I Did NOT Put This on My List

Christmas morning.  It’s a morning of exhaustion, for those elves who’ve stayed up well past their near geriatric bedtimes to put together all of Santa’s toys.   It’s a morning of anticipation for little ones as they try to contain themselves inside their rooms until the appropriate hour to awaken mom and dad, aka the elves.   For our house, appropriate time is when the digital clock in the bedroom reads 7:00.

Christmas morning.  It’s a morning of overwhelming excitement as children tear into their gifts, eager to see if the Santa at the mall, or the Elf on the Shelf, really does communicate with the “real” bearded fat man.

Christmas morning.  It’s a morning of reflection on our lives, who we are, what we’ve been, and Who was born on this day to save us all.

Christmas morning for me?   Well, that’s a whole different story, at least for this year.   This Christmas, I spent it wrapped up under four blankets, while everyone else walked around in shorts and flip flops with the A/C blaring.  It was 70 degrees and humid.   And as the sweat dripped down my forehead, over my arms and down my chest, I shivered and ached away.   For Christmas this year, the old fat man brought me a 102 degree fever and a case of strep throat.

My boys opened their gifts.   Did I get to play with them?  No.   My family opened their gifts.  I opened my gifts, although my fever had me a bit on the dopey side so I didn’t realize how wonderful my gifts were until Sunday.   My husband made a fabulous French toast and sausage breakfast.   It smelled good at least.   My family (parents, aunt, cousins) came to enjoy Christmas dinner at my house.   Me?  I was quarantined upstairs.   There was no fine China this year, no drinking from my grandmother’s crystal, no eating in the dining room, while listening to Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole croon.   Instead they crowded around the kitchen table, but still enjoyed themselves all the same.

Today as I began taking down my Christmas decorations, an overwhelming sadness washed over me.   I missed Christmas.   In my 40 years on this earth, I’ve never missed Christmas.   It saddened me, almost as much as it saddened me when we realized we would no longer have Christmases with my brother nearly 10 years ago.

The days flew by, the weeks were inundated with parties, gatherings, socializations, but I still felt empty and I was hoping for that Christmas magic on Christmas morning.   I’m saddened over not enjoying a dinner with my family, it’s not every day when we’re able to get together like this.   I’m saddened over no family pictures in front of the Christmas tree.  We’re not guaranteed another day.   Which one of us may not be here next year?

My boys were clueless to mommy’s absence, thanks to Santa and my family.   I’m grateful for that.   Truly, I am.   I’m grateful for a family who gets along together so well that there was harmony between them and my husband in the kitchen.   They were apparently like a well-oiled machine.   “We just seemed to fit together,” my husband said.  “Least amount of stress I’ve ever had in the kitchen.”

I suppose I should look at this bout of strep throat in a different light.   At least it happened when my husband was home and didn’t have to work the next day.  He was up every 3 hours trying to get my fever to break.   At least I was able to actually get some rest while being sick, an anomaly in itself.   In the end; however, I keep going back to one thought over this horrible Christmas…what did I do so wrong this past year for Santa to feel like I deserved strep throat as a present?   How about just keeping me off your list altogether, Santa, if this is how it’s to be.

I hope you all had a wonderful, family-filled, waistline bulging, ugly sweater wearing, Christmas Story watching, action packed, and most of all BLESSED Christmas.

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My Greatest Christmas Gift

From the very moment I’d found out that I was pregnant with Henry, I knew this pregnancy would be 100% different from my first.   I was terrified, selfishly, and it impacted how I went about my days with Davey.   I was sick, tired, and moody.   For the longest time, I was convinced Henry would be a girl.

His actual birthday was to be December 20th, but thanks in part to my previous C-section and my desire to not have his birthday so close to Christmas, Henry Bruce Doser was born on Friday the 13th in 2013.

Yesterday, we celebrated the 2nd birthday of my second and final biological child.   And much like with his big brother, I put him to sleep last night with the story of his birth, which went a little something like this.

Henry birth 5
Prince Henry’s first official picture.

