Thursday, December 17, 2009

the most wonderful time of the year?

I'm not so sure about that. And I'm not just saying that because my kids died and it's my first Christmas without them.

I feel somewhat removed from the whole Christmas extravaganza this year - partly by choice and partly just because. I'm not totally ignoring the holidays, but I have been able to step back a bit this year which has been interesting.

Obviously, as I've said in past posts, this time of year is extra hard because it makes me miss my kids even more...if that's possible. There will be no Christmas plays this year (last year Peter was one of the three kings and the year before that Kate was Mary), no decorating cookies with them and no getting to be Santa. It's hard to even put my feelings into words because I don't really want to feel those feelings; so I'm not going to try right now.

The interesting part of stepping back this holiday season is that I'm, more or less, watching others experience it. And it seems to me that we're all a little crazy.

I've always thought buying outrageous numbers of gifts for everyone I know was a bit absurd, but most of the time I did it anyway. When I was pregnant with Kate, Steve (Kate and Peter's dad) and I instituted a rule that our kids should only get three presents each Christmas because that's how many gifts Jesus got. (a friend of ours was doing that and it seemed like a good idea) We immediately started finding ways around that rule because three didn't seem like enough: stockings don't count, Santa will bring three gifts but mommy and daddy can each buy one, grandparents aren't included, etc. Every year our kids received more gifts than they could many that I started putting some of them away after Christmas and gave them back to them gradually, throughout the year. I noticed last week that there are still a couple hidden from last year.

I know, without a doubt, that my kids would've been happy with much less. In fact, I think the volume of gifts they received actually took away from their fun on Christmas day. I remember when Peter was two, one of the first gifts he opened was the Go Diego Go Talking Rescue Center which he had asked for by it's full name for weeks. He was so happy and would've been content to play with nothing else for the rest of the day, but after playing with it for a few minutes he reluctantly put it down because he had to open more gifts.

Why do we do this? And why do we feel like we need to buy stuff for everyone we know just because it's the holidays? Don't we all have enough stuff already?

I'm not trying to be a grinch. I've always loved Christmas and giving and making people happy. I just think maybe we're missing the mark a little. Are bazillions of gifts making anyone happy? And how stressed-out and in-debt is everyone becoming because of all this giving?

Stress levels are palpable everywhere I go. I seriously thought there was going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight over a parking space at Whole Foods today. Otherwise rational people are going crazy! And all in the name of holiday cheer?

I encourage everyone to give yourself a gift this year and relax a little. I know that may not be possible - there are parties to go to, presents to wrap and cookies to bake - but if you can, take a moment to breathe. Get your kids or your spouse or your parents a gift that will bring them joy, but don't feel like you need to get them everything they've ever wanted.

I think the best gift you can give anyone is yourself...your time, your love, and your undivided attention. I'm sure you've all heard that before, but seriously, take it to heart. I wish I had spent less time running around like a crazy person to make Christmas "perfect" (which never happened) and more time just being with my kids. I didn't even spend last Christmas with them. It was their turn to spend it with Steve and even though I was welcome at his house I didn't spend it with them because I wanted my space from him. Now I could kick myself, though that wouldn't do any good.

Two Decembers ago I took my kids to see "Go Diego Go Live" at Heinz Hall. It was their Christmas present from me. We got dressed up, went out for a "fancy" dinner at Six Penn Kitchen, then went to see the show. They were beyond excited to go and had a wonderful time, as did I. Even my boyfriend, Ken, who wasn't sure how much fun he could have watching a cartoon character onstage, enjoyed himself and our evening together. I'm so glad I have that memory and that, at least for that night, I took some time out of my crazy life to slow down and really be present with my kids.


  1. Thank you soo much for posting this and sharing these pics. Oh my god, Kate and Peter look sooo happy and incredibly adorable. Peter is so darn cute in his tie and Kate looks soo proud and happy to be dressed up. It really looks like everyone is truly enjoying themselves and each other....and that is totally what it is all about....not about all the said it's time to stop the craziness : )

  2. I agree 100% with your assessment of the holiday season. I removed myself from the craziness last year and I felt so much better. I don't stress about the perfect dinner or the perfect tree anymore. Last year, I asked my family members to donate the money they would have spent on gifts for me to our local food bank and it one of the best gifts I ever received.

    Thank you for the reminder to slow down and enjoy the time with family and friends.

  3. Amy,
    You have stated very well what the season should mean. It is easy to get caught up in what you think you should do.

    Thanks for putting things back into perspective again. It sucks the perspective comes this way, and it sucks the whole "turn" thing. Your turn, his turn. We are praying, not only for you, but for all the you's and us to figure out the why's.

