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

Boo You, Monday

Semi-serious question: are you allowed to have a case of the Mondays when you’re a stay-at-home Mom? I mean, it’s not like you’re returning to the office after the weekend off from your kids, right? Maybe for some, the weekend means the presence of a co-parent who takes the load off somewhat. But since Hubby is working more often than not on the weekends, it’s all pretty meaningless to me.  Sometimes, the only way I know it’s Sunday is if I pull up to the library with the kids and realize it’s closed. (That’s never fun).

Whether it’s a case of the Mondays or something else, I am a grumpy-pants today.  I think it’s just a death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts situation.

Here are some of the particularly smarting paper cuts I’m dealing with now:

  • Yesterday, our neighbor put on a clinic in passive-aggressive behavior.  While we were sitting on the couch watching some football, we looked out our window to behold him in our front yard with a pole saw.  What the fuck?  Turns out he had invited himself over to saw off the wasp nest up in our tree — the one that he couldn’t stop obsessively asking us what we were going to do about.  Honestly, my blood still boils when I think about it.  Mind your own business, old man, and get off my fucking lawn.  The nest was really high up in the tree, and because it was so high, the wasps weren’t really disturbing anyone.  And frankly, Hubby was kind of (adorably, inexplicably) attached to the colony and didn’t want to off it.  And the neighbor just came over, sawed the nest down, bagged it, and walked away.  Didn’t knock on our door to say he was doing it or anything.  Not fucking cool at all.
  • Last night was Hubby’s third overnight shift at the hospital in a row.  Which means he was gone each night from 6pm until 8 or 9am, and then slept at home the next day until 2 or 3 pm.  Now obviously that schedule sucks big balls for Hubby, but this blog is about me, so let me tell you why it sucks for me.  First, I’m pretty sure my basement is the Upside Down and there is a Demogorgon lurking around down there.  (In other words, it’s scary here alone).  Second, handling the kids all by myself during the witching hour, bath time, and bedtime sucks all of the life out of me.  I literally collapse in a heap on the couch when I’m done, and I only get up to refill my Pringles and wine.  Third,  when Hubby is sleeping in the house during the day, we have to be very quiet.  It is so easy and not at all stressful trying to keep an almost-three-year-old quiet, you guys.
  • We are potty training K-Man, and he is going through a sleep regression, all at the same time.  It.  is.  hell.  He has obviously figured out that a pretty surefire way to get out of bed at night is to tell us that he has to go potty.  So you can imagine that he has to go potty every five minutes.  Sometimes, he even has to go potty before we can get his underwear back on again.  I can’t, you guys.  I am losing it on all kinds of new levels and it’s not pretty.  I am trying to really dig deep to find some serenity, but it is exhausting.
  • I’m having a bit of an expectations vs. reality struggle this holiday season.  For example, on Thursday, Hubby had the day off, so we planned to go somewhere and cut down our own Christmas tree.  I imagined fresh air, pine smell, gorgeous giggling kids, Hubby dressed as a sexy lumber jack, me looking flawless in all my Uggs glory, and an assortment of Instagram-worthy pictures to prove it happened.  Boy, am I stupid.  There was nothing especially awful about how it went down — we bought a pre-cut tree off the lot, there was some sort of polar vortex wind thing going on, Ell-Bell was a sad, crying mess, and I took two dimly-lit pictures — but I was super disappointed because I had let me imagination run wild beforehand.  I really need to learn that life does not happen in Instagram frames, and I should to adjust my expectations accordingly.  Can someone remind me of that again on Christmas Eve?

Anywhoozzle, gotta go yell at K-Man for the one-billionth time to be quiet so he doesn’t wake his dad up.  Until next time,

Vee

#NaBloPoMo Day 27: What Happened at Thanksgiving

It’s the 27th day of November and the 27th day of NaBloPoMo.  While today’s theme is supposed to be Christmas, I’m going rogue and talking about our disastrous Thanksgiving instead.  Don’t forget to read yesterday’s post about how Hubby and I went rogue and bought a house without seeing it in person!

When I designed my list of NaBloPoMo themes, I thought I might use today to talk about Christmas, because I am one of those people who gets into the Christmas spirit early.  Like, let’s get Halloween and Thanksgiving out of the way already so we can make some fucking Christmas cookies!  (And if you’re a celebrate-Christmas-before-Thanksgiving-er, more power to you!)

But today, instead of looking forward to Christmas, I find myself reflecting on how this past Thanksgiving was something of a disaster.  Before your imagination runs away with you, let me just say that most things food-related turned out really well (with a gravy exception discussed below).  So why was our Thanksgiving so disappointing?  Would it give it away if I suggested we rename it Pukesgiving?

