Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas Vacation

I survived! It went OK. There were some dark moments (one of you got a desperate email during one of those moments, sorry and thank you) but overall no major conflicts with MIL and the kids had a nice time watching movies all day every day and getting generally spoiled. G and I took advantage of the childcare and went to the gym 5 times, saw 3 movies (The Martian---amazing, Spectre---blech, and The Force Awakens---also amazing, especially with beer and food) and even stayed one night in a hotel downtown (a nice break). B turned 6 and got presents and cake and pizza. All in all it wasn't terrible, though I was pretty much DONE by day 7 and basically zoned out on my phone for the last two days of the trip. I'm relieved to be back home, though I have a long call weekend beginning tonight that I'm NOT looking forward to. January 4th can't come soon enough.

The kids were disappointed that there was no real "Christmas" celebration, and I admit that I was too. MIL didn't have a tree or any decorations up. She always buys TONS of presents for the kids, so I didn't pack and bring along the few Christmas gifts I'd gotten for the boys (books, mostly) since I figured we'd be overloaded. Well, she DID get a ton of presents for them, wrapped them all up in Christmas wrap...and gave them all to them the first day we arrived. So there was nothing to open on Christmas morning. So we improvised---we had gotten some stuff for B's birthday and we wrapped 1 small toy for each kid and made a cardboard/construction paper 3D tree and put them underneath. I told B Santa brought them, but MIL and G later told him that actually mommy & daddy bought those (they don't do Santa, its really my thing and I never got G fully on board. we discussed it on B's first Christmas, I convinced him to do it, and then he "forgot"). So for the past few days he's been wondering dejectedly why Santa didn't bring him anything, and maybe it was because we didn't have a tree, or because he was "bad". I tried to explain that they had already gotten so much stuff from grandma and had so many toys already and Christmas was not about presents but about family, etc... He did seem to have gotten over it  but when we got home last night, he hunted under the tree, saw nothing and was disappointed all over again. (L is just such a happy-go-lucky kid, he didn't seem phased one way or the other, but B is...intense).

So I woke up early this morning (better late than never!) and put the presents in gift bags under the tree and in their stockings and told him that Santa saved them since we weren't home and brought them last night after we got back. (And I told G to please  just play along). B was SO SO happy. They got 2 sets of books to share (Star Wars and Oliver Jeffers), B got a DVD of Madeline cartoons I bought last Christmas and never gave him, L got a Lego Kit we had gotten for his birthday and held on to because he had already gotten 4 kits, and they both got some activity books, pencils, erasers, cars and puzzles I had stashed away from who-knows-when. I was late to work since L slept until nearly 9 and I wanted to see them open the gifts. They were happily looking at their books when I left this morning.

B's birthday was also a disappointment to him (how do you teach a kid to be happy with what he has instead of disappointed in what he doesn't have? is that teachable?). My MIL believes a proper birthday includes going to the temple (an hour drive away) to get blessings, so she had planned that and we went and got our blessings on. He complained the whole time and acted up terribly. Even MIL who thinks he can do no wrong was annoyed. He did get to watch movies afterwards, and got presents, and some family came over for pizza and cake later. (we made the cake and it was unfortunately not very good. we quickly found a recipe online in the middle of the Christmas-eve rush in the grocery store and, well, Martha Stewart, your "quick and easy" chocolate cake and marshmallow-fluff frosting recipes were both disgusting and full of HUGE errors in ingredients/timing/etc...). The night ended in a MAJOR meltdown because family brought a gift for L that B actually liked better than his gift. Not share why MIL and other relatives insist on getting L presents (MIL even got him a CARD) on B's birthday. I told her not to, since B wasn't given anything on L's birthday 2 months ago, and he's the type to remember!

In any case, we are planning on not doing Christmas or birthday at MIL's house next year. It will be a HUGE conflict. We'll see what actually happens. Because of the expense of the flights we didn't do a birthday party for B this year, either, and he was OK with that when we told him he'd have the family party and the trip, and yes, he could have chocolate cake with white icing and maraschino cherries---6 for him and 4 for L. At least the cherries were tasty, I guess.

I'm  making my way through emails, phone calls, and other administrative crap today (plus commenting on your blogs!). I'll get sign out this afternoon. I have no idea if I'll be rounding for 3 hours or 8 hours the next 3 days. I usually just plan for 8, so I (and my family) can be pleasantly surprised if I make it home earlier. I'll meet the boys at G's office to watch the 6 pm fireworks (we did this last year and the kids loved it) and go to bed as early as possible. Hopefully they will have gotten some food and maybe unpacked a little? though G said he had to do work and was going to have the boys watch movies this afternoon so he could work from home.

