Baby Bee swings her feet as she sits on a chair in front of the tv. She’s home with a cold. Her colds get annoying because Baby Bee gets obsessive about coughing and clearing her throat. I try to remind her that she’s fine. That she doesn’t need to cough like that. I try to help her break that pattern. Sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t, it just depends where her mind is at that time. Her smile is big and bright as she watches whatever is entertaining her. She fidgets a lot, though. Her feet swing. Her bottom wiggles. She does tricep dips (seriously). She bounces her feet off the ottoman.

I’ve been worried about Baby Bee, you know. I’ve written about how she’s kind of other. I’ve watched her development and while it is typical in some places, it’s been atypical in other. She’s floppy. She refuses to write. She becomes agitated if strangers are around. She takes weeks and months to settle into a normal classroom situation. She actively and loudly refuses to do things. I’ve debated whether or not Big Daddy and I are raising a Class A Jerk. Thinking about Baby Bee trying to exist in Kindergarten, as she is, is enough to give me a panic attack.

So, we reached out to Baby Bee’s amazing Teachers and Therapists and asked for help and when the results came back, we were both surprised and not.

Baby Bee has Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Or, if it makes more sense and sounds less PC, Baby Bee has autism.

She points at the tv screen with her middle finger. I remind her, for the millionth time not THAT finger. She corrects herself and draws shapes in the air that she cannot explain. I’ve asked what they mean. She doesn’t seem to know. Is this a phase? I think I remember doing something similar when I was younger. Or, is this other? I can’t say.

Everything about her has changed and nothing has. She’s totally different and she isn’t. It’s one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever had, this diagnosis which changes everything and nothing. Something big has happened and yet it hasn’t.

No diagnosis can change who Baby Bee is. She’s still her. She’s still knobbly knees and unruly hair. She still prefers to bury under you when she tries to sleep. She still likes to skip and play pretend. She still counts her sister as her best friend.

But…

Everything seems tinged with a “but”. “Baby Bee has a great sense of humor” but does she? Or is it her being other. Is it on purpose? Or by design of her disorder. “Baby Bee is super active” but does she have no other choice to find or avoid sensory input. Does she jump off things because she’s a daredevil or because that’s the only way for her to feel or not feel things. Will treatment change her? Will it not? Do I want her to change? Do I not?

Initially, I felt driven to do. To get appointments and assessments and information. I googled. I read. I worried, but right now, I feel like I’m in this holding place. I watch Baby Bee closely. I’m more careful with maintaining routines and expectations. I remind the Princess that Baby Bee might take things literally, so threatening to throw her in the trash could be terrifying to her. All of that testing and assessing is coming for her, but for now, I feel like i need to watch and to know my daughter in a way I haven’t for the past five and a half years. I watch her face, as she speaks, in a way I haven’t for a long time. I watch her movements and listen, closely, to the inflection of her voice. I feel like I’m learning her again, except that I’m not. Everything is new and yet it isn’t.

Everything and nothing.

Depression is something I’ve thought about a lot as I move through life as an adult. For all of my logical skills and abilities, it’s something that’s taken me a long time to identify and then a long time to come to terms with. Actually, I’m not even sure that I have come to terms with it yet. Anxiety has been so much easier for me to accept than the idea of depression and it actually annoys me that I have been so slow to allow myself to acknowledge that depression is a part of my life.

Oh, you know, part of it is because I feel like it devalues my life. I have a great husband and we love each other. We have a healthy, supportive relationship that makes us both happy. I have three great kids who are healthy and happy. I have good friends and close connections with my family. I have a home that I love and hobbies and interests that keep me happy and occupied.

How can I be depressed? That what I ask myself after taking inventory. Oh, if I were talking to you about your depression I would tell you that you can’t help depression. That it’s a function of your brain and how wonderful and full and lovely and happy your life is has nothing at all to do with it. I would absolutely tell you that. But me? I don’t buy that.

Several months back, my therapist told me that as my anxiety stopped being such a big part of my life that the depression that causes the anxiety would start to rise to the surface and that came to pass this winter. This winter was hard for me.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself not that enchanted by winter anymore. Oh, sure, I love the first few snow falls and I still love snow at Christmas, but once mid-January roll around, I’m sort of over it. As most of you know, the Midwest had yet another rough winter (nothing like Boston! You guy can keep that crap!) It lasted forever. It still seems to have problems wanted to let go as we had snow on the ground last week. It was so dark here and dreary and the girls were off school so much that it lent itself to this time of apathy. Serious, deep apathy.

