The Last Christmas

 I feel your heart beating inside my own skin
And I think of Mary In Bethlehem
That night in a stable Our saviour was born
Yes, we have so much To be thankful for
On the last Christmas,  The last Christmas,
 The last Christmas Without you
-Six Pence None the Richer

A year ago I was in my kitchen, trying to get ready dinner on the table when I heard this song for the first time.  It stopped me in my tracks and gave me goose bumps.  I stood there, trying not to cry, while my 7 month old babies rolled around on my living room floor.  I couldn’t help but long for the days when I felt them inside my skin. 

The Christmas before I was carrying twins, but I didn’t know until February.  I missed the chance to enjoy this feeling of two beautiful babies at Christmas.  I ignored the signs that there was more than one and focused on the single baby I insisted was there.   I look back at that Christmas and it feels distant.  I can’t help but feel like I missed out on something special. 

I have a tendancy to wish away whatever is happening right now.  I want to rush to a time that is easier, a time when things are smooth and confortable and not so rocky.  With 3 small children it’s easy to focus on what we don’t have, what we can’t do.  I daydream about the days to come, when they are a little more independant.  The every day responsibilities weigh me down and I look forward to an easier time.

This song brings me back to the moment I’m in now.  This is the last Christmas, the very last Christmas I will ever have with my four year old son and his 19 month old sisters.  I will never get this Christmas back.  And even though we may not make it to a Christmas play or through the Christmas Eve service, I don’t want to wish this Christmas away. 

So I sit back and I watch them play.  I try to memorize the way they move, their reaction to the Christmas tunes constantly playing in our house.  We talk about Jesus and Santa and reindeer.  I watch their eyes light up when the see Christmas light and trees.  I breathe in their joy and excitment.  I focus on the things they seem to care about, particularly my son, who is enjoying this Chrismas more than any before.  And I try not to loose that feeling that this is the last one I have with them exactly like this.

Wherever you are, whatever stage your in right now, take a moment to really breathe it in.  If you’re expecting your twins or knee deep in double the diapers, or chasing toddlers or keeping track of preschool activities, take a minute to let it sink in.  Look at your children.  Memorize every dimple and bump.  Commit this Christmas to memory, it’s the last one you have exactly like they are right now.  It can be so much harder with two, but it’s so much more rewarding.  Time moves quickly.  Before you know it we will be putting together a Christmas for 2012.  Don’t let this one slip away before you have a chance to really enjoy it.

 

You can listen to the song here

AmberD, also known as dollimama, spends her days keeping track of her 4 year old son and 19 month old twin girls.  You can read about her Life Not Finished or follow the crazy on Twitter.

Trying To Curb My Inner Pack Rat

I’ll admit, I’m one of those people who likes to save everything. As and adolescent, I saved every note passed between my BFFs and me in Jr. High and every card I received for my 16th birthday. The outfit I was wearing when my first boyfriend kissed me behind the town pool was saved for years in a box in the attic along with every card, dried flower, and gift he’d ever given me. (We only dated for about six months, but when you’re 12, six months is a lifetime.) These things were so special to me. How could I just toss them into the trash can or the Goodwill bin?

But after heading east for college, it seemed that I was moving once a year for about the next 8 years. And none of the dorm rooms or apartments I lived in had much space for storage. I learned quickly to be selective about the things I acquired. The more stuff I had, the more there was to pack and move the following fall. I began to see stuff for what it really was- stuff!

Fast forward to the beginning of this month. I decided to sell at my twin club’s fall tag sale, which required me to pull out all the remaining baby clothing, toys, and gear to sort and tag. I decided to get rid of it all since we’re 99.9% sure we’re not having another baby (a sad decision that I had to make with my head, not my heart), but I had no idea how many memories and emotions would flood through me as I went through bin after bin of infant clothing.

My inner pack rat was going nuts! Every piece of clothing and every toy seemed significant in some way- it was a gift from someone special to us, they were wearing it the first time they did one thing or another, and then of course there were just many, many personal favorites. And while I knew that these things were just things, I also knew that I just could not get rid of everything.

So, I designated one bin, one 30 gallon bin, to be my keepsake bin. (I may eventually have two bins, one for each child, but for now, it’s just one.) My goal is that this bin will hold everything I want to save to remember moments from my twins’ childhood from 0-18. And it was amazing how wonderful it felt to be able to hold onto some of those things- the tiny, little onesies for 5-7 pound babies, the going home outfits, my daughter’s first tiny sun dress, the collared shirt and corduroys my son wore on his first birthday, and those first little walking shoes. It is my hope that one day, I will share these items with my kids and tell them all about the wonderful memories these keepsakes hold for me.

