Tonight my plans for a quiet evening alone by the fire with a cup of tea and no people ended up as an evening of Eden inexplicably screaming and crying for 45 minutes from bed, a cup of tea that never made it past hot water, and a fire that was only smoking logs.
Here an hour after the house finally quieted, I'm drinking wine that was supposed to be for a party, by the fire that is blazing only because I've one by one thrown in all the beautiful pine cones I've collected over the years as Christmas decorations.
I've started several blog entries the last couple of weeks that I haven't finished. One about how when Annemarie was here I must have made 14 comments a day about how glad I was not to have a 1 1/2 year old, but how immediately after she left, I plunged into grief that I don't in fact have one of those delicious roly toddlers just learning language, and I won't again. 3 1/2 and 5 1/2 are kids. But how can the whole stage of childbearing and babies already be over?? I'm not quite sure, nor ready, though I also can't imagine starting it again. To learn how to hold both grief and longings about such things and gratitude and contentment at the same time must be something God most wants to teach us.
I am also marveling at (or bemoaning, really) the fact that despite lofty resolutions, I am inevitably a frantic do-er in December. How is this unavoidable? But with two families of six, nearly all the kids married with kids, three December family birthdays, four January family birthdays, four November family birthdays, Christmas cards, parties, school holiday shows, travel -- how does one not become an intense planner and list maker? I really do want to know. I think I'm related (especially by marriage) to several people who are NOT like this. Please teach me. (Zack? Beth? Susan? Tiffany? Kaia Joye? Homer? help.)
For the last three weeks, lots of family has cycled through my house. First my dad for a weekend, then Annemarie and Greg for a week, and immediately after, Hollie and Jesh (my brother's wife and babe) for a week. So I've been doing a lot of thinking about why family tensions arise so heartily over visits and holidays. Of course there are lots of reasons like becoming a child again in your parents house, grief, missed-expectations, blah blah. I'm not really thinking about those. I'm thinking about the nitty gritty practical stuff. When people come stay at my house, the things I cut out of my week are the little things: Friday morning writing time, a few hours with a babysitter, my yoga class, going for a run or walk, checking my email at the kitchen table while the kids play, doing laundry, reading in bed, taking long showers, going to sleep early, eating normally (instead of three huge meals and snacks and three desserts every day). But it just so happens that those little things are the sanity-giving events of my week -- so of course tensions rise without them. Annemarie taught me another thing -- when she was here, she cleaned incessantly, and it made ALL the difference with nine of us here. The dishwasher was always running, toys were off the floor (again), markers were put away (again), laundry was going, the floor was swept. I didn't realize how much low-grade tension she was alleviating in her constant maintenance, but it was a lot. In a couple of weeks I head to DC for ten days to stay at my parents' house, and I'm wondering if it will make any difference to arrive with a game plan, could I curb some of the tensions if I pick up after us incessantly, find a yoga class ahead of time, plan a couple times to walk/run alone, ask my mom to take the kids for a few hours one day so I can write. I'm not sure -- it's possible that once you add in jetlag and the desire to control things I may just be in trouble, but I'm going to try and see if it makes a difference.
I've officially burned all my pine cones and my fire is now quite small again, so I am going to head to bed (my bed where loud Eden is, at least until Ben gets home and moves her).