I can’t say that apathy is over.

Depression isn’t always a bootstrap thing, but it can be. Thankfully, my depression isn’t debilitating and it stays pretty mild. I can bootstrap myself out of it by forcing myself to take small steps and once I have momentum behind me, depression doesn’t seem to hold on as tightly.  My main daily activity is no longer lying on the couch.  And, yes, that’s a true statement and, yes, that is a recipe for disaster with kids and pets and a husband and a house.

I’ve been trying to repeat to myself that I have depression and that’s fine.   Depression doesn’t invalidate any good thing that I have.  It doesn’t change me.   It’s just who I am.

Confession time!

This year, I bought about 90% of my Christmas gifts on-line.  The percentage has been growing over the years, but the last couple I really didn’t go out to shop at all.  There’s just no need to.  Everything from adorable Christmas pajamas to stocking stuffers can be shipped directly to my door and I can purchase them anytime I have a spare moment.   I don’t have to hide gifts places, they wait in boxes to be wrapped.

But, the boxes.  Oh so many boxes.  Big ones and little ones and medium ones.    We recycle, of course, and our cardboard bin has been stuffed full over the last few weeks, but as the Christmas season drew to a close, we still had a surplus of boxes.  Initially, I thought we’d use them to make a cat house, but I found an idea buried in my  Pinterest.  On Sunday, I called out asking who wanted to do something fun, but maybe slightly dangerous.  Baby Bee was in, Littlebit was pretty sure she was in and the Princess watched from the top of the stairs to make a game time decision.

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Yes, friends, we put cardboard on the stairs and let the kids use it as a slide.

It’s a pretty easy project; break down a large cardboard box and duct tape it to one side of your stairway. Don’t tape the second side down so you can lift the box to allow people to climb up the stairs for more trips. My hint would be to use a heavier weight cardboard than we did as ours had a lot of give and I don’t think we got quite the affect we would have gotten from sturdier cardboard.

Baby Bee found it acceptably terrifying, though.

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In the end, we couldn’t get it to stay taped the wall and I think we would have been better suited by running vertical strips up the wall instead of trying to tape it horizontally across the top.  But, the little girls used it over and over to slide down the bottom few stairs.  Even the Princess gave it a go.  But, as far as “bang for the buck” goes, it was a free to us cardboard box and some duct tape and most people will have those supplies on hand.  Give it a go on your next rainy or cold day and let me know what your kids think of it.

Last year, I read a book that sent me on a path of learning.  It wasn’t my favorite book of the year, but it was my most useful.

 

I’ve been kind of honest about my struggle to lose weight.  It’s been a 30 year issue, if I’m being honest.  I gain moments of clarity about it, but I just have the worst time making anything stick.   I’ve read a million diet books, I’ve started about ten thousand diets and it just never sticks for me.  I’ve spent time trying to figure out why this is and settled on the unproductive idea that I’m just super lazy and obviously a terrible person.

But, that’s not what I think anymore because the more time I spend thinking about the places where I feel I fail I find that the problems, really, are my habits.

So, yes, my one little world for 2015 is Habits.

I need to acknowledge them.

I need to find ways to change them.

I need to find ways to create new ones.

Let me explore this idea with you a bit.   Habit is easy for our brain.  Our brains love habits.  It’s, essentially, automating life and allowing the easily traveled path to become our preferred path.  Our brains make dozens of decisions a minute and it automates as many as it can.  Now, that works great for us when we get out of bed and brush our teeth or check the door locks before bed, but if can work badly if we’ve created bad habits like snacking before bedtime.   It’s hard to break those habits because it’s just easier for our brain to keep snacking like we’re used to.  It doesn’t have to come up with something new to keep us busy.

In looking at my diet, my meals aren’t really a problem.  Oh, sure, sometimes I over eat and sometimes we eat out, but the vast majority of meals don’t support my current weight, if that makes sense.  No, it’s the snacks and other sedentary habits that are working against me.   To be successful at weight loss and a number of other “problem areas” it’s going to require me rewiring my automation and putting new, better habits in place.

