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Posts Tagged ‘holiday stress’

Hair

Are you doing your hair as you normally do? I have STOPPED. There is absolutely no point in spending 30 minutes drying my hair and straightening it. Well. I could see how it MIGHT have a point, at some time in the future – if I need to feel Normal, somehow. Or if I have a super-important Zoom meeting (unlikely). This is a time for the least possible exertion, hairwise. My hair is not cooperating, though – instead of settling into beautifully air-dried curls it is still doing what it did in The Time Before, which is drying into drab frizzes that are vaguely curl-adjacent on the right side of my head and straightish on the left side. Very disappointing, hair. We should all be Stepping Up in These Unprecedented Times.

What I have been doing is braiding my hair after I get out of the shower. Usually, I part my hair to the left, but when I separated it into two braids, I parted it down the middle. And immediately remembered that I part my hair left for a reason. Hoo boy do I already have a LOT of grey. Well. It can’t be helped and it isn’t so extreme that I am ready to try an at-home coloring process.

I also remembered why I normally do my hair very simply – braiding is probably one of the easiest hair styles on the planet and yet I can barely do it. I am not talking about French braiding or fishtail braiding or anything fancy. Just a simple three-strand braid. It does not look good, folks.

Clothes

I am not nor have I ever been one of those people who gets fully dressed to work from home. No. Comfort is king. But at least when I had to pick up Carla from school and go to Actual Places like the grocery or Target or Carla’s ballet studio, I would get dressed in real clothes every day. Now… Well, my wardrobe is divided into three primary sections: pajamas (leggings and one of my husband’s old t-shirts), exercise clothes (leggings, a sports bra, and a tank top), and inside clothes, for after I’ve showered (leggings and a sweatshirt or long-sleeved T-shirt). Yes, I have different leggings for each category, and, even though they are all black, I can tell them apart. (The pajama leggings are the softest and loosest.) There’s a seldom-worn forth category: outside clothes (jeans and a shirt which immediately go into the laundry upon returning home). I found A HOLE in one pair of leggings recently, so I may need to expand my attire options at some point. But not now.

Homeschooling

We are on Day 4 of homeschooling – or whatever it is when you are trying to cajole your child into following the lesson plans her teachers have given you – and I am already having to step away and take deep breaths every few minutes. HOW are people doing this with multiple children? And while WORKING? I am ready to walk into the sea.

Shopping

After stalking the online ordering app for four days, I was finally able to get a timeslot for curbside grocery pickup. I haven’t tried this before, and I am expecting that only part of my order will be fulfilled, but I am kind of anxious about it. Will something essential, like milk or taco sauce, be missing? If so, I’ll have to go to the store which I am obviously trying to avoid. Of course, ordering wine is not an option so I will have to go to a store EVENTUALLY anyway.

Passover

In an effort to keep Carla’s Jewish heritage alive and part of her life, I want to observe Passover. But… I feel so out of my element. I am NOT Jewish and a lot of the books we have don’t really explain things in depth. Plus, I don’t really know anything about how to hold a proper Seder and certainly don’t have the right food on hand. Well. I still have a couple of days left to figure things out.

Easter

I found an art supplies kit and a leftover rainbow leopardfrom Carla’s sixth birthday in the gift closet. Plus I have a very small amount of Easter candy I picked up from the grocery store. So I think I can make up a decent Easter basket for Carla. (We have actual baskets, fake grass, and plastic eggs in the basement, because I reuse them year to year.) But I am still FRETTINGabout it. Sure, I could explain that the Easter Bunny is practicing social distancing and so asked me to round up what I could… but on the other hand, I want Easter to be Extra Special because so little is special these days. I have filled my virtual Target cart with candy and books and toys that I can pick up curbside… but I am hesitating. Partly because my husband thinks we have plenty of Easter-y stuff. And partly because I feel really guilty about shopping for non-essentials.

Housecleaning

I think I have come up with a rough housecleaning schedule.

  • Daily: Making beds, unloading/loading the dishwasher, wiping off tables and counters, disinfecting high-tough areas, using the dustbuster to eradicate crumbs, tidying up main living spaces.
  • Near daily: Laundry
  • Monday: Toilets and counters
  • Tuesday: Showers and tubs
  • Wednesday: Break
  • Thursday: Windows and baseboards
  • Friday: Dusting
  • Saturday: Bedding
  • Sunday: Floors

Last week, I taught Carla how to clean the toilets. Yesterday, my husband vacuumed all our carpeted surfaces while I scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom floors. I hate cleaning but it does make me FEEL better. It also makes me feel better to think about my housekeeper returning someday.