Stay tuned for all the year-in-review/new years posts I've been writing in my head for the past 10 days! Like I said, better late than never!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Speaking of happy...

I really have been feeling happy for the past few days. Like an undercurrent of contentment. Its been a while since I had this feeling, so I'm savoring it! Things are really really good with G & me---better than they have been in YEARS. Its like our awful fight and my long email really turned on some switch in his head and he's been doing everything I've been asking him to do for years and he never really did. We've had some very lovely evenings, talking, working together, laughing. Its...nice, and more what I imagined marriage would be like.

The kids have also been great. B hasn't had any major outbursts in a while. He still has moments of being really awful (mean, hitting, yelling, throwing) but they can be attributed to specific outside events (a real disappointment, tired, hungry, sick) vs. ALL THE LIVELONG DAY. This morning I was awestruck at how cute they were, L so excited to wear his "new christmas shirt" (that I got second hand from a neighbor) and sing in his school holiday event (which I had to miss, alas, but G went and took pics & video) nd B so proud of his waist-high lego tower that he made "for you, mommy, because you like blue" and being happy for his brother having a party even though he was not.

I saw my therapist yesterday and had to recap all the events from the past few weeks. Talking through the horrible fight with G and how to prevent a similar incident in the future seemed to have lifted the last weight from my shoulders about this. She also gave some excellent advice about trying to maintain the calm with the kids. Overall, our focus should be on giving him the positive attention he craves, while disciplining the negative stuff swiftly and calmly. Yes, easier said then done, but a much better focus then the "oh my god he's going to be a serial killer, I need to nip this in the bud NOW. discipline! consequences! no tolerance!" that sneaks in sometimes.

We have a 10-day trip to visit MIL coming up. I am not looking forward to it (if you've followed my MIL saga, you know why!) but I'm not actually dreading it. Maybe I am looking forward to some tiny parts of it? (the not working part, the guaranteed warmer weather part, the free babysitting part!). G mentioned maybe getting a night to ourselves either in a hotel in town or a short road trip which I would DEFINITELY looking forward to, but we aren't 100% sure it'll happen (logistics). At the very least we are going to watch some movies. In the theater. The one that has booze and mozzarella sticks (i.e. one of my top ten favorite places in the world). I've got my Kindle loaded with books. We will go to the gym. We want to start watching Breaking Bad. Maybe it won't be 100% terrible.

Then I'm on call NYE through the end of that weekend. I've never actually been on call for NY before (always Christmas. all 4 years of residency and 1st year of fellowship, then several thanksgivings after that). I've heard it can brutal, after the Christmas slow down, but oh well. Its 2 weeks away and I'll take it as it comes (plus G is the one that has to deal primarily with the post-vacation, grandma-spoiled, likely stuck in the cold kids for those 4 days!)

We aren't leaving for our trip until Monday (the whole thing was planned for cheapest flights) so we have a sort of "bonus weekend" where we don't have to do the usual prep-for-the-week chores (but we do have to pack...blah). I'm hoping we can fill it with fun. I'm willing to overspend a tad on take-out and activities to have a truly nice and calm 2 days for the 4 of us before the extended family madness.

Anyways. Yeah. Happy. And wishing happy for all of you, too!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Recent posts (like Noemi's) have led me to ponder the concept of happiness. What does it mean to be happy? Am I actually happy? Is happiness even a worthy goal?

I know what happiness is NOT---its not the inevitable result of achieving your most wanted life goals. It doesn't require that everything  be perfect. Its not even the absence of sadness or negative feelings. I think happiness can co-exist with sadness. It can remain despite things going wrong, even big things. You don't have to have "arrived" before you are happy, it can be part of the journey.

So yes, I am happy. More or less. Most of the time. I feel sad sometimes, angry, lonely, but fundamentally I am grateful for my life and the opportunities I have to be useful and do something meaningful---even if in a very small-scale way. I could be better at appreciating things in the day to day, but I'm optimistic that I can learn that. No, things are far from perfect.  I'm working on making some things better, and accepting other things the way they are and I'm trying to learn which things go in which category.

Focusing too much on happiness can be detrimental. Beating yourself up & feeling guilty for not feeling "happy enough" is...well its ridiculous, and defeating, and sort of the opposite of the point, right? Accepting that positive and negative feelings are a universal and healthy part of the human experience (even if there isn't always a great "reason" for those feelings) takes a lot of pressure off.