That won’t be easy, of course, if it were we’d all do it without much effort, but I’m going to give it the good old college try.

 

Do you have a word of the year?  If so, what is it?

 

 

So, that December Daily thing? Sorry. You know how things go; it’s not just the most wonderful time of the year it’s also the busiest.
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Hosting, wrapping, cooking, baking, shopping, parties and other events. It’s all so much and I can admit that I didn’t handle the stress very well this year. Everything got done, but my stress level didn’t move from 10 until December 26th. That’s a rotten feeling.
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The girls and Big Daddy had a good holiday season and that matters the most, to me. I think it’s hard, though, to admit that the stress got the best of me and I didn’t enjoy myself like I wanted to. The advice is always to do less! Let things go! But, that isn’t easy advice to take. Whose activity gets cut? Whose favorite is forgone?
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It’s like picking a favorite book or child; finding the place to cut can be impossible. There are just too many factors at play to eliminate very much and, beyond that, there’s guilt involved as well when you decide to NOT participate in the usual traditions.
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So, what do you do? Well, I fake it as much as I can. I try to only complain at the stress or not feeling christmas-y to Big Daddy and I look for places that I can make next year better.

 

The Menu Plan
Monday Creamy Crockpot Taco Chicken
Tuesday Hawaiian Haystacks
Wednesday Chicken Lazone
Thursday Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings
Friday Possibly, our first date night of 2015
Saturday Burgers and Fries
Sunday Tuscan Tortellini Soup with fresh baked bread

This morning, the battery was dead on the car. I shook my fist at the sky and called in the reinforcements (aka my Uncle) who came over with his battery charger and charged the battery since the car was in the garage.

Then, we called around until we found a place that would install the battery and instead of spending the whole day sitting on the couch and watching Christmas movies, we got to spend part of our day having a new battery installed.

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But, the girls were good. They shared the iPod and we played Hangman until the car was ready and we drove home and I was thankful. Thankful, that it was a minor repair, that we hadn’t been stranded any place and that my Uncle was able to come over and help us get back on the road, quickly. I was thankful we wouldn’t have to wait for three hours (the guy ahead of us did) and that the girls waited patiently in the little room.

We stopped on the way home and bought bubble bath and tv dinners and finally snuggled up on the couch. I’d been waiting all day.

Our box of Christmas books has been brought down to go back onto the shelves and Littlebit has been reading through them. I love that she loves to read so much.

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Lastly, I took some time out to repair our angel. She’s very special to us as she’s topped our tree for every year of the Princess’s life. Last year, her lights burnt out after 13 years of use and we paced her up and forgot. I bought a new strand of lights for her, today, and carefully unhooked her old lights and then reattached the new ones.

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Hopefully, she’ll be good for thirteen more years.

Watching Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever We are fans of Tarter Sauce and I expected this movie to be pretty awful, but it knew it was campy, so it made fun of itself and we ended up liking it.

Pepper took a “bubble bath” last night. A lot of times, Elf ideas are elaborate and take a lot of time and money, but this one is pretty quick and only costs a package of marshmallows. And, you can eat the leftover marshmallows, so that’s a win/win.
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And, today was the day we went out to cut down our Christmas tree.
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The original plan was for Big Daddy to sling an axe over his shoulder and we would trapse into the wood and fell a perfect blue spruce and I would swoon because Big Daddy and an axe. But, in the end I couldn’t make Big Daddy wrestle on the ground in the mud with an axe, so we settled for a pre-cut Fraser fir instead.

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Thankfully, we had a busy afternoon, so the tree dripped dry on the porch while we went to the Christmas parade. It was too wet for the band to wear their uniforms, so they went with “Ugly Christmas Sweater”.
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After cheering on the Princess, stuffing our pockets full of candy and welcoming Santa to town, it was time to go home and put up our tree.

Things were going well.
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Everyone was feeling happy and festive.
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And then, Littlebit’s Belle ornament she picked out at Disneyworld fell off the tree and broke.