Books

I finished all three books I mentioned in this postand have moved on to Jessica Simpson’s memoir. I wish my library had more Agatha Christie books available via ebook – they have a good number, but not all, and so many are already checked out. I want to read them in order and that is nearly impossible to do. I put MANY of your suggestions on hold through my library website, but none of them have come through yet.

Socializing

I have been very pleased by the amount of socializing I’ve been able to do even while quarantined. Two high school friends and I had a happy hour via Zoom the other day that was really enjoyable. And then my husband and I had a FaceTime date with family friends who were supposed to come over for dinner. I was surprised by how satisfying it was to chat with them – it was nearly as good as being with them in person. Not as enjoyable was the family meetup we did with my husband’s family that lasted for WELL OVER AN HOUR. That is too long.

Exercise

Getting “proper” exercise has been a real challenge. My preferred method is walking on the treadmill for an hour, but when I do that, our internet goes out. So no one in the house can do anything requiring an internet connection, which means I can’t even walk on the treadmill while Carla is “at school” because so many of her “assignments” require her to be connected to Google classroom. (This is completely ignoring the fact that, so far, I have to be IN THE ROOM with Carla the entire “school day” or she wanders completely off track ARRRRGGGHHHHHH.) I have done a few Barre3 videos via YouTube, but it’s not the sameas being in the studio with my favorite instructor. I suppose I should resume using exercise videos, but I am resisting for some reason. Carla’s daily schedule has two hour-long blocks set aside for exercise, which mainly consists of us walking over to a nearby school parking lot so she can ride her bike. I walk back and forth a million times across the parking lot, occasionally sprinting. It’s not FUN but it does a mediocre job.

Food

A lot of people seem to be making new and interesting things during this pandemic, especially bread. My own mother has made two types of bread in the past week and my father made a lemon cake. I have made… my typical rotation of dinners. Carla and I are going to make cupcakes for Easter – she wants chocolate cakewith these bunny decorations. We did a Sprinkle Inventory and do not have pink sprinkles – but we do have purple and gold, so I think we’ll be okay. I have flour and yeast, so I COULD make bread. But I am kind of waiting until we NEED to make bread, you know? Right now, we have a loaf of bread in the freezer and I ordered a loaf of bread to be picked up later this week. Maybe if bread doesn’t make it into my actual shopping bags, I will make some. I have been kind of waiting for an opportunity to make focaccia… maybe this is my chance.

Mood

Friday was pretty rough. Saturday, I wanted to drive my family into the woods and leave them there. And I have been waking up at 4:00 or 5:00 every morning, which is unpleasant. However, I had a pretty decent day yesterday, slept without waking all night last night, and am feeling fairly balanced today. I will take the good days as they come.

 

There you have it. Now give me the updates on how YOU are doing.

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We have not yet decorated our tree and this – plus a massive FAIL on an attempt to make matcha truffles– is making me hyperventilate a little bit. Of course there is also a MOUNTAIN of laundry to climb fold and there is cleaning to do in preparation for my parents’ arrival and I have not wrapped a single gift to go under the tree (I HAVE wrapped and sent gifts to all family members and wrapped gifts for various instructors and mail carriers etc. so I am justified in feeling that I have ALREADY done quite a lot of wrapping, with nothing to show for it!) and the chocolates are not made and there are cookies to bake. Pant! Pant!

At least I have finalized ALL of my present and stocking-stuffer purchases!

I am CHEERFUL, please understand that. I love this time of year, and our house (aside from the poor naked tree) is decorated and I have been playing Christmas music nonstop and I am really excited to see my parents and spend two weeks with Carla. But I am still hyperventilating. You understand.

And let us not forget that my family still requires food. Daily. So let’s talk about what I shall feed them.

Dinners for the Week of December 17 – December 25

What are you eating this week? Are your holiday plans under control?

