Thursday, January 3, 2013

Christmas 2012 / Epiphany 2013

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a married women in possession of four children must be in want of more. So I gather from being continually asked by ever-well-meaning family, friends, doctors, cashiers, and passers-by:  "Are you having any more?" When I had my third, it was kinda "the new two," and I didn't get too bothered.  But now, society has apparently stamped "breeder" on my forehead.  And few remember that I am a temporarily retired teacher, student, traveler, writer, and... well, mostly a rather rational being.  Most mothers are actually.  And, as a species, we don't necessarily believe (in any way) that a sleepless, privacy and free-time-free life of childcare, dishes, and laundry is an ideal permanent existence.  But whenever I try to joke when filling out medical forms or something, writing, "I work, but I don't get paid" and they say "What do you mean?" and I say, "Oh, I work my tail off but I get no money for it" and they say "So you don't work" I just sigh and say. "No. I don't. But I get unbelievable benefits, really!"

And they don't believe me.  So I figured I might as well humor them. This year, the Dancause family welcomed its newest member, which happily replaced the previous member that was old, annoying, didn't pull its weight, and required too many major organ transplants.  Okay no, we "just" have four kids, and no, both my 96 year old grandmother and 88 year old grandfather are doing fine and worth their weight in gold. The new baby in our lives is a 2013 Toyota Sienna mini van, our first lease, our first attempt at a new car.  Okay, "love" is a strong word.  Well, not too strong for the sheer awesomeness of power windows and doors, remote locks and alarms, and a sweet mirror to spy on the kids from the front seat.  But very strong for a car that lied to us about itself.  It said it was Cypress Pearl.  More like Swamp Mud Green. We now drive a non-descript, sorta greenish colored car; you know, the type that you can't imagine anyone ever willingly buying because the color is so ugly. Okay fine, the type _I_ openly voiced was the ugliest shade of car ever.  Best not to make fun of people's choices, really.  Turns out we mud-colored car drivers have just all been duped by "Cypress Pearl" advertisements.

But we love everything else about our new addition, and do not (at all) mourn the demise of our old mini van, which required not one but two replacement transmissions within a year. And it preferred family vacations for these ministrations.  Last year, I welcomed in the New Year at the side of "Riley" in the front of a tow truck, with baby in a bucket seat in the middle, celebrating the dawn of 2012 with the regaling tales of Riley's AAA adventures, estranged girlfriend, low salary, and his obscene conversations with his GPS system, which it seems he despised.  Forsaking their champagne, my sisters-in-law drove over an hour from our Virginia destination to rescue the rest of my family in Pennslyvania where our van gave up the exhaust; they could not all fit in the tow truck, and thus missed the tales of Riley the disgruntled towist.  That was the first transmission replacement.  The replacement transmission died six months later in Boston, again eerily close to our destination, but not close enough, the day after our van barely made it to the top of Mt. Washington. At least this time, it was after our vacation to Storyland/Santa's Village in NH,

and occurred on the way home.  The former male Dancause owner of the van still claims no connection between the highest point in Northeast and the demise of our vehicle.  

Our new van favors no such shenanigans: we have driven it back and forth to Virginia and throughout DC, one of two family trips to the southern home of my inlaws this year.

If you are from Virginia, yet didn't see us while we were down there, do not be offended: we did not see you either.  But please be assured we wanted to!  There is absurdly limited vacation time available and much time is spent with getting our dear extended family acquainted with their grandkids and nieces.  And either I'm getting old or my family is getting big but I'm finding all these long van rides a bit much.... Oops, forgot to mention we did a double trip to New Hampshire this summer as well: once for vacation and once to drop our oldest off to her first full week away from us (gasp) at an Opus Dei camp... Therefore, I'm determined to stay in the New England area until next Christmas letter.  We'll see how long this last before wanderlust sets in again.  I used to like to travel, like before potty training and naptimes and screaming teething tots and overly energetic tweens.  Maybe I will like it again someday and come to see you.  Meanwhile, it's y'all's turn y'all!!!  Come on over and pull up a.... tent. 

Sigh.  Wish I could put you up in our guest room, but we do have a concrete challenge in that regard.  Well, a wooden one anyway.  Our house sports 1000 square feet, two cute bedrooms, with adorable matching closets, and one bathroom/breezeway connecting the two.  As our house's value has an underwater view, moving isn't feasible at the moment... and between dearth of time, childcare, financing, materials, know-how, luck, and lack of sufficient caffeine, we have still. not. been. able. to. renovate the attic. Meanwhile, we contemplate the lives of the Pilgrims, pioneers, and communist Poland while experimenting with advanced adventures in sleeping arrangements: currently I have both oversized girls in a queen loft, with a crib and toddler bed tucked underneath.  No, this is not a cry for help, just the antidote to Christmas letters detailing cruises you've been reading from distant relatives.  This is the new complaint section of the Christmas letter, which I suspect you will find oddly refreshing.  I merely mention this in case you are getting rid of space, are tripping over dry wall you don't know what to do with, want someone to nominate for Extreme Makeover Home Edition, or are an incurably bored contractor: bring it on down to us!  We are near, fortunately, a lovely playground, tennis and basketball court, and baseball field.  We have much to be grateful for. Meanwhile, I will continue to bravely resist taking a sledge hammer to the wall near the driveway while using "Concrete Block Houses for Dummies" in my non-spare time.


