Originally Written: December 13, 2016
This past week and a half, I have kept myself and the kids incredibly busy. It wasn’t so much appointments and/or commitments, but more like events and happenings that I felt would be a good mothering opportunity. Things like, “Oh, let’s go meet Santa, then let’s stop by here, and we can’t forget to finish our errands by going here.”
Every day I was dragging the kids out to do some holiday activity I thought they would enjoy and then I would pile on a long term to-do on top of it. For instance, I took the kids to go make their own Christmas cards and then went to the store to look for storage bins, which when I got home I made myself purge the kids’ toys. I put baby toys that I wanted to keep “just because” in one of the bins, and then I sorted out others to donate as well as rearranged the play room to make way for the new gifts that would be showing up on Christmas morning. This meant reteaching Landon where all the current toys now should be stored. A massive feat since my kid is allergic to change.
Then the next day I would drag the kid to an indoor play place because I felt guilty that it was too cold to play outside. Then we’d venture through the aisles of the grocery store, the post office, the library. Only to go home and bake cookies and take a long freezing walk with the dog.
And of course, because this is our first winter in Germany, I’ve become paranoid about mold in my house. I’ve never lived anywhere without a ventilation system, so I don’t even know what the signs of beginning mold are. So, I have been bleaching the walls, the bathrooms…daily airing out each room on a rotational schedule, and mopping up an excess water that hits a surface with an angry vengeance.
If that wasn’t enough, I decided to break out the toddler potties, because Evie’s showing interest in using the toilet. A key turned in Landon’s brain, and he suddenly mastered writing some of his letters so he wanted me to create lessons to practice learning his name. (He also wanted his numbers and the word HI.) I finally decided I wanted to give away most of my baby stuff because I’m 90% sure I don’t want another baby. (That was an emotional decision.) I also had some family dealings I couldn’t get out of my head.
And every morning for the past 5 weeks, I faithfully wake up at 5:30 a.m. and complete my brutal 30 minute workouts…
Around last Wednesday, I could feel all of that madness start to press down on me.
It was one of those situations where I felt like no matter how far forward I moved, I was still massively behind. No matter how many loads of laundry I did, the basket remained full. The trash always seemed to be ready to take out, the dog always wanted a walk, the kids were constantly bored regardless of how many Pinterest art projects I made (for those interested, the answer’s 3), the To Do list was always long, and I ALWAYS needed something else from the grocery store.
I was getting frustrated, but I told myself that it would all level out eventually. I could catch up if I just kept going.
The weekend rolled around, and instead of Saturday being relaxed and fun, it turned into a disappointment of my own making. There were car troubles and crabby kids, and a husband being a typical husband. I had a snotty day and instead of giving myself a break I pushed myself harder.
But Sunday was going to be it. I was going to send Alex to the bowling alley with Landon and Evie was going to take a nice long nap. I was going to sit on the couch with my book and a large cup of coffee. In comfy pants.
However, Alex came downstairs that morning and informed me that the Christmas market I wanted to go to was having its last day that afternoon. If I wanted to see it, we’d have to go.
I should have said no. My brain was telling me – no, it was yelling – NO NO NO! Just forget it.
But there’d be live animals and tubing for the kids. It was one of the few that I thought the kids would actually enjoy. Sure, Evie hadn’t slept in two night and had kept me up since Thursday. She would still get a kick out the reindeer.
I told myself that I could catch up on my reading on the hour drive there and back. That would kill two birds with one stone. No matter that I needed to put on another nice outfit, do my hair and makeup, organize a backpack with snacks and diapers, find everyone’s coats, gloves, hats, and scarves. Just one more day.
I told myself Tuesday I could sit back and read during Evie’s naptime. That would be my break.
I didn’t listen to my mind or my body. And it ended up kicking me in the ass.
Later, Sunday night I felt like I’d been run over by a bus. I felt like crap, and I couldn’t do anything. Alex picked up dinner and put the kids to bed. I spent the night on the couch thinking the brat I’d indulged in earlier had given me food poisoning. It was around 4 a.m. when I was dozing through a Netflix show that I realized that while bad food might have been the case, the underlying issue was that my body had had enough.
