Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Post in Which I Reveal My Christmas Card Neurosis. (I am a Crazywoman.)

Below is the actual text of an actual email I sent to my dear friend Carrie in late October about the (over)production of our Christmas card picture.  

I might add that she completely understood this entire thing, and while she may not go through the same mechanizations, she empathized with me and did not send back a reply saying, "YOU ARE A CRAZY WOMAN. Please stop emailing me all your craziness."  And I love her for that.

We got a lot of very kind compliments on our Christmas card, to which which I breezily answered, "Oh! Thanks so much!" and quickly changed the topic.  But because this is 2014, and I have a blog, and I share a lot of things here, I thought my faithful readers would appreciate a good laugh.

Here you go:

Anyway, I have a great story to tell you and you will SOOO appreciate this.  I had the brilliant idea a few weeks ago to call the lady who took our Christmas card picture last year (along with wonderful pics of our whole family, including my dad) and have her take pics of my kids here, outside in the fall spendor of leaves and pumpkins and gauzy sunlight and all things harvest-y.  I have not gotten any professional pics done all year and really, this lady is only $65 for a home visit and she does great work.  

So I agonized about whether to have them wear casual wear or more dressy, should I have seperate pics done of Jenna in the Janie and Jack dress (this was before she nixed it) then should I reschedule her for after Thanksgiving when our house is decorated for Christmas, wouldn't that be great to have a beautiful, properly-lit picture of our tree and the kids and mistletoe but would I get it in time? And what about the early bird specials that tiny prints runs- if I waited until December I'd miss them... but could I fit in a time after school to have the photographer come over? Michaela just started rehearsals for the school play she's in and Jenna got her expanders put in today and I was pretty certain she wouldn't feel like doing a photo shoot while all her teeth felt like they were going to fall out.  And oh my God all of our leaves are almost off the trees and now my harvest scenes are starting to look kind of... barren.  So after all of this agonizing- to which Dan said, "Just have her come in December and do a Christmas picture..." (SIMPLETON!! LIKE ITS THAT EASY!!)- I figured out that basically yesterday afternoon was the ONLY DAY before December I could get the pics done.
So it was scheduled and I started looking on tiny prints to see what orientation of picture would fit into the cards that I liked.  They have really nice pictures in their card samples and a few I found I liked just because the picture was so stylized.  So I got this idea in my head of my children, in coordinating sweaters/shirts-we went with a navy/ gray/ touch of red plaid theme- sitting down with fallen leaves scattered about them, filtered sunlight kissing thier hair and making them look like shining angels.  

Can you see how this is escalating out of control????
I realized in horror that this entire plan rested on a sunny day yesterday. 

 I am embarrassed- truly- to tell you- and I tell you EVERYTHING- how often and how hard this weekend I prayed to the Good Lord Jesus Christ that it would be mild temps and sunny at 5pm yesterday.  

Yes, I realize Christians are being horrifically persecuted around the world; people are enduring hunger, fires, aching poverty, profound loss of loved ones, and indescribable physical and emotional pain, and here I am in Delmar, praying, "Oh SWEET Jesus! PLEASE have it be sunny on Monday so my children look BEAUTIFUL IN OUR CHRISTMAS CARD!!" over and over and over again.
My anxiety level about this whole thing was so high by Monday morning- which, I might add, was a gorgeous sunny day- that I was thoroughly disgusted with myself.  But I couldn't stop. I was waaaay too far in at this point.  

