Sunday, November 24, 2013

December looming

As I look at my grocery list and wonder if there is anything I absolutely need before Friday, anything that is worth descending into the hell that is supermarket the week before Thanksgiving, I realize that holiday is almost here. It's late this year, so two days later, the Christmas season is upon us. Christmas, and of course, December.

I'm not ready.

As my mind tries to grapple with birthday party—which kids, how will I fit them and their parents in my house, is my house really still in this utter disarray from my office dismantling this summer?, theme, when—and the special snacks for school and a present and Christmas—crafts and shopping and decorating, my heart is bending in around itself, protecting, pushing back the busyness and all the doing.

I seem to alternate between okay years and not okay years. This feels like one of the latter. Where last year I barged into December ready for battle, ready to reclaim the month or at least some part of it, this year I'm worn out already. I can't seem to get any traction going into the month.

I've done my usual clearing of the slates as much as possible: no appointments, no work from difficult clients, no tight deadlines. I'm trying to get myself organized to wrap up the gift part early, get that out of the way. My family is helpful. They realize that this month still wipes me out. They offer to pick up or order gifts that will bear my name, and sometimes I take them up on it. I hand off the toughest of my nieces and nephews to Brian.

I look at my to do list and think about what I really have to do and which things I really want to do. I try to cross out the rest. But there is an almost five-year-old who wants a real birthday party this year. The kind with games and cake. If it were not this month, if life had not taken that wrong turn a year before she was born, I would be all over it. We'd have fun picking a theme, figuring out games and activities and decorations, decorating a cake. I don't want to throw a birthday party in the middle of December, but even more I don't want to let my daughter down. I have grappled with this since before she was born, since I stared down that first December without Henry and waited for her to arrive.

When I ask who she wants at her party, she starts listing her cousins. Maybe I'm trying to tackle this all wrong. I keep trying to get out of the way and hear what it is that's important to her, try to strip down my own expectations of what birthday means. I try to create simple traditions, ones I can pull off, ones that can grow with us. I love the idea of a quiet tradition that fits our family, but I remember birthday parties—the DIY, homemade affairs that I grew up with, the kind my sisters give their kids. I toy frequently with the idea of a summer half-birthday party as the time to do all the games and activities. I don't know how to sell her on that though, so I keep coming back trying to figure out what it is in her head.

I am looking forward to
  • putting up the tree with the girls
  • the wrapped up books advent calendar that I'm planning for them
  • sleeping with Kathleen on her birthday, because she is so excited about it
  • the tea party to honor Brian's mom, using the tiny cups she gave the girls
  • seeing their faces Christmas morning

I'm dreading
  • Christmas Eve and the hour and half mass and the scramble to get to Brian's brother's house
  • getting bogged down in things that feel like they need to get done
  • that day just past the middle of the month, the one between the birthdays and Christmas, the one that is dark no matter the weather
Tonight, Elizabeth picked We're Going on a Bear Hunt for her story. December is almost upon us. We can't go over it. We can't go under it. We have to go through it. 
Stumble trip   Stumble trip   Stumble trip


  1. Thinking of you as December comes. I hope it's filled with light and love and also that you are able to carve out some of your own space when you need to so that you can feel what needs to be felt and remember what must be remembered without always having to be "on" for the people around you. And I hope after you stumble trip your way through December, you're able to lock the bear outside and rest for a while.

    I love your lists, and I want to hear more about the wrapped up books advent calendar!

  2. I always think I'll get to rest for a while afterward, but it never really works out that way. Maybe this year.

    As for the advent calendar, yes, give me something happy to talk about : )

    I friend pinned and posted the idea and I latched onto it right away. Basically, you wrap up books for every day of Advent. Every day your child gets to open one and you get to read it together. I'm going to wrap up some of our Christmas and winter books, which I only have out in season, along with a few new ones. The plan is to open at bedtime and read then, but if we're up early enough, it may be a morning tradition.

    The ambitious part of me is going to make cloth bags to reuse for this every year. The bowing to December, realist part of me knows the the books will happen this year, but the bags may not.

  3. I have the same birthday problem. Mine is 9/23, my older son was a preemie on 9/28, and 2 days later on 10/1 was the first ultrasound where we found out their might be a problem. I can't look at pictures of his 2nd birthday without crying, because after months of being sick and on bedrest it was the first day I felt up to being a part of the world. And then 2 days later it came crashing down. I don't know how I will get through our birthdays next year without thinking of the next birthday, Noah's birth and death day. Without thinking that those were our last few happy, blissfully ignorant days.

  4. I think planning a birthday party in December would be overwhelming and stressful even if it was not an emotional month. There is so much going on in this month as it is, then you have the added emotional weight of Henry and the parental duties of a birthday party for you little girl. That is hard! I hope you can find (I know you can find) a way to stumble trip through this month. Maybe she will choose the LIttle Engine that Could tonight and you can say "I think I can, I think I can..."
    Sending love and strength to you.

  5. Thinking of you as we go into December.

    I did the first 'real' birthday party this year - we also have awkward timing being at the end of the summer holidays here in the UK. And yes, like you, I would have been all over it if her twin hadn't died and I hadn't been so bruised and aching and oh . . . well, you know. This year we had a pony and a cake and party bags and games and oh. My heart is in it 100% and also my heart isn't in it at all. The tension is enough to pull anybody in two, not wanting to let the living one down but oh. Oh my heart just goes out to you because it isn't easy and the whole birthday party thing just about drove me mad this year. And that's without Christmas in the mix as well.

    Stumble trip-ping with you.