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We are on Day 2 of a serious Halloween Hangover. Carla – whose bedtime is a strict 7:30 – didn’t go to sleep until ten on Thursday, yet still woke up at six on Friday. She was off all day – due to tiredness, no doubt – and I managed to cajole her into taking an actual NAP Friday afternoon. It didn’t take much convincing, I just said, “Carla, you are taking a nap.” And she said, “Okay,” and fell asleep pretty much immediately.

Of course, we put her to bed at 7:30… and then, at ELEVEN PEE EM IN THE EVENING, she showed up downstairs saying she had never fallen asleep. First, I find it a little hard to believe that she was awake, by herself, in her room for three hours, entertaining herself. But stranger things have happened. And, after I gave her a melatonin gummy and snuggled with her a bit and then took her back up to her room, I noticed she had a cookbook open face-down on her bed, which she claimed she had read through during her non-sleeping hours. So maybe she WAS awake the whole time. Wait, there was a “first” back there and now I have forgotten why. Presumably there was at least a “second” in mind… Well, it is lost to the sands of time.

She woke up today at a more reasonable time, but she did NOT get the eleven to twelve hours of sleep that she requires. So we are watching Barbie movies on Netflix. Well, she is watching Barbie movies and occasionally directing my attention to something extraordinary (Barbie’s hair turned pink! There’s a mermaid!) and I am typing this blog post. Okay, in the time it took to write this MONSTROSITY of a post — be warned — Carla’s movie ended and I suggested she take a nap. She agreed without argument and went upstairs… only to reappear five minutes later, yawning extravagantly and claiming her nap was very restful and she was ready to play. She is now setting up a make-up salon in her bathroom, and forging her wares out of paper. Age six is a DELIGHT.

Halloween was fun, I think. We had a few friends over – the very lovely families of two of Carla’s school friends – and I continue to find entertaining absolutely exhausting. I enjoy it, though – or, at least, I want to enjoy it  I love planning the food and buying the wine and the actual conversation when people are here. But my little introvert soul gets so completely worn out by all these extra people in my space… I don’t know. Would it get better/easier if I did it more often? Could I possibly do less in preparation, and would that help?

I made soup and bread and a veggie tray, which seems like the bare minimum. Well, I could have bought the bread, but it really is the EASIEST bread recipe in the universe. I did order pizza, as well – that’s what the kids ate, but I ordered enough for every person to have at least three pieces. And then it all slowly burnt into molten, inedible bricks in my oven over the course of the evening, so I had to throw most of it away. Horrified grimace emoji.

I could have JUST gotten pizza, right? We went to a friend’s house last year for Halloween, and they had ordered pizza and a salad. And it was PERFECT. But… well, I guess I just can’t get past trying too hard. Like, people who order pizza and a salad are already In, and I won’t be invited In unless I prove myself through baking??? As though that is a normal or reasonable barrier to entry into a social group??? What is wrong with me?????? Eye-roll emoji.

Aside from feeling exhausted by entertaining, I have come to really enjoy Halloween. It has all the fun of The Big Holidays – decorations, planning, special food – without any of the pressure. I suppose if I handmade all of Carla’s costumes, as my mother did for me, it would be much more pressure-filled. But since I buy Carla’s costumed pre-made and only have to worry about doing an appropriately tiger-y face-painting job (she was a tiger this year, which hopefully makes the previous part of this sentence make more sense than it otherwise might have), it’s very low-pressure for me.

I love all the homes that decorate for Halloween – and there’s such a wide range. We have the people with a cheery pumpkin or two on the front stoop, and then there’s the family with an entire army of zombies or skeletons posed on the lawn. It’s delightful. Carla had a hankering for “something you stick in the lawn” this year, so we found a very nice collection of ghosts – ones you could hang up OR stick in your lawn! – at Target and that was really fun to add to our outdoor décor.

The ghost brownies I made for Carla’s class party turned out well and the kids LOVED them.

Halloween ghost brownies

I also made little bags of popcorn, which Carla and I decorated as monsters, and those were fun as well. (I just wanted the kids to have a non-sugar option.)

Halloween popcorn monsters

My candy-corn veggie arrangement did NOT turn out well; my serving dishes were the wrong size/shape and/or my veggies weren’t putting on their best candy-corn show, so I just did a tray of veggies in Halloween colors: a stripe of orange tomatoes, a stripe of cauliflower, a stripe of yellow peppers, etc. etc. I thought it was festive enough, but it turns out that yellow/orange peppers and tomatoes and cauliflower aren’t particularly popular, at least not with this friend group.

