Call this a random post, but these happen from time to time. Letting you peak into my life. Not a brag at all, just how a regular guy sees this time of year.
I should be working right now, but I just can’t. Deal. A recent friend of mine says my kind of work is like herding cats, and I agree. Each day I may have two major things I want to get done, but instead, I do my best to put out the 10 fires that come in or simply come with the day-to-day of my job, leaving me the same perpetual two things the following day. So I kick that can another day, essentially accomplishing nothing. And while I take stuff home at night, or work on the weekends (when needed), I’m putting in half or a third of the outside 40 hours my boss (who I’m being groomed to take over for in a year or three) is. That’s ok as he is 61 with minimal home obligations, while I am a major part of our kids getting healthy homecooked meals, and getting to whatever practice or lesson or homework done. But it leaves me with the perpetual overhang of deadlines. I am not worried, things always come together for me. As shown by our in-house personality testing, some workers like to have a clean plate everyday, others, like me and at least one of our Executive VPs, are OK with some procrastination and still come out unscathed and things shining at the end. Not sure how your end of year is shaping up, but mine is a challenge until my noose is removed on December 23, but I digress… I’d much rather write about my kids.
But I need to begin with my wife and my childhoods’ first.
I grew up in pretty humble means. My parents didn’t have much excess and I remember two vacations growing up that were not the local camping trips; the other two vacas were a road trip/camping trip to Orlando, and a flight/road trip home to visit my grandma in Washington state. Camping is still pretty awesome, but it’s not like we were jetting to South Padre Island for spring break or anything. My wife too grew up with similar foundation, though maybe a little nicer house. They camped and went canoeing in the Boundary Waters in Canada and were humble in their growth as well. That foundation is why we’re so compatible. But while her childhood crumbled with parental divorce, mine stayed steady eddie. While I didn’t have much but used clothes and garage sale finds and government cheese during the year, my Christmas’s were filled with family traditions like Christmas songs, making cookies, painting the picture window, and hiding the golden spider in the tree. And of course, presents. My mom was part of the “Christmas Club” at work, where she would squirrel away a little out of each paycheck so we could have a nice Christmas. Our presents were never extravagant, but to kids with not much, they were great. Star Wars toys. Legos. One year my dad got us a NES – best. present. ever. These were happy memories. Watching made for TV movies like the Night They Saved Christmas or the cheesy Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman.
After my wife’s parents’ divorce, her holidays were in-fighting, limited presents, and melancholy. Or so she tells me – her and her brothers were split up, that is pretty messed up and I can see her lack of happiness during this time of year.
Two very different childhoods. So now grownup, we still carry those childhood aspects with us to our kids – I bring the Christmas music and she brings a more tempered approach (bah humbug!), but the kids are well taken care of.
Our traditions with Loudboy (now 9) and Birdsnest (11) have been well established at this point. We have a hand-me-down fake tree that we set up at the end of Thanksgiving weekend. Their highlight is pulling out the plethora of ornaments and memories and decorating the tree with them. They unpack the stocking holders and hang the stocking, then they help put up the door Advent calendar that holds candy, and finally the lighted nativity scene. Meanwhile, that weekend, or maybe a week earlier or later depending on the year, I’m on the ladder hanging the lights on the eaves and getting the few decorations out and snowblower ready. None of that Elf on a Shelf stuff. Just Peanuts Christmas on TV, or maybe some Grinch or Shrek the Halls. Stuff we just find in the now-dark evenings.
The rest of the month is spent watching our favorite Christmas movies (Elf, A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Polar Express, A Christmas Carol, maybe some Die Hard (only $4) or Gremlins (yeah, we’re weird). Loudboy wants to watch Krampus , but this is his last year believing in Santa so I’m not quite there yet. If my wife Holly is away, we’ll listen to Christmas songs, and if I’m not around, she’ll make Christmas cookies with the kids (I will eat too much dough).
We’re really lucky and fortunate for the life we can give them. We’ll turn the fireplace on, and spend time in the living room this time of year just doing family stuff. It’s the happiest time of year for me. The kids too really love this time of year, and while we don’t indulge them much financially until Christmas day. We are doing cool things like sledding or maybe iceskating (possible here some years by late December in the upper midwest), or going through the light parade the Rotary puts on.
Christmas itself is usually a shit show for me. While only one of us still believes in the Magic of Christmas, we are still all awake by 6 a.m. I am bleary eyed with a cup of strong coffee while the kids start tearing into their Christmas presents. This year is the first where they won’t get many, but better ones. Loudboy is getting two main presents: a $200 Lego set (by far the most expensive to date, though last year he got the Millennium Falcon which was a HUGE hit and still assembled today – though word of warning to Lego parents: sets on Amazon get sold out or are in short supply the closer you get to Christmas, so order early!!), and Big Joe Bean Bag (we call it the BJ 🙂 ) which he has been lusting after since we’ve spent time at his Uncle’s cabin the last year. He won’t shut up about it. A little funny.
His sister is a total boss, Type A personality. She plays four instruments and is in the school choir. Does arts and crafts like it is her job. Sews. Writes stories. Plays sports (basketball, soccer, fustal, swimming, and now tae kwon do). And really would like to try everything, which is sometimes a problem. One thing she insists she wants to try is skateboarding. They used to call my wife “Betty” because her brother was a skater and she hung with all those guys. Hence, it is no surprise that Holly bought her a skateboard for Christmas. I expect I’ll break my wrist or some shit when I try it out (not a skater), but I’m thrilled both my kids are a combo of nerds (Loudboy is a huge nerd – loves to read, introverted, glasses and all) and athlete (both are into soccer/futsal. Loudboy, at 9, will run on the treadmill and is a future Ninja Warrior). I slowly teach them the red pill, but it is in spots. My daughter is about to start the run -up to teenage drama, but she seems well grounded to handle the assault.
Anyway, before I get too off topic, Christmas for us is a pretty special time of year. We’ll be volunteering for Salvation Army bell ringer for the first time this year, but in general are all family time this month. Like I said, for us we have a lot of gratitude despite our stressful times. Both my wife an I will be able to unwind for nearly two weeks (like most years) between Christmas and New Years, coinciding with lots of kid times.
I hope your Christmas season is full of love and hope and happiness. Not sure how much more I’ll be able to write this year, but I have a half-dozen posts close to done in the drafts, so who knows.
Keep on the track, the year is almost done!