A funny thing about working from home is that it is, in fact, working. I am not sure why this fact might have escaped me when I was just thinking about it and rolling the idea around in my head, but there it is, glaring me in the face. Please understand, I am not complaining. I am extremely happy to be getting paid work, however minimal an amount it might be to start out with. I am so grateful to be able to be home with my kids, to be able to watch Josie grow and change, to be here to get the boys off to school AND be home when they get back. I love being able to shuffle around in my slippers all day long and stop to do a load of dishes or nurse the baby or play a game.

However, I am having a hard time with this thing called time-management. Oh, and another thing called obsession. Actually the two go together in this instance rather perfectly. See, I have to watch myself pretty closely or I definitely have workaholic tendencies;it is so easy for me to get in the mindset that because I am doing it from home, it isn’t really hurting anything/anyone if I am working all day. Several times already I have had to remind myself that the point of being home is actually to BE here, to be present for my kids and my husband in a way I wasn’t able to before. I have had to remember that it is okay for me to not accept work if I don’t truly want to do it, and to try to set aside specific blocks of time in which to work. Right now, this has often meant staying up long past everyone else at night, but I do know that can’t continue; I miss going to bed with my husband, for one thing, and ever since I quit drinking I am NOT a night owl.

But let me tell you, even though it is a big change (especially for someone who abhors change), even though there is no real workable routine in place as of yet, even though it is requiring more flexibility than is necessarily comfortable for me, well, I am enjoying the hell out of it all. Being at home with the kids has been lovely in thousands of ways, but now that Josie is getting bigger and so much more mellow than she has been for the past, oh, 14 months (thank you jebus!), it feels really good and important to be taking steps toward my non-kid life. And I am ever aware of how lucky I am to be able to finally begin to do wha I love AND get paid for it.

Christmas is over and it looks like a bomb hit my house. We were so busy on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that I did not have a chance to do much more than pick up, so when I woke up this morning I was confronted with the detritus of holiday merrymaking. It is a little bit daunting, to say the least.

Today started off on a sour note; Eli got off work at 5 this morning, which necessitated me leaving the house at 4:30. In the morning, if you didn’t catch that. Now, I will be the first to say I am a morning person; sleeping in until 7:00 is like sleeping until noon for most people. I am typically up by five-thirty at the latest, but I am certainly not up and out of the house by then. It had been snowing, so I was going to leave the house a little early in case the roads were bad; went out to start the car and nothing. It wanted to start, it really did, but just couldn’t. I wondered if it might be out of gas (our fuel sensor hs been out for months and months, so we just go by our odometer; it said I still had fifty miles on the tank) but I didn’t have time to put any in it so I just took Hannah’s car (she stayed with us through the holidays). Got Eli picked up and back to the jail on time, and then texted Steve to see if he  could put gas in the car for me. He came back with “I couldn’t hear the pump trying to cycle when I tried to start it so I think the fuel pump went out.” Great. Juuuuust great.

But funny, I have been in my Zen space all week and I was like, huh. Not great news, we don’t have the money right now for major car repairs, but you know? It’s all good. And it was. It has snowed all day, and Josie is sick, a croupy wheezy cough and fever that requires large amounts of snuggling and nursing. Hannah and Sam left to go get Aubry from her Dad’s and then make room at Hannah’s apartment for all the toys, so Owen and Josie and I were ensconced in the cozy house all day with nowhere we had to be. I slowly began to put the house back in order (three sinks full plus a full dishwasher load of dishes!), Owen went out to shoot his new BB gun and then came back in to get warm and play with his new Playdough set and then back out to shoot (God help my robins), and it was a lovely day. Not the same peace I had over Christmas, but peace of a different kind. I wasn’t worried about the car and how much it was going to cost, wasn’t worried overly about anything in fact, and simply enjoyed the day.

Steve even got to come home earlier than usual; he wanted to see if he could figure out it was the fuel pump for sure, because we actually have a spare one he could take to the shop to have put in, for a lot less than buying one through the shop. He was out in the garage banging around like men in fixing mode do, and then it got really, really quiet. Turns out? The car was just out of gas.

Christmas Eve morning. Aubry woke up puking in the middle of the night, poor girl, meaning Hannah and Sam both woke up as well because they were all sleeping in the same room. Josie heard the commotion and woke up as well, wanting nursies and snuggles. Hannah got Aubs settled back to sleep around 4:30, but Josie woke back up at five and did NOT want to go back to sleep. Instead, she thought it would be more fun to throw a screaming, back-arching fit because Daddy was leaving for work. Finally at about six thirty, Josie went back to sleep, but within moments Owen woke up. You see, he was sleeping in our room, so he slept through all the noise and woke up ready for the day. Can I FINALLY have my coffee?

