The Kindness of Strangers: A Christmas Story

‘Tis the season of sugar highs, long lines, and–miraculously–somehow also the kindness of strangers.

Allow me to set the scene.  It was Christmas Eve Eve Eve (yes, that’s a thing).  The second of four days in a row that Hubby would be working leading up to Christmas Day.  And I had dragged the kids out in a nasty wintry mix so we could do some last minute shopping for Hubby at Barnes and Noble.

If you don’t know, Barnes and Noble is a fairly kid-friendly bookstore, with lots of toys for sale, and usually some kind of train table in the kid section for open play.  So I let the munchkins play with the train table for a while before picking up my gift for Hubby.

At one point, K-Man started to do the potty dance, and said he needed to pee.  So I picked up Ell-Bell, the diaper bag, all of our jackets, and marched him over to the bathroom on the other side of the store.  And when we got there, that little stinker refused to pee, said he didn’t need to go.  Ugh! So, we walked over to the toy section — again, with me juggling all the things — and played around for a bit.  K-Man could not move two feet without knocking a cascade of things off of the shelves.

I was starting to get kind of flustered, so I picked up Hubby’s present and started to wrangle the kids and our things so we could go check out.  Before we got very far, though, K-Man again announced that he had to pee.  Well duh!  Back to the bathroom we went.  After much coaxing, little man did his business and we went up front to pay for our things.

As it was Christmas Eve Eve Eve, there was a long-assed line.  And the line was littered with towers of things for sale, teetering precariously at every turn.  So stressful.  K-Man insisted on playing with a pile of Beanie Babies, dragging them all over the dirty floor despite my tired pleas.  Ell-Bell started losing her mind and didn’t want to be held anymore.  As I was trying to adjust her and the diaper bag and the jackets and the things I was buying, I managed to knock a few items off a display table.  Ugh.  “Gee, thanks for all your help,” I thought grumpily to myself, feeling the stares from other people in line as I picked up my mess.

Finally, finally, it was my turn to check out, so I dragged my brood of people and things up to the counter and started to exchange pleasantries with the clerk.  The lady behind me in line huffily rushed up next to me and waved one of the Beanie Babies in the air.  “Seriously?” I mumbled, thinking she was going to complain about how K-Man was playing with it.

And then the lady said, “Excuse me, I would like to buy this toy for her.”  And she gestured towards me.

Oops. I’m a terrible person.  I profusely thanked her, and she commented that she had five kids (wow), that she knows that some days are better than others, that it is the season of giving, etc.  And then she explained to the clerk that she was covering my whole purchase.  I tried to protest, because you guys, it was a $50 bill! A complete and total stranger wanted to buy me $50 worth of things because it’s Christmas and I was having a hard day!

I eventually let her go through with it, but I felt a little awkward and couldn’t thank her enough.  I was even moved to a few tears, which was super embarrassing.  (To be fair, I was pretty close to tears before the nice gesture…)

I was so overwhelmed with emotion, in fact, that I failed to realize that the clerk had rung up one of my items twice, thereby charging this kind lady an extra $15.  Oof, I really wish I had noticed that at the time!

As I drove home, I reflected on the kindness of a stranger, and how it had turned around my day.  This season is so beautiful to me.  I know I talk a lot about shopping and presents, but I really do love the less tangible facets of Christmas.  Kindness.  Giving.  Love.  Cheer.  I love how Christmas brings these emotions forward.

Christmas is picking up someone’s bill to brighten their day.

Christmas is humming carols out loud at the grocery store, smiling as you pass someone doing the same.

Christmas is my heart exploding as I watch my kids bathe together before bedtime, both silently sucking on their toothbrushes in unison.  Dorks.

Christmas is Hubby’s attending sending him home 4 hours early today so he could spend Christmas Eve with his children.

I know this time of year isn’t easy for everyone.  For some, Christmas is about longing for what they don’t yet have, or missing what they don’t have anymore.  For me, sometimes the holiday just highlights the loss I still feel so keenly for my own nuclear family, the one that crumbled when my parents divorced 7 years ago.

So if you’re not feeling all warm and cuddly and spirity this Christmas Eve, please accept my virtual hug.  And know that if I was behind you in line at Barnes and Noble, I would totally pick up your bill.

