Friday, December 29, 2006
Here's a photo of our Christmas Loot. Before you start thinking that my kids are super-spoiled, let me just say that both of my brothers, their wives, my parents, and my grandparents all squeeze into my living room on Christmas. That totals 12 people, and there are no giving restrictions, so everyone has gifts for everyone else. It's a lot. That really big box on the left? It's a drill press for my dad. He was about as excited as dads get - which is not very - but secretly, I know he was jumping up and down, clapping his hands and squealing. But - imagine being a kid and waking up to that! Wow! As you can see, we gave the kids new bikes. But the BIG deal was that we built them a new playground in our backyard.
We managed to mostly keep this a secret as the guys built this during the two days before Christmas. Then we led them on a treasure hunt on Christmas morning, and wound up in the back yard where all the grown-ups were waiting ON the playground (up in the forts, on the swings, etc...) It was really cool. This was their Jesus' Birthday present - that's something we do every year. It's always something hand-made, and usually something really big and cheap. This year's was big anyway. One year, we made a puppet theater out of PVC pipe, one year I made a chalkboard out of a huge slab of plywood....you get the picture.
The Christmas season is a month-long ritual in our family. There are traditions that happen throughout the season. We watch White Christmas (Sigh - Bing makes me swoon), we give Jesus a birthday present (usually something like buying toys for needy kids), the girls buy Christmas jammies, the boys buy new tools and put up lights, we have a whole day dedicated to baking cookies.....it's so much fun! But the truth is, every year as I put up the tree, I struggle with reconciling the celebration to the meaning of the holiday. I mean, we all know that Jesus wasn't born on December 25th, and for some reason, that always bothers me. Doesn't it bother you, too? I'm not going to go crazy and stop celebrating or anything, but I think it's a stretch to say the tree symbolizes never-ending life (btw, mine's a fake tree, which makes it seem even less important somehow), the gifts we give to each other represent the gift of Christ to us, the candles represent the light of Christ - really, the list is long. Sometimes I feel like I could find a way to assign spiritual meaning to anything I wanted to include. So, every year I feel divided - like there are two separate celebrations going on. I am celebrating the birth of my Savior along with the Western tradition of Christmas.
On the other hand, though, maybe it's kind of like having a theme party. I like to do theme parties for my kids' birthdays. Having a pirate party or a tea party is a wonderful way to celebrate, but it has close to no meaning when it comes to celebrating the birth of my children. Maybe my mind will rest if, instead of trying to assign meaning to Santa and Shiny Brite ornaments, I just think of it as the party, and the entertainment is a big, fat guy in a red suit. Maybe, as long as I don't forget to take the time every year to sit down and reflect on what really happened, as long as I don't forget the big picture - the story of a life lived for all humanity, as long as I remind my children of the Reason we are celebrating, I can feel reassured that I haven't forgotten the Important Thing. Maybe this is what my parents have meant all along in their celebration, too. Maybe I'm just now getting it. Hm. Sometimes I'm a little slow.
DAILY BLISS: my husband took vacation time this week - it's so nice to have him around!!!
Friday, December 22, 2006
If you haven't figured it out by now, or if you didn't already know, my family celebrates the start of each new season. I think it's a great way for my kids to be aware of their environment, to give praise to the Creator, and to learn the stories He tells us through the seasonal cycles. So, today is the Winter Solstice - the first day of winter. This one usually gets lost in the shuffle of Christmas, to be honest. We have so many special things that we do for the other seasons, but I have struggled with this one. I have managed a traditional breakfast, though, as pictured above. Just in case they are too crude to decipher, they are donut snowmen. My black icing was a little drippy this year, and their heads all fell off before I took this picture (on my dirty countertop - see earlier post about holiday house cleaning), smearing the black gel everywhere. But, they are still snowmen - stacked up proudly on their white plates. The kids are currently devouring them at a very messy table. When I am busy, Emma helps herself to the art supplies and leaves paper mess everywhere, but mostly at the kitchen table. She is even messier than I am. We'll make snowflakes later - sometime between the last-minute errands and supposed house-cleaning. Ha! That always gets moved to tomorrow's list.
Anyway, we have been ravaged by influenza this week. The kids have both had it, and I seem to be fighting it off (sore throat and fatigue, but it hasn't gotten serious....). Andrew has been VERY sick - 103 fever and higher. We thought he was better yesterday, as his fever left for nearly 24 hours, then he spiked back up again last night, causing much maternal concern. He seems fine this morning, but we're going to take it easy. This will make it a little easier to fit paper snowflake cutting into our day. Some years, that gets set aside and the donut snowmen are the only thing that marks the change of season! Poor kids (insert sarcastic smirk).