It was literally forcing me to stop draining every last ounce of energy I had and rest. Take a flipping break.
Seeing as I couldn’t do much more than that, yesterday I declared a down day. That meant I stayed in my pajamas. All day.
I NEVER do that. My routine? Wake up, get out of bed, put workout clothes on, do my exercise, shower, get dressed. If I’ve been up for 5 minutes, then I’ve had real clothes on for 4 of them.
I put pillows and cushions and blankets on the living room floor, and I had the kids relax with me. I mentally turned off my “you’re a bad parent” switch and accepted that a lazy day is what we were going to have.
The moral of the story is that I shouldn’t have reached that point in the first place. If I’d just listened to the warning signs and slowed down, I could have avoided that mess. I need to learn I can’t go 1000 mph every second of every day. Just because I have a To-Do list a mile long, doesn’t mean I need to complete it all immediately. Because the truth of the matter is that I will ALWAYS have a To-Do list. I will always have a hundred thousand things I need to do. I will ALWAYS have laundry. There will ALWAYS be dirty dishes in the sink. There will ALWAYS be someone needing something.
As much as I’d like to blame the mess fully on myself, outside factors did play a small role.
Alex and I haven’t had a date in months. Landon doesn’t get overnight trips to the grandparents anymore. That “village” we had in Florida is nonexistent now, and it’s been a harsh adjustment. I love my kids. Love them to death. But when you’re used to having any number of people that are more than willing to take care of them for a short while and then have that taken away, it’s a shock to the brain.
Knowing in a few months I’ll be doing the parenting thing solo again…well, that can stress a mother out without even realizing it is.
This is also my first holiday season away from my family. Yes, I’m 26 years old and a grown adult and have never spent a Christmas without my parents before now.
99% of the time, I’m handling it fine. I might have coped with it by purchasing WAY too many gifts for my kids, but honestly I could be a lot worse. Alex and I are doing our usual traditions and soaking up how excited Landon is getting for the season. I’m baking cookies, the kids are staring at the gifts under the tree, Alex is sneaking wrapping paper out of the house to wrap my presents. It’s our typical Christmas.
With the exception that I’m a little homesick.
I do miss watching Elf with my younger brother and quoting the lines and then debating if we should watch Lord of the Rings. Again. Because the only time to re-watch the films is during the winter months when they first premiered.
I miss seeing my mom in her poinsettia apron my Nanner made for her baking up a storm in the kitchen. Me sneaking a cookie here and there while my dad asks, “No peanut butter cookies? I love those. You made them when we were first married.” And my mother rolling her eyes and going, “Every year, Tim, every year.”
I miss trying to get in the holiday spirit in my shorts and tank top because it was 70 degrees outside.
I miss going to Disney and watching Holiday Wishes.
And I know I’m going to miss the hustle and bustle at my house on Christmas morning as we try to open up all the gifts before I have to start cooking the big dinner. I am going to miss my parents showing up and entertaining the kids with their new toys while I get the meal finished. I’m going to miss getting exasperated with Alex and my brother for disappearing with the Xbox when I need help.
All of that isn’t enough to ruin my Christmas spirit, but I think I kept myself so busy this month in order to not give myself anytime to think about the things I am going to miss. Subconsciously, I was telling myself, “If I stay busy and experience all these new and fun holiday activities, then I won’t get sad over what I don’t have.”
That was wrong. I needed some time to mourn the traditions that are ending before I could appreciate the new ones I’m having to create.
I feel like I focus so much on the amazing opportunities I have experienced by living over here that sometimes I forget that it does come at a cost. Sure, I have gotten to see London and visit German castles and tried different gluwheins, but I have sacrificed some dear things in order to do it. This has been the best thing our family could have done, but we pay a price for our decision. And I need to get better at learning to recognize my homesickness and give it its due.
So this afternoon when the kids have their quiet time, I’m creating a schedule up until Christmas, and I’m spreading out my to-do’s and making sure we all have a smooth, not overbooked two weeks. I’ll get the absolute musts accomplished, and I will space everything else out. I will slow down.