Thursday, January 8, 2009

Happy [mostly] Merry Christmas!

The holidays are over, praise God. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love Christmas. It is my favorite time of year. Lights sparkle all over town, shopping malls and traffic lights are adorned with festive wreaths and ribbons and the anticipation of Christmas morning looms in my mind.

It also brings family which in itself brings stress and anxiety. Oi.

My time in San Antonio started out great. I finished my final on Wednesday the 17th, had lunch with some friends and hit the road for SA. I pulled in just in time to see Avelyn's face light up when she saw me and I put her to bed. Man she's beautiful. We had some good days of shopping and eating and baking cookies then Avelyn caught a nasty cold. She was so pitiful and congested and couldn't eat much for days. It's hard to suck on a bottle when your nose is full of snot. For all of it she sure makes being sick look good.

Monday some of Kevin's family arrived and we had a good time introducing Avelyn to them. She fell in love with Kevin's cousin, warmed up to Great Aunt K the second day and took a few more days to get past Great Uncle T's mustache. I guess she thought he was trying to hide or something. Tuesday morning we learned two things. One, that she is a born gift wrapper and took to decorating packages like a pro. (Or at least ripping bows off and beating people with empty paper rolls.) Two, that the kid loves Truffles. (Or at least the noise they make when you shake the heck out of them.)

We had some fun wrapping the 1,437 gifts that needed wrapping while other people went out shopping. Avelyn's cold kept her and I at home in the warmth and we were A-OK with that.

Wednesday was Christmas Eve, and only slightly more stressful because everyone who was coming to Christmas was here. Between becoming a mother (and the empowerment that comes with it) and Prozac I am much better equipped to handle this kind of stress than I used to be. I know I can take a deep breath, go in the other room for a bit and come out renewed and refreshed. If all else fails I can always use the excuse "Well, Avelyn is so stopped up that she can't breathe when she sleeps. I'm going to lay down with her so she'll get a decent nap." I don't know what I'll do when my kids are grown and I can't use them as a getaway excuse anymore.

We went to Christmas Eve service and danced Avelyn around in her gorgeous red Christmas dress. She looked so beautiful! I took her up front during the kids reading and the preacher talked about what Joy meant and handed out little "JOY" ornaments to all the children. I just kept watching her face light up when she stared at other kids faces, or at the beautiful red poinsettias everywhere. Her face is the definition of pure JOY.

After church service we came back to Kevin's parent's house and clowned around while making dinner (cheeseburgers, tator tots and baked beans are the tradition) and watching TV. Well, I mostly skulked around while Avelyn napped because I am so used to having something to do. With no school work and no baby to watch I was really antsy with nothing to do.

In Kevin's family, it is tradition to open all presents on Christmas Eve. I look forward to seeing his extended family and laughing all night opening gifts and getting to sleep in on Christmas morning. That being said, in my family we always opened gifts from siblings on Christmas Eve and Santa presents on Christmas morning. And the presents were wrapped.

Kevin and I both know each other's family traditions. It took me years when we were dating to accept the fact that (gasp!) not every family worked like mine and opened wrapped gifts on Christmas morning. As a matter of fact, I can remember most of our "How the Holiday's Work" conversations, including the most recent on 12/22/08, going a little like this:

"But the holiday is Christmas! Not Christmas Eve! You don't open Christmas presents on Christmas Eve!"

"Yes you do! You only open Santa presents on Christmas day."

"But you're all old. Nobody gets Santa presents anymore!"

"Yeah. Now we open them all on Christmas Eve. We got Santa presents when we were little. He left them by the fireplace."

"Uh, what? What do you mean by the fireplace? Not under the Christmas tree?"

"No. Why would he leave them under the tree? He comes down the fireplace, leaves the gifts and runs back to his sleigh. He's got a lot of houses to hit. He doesn't have time to walk them all to the tree. And they're not wrapped, that's how you know they're from Santa."

"WHAT!?!? What do you mean they're not wrapped? Presents are always wrapped! And under the CHRISTMAS tree! It's Christmas!"

"Uh, why would Santa wrap presents? He doesn't have time to wrap presents. He makes toys in his toy shop and leaves them by the fireplace. Unwrapped."

"Please stop talking, you're going to make me cry. I'm serious. That is the saddest thing I've ever heard. Our children will always have wrapped presents from Santa under the tree."

After a heated discussion and some tears on my part we eventually found a compromise. Our kids will have the bulk of Christmas on Christmas day. On Kevin's year when we are with his family we will do big family Christmas on Christmas Eve and save our special "just us" Christmas and Santa presents for Christmas morning. On my year we will stay at home, in our house so they can wake up to presents under their tree in their house with just us. It's important to me. Oh and their presents on Christmas morning WILL be wrapped, under the tree. Some "big" Santa gifts, like a bike or say, a pink piano will be uncovered, left quickly by Santa. Maybe by a fireplace, maybe not.