  4. AMEN SISTER. You hit the nail on the head - thanks a lot for writing this. Hugs!!! (Oh, and by the way, if I ever happen to see you out in public, I will very likely walk up to you and give you an ACTUAL hug. Just a warning. :)


  5. Peter's face second picture from top = priceless.

  6. You know what? I completely agree with you. I have ALWAYS, since I had my children, struggled with this. I go crazy on Christmas when it comes to my children. I think it may have something to do with the fact that I associate material abundance with happiness. One would think that this is how a person that didn't have much growing up would feel/react, but it was the opposite for me. Christmas was always huge in my house and I was very fortunate in my childhood, not only at Christmas time, so I wonder what drives me to give "abundance" in presents when deep inside I know that my children ARE happy with maybe 5 of their favorite things they wanted.

    On a different (and much more important) note... your children are so beautiful. They look just like you!! Many, many hugs to you.

  7. Fantastic post, and great advice for all of us. You've said this better than I ever could. Wishing you a peaceful holiday season.

  8. Why don't more people get this idea?... It makes me crazy.

    I don't give my 4 year old daughter presents. Well, not big ones. For her birthday (at the beginning of December)she gets to pick out and decorate our family christmas tree. People think I'm nuts. But she loves it. She loves this tradition more than she would love a fancy barbie doll. This i know for sure.

    For christmas I like to wrap little things because I think she just likes to get excited and open stuff. The other day I was at Target and I bought her some hair clips & Princess Bandaids so I wrapped those too!!!!! I could wrap rocks & she's be excited to open them.

    Ridiculous... maybe. But I want to teach her that birthdays and holidays aren't about getting things. They are about celebrating the life that she has been given with the people she loves. I want her to know that all special occasions are an opportunity to sit back, look around her & be thankful. Not for the things, but for the Life.

    Thanks for reminding me I'm not a lunatic!!!

  9. Great post, Amy. And thanks for continuing to share the wonderful pics. You have done so much with and for your kids in their short lives.

    You are so right about gifts. If only more people (including me) could take that to heart.

    On a positive note, I am happy to say that this year people seem less crazy and rude. Maybe I am just out and about at the right times.

    God bless.

  10. Fantastic advice. I'm feeling it this year. Did the play last night - and did savor my kids and their sweet faces - their pure enjoyment of the moment, etc. But... forgot that focus as soon as it was time to retrieve them from classrooms - shoulda hung around with their pals - shoulda laughed a little more, etc. Today, too - Did I slack on the 8th grader's class party prep? Did I do this - did I do that???? I agree with Facie, too - it is crazy this year but... a bit more subdued. One good thing about a recession - people embrace their frugality a bit more, which means more time on other things. On the other hand, I, too, have witnessed a couple of near "knock down - drag outs" over parking spots, etc. this year - sadly, does seem to come with the season. Appreciate your baking advice the other day, too (though you are champion baker and I am but fledgling baker) - will allow me to enjoy those moments more with my kids. Thanks again for allowing me to get to know your kids with these photos and stories. I think about you guys often, and, as result, do try to appreciate what I have more - the moments we don't get back, etc. Wishing you peace this week - this season..... I hope you find something to suit you this year that begins a new tradition... may help (though if you're at Whole Foods, it means you're still cooking and nurturing that side of yourself :-). Great post -thanks.

  11. Thank you, Amy for the gift. Your message is the best present I could receive at this moment and you have me in tears as I write this because I've gotten all caught up in the buying, and lists, and how will I get all this &%#$@ done in time -- when my daughter is sitting across from me wanting to paint stockings for her cats and that's exactly what I should be doing at this moment. And so I will sign off and throw you a virtual hug (wish I could give you a real one) and tell you that I will say a prayer for you and your angels in heaven. Peace.

  12. I often feel the same way about Christmas. It is my favorite time of the year. Probably because I remember as a kid that no matter how bad things were in my family, they always got better at Christmas. This Christmas will be different for all of us. My Grandmother died unexpectedly last week. I am having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit. I have never been one to wait in line for hours for the perfect gift, but I do try to keep the dream of Santa alive for my kids. It bothers me that people seem so miserable when they are out shopping. It seems to contradict the whole season. So, I try to stay positive, wish everyone a Merry Christmas and smile whenever I can to erase all of the negativity that seems to come with the holidays anymore. My house is a mess and the gifts may not be perfect, but anyone is welcome here to enjoy the holiday with us. I hope that you find some peace this season, Amy, my thoughts are with you. -Jenn

  13. You put the whole holiday season into much needed perpsective, and your kids at Go Diego Go are beautiful, but I must say the plaid shirt with the striped tie is one of the most EPIC pictures ever. Good for Peter for wearing what he wanted and good for you for letting him!

