My Not-So-Typical Christmas Tradition

Christmas.  It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.  I love the beautiful decorations, the food, the parties, the food, the excitement of opening presents, and of course, more food.

Growing up, December was always a special time for me.  We would decorate our tree on my father’s birthday, December 9, (and many years later would celebrate my son’s birth on that same day!), and then we would celebrate my mother’s Christmas Day birthday.  My grandfather used to tell us the story of how Santa Claus brought my mother down the chimney to him, which, as a child, made me extremely jealous.

Christmas was full of love and happiness.  I was blessed!

Then, the unthinkable happened to my fantasy Christmas:  I got divorced.  Not just some easy-peasy, that-was-mine-this-is-yours divorce, but the “I kind of wish he’d get hit by a bus” divorce.

In an instant, my holidays were totally disrupted.  Suddenly, I only had my son with me for the first half of Christmas vacation, after which he would go to his father’s house at noon on Christmas Day.  Then he would return home after New Year’s Day.  It was agonizing.

One day, while visiting my eighty-something-year-old grandmother, she asked why I hated my ex so much.  I explained all of the reasons, and she listened quietly before saying, “What does it matter?  You’re divorced, but you have a child that loves you both and needs you to get along, especially now that the holidays are close.”

So, I went back home feeling like a first grader who just got scolded, and spoke with my ex.  After deciding to meet at the library (so we couldn’t yell at each other), we had a much-needed, long discussion.  For the first time since our divorce, we both agreed that we needed to put aside our differences and be parents to our son.  Civility wasn’t always easy, but we did it.

By then, he had married a very sweet lady and had a precious daughter, and one day, my son made a comment of how hard it was having to split his time between his parents on Christmas.  He wanted to spend time with us all, but having a big Christmas lunch at my house, followed by a big Christmas dinner at his dad’s house was just too much for him.

So, after great thought, and a few glasses of chardonnay, I reluctantly invited them over for Christmas lunch one year.

I know, I know….I can just hear many of you now saying, “I could never do that!”  But, let me tell you, when you know you’re doing something for your child, you can literally do ANYTHING.  It wasn’t easy, and there were times during dinner that I was tempted to stab my ex with a fork…but I digress.

It worked.

And just like that, we began a new Christmas tradition.  Each year, we would all have Christmas lunch together:  my son and his sister, my ex and his wife, my parents and grandmother.  When I remarried many years later, my sweet and understanding husband accepted our arrangement like it was no big deal. He saw that it was a good thing and welcomed my ex and his family into our house like they were old friends.

A few years have passed since we shared our last Christmas together.  Our son is nearly 23-years-old, and is venturing out as a young man, with a wonderful girlfriend who I hope will become part of our family one day.  My father passed away last year, and my mother moved to live with my 97-year-old grandmother.

Christmases are different, but I will be forever grateful for those wise words encouraging us to set aside our anger, forgive past mistakes, and put our child first.

After all, isn’t that what the holidays are really about?

 

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Do You Suffer From Mom Brain?


I’ve always said that our intelligence is highest when we are babies. We probably know all of the answers to the universe but we just can’t say anything or let anyone know what we are thinking.

As we get older, we start losing some of our brain power. It comes to a head with what I call “Mom Brain.” It’s very similar to what my cancer-survivor father calls “Chemo-brain”, but “Mom Brain” isn’t caused by cancer. It’s caused by children.

Mom Brain Sufferer

Mom Brain was diagnosed for me when my son was young, but really went active when he was about ten years old. I was divorced, working crazy hours to make ends meet, taking my son to his hockey practices and weekly games, and trying to have enough energy to cook dinner, (which was apparently very rare since the Domino’s delivery guy knew me by name.)

In other words, I was exhausted. ALL THE TIME.

“Hey Mom, Is this milk still good?”
“It should be. Smell it.”
“It smells like… milk. Should I drink it?”
“It’ll be fine.”
“Is it supposed to be thick?”

In a nutshell, Mom Brain means that you when have a baby, you lose a ton of brain cells along with the afterbirth. Unfortunately more kids could mean a more severe case of Mom Brain. I’m not a doctor so this isn’t medically proven. it’s just my excuse for why I am forgetful and frazzled for 99% of my day.

I’m naturally blonde, which is a strike against me in the first place, so I’m lucky I only gave birth to one child. Any more than that and I’d need to be institutionalized or at least heavily medicated.

The best (or should I say funniest?) case of Mom Brain comes from my dearest friend, who I will not name or else she will probably end our friendship. She is the mother of two beautiful young daughters, both under the age of two. To her horror, her oldest has finally started the terrible two phase, and it seems that she wants to stay there until she’s 10. Her youngest has been screaming with colic since coming out of the birth canal. This has now caused my friend to lose endless hours of sleep and put 147 extra miles each week on her car due to driving around the neighborhood at 3am to help put the baby to sleep.

We were discussing the effects of Mom Brain and she said she was certain she had it. She was telling me about a conversation she had with a girl she ran into at the gym a few months after her daughter was born.

“Hey! You had the baby! Was it a girl or a boy?”
My friend replied, “I had a little girl!”
“Oh that’s wonderful! What did you name her?”
“I named her Anna!” she said. (Long pause here as she thought to herself). “No, actually I didn’t name her Anna. I named her Abby.”

This conversation is absolute proof that Mom Brain exists. I think that maybe webMD should add Mom Brain to their list of diseases so we can self-diagnose ourselves. It kind of makes it a little better to deal with when you know what you have.