Half of us got a horrible, pukey, 24-hour stomach bug.  It all started when I heard my sister-in-law (SIL) puking in the bathroom on Friday night.  She puked twice and then had a headache and chills.  Then I woke up at about 1am Saturday morning and vomited my brains out.  I threw up 4 more times before actual morning.  And then Ell-Bell barfed all over herself and our bed at about 3am.  And at 4am Hubby spewed an unbelievable amount of his insides out, developed the most violent shivers I’ve ever seen, and then buried himself deep under the covers and became totally dead to the world.  When K-Man woke up for the day at 7am, he said his tummy hurt.  Uh oh.  Over the next 8 hours, he managed to chuck on the rug, the sofa, and the kitchen floor.  Who knew two-year-olds had so much room in their tummies?

I continued to vomit every 1-2 hours for the first half of Saturday, and then I felt like death warmed over for the rest of the day.  Hubby was only out of bed between the hours of 11am and 6pm, and when he was up, he was pretty much just sitting on the couch moaning and shivering.  We have no idea what happened to make us all so sick.  Food poisoning is one potential culprit, but we couldn’t isolate anything that only the sick folks ate, so who knows.

It was pretty brutal, though.  There we were with guests who had come all this way to see us, and we could barely function enough to keep our kids alive, let alone be good hosts.  And if I’m being completely honest, I was pretty bitter that Hubby just helped himself to bed, leaving me solely responsible for our two little vomiting munchkins.  Have you ever tried to clean up toddler vomit alone while keeping a crawling and curious baby at bay?  All while trying to soothe your own ever-increasing urge to barf?

On the bright side, I lost 3 pounds in a day!

Aside from the pukefest, there were the inevitable awkward interpersonal shenanigans that just made the whole weekend kind of uncomfortable.  Caution, major vent sesh ahead.

My SIL and her husband (BIL) would not stop with their miserable bickering.  It was kind of my fault that they weren’t getting along to begin with.  We were talking about BIL’s little brother, and I mentioned something about the brother’s fairly unusual and newly-diagnosed medical condition.  Well, unbeknownst to me, I wasn’t supposed to know about said medical condition.  So BIL really let SIL have it about telling secrets that were not hers to tell.  Never one to leave a damsel in distress, I rushed to her defense: “To be fair, I think I heard about it from [SIL’s dad].”  And then BIL proceeded to flip out because he didn’t know that SIL had told her dad about it either.  So, yeah, I was super helpful there.

But they kept up with their fighting all weekend, and it was majorly uncomfortable.  SIL was a grumpy buttface and treated BIL like dirt, and BIL made no effort to tone down his “go fuck yourselfs” in front of us or the kids.  I have never had to change the subject so much in my life!

BIL was also weirdly combative with Hubby and me about things that just don’t matter. Like, why didn’t we have a baby gate at the top of our stairs?  What if K-Man suddenly developed a sleep walking habit and fell down the stairs in the middle of the night?  Why did K-Man’s training potty have a liftable top lid on it? What was that for?  And back when I had a job, why did I choose to eat breakfast at work instead of at home?  BIL also insisted on taking charge of the gravy for the Thanksgiving meal because “Americans don’t know how to do gravy right” (he’s from the UK).  Guys, he totally wrecked it.  It tasted like watered-down Turkey butt.  While that may be the approximate technical definition of gravy, can I kindly introduce you to my two friends, salt and butter?  I wouldn’t hold it against him if he hadn’t thrown out the whole “Americans don’t know how to…” business.

Also, K-Man and my nephew did not get along.  At all.  Which we expected because they’re both two, and when you’re two, you couldn’t give any shits about caring through sharing.  But my god, could 3 seconds go by before they were both screaming and rolling on the floor, wrestling over a stupid toy that neither one of them wanted to use only moments before?  And of course both sets of parents had to run to the rescue, and there were all kinds of awkward politics as we tried not to directly accuse the other couple’s child of being a complete asshole.

Finally, SIL and BIL just made themselves a little too at home for my taste.  The kind of petty stuff that shouldn’t bother normal people, but I have trouble letting go:

  • SIL decided it would be fun to let her son do sensory play with a bowl full of cranberries on our floor.  She made no effort to clean up or apologize when he spilled them everywhere, stepped on them, peeled them, and smushed them into our carpets.  What the fuck?
  • My nephew was completely naked from the waist down approximately 79% of the time.  Too much baby penis for me.  And maybe you could have your kid put some pants on before he rubs his bare butt all over my furniture?
  • My SIL’s bra broke and she had to borrow one of mine for the rest of the visit.  Is it just a little bit weird that she only brought one bra?

Okay okay.  Petty complaints aside, it really was good to see family for a few days.  And SIL and BIL really stepped up to the plate when Hubby and I were drowning in puke on Saturday.  My SIL even cleaned up one of K-Man’s vomit piles.  That’s the real deal.

Nevertheless, this introvert is exhausted and ready to recharge alone at home for a few days.

Until next time,

Vee