Ah.  After that refreshing bit of realism, I'm behooved to go back to bragging: Dan was happy to have realized his dream of again renting a convertible, this time enjoyably and for a New York excursion with a friend.  Last time he rented a convertible, I was 20 and it was our college spring formal.  Traveling with another couple of friends, we concluded a romantic meal of take-out Long John Silvers in the woods (in heels) (without bug repellent). My female companion and I then held our gowns up daintily over the brush to enter the convertible, treated our coiffed hair to the experience of a  topless car at speed, and were then assaulted by a suicidal deer on the way to the dance. This somewhat reduced the fun had there by the renter of said vehicle.  But naturally, I'm over it and no longer remember the gory details as though it was yesterday. More like it was last week now, really.
I have amused myself this year by being the subject of mommy makeovers provided by my dear sisters-in-law.  I have made a part-time job out of the wild and wonderful sport of research studies by guinea pigging myself and my children at the many and varied hospitals in the area.  I have continued mystery shopping, most recently enrolling in a massage therapy program (no, they don't let you actually learn anything, sigh.)  I've continued writing occasional articles and taking pictures for the diocesan paper.  I have used my walker only one day this year, which is really excellent.  I confess I have used my handicap parking permit wayyy more than that.  But a woman with small kids in sleeting rain is, in every sense, handicapped, so I do.  If there are more spots of course; I try to be just.  I have also been trying to break into the local theater scene.  Well, they've successfully kept me out so far, but I'm still breaking in.  I've been auditioning for various (clean, traditional) roles in the area, and have gotten everything from, "We can really use you; this is wonderful!" followed by... nothing, and "You obviously have a cockney accent," followed by more nothing.  I did however land the role of choral supervisor of singing urchins in a local Christmas carol.  I turned this down because my own thespian offspring were dancing in the Nutcracker (Claire) and starring in Alice in Wonderland as... Alice. (Annemarie) In Wonderland. 

 And most recently, blogging.  As some of you can see.  And it is you, oh faithful readers of the Dancause Christmas letter, that I have to thank / blame for this triumph / atrocity.  Took me years to work up the nerve to do it--because the knowledge that I am, inevitably, sometime somehow going to annoy, or shock, or offend people pains me very much.   I have now worked up the courage to tell everyone except my family that I am blogging.  That is probably not healthy or authentic, but there it is.  It's taken me months to kind of practice it and... in the end, I have no idea if it's worthwhile. However, if you tend to like this sort of disorganized attempt at humorous writing, peppered with occasional quasi deep thoughts emerging from years of severe mental retention filled with mommying, no studying, and little reading, then do feel free to read/ follow my blog.  So far for me it's a bit like going into an empty auditorium and giving a speech... an odd feeling.  But at least it's making me write more than once a year.  :)   Anyway.  Hopefully I will come out making sense in the end.  Thanks for listening; I half-heartedly approve this announcement of my blog.  And oh dear, now I am feeling shy.  Yet I do, really, want constructive advice and criticism.  Along with chocolate.  Maybe money, but I'll settle for chocolate for now.


As for my kids, Felicity is fifteen months old and walking.  And running.  And smiling and babbling.  And dancing, wiggling her bottom like a puppy while waving her arms like she is lost in space.  It's as funny as it sounds. 

Cecilia is a dominating force of nature with a stunning vocabulary, and equally stunning volume to go with her stunning stature for a three year old.  Her main downside is that she looks five, and is really and truly in every way three.  The kind of three that is not very amused by potty training, but looks wayyy too big for a pull up.  Too big looking to knock down block towers and get away with a casual, "Oh.  I so sowwy."  Too young but too tall to know that she shouldn't get on the counters and in the sinks and heft open the freezer and fridge to gift her little sister with, say, an open container of cottage cheese or frosting, sans spoon.  She is as artistic as she is generous; all my walls bespeak her unstoppable urge to express herself in color and smiley faces of every shape.


Claire, now nine, is the type of kid I would not want to be in class with (being the competitive soul I was then, as she is now.)  But fortunately she is so absurdly friendly and talkative that everyone knows everything about her (and her family) and likes her very much.  She seems to excel at everything she's exposed to, which now includes harp, singing, ballet, and basketball. 

And Annemarie is really the dream oldest child.  She is so good with children, and has such natural maternal instincts.  She's ten, but her maturity with caring for babies and her height (she wears my shoes and some clothes) makes her seem much older, but then she gallops around the playground with the rest of the kids and seems younger.  She is one of the most loving people I know, sensitive and sweet.  Her smile spreads off her face.  She is witty and insightful and can easily get lost in a book.  I can't wait to homeschool her.  (Tune in next year to see how our first quarter went. :)

That being said, and in the interest of not being one of those parents who brag about their children, they can all be pains in the butt somedays, absolutely.  But they're worth it.

I think I have a few things figured out at the end of this year: I'll be a homeschooling mom next year, God willing, while Claire wants to finish off the next two years and graduate with her class, and I see no reason not to let her do so.  Other than the fact that as a homeschooling mom and a public school parent, I will be neither fish nor fowl as Fr. Skeris would say. :) That suits me somehow though.  I also have figured out that we are called to be the parents of daughters.  That God saw that I'd be really good at raising girls.  I like to think of it in these terms as opposed to the good Lord saw that Dan and I would absolutely stink at raising boys.  No, I like to think instead, I'm a girl expert.  Now, barrettes, now headbands, now pink-colored objects!  On mood swings, driving permits, on sanitary napkins!  Come college apps, come boyfriends (scratch that), come well-arranged marriages!  Dancause women are growing, may God help us all!


May the little Boy of Bethlehem bless your lives with all good things this Christmas, this new year, and always.


With love, from the Land of Little Women and One Big Guy

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