It’s December 1 and the Romanos already have the Christmas tree up and decorated. Mark this on the calendar and consider buying a lottery ticket folks because this NEVER happens. Usually we’re cruising along somewhere around the middle of December debating whether or not it’s even worth it to put the tree up, and we do, mostly because we had Cadence, and it’s sort of our responsibility as parents to bring the magic of Christmas into our home. And let’s face it, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a tree and lights and all the ornaments we’ve been collecting our entire lives dangling from the branches.
I’m actually pretty amazed (and excited) that we managed to get the tree decorated so early this year. It was hard enough when it was just us, and then us and Electra, and then us and Cadence and Electra in the house. Somehow the holidays always seemed to sneak up on us a little more stealthily each year. I guess I imagined adding an infant to the mix would pretty much guarantee another year fumbling through the holidays like we’d just been thrown off a merry-go-round gone berserk, doing our best to try and keep ourselves upright while the lights and the parties and the gifts and the family gatherings spun around us in a blur. Yet somehow, even with the chaos Henry has introduced into our lives, he has also grounded us too. We’re perfectly content cocooning ourselves in our home and enjoying the quiet (oh hell, who are we kidding, enjoying the not-so-quiet) moments together as a family of 4+hound.
We hosted another Thanksgiving this year, exactly as we’ve done since we were first married and living in Arizona. When Stevie and I found out we were expecting our first child, it became important to us to forge some of our very own family traditions, blending together bits and pieces of the things that were special to each of us growing up with some brand new traditions of our very own. We claimed Thanksgiving and made it ours. And yeah, maybe it’s a little selfish that we insist on staying home and hosting and refusing to travel anywhere each year, but it has quickly become one of our favorite holidays.
This year, the 4-day vacation was even sweeter because it was the first little break we’ve had since I returned to work full-time. I’m not going to lie, it has been a tough transition. My mom agreed to watch Henry, which means he gets to be in his own home during the day, and Mom gets to spend a whole lot of quality time snuggling her youngest grandson. I have a job that I absolutely love, really cool co-workers, and an office close enough that I can run home over my lunch hour to feed Henry and put him down for his afternoon nap. On paper, it’s perfect. Yet the moment I first found out I was pregnant with Henry, I knew that I needed to start mentally preparing myself for the fact that I was going to have to leave him, and it has definitely been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.
With Cadence, it made more sense for me to stay home, and I loved having that time with my little girl. Becoming a mom was scary and stressful. I had no idea what I was doing and I was constantly second-guessing myself. There were so many moments of intense joy those first few months, punctuated by frustration and fear and grief. But then Miss Cadence reached that stage where she began to gain a little independence, that wonderful stage where she cried less and smiled more, where she slept soundly, that stage where I could begin see both the separation and the bond between us, and that is when I finally began to gain a little confidence as a mother and enjoy the whole process a little more.
I can honestly say, nothing really prepared me for the emotional beating I would take after Henry’s birth. People like to tell you that it’s easier with the second child. They like to tell you that you’ll feel like an old pro because you’ve done it all before. I’m not sure if anyone deliberately pulled a bait and switch or if I’m just a little more sensitive than most, but the last thing I was feeling those first few weeks after bringing Henry home was confident. Stevie, Cadence and I had spent 5 ½ years carving our way into a very comfortable place, and suddenly it was closing in on us overnight. Those first few weeks as Henry commanded our attention (and our sanity), we clung to our routines and each other like life preservers. As I nursed around the clock, Stevie focused his attention on Cadence, trying to keep each day as stable as possible to help ease the transition. My sweet little girl has never complained as I tell her “just a minute”, setting her requests temporarily aside as I tend to her brother. She hasn’t lashed out or cried when I’ve had to miss a swimming lesson or when Henry and I have had to stay home from church and miss her singing because he kept me awake all night, alternating between cluster feeding and crying. Cadence has never complained, yet I know it has been hard on her, and I’ve struggled to carve out extra time for and her make it a point to sneak in extra snuggles and kisses when I can as I watch my beautiful baby girl growing up right before my eyes.
And now, finally, FINALLY, I feel like we’re starting to float with our heads above the surface again. And even if the waters we’re treading aren’t totally calm, it is definitely starting to feel like maybe we’re hitting our stride, like we have a little room to breathe again. We’re finally getting into a routine, one that includes me being back at work for more than a month now, and I have to say it feels good (oh God, it feels so damn good) to finally feel like we’re not spending the majority of each day just trying to keep ourselves from downing.
It has taken us four months, but I think we’re settling into what feels like it just might be our new normal and I am so very thankful. While it might be hard to juggle working and being a mom (who is still so very, very sleep-deprived), my salary helps my family live comfortably, and helps pay for my daughter and someday my son to attend one of the best private schools in the city. Plus, I get to go to a job every day that I find incredibly fulfilling. I get to work with a great group of people and stretch my wings creatively. Yes, I miss my baby boy during the day, and there are still moments I feel incredibly guilty that I won’t have the time with him that I did with Cadence, but I also know he is being well cared for, and there is nothing that can make my heart soar higher than seeing him wiggle with excitement and coo and smile when he hears my voice and sees me walk in the door. And there is nothing quite as good as the moment the four of us (and hound) are settled in for the evening, just us, eating dinner and sharing the highlights of our days.
I’ll admit, Stevie and I have agreed to be a little selfish about our family time. We are very choosy when it comes to doing things outside our home or committing ourselves to events or gatherings if it means sacrificing our precious time with our children. Instead, we spend a lot of time together–at Cadence’s swimming lessons, running errands, hanging out at home, watching movies, playing cards…it doesn’t really matter what it is we’re doing as long as we’re together. In a way, I feel like my return to work has brought us closer because it allows us to miss each other, and it just might make us appreciate our time together even more.
And maybe it’s that selfishness that allowed us to get a jump on our Christmas decorating this year, as we stuck close to home through our first Thanksgiving weekend together. Either way, I’m pretty damn impressed with our efforts. Yoda is looking as fabulous as ever on our tree top, and we even finished decorating Cadence’s mini-tree and Henry’s little Charlie Brown tree just in time for Cadence’s elf, Cosette, to return from the North Pole.
We found Cosette and her elf-friend Leo when we woke this morning, and Cadence was so excited to see that they came bearing gifts just in time for the cold and snowy weather to set in…
Welcome to our new home, little elves! We we’ve missed you!