Merry Christmas to all.  Until next time,

Vee

Happy Thoughts

While writing Monday’s vent sesh about the in-law visit was totally therapeutic, it also left me feeling like a negative nelly.  (Or the in-law’s visit made me feel that way, and I was just re-living it when I wrote about it, but whatever).  So this post is dedicated to the happy thoughts that have kept me going this week.

Thoughts like . . . how much I freaking love the Christmas season.  Beautiful twinkling lights.  Gentle (and sometimes violent) snowfall.  Family.  Cheer.  Presents.  Giving.  Shopping.  As I’ve blogged about before, I lurv shopping, so I absolutely welcome any excuse to spend money semi-guiltlessly.  And shopping for the kids brings this to a whole other level. I wish I could spend endlessly on them, but I’m trying to keep myself in check! My favorite gift for the kiddos, you ask? Well, it could be the illustrated Harry Potter book that my son is definitely still way too young for but we just couldn’t wait any longer to buy.  Or it could be this trampoline that I’m hoping my son can use to jump his crazies out during these winter days inside.  Or it could be these adorable rain boots we ordered for Ell-Bell.  Are you dying like I’m dying? They are so omg adorable.

Thoughts like . . . how stinking cute K-Man is with some of the things he says.  Like how he starts sentences with the phrase “Shall we…”

  • Shall we go play in the fam-wy woom?
  • Shall we eat eggs and panpakes?
  • Shall we go to the wi-bwar-ee?
  • Shall we watch Baby Bums?

Or how he calls all meals of the day “wunch.”  Or how he kept shouting “fourteen days until Chriiiist-masss!” in the grocery store yesterday (even though I kept correcting him and telling him it was actually only four days).  Or how he spends all morning asking me to “wun” and “chaaaaase” him.

Thoughts like … halle-freaking-lujah and a-freaking-men for the fact that the green slime goo crap that we never should have bought turned out to be water soluble. Because otherwise my 1-year-old daughter would be waking up with a buzz cut this morning.  (For the record, I only turned away for a few seconds.  And for the other record, my son put the goo in her hair.  I didn’t knowingly let my 1-year-old play with goo. Of course, I knowingly let my almost-three-year-old play with goo, so I’m still plenty dumb).

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend.  Until next time,

Vee

The Visit is Over

Early yesterday afternoon, the in-laws concluded their visit.  As they closed the front door to our house and headed out to their car, Hubby and I both literally keeled over in moaning, ugly exhaustion.  They. are. exhausting.

You see, both my mother-in-law (“MIL”) and my father-in-law (“FIL”) are recently-retired teachers. They love to talk.  They love to have a captive audience.  And I don’t mean captive, like, captivated.  I mean captive like, unable to escape.

Though they love to talk, neither of them can stand to listen to the other.  They save all this pent-up frustration at not being listened to for months at a time, and then they verbally explode all over the place whenever they visit other people.  So I spent four days being verbally exploded upon.  As an introvert who can barely stand to hear her own husband talk for more than 2 minutes at a time (love you Hubby), this was excruciating.

Now, it may be true that I am a horrible hag who thinks people shouldn’t be allowed to talk for more than two minutes at a time.  But to be fair to me, the in-laws’ talking is a particular brand of awful.

First, they insist on having a conversation at the worst times.  Like, at the same time that someone else is talking.  Or, when I am trying to soothe a baby that is fucking losing it.  Or, when I am literally in the middle of running out of the room to go tend to something burning on the stove.  Zero self awareness.

Second, they talk about the most inane things.  The. most. inane. things.  FIL walked me through his weekly schedule, one hour at a time.  (He’s retired.  He plays a lot of pickle ball.  He does half of his grocery shopping at Harris Teeter.  The other half at Whole Foods.  Sometimes he goes to Walmart for the sales.  A few weeks ago they over-charged him for potatoes and he had to talk to the manager to get his 50 cents back).  MIL turned a 30-second anecdote about how she has to buy different shoe sizes for each foot into a 10-minute story.   She gave us a lecture on the Roman calendar.  She told the life stories of multiple people who I have never met, have no relation or connection to, and couldn’t give any shits about.

