December 28, 2016

Unwrapping Christmas

By this point, I am usually so ready for all the Christmas things to be over.  Sometimes I fight the urge to take down the tree on Christmas night.  The integrating of the presents seems to freak me out and I have a hard time with all the new things laying in boxes.  My mind races about where new things will go... what needs to be returned... who do we awkwardly need to ask for receipts... how much dust has collected under the tree skirt... why haven't I eaten any vegetables or fruits for 2 weeks... how much longer can I live on Christmas cookies and sausage balls before it's considered a problem...

But this year feels so different.  There is a calmness that is permeating my house. I almost feel like Christmas could go on forever and my tree could stay a permanent fixture in my living room and the boxes could just stay in piles all around the house and the kids could stay off of school for eternity. (Surely to God, I've been body snatched.)

So many people have hugged me in the last few weeks and said, "I'm sure this Christmas is so hard with your daughter away getting help."  And yes, it is.  And also not.  It's such a hard feeling to describe.  For children who have experienced high levels of trauma, holidays are hard.  The feelings of rejection and worry about first families and the changes in routines are just too much and it all just bubbles over.  And so our last several Christmases have been spent just managing in the best way we can.  Which is hunker down and just pray for it to all be over soon.

It is such an amazing feeling knowing that this year on Christmas she had the support that she needed to get through it.  In years past, she has slept right through Christmas day.  8-10 hours of the day just spent in bed because everything is just too much.  This year, we got a phone call from an excited and happy girl who was looking forward to turkey dinner, who loved her gifts, and who was enjoying Christmas for maybe the first time ever.  She had been out looking at lights with her therapist, the house got Just Dance 2017 and they were having dance parties all day, and she was just in her element.  What a gift that she was experiencing Christmas in a positive way- even if we didn't get to enjoy it together.  We do have a visit scheduled very soon!


The rest of us have had what the kids are calling "the chillest Christmas ever".  The kids are still on break and we are going on day a million of not getting out of our pajamas.  It is glorious.

The pace is slow.  The time is intentional.  The season feels easy.

This was the year I let go of so many things that brought me stress.  I said goodbye to sending Christmas cards.  I said goodbye to making goodies for the neighbors.  We did *maybe* three days of our advent activities.  As much as I love all of those things, they were things that in the last few years brought more stress than joy and I was okay with letting them go for a season.  It's amazing how freeing just quitting some of the "stuff" is.

I am usually a last minute shopper.  Every year I am frantic in a way that ruins the holiday and flares up my RA.  This year I am practicing radical self care- which included doing the shopping early.  This changed my life.  I was mostly finished shopping by the first week in December this year.  I think that not having that hanging over me helped me enjoy so many more of the little things this year.  I'm not a very good shopper and I struggle to come up with thoughtful gifts.  However, for the last 3 years, I have printed out our family photos from that year and put them in an album and given it to Kamron for Christmas.  It's become a tradition that we both love.  But we had this donut hole of years prior where all of our pictures were still on our computer.  So this year, with all my new found time from getting the shopping done early, I went back in time and scoured hard drives and old computers and sucked off and printed nearly 3000 of our most precious memories and organized them into albums and wrapped them up for Kamron.

When I got finished with that, I figured since I'd already been through every digital file we've ever created, I should burn all of our videos onto DVDs and send off our old VHS tapes to be converted.  Kamron LOVES home movies.  (I know everybody does, but he really really loves them)  Once I started that project, I was so excited about it I couldn't sleep.  I was waking up at 4 or 5 in the morning to burn videos in secret.  I put all the videos in a wooden keepsake box and gave it to my man for Christmas.  He is not a very emotional man, but tears came to his eyes with that one.  And we've had so much fun watching the movies with the kids.

Maybe it is all the strolls down memory lane with the pictures and the videos, or maybe it's that our family is separated this year, but I've mostly been a sentimental basket case about the passing of time. All those hard years with so many little ones... and now I blinked and they all suddenly feel so old and grown up.  I sobbed all through Christmas Eve church because I am certain that Mary stared at teenaged Jesus and thought, "How is this possible?  It feels like yesterday you were lying in that hay filled manger.  Slow down, JESUS!"

Noah is my only kid who is not a night owl.  The others could stay up all night if we'd let them, but Noah and I are both early to bed, early to rise.  Since school has been out, when he gets tired at night, he asks to snuggle and climbs on top of me and falls asleep.  Every single time I sit there and wonder if it is the last time. I drink it in.  I sniff in his sweaty little 10 year old boy smell and feel his deep breaths and stare at his cute old man pajamas and try to relish it... just in case.  When I pick him up and carry him to bed, his legs dangle down so long his feet nearly hit the steps with each of my steps.  I tuck him in and just stare at him.  The days feel so fleeting. They are growing up so fast.  Old ladies who did this before me told me this would happen and I did not believe them.

I'm just soaking it all in this year.  The magic is still there.  They still believe (surely not the 13 year old but she has not made that known so I'm just going with it).  The excitement on Christmas morning is palpable.  This year, time just seems so precious and valuable. Or maybe the break from managing the trauma has freed up enough space in my brain to notice things around me again.  Either way, I have zero chill about the levels of nostalgia right now.

We started off the Christmas season with a huge party for all of Kamron's side of the family.  We started hosting all the Terrys a few years ago and it is just such a good time.  They are such a happy bunch- low on drama- high on fun.  Plus, there are a million of them so every corner of our home gets filled up with amazing food (who doesn't love a good potluck!) and laughter.

It takes two pictures to get capture all the people. 

On the first day of Christmas break, I taught the big kids how to play chess.  They instantly became obsessed with chess.  When we went to my Dad's house for Christmas, he said, "I love chess.  I used to be on the chess team in high school and my neighbor and I would play these long games that would last for days!"  I had no idea my dad even knew how to play chess.  It's so funny to me that at this juncture in life I'm still learning so many new things about my parents.  The kids have had the best time playing chess on the internet with Papaw Johnny all break long.

One of my favorite traditions is our annual Christmas Eve pajama party.  Kamron's family comes over and we have a big breakfast together.  His sister has started making these Saran wrap balls of awesome for the kids to unwrap.  It gets intense as they pass around this ball of saran wrap and string and try to see who can get to the gift in the middle first.  It's just too much fun.  All the grandparents severely spoiled the kidlets this year.

We celebrated a million different Christmases, ate entirely too much, and spent so much connected time with family.  We did all the traditions...

We made the gingerbread houses with GranMary.

We ate all the candy that was supposed to go on the gingerbread houses.

We made the Christmas cookies for about 3.8 minutes before everyone lost interest. 

We wore the matching pajamas.

We went to the school performances (held in the KY state capital this year!)

We laughed about things like how my mom wrapped all the presents in lubricating jelly boxes she janked from work. 

And then we put the people to bed and waited for Santa...

Is there anything more fun than kids at Christmas?

Making all the memories

My amazing aunts.

I am not sure how my tiny peanut of a mom got the role of family turkey carver but she does it like a boss.

The kids bought us presents for the first time this year.  They got aunt Kennethia to take them shopping.  They picked out such thoughtful gifts!  Both boys got Kamron UK hats.  They could hardly wait for Daddy to open them!

Our elf, Steve, found love this Christmas. 

Miles brings the fun to every situation. 

Noah and Papaw Gary facing off. 

Sadie is the best kitchen helper.  Could not have pulled off all the cooking this year without her!

Small town USA Christmas parade. 

We love when it gets cold enough for hats!

Can we just bottle this up forever?  Pretty please? 

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