DAILY BLISS: eating cheap powdered sugar donuts and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for breakfast.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I have yet to register for next semester. I'm eyeing one class: Survey of Feminist Theology, but that'll probably be all I tackle this spring. I just about put myself out of my mind this semester, and I'm determined to learn my lesson and take it down a notch or two. Otherwise, I'll be blogging from a hospital somewhere if they'll untie my straight jacket.
I'm actually enjoying getting back to my life. As my load lightens mentally, I'm actually finding I forgot how I enjoy normal stuff like making cookies and Christmas candy, and making my bed. This Christmas will be our first spent just us four. I'm making my final trip to Wal-mart today to get all the groceries I need to make my Granny's dressing and all the other traditional eats my family has always had. I may not be able to see their faces, but thank God I learned how to duplicate what they will be tasting!! Goes to show what a comfort food can be... my hips are also evidence of that fact. I may be a city girl now, but there's an iron skillet on my stovetop, seasoned nice and black, and I KNOW how to use it. Haven't forgotten where I came from.
I have vivid memories of watching my mom and my Granny make food as a kid. Granny used to mix up the dressing with her hands. She made biscuits that way too. Guess it's the time of year, or all these food memories, but I miss her more than usual. Mackenzie was just a toddler when she went to heaven. I can't help wondering what she would say about how Mackenzie has grown, about the crazy turns my life has taken. I hope most of all I've handled life like she did... with the grace and beauty of a delicate flower and the strength of steel. She was a lady through and through, but she "knew when to hold 'em" so to speak. (are you thinkin' of the song? me too!! ha!) Isn't that what Jesus would call "as shrewd as a snake and as innocent as a dove?" Of course He would, and that's just where she got that perfect mix of softness and steel. Right from Him. Guess that's where I'll get it too, and maybe if I can show Mackenzie how to fall in love with Him, He'll produce it in her as well.
.... sigh... I've just rambled, but it's nice to pour out some pent up thought... even if it's completely random.
In case I don't write again, Merry Christmas to you, friends! May you remember that the birth of Jesus was indeed the beginning of the most wonderful occurrence in the history of man. Zechariah (John the Baptist's dad) called Jesus' birth the "Dawn from on High." Indeed it was. That baby Jesus was the Sunrise signaling the end of a very long, dark night for humanity. I love that thought, and I love living in His new day. May you treasure Him this Christmas.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
But a few new things struck me this time around. They ran straightaway to find Jesus. They didn't stop and pick up a baby gift at the Bethlehem Wal-Mart (I'm sure they wouldn't have shopped at Macy's). They didn't think about grabbing food for their trip, or whether they would be welcome by a new mother who had never met them before. They were outcasts, so they were not concerned with social protocol. They just ran for it! I love that! I hope that I would run with abandon and without thought at the promise of meeting my Savior too!
And that's another thing - I know the angels told them and all, but they went running toward a promise - to a hope. Verse 20 says, "The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they'd been told!" It seems like it wasn't until they came back that they fully realized it was all true - almost like there could have been some doubt - and then they partied. They weren't even really sure what would be waiting for them in Bethlehem. They probably couldn't comprehend it - but they ran to find it anyway! Oh, they saw the angels and heard what they said, but a Savior? A baby? In a stable? Come on. Then, after it dawned on them that it was all so wonderfully true, they partied - they rejoiced!
I think the shepherds were my kind of people....
DAILY BLISS: watching White Christmas - it's a tradition....I could listen to Bing Crosby sing all day long
Saturday, December 16, 2006
This morning, we had breakfast with Santa. Apparently, he has a thing for Chick-fil-a.
We got a call from my brother (who works for Chick-fil-a) asking if we were going to be bringing the kids to the breakfast with Santa this year. I said I hadn't paid any attention and didn't know when it was. He told me it was tomorrow morning (he called last night at 10 PM, so he didn't say it was this morning at the time). Well, this is a ticketed event, and we were utterly unprepared, but he is well connected. He was in management at this store for a while, so he decided to meet us there for breakfast and get the kids in.
