no longer exist on a 3x5 card, you must track down my mother or a younger sister with a better memory. These are the things that make a holiday.
As the years go by, I find myself marking experiences that bring us together in my own little family. Sometimes they are carefully crafted and others just spontaneously happen, some make their way into memory boxes and other just live in our thoughts.
I saw the idea of making a Thankfulness tree around the web the last few days and
thought it might be fun to make with the kids.
Of course, any project with hopes of success should start with a snack.
And then there is the token be-careful-with-the-scissors warning.
The boys cut out the leaves while I cut out the tree.
Here are the leaves, we wrote what we are thankful for on them.
This is my very nobby tree.
A few things we are thankful for: Legos, little sisters, the blackberry (papa's choice), pizza, facebook...
Our not finished tree, we thought we might take it with us on Thanksgiving day so everybody can add to it.
Who knows, it might be the next treasured tradition?
What are your Thanksgiving family traditions? Any new ones you are working on cultivating or do you prefer the kind that unfold on their own? do share...
The woman walked by with her two-year-old in a stroller. People stared in disbelief as the little girl scrolled her way through her mother's playlist on her I-Pod, looking for her favorite songs.
"I know, I know," she said, mistaking the look on my face. "I am indulging her but she's tired of being at this craft show. If I wanted to make my way through the whole thing, I had to buy her time by letting her use it."
I clarified that that look on my face was one of empathy (I have one of those kids) and the overwhelming sense that if these kids are making their way through our technology at two, what's going to happen when they are 12?
Derek showed Ethan how to access a game on his phone. He really couldn't explain the game to him because the game was complicated (and he probably couldn't figure it out himself). Now we find Ethan hiding in hallways, playing the game over and over, reaching new levels every day. Today my phone was missing. This photo shows you where my phone was hiding. I just didn't expect them to both be playing the game. These kids (and technology) are going to be the death of me.
It's the week before Thanksgiving--here's this week's collection of posts to encourage, inspire and get you (and those wild kids!) ready for a great week of connection, gratitude and love.
Are you in a panic thinking about what kind of calamities can happen this week when your children are sitting around the same Thanksgiving table as grownups with long histories with Miss Manners? Check out this good advice from the granddaughter of none other than Miss Emily Post herself.
Need a little perspective? Read about the adventures of Maggie Doyne, a young woman in her twenties who has taken the title Supersister super seriously as she invests her life and energy in being oh-so-sisterly to children at risk in Nepal. You'll be inspired to keep your kids close and look around for more ways to enrich the lives of others around you. You can do something amazing in the blink of an eye.
This humble confession from mom extraordinaire Jen Zug is perfect reading for anyone wondering which battles to pick as we move full force into the holiday season. Sometimes the best defense is offense when it comes to averting kid-like disasters.
And here's a chance to lend a sister a hand. Shannon from Rocks in My Dryer is asking her readers to join her in writing for the Mother Letter Project. A certain anonymous husband is asking people to write letters of encouragement to his wife about mothering, an idea that came to him after the family decided less is more this holiday season. What could be a better surprise than that?
As always, leave your favorite links in the comments below.
"Mom, I am pretty powerful today." Jack said as he put on his socks.
"Oh yeah? You are Jack, but tell me what is making feel powerful." I replied.
"Well, I have my new comfy pants on (sweat pants), Josiah and I have a super brother match (they were wearing matching shirts), it's only 2 days until video game day and I have Christmas cake in my lunch."
He nodded his head with the confidence anything can be conquered today. It was the kid equivalent of a power tie. I love those days when you feel like everything is going your way. Your clothes, your connections, your future, your experiences. I can only imagine what Jackie-boy will do with all that power. After all, a super brother match is a pretty amazing thing.
Tell me friends, what makes you feel powerful?
Is it a great pair of shoes, a good work out, a promotion at work?
Tell us in the comments.
I took the kids to the park yesterday. Sure it was only 27 degrees but I have had enough of the noise in my house. Unless I invest in ear plugs (and I think it might be a safety issue in my house if my children can run rampant without my hearing them), I've decided that a nervous breakdown is next on the to-do list. Or I can poke my ears out with a fondue fork but that seems so permanent.
It was too cold at the park. Maybe if the kids were wearing gloves, but how exactly do you get a toddler to wear gloves? I'm open to any and all suggestions. Instead, Nathan stood in the middle of the playground holding his hands up in the air and screaming. I tried to get him to let me warm up his hands but he was having no part of it.
His brother? Laid down in the parking lot and refused to get up. This was one of his finer moments, I think. He said he was too cold to play so he laid down on the cold asphalt. There I was, 6 months pregnant, trying to stop a toddler from screaming and trying to get a preschooler off the pavement. I looked in the side mirror of the car to look at my sad self and I realized that head-butting incident the day before had resulted in quite a shiner. I wondered what would happen if I was the one who laid down on the asphalt and refused to get up.
Note to self: I may want to consider indoor options as locales for poor behavior. Lying on the asphalt beside your three-year-old in 27 degree weather is for the dogs. And it doesn't look like his behavior is getting better any time soon.
After years and years of not having a working television in the house, we have finally surrendered to the three major networks plus public television, courtesy of the handy-dandy rabbit ears over the very outdated set we inherited from the neighbors. It might as well be 1984 around here.
Before you gasp in admiration (or simple shock) let me assure you our kids have missed not one beat of popular culture over the course of their collective childhoods. Every show they could ever pine for is available in one form or another online (see veg out session above), and they have spent hours catching up on every episode on whatever is the latest and greatest according to the playground digerati.
Now that we have real TV, however, I'm feeling more of a need to control or limit their access. Online if they want to watch hours and hours of WordGirl, I'm delighted since I figure they're learning something. But an hour's worth of commercials in between Saturday morning cartoons? Not so much.
What are your strategies for limiting screen time at your house? Do you make a differentiation between TV and computer time? How do you handle advertising and how much exposure your kids have to media messages?