Finding my Merry...

Fun night with the family...and Kennedy was home to visit just in time!

Christmas is exhausting!!  Any other mom's out there hearing my words of truth?!!  Presents for four kids, Christmas parties, family engagements, school and work events...we've managed to stretch this thing out through the whole month of December and then some.  And who, in the families, do you think is typically doing most of the work?

Please...tell me I'm not alone!!

I made the brilliant decision to take Jesse to the vet on the evening of the 23rd, since I have some down time, post resignation. may wonder why taking my dog to the vet is noteworthy.  But that would be because you do not own Jesse.  

Ole' Jesse...he's a good bad dog. 💕

Jesse does not like new situations (and especially new people), and it just so happens that the vet is not one of our  best friends or family members.  We don't tend to make frequent visits.  So, the last time we went, he barked like Cujo at everyone (men, women, children, dogs...) without pause until I trudged away, dragging him behind me, wearing the battle scars of trying to restrain him.

It should be noted that the pain involved in a veterinary visit is minimal and has never, once, bothered Jesse. I have often watched him bounce off the concrete benches at the dog park without so much as a whimper.  When I tried using a shock collar to assist me in reigning in some of his aggressive energy, he jumped, bit at his butt and then continued the exact behaviors linked to the source of the shock.  Repeatedly.  (I have since returned the collar and made a mental note that pain is NOT a motivator for Jesse.).

Pain is not a problem.  It's just all these suspicious strangers.

Yes, thank you, Jesse.  That hunched old man, hobbling with his cane across the parking lot toward HIS car...he won't get me now!!  I feel so protected.


Speaking of resignation, we ended it all where it all began this week.  Sayonara, dear Columbia and a special cheers to  you, Shakespeare's Pizza.  

Fortunately, I do know what motivates Jesse.  This dog is not a complete dummy.  He has a repertoire of tricks, all of which took one day for him to learn, thanks to the good old food.  (Any food, for that matter.  Two of his favorites are plastic and cardboard, which is why I can't exactly call him "smart", either.)

So, anyhow...I've been working hard on "NO BARK!" for the past month (or so), and we have seen a good amount of success.  I am rarely without a baggie of cat food (in case you get hungry...), and now the innocent, young Wal-Mart pickup deliverers are no longer completely terrified to approach my car.  It has NOT been an easy road.  This amount of effort and energy is in short supply around here these days.  I have, in true Kristen fashion, gone the extra mile.

And, I have to admit, I saw the fruits of my labors at the vet's office this week.  After I allowed Jesse to sniff the yard for suspicious activity, he entered the office and immediately began slide/running as his feet slipped on the linoleum floors.  I held him in place with the leash.  Despite the display, he did not bark!!

The weather has been so unreal around here.  Can we keep it, mom?!!  I thought that called for some drain crawling.  (And to think, we used to snake-crawl through ditch drains a quarter this size?  No wonder I'm claustrophobic!)

...UNTIL the kind, but unsuspecting, greeter came over to guide us to the scales, "Let's get Jesse weighed..."

Well, of course, he had to let her have it for that eerily, friendly tone and the whole popping out from behind the safety of her wall of desks!

She instantly apologized for her error.  And I was, actually, able to get him calmed down.  

So...the moral of the story is...he did not bark the entire time.  He had several instances of quiet, though high-alert suspicious, inspecting of the place.  I consider that progress.

Nothing better than comfortable walks to the park over Christmas break...I know we will be paying for this in April.  Please remind me when I complain.

Also... the young vet tech had, obviously, prepared for Jesse, round 2, ahead of time.  As I was warning her that restraining for the shot would not be a good idea and that he wouldn't likely be bothered by the actual pain of the shot...she was offering him an oral substitute laced with Cheez Whiz.  She smiled proudly in the middle of my speech.  "Done!"

Awesome!!  We got Jesse out of that house of horrors and headed, happily into our 2-day holiday together.

We slept a little late on Christmas Eve morning and only awoke when Jesse started whining to go out.  (Typical with Matt being home.)

