The Domestically Challenged Homemaker’s Holiday Aftermath

I think this picture just about says it all.

photo.JPG Tree 2

That’s right.  That’s our Christmas tree–this afternoon, not Christmas Eve or Christmas Day or yesterday for that matter. Let me say that everyday, well maybe every other day, we religiously filled the stand with fresh water. I did notice a couple of days after Christmas there appeared to be an overabundance of needles on the floor, but nothing too out of the ordinary. Last night, however, when I accidentally bumped into our tree, I was shocked when it actually rained needles. Although I hate taking down the tree on New Year’s Day (why make the end of Christmas week any sadder?), it had to come down today…obviously.  So what happened when I began to pull off the ornaments? Well it was like the scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas when all the needles fall off his tree when he attempts to decorate it.  I never thought that could really happen.  Of course I know that needles fall from dry pine trees, but nearly all of them??? That was just nuts.

I can’t help but ponder what our neighbors will think of us, especially once they see the naked skeleton of a  tree lying there at the end of our driveway waiting for the refuse department to pick it up.  I mean we must already seem pretty odd.  For starters,  the lights are on in our house until all ungodly hours.  Of course Giorgio returns from work very late at night and I wait up for him, then I write or read and before you know it it’s almost morning, but the neighbors certainly don’t know what’s going on over here.  Another thing is that we homeschool Jack, but, again, the neighbors don’t know that.  For all they know, we simply don’t send our kid to school.  Oh yeah, I recently realized that our blinds our quite thin, so if the lights are on inside, you can actually  see our images from the outside. The problem is that we dance a lot.  We do the Charleston, the robot, a little bit of Fosse-esque broadway, Graham style modern, hip-hop, tap…. You name it, we do it, perhaps not well, but we do it anyway.  Too bad we weren’t aware that the neighbors can see us.  So add to all of this the needless Christmas tree and we can appear weirder than we actually are. Oh well.

So here’s another picture of what happens in our house after the holidays.

photo.JPG Oven

I realize the image isn’t super clear, so I’ll explain. That’s smoke billowing out of our oven.  We had our family over for champagne and a turkey dinner to celebrate the New Year but we smoked the shit out of our house before they arrived.  Of course the smoke is the result of droppings from Christmas Eve dinner which landed and were left on the bottom of our oven. As for inviting everyone to dinner, we figuered “Hell, why not have the clan over for a gander at our needless Christmas tree?  It’s not everyday you get to see one of those.”

Here’s another.

IMG_20140101_144209.jpg porch

Yep. This week we set up our backyard skating rink.  Unfortunately, we had a little leak.  No worries.  I am certain the rink will be up and running within the next day or two.

So there you have it.  The aftermath of our Christmas holiday.  Good job Nanni Family.  Here’s to another stellar year!!!

P.S. I just had to add another shot Giorgio took this morning (it’s now the day afer New Years).  Behold…Needless tree awaiting collection! I should feel a little embarrassed by this; don’t you think?  The worst part-it won’t be picked up until the 15th!!!  Until that time, it will sit at the end of our driveway, a stark reminder of..ummmmm…of…. Oh hell, I don’t know.  Anyway, enjoy a laugh at the expense of our poor, sad, dry, needless tree.

photo.JPGTreeforpickup

The Domestically Challenged Homemaker’s Christmas Recap

photo.JPG Christmas

Merry Christmas! How was your holiday?  Oh, I am so happy that you had a great time.  How was my holiday you ask?  Well…ummm… Do you want the “correct” answer or the honest one? If you want to know the truth, my Christmas was 45% life is a bowl of peppermint sticks and elves shit mocha and 55% holy crap, can this get any worse? 