I have never heard Littlebit cry like that. Now, Littlebit is a cryer. She just feels things so deeply and it’s easy to break her heart or excite her into squeals and dancing without much effort, but she was so sad that I cried right along with her. Thankfully, it was a small piece and it was easy to fix and by morning no one will every know. But, it did cast a pallor over Littlebit’s festivities. Thankfully, we were able to snuggle and talk about how many happy memories were on our tree’s branches and she started to feel better.

And, I felt a little like crying again. I get emotional every year when we put up the tree. I love how it’s a snapshot from our entire lives, starting at the very very beginning; thirty nine years of combined history all contained in a corner of the room. It’s wonderful.

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Dinner
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If you have been to our house during cold weather time, I have probably made you soup and this potato soup is a particular favorite. It’s NOT healthy, but for serving a time or two a season, you can’t beat it.

Watching Spike the Elf

I had trouble sleeping last night. That probably doesn’t surprise you if you read yesterday’s entry. I tossed and turned and watched 8 Crazy Nights twice. I hope to be able to sleep in this morning to catch up a little bit, but Pepper, the elf, ate candy and Littlebit couldn’t find her shoes and Luna wanted to be pet and actually bit my elbow twice. I managed to fall back to sleep for about twenty minutes after Littlebit was off to the bus, but I woke up feeling no better.

I was still so overwhelmed and my bedroom was a mess.

I know some parents who really don’t let their kids in their bedroom, but for Big Daddy and me it’s always been a family space. For a while, it held the only other tv in the house, so if Big Daddy was watching hockey on the “big” tv, some collection of girls and I would snuggle up in the big bed to watch in my room. Because we don’t prevent the kids from being in our room and using it, sometimes the mess can get overwhelming and, like a lot of people, our room becomes a catch all for things we don’t have time to deal with or don’t know what to do with. After a brief meltdown, where I listed the ten million things I had to do to Big Daddy, I sucked it up and tackled my room. And, it was funny, as I made progress on the bedroom I felt myself feeling better, too.

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I put away the laundry and the cleaned up the mess that had spilled out/over into the hallway. And then, I asked for help. Why is that so hard? Big Daddy helped me arrange things a little bit so things would be a little less stressful on me.

He also helped me hang the garland and he’s pretty much going to help me every year because it’s much easier to have someone who’s more than a foot taller than you hang things on the top of the windows.

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So, tomorrow we’ll get up and have a warm breakfast and drive a while to cut down a Christmas tree. A seven foot blue spruce, of course, the same we’ve had the past three years. We’ll buy an ugly Christmas sweater for the Princess to wear as she marches in the Christmas parade. We’ll pick up fruit and hope it doesn’t rain too much.

We’ll trim the tree and I’ll get a little bit weepy as we pull the entirety of our lives out of the ornament boxes. I’ll hang the little kitten in a stocking that was my first ornament and the little pink heart and the little booties that were the girls. And it will all be all right.

Dinner we got to celebrate my Grandpa’s birthday this evening and had pizza and cake with family.

Listening to Christmas by Michael Buble

It’s almost the fifth.

I realized I forgot to move Pepper.

And then, I realized I hadn’t hit publish on this post.

And them my browser crashed and I had to start over.

Our calendar is filling up.  Is yours?  We have eight separate events that must take place on Friday and Saturday and don’t include school.  We could have nine, but I pulled rank on one of them and I’m hoping to decrease the number to seven if I can move our reservations to have breakfast with Santa to another weekend (the 20th, originally deemed too late now seems better than this Saturday, but i it cannot be moved, we’ll make it work).

And this weekend isn’t nearly as busy as next weekend is shaping up to be and I’m worried that I’m going to be spending my entire Christmas season rushing and that I’m going to miss it and I don’t want to miss it.

Breathe.

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As soon as the snow comes, I’ll have my breakfast and drink my coffee in Big Daddy’s seat that you see in that picture. The cardinals will come to the feeder and it will be the most beautiful seat in our home this winter.

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In reality, I wanted to write about hanging up my pine garland and how I made Big Daddy and the big girls pull the tote of Christmas lights up from the basement because I had a wild hair that the outside lights needed to go up RIGHT NOW.  It should be a cute story about finding Big Daddy making bad lighting choices and my pathetic attempts to toss the string of lights over our smoke bush (I think it’s probably nearly seven feet tall now).   But, stress over came me and I curled up next to a freshly bathed Baby Bee and watched Peep instead because I couldn’t wrap my mind around anything else.