Once upon a time, the king and queen decided to add another prince to their family.   Their oldest was just a little over two years in age, when the second prince made his entrance.   He was scheduled to arrive at 1:30 on Friday the 13th, but by 8 am that morning he started making his imminent arrival known.   The queen dealt with cramps and lower back pain, those that nearly mirrored her kidney stones from 14 years prior (at this Henry looked at me and laughed).   She gripped tightly to the king’s arms as he walked her into the hospital.

The queen was placed in a room with machines hooked up to her and wrapped around her belly.   The king sat alongside of her, occasionally stroking her arm, but mostly watching a Chuck Norris movie on television.  The incessant beeping of the machines, coupled with the contractions and the king’s inability to empathize, forced the queen to make a decision…The king was to be banished and the Queen Mother was to arrive.

Henry birth 1

As the hours went by, the Queen and her mother discussed upcoming Christmas plans, what it was like for the Queen Mother to give birth so many years ago, and what sort of crazy family member was doing the unthinkable.   Finally the time arrived when the queen was to go into surgery and so the king joined her.

Henry birth 3

A half hour later and Prince Doser II was born.   He wailed and he squirmed, making his entrance known.   He was just an ounce heavier than his older brother and the same height.   What a fine looking young prince he would be.   And in royal fashion it was decreed he would be named Prince Henry Bruce Doser.

Henry birth 2
Prince Davey meeting Prince Henry.

 

A short time later, Prince Davey, the older prince, entered the glass tower (as he called it) to meet his younger brother.   Prince Davey held tightly to the newborn prince, cradling him lovingly in his arms, even leaning over to kiss him.   The queen sat in her bed, staring at her beautiful boys and thanked the Lord for the blessings He bestowed upon her.   And from that moment forward they lived happily ever after.

Henry birth 4
Prince Davey giving Prince Henry his first brotherly kiss.

Every parent has a tradition, be it big or small when it comes to celebrating their children’s birthdays.   This is mine.

Henry laid in his bed, listening intently to my words, his thumb in his mouth.   Occasionally he smiled, but mostly he listened and stroked my hair.   At the end of my story, he kissed my cheek and said, “hap birthday me, mommy.”

My days become inundated with the grind of raising two boys, the stress, the guilt, and the pain, but I wouldn’t trade one second of any of it.   And people tell me I’ll miss these days.  I laugh in their faces, but I know the days are coming when hearing their birth stories will no longer be wanted, that the hugs will diminish, and the cuddles will become obsolete.   It saddens me and I realize these are some of the best days of my life and I WILL miss this.

Henry birth 6. jpg
Eating his birthday cake. Happy 2nd birthday, Prince Henry.

As I kissed him goodnight, he whispered, “love you, mommy” and I melted.   He was, and still is, my greatest Christmas gift.

I’m Sorry, I Love You, Thank You

Those were the three words I said to my parents Wednesday night when they answered the phone.  I’d just spent the better part of my evening experiencing one of the most overwhelming, intimidating, mentally and physically exhausting excursions since giving birth to my two boys.   What did I do?  I went to Toys R Us to buy their presents from Santa.   Yep, my husband and I accomplished it in one fell swoop and if we hadn’t been beaten up so badly, we’d likely have done a jig, followed by a high five.

As with most things I encounter on a day-to-day basis, I find that I was completely oblivious to level of work my parents put into me and my brother.   As a child, I thought they were so mean, self centered, and slave drivers.  Yes, I did think the last thing especially when I had to mow the lawn on the weekends.   With each new day of me raising our boys, I develop a different level of respect for my parents, for their hard work, their resilience, their strength (both mentally and physically), their heart, and their intelligence.   It doesn’t seem to get easier as the boys are growing, just more complicated.

Wednesday, my husband and I walked into the doors of our local Toys R Us.  I stopped for a moment and looked around.  Skylander toys seemed to be yelling down at me from banners.   Queen Elsa and Princess Anna smiled devilishly at me, their backs against each other.  I could hear them laughing at me while saying under their breath, “oh, here’s a new one.   Let’s see what we can put them through.”