It was more than just the talking that irritated me, though.  MIL spent probably about 60% of the what-should-be-waking-hours of their visit in our guest room, sleeping.  And like, it’s kind of nice to have a break from her, but good god woman, you sleep more than my 1-year-old does.  Like, a lot more.  Get your life together.

As for meals, well, per usual, they took zero responsibility for their own sustenance.  In every instance, they just waited to be fed.  Now, I get that when someone visits you, you should generally expect to do most of the food provision.  But it is a little exhausting to be 100% responsible, especially when you have two young needy kids.  The in-laws treated us like short-order cooks.  They didn’t lift a finger to help with the preparation of a single meal or snack.  They didn’t offer to pick up groceries when we needed something.  They never said Thank You.  And, when my split pea soup turned out to be an unfortunate dud and Hubby rushed out for some emergency Panera Bread one night, the in-laws did not offer to pay for their share of the meal.  Can I take one moment to vent about the fact that any time Hubby or I have ever had to order-in when these people are visiting us, they have not ONCE — not one single time — asked how much they owe for their share? Not once, in the entire eleven years I’ve known them.  They must think that because they are our guests, if we’re not preparing a meal for them, we are on the hook for paying for delivery.  What the fuck is that?

And then, of course, the Christmas gifts.  Let me just say, at the outset, that we sent all four of the kids’ grandparents an Amazon wish list with ideas for presents that the kids might like or need.  I think it was a well thought-out list, with a variety of possible presents (clothes, toys, academic stuff) at a variety of price points ($5-$100).  We prefaced the list with a nice note saying that the best gift for our kids was love, but that we hoped this list would be helpful if any of the grandparents felt compelled to give something.  I didn’t think it was horribly offensive, and both of my parents shopped from the list and sent nice useful gifts to my kids.  But, when the in-laws got here for their visit, they smugly told me they never even looked at the list.  And mocked me for sending it.  Like, I truly don’t understand the animosity that they displayed.  What could possibly be so repulsive about the concept of giving gifts that the recipient actually wants?

As for the actual gifts that the in-laws gave, well, it started out kind of okay.  When they first got here, FIL handed Hubby a check for a respectable amount of money, and insinuated that this was Hubby’s and my Christmas present.  We really couldn’t complain.  I’m not one to turn my nose up at monetary holiday gifts if the dynamic is appropriate, so I thought maybe Hubby and I had survived the gauntlet.

Then MIL insisted on giving the kids “Advent gifts” that they could open during the visit.  She reiterated over and over again that these were just Advent gifts, and not their Christmas presents.  Of course the Advent gifts were not good–because they never are–but they were not absolutely terrible either.  K-Man got some puzzles that MIL made by hand.  Terrible, glued-together, toxic, cardboard messes that we will be throwing away in a month or so, but K-Man had fun with them for a few minutes.  Ell-Bell got this doll that is not-so-slightly creepy looking.

MIL explained that she received the doll years ago from a friend who had hand-made it, well before MIL knew she would have a granddaughter.  (In other words, Ell-Bell got an old toy that MIL found lying around her house).

After the Advent gifts, Hubby and I were generally confused about whether that was all the kids were going to get.  But on the last day of the visit, MIL announced that she had left a box of Christmas presents for all of us in my room by the bed.  (WTF, don’t go in my room, weirdo).  I felt a little relieved, because even though the monetary gift for Hubby and I was quite welcome, I was kind of underwhelmed with the in-laws’ efforts at gifts for my kids.

So after they left, and after Hubby and I spent a few hours recovering in front of the TV, curiosity got the best of me.  I grabbed the box of presents from upstairs and started to pick through it on the couch.  A present for me, which, upon gentle manual inspection, was clearly another homemade puzzle.  Another present for me, which, as MIL wrote on the gift tag, I “may end up selling on eBay.”  Huh?  Something for Hubby, a floppy-book-feeling thing. Probably an old work book of his from grade school days, as his mother loves to wrap those up and pass them off as gifts.  I sorted through a few more presents, and a sickening realization began to wash over me.  There were no presents in there for the kids.  Was there a gift for the cats? You bet!  But nope, not a single other gift for our beautiful, sweet, innocent children.