I picked up Jenna from school, had her take a shower, had wrangled Alec into the shirt I wanted him to wear before school started for him, had Michaela start primping as soon as she came home from school at 3pm, blew dry Jenna's hair, flat ironed both girls, wet down Alec's hair one more time, did light makeup on both girls, and we were ready just in time for the photographer to pull up in the driveway.
The hilarious part was watching my girls, who clearly thought these pics were very likely to be published in VOGUE magazine, AT LEAST, spin around tree trunks, wink at the camera, toss their (very straight) hair around coyly, and generally ham it up like they were seasoned models.  Alec prefered to be goofy, throwing his one leg up in the air while she was taking a picture or run in front of his sisters while they were posing, which drove them crazy.
About three quarters of the way through, the kids stood underneath a yellow-leaved tree that the sun was shining on and they were being lit from behind, and she took a pic of Alec and then showed me the shot in the viewfinder, and I am not exaggerating when I say it was so beautiful and exactly what I was dreaming about and he looked so handsome and old (my BABY!!) and dreamy that I literally stopped breathing and bent over and thought I was going to hyperventilate.  Or fall down on the ground and pass out.
Woudn't that have just capped off the whole experience?
I felt great pleasure in the fact that today was freezing and raw and rainy and gloomy all day, and Jenna lost a tooth last night so her smile is kind of gappy, and her expanders were put in this morning and she was a trooper but her mouth is all out of whack. 
I CONQUERED this Christmas card photo shoot and all of its intricacies, and I feel like a total idiot. 

And I'm exhausted.  And I'm thinking that if I can handle the embarrassment, this would be a great blog post for my kids to read when they have children of their own.  I'll have to think about that one.

So you see, Michaela, Jenna and Alec, the lengths I went through to make sure a beautiful picture of you all is sent out to the world each year?  Do you see the time and energy and worry that went into it?  

It's all done out of love.  
And pride. 
And craziness.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Pathetic Attempt to Post Christmas Pictures Before April.

I am so behind in my blogging that it's ridiculous.
But it has been a busy late winter/early spring (well, it hasn't really been spring AT ALL in the Northeast) here at the Libutti household.

Here's a brief update:

1.  The Basement Project: Lots of time, energy, money, and Pinterest-gazing went into finishing up the basement remodel.  I finally received my drapery material in the mail yesterday after ordering the same 10 yards of fabric three times and having it not actually arrive at my house.  I have two sets of full length lined drapes to make, hopefully this weekend.  We have a few more decorating projects to finish and put up and then I will put together a breath-taking before and after / reveal post that will knock your socks off.  We couldn't be happier with our contractor and we are fairly certain that Jenna is in love with him.  (You should have seen her face when we told her he was moving on to do another project... "WHAT?  He's going to be working with ANOTHER FAMILY??"  She'd like to keep him on retainer here at Chez Libutti and have him come every afternoon.  Luckily, he goes to our church so she gets her Eduardo Time then.)

2.  The Kindergarten Project:  Alec is graduating from preschool in June and our district offers a full day kindergarten program.  We want to hold Alec back since he is a late September birthday and have been searching for a good bridge-type program that will fill in the year, challenge him a bit, but not overwhelm him.  There were lots of questions I had to get answered about continuing speech services for him next year and not in our school district, and that took exactly six seperate phone calls to get answered. We have looked at a few places and talked to many people and think we have a good option in place- it's a small, private Lutheran school that offers morning kindergarten but also a full day option as well and the flexibility to add full days into the schedule at your request.  Super flexible.  We can start him out half day and then add full days in as the year goes on.  This will prep him nicely for the following year, when he will enter our public school as a kindergartner full day every day.  I have no experience with private schools so this has been very interesting to me and a sharp learning curve.