Anyway, that part is settled. At least until next year I'm sure.

After Christmas Eve service and Christmas Eve cheeseburgers, tator tots and baked beans I bathed Avelyn and got her ready for preseeeeeeeents!! She pulled a pretty good haul and is one of the best gift receivers I've ever seen, especially for an eight month old. I was both impressed and proud. She did awesome until four presents from the end when she decided she'd had enough and refused any more gifts. Man, would you guys ever turn down gifts? She can be such a baby when she wants to.
After some tears, some bottle and some hugging Avelyn went to sleep and the grownups opened preseeeeeeeents! Kevin and I made out pretty well ourselves as evidenced by the best present ever, the iPhone box (we got the phone a few days prior), and my favorite surprise present the SoundSpa Premier Clock Radio that projects time and temp on the ceiling. It's awesome. Especially if you sleep in the same room as your baby and you constantly worry if she's too cold or too hot. For some reason Kevin got a ton of dress shirts and we're still not sure why but they are very nice shirts so he should be set for a while. Thanks Welch Fam!

I was so happy Avelyn slept fairly well on Christmas Eve. With all the ruckus of the adults opening gifts we had her fall asleep in another room far from the noise and then transferred her to our room later when she woke up. I can barely remember that night so in my retelling I will say that she slept straight through, woke up at 10am and walked out to behold her Santa loot.

Okay, that didn't happen. What did happen was pretty cute though. We set up the video camera and used the last 20 minutes of tape to record Avelyn's First Christmas. It should be up for an Oscar this year. She absolutely loooooves her pink piano! She can't get enough of it and she is really good. She mostly plays good morning tunes and some progressive jazz. She also plays for tips so if you're ever in town.... In addition to the pink piano Santa left some books, a bucket of pink blocks, time honored pop beads, a super fun flower pot thing-a-ma-bob and some things I'm forgetting. Santa did well and it was a great morning. See what a natural talent she is?
After a fun filled day of Santa, snacks and the most incredibly raunchy movie ever that caused me to use my Momma card and excuse Avelyn and me to another room, we had a visit from my mom and brother for Christmas dinner. And Avelyn got even more gifts. She looked so cute in her Christmas dress and red tights. If I were you I would really watch out for world implosion. I don't know if a planet can take this much cuteness.

Again, I don't remember much after dinner and gifts so it must have been a pretty smooth evening. We took it easy on Friday and did a whole lot of nothing. Avelyn was starting to feel a little better and even slept a little easier Thursday night, only waking a few times unable to breathe. Great Aunt N, Great Aunt K, Great Uncle T and Cousin S were leaving at the crack of dawn Saturday morning so Avelyn said her goodbyes (you can see for yourself how sad she was they were leaving).

After Avelyn went to bed we all sat around while dinner was preparing. Somewhere in the midst of ham heating in the oven and the umpteenth conversation about something astoundingly boring, Kevin's sister and aunt noticed something out the back window. Flames. Big flames licking the top of the fence in the backyard and what appeared to be teenage boys running in and out of the house scared sh*tless.

Everybody ran outside on the deck while I watched through the window. They started calling out to them to dump water on it, then to spray water on the roof to keep the flames away from the house then to dump flour on the fire. Kevin's dad ran out their garden hose and tried to help spray from over the fence. There were flames and water and flour flying everywhere. After a few mentions of calling the fire department I saw the flames fly higher into the air, above the fence line, above the roof and grabbed the phone.

Now I've called the cops more than once in my life. Oddly never in Chicago where we had gunshots on our block more than once, a pipe bomb explode on our beach and a fire set in our stairwell by some neighborhood punks. I've only called the cops on loud obnoxious partying neighbors in San Antonio when they wouldn't turn down their bass at 3am on a Tuesday.

Anyway, I called 911, was politely asked if I needed Police, Fire or Ambulance and was transferred to Fire. I calmly told them our address and that the house behind us had a large uncontrolled fire brewing in the backyard. The polite dispatcher thanked me and let me know someone was on their way. After I hung up I varied between watching the craziness through the window and watching the baby monitor. Since Avelyn was somehow sleeping through the commotion I decided to run down the street and stand on the corner to direct the FD to the appropriate residence of the idiot boys. It was all very surreal.

In the end the FD kind of drizzled their hoses on the fire which at this point was dying down and stood around with the boys. Cousin S crept outside and eavesdropped on the conversation which went a little like this:

Fire Dept: "So whose house is this?"
Idiot Boy: "My house."
FD: "And who owns the house?"
IB: "My parents."
FD: "Are they home?"
IB: "No."
FD: "Maybe you should call them."