Spending energy you barely have and adding more things to your plate because some "expert" claims it'll make you happier could have the exact opposite effect. Sure, meditate/volunteer/do yoga/journal for a week or two to see if it helps you---these things really do work for lots of people. But if carving out the time and energy to do that is stressing you out, because you really are stretched too thin at this season in life---cut yourself some slack and take a nap instead.

On the other hand, doing what you need to do to relieve stress and feel better can have positive outcomes beyond your own mood. You probably will be more focused at work & act nicer to your kids and spouse. Its certainly good for your blood pressure. A happier/calmer attitude can be contagious---as is a stressed out & negative mood. For me the essentials in this category are: sleep, exercise, and time to myself.  Specifically: lots of sleep, a moderate amount of exercise, and (at least) a minimal amount of time to myself every weekend/holiday (i.e. no time in my office at work) day.

How do you define happiness? Are you happy? What do you think about the "happiness" as a life goal?

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Road To Here

Instead of writing long-ass replies to your comments on my last post, I decided to devote a whole post to addressing 2 separate lines of thought. Oh, and for an update, I think things are starting to sink in for him---the past few days have shown a real change for the better in our relationship and I am even more hopeful!

First, I'm sure reading these posts, some of you were wondering why the hell I would marry a guy who I couldn't communicate with and didn't seem to respect my needs. I actually asked myself the same question last week, which led to a little trip down memory lane. And thankfully I realized that I didn't just make a desperate decision to avoid being alone for the rest of my life. We actually had a really great relationship! We had tons of fun together, lots of laughing, working together, trying new things. And the one memory that stood out---the time I realized that this was a guy I could imagine being with for the long haul---related to how supportive, sweet, and steady he was when I was having a tough time with something. Instead of getting defensive and angry at me for crying, or trying to "fix" the problem and getting annoyed when I didn't respond to that and me having to ASK HIM to hug me...he gently brushed my tears, hugged me, and was just THERE for a while before reiterating how he knew I'd figure it out because I was awesome (paraphrasing, obviously, but the gist of it) and to let him know if he could help but if not he was here for me.

SO YEAH. Things have changed. As to why, I don't really know, probably a combination of things that he did and I did and that just HAPPENED to us. Its the age old "growing apart" story, the "ugly relationship creep" that sneaks in when you are dealing with growing your career and running a home and creating and nurturing new life all the while dealing with family issues, trying to make and keep friendships, and work on your own mental & physical health.

Scooby-doo had a great comment on my last post: "he actually sounds like he may be going on through whatever I am going through. Basically, what I want from my husband is to not need anything from me right now because I am stretched so thin that I have nothing to give, and any needs he has are really a burden. I know this sounds awful, but essentially all I want to be is left alone. I will do my share of the kid duty and chores, and I sure as hell work a lot, so if he really wanted to know what I needed the answer would be to do me a favor and not ask anything of me right now; I don't want romance, I don't want sex, I don't want to take care of him emotionally, I just want him to leave me alone and not be yet another person who needs stuff from me. The thing is I feel depleted and as if everyone and everything just keep taking things from me, demanding, expecting. Like vampires. I can't communicate any of this explicitly, because it would be hurtful to him, but if I could, this is what I would say that I need from him -- to not be yet another person who needs taking care of."

And YES. I know this feeling. I've HAD this feeling. This was basically the entirety of my pregnancy with L and his newborn period. We had a toddler and I was exhausted and sick during the pregnancy, trying to transition into a faculty position, working on major grants and my masters, and all sorts of shit and then we had a toddler and a newborn and we were really really stretched thin for a long time. Sleep deprivation was a HUGE culprit here---honestly all I wanted was sleep. Anything between me and sleep was a hated burden. I didn't even think about G or his feelings or our relationship other than making sure he were splitting things as equitably as possible (with the caveat that my gestating and feeding a human made up for about 50% of chores and toddler childcare).  The pregnancy/pumping times I really did feel exhausted, and if he had asked for ANYTHING from me, I'm not sure I would've had it to give.