The pounding rain stopped literally minutes before our neighborhood’s designated trick-or-treating time, and Carla and her friends had a great time going door to door, despite the biting wind. Then they had an even better time handing out candy to the other brave trick-or-treaters – a group of mainly older/bigger kids that arrived in swarms. I remember being that weird age between Eager Trick-or-Treater and Too Old/Too Cool for Halloween, and felt very tender toward the Big Kids, especially the ones who tried, by wearing a mask or some other gesture toward a costume… but, well, also the ones who didn’t have a costume at all, but merely gave in, possibly at the last minute, to the overwhelming desire to prolong the youthful fun of Halloweens past/collect free candy.

Now, November is upon us. And Thanksgiving is bearing down – more quickly for me than for you, because we are hosting Thanksgiving a week early (my husband is on call for the real holiday).

I am exhausted just thinking about Thanksgiving. Is this how I feel most years? Let’s see. I have been hosting Thanksgiving since 2010, and my memory of how I normally feel is that I face the holiday with pluck and enthusiasm. I should have it down to a science, what with my multi-page planning document and my detailed Week Of schedule. But this year, I just feel… drained. Not a good way to go into it, is it?

So, for the first time ever, I am considering asking for help. Gasp. Shock. Wide eyes. I know, I know. This DOES NOT sound like me. And perhaps it will not BE me, at the actual time. But the considering is the first step.

Let’s lay out my concerns/aversions to help.

  1. Differences in Technique: My mother-in-law – who has kindly and generously OFFERED to help – does things differently than I do. You may recall that I am Very Particular about things, especially when it comes to my kitchen. And I don’t want to micromanage, but I also feel very viscerally uncomfortable when someone is rummaging around in my cabinets or doing things differently than I would do them in my very own kitchen. You may be thinking, at this point, that I need to seek extensive therapy and should probably scrap the idea of asking for help. And perhaps you would be right.
  2. Space Constraints: Along similar lines: I only have the one kitchen with the one oven and stove and it’s much easier when I am the only person making the meal. It’s very simple to coordinate with myself, right? But if a whole other person is in my kitchen, chopping veggies and jockeying for the stove… well… that seems like a recipe for frustration/despair.
  3. Specificities of Taste: My husband LIKES the way I make things. Therefore, we have a very specific — I am avoiding the word “rigid” here — Thanksgiving menu, from which we rarely deviate. Could I really impose my specific dressing recipe on my mother-in-law, and expect that she make it exactly the way my husband likes it? That seems unreasonable. If she prefers, say, pumpkin pie or something chocolate for dessert… can I really expect her to make the pumpkin bars that are OUR (my husband’s and my) tradition? That seems very dictatorial of me/us.
  4. Some Sort of Mental Issue Related to Pride/Ownership: Again with the need for longterm therapy. I think somewhere along the line, I have absorbed this very strange and very stubborn feeling that I MUST do the entire Thanksgiving meal or… Or what? I lose street cred? I lose my Housewife Credentials? I don’t even KNOW. It’s just this weirdly pervasive buzz inside me that says I am the hostess, I need to provide the Entire Meal and do all the dishes and make it look effortless or else I lose. Lose what, again, I don’t know. Yet it’s THERE, inside me, buzzing away, making me feel like I am less of… something if I don’t do Thanksgiving perfectly and all by myself. This is one of those weird double-standard things that I apply ONLY TO ME, by the way – I fully understand and admire people who split the Thanksgiving duties among many, and I would gladly and gratefully pitch in with the cooking if I were invited to someone else’s Thanksgiving, and never for a single moment think less of the host. It’s some sort of weird Hostess Martyrdom that I’ve internalized somehow and I don’t understand it but nor can I rid myself of it.

Here are things working in my favor – by which I mean, that the following are present in my psyche makes me hopeful that I can get past my deterrents/aversions.