After the adrenaline rush of the fire (which totally made me regret not choosing ER for my High Acuity rotation this spring) we had a good laugh at how stupid teenagers are and I swore to go over to that house the next day and make sure their parents knew about the fire. Then we ate dinner.

Long drawn out sigh. I wish I could say the night had ended there.

After dinner was over we sat around some more trying to figure out whether to watch The Dark Knight on Blu-Ray or play games. In the end we somehow decided on games, a decision which will go down in the halls of history as one of the worst ideas. Ever. Ever ever.

The game started okay, with two teams on either side of the room and my MIL reading the questions. If you have ever played Trivial Pursuit (or any game for that matter) then you probably know Murphy's Law of game playing: one team always seems to get harder questions than the other. Well, my opposing team was getting those questions. It wasn't like our questions were easy, but theirs were more abstract.

Anyway, we had all had a glass or two of wine at dinner but a few people on the opposing team had been drinking a lot. This, unfortunately, is not unusual for them. Henceforth the person of consequence shall be referred to as Heinous Bitch Good Time Ruiner.

So, GTR was having a heyday being rude to my MIL for laughing while reading most of the questions. Very rude and hurtful. Then GTR (and to be fair, the team) started complaining (some funny, some serious) that their questions were harder. Okay, they probably were but I believe most normal people playing with family during Christmas would have just laughed at the irony. GTR just got more obnoxious and stupid as the game continued making snide comments about our teams intelligence and topping it with a dumbass joke about "putting a hex on us" when we got a question wrong. It was so childish and lame.

In my head I was rolling my eyes but honestly it wasn't really bothering me too much. We were playing a game after all, and I was having such a wonderful time being with these people I love so much. A few minutes later Kevin got a little heated, wanting the game to end so the ridiculous behavior would stop and jokingly said something like "well why don't you guys just put a hex on us?" to which I also jokingly replied "No I wouldn't do that because I'm not a child." This was followed by an ice stare from Kevin who knew this wouldn't go over well and a comment from GTR. "Yes you are a child Jennifer. Eff you. Why don't you go back to your effing playpen."


Fortunately for me I only heard "Yes you are a child" and nothing else. Avelyn had started crying a few minutes before so I jumped up to go rock her and when I opened the door to come back to the game I heard some shouting from GTR that could only have been about me. I quickly shut door, picked up Avelyn and curled up to fall asleep on the bed. I didn't need that drama.

Needless to say GTR ruined the entire night. Kevin came in a few minutes later red faced and furious and grabbed Avelyn out of my arms and demanded I go talk to GTR and work this out. I absolutely refused, saying I had done nothing wrong and I was not going to talk to them while they were behaving this way. Then he said it wasn't about the game, it was about something regarding GTR and Avelyn that I had never even said. Ridiculous. I stomped out of the room, flushed, heart racing to find MIL, Cousin S and Great Aunt K sitting stunned in the living room.

I threw my arms in the air when I walked in and said "What the heck? What did I do? I thought we were playing a game and having a good time!" They all just stared and said "I thought so too". Then I told them what Kevin said and that I was NOT going to go outside and talk to GTR because they were drunk and mean (like usual) and I wasn't going to talk to them about something that wasn't even an issue. MIL said "No, you shouldn't have to do this. It's stupid. You didn't do anything wrong. You go back to your room and hold your baby."

Have I said it before? RIDICULOUS.

I went back to the bedroom and told Kevin I was not talking to this person about something that wasn't an issue, especially when they were drunk, and I just wanted to go to bed. He apologized about being so angry, said he knew I was not in the wrong and went back out so I could sleep with Avelyn. I just laid there for the longest time, heart pounding, unable to sleep. I was so... so... I didn't even know.

An antidepressant really messes with your ability to feel. It's very odd. I couldn't cry about it. I couldn't get seething mad about it. I couldn't laugh about it. I just felt... something. After a while I started thinking about my dad, and how much I was missing him this Christmas. I thought about how hurtful it was that Kevin didn't stand up for me and say something to GTR when they said what they said (I still didn't know exactly what it was). Then I started to cry. For the second time since Prozac. Kevin finally came to bed and said GTR had left and if I wanted to say bye to the people leaving early in the morning I should probably go out while they were still awake.

I went out and gave them each hugs and apologized for the evening ending so badly. They all made me feel better by saying I was not responsible for any of it. When I hugged MIL to say goodnight I just started crying. I felt so awful. I didn't know what I had done or said to be treated so bad and I didn't know why no one had done anything about it. She sat me down on the couch and we talked for a long while.

It was a wonderful conversation and made me feel better about not being the problem and sad that this was not the first or the last time she would deal with this situation. Then she gave me half an Ambien and I slept like a baby for the first time in months.