I'm sure he was feeling  this way as well. But things have changed a LOT in the past 2-3 years. The gestating/nursing days are over, as are diapers and night wakings (FINALLY!). Our jobs are full-time but both are flexible, we rarely work more than 40-45 hours a week. He drops off and picks up L from daycare that is 2 blocks from his work. I take B to school and pick him up and walk the dog. If one of us has an evening activity we get a dog walker. We have a house cleaner come every other week. The only kid activity is swimming---both back to back on Saturday morning, 10 minute walk from our house. He doesn't travel for work, I travel 2-3 times, 2 nights max each time. We don't entertain much, or plan elaborate kid parties or holiday traditions. We are home most evenings, eat dinner, take turns either cleaning kitchen or getting kids to bed and by 8:30 we are "free". Most weekends are free-form, too. We don't schedule tons of things, we spend loads of time at the park or playing Legos.

If he still feels "stretched too thin", honestly, its of his own making. He does choose to do things the hard way. He wants to DYI things, initially saying he'd enjoy it, but then complaining because its tiring and he's "working all the time". He makes the kids homemade pancakes every weekend, and home cooked breakfasts for himself and kids even on weekdays (they like their eggs & oatmeal) which involves dishes/mess. I eat cheese sticks and nuts, usually at my desk. He has very high standards for chores---much higher than mine, and things take a LOT longer for him to do.  When I fold the kids' clothes, I turn them right side out and then put them (unfolded) in piles for them to shove into the correct bins. He FOLDS THEM. He is always sweeping up leaves and the backyard and vacuuming dog hair from the rugs---I don't notice those things. He picks up the kids toys at the end of the day---something I realized early on was futile and a terrible use of my energy. I gave him over 3 hours on his own Saturday and he spent it doing chores. 

The other part is attitude. I also had 3 hours on Sunday and spent it doing chores, but I realized that it was my choice to get things done so the rest of the week would be easier (and there would be less for HIM to do in the evening when he'd be tired from a solo adventure with the boys). I couldn't complain that "all I did was work" because I didn't HAVE TO do those things. I try really hard to not get down about chores---to recognize that a lot of "have tos" are actually "choose tos" and we need to own those choices (and also re-examine them from time to time to figure out if we want to change them). We choose to have home cooked food for most meals for health & financial reasons. We chose to have a dog and so we have to walk her and feed her (and keep up with the dog hair). Etc...

Of the two of us, he's also the one more prone to "throwing money at things" to make day to day life easier, and I'm trying to be OK with that. If he needs to get a cab home from work (its a 2 mile walk/bus ride) or get take out from time to time, to keep his sanity, then its worth it to save a little less during this "season" of our lives. 

Also he doesn't get enough sleep---and that is definitely a choice. No one is forcing him to mess around on the internet or watch movies after the kids go to bed. 

Bottom line, I think this is a phase in our lives when things are as easy as they are ever going to be for the forseeable future. Nothing bad is happening (and bad things can and will happen, such is life) nor are there any major upheavals (moves, new jobs, babies, etc...). We have pretty limited obligations and what I consider a relatively simple life. If we are going to have a strong marriage THIS is the time to work on it, because things can change in an instant, which is why I'm bringing this up and pushing for it. I want a strong foundation so that when things do shake up our lives, we are ready for it. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

How it went down

I'm sure you guys (all 5 of you) are on tenterhooks waiting for my update on last night's conversation? Right? Right? <crickets>

It was overall a productive conversation. It was not, by any stretch, pleasant or easy or comforting.

Overall he said he was "very surprised" by some of my feelings. He stated he had no idea I felt that way, and that maybe he just wasn't paying attention or maybe taking me for granted. Despite my best attempts to underscore that my comments were about my feelings and not negative comments about him, he called them "criticisms". And he got angry as we talked about it in more detail. His voice raised, pupils dilated, he looked agitated and upset. When I tried to explain that I was not criticizing him, he said that was how he felt, and I was invalidating his feelings, and how is that different from what I was telling him, because he could easily tell me that what I felt wasn't true.

Sigh. I reiterated that I was not invalidating him---I get that it feels like criticism when someone is telling you that you are not making them feel loved--- but I was just trying to reassure him that I didn't think our issues were all his fault or due to personal failings on his part, but more of a mutual problem caused by a failure to communicate our needs to each other.

He said he took the love language quiz, and got similar answers to me (high on physical touch and words of affirmation). We had the usual back and forth about this "but I DO hold your hand, YOU never reciprocate, yes I do, YOU don't ever hug me" and decided we both could do better in this realm. Again he tried to blame everything on "the kids"---no, I'm not buying it. Maybe you are having difficulty handling all the current responsibilities but its not the fault of "the kids", its on you to find coping mechanisms.