I can see it now. The list of symptoms is as follows:
Short term memory loss?
Difficulty performing familiar tasks?
Disorientation?
Increasing problems with planning and managing?
Trouble with language?
Rapid, unpredictable mood swings?
Lack of motivation?
Changes in sleep?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you either have Mom Brain, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Because the symptoms are EXACTLY THE SAME.

And like me, if you too suffer from Mom Brain then I’m not even sure why I wrote this blog entry, because by tomorrow you will probably have forgotten you even read this post.

An Unconventional Friendship

Two young girls are playing together upstairs at my house. Even from downstairs, I can hear them giggling and dancing around the bedroom. One is trying to teach the other how to dance “Gangnam Style”. The song plays over and over and over. I shake my head. I have no idea what that song means, but it really doesn’t matter.

They are best friends, but these two girls do not have what many would call a “typical” friendship.

One is my step-daughter.

The other is the daughter of my ex-husband.

Yes, you read that right.

How did this unusual friendship happen? Well, let me explain.

Being silly

My ex-husband and I divorced 12 years ago and believe me, it wasn’t cordial. Our divorce was finalized after two years of name calling of words that hadn’t even been invented yet, playing “This is Mine, You Can Keep That”, and paying barrels of money to our lawyers who loved us for basically covering their mortgages each month.

Fast forward another year when I was out visiting my then 85-year old grandmother in rural Mississippi. I had been griping about something my ex had done, when she looked at me and said “Why do you hate him so much? You were best friends until you divorced.”

“Well”, I began, “He did this, and this and this…” (of course, not taking any of the blame for myself!)

Pitifully, she just shook her head and said “You’re divorced. You don’t love him. He doesn’t love you. But you have a small child together and you both need to stop acting so selfish and start acting like parents. Forgive each other and move on.”

Ok. Let me tell you that when your grandmother (who normally has you on a pedestal and thinks you can do absolutely nothing wrong) begins to notice that you’ve become nothing more than a griping whiner, you have to really look at yourself. What I saw wasn’t pretty. I had always been a cheery, happy, funny Mommy but somewhere I had turned into an extremely bitter person, and I didn’t like myself like that.

Upon returning home, I called my ex and told him what my grandmother said. We decided we needed to try to work out his – I mean our “communication” issues. Although we had never argued in front of our son, we realized that if we wanted to bring up a good, well rounded child, we would need to stop the constant complaining and arguing. The plan worked. Over time we actually were able to become friends again.

We realized the important thing was for our son to be able to see his parents as respectable friends who just couldn’t stay married. He didn’t have to choose sides: he could spend weekends or holidays with either one of us and it was okay.

My ex married a wonderful lady who has become a very good friend to me. I have said before that I would have been drawn to her as a friend if we had just met at an office or school. We really get along and I especially appreciate how much she loves my son.

My ex and his wife now have a ten year old daughter. I would babysit her when she was a baby and I’ve watched her grow over the years into an amazing young girl. I have been to her birthday parties and I have cheered her on at her soccer games. I adore her.

I remarried three years ago, and as unconventional as it sounds, I invited them to my wedding. We introduced their little girl to my new little step-daughter. At first they were shy around each other, but soon they began running around the reception like old friends. They danced out on the dance floor and giggled over slices of wedding cake.

Making Monster Wreaths (idea by @babyrabies)

They truly hit it off. They now spend the night at each others houses as many times as possible. They do arts and crafts together. They build tents on the catwalk overlooking our living room.

Although they have both voiced that they would love to have more siblings, (sorry, but this baby factory is CLOSED) neither of the girls has a sister. One afternoon when I was putting away freshly laundered clothes, I overheard them trying to figure out how they could possibly be sisters because they sort of share the same brother….my son.

And now as I sit at my desk writing this post, I hear them upstairs laughing and playing, and my heart giggles along with them. It is so amazing to me that out of a sad and hurtful past, a beautiful new friendship was born. And what could be sweeter than that?

But I still don’t get what “Gangnam Style” means.

Bailey’s Birthday Minus Mom

By Dana McIntyre      @DanaMcIntyre1

It’s so hard for me to believe, but my husband and I have been married now for almost three years. We don’t have any kids together but we both brought kids from our previous marriages into our new one.

Most parents will agree that one of the most difficult things about getting divorced is not having your children with you all of the time. (Although for some people, they consider that a vacation!) For me, the hardest part was missing important holidays and events in my child’s life. He would spend Thanksgiving at my house one year, the next at his dads. Splitting Christmas day right in the middle…half at mom’s, half at dad’s.

This year, my step-daughter, Bailey was with us on her 11th birthday. We planned the usual birthday festivities – cake, balloons, gifts, friends, grandparents, etc. But as a mother who has been there, I knew it would be difficult for her mom not to see her on that day.

We used StoryMark to document her special day with tons of pictures (even using Instagram to add effects), but we also were able to add the sounds of the party and the ear bleeding result of our family singing Happy Birthday to her off-key. Bailey e-mailed the StoryMarks directly to her mother, allowing her to share in the party festivities.

So the next time you can’t attend a birthday party or a school chorus recital, consider using StoryMark to include the other parent. Bridging the gap between divorced parents can be so beneficial to your kids, and can start with the most simple gesture .

So Happy Birthday, Bailey! Cha! Cha! Cha!

Baileys Birthday – YouTube.

So what about you?  Have you ever been away from your kids on a holiday or birthday due to a divorce?  How did you cope?

For more information on StoryMark, visit http://www.storymarklife.com or download for free on your iPhone or Android.