As a domestically challenged homemaker, Christmas presents many hurdles.  I never feel that I have it all together and during Christmas, whatever I did manage to get together falls apart.  What makes Christmas extra difficult is the barrage of pictures of perfect families enjoying traditional Christmas pastimes that we all receive.  They serve as a constant reminder of my own inadequacies. You know what I’m talking about, those Christmas cards and Facebook shots of angelic children baking cookies, decorating Christmas trees, sitting on Santa’s lap and their moms and dads posting things like “a perfect Christmas moment” and “Cards are out. Tree is decorated. Just one more batch to add to my already 108 perfect batches of Christmas cookies and we’re ready for Santa.” I have to admit that I have plenty of beautiful pictures of my kids doing adorably Christmassy things. But for each smiling shot I have about three other shots of a crying child. I don’t know about you, but all those Facebook posts and Christmas cards just serve to magnify my already glaring shortcomings. My messy home and crying child stand in stark contrast to the images of smiling faces  and perfect houses I see everywhere. And you know what really sucks? I try really, really hard to have everything in order and happy for Christmas. I guess this homemaking thing is just not my bag.

That said, each year the Nanni’s host Christmas Eve, and we always manage to pull it off in the nick of time, despite the fact that Giorgio works that afternoon and usually doesn’t arrive home until around 5:00 or 6:00.  This year, however, was exceptionally chaotic.  Let me just say that at 4:30 pm Christmas Eve I raced into the neighborhood liquor store to pick up the ingredients we needed to create the snowball martinis that were going to dazzle our guests with that evening. As I stepped into the store and said hello to my buddy behind the counter, I began to giggle. Not a happy giggle. The other kind. The nervous one that I can’t control. And as I was giggling I asked “Do you think I can get home, clean my house, have the kids gifts wrapped and be ready for guests to arrive by 6:30?” The problem is that as I was giggling, my eyes began to well up. Shit. I could feel the tears coming, and I knew. I knew that any second I would begin the simultaneous laugh and cry. Now that is a very poor indication of my mental well being and it only happens during the most high stress situations. Somehow, someway, I swallowed the tears, but continued to giggle. My friend assured me that I would in fact make it and what I needed was a cocktail…or ten. Ironically, given my aversion to Christmas Facebook posts (I really have a love hate relationship with FB) and my limited time, as soon as I pulled into my driveway and before I entered the house, I was compelled to post the following on FB:

I’m in the weeds!!! Okay, can’t have a heart attack on Christmas eve.  That would really suck for the kids.  I’ll make it.  Right??? Wait, Christmas shouldn’t be like this.  LOL (perhaps though I should be crying).

Why ever did I post that?  I don’t know.  Perhaps it was cathartic.  Perhaps I wanted support.  Perhaps I wanted someone else to say, “yep, I’m in shit too.”  I don’t know. I do know that a few kindhearted people actually responded with assurances that all would be well, and those comments helped. The big question, however, is how does one find herself in such a state on Christmas eve?

There are three factors the contributed to my Christmas chaos.  One, I teach college English, which means that during December I am swamped with portfolios to grade and final grades to be submitted, Two, my husband is a chef and December is the busiest time of year, so he practically lives at work during the Christmas season.  Three, my son has sensory issues.  If you are familiar with SPD, you know how Christmas can be very trying for anyone who struggles with it.  This year these three factors converged to create the perfect holiday storm.  Oh yeah, I forgot to add the fourth and most obvious factor which you already know…I am clinically diagnosed as being domestically challenged. 