3.  The Diagnosis Project:  We are trying to ascertain exactly what Alec is dealing with in his quirky little brain.  He's not autistic but very spectrum-y.  He is not great socially at times and is shy and very anxious.  He clearly still struggles with lots of sensory overload and has established routines to help soothe himself when the overstimulation is too much.  It was recommended that we get an OT eval done on him for his poor handwriting.  That was another round of phone calls last month and only one place ever called me back.  His OT eval will be next Wednesday and hopefully we can get a few months of therapy in before the end of the school year.  Meanwhile, we got a referral to a child psychiatrist, which I completely freaked out about, in an effort to pin down a diagnosis.  We had those appointments in February and March and we have thankfully ruled out an OCD diagnosis and have left it at anxiety and sensory disorder, with a recommendation for a followup with yet another OT who specializes in sensory processing issues and a play therapist for the anxiety.  (Yay! More phone calls!)  The bottom line is that he is a great kid who needs lots of support but in time should be equipped with coping skills to make him a very successful, productive human being.  In the meantime, the rules and the worries and the need for routine are quite exhausting and fall primarily on me because obviously I am the one with him all day long.  He does not pull the same garbage with Dan and my mom as he does with me.  I need guidance about how to manage the anxiety he feels without giving in to manipulation so I have to find a good person to help me with that.  I think going to school for a longer day and with more frequency will be excellent for both of us.

4.  The Candlelight Dinner Project:  I am honored to be asked last August to speak at our church's annual Candlelight Dinner in early March.  This was a WONDERFUL idea in August; not so much by the time late January came around. But I worked on it and prayed about it and pulled together a half hour talk about the miracles and blessings we saw while my dad was sick and dying, and how turning it all over to God was a necessary part of healing.  People were so supportive of me and so loving that it was a joy to walk up in front of all those women and speak.  It was a real bucket-list moment.  I hope my dad was proud of me.

5.  The Life Project:  Oh, and I have three kids, all of whom eat and grow and talk and need to be clothed and bathed and brought to choir and acting lessons and confirmation class.  And a husband who is adorable.  And bills that have to be paid, taxes to be filed, doctors appointments to go to, groceries to be bought, and Girl Scout troops to manage.  You know, life.

6.  The Grief Project:  And on top of it all, the grief.  The grief. The grief.   I am blessed that it is quieter now and sitting in the background.  Every once in a while, one of my kids will tell me that they sometimes still can't believe that PopPop is gone, and I nod and agree.  I can't either.  How long does the brain take to re- acclimate to something being gone that has been there for 39 years?  How long until I stop seeing his car on the road and thinking, "Ooh! I wonder if that's my dad!"?  How long until I stop seeing him out of the corner of my eye in church? How long will I still hear his voice in the hymns the choir sings?  When will I be able to say a phrase of his without thinking of his awful cancer and how it ravaged him?  I don't know.  And I don't know if I really want to stop those things from happening.  Because I'm even more pained by the idea of forgetting him or his presence not being immediate to me.  This is a project, one that left me in many days (and weeks even) in a terrible fog.  Going through the motions but not really there.  I have kept it together but it took an enormous amount of effort.  A mountain of effort.  The project continues.

7. The Mac Project:  Our elderly laptop was giving us more and more signs that it was dying a slow, painful death and my mom was kind enough to offer to buy us a new computer so we were actually in this decade technology-wise.  So we got a big, beautiful Mac desktop and couldn't be happier with it. I finally got some of my photos transferred into iPhoto and edited.  So here are a glut of great pics from Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and its surrounding activities:

 Christmas Pageant: Michaela is a speaker in the front; Alec is a sheep; Jenna is an angel. 
(Of course she is.)

 Alec was a shepherd in his Preschool pageant.

Christmas Eve Mani/Pedis.  Heaven.

 Christmas Eve: A Red-Carpet Event.

 Our Family Room Tree.

 Christmas Morning: Alec gets Legos.

 Jenna gets a school desk and some Mad Libs.

 We got the kids a Karaoke machine/ microphone to use in the new basement playroom.

Love these pics of Jenna opening her Doctor Kit from my mom.  
May every person be this excited at least once in their lives opening a Christmas gift.

Happy New Year to us!  Fancy dinner at home.

So there you have it... the Christmas round up.  It was very nice and full of lots of love.  Christmas Day was hosted at our house, and was lovely, but I didn't take one picture.  Not sure my heart could handle recording the day and not having my dad in any of the pictures.  (Just look at some from previous years and pretend it was 2013... it was all basically the same.) 

But it was sweet and lovely and we got through just fine.