There were Paw Patrol toys, FAO Schwartz, Disney, Thomas the Train, Legos, Avengers, Star Wars, Barbies, bikes, balls, pretend clothing, books and games.   There were so many levels and dimensions of each toy and each brand that I slowly felt my anxiety start wrapping around my heart and lungs, constricting my airways and veins.   This experience was going to be the death of me.  I knew it.  I knew it, even though my husband and I had a plan and a list.  I knew it as I was entering the realm of medieval torture.

My husband grabbed a cart and we immediately went to the Paw Patrol toys and Transformers.   Henry loves Paw Patrol.   You name it and he wants it.   Davey is all about his Transformers and Avengers.   He’s a super hero kind of kid (both literally and figuratively).  And of course, we’re smacked with a double whammy, as Henry’s birthday is 12 days before Christmas.  Yes, I know, we planned poorly.

We looked at our watches, determining that we had exactly 45 minutes to accomplish our task and set out to get it done.   This proved to be a bit too ambitious on our part.   45 minutes is ample time to discuss the absolute atrocity of pricing a chintzy plastic toy $56.   45 minutes is not ample time to get presents for our boys.   It was ludicrous on our part.

After completing our purchases, which nearly required two carts, we set out to collect the boys from church and quickly whisk them away to bed.   While my husband separated out our purchases, making sure that we had both boys taken care of, I placed the phone call to my parents, and what my dad told me made me love them both even more.  Not so much for the gift, but for the fact that they were willing to sacrifice for both me and my brother.   What he told me made me proud, and made me want to be as great as the two of them, although I can only hope to be half as good.

In the early 80s, there was a huge toy phenomenon known as Cabbage Patch Kids.   They were everywhere and yet nowhere.   Every child in the country wanted one, but they flew off the shelves faster than a North American X15 Thunderbird.  I was one of those children desperate for a Cabbage Patch Kid.   On the Thursday before Christmas in 1982, my dad cashed his paycheck and then set out to find a doll.   For those of you unaware, Christmas Day was on Saturday of that year, so he admitted he was a bit delusional, but also desperate as he and my mom had spent the better part of 3 months attempting to get one for Christmas.  He told me that he didn’t care what color, shape, size, or gender my Cabbage Patch Kid was, he just knew that he HAD to get one.  It’s the only thing I’d asked for and he couldn’t bear to face his child without one.   He made his way to Service Merchandise and there were two on the shelf.  He grabbed one as another person was grabbing the other.

As he told me this story, especially the part of not being able to face his child without her gift, I started to tear up.   I get it.  I really do.   Every parent wants their child to be happy.   No parent wants to see their child sad.   Until I had children of my own; however, I had no clue how stressful and yet heartbreaking shopping for them can be.

So as he finished his story and I thought back to my experience only hours before, I could only say these words, “I’m sorry.  I love you.  Thank you.”  I’m sure I’ll be repeating these words to my parents for years to come, especially during this time of year.

A Travelling We Go

Travelling with children is loathsome for me, be it plane, train, or automobile.   I spend a solid month preparing myself for it, mentally and physically.   I go through a checklist with things I may need for every possible scenario and for each child.   The boys have their own back packs now, so I do my best to load them down (without tipping them over) with every book, movie, colored pencil, and stuffed animal they may need.   Still, I’m not as fully prepared as I’d like to be.

When we go to Rochester to visit family, we fly, ALWAYS fly.   Being cooped up in a car with my two boys for 12 hours or more is not my cup of tea.   With flying, it’s usually five hours total, with a two hour layover built in so the boys can at least walk around, in their cases run, and expend some energy.   Of course, at times there are delays at the airports, thereby extending my time of misery as I find myself sprinting to catch up with Henry as he’s climbed onto the moving sidewalk and is strategically trying to look into other passengers’ bags.   Fortunately, most people just smile at the boys, while giving me an “I’ve been there before” pity look.

flying

This past Thanksgiving’s travel started out cumbersome and was a bit foreboding.   We arrived at the airport early, about an hour and a half before our flight was to leave, only to find out that it was delayed an additional two hours.   Unfortunately, we didn’t find out about this delay until AFTER we’ve already gone through security, meaning we were stuck in the terminal with two overly excited and rowdy boys.   I was at my wit’s end and needed a drink.   Actually, I was tempted to have my flight, and ONLY my flight, moved so that my husband could experience the joy of flying solo with the boys.  I’ve been there and done that.