So this is how Christmas played out.  Giorgio was supposed to arrive home at 5:00 Christmas Eve but didn’t walk into the door until 6:45.  Thank God I had the wherewithal to call the guests and ask them to come at 7 instead of 6:30.  We pulled it together.  The evening was fun.  We laughed, ate, drank.  Good times.  The guests departed at 11:30 and Giorgio and I cleaned until 12:00. I managed to get my little one to sleep, but my son has sleep issues and didn’t fall asleep until around 2:00 am at which time my husband and I proceeded to wrap gifts for three hours.  At 5:00 we made our way to bed.  Unfortunately, we managed to wake our son up on our way, and he never went back to sleep.  Needless to say, Giorgio and I didn’t sleep at all.  With everyone, aside from Allegra, suffering from extreme sleep deprivation, Christmas day, without boring you with the details, was challenging.  Before I passed out that night I surfed the internet for blogs on special needs children and the challenges Christmas presents.  I just didn’t want to feel alone.  I wanted some confirmation that it wasn’t just my lack of domestic homemaking prowessphoto.JPG Christmas that led to our less than blissful holiday. And you know what?  I did find some comforting stories shared by parents who are far more generous with sharing information than I am.  For that I was very grateful.  And, on a truly positive note, Allegra had a great time for herself.  She enjoyed all the preparations leading up to the big day (cookie baking, gingerbread house making, Nutcracker Suite watching, tree decorating and Santa visiting)  and Christmas day itself. 

So will this domestically challenged wretch of a woman do anything different next year?  Maybe some things, but not all . I am an eternal optimist.  I have hope that next year will go more smoothly.  I hope that our lives will be more peaceful, less chaotic.  All I know is that despite all the insanity of the holiday, we are okay. Christmas night Giorgio and I tucked our children into bed and kissed them and told them we loved them and really, that’s all that matters.  They are here.  We are here together.  The four of us.  I know I often end my posts this way, but it is how I feel. I complain about my shit, but I am a lucky woman ( a wreck yes, but a lucky person none the less).  Wishing all of you a peaceful, healthy and happy new year!

So, What Does Your Christmas Tree Say About You?

CrazyTree PicBefore I begin this post I feel compelled to offer an explanation as to why I have not posted in weeks.  In a nutshell, I needed to think…hard.  When I began this blog four months ago, I assured myself that I would post weekly, and I did, until November.  I derive great pleasure from blogging. Before writing I think about each post a lot.  I think about what I will write about while I drive, while I shower, as I’m falling asleep at night.. I love, love, love to think about my blog.  For me, the prewriting experience is almost as fun as the writing itself.  So what happened?  I needed to think about something else. I know.  Do I really need to allot specific times to think? Am I really incapable of thinking about more than one thing at a time? Yes. When it comes to important matters, yes. I guess I am intellectually limited in that way.  This poor brain is easily strained and, hence, incapable of multithinking.  So here I am.  I did what needed to be done. I thought about what needed to be thought about.  As a result, I made some relatively decent decisions in my life. Now me and my demented brain are back and ready to blog.  On with today’s order of business..Christmas trees!

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I had a very beautiful Christmas tree.  I always selected the most perfectly shaped tree, not too short, not too fat, without bare spots… It was always elegantly adorned with red and gold bulbs, nutcracker ornaments and miniature pointe shoes.  Of coarse, it goes without saying that it had white lights.  I loved my Christmas tree, selecting it, decorating it, until one day my dear husband informed me that I was a “Christmas Tree Nazi.” Of course I couldn’t have that, so I decided to change my rigid, unfun, unbending Christmas tree decorating ways and lighten up. But this was not easy.

You see, at the time we were pretty broke and struggling and living in the 500 square foot in-law apartment attached to my parents’ house. And it wasn’t just my husband and I. It was also Jack and eventually Allegra. Of course part of me was ashamed that we weren’t doing “better” in life, so, it was extremely important to me that from the outside we looked somewhat legitimate, despite the fact that we lived in an overcrowded one bedroom apartment furnished with my grandmother’s old furniture. Christmas provided me the opportunity to say,”That’s right. We’re broke. We live in my parent’s house. But I still have taste. I am an elegant lady. Look in my window! Look at my beautiful tree! Just imagine what I will do when I have money.” At night, when the neighbors passed on their way home, they would look at that stunning tree in my window and think “Ahhhh, there’s hope for that girl yet.”

