Dreaded Valentine’s Day

IMG_0721In elementary school, our school had love bears. You paid a dollar or something like that for them and sent them to the “friends” you wanted. In my entire time at Ryan Elementary, I never got one. Not once. I started hating Valentine’s Day right then and there.

It’s a stupid holiday really. Love, schmuve. The Saint Valentine story isn’t very romantic. I mean, I guess *he* (St. Valentine) was a little. He married people, in secret. Claudius put a ban on marriage with the thinking that unmarried soldiers fought better. Typical idiotic thinking. Saint Valentine married them anyway and then got his head cut off.

So now, we exchange tokens of love or, like me, we don’t at all and spend the rest of our lives thinking about how stupid the holiday really is.

Devlynn and I were walking through Wegmen’s. She pouted through the pink and red of the Valentine’s section. She hates it too. She’s single. Having trouble with fitting in and making friends that last. She too hates Valentine’s Day.

And now, to add the the distaste, I’ve fallen into the pressure of “world’s best toddler/preschool Valentine”. Because I am “that mom”. And I used to really love to make them but now? It’s like a competition of who can make and deliver the best Valentine ever. It’s really sucked the fun out of it.

This year I may let the kids pick boxed cards. I may refuse to attach lollipops and pencils. I may send dark cards with bad jokes or I may just ignore it all together.

I have slowly but surely fallen into the “I hate the holidays” slump. Christmas about sends me over the edge every year and now I am starting to dread the little ones too. Easter may put me in a straight jacket if I see another basket stuffed with 10 speeds and iPhones.

But as I complain, I wonder to myself, why do I care? Why does it matter what someone else fills their child’s basket with? It doesn’t but I can’t help but flash back to the day when I didn’t get the bear Valentine and the many years after when I just wasn’t “important” enough to celebrate.

I work hard to make sure my kids feel loved each and every holiday.  I won’t be able to protect them from feeling left out at school or missing out when candy-grams are passed around but I can teach them at home, that their tiny chocolate token has just as much love in it as the neighbor boy’s bicycle. It’s hard to teach kids about comparisons, especially when you’re still navigating the ideas yourself. When you feel like less of a parent because you have to work so much harder for the vacation or the baseball bat or the lacrosse lessons. It’s easy to forget that everyone is working for something. Especially when you’re viewing the highlight reels of Facebook.

This Valentine’s Day I should perhaps ask my children to love on someone who might not get the bear Valentine. Simple acts can change lives. Just tiny things. This holiday we made cookies for our neighbors on both the right and left side. In addition to the two small plates I made for them, I thought to include a third for the nice lady across the street who compliments the children and also roots on our football team. A small plate with pizzelles, oatmeals and gingerbread,s and a few yummy spritz, which are my fav to make. Tiny and sprinkled with lovely sugar. I sent the three oldest boys out for delivery on Christmas Eve and thought nothing of it till the third plates owner caught me walking home from school. She thanked us and mentioned her dad had died the 23rd. And that spritz cookies were her favorite and that she’d not made them this year (even though she made them every year with her late mother’s vintage press) because she was so sad. And seeing the tiny plate, delivered by tiny hands with her favorite holiday cookie, made her happy for a moment in a time of great sadness.

Who knew a few cookies could make things okay, even if for just one minute.

So this year, I am going to encourage my kids to send proverbial bears. So no one else hates Valentine’s day. Because no one else should feel unloved…..

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The bigs and the littles

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You should see the look on people’s faces when I first tell them that we have five children. While I believe large families are more and more common, there are still those people who think, “holy cow that is a lot of kids”. I sort of always giggle to myself and add a comment about being “those people”. They often press on with more questions and the top is generally what their ages are. People are often more shocked to hear the large range we have,

16

11

8

3

1

My oldest will graduate high school before my littlest even starts public school. She will probably have children of her own before the youngest two finish school themselves. And I could very well be a grandparent while still navigating the waters of elementary.

I have 18 more years of kids at home. Well 18, give or take.

Before I had Devlynn, the oldest, I swore I’d never marry. That I’d never have kids. I sat in the bathroom of our tiny, one bedroom apartment with that pregnancy test and my work apron in my hands, wiping the tears. I was scared to death. Unmarried and now setting sail on a sea that was far outside my comfort zone. I sort of denied the whole idea of it for a long time and continued to think nothing in my life would change once this little baby arrived. I continued to wait tables, play video games and act like a stupid kid and then, she was born and like that it all changed.

Except we thought she’d be the only one.

Some years later we added Davis and then Drew. Dexter and Dixon graced us a few years later and here we are, a family of seven.

I like my big family. There is always something to do. We have preschool and lacrosse and baseball and football and homework and dodgeball and playdates. They all have different interests and all talk about different things. They’re a great group of children. And I wouldn’t change anything about any of them.