  1. I don’t particularly LIKE Thanksgiving. This is a little sad, because I think Thanksgiving used to be one of my favorite holidays. But that was back when my parents did all the work, I think, and I just had to show up? It got less enjoyable in college, when generous friends and extended family members opened their homes to me for the holiday – and I spent Thanksgiving feeling deeply, guiltily homesick. More enjoyable again when I began to establish my own traditions with my husband. And now less enjoyable again, now that it’s just A Big Day of Work. Also, I don’t really like the food! I eat turkey literally only on this one day a year. Sweet potatoes with marshmallows are fine in very small doses, but I could take ’em or leave ’em. I loathe wet bread, so the dressing is something I make but never even taste. The only things I like about Thanksgiving are the mashed potatoes and gravy. And the gravy is SO MUCH WORK and the potatoes won’t be exactly how I like them because I don’t make them with goat cheese out of respect for one family member who REVILES goat cheese. The pumpkin bars are good, but really BETTER when my husband makes them and I don’t know if he will have time/energy this year. So. If I don’t really care about the food — nay, if I don’t really EAT the food — why am I so resistant to having someone else make it???? A question for the ages.
  2. This year will be weird, so it’s almost like Not Thanksgiving, which makes me… care about perfection less. Like I said, we’re having Thanksgiving a week early. My husband will be at work all day, so he can’t help even if he wants to. My sister and niece will be flying into town at some point, so I’ll want to spend time with them rather than in the kitchen. Someone will have to leave to collect my sister and niece, someone else will have to leave to collect Carla from school, so there will be interruptions during the day. The timing of the meal will be later than normal (because my husband will be at work), so it will feel more like Any Old Dinner than Thanksgiving. All of these variables are making it wholly UNusual, so why stick to the usual plan?
  3. Plus, we have a built-in Do-Over available to us if we want it. I mean, Actual Thanksgiving will still happen. So I could save Doing It My Way for the ACTUAL DAY.
  4. My mother-in-law really wants to help, so why not give her that pleasure? As a relatively new hostess (can I still say “relatively new,” after nearly ten years of hosting this holiday?), I think I revel a bit in being The Provider. I want my guests to sit back and relax, rather than work hard in the kitchen with me. But… I think it causes my mother and my mother-in-law mental stress and even emotional pain, to sit and relax. They want to help. They have MULTIPLE DECADES of prior Thanksgivings behind them, during which THEY were the hostesses, and they have so much experience and expertise to share, and they are so accustomed to being busy that I think they feel… useless and unneeded when I shoo them out of the kitchen. Part of me feels – rather harshly – like they should learn to chill out and accept that this is the next phase in their lives, that their role now is NOT hostess, but guest and grandmother, that they should let the next generation have a turn at planning the menu and taking care of them. But… a growing part of me feels really bad and guilty and selfish about that, and wants desperately to be more generous about sharing the hostessing. God, this is all SO VERY STUPID and yet it causes me GREAT ANGST. (Also, I am feeling VERY CRANKY TOWARD and simultaneously VERY JEALOUS OF The Men, who seem to be completely unencumbered by any of this, and at least ACT totally content to simply sit in the living room watching football. WELL. There will be NO FOOTBALL this year, Men!) (P.S., in case this paragraph confused the issue, only my in-laws will be here for this Thanksgiving. I just brought my mother into it because I realized last year that she feels kind of sad and unwanted/unnecessary/superfluous when I don’t let her help with holiday meal preparation, and that made ME sad and I have been reflecting on it ever since.)

Okay. So I think I have laid it ALL OUT for you. It’s ugly and doesn’t paint me in the best light and it probably doesn’t make much sense outside of my very specific brain, but there it is.

So what should I do? How should I approach this Thanksgiving? Business-as-exhaustingly-usual? Or welcome my mother-in-law’s offer to help? And, if the latter, HOW do I do that, given the constraints above? If you were ME, with all my neuroses and particularities, how would you make THIS Thanksgiving easier and more pleasant and less tiring?

At this very moment, the biggest part of me wants to make a reservation at a fancy restaurant and have our faux Thanksgiving THERE. But I don’t think there are any restaurants that offer faux Thanksgiving. I don’t even know if the grocery stores offer their pre-made Thanksgiving meals for sale a whole week prior to the real holiday. Can I even get a turkey that far in advance???? And, really, I don’t want my Thanksgiving Antipathy to ruin a beloved holiday for the rest of my family. So I am resigning myself to making Thanksgiving dinner at home as usual. But maybe not exactly as usual…?

Help?

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