Then Giorgio accused me of being an intolerant, control freak, and I knew he was right. I needed to make a change. So the following year, colored lights. And the year after that, colored blinking lights. And Jack and Giorgio were happy (Allegra was too little at the time to voice her opinion). And I learned not to give a damn. And then…I realized that I liked the colored (unblinking) lights. They reminded me of my grandparent’s tree. Growing up, I loved my grandparent’s house at Christmas time. Theirs was a tree you would NEVER find at the White House or picture in Elegant Home magazine. Theirs was a simple, middle America Christmas tree, adorned with cheap gold garland and silver tinsel, colored bulbs and popcorn balls. My Grandpa used to sit in his big easy chair next to the tree and literally throw tinsel at the poor thing. His favorite ornaments were the blue glitter bulbs, so my brother and I, who loved to help my grandparents decorate, always made sure that plenty of blue bulbs were visible from Grandpa’s chair. Sadly, I grew older and snotty and pretended like I didn’t like it.

So what do we have now that the four of us have moved into our own home? Well, I don’t want to fall back into my rigid, fun busting ways, so, we compromise. Downstairs we have a beautiful tree adorned with my nutcrackers and pointe shoes and the kids’ homemade ornaments. Yes, it still has colored lights. And upstairs…CRAZY TREE!!!!

Ahhhh…Crazy tree! It is a sight to behold. Its home is in our TV room and it is all things children love, and also all things that any adult, who isn’t in need of a lobotomy, finds completely insane. Crazy tree looks like something my grandfather would decorate, if he was on crack. Since words cannot express that which is Crazy Tree (except that if you stare at it for too long you feel like vomiting), I’ve posted a picture. The scary thing..we all really dig Crazy Tree.

I still love my beautiful, elegant white light adorned tree, but, right now, it’s not us. It can wait. And when Allegra grows old enough to pretend she doesn’t like colored lights any longer, I will be sad. Right now, downstairs I have a fun tree and upstairs-Crazy Tree, and, for now, we like it this way. It’s funny, but just as those lovely family portrait Christmas cards can be complete misrepresentations of who we are, so too can our Christmas trees. I mean, if I really wanted to let everyone know how the Nanni’s are doing this year, Giorgio and I would look like we’re on the verge of nervous breakdowns and the kids would be punching each other. Although we will continue to send dignified cards that are gross misrepresentations of ourselves, we will also continue to have Christmas trees that reflect who we are–child friendly (always), tasteful (sometimes) and, as reflected by Crazy Tree, insane (more than we want to admit). Merry Christmas!

The Lesson My Children Taught Me

CYMERA_20131116_210439

I love the Beatles’ song “Let It Be.”

When I find myself in times of trouble

Mother Mary comes to me

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be *

This song is a part of the soundtrack of my life. When I listen to the news and learn of great inexplicable tragedy, I find myself playing it over and over again in my head. It is remarkably comforting. Despite the fact that Paul McCartney wrote this song about his own mother, and, given my extreme ambivalence towards matters of religion, it strikes me as somewhat odd that I still like to think that the song is about the Blessed Mother, and, now that I no longer give a shit if it sounds uncool, I am okay with admitting this. Although I have been engaged in my own personal battle with my religion for years, I find great comfort in the divine Mother Mary. She is a mother’s ideal: a gentle, patient, ever comforting presence. I have no delusions of grandeur, but as a parent, I do strive to be gentle, patient and comforting, and I hope when I am gone, many, many years from now, my children will remember me in this way. But what of this idea of letting it be? As parents we strive to help, to fix, to make everything better for our children. What of letting it be? Letting them be? This week both my children taught me lessons in how to do this. What I learned is that letting it be can painful, liberating, inevitable and right.

The first part my lesson was delivered by Allegra, my four year old daughter. I volunteered to help out for muffin baking at preschool. This year Allegra has blossomed socially and has even made a best friend. Last year, if I had volunteered in her class she would cling to my leg and not only not let go but also not allow any other child to come within five feet of me. Soooo, with last year still fresh in my mind, I was a bit apprehensive about showing up at school, just when she is beginning to make true friendships. That said, this is her last year before “big kid” school, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be in her class for the morning. I thought it through and had a plan in place-if, in any way, my presence was disruptive for her, I would leave (great plan right?).