Starting that morning and everyday since, we have been blessed with "Jesse's Christmas Vomit and Poopmageddon."

"Oh What Fun..."

I never had time to mention that he has a sensitive digestive system.  I will not neglect that information again.

UGH!!  If it's not the kids, it's the animals...

Speaking of animals, my nephew payed homage to the chickens with a special hand-made Christmas clay creation.  I love it!!💕

Our life is so chaotic, even mellow Matt has a tendency to lose his mind.  Which, in fact, prompted me to say this weekend: I'm going to need NON-overreacting Matt for the holiday.  We are not a nuclear power plant.

He enjoyed my comment so much, he quoted me on our family message chalkboard.  (Which generally contains a Bible verse.  This is the pedestal I am supposed to try and maintain around here.  Sheesh!)

We have learned to expect that things are not going to go by without some degree of drama, frustration or disappointment.  I have learned to adjust (exponentially) my parameters in rating the success of a holiday. If I'm honest, I tend to prefer the normal days without all the hype and obstacles in the way of contentment and satisfaction.  No pressure to make it an AMAZING day...just make it a day.  That's success enough for me.

So...I'll put all of the little holiday offenses, annoyances and irritations-aplenty in a nice little imaginary cookie jar.  I will wear a patient little smile as I put on the lid. And I will set that precious puppy on the imaginary shelf, until the proper when and where that I can vent it all, safely, out of my heart and soul. 

In other news, Matt won a heat pad from the White Elephant.  Meanwhile, he got me an iTag.  I thought it would be great for my keys (I am ALWAYS losing them!).  He thought it might make a lovely bracelet.  (And suddenly, I was no longer Spock...but his girlfriend.)

Ahhh!  I am only able to do this by the grace of God!  And by the fact that I've been trained in the art.  And by the truth that I take LOTS of time for self-care EVERY DAY to get my "bucket" filled enough to cope through this world which is so exasperatingly full of challenging people and circumstances.  And then, I will consistently find my own definition of Merry.

So, Merry Christmas, my friends!  I hope yours was a bit more peaceful, but you can guarantee I will offer a safe space for you to vent...unbiased, non-judgmental, and gossip free...if not.  Unfortunately, I'm charging now.  Sorry!!  I have children to feed.  Lots of them!!

And speaking of children...Evan came in to steal the show, once again.  

Little sweetheart has become quite the schemer.

We started a very special new tradition with my side of the family, which included a White Elephant exchange on the evening of Christmas.  I debated whether or not to have the boys participate, since they are so much younger and have completely different interests.  But I didn't want them to feel left out.  I solved the problem by getting gifts obviously meant for them, and giving them the last two steal positions to make sure their gifts were ready and available.

Dillon caught on to my strategy and acknowledged it with eye contact early in the game.

Evan sat very quietly throughout the game.  I started to wonder if he was upset, but I was across the room and didn't want to embarrass him by asking.

My nephew, shamelessly, advertised his "Lego Dinosaur" gift for potential stealers from the time he opened it.  It became a hilarious joke.

Evan, regardless, maintained his poker face.

And then...when his turn, finally came, he reached over and grabbed from his Aunt and Principal (who sat beside him) her stainless steel water bottle pack.

Happily hydrating, first thing this morning.

We were ALL blown away by his surprise.  

She had sat beside him throughout the game, discussing the items he might want to steal, and he had remained silent about his plan.  Except, to his cousin, he whispered his intent that "He would like those water bottles, because he gets thirsty at night."

You will be glad to know I will no longer be forcing my child to dehydration.

Also...he got the Legos from his Aunt, who stole them as her gift from her son, so he could get something a little more age appropriate.

We can't help but think little Evan foresaw this potential turn of events and maximized on the opportunity. Needless to say, we will not be questioning their participation in the White Elephant next year...and I will not be going out of my way to choose the gifts they bring.  😂

All in all, we can't complain.  Everyone together for Christmas morning is a slowly fleeting concept, after all. 💔. We will find our "Merry" despite it all!

Happy Christmas, my friends!  However yours turned out, I hope you found your "Merry" in the midst.  

Peace and Love to ALL!