And so, in 2017, the MIL Christmas Troll struck again.  I can’t even really articulate why I am so disappointed.  I guess I’m irritated that she went to so much effort to clarify that the Advent gifts were not Christmas presents, as if she was hyping some actual Christmas presents? As if she was trying to say, “don’t worry, this isn’t all we’re giving them!” Except it was all they were giving them? I guess I’m embarrassed that my son saw this juicy box of Christmas presents from grandma and grandpa, and not a single one is for him? I guess I’m feeling kind of protective over my children and their future disappointment when they realize that grandma and grandpa suck all the fun and joy out of Christmas because they can’t be bothered to swallow their pride and buy a fucking $5 sticker pad from an Amazon wish list?

Will this be the year that I finally learn to expect only the absolute most disappointing outcome from these people when it comes to gifts? I bet you one homemade puzzle that I’m writing this same shit all over again next Christmas.

Until next time,

Vee

Thursday Thoughts (on a Wednesday)

It’s Wednesday, and I’m having some thoughts.

Like, why does Hubby refuse to rinse out whatever bowl or cup he uses to scramble eggs in? Is it because he enjoys my gagging sounds when I’m loading the dishwasher?  Is there anything grosser than raw egg yolk dripping all over everything? *Vomit*

Also, why are the people waiting to use the family restroom I’m already using so impatient?  Do they not know what kinds of things go on in the family restroom?  Do their kids not need to take all manner of shoes and clothes off to go potty? Have they never changed a 20-wipe blowout? Do they think that trying the handle every 30 seconds is going to make my potty-training son poop any faster?

I’ve noticed that my kids have turned me into a human garbage disposal. They never finish any of their food and I ultimately end up playing clean up with my mouth.  Hey, it’s closer than the trash can.  (Floor noodles, anyone? No? Too far?)

Yesterday we had an epic snow here in Upstate New York and I felt like freaking Wonder Woman as I shoveled the driveway with two kids in tow.  I also felt like my neighbors were staring at me out their windows, thinking to themselves that I have no fucking clue what I am doing.  Maybe YouTube can teach me how to shovel snow?

Tomorrow, my in-laws are descending upon us for a few days.  You guys know how I feel about that.  I can’t wait to see what my Mother-in-Law got us all for Christmas this year.  We sent an Amazon Wish List for the kids that went completely unacknowledged, so I’m sure we totally won’t be disappointed or offended at all.  Blurgh.

The Star Wars release date is upon us, and the in-laws have volunteered to watch the munchkins so Hubby and I can have a day date and go see it.  I’m kind of a Star Wars poser, but I get excited because it is fun to see Hubby excited.  I will totally fall asleep halfway through the movie, for about 10 minutes, like I always do.  I will wake up to Hubby glaring at me over his popcorn, like I always do. Hopefully somewhere deep down, he thinks it is a little bit adorable?

Until next time,

Vee

 

A Series of Wildly Unfortunate Events

A few days ago, I had one of those days. You know, the ones where nothing goes right? Where you literally can’t believe the ridiculous series of events that is unfolding before your eyes?

The bad day was actually a few days in the making.  It started, as most things do, with a rough night of sleep.  I’m trying to wean Ell-Bell from her night nursing, but she has other plans. She doesn’t want to cut back, in fact, she’s been trying to wake up for an earlier feed.  I know things will never get better if I give in, so we’ve been butting heads.  Two nights before “The Day,” Ell-Bell woke up ridiculously early to eat, and it took me half an hour to distract her enough to get her back to sleep.  Before I could fall back to sleep myself, though, K-Man was awake and crying hysterically.  I still don’t know what was wrong, maybe a bad dream?  But it took me another half hour to get him back down.  Then I drifted to sleep for … two … glorious hours, before Ell-Bell was awake and demanding to eat for real this time.  I gave in and nursed her, because I was SO TIRED OMG.  Only, after I finished nursing her, she was not ready to go back to sleep.  I finally got her down and returned to my room, but before my head could hit the pillow, she was crying again.  She had pooped herself.  Ugh.

When I woke up for the day, I was not happy.  Hubby and I had a major fight, obviously inspired by the fact that I had had a terrible night with the kids, and he was awake for zero percent of it.  Hubby got pissed with my attitude and left for work early, which enraged me.  Seriously, when he punishes me by peacing out, I lose my mind.