He stated that my ability to organize things and stay on schedule was valuable to the household and to him. that was in response to me wanting words of affirmation or acknowledgement about any positive attributes I had. Literally that was all he could think of. And then "but I love and appreciate everything about you".  And then "but how do I know what you're good at or what talents you have?". I don't do you respond to that?

I mentioned setting a time to "check in" every so often so things don't build up again. He said that "check in" reminded him of stupid work lingo and so we never resolved that, but I think I'll put it on my calendar to send him monthly emails about how things are going. I told him to also let me know how he felt things are going, and what was bothering him or what he needed from me, and he said "oh I don't need anything important. and what's bothering me is never important". I tried to explain to him that saying things like that was not a favor to me, and actually 1) made me even more reluctant to share my own needs and 2) deprived me of the satisfaction of making change/doing something that would make him happy. Not sure he got it, but maybe?

We talked about scheduling time to hang out during the week. He said he hated scheduling things, and couldn't we just see how we felt? And I mentioned that, well, we've been doing that for years and what we "feel" is that we need to work or do chores or watch Netflix and go to bed, so if we don't schedule time to talk and connect its not going to happen spontaneously at this stage in life. He reluctantly agreed.

I don't know. i think I accomplished step 1---figuring out the problem and step 2---communicating it to him, but I'm not sure what step 3 and 4 and on actually entail. And I don't know what's going to happen in the future. He definitely seems invested in trying to change things, but am I wrong to be bothered by the fact that he actually thought everything was fine the way it was until I brought it up? Or by the fact that this was actually NOT the first time we've discussed these exact same issues---we have discussed them in various ways at least 4-5 other times over the past 3 years?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Planting a Seed

I am coming out of a very rough few days. Nothing momentous happened, but a culmination of weeks (months? years?) of hurt feelings, unmet expectations, and futile attempts at change came to a head and we had the worst, nastiest, longest fight of our 14 year relationship. There was a period of time I was not sure our marriage would survive. We barely spoke to each other all weekend.  The "4 horsemen of the apocalypse" were all in attendance.

I won't take all the blame---he definitely has his part in this, his angry and out-of-control reaction to my disgruntled attitude was way out of line.  But as always, I know that my lack of communicating my feelings before things built up did set the scene.

I've mentioned before that our marriage suffers from some terrible communication skills on both of our parts. I have a hard time talking about emotional issues directly, I tend to beat around the bush and eventually end up in tears. For his part, he instantly gets defensive when I mention anything that isn't perfect in our relationship and takes it as an attack on him "oh no, what did I do now, sigh I can't win, can I? Its always something" even when I use the "I feel..." language and even preface it with "its not something you did or didn't do, this is just how I feel". I also have a really hard time (its basically impossible) for me to ask for what I need from a relationship. This obviously comes from a fear of rejection---if I ask for a hug, or for "words of affirmation" and he can't do that for me (or more likely, does it grudgingly instead of willingly) what does that mean?

For the past few years, I've definitely felt that something was lacking in our marriage. We have talked about it multiple times, with only the most minor and temporary improvement. I've talked to my therapist, read "marriage blogs" and discussed it multiple times here and got some great advice. But eventually I was starting to feel that things would never change and that perhaps I was expecting too much. Maybe I have absorbed too many Disney-fied versions of romance and love and my expectations to be loved and cherished were completely out of reach in the real world. Maybe all marriages are like this, eventually, and I just need to come to terms with it if I'm going to be happy.

So I worked on that. I worked on myself. I compartmentalized, shut off the lonely side and focused on other things. It works, until it doesn't. And then I had several things recently remind me that 1) things don't seem like they are ever going to change and 2) no, every marriage is NOT like this. Some people have real relationships that are based on more substance than "oh yes, we share chores and household duties very equitably".

 I felt hurt. And hopeless. And that led to anger and the resultant behavior. And then he felt hurt, and confused (because I didn't really tell him what was going on) and then angry and had his own unkind behavior. Which eventually blew up in a spectacular fashion.

I made the first move and apologized and we talked on the phone for a few minutes. And then I did perhaps the smartest thing I have ever done, and wish I'd done it sooner. I wrote him an email.

It took a good chunk of time to write and I edited it about 10 times after. I took out whole sections because it was all too much at once and I wanted to stick to one central theme for this email. I changed words to make it very neutral and focused on myself. I added positive things and then mor positive things. I made it very direct, with no half-truths or vague wording.

And then I sent it to him, told him to read it, think about it and not feel like he has to respond right away.