Henry didn’t sleep during that flight.   He cried a lot, wanted to roam around the plane, kicked the seats in front of us.   Davey watched his movie on my iPad before finally laying his head on my lap and falling asleep.   Thank goodness!

pre flight

So, Saturday morning, as we were busy packing, I went back through my mental checklist, bringing back everything bothersome that had occurred on the flight up, and a solution for those problems.

Unlike the flight up, I was not given a pre TSA boarding pass for having an infant in my lap.   Side note…Rochester, NY is HORRIBLE with their security.   HORRIBLE!!!!!!   So, I had to practically undress myself, including my vest, which the TSA agent called a coat and I nearly lost my cool as I wanted to yell, “it’s not a coat”, and encourage Henry to walk through the metal detectors and wait on me.   After we made it through and were fully clothed and loaded back down with our carry ons, I needed  a coffee, and here’s where the adventures began.

hello Baltimore

While getting my coffee, the boys sat at a table howling like dogs, their howls reverberating and bouncing off the walls in the terminal.   Both sat with their heads towards the ceiling literally howling.   I pretended not to know them for as long as humanly possible.   Once we were in the lobby area waiting for our plane, I gave the boys my iPad so they could watch “Land Before Time”  (I love that they love what my husband and I watched as kids), along with their own personal headphones we’d just bought.   It went off swimmingly for about 15 minutes, before Henry wanted to shove Davey and take the iPad from him.   Of course, once Davey fought back for his fair share, Henry took off the headphones and went for his normal sprint through the airport.

Once we were on the flight, Davey watched another movie, Henry and my husband napped, and I was actually able to read a book!   Can you believe it?  I certainly can’t.   The last time I was able to read a book on a plane, that wasn’t about dinosaurs and knights, was on our last cruise in 2010.   It was nice, so nice.

on the plane

When we landed in Baltimore for our standard two hour layover, we found a restaurant carrying the Clemson/Carolina game.   Naturally, we had to stop there, but the downside was that all the tables were high top, and there were no booster seats or high chairs for Henry.   We weren’t going to be enjoying our lunch and game in peace.   Nope.   It’s quite exhausting trying to eat with one hand while using the other to keep a busy toddler in place.

trying to catch the game

During our layover; however, Davey did what he does best…he made new friends.   This time they were fellow Clemson Tiger fans, decked out in their orange, much like my entire family was.   Davey did his C-L-E-M cadence cheer, and the sweet lady gave him her Tiger Rag!

Davey and tiger rag

We killed a bit of time before boarding the final leg of our journey by walking the boys back and forth on the moving sidewalk.   Finally, when boarding the plane, the flight attendant did something that I despised her for the entire flight.   She asked Davey if he’d like to sit in the cockpit and get his picture made when we landed.   Why oh why, would you ask a child, MY CHILD, this and expect him to not want to do it?   So, for the hour and 15 minutes we were in the air, Davey whined off and on about wanting to go into the cockpit right now.   Couldn’t she have asked this as we were exiting?

Davey in cockpit 2

We were the last ones off the plane, which is usually the case, and as we were exiting, the same flight attendant said to have a great weekend, while looking at us and not registering who we were.    Seriously?   I’m the tallest female on the plane, you looked at me when you asked Davey about the cockpit, and now you act as if you don’t recognize me?   Naturally, I reminded her and she happily got the pilot and Davey was allowed the chance to see in the pilot’s seat.   The pilot let him grab the yoke and even told him what buttons to push, as I cringed the entire 3-4 minutes.   Please don’t tell my 4 year old he can push the buttons on a multi-million dollar plane.

Davey in cockpit

So, for now this adventure and the travels that go along with it are over, and not a minute too soon for me!