Friday, December 21, 2012

Trapped in Tradition

When I was a kid I loved December. It meant pretty lights and good cheer, presents… and more presents because it also meant my birthday. I kinda hated that my birthday always had to get lost in the Christmas celebrations, but I still really enjoyed the season.

When I became a Mom that all changed and I can’t help but dread December these days. It’s just too much damn mandated celebration at once. We start the month… right after Thanksgiving mind you… with our Anniversary. I have to admit that this is usually very nice. It did take several days of schedule rearranging to carve out some time for us, but we did it. By then I’m already worrying about how I’m gonna get what we need for Hanukkah and Christmas and birthdays though. As if two holidays aren’t enough, I married a man who also has a birthday in December. The stress starts mounting, and it’s hard to relax and enjoy the day.

Hanukkah isn’t too bad and can happen while normal life continues, but there are presents and candles and gelt and sometimes a party or two. Christmas is a tradition I decided I couldn’t not celebrate when we got married. I’m not a believer, but I couldn’t give up the tree and everything that went with it.  Now I wish I had never started with the whole crazy thing. I mean, each little thing is no big deal (stocking stuffers, personal presents, Santa presents, etc.), but I spend most of December worrying if I have enough gifts, if we are going to get the tree up, if I filled the Advent calendar, and if I can get my baking done in time for the extra parties and celebrations we need to go too. Also, the house needs to be cleaned before our Christmas/New Years guests arrive (still not done). Cards… forget it.

I get to do all of this while also continuing to shuffle the kids around to their classes and getting them to do their schoolwork, and shopping and cooking as usual. Birthday!? Bah humbug. Don’t make me celebrate any more please. I haven’t exercised in days and I’ve had way too many sweets and the scale shows it. Also, I’m supposed to be happy about being a year older?! Somewhere around 35 another year became a cause for mourning, not a celebration in my head.  Again…Bah Humbug.

I should be counting my blessings though, right? Now that I got all of that complaining out of my system I think I can do that. Here goes…

I get to see my extended family, people I love but don’t see most of the year. They all come to see me and I don’t have to go anywhere. Pretty cool, right? I’m sick of driving.

Right now my immediate family is downstairs making me a birthday breakfast. I’m often so frustrated with my daughter, but I love her so, and I love that she wants to do so many things for me, even if I don’t really want a cake or a yarn bracelet and I’m always cleaning up her creative messes.
I’ll get a big hug from my son, which will be worth 50 gifts. I’ll also probably get a lovely dinner out from my husband.

I’m thankful that I don’t have to worry about how we are going to buy gifts. My husband has a good job and for that I am very thankful.

Everyone in our house is mostly healthy, and for that I am particularly thankful.

If I could hire another me to do all of that holiday froohaahaa I would. Then I could really enjoy the season again. Maybe after today I’ll have some time to catch up on things and not feel so stressed. It’s the particular curse of the Mom (or other responsible adult) in America to be caught in this holiday tradition treadmill. It’s just particularly bad for me with all of the extra stuff thrown in.

I need to rant every now and then, but I know I am blessed.

How do you survive this season? Are there things you do to save time? Are you so good that you get your shopping done in November? I’d be interested in hearing your ideas.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

November: writing, art, history, and geocaching

Well, the good news is that I did it. I actually wrote 50,000 words in a month, and it was a crazy month full of a whole lot of chauffeuring and field trips and a whole week on vacation. I wasn't even going to do it before my daughter talked me into it and I'm not sure my book is even anything worth sharing with anyone, but I'm glad I did it. It's one of those things I always thought I could probably do but never really knew for sure. Now I know I can. If you feel you have a book in you somewhere or have a writing bug, join us next year. It's a steep hill to climb, but if I can do it working an hour or so a night or in fifteen minute increments during the day, I bet you could too. Heck, I didn't even have a plan! I just started writing and made it all up as I went.
National Novel Writing Month

Anyway, while I and my daughter were madly writing in our "free" moments, a lot of other stuff happened.

We took a tour at the North Carolina Museum of Art with our art teacher. They have a still-life exhibit that is very good right now, and given someone to show you the differences and interesting contrasts with the different pieces, it was more enjoyable that one might think.

The exhibit is called Still-Life Masterpieces: A Visual Feast From the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. It will be open here in Raleigh until January 13. Here is a great link to the museum website, where you can see some photos and purchase tickets if you live in the area and care to go.

We also took a tour with one of our co-ops to see the Historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. This cemetery has a significant number of Civil War graves. Many of the men were moved from northern sites, such as Gettysburg, after the war, when the government decided that Confederate soldiers should be moved to the south. There is a lone Union soldier in the cemetery, mistakenly moved and not identified until later. This was a spot with a great deal of real history. The kids had been learning about the Civil War, and this was a very poignant way to see the cost of that war. Many of these men could clearly be seen to have just been barely men when they died. Birth and death dates are on the many of the graves. Of course, there are several that are unknown. After a tour the kids did a rubbing of a grave of their choice. My son found a soldier with the same first name as him and a birthday in the same month. It was a very meaningful visit and well placed just before Veterans Day. It didn't hurt that that it was also beautiful and sunny out. 

Another historical site we visited was Bennett Place, which is the site of a major surrender to end the Civil War. It was a farmhouse located in Durham along a major roadway to Raleigh. Generals Joseph E. Johnston and William T. Sherman met here to negotiate the peaceful surrender of Johnston's confederate army. It was the largest surrender of the war. There is a museum and you can get a tour of the house, which is filled with humble 1865 furnishings like the family would have had. Our tour concerned how the family would have lived, pumping water from the well across the road each morning, and all of the other chores the children would have done. I have visited this site before and heard about the solider's life during the Civil War. A re-enactor in period dress showed us how food was cooked over a fire. He also shot a musket for us. This site is a must for anyone learning about the Civil War in North Carolina.

In our 4H group, my son has been learning about orienteering and geocaching, while my daughter has been having fun with photography. If you don't know, geocaching is where you use a GPS to locate various things hidden around. They could be in a tree in the forest or behind a sign. Let me tell you, there are little things hidden ALL OVER. If you are curious, check out You can get coordinates there and see a map. It has been a lot of fun and I hope we can do more of this in the future. Apparently, if you have a smart phone there is a free app you can download for coordinates and GPS directions. I don't have one of those cool phones, but if you do, I think the app would be a great resource. 

There was soccer and horseback riding, and then we left town for Thanksgiving. Those are just the high points of our month. There is so much to catch up on and share. Now that (I think) I have things fixed here on my blog, I hope to post a bit more regularly. We're on to the next set of holidays already... more soon!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Technical Difficulties

Hmmm. Now that I'm ready to get back to posting marvelous things here, it's seems there are some technical difficulties that I need to work out. Hopefully I can post some more stuff soon!