Anyway, we exchanged apologies by text a few hours later, like we pretty much always do.  And that evening, Hubby felt super guilty and treated me to Chipotle.  And then after the kids went to bed, he went out and got me Sonic mozzarella sticks and ice cream.  Yep, we’re gluttons.  Come at me.  But my tummy wasn’t feeling that great and I actually wasn’t very interested in even more food, but I stuffed it down anyway because (a) I have no self control and (b) I wanted to accept Hubby’s peace offering.

I went to bed early because exhaustion plus tummy ache, and I couldn’t wait to feel better after a good night’s sleep.  Only, I didn’t get a good night’s sleep.  At all.  Ell-Bell was awake from 12:30am to 3:00am, sparring with me about eating.  I held strong for hours, you guys, but every time I would get her back to sleep, she would wake up again only 10-15 minutes later.  It was torture. In the middle of it all, K-Man woke up again (what the heck) and needed attention, all while Ell-Bell was screaming her head off in the room next door.  At least this time, Hubby woke up to help out.  I finally gave up and fed Ell-Bell at 3am because I NEEDED sleep.  Then K-Man woke up again at 5am and wanted me to “sing songs.”

Two hours later, I was awake for the The Day and not feeling it AT ALL.  I had no idea how I was going to make it through the next 12 hours.  And stupidly, I weighed myself.  I was three pounds heavier than the day before.  Fack.  Who knew eating two dinners and dessert would pack on the pounds so quickly?

I spent all morning just trying to power through, all the while day dreaming about nap time.  I couldn’t wait to put the kids down, turn on the fire, sip some tea, and watch my YouTube videos.  And maybe fall asleep for a bit.

When 1:00pm rolled around, Ell-Bell went down for her nap like an angel.  My mouth watered as I was one step closer to my glorious anticipated break.  Only, K-Man had no visions of napping.  He. was. fucking. wired.  Like, I can’t remember the last time he was so awake at nap time.  He wouldn’t lie still.  He actually wouldn’t even lie down.  He was jumping on the bed, flailing his body around wildly, asking for milk, asking for water, demanding to go potty for the one zillionth time.  Every time I left his room and went downstairs to make my tea, I would hear him jumping down out of bed and opening his door.  We played this game for an hour and a half.  I watched about 10 total minutes of YouTube (in two minute increments), and sipped cold tea between visits back upstairs.  When K-Man started screaming at the top of his lungs, I gave up and brought him downstairs.  I couldn’t have him waking up Ell-Bell.

Ell-Bell woke up after 20 more minutes or so, anyway.  I threw some goldfish and milk in her direction, set K-Man up with some paint and paper, and opened my laptop on the floor to cyber shop for a bit (#therapy).  I was doing some deep breathing, trying to figure out how to turn the day around despite being unbelievably bummed that I got no break at nap time.

And then, as K-Man was putting away his paint, he failed to screw the lid on tightly for one of the containers, and he dropped it on the rug.  I watched horrified, in true slow motion, as green paint splattered across my light-colored rug, onto the adjacent wood floor, and up onto the brick hearth.  Holy. fucking. shit, I thought to myself.  Is this really happening right now?  (As an aside, if you have any idea how to get paint out of brick crevices, please enlighten me.)

As I was crouched down with my face in the rug, pep-talking to myself and vigorously scrubbing the green paint-affected areas with a soap-and-vinegar mix, my son–who insisted on playing with his cars basically on top of me as I worked–accidentally lost control of one car and smashed it right into my eye socket.  And I lost it.  Not in an angry way, no, I started sobbing.  Crying big fat heaving snotty tears into my newly-green rug.

While K-Man is a total butthead, he’s also a softie and a sweetheart, a total empath. So he launched into a series of efforts to make me feel better. “Don’t cwy, mommy. Isss okayyy, mommy. I give you a hug and kiss and you feel better, okay mommy? You need a toy mommy? Here, ha’ dis car mommy. You want another toy mommy? You want dis one?” It was so cute and ridiculous that I started laughing between sobs.

“You feel better mommy?” K-Man asked.

Just then, Ell-Bell crawled over and showed interest in K-Man’s toys. So I said, “I would feel better if you shared your toys with Ell-Bell.”

K-Man’s face changed as he pulled all of his toys closer. “No, you be sad mommy.”  Major eye roll.