Well I am happy (and sad) to say that my dear soul sister Allegra did not give a damn if I was there or not. Actually, I just lied; she didn’t want me there at all. As a matter of fact, she actually pushed me away when I attempted to sit next to her at cicle time (talk about feeling like an ass). To feel relief and loss at the same time-what a strange experience! But those were my feelings, relief and loss. On one hand, I felt a sense of pride and victory and relief. I was so proud of my littlest one. I had sent her out into the world, and she found happiness. She found friendship. She is a glorious creature. On the other hand, well, it hurt…it hurt a lot. You see, Allegra and I, from the day I brought her home from the hospital, have been attached at the hip. Literally, we have been attached at the hip. For the first two years of her life, she loved to be held, so I held her. I held her on my hip. I held her on my hip as much as I could. I cooked and cleaned and did pretty much everything other than drive with her on my hip. As she got a bit older and too big to constantly be held, she remained as close as possible to my side. And she has remained by my side until a few weeks ago. Recently, I have noticed that she has needed me less and less. She wants to be a “big girl” and as such, wants to do most things on her own…like a “big girl.” And I want to scoop her up. I so want to pick her up and yell “Stop! Please stop! Don’t grow so fast. What’s the rush little one? Just stay with me a bit longer.” But that is wrong. She is happy. This is as it should be. This is life. This is my job, to let her grow, to let her go, to let it be. Let life take it’s course Heather. Let it be. Let her be. Don’t be selfish. Don’t hold her back. Let her be. Let it be.

And now onto my Jack. Jack gave me my second lesson in learning how to let it be. Jack doesn’t run with the pack. He is a lone wolf, a wonderfully brilliant, kind, unique and creative lone wolf. Unless he is with those family members who are closest to him, with whom he has deep and meaningful relationships, Jack prefers to be on his own. Of course, I worry. In the society in which we live it’s all about being a member of a team; there are sports teams, work teams, cooperative teams at school and teams on the playground. And if it’s not teams, it’s partners. Work on your math with a partner, play catch with a partner, complete this project with a partner. Jack doesn’t like working with teams and partners. I have pushed him to engage in group activities. I have encouraged him to try to enjoy playdates. How stupid is that? How can you possibly encourage someone to enjoy what they do not like? Why would you ever try to encourage (force) someone to learn to “like” something they do not like? Jack is not anti-social. He loves deeply and has meaningful relationships with those dear to him. Period. That is how he is now. He may change in the future. Who knows? But for now, he just doesn’t enjoy teams, groups and artifically “manufactured” by your parents relationships.

That said, the other day I asked our babysitter to come by so that I could run some errands. When I told Jack that the sitter was coming, he asked if he could run errands with me. Jack has never asked to run errands with me. I was thrilled. So I tweaked my plans to include lunch at IHOP. When our sitter arrived, I gave Allegra a kiss (Allegra loves her babysitter. Rightfully so; she is a wonderful woman) and off I went with Jack. At lunch we talked about life, about where we want to travel, about Christmas. He played the game on the IHOP placememat and identified the flags of various countries. The Australian flag got us talking about penal colonies and Britain and Australia and the United States and Jamestown. Then, somehow, we moved on to animals and log cabins and having a farm and Christmas and how great it would be to live in a log cabin on a farm and decorate it for Christmas. It was awesome. Then, rather than run errands, we ran around the mall looking at Christmas decorations (I know. I know. It’s early, but Jack LOVES Christmas). I can sincerely say that I had soooooo much fun, and I know Jack did too. That night I thought about my Jack. I thought, let him be. Let him be. He is lovely. He is brilliant. He is kind and gentle. He loves Christmas and log cabins and animals and his family. He loves his dog and blue skys at 4:00 pm on winter days (something we all learned to appreciate from his Uncle Sean). He loves the book Owl Moon. Let him be Heather. Stop pushing. He is perfectly imperfect. He is Jack, wonderful, beautiful Jack.