What items hold special memories for you? Where do you keep them, and how do you keep yourself from keeping too much?

Memories

Maddie and Riley were only nine months old when their dad died.

 

Up until two days before his death, John was actively involved in caring for the twins. He conserved every ounce of the waning energy he had to spend with them. He’d sleep all day so that he could change Madeleine into her pajamas, give her a bottle, and read both kiddos a story. He’d rouse himself in the morning to sit in the kitchen while Maddie and Riley ate breakfast, and he’d kiss them as we headed out the door to daycare. Being a dad was something that John always wanted, and I don’t think anything about dying so young was harder for him than knowing he would not be around to see the twins grow up.

 

We have pictures of John up all around the house. There are wedding pictures, photos of John and me together, photos of all four of us, photos of John with the babies, snapshots of John with his parents and siblings. Not a day goes by that we don’t talk about Daddy. I’ll mention that I’m wearing his favorite color, or that we’re eating one of his favorite foods, or that he loved to read stories. I often tell the kids that I miss John, that I wish he were around, and that there are certain things about parenting that he would have done much better than I do. Every night before Maddie and Riley go to bed, I remind them that no one loves them more than Mama and Daddy.

 

In the weeks after John died, Riley had frequent nightmares, and his sleep has frankly never been great since John’s death. While he can point Daddy out in pictures, he rarely spontaneously brings up John, as opposed to Maddie, who will speak about him completely out of the blue. She’s been known to say, “Maddie miss Daddy,” and “Maddie love Daddy.” Sometimes when I yell at them or am cross or impatient, the kids will say, “Mama miss Daddy. Mama sad.” Yes, it’s true.

 

I don’t know how much of what they say is coached and learned from me, and I don’t know how much they understand when they say, “I miss Daddy.” They understand that a daddy is a parent, but they have yet to understand that some kids have two parents, some two mamas, some two daddies, some one of each. They certainly haven’t asked where John is, or why he’s not at home.

 

For now, I choose to believe that they harbor active memories of John, that they can recall spending time with him as babies, that they can still feel him holding them and have a physical sensation of his love. I know that I can still recall what it felt like to hug him and to hold his hand. I want to believe that they can still remember that, too. In fact, I want so much to believe it that I have hesitated to do any research into infant memory less some scientific study prove my romantic belief wrong.

 

I know that Maddie and Riley won’t have the real memories forever. I can already feel my real memories slipping away. It gets harder and harder to reacall the sound of John’s voice, the feel of his hand. The line is getting blurry between what I actually remember and what I only think I remember as I look at a photograph. And I don’t know anyone who holds real memories from when they were four months, six months, nine months old. So all I can do is keep making memories for the twins. Better created memories than none at all, or so I hope.

The Making of Memories

I have lots of great childhood memories…playing softball with my entire extended family in the hot summer sun, catching fireflies in the evening shadows and the pungent smell of campfires and burned marshmallows. I remember the ice cream eating contest my mom held for the neighborhood, and the time my parents didn’t kill my brother and I when we accidentally set the woods behind our house on fire…ahh, those were the days!

Yet memories are slippery and hard to hold on to. I think that is why so many of us blog, journal, take thousands of pictures and scrapbook. “Momnesia” aside, time is impossible to hold on to, and each day melts into the next.  Personally, I have trouble remembering what life was like even last month! My brain tends to upload life’s recent events, and overwrites the previous month’s happenings.

Yet, I enjoy replaying the larger-than-life events of my childhood….trips to Kennywood Park and spending time at my pap’s camp, where we would wash our hair in the freezing cold spring and get monster headaches. I remember birthday weekends at my aunt’s house, complete with an endless supply of sugary cereal. While much of my childhood is long forgotten, and what remains are wispy, blurry snapshots, I long to recreate some of those fleeting memories for my children.

Remember the 1998 movie “Stepmom” with Julia Roberts and Susan Saradon? Sarandons character has cancer, and knows that her time with her son and daughter is limited. She takes her daughter for this incredible midnight horseback ride in the snow, and creates equally purposeful memories for her son. Of course I realize that a movie is different than real life, but I continue to dream of the memories I might be able to create for my kids.

At only 13 months old, Jonathan and Faith aren’t going to remember the neat trips to parks and play areas. They won’t remember bike rides, long walks, playing in water fountains or their first ice cream cone. But as they grow older, I hope to add to their repertoire of memories…I want so badly to be the kind of mom who wakes her kids up to watch a lighting storm, who serves ice cream for dinner once a summer (saw that on Jon and Kate Plus 8 ), and who embraces fun, dirt and messes, well, at least sometimes.

Share with the HDYDI moms your strategies for making memories with your families! What type of MoM do you strive to be?