The thing is, puking and fussing and commotion is all part of life, and I still feel really grateful. We have everything mostly ready for Santa to come, we will go to church tonight and have dinner with the friends we always have Christmas Eve dinner with, and we will come home and the kids can open their Christmas pajamas and then Santa will come. Hannah and Aubry are staying the night again,so we will all be together to celebrate the day. We are all missing Eli, of course, but life is still good.

Wishing all of you the happiest of days today no matter what is going on in your life. There is joy to be found.

The ‘Hood

We live in the kind of neighborhood where people come by and bring treats, little plates of homemade candies and loaves of banana bread and poinsettia plants and sweet smiles. I smile back and nod my head because I am uncomfortable with such friendliness but it is nice all the same, I just don’t know what to do with all of it. In our old neighborhood we would fight over who had to answer the door because it would inevitably be Crazy Crackhead needing coffee/sugar/eggs/milk/something or the people on the other side wanting the Wi-Fi password or one of any number of nefarious folk, sometimes college students selling magazines with the smell of pot following them like fog or young women with gold teeth selling vacuum cleaners. I never let them in our house, always opening it with one foot in front of it so they could not push their way in, and it feels strange to open my door wide and know all is well. We eat the treats and I feel guilty because I know I won’t be making our own little trek across the ‘hood with our plates of goodies. Maybe next year, I think, when I am more used to the small kindnesses and simple smiles of people who are glad to have another family with young children in the neighborhood. Maybe next year I will say Merry Christmas, we made this for you and my smiles will be genuine, not forced because I am embarrassed and unused to such kindnesses.

This year, though, it seems like everything is finally settling down, and things have worked out beautifully just like they always do if I let them. We finished up the last-minute shopping today, my 20-year-old daughter and my 1-year-old daughter, and it was lovely to be able to have that time with just us. I  was driving and talking out loud about how I was simply not going to let anyone get to me and I was going to be all Zen in the moment and needed to remember that everyone else thinks their business is more important than mine and Hannah laughed and laughed but I had actually been being serious, which somehow made it funnier. We braved the mall and got great deals on clothes and were very prudent, shopping clearance and using gift cards and feeling very rich all the same. Hannah had a bra fitting at Victoria’s Secret and they told her she wears a double D which okay, there is no way in hell, she is more like a 32 ALMOST B, but of course they must have their own special sizing because…they want little tiny girls with little tiny breasts to THINK they are voluptuous? Who knows, I don’t go in there but I do like to sit on the bench outside and nurse Josie, daring someone to say something about being indecent.

We ate and went to Target and met the husband at Costco and it was lovely, we were rushed to get home in time to pick Eli up and take him back to the jail and get to a party we had been invited to but it worked out perfectly. We ate yummy food and gorgeous desserts and Santa came to give presents to all the little ones and Josie cried when she saw him but she danced and danced to the Christmas carols.

Home now, and the house is sleeping save me. I am looking at our hand-chopped tree and listening to the clink-clank of buttons tapping the dryer drum and my cat is curled up next to me, and I think this is happiness. I have so much. I have all of my kids, and even though one is not with us this year and that is terribly sad, they are all alive and well. My six-year-old is here to celebrate this Christmas and try to walk the narrow line of believing in Santa or not and he says over and over that Christmas is about being with family and we just say yes and hug him closer. We fight loudly and play even more loudly, the house expands to hold all of this chaos and mess and joy that is us, and we are just so full of all of it right now. Always, always, despair and sadness pass and we make room for happiness, because it is all intertwined and we just try to roll with it all.

 

I feel like I am on the world’s longest roller coaster ride, so many ups and downs that I almost feel sick to my stomach. However, there isn’t the thrill involved in an actual ride. I was feeling good about things,and now I am not feeling so good about things, all in the space of a few days.

It is awful to say this, but I am feeling a lot of anger and resentment toward both my older kids today.  I told you all about using our Christmas money and selling the car to pay for Hannah’s attorney, and I get that it was necessary but I still feel upset. Then, the whole Eli-in-jail thing is causing an incredible amount of stress, financial and otherwise. See, he has work release, but it costs $25/day in advance to pay for that privilege; I have his debit cards so I can use what he gets paid for part of that, but it only works when he actually gets his paycheck when he is supposed to. I was kind of sweating the bill paying and such, but he was supposed to get paid today so went ahead and paid part of the work release, knowing that I would get it back. However, no paycheck was deposited this morning, leaving me in a really bad spot. Just so goddamned frustrating.