I woke up Saturday morning after a most peaceful night's rest, and decided Avelyn was well enough to drive to my dad's side family Christmas, 2-1/2 hours away. I needed to be around people that make me feel good about myself and this was the place to go. We weren't even there three hours before we had to leave and get back to San Antonio but I felt rejuvenated, warm and loved and that's just what I needed. It was so good to see everyone. Most of them had met Avelyn at Thanksgiving but there were a few final meet and greets. I think everyone in the family has met her now. Avelyn spent most of the day chewing on fingers, toes, toys, spoons, anything she could get in her mouth to work that tooth out. She is growing into the most beautiful girl.

Over the next few days I pumped Kevin for information telling him I needed to know every detail of what happened after I left the room. For me to quit being hurt and angry I needed to know what the heck went down. I found out exactly what GTR said, that only one person in the room had heard it in its entirety (somehow no one else had) and that Kevin had stood up for me when he realized what was going on. That meant the most. All I wanted was to know that the person I trust most in this world to take care of me, would. A few days later I thought about setting my own fire and burning Trivial Pursuit until the little plastic pies resembled that Everlasting Gobstopper from Willy Wonka. I didn't.

In case you're wondering what happened after the infamous 'Day After Christmas Day Debacle', the answer is nothing. No apology from GTR. They just sucked up and pretended like everything was fine. I was civil, not rude but not friendly, when spoken to. Kevin later told me they apologized to him and his parents Saturday morning and were really upset about the evening but they were terrified of me and afraid they had irreparably damaged our future. Good, I said, they kind of have. For me to get over it I just need to not see or talk to them for a few weeks or months. They should have apologized first thing Saturday morning when I got up. Since they apologized to everyone but me, it was a little too late right now and I did not want to hear it. I don't want to have some deep serious conversation which is clearly in order for whatever they perceive to be the "real" problem and I don't want a part of it. My life is going pretty well right now and I don't need them to ruin it.

So, that is my baby's first Christmas. Aside from the last ruined evening it was pretty cool.

Tuesday brought both elation and tears. Elation because GTR, who had decided to stay a few extra days (DAMMIT!) finally left Tuesday morning and tears because Kevin's cat of nearly 18 years was very ill and had to be put down. The rest of the past two weeks have been a bit of a blur, full of window shopping, eating, way too many football and basketball games and lots of playing with my awesome baby. This past Sunday her bottom right tooth finally broke its way through and by Monday the left had too. YAY AVELYN! The days following were full of lots of whining, drooling and pain. We've tried Tylenol/Orajel and now moved on to the Teething Tabs. We'll see which works.

She is so very cute since the teeth. They are barely there, not even noticeable to the eye, but she can feel them with her lips and tongue. As soon as they broke through she started "chewing" at every meal. Not much to chew with pureed baby food but it's instinctual I guess. I promise to post pictures as soon as she'll let me see her mouth. She's very possessive of those sore gums.

Oh yeah, Avelyn also started crawling! And sitting up by herself!! What a break this has been!!! She started getting up on hands and knees the week before we left Houston and since then learned to roll/sit up to get where she wants to be (very quickly mind you) and has taken to crawling 2-3 steps in a row before falling. Just tonight she crawled about 6 feet across the room to get to a pack of diapers. Her favorite new thing is crawling into very tight spaces and looking extra adorable.
I can't believe she is almost nine months old. It is going by so very fast.


  1. Sounds like a pretty good first Christmas for Avelyn! By the way, she is way too cute! I agree, the world might implode. (don't worry, I've got my world-imploding kit....i'm prepared) Sorry about the incident with GTR. That is no fun, but it sounds like you handled it pretty well. Just brush it off and move on. Life's too short to worry about the petty things, just enjoy it all.

  2. I wish lots of beer belly on GTR. Good for you that you didn't let yourself be bullied by that beast.

    And yes, Avelyn is an explosion of cuteness. I can't wait until you start posting her musical compositions.

  3. So, this was a really long (albeit entertaining) post, and I kept thinking of things I wanted to say to you while I was reading through it. Here is what I can remember:

    1. I LOVE Avelyn's Christmas fancy dress and bow
    2. Hilarious about the differences in Christmas traditions between families. Dave and I have had similar discussions. Unfortunately many of the things his parents used to do were totally WT.
    3. I'm glad Avelyn got toally spoiled with presents, so did Brooklyn...I need to post a pic
    4. GTR = stupid selfish asshole. No, you did NOT need to apologize or talk to them.
    5. I understand about the antidepressants thing...sometimes I really, really need to cry and I CAN'T. Very weird.
    6. Don't think of Avelyn's first Christmas as ruined due to GTR. Just look at the rest of your post and see how awesome her Christmas really was.

    I'm sure there was more I thought of, but those were the main points :)

  4. What an ncredible event! So are you going to apologize? Hahaha! Just. Kidding. :)
    I love Avelyn's pink piano.
    I'm so glad you finally posted some of your rantings, I feel much better now.


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