I must say that Emma was way more excited than Drew. Drew is getting to be much too big for this sort of thing - not that he believed in Santa to begin with, but the pretending is beginning to wear on him. We didn't tell them, though, until we were there and Santa and Mrs. Claus walked in. Since we were early, the Clauses came right over to our table and started talking to the kids. Mrs. Claus told Emma she loved her pretty hair (a sure-fire way to win Emma's affection), and loved her outfit. Drew played along and was nice. Welllll, he was nice, anyway. So, here are a couple of photos:
DAILY BLISS: I got invited to a Christmas party! We had a good time, too - made some new friends.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The boys have a tradition during Christmas that they call "tool day." They started this because the girls did an annual Christmas jammie day (when we all get to buy new Christmas jammies) and they all felt a little left out. So, on the day that they put up the lights on all four family homes in town, they also go to the big boy toy store (where the people wear orange aprons) and pick out a new tool. Then they go out to eat meat. Usually barbecue.
Anyhoo, the boys were going out, and their day didn't coincide with jammie day this year, so Emma and I went out to dinner ourselves. It was delightful, even if the wait for a table was much longer than any Wednesday should call for. What a lift for me. Lovely company and delightful conversation.
We came home and turned off the lights, plugged in the Christmas tree and just looked at it. She was telling me which ornaments held the most joy. The winner was the Bethlehem one because it told about Jesus. Second place went to the "pure" ones - white ones, I guess - because baby Jesus was pure. Honestly - she made this up on her own! I just love it.
DAILY BLISS: singing Christmas songs in the car with my kids
Feels so good to be out from underneath that weight. I can already feel the rest of my life crowding in for attention. Somehow, I gotta find a way to revel in this! My neuroses tend to keep me wound up tight looking for the next achievement. But, know what? WHO is asking me to run around like a crazy woman trying to be super special?? NOBODY BUT ME, that's who!!! Time to step back and take an inventory. I've become so overloaded, mentally, emotionally, and physically, that I don't even know which way's up anymore. Time to dump out the basket that is me and figure out what I'm carrying around that doesn't really need to be in there, what is it I WANT to be carrying, and how do I lighten the load?
The last couple of months have been hellish inside for me. But hey, let's lift our celebratory glass of whatever and toast the fact that I no doubt surface from the yuckiness with a different perspective. So maybe the next time you see a ridiculously happy woman skip by with a basket of perfect weight loaded up only with what she loves, that'll be me! This is starting to unravel, and I'm not sure it makes sense anymore.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Monday, December 11, 2006
Though this is the Christmas season, there are still birthday parties to go to, porches to paint and groceries to buy. I guess it just stinks to be a grown-up this time of year. Nobody hands you glue, glitter and scissors and asks you to make pretty snowflakes. Instead, you have to make sure Junior and Little Miss have hand-made gifts to pass out to classmates, friends and family, along with the incredible, "easy," hand-made gifts from the kitchen that you are also supposed to hand out from yourself to all the people I just mentioned.
The truth is, though, I don't know anybody that really expects that. We all think that everybody does, but "everybody" is such a vague acquaintance. Who are those people? Some people think that's who I am. I think I've decided to destroy their foolish illusions this year. Nobody's gettin' ANYTHING homemade from me this Christmas. Unless you happen to stop by my house on the 23rd. That's when I'll be baking Christmas cookies. I always like company in the kitchen, and you are welcome to pull up a chair, have a warm cookie and some hot tea or coffee and visit while I have fun. But don't expect that it's going to be clean yet. I'll clean on Christmas Eve. It hasn't happened since before Thanksgiving, and I don't expect it to happen anytime soon.
How do you like that, "everybody?"
DAILY BLISS: Being almost done with my shopping and being really excited about what I decided to give my brother. It makes me giggle every time I think of it!
Saturday, December 09, 2006
DAILY BLISS: dressing up for a night out
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Anyway, by the time 8:30 AM rolled around, I was already in full-shopping mode. This is surprising to any of you who have actually seen me at 8:30 in the morning. I don't mind if everyone knows that I tend to be a bit frowsty until somewhere around, say, 10:00. I had tossed together my best cover-up-the-sins-of-Thanksgiving-and-leave-room-for-Christmas-cookie-debauchery clothes, managed to find shoes that sorta matched. I was headed up the sidewalk to the bookstore, hoping to make this one stop function as three or four by purchasing gifts for birthdays AND Christmas and classroom gift exchanges. I was minding my own business.
A construction worker stepped out in front of me and told me he liked my top. I mean, that is a quote. He said, "I really like that top!" with a grin and a pointed finger. And not in any way that could be construed as gay. He was flirting with me! It really doesn't matter that he was 10 years older than I am and he was kinda scruffy (I'm much more comfortable with scruffy people, anyway). It's just nice to be noticed - frowsty face and comfy clothes and all. Plus, guys just don't hit on 30-something mothers-of-two who drive aging green Cadillacs. I can't figure out why.