These are not times of trouble and darkness in our house. Our children are healthy. All is well. Every night I am blessed to kiss them on their soft cheeks and know that they are okay. All is well. Let them be Heather. Let them be.

* McCartney, Paul. Beatles. “Let It Be.” EMI, Apple Records, Lyrics. 1970.

Mrs. Nanni Makes a Home…With the Help of Her Blog

How about a picture? Curtains? Color?Anything?!!!

How about curtains? Color?Anything?!!!

I have read a few articles by writers who state that blogging has made them better people, and I get it. It really makes complete sense. At the end of the day I don’t want to read my blog and realize that I am nothing more than the member of the chorus in a Greek tragedy, recounting sad tales of my days and providing myself with the insights I could have used in real time rather than in hindsight. Worse yet, I don’t want to read my blog and realize I have been the protagonist in my own life, jacking things up for myself and everyone around me. While it’s one thing to employ self-effacement for humor and levity, it’s another thing to just be an ass. Soooo…what’s my point?

I think I should begin with this. It is a fact that I am domestically challenged. In my adult life, I have yet to make a house a home in the physical sense. For me, experience transcends the material. Following this logic, as long as there is deep love and joy and excitement, some sense of joie de vivre, then the actual setting where life takes place has been relatively unimportant. My thought has been if you take away the happiness of experience then you hold to the setting, the material, for some sort satisfaction. My reasoning, however is deeply flawed.

While I keep a clean home, it is stark. I have simply been too busy living life with my family to give it much attention. When we first moved into our house I had grand decorating plans. I had the children’s rooms freshly painted. I bought beautiful comfortors with matching curtains. I even hung the curtains, until I took them down to have our windows replaced. Now they sit in a closet, almost forgotten because I have been too busy living life.

The question is, have I been living my life or have I been consumed by my life? It’s not as though I’m always happy. I worry…A LOT. I am stressed…A LOT. I work all the time. I am tired. It really would be so nice to have a warm and inviting place to rest at the end of the day. But I didn’t give this much thought until last week.

Giorgio and I were sitting in the kitchen when our Jack came in with a catalog from some home furnishing company. It was their winter issue and in it were pictures of homes beautifully decorated for Christmas. Jack loves Christmas and winter and snow. He loves to look at Norman Rockwell’s painting of main street Stockbridge at Christmastime. He loves images of Sundblom’s Santa sitting by a roaring fire and paintings of villages during winter with their white steepled churches and homes with illuminated windows that leave the viewer to imagine the cheer and warmth and fragrance that is within. While Jack was sitting in the kitchen showing us his catalog, his eyes filled up. When asked “why” he responded, “It’s just so beautiful.” This is the moment that I realized that setting really does matter.

Of course setting matters. Yes you can perform a play in a black box theater, but the brilliance of that is that each audience member gets to set it as they like, as his imagination deem best. I feel that my Jack and Allegra lack for nothing other than a setting. Jack craves warmth and coziness, and I am sure Allegra does as well. Yes, they have all they could possibly need and more, toys and books and clothes and joyful experiences and the great love of parents who have placed them at the center of their universe. But they don’t have a beautiful setting for which to settle their memories. As time marches forward and memories become more and more distant from the actual experiences those feelings they had as children will need to be paired with images just as powerful in order to survive their battle against time and old age. More importantly, they need the experience of a warm and inviting home now because they deserve it. We all do. Home is not just an abstraction. It is physical; it is material, and as such, it should be beautiful. I know. I know. Most everyone else figured this our ages ago.

So this brings me back to my initial point. How will I use this blog to make me a better person? Each month I will post pictures of the progress I make as I attempt to transform the Nanni house into a home…in the physical sense. I don’ want to just make a joke out of my lack of domestic prowess; although, it does provide some pretty decent comedic material. I don’t want to look back and regret that I never paid attention to the setting of our life together as a family. Here goes. Wish me luck.