Its been 2 days and he hasn't responded.  He did address one concrete thing I mentioned in the email---something I'd asked him to do. He is doing it. I'm traveling for work, I'll be home tonight. I think he will want to talk about this, but I'm tempted to ask him if we can continue this over email, because it was so amazing to be able to say what I was feeling without my heart-racing and tears flowing and anxiety choking my words. I'm GOOD at writing and editing and getting my point across! I do it constantly for work, not to mention here (though I don't edit, obviously).

I am feeling hopeful. This may be stupid on my part, and I may be in this same place 6 months from now, but I'll take it for now.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Merry and Bright

The holiday season is upon us. I have mixed feelings about the winter holidays. We just haven't gotten into a routine or found any traditions that really stick yet. This is mainly because we've traveled most years to go visit G's mother, and this year will be no exception.

Last year was the only year we stayed home and didn't have any visitors, and I basically threw a bunch of stuff at the wall to see what would stick and re-appear in future years. Not a lot did. Despite the kids being at that "magical age", the whole Santa/gifts thing sort of fell flat. Sure they were excited to open presents, but I think it was overwhelming and led to some meltdowns later in the day. The gingerbread house building was a DISASTER. Some of the Christmas specials I remember loving as a child didn't quite hold up to the test of time. My family's traditional Christmas morning breakfast of pop-from-a-tube cinnamon rolls and OJ was disgustingly sweet for most of us.

Really the main thing I loved about the holidays was decorating, and specifically, decorating with lights indoors. Something about the little twinkly lights on a dark gloomy evening just lifts my spirits immediately. So I put up our little tree and strung a garland and lights on our banister, and put out our wreath and some greenery and holly berries for the window boxes.

I also love baking gingerbread cookies. So we'll do that, most likely when we're at MILs. I'll also bake some chocolate chip gingerbread because yum. We stopped our annual bake-for-work marathon when L came around, and I have no desire to go back to that anytime soon, but small batches for the family, where the kids can help and its OK if things look terrible is more fun.

I took the kids to look at a holiday light show in a park, and they were underwhelmed with the show but enjoyed sitting by the fire pits and eating junk food. I'd like to do that again or just go look at the neighborhoods that go all out with the outdoor decorations. We usually hunker down on cold evenings, so deliberately going somewhere and being outside after dark is novel and therefore special to the kids.

I used to LOVE going to fancy work holiday parties and getting to dress up! I know people complain about it, but I love having an opportunity to wear a fancy dress and heels and sparkly stuff once a year! Neither of our jobs has anything like that anymore---G's party is for staff only and is right after work. Ours is actually AT work and is lame. I'm skipping it this year, since my friends from out of town will be here on Friday. I miss that aspect of the holidays, so I did arrange 2 outings, with my book club and with some work friends for drinks next week. Not an occasion to dress up, but at least to get out and celebrate!

Gifts...I'm not sure what I'm going to do. The boys expect something. I really don't think they believe in Santa. But they know Christmas=gifts, so I will get them something and have it under the tree for when we get home from MILs. I like the "something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read" approach, but I may narrow it down even further because they don't need anything, including clothes. So maybe one book & one toy per kid?  I don't want to give them their gifts AT MILs because she will be sure to shower them with a million things we won't even be able to fit in our suitcases, so dragging gifts there and back is just nuts. It'll also brighten the disappointment from having to leave the life of leisure and spoiling at grandma's!

Then we have B's birthday. Again, MIL gifts will suffice until we get home. I want to get him a bike, which will take some research, there's no rush since he won't ride much until spring anyways. As a placeholder I'll get him something small like a Lego kit he was asking about. We aren't doing a friend party this year, since we're spending enough on plane tickets (and by the time I started planning, literally every venue was booked, and I'm NOT doing it at home again!) He'll get a family party with cake & pizza.

I'm on call for New Year's. So no pretending to celebrate or care! Whoo! (Don't get me wrong, after years of being on call for most holidays, I very very very much appreciate only having to do one major holiday after two years. But since I have to do it, I'll look on the bright side of not having to make an effort to stay up until midnight!) 

I know this post sounds rather matter-of-fact, but I actually am looking forward to this season (at least the days pre-MIL visit) this year! I love seeing the lights up everywhere, the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg everywhere, trying to think of how to delight and surprise my kids. Its such a nice way to spend these dark days, and I much prefer it to the holiday-less dark frozen stretch of January through March (though I'm trying to think about this, and stay positive!)