So, that's how my day was made. I did have concern that when one's day is made at 8:30 AM, it's bound to go downhill from there. It didn't, though.
DAILY BLISS: Lunch out with my hubby, who was working in town. He pretty much never does that.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
DAILY BLISS: peppermint ribbon candy and a high of 70 degrees!
Sunday, December 03, 2006
"A green shoot will sprout from Jesse's stump, from his roots a budding Branch. "
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. I love this season in the church! We always try to celebrate Advent creatively in our community, and I wanted to share our celebration with you. The first candle in the Advent wreath symbolizes prophecy or hope (there are many different traditions and themes, but these are the most common). We took the concept from the above-mentioned scripture in Isaiah, along with others, and made a Jesse tree in church today. For those of you who celbrate Advent already, this is a familiar idea, but for the sake of those who don't, I'll fill you in a little bit. I found a stump (on the side of the road!!!) that we used to represent the family of Jesse, the lineage of Jesus, and we used a twig to be the "green shoot," representing Jesus. We lit the candles and spent some time meditating over the prophetic names of Jesus mentioned in Isaiah 9:6 and in other scriptures, and each of us selected a name that held personal meaning , wrote it down on a leaf and attached it to our twig.
In some households, this even takes the place of a Christmas tree, and the children create ornaments each night to add decoration to it based on the scripture reading for that night. Generally, the study goes through the lineage of Christ and ends with the Nativity story as you near Christmas Day.
Anyway, I don't suppose I have anything too poetic to say about it. I'm much too exhausted for that! We are taking a painting break tonight, though, to wrap Christmas presents. Yay! It really is the most wonderful time of the year!
DAILY BLISS: Watching my dad, brother, husband and son put up our Christmas lights. I'll post some photos tomorrow, maybe.....
Friday, December 01, 2006
I have been working hard on my house. Really hard. Not just that, but we traveled for Thanksgiving and now have Christmas preparations underway. So, my schedule is something like: up really early, make kids' lunches, get kids dressed/hair fixed, receive daytime baby from his mommy, schlep everybody off to school, run one errand that I can do before baby's nap, put baby to bed, change into painting clothes, climb the ladder and paint for an hour, wake up baby, feed baby, run one more errand before baby's next nap, put baby to bed, change into painting clothes, climb up the ladder and paint for an hour, wake baby up to pick kids up from school....well, you get the idea. once I get my own kids to bed, I hoist myself up on the ladder one more time to paint for another hour or two and sometimes make it to bed before midnight. I forgot to mention that I must clean up at least some and change into real person clothes every time I come off the ladder. Anyway, I'm really exhausted. My whole body is just aching, and I am really sleep-deprived. It would take three pots of coffee to wake me up, but I just can't do that to myself. At some point this week, I just gave up on the cleaning-myself-up part. I'm just running around town in a paint-splattered ponytail and with paint-splattered skin. I even found a warpaint-like stripe on my face today as I glanced in the rearview mirror of my car.
Anyway, on to that moment. It came time to pick up my kids from school today. We have to wait in the car line, and all of you who are moms out there know what I mean. You have to get there at least twenty minutes before school gets out, or you have a really bad place in line, which means you're going to be idling in your car for 30 minutes or so. What is a mommy to do? I usually listen to the radio. I listen to all the bad stuff that I don't let my kids listen to yet. Today's choice was Led Zeppelin. I always stop channel-surfing for Led Zeppelin. This is a little-known fact. Then, once I stop, I turn up the radio really loud. I know it's pretty dirtball, but I kinda am a dirtball.
All of a sudden, I was lifted out of my bleary-eyed haze to see myself, covered in paint, wearing a dirty, paint-y ponytail, sitting in my really old Cadillac (all of the other moms drive expensive SUV's - this is also a game I play in car line called "count the SUV's" in which I count how many there are before the row is broken by a sedan. The sedan is usually a Mercedes. The SUVs are often Cadillacs, but my Cadillac is non-SUV and it's as old as my marriage. At least. And it's green.)....anyway sitting in my old car, while Robert Plant tells me how much love he has. I guess it's a whole lotta. I was singing along. It occurred to me at that moment that I really didn't fit in. Not even in car line.
DAILY BLISS: Being paint-y and not really caring what anybody else thinks.