There has, in the past, come a point during the lead up to Christmas that the whole thing seems impossible.  Hours spent hunched over on the floor wrapping gifts. Never knowing who has the tape or scissors.  It’s nearly through the first week of December and I’m not done decorating yet.  I haven’t finished shopping and in a couple of cases don’t know what I’m going to buy anyhow.

I think sometimes, bloggers only like to show you the pretty things.

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Admittedly, I’m not trying to “build a brand” here, so my motivation to present a certain image is different than that of some others, but even I don’t show you the whole picture. Dirty table? Nope. I crop it out or clean it off before I take pictures even if the rest of the house is in shambles. You’ll never see the super burnt bacon I made for breakfast this morning, or the cookies that weren’t mixed right and crumbled. Part of it, of course, is in the story telling and, frankly, the day to day debris of a life isn’t that interesting.

It’s not.

And, seeing my dirty laundry (literally and figuratively) probably isn’t going to inspire you or make for good reading.

So, as I sat down tonight, stressed, I realized that part of this Daily journal thing is admitting when things go off the rails.  It’s admitting that dinner was late and I tried to rush the rolls and they didn’t rise and were hard and the size of golf balls.  It’s admitting that I’m disappointed that we don’t have time execute my exterior lighting plans and that while it only takes fifteen minutes to get my garlands up in the living room I haven’t done it for reasons I can’t actually give you.

My point, albeit long winded and probably scattered, is that while for the next 27 days, I’m going to be writing entires that are mostly positive and upbeat, something is probably bugging the crap out of me or I’m worried about pulling something off or something working out and whether we’ll have enough fun and if I’ll get it all done or not.  You won’t be alone.

So, if in the dark hours you’re stumbling around downstairs trying to figure out what to do with the darn Elf (whose idea was she anyhow?!), I might just be doing it along with you.  And, the next morning, you should grab your coffee or tea (or cocoa or yerba mate or diet coke or whatever) and find the most beautiful spot in your home this season and sit in it for as long as you can.

Dinner Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Listening to>A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra

Baby Bee needed to sleep in today.  After many years of struggle and taking some good advice from my therapist, we have finally gotten to the point where Baby Bee can put herself to sleep and then sleep peacefully through the night.

Yes, Baby Bee IS five and a half years old. Thank you for remembering.

We’ve discovered, though, that Baby Bee is just exhausted in the evening.  She melts down and gets really frustrated, so we decided to start timing her sleep and then adjusting her bedtime.  Typically, she goes to bed at the same time as Littlebit, anywhere from 8:45 to 9:00, but then it takes her 10-15 minutes to settle into sleep.  Big Daddy and I opted to move her bedtime to 8:30 (meaning she’d be asleep by 9 and then able to get the 10 hours of sleep we think she needs by her 7 am wake up time).  This morning, however, Baby Bee got up, ate oatmeal and fell back to sleep for another hour.  We’ll stick with trying to get her a full ten hours of sleep and seeing how she fares because buying her another hour of sleep will complicate a lot of things.

So, I had a helper.
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The little girls were excited to find Pepper swinging in the doorway this morning.  The girls have a doorway swing in the playroom and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a gift for an active kid this holiday season.  The price is a little steep and the link I provided seems to have it for the best price, but it’s a great way for kids to burn off lots of energy inside.  I think I reccomend this toy every year, but we’ve had it for several years, it still gets heavy use and it’s still in great shape.  What more can you ask for?
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I finally got the garland lit.  I love how easy it is to tuck the wires down amongst the balls.  I made this garland last year and I still love it.  It’s a cinch to make and you don’t have to be crafty to pull it off. However, I would recommend waiting until after Christmas to buy your supplies. There are always LOADS of the big containers of shatterproof (aka plastic) ornaments at Walmart for 50-70% off after Christmas, which makes this project super inexpensive. Also, I used cotton yarn because it doesn’t stretch very much and is difficult to break.

Just a little bokeh.
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Dinner Tuna Noodles Romanoff. When we were fist married, I had a little Betty Crocker easy dinners cook book.  That cookbook is long gone, but we still love tuna noodles romanoff.

WatchingThe Year Without a Santa Claus