A few minutes later, K-man squatted down and took a ginormous piss through his undies, right there on the family room floor, even though he had peed twice already in the potty in the last hour.  At least he missed the rug, right?

I already had a stash of paper towels nearby, so thankfully I cleaned up the pee with little effort.  As K-Man resumed his car play, he taunted me: “Cwwwyy, mommy!”  I take back everything I said about him being a sweet softie.

At that point, I gave up. I scooped my two kiddos up and brought them into the living room and turned on Trolls.  Some days, you just gotta.  As I sat there and watched Trolls for the hundredth time, with K-Man sprinting back and forth on the couch, jabbing me in the spine with his elbows and knees as he passed, I thought to myself, this is really fucking hard.  I’m glad I’m doing it, I have zero regrets, I love my kids to the moon and back, but still, this is really. fucking. hard.

But, on the bright side, and in the words of the famous Princess Poppy, if you knock knock me over, I will get back up again.

Until next time,

Vee

Our Girl is in the Digits

A few days ago, my sweet little Ell-Bell turned one.  I can’t believe it has been a year since the day my OB looked at me with sympathy in her eyes and told me she was referring me to Labor and Delivery for high blood pressure.  A year since we called my in-laws from the hospital and told them it was time, that they needed to make the 4-hour drive to DC to pick up my son from daycare.  A year since my Hubby had to call his current employer and reschedule his upcoming residency interview.  A year since we decided, together with my OB, that a TOLAC would probably be pointless, and another c-section was in the cards.  A year since I cried like a baby because I couldn’t breathe through my nose right before the surgery began.  A year since Ell-Bell came out of my abdomen as the cheesiest, screamiest baby I have ever seen.  A year since K-Man came to visit his new baby sister in the hospital — I’m still so grateful Hubby captured his reaction on video.*   A year since we spent three days in the hospital recovering and getting to know our sweet new family member.  A year since we learned how to change a poopy diaper when a vagina is involved.  A year since I was so delirious from sleep deprivation in the hospital that I kept referring to Ell-Bell as a “he.”  A year since we came home from the hospital to discover, in horror, that my father-in-law was doing our laundry. (He saw my underwear, you guys!)  A year since we began our life at home as a family of four.

In honor of my baby girl’s coming of age, I’d like to dedicate the rest of this post to 10 Fun Facts About Ell-Bell.  Without further ado:

  1. When Ell-Bell crawls, she swings her head wildly from side to side.  It might be the cutest thing ever.
  2. Ell-Bell took her first solo steps when she was 11.5 months, but I don’t think she liked it very much.  She still prefers crawling, but is getting more adventurous with her walking, too.  She’s also really good at flapping her arms and correcting before she falls over.  I’m worried she might take flight, though.
  3. She is a champion eater.  My favorite thing is watching her eat rice.  She scoops it up and smashes it into her face-mouth at impressive speed.
  4. Ell-Bell is a total TV-head like her big brother, but she also likes to torture him by crawling up to the TV and turning it off while he’s totally engrossed.
  5. She loves her big brother hard and thinks he’s hilarious.  Even though he will never let her hold a toy for longer than 5 seconds before he rips it out of her hand.  Even though he likes to “hug” her while slowly tackling her to the ground.
  6. Ell-Bell is extremely ticklish.  For the first 8 or 9 months of her life, she had the weirdest little snort-laugh and Hubby and I were kind of nervous.  But she has developed a charming little giggle lately.  Thank gawd.
  7. She knows how to give kisses.  Big, wet, slimy, open-mouthed kisses.
  8. Ell-Bell is obsessed with our Christmas tree.  We basically can’t leave her alone in the living room because she will bee-line right for it.  We also can’t have any ornaments on the lower half of the tree. Sigh.
  9. She has two goofy little teeth on the bottom of her mouth, which came in when she was about 10 months old.  I’m wondering if she’ll ever get more.
  10. Ell-Bell likes to sneak away while we’re watching TV and try to crawl up the stairs on her own.  When she gets caught, she laughs hysterically.

Happiest Birthday, baby girl, we love you so much!

Until next time,

Vee

* I made a video montage of Ell-Bell’s first year of life, and I’m kind of partial to it.  I’ll put up a password-protected post right after this one with a link to the video if any of you care to see it.  Just email me at wifeyvm1985@gmail.com for the password.