And I hate to complain about money; it makes me sound so greedy and selfish and all that jazz. I guess I probably am, and probably shouldn’t feel resentment toward the kids for these things. Let me try to explain it, though. For so long we were so, so poor, and for the last year or so things have improved considerably; it has been really nice to be able to buy groceries without putting off bill paying, so nice to be able to buy shoes and coats when needed, so nice to be able to live more like normal people. Now, though, with these new expenses involving the older kids, I am right back to where I was before, only worse-because for a time we had the feeling that things would be okay. Ha, silly me.

And I know I don’t HAVE to help the kids; there are some who are probably mentally throwing my “tough love” stance back in my face. I DO believe in tough love, which is part of why Eli is in jail. However, he IS working, and needs to be able to have a job when he gets out; it was/is better short-term to help him how we can in order for him to be able to keep his job. I have already warned him that there will not be a second time; if he ends up in jail again for any reason, there will be no helping, financially or otherwise. So helping him is a choice I am making, I know, but that does not mean it is easy. As far as Hannah goes, Aubry’s dad is causing so many problems in her life that if she doesn’t have an attorney, she is going to lose Aubry; not through any kind of bad parenting or unfitness as a parent, but because she is poor. I wish I could detail the ways in which he is making her life hell, but suffice it to say that she lives in fear every minute of every day. So again, this is a choice I am making, I get that, but it is still so hard.

Speaking of Hannah, she had her 20th birthday on Monday; it just doesn’t seem possible that she is only 20, you know? I mean, she ACTS like a 20-year-old in a sense, but she has also gone through more things than a lot of people twice her age. I watch her keep plodding forward, trying to figure out a way to NOT have to quit school but knowing she is probably going to have to after Christmas, I watch her try to keep her head above water and it just makes me sad on so many levels. We knew it would not be easy for her when she had Aubry, but it surely shouldn’t have to be this hard. It is for this reason that I might wish I had all the money in the world, just to lessen some of the burden for her.

Sigh….again, back in the hole. I do know that feelings are only temporary, but that doesn’t make them any less shitty. HOW many more days until this lovely holiday season is over?

Lifted

When we brought out the boxes of Christmas decorations, the ornament on top was one of a set a friend made for us last year with everyone’s names on it. This one was Josh’s, and it was like a fist in the stomach. We have all been thinking of him so much lately, because all of these firsts have happened so rapidly since his death. A month after he died was Aubry’s birthday, her first one and one he and Hannah planned so excitedly. Then there was Halloween and the pictures of her last year in her little Boise State cheerleader costume-his favorite team, you know. Thanksgiving and it was the first time most of our extended family had met him. Now, Christmas coming up and all of these incredibly great memories for all of us, but each memory is paired with great pain. I hate this for all of us, but especially for Hannah. She ran into Josh’s dad at Wal-Mart a few days ago, and it was really hard for both of them; again and still, all of the what-ifs and the should-have-beens.

My funk is over, at least temporarily, because it has hit me fully how goddamned lucky I am. I have all of my children, and even though Eli will still be in jail at Christmas, I know where he is, and he is alive. Is there anything more fundamentally beautiful than that? Really? I don’t think so, not for me. I know this seems so simple, but truly, it is.

The rest of it? Well. I am sure there will be other days when I feel the same, feel the same despair and worry about money and I doubt I am ever going to come to love the month of December. Still and all, we have the money for the important things. We have managed to buy Hannah a little more time in terms of her attorney, and her custody fight for Aubry is way more important than any kind of material goods. We have a beautiful house we love, and get to spend our first Christmas in it. We have the money for food and for shelter, for gifts under the tree. They might not be the bigger ones we were planning on, but I am sure some of you remember there was a time when I truly did NOT have money for any of those things (and I have never, ever forgotten that Christmas, and pay it forward as much as I can, even in small ways). My kids are not greedy kids; they will be happy with whatever they get, because each gift will have been chosen with love and care. They have plenty and more, and I think on some level they are aware that we have been blessed enough to be able to buy new shoes and pay for activities and keep them in coats and the list goes on…again, that hasn’t always been the case. I remember it, and I hope they do as well.

Lucky. Blessed. Whatever word you use, it all amounts to the same thing; I truly have everything I need right now, and so do my kids. Hannah and Eli might both feel a lot differently, but give them another few years; I am sure they will get there as well. This is a hard year, for a lot of reasons, but at the same time, it is a beautiful year.