  14. Amy,
    It's not just you. See? I thing the vast majority of us feel that way. Your post took the words out of my mouth. and yes look out...
    (I agree with the poster above)
    If I ever get back there, and I see you,.... Its a hug coming at you. Not that I'm entirely a stranger, after all you can see me on facebook.


  15. I couldn't agree more - so many people seem to have lost the true meaning of the season. No one has manners anymore, I guess everyone is in too big of a hurry to say excuse me or put a smile on their face.

    Still praying for you to continue to heal and to continue to have strength. Your posts help me to remember to be thankful for every moment.

  16. Hi Amy, Don't know if you would remember me, but I'm a friend of Cindy's and met you and Steve several years ago, before you were married, when Cindy lived in the townhouse up by UB. Of course, my heart broke for you when I heard of your tragedy. I just saw your blog when Cindy posted the link on Facebook and have been reading it on and off all day. Barb keeps asking me why I'm doing this to myself, because I've been in tears, on and off all day. I can't imagine the enormity of your heartbreak. I just had a baby girl, Grace, three weeks ago. I can't imagine my life without her.

    Thanks for writing this. There is nothing I can say, or anyone can, I imagine, to ease your mind or make you feel better after what you've gone through. But your strength and courage to get out of bed every day is encouraging and inspiring. There is no doubt in my mind, in my beliefs, that Kate and Peter ARE with you, encouraging you to go on; that there is a heaven where they watch out for you and the rest of their loved ones; and that while we can't understand now WHY this happened, we will someday understand, it will become clear, that there is a reason. There is a bigger plan. Much love to you, Amy, to your family and friends, especially during this incredibly difficult month.

  17. Well said my virtual friend. Thank you for reminding us all of something we well know, but often forget. You and your little angels have given me additional perspective this year and for that I am grateful. Hope that you are doing well and remembering that there are many of us thinking of you this holiday season. Be well and stay strong.

  18. what a lovely post from a lovely woman. thank you for sharing your life, honestly from the heart. we too do the 3 gift thing and today I was stressing because I wondered if that was enough. You've brought a message from God. It certainly is enough for the time I have with them is the BEST gift!

  19. Amy, you have completely summed up how I'm feeling about Christmas this year! It's like you got in my head. It is just all TOO MUCH as I look under my Christmas tree and see how much crap I've got under there.

    You've made me realize it's ludicrous and I'm seriously going to try the three gifts thing next year and then focus the rest of that conserved energy on being a family, because, as you've indicated, that's the best gift.

    Fantastic post.

    Also, as always, beautiful pictures of your angels.

  20. Hi Amy from Marietta, Ohio!
    I wanted to let you know that I have been thinking about you and your family. There are many rough days ahead of you, but there are also many opportunities to find a different type of joy. Please get out of bed, get your feet under you and keep moving. Your children are right, you are here for a purpose.
    Like most of the posters on your site, if I see you out and about, you are definitely getting a hug!
    Peace be with you.

  21. Thinking about you today and always. I can't imagine how the next few days will shape up for you but please feel the love and prayers of those near and far who love you, Amy. I think of you every day-- literally every single day when I pull into the parking lot at school. Lots of love and hope sent your way.....

  22. I think what you wrote here is important regardless: take a step back, relax, give yourself, your time. That perspective is completely lost.

    I have been thinking of you. I wrote this thinking of you:

    peace to you. You are so strong, and the fact that you can write about this, and give us perspective this time of year — I am amazed. and humbled.


  23. May Peace be with you, Amy.

    Thank you for this beautiful and poignant post. I will be making an extra effort to take your message with me through this holiday and holidays yet to come.

    My heart is with and hugs from an internet stranger in Colorado.

  24. Thinking of you and your beautiful children this Christmas Eve. Your thoughts have touched so many, and I just cannot imagine the pain you bear. God bless you.

  25. May peace be with you. I am thinking about you and your beautiful children. You are such a strong person. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  26. Ditto! DITTO! DITTO!!!!! In my family, I have been pushing hard for a total readjustment of the "gift-giving"...I want us to spend our money on a weekend trip together so we have time to just be with each other and do a handful of gifts for the kids. They are so happy with just a few and like you said, we then play with the new toys instead of rushing through opening. We instituted this in part this year and it has been so much more of a pleasant, meaningful holiday. Your blog is refreshing and honest--I think it is a gift that you give others like me....thank you.


  27. Amy:
    You are in my prayers. I feel like I know you from reading your blog. Please know hundreds if not thousands are praying for you. I will take your recommendations about Christmas from here on out. Yes, it is way too crazy. We need to appreciate the here and now with the ones we love both young and old. Your babies are so proud of their Mom. Hang in there, we're all your vitual angels carrying you for strength. May God Bless you and keep you.