However, as my daughter approaches the end of her school career I have found myself mourning the one on one time I feel like I may of lost with her, adding so many siblings, so spaced apart. I’ve missed a million roller coaster rides sitting on the sidelines with baby and while I am at every.single.game, I know I miss things because I have to protect the toddler from falling down the hill. And it works both ways. I go to far fewer story times because I am so busy with baseball or whatever and the babies are drug all over and I worry that the dragging is making them miss out on free range babying.

It’s the story of having the bigs and having the littles.

You find yourself wishing away the toddler years and praying the teen years slow down. It’s a stark and strange contrast in parenting such a broad range of ages. It’s going through all the good and all the bad all at once.

It also adds an element of weirdness to making adult friends. I have people I know from each child’s age but no one who gets the struggle and awesomeness of having it all at once. So while they relate to my pre-pubescent boy fun-ness, they don’t get that I am having to navigate it while dealing with teen angst and a baby who is teething so badly I want to jump off a cliff.

Large family, big gap. Lots of fun.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend about college and how I worry Devlynn and all she has to give up. And that I hope she doesn’t resent me for encouraging her to stay home and go to school. Not because I don’t think she’ll thrive in a big college far away, but because I want her to have less debt and not worry about working. But by encouraging her to stay home, I am also keeping her with the zoo family. And I worry if she’ll look back and regret being part of it.

There is a lot of guilt that goes with the bigs and the littles.

Parenting is hard enough and sometimes I feel like I have dealt myself a tough hand. I’d never change it. Never. Even when they upcharge me for Great wolf lodge and my Disney entry tickets cost more then your entire vacation. Love my bigs and my littles and every big and little thing that come with them.

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Happy New Year, blog-style

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Before the holiday some one hacked my blog. I couldn’t log in and the back up didn’t work and out of frustration, I  just decided to wipe the slate clean and so, here it is. A new start. A new blog. I am hoping to fill it with different things. Like most every year, I am hoping for a happy year. Instead of a sad. Only this year, I realize it’s only me who can make it happy.

Christmas was fun. I am not a Christmas person so to say it was fun is a big leap. We took Devlynn to NYC, we saw all the neat stuff in Philadelphia. We had a new Christmas Eve tradition. I have to share that video with you all.

We started our new year in Orlando, with the entire cast of Disney and it was awesome. I never in a million years thought I would be one of “those” Disney people but I am totally hooked. What they say is right, it is the most magical place on earth. It’s also the most crowded. I don’t think I have ever seen so many people in one place at one time. A bit of a struggle for introverted me but with a good plan, I think we did okay. Collectively, we had no idea it would be that busy. Looking back though, I don’t know why we would of thought otherwise. Every child in America is off school at the time we went, ha ha ha.

Still I wouldn’t change a thing.

We managed to ride all the “must dos”, I think. Pirates or the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, It’s a Small World, Space Mountain. We rode Dumbo, the Barnstorm and the 7 Dwarfs. We we able to half the Epcot countries and saw Nemo and the beautiful aquariums there. The kids and dads got on the ride inside the Epcot ball. Dinosaur, the Lion King show and Everest made the list as well as the Bugs Life show, twice. We saw the safari animals and petted the goats and lambs. We were able to ride the water ride without getting too wet. We sang along with Anna and Elsa, trained to be Jedi, road with Rebels. I about peed my pants on the Tower or Terror and again on the Rockin’ Rollercoaster… and we had dinner with Mickey Mouse. MICKEY MOUSE! We were Space Rangers, swam with Ariel, we road the Speedway and we met a Level 3 (oh Stitch, how Sissy loves you). And I am probably forgetting things, oh wait I am! Splash Mountain, Dole Whips and Tom Sawyer! I cannot believe how much we got done in five days at the parks! There were fireworks too and so much food. It was the best trip. The best.

I honestly never thought I would get my whole family to Disneyworld. As a large family, the entry fee alone is daunting. Even for just a few days. My parents really made a dream of mine come true… I am so very thankful for the memories, even if it came with a new Disney addiction. I have already begun trying to think about how to get them all there again. It was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. Seeing it through the eyes of bigs and littles. It was fun to be a kid again. It was fun to feel a little well, “normal”. We took our first real family vacation. We didn’t have to say no. I felt like a normal family.

Now, it’s 2016. We’re home. I’m back to being buried under laundry and work. Trying to have a changed outlook but it’s hard and I getting buried under rain clouds. But like every new year, it feels like there is an opportunity for change and new beginnings. I want to try to embrace that. Write more, worry less, create more, worry less. Be me and not ashamed of me. And stop worrying about it all.

New Year, new changes, new me.

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I took down my photography Facebook page. I will still continue to take my big accounts and the occasional small client but I think I’ve burned that candle almost too long. You can only keep a business of life support for so long, before you have to wish it well. I love my preschools but I just cannot keep with the other and so my focus will remain there. Preschools and the like. It’s nice to have those couple gigs a year. I hope to branch away from Fiverr at some point. It’s helped me realize I can do graphic work but it’s also taught me I am worth a lot more then I make. I just need to figure out my next turn on that path. And I want to craft more. Here especially. Because it’s fun to share. It’s fun.

So there it is. 2016. The best vacation ever. The typical New Year post.