Since I was planning to travel to visit my mom in early November and we are planning to spend time with family in Indiana over Christmas, it seemed like a good idea to just hang out at home for Thanksgiving this year.
And mostly it was.
But it was also kind of long and sometimes hard.
For one thing, anyone off schedule has some recalibrating to do, and that especially includes children. It’s not like they slept in; on the contrary, they go up earlier than usual and went to bed on time. But without the structure of school, or let’s be real, even getting dressed, they just didn’t have their nice predictable boundaries to bounce off of.
So instead they bounced off the walls. And one another.
It’s not like we did nothing. The vacation really started on Monday because my husband was going to be working from home so we planned to do some purging and organizing. And we did. But he had to go into a meeting and so miss part of the time I’d scheduled an organizer to come over and help us talk through things and ensure that we didn’t yet at each other. So what happened later, after she’d left. Yelling. And sulking. But we did manage to get a ton of stuff out to Goodwill. (If only my son hadn’t seen the photo of it my husband took on his phone for later itemizing. D’oh!)
And we started to figure out how we might shift some things around. So by the time the kids were off school on Wednesday, the house was many pounds lighter.
(Good thing, since I think I became about four pounds heavier over the next few days, not one ounce due to sugar.)
Wednesday morning was a little too lolling. The weather was cold and with rain that spent some time as snow, making us wary of driving. But after the white cleared up, we finally decided at about 11 that we would make an attempt to get to the 12:25 IMAX movie on lemurs at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. This meant we rushed to make and eat some food, pack some more food, put on non-pajamas and get out the door. Which we did at 12:00.
Good thing it took us only 11 minutes to drive and just a few more for my husband to park. The movie was fun, I’m told that the best part was when they explained how the female lemurs reigned supreme. I missed that because, you know, my daughter had to go to the bathroom.
After the film was over and we escaped the throngs of tourists on a field trip, we were all kind of blitzed and wandered the (new?) dinosaur area in something of a stupor.
Then we found ourselves outside the exhibit area – as in outside the whole interior of the museum, where I’d never been before – by a delightfully cool window where we plopped down and ate some apples and seaweed. After a little wandering back downstairs in the ocean area, my husband said something about Teaism and looked it up to see how far it was. Despite the drizzle and our lack of umbrella, we decided to brave the elements and walk there.
Once we looked at the menu, I offered the group (not me) could splurge on a gluten-free chocolate coconut cake and gelato. There had to be some reward for such a cold, wet walk. My husband also ordered the tacos, which the cashier was kind enough to point out were not GF, probably from some soy sauce. Considering they were on organic sprouted corn tortillas, I let that go and didn’t object to my son having some. Oh, and I have to admit I also got my picky daughter a side of sticky rice, which she and her brother quite enjoyed.
I got ginger tea.
We walked back in the blustery weather and saw the Archives where I would be accompanying my son on a field trip the following week. Shortly after we got home, the raindrops changed again to large, wet chunks of snow.
In the week since I started writing this post, the rest of the holiday has already gotten fuzzier in my memory.
Thanksgiving Day, the kids watched the Macy’s parade for the first time. We cooked. LJ took the kids to the park for a while.
I don’t remember much else, but Picasa tells me that was the day my son tried to make a stop-motion video of the trains in the basement.
On Black Friday, I spent a few ill-advised minutes looking on Etsy at magnetic chalkboards in the hopes of figuring out some prettier organizing solutions for two areas in our home. I also bought the metal wall pockets that are now hanging in the office. And I found what the metal organizer board I want on the perpendicular wall. Someday.
But Mommy looking at a computer screen for more than 22 minutes is not the best way to instill a calm and harmonious home life. In short, the kids went bonkers, so I was glad we had early afternoon family “gratitude” yoga on the docket.
I hadn’t heard back from the PTA about a fundraiser wrapping gifts for our school at a bookstore, so we didn’t venture out into the on-the-ground consumer madness for that. Well, actually, my husband did later with our son after he showed signs of needing a break from the house. He found a Christmas gift for his sister that I think she will love. That he showed consideration for someone else and was so excited about it made me actually not hate the go-out-and-buy vibe that day has now taken on.
I think I cooked while they were gone, maybe some laundry and maybe I did something with my daughter. I do know that my husband texted me photos of larger kitchen compost pails and brought one home, so that was a score.
At some point the following day, I said we really ought to get outside in the nice weather, so we got ourselves up to Great Falls Park, which was lovely, if short-lived. We have a ways to go on getting my kids to be the hikers I always thought we’d be. That’s because I have a ways to go on feeling energetic and motivated to do the things I know I enjoy but that seem overwhelming when my brain is foggy and my adrenals are not so strong. It’s gotten a lot better, but my kids have also gotten a lot older, and I feel like so much time has gone past without me being a full human.
But even though the trip was short, it was nice. And what happened after reminds me what had happened the day before! While LJ and EJ were out at the store on Black Friday, our neighbor, who was walking by with her young daughter, came in and we had a lovely chat about home organization and play. She shared her desire for more of an open-door and shared play vibe in our neighborhood, so the following day, we had her son come over to play on Saturday afternoon.
It would probably have been better to have just him rather than also the little brother of my son’s playdate; three is not a perfect number. But it was instructive to see my daughter move seamlessly between these boys and to see how they split off and joined back together with minimal (I really mean minimal) adult intervention. Little girl AJ has not had much in the way of unstructured play with age-mates thus far, and I’m excited to be entering this phase, especially with folks in our neighborhood.
The last day of the holiday vacation was really warm, as I recall. But what the heck did we do? I seriously can’t remember. Maybe we just went down to the park some more. It was a long five days at home!
I know it’s important to have unstructured time, but I also like to have memories that don’t fade into the messy mind-collage of fought-with-each-other-made-messes-got-hungry-dirtied-dishes-washed-dishes-separated-fighting-kids-did-laundry-put-away-laundry-found-more-laundry-to-do-failed-to-get-food-made-before-meltdown.
And yet, having lots of that as padding in between busier times is important, especially as we look ahead to later this month, which will see travel (12ish hours) to the Midwest; visits and present-opening with 6 cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents; at least four nights in a hotel; a day at a children’s museum; an evening play performance; and coming back home again the day before school starts.
When we were at the orthodontist the following week, my children were asked what their favorite part of Thanksgiving was. I held my breath, wondering if they’d complain about how they didn’t do anything or their parents are so lame or they didn’t see any cousins. But they both happily responded, my son that he got to go to Great Falls, and my daughter that she got to do a “surprise” for her brother, which was decorating the table for our Thanksgiving dinner. It was a rarity for me to get out a tablecloth and actually iron napkins, and she got to set them out along with other “decorations” she found in the basement. I thought her style was kind of funny, but I underestimated how much fun she had doing it.
I probably do that a lot.