"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Friday, December 30, 2011

Dear Cold and Flu season,

I'm sorry I've been blaming you for what has felt like the longest illness of my life.  

My most sincerest apologies,

Thursday, December 29, 2011

It comes and goes so quickly

And I'm left marveling at the hoopla that builds up to such a small span of time.  There really is a whole lotta "extra" surrounding the true meaning of Christmas, isn't there?

We're no different.

But, just as hunger is the best seasoning to food, so is anticipation to Christmas morning and I'm pretty sure we couldn't go wrong no matter how hard we tried.

What I found this year, however, was that the most precious gifts to a mom come in the form of that which can't be bought.  The fun, the excitement, the faces, and the sheer joy of being together.

But gift giving is nice, too.

I asked for one gift.  To be early enough to church to sit on a soft bench and listen to the Christmas program with nothing but pleasantness all around and not one cross word uttered.  It was a Christmas miracle. Stockings early and then an eager hop-to to get ready and out the door.  Everyone agreed that they loved getting dressed and on our way to soak in the true spirit of Christmas.  In the end, it made coming home to brunch and opening presents more relaxed and enjoyable. I wish we could do this every year as it was the best gift ever.

On my way through the church doors, I greeted dear friends and parents of nine children grown and gone. I asked if she had family in town and she said they'd come for Thanksgiving so all was quiet at her house.  For those brief hours, I sat with my children around me and forced time to stand still.

And just for a moment ... it did.

I asked Eliza to show me what Santa had left her.  Perfect toe pose and such a girl.  This year, her understanding clicked, but she still kept saying she didn't want "Ho, ho, ho to come because he's 'cary".  Still, she's put a thousand miles on both the shoes and the doll stroller he brought her.

I love the anticipation surrounding the kids gifts to each other.

I know, I know ... he'll shoot his eye out ... but brothers were dying to do this together.

I love Christmas trickery.  I swore I'd be the last parent on the earth to give a teen a cell phone.... until I couldn't find Celia anymore ... and calling her friends to find her was getting overwhelming ... and receiving texts from random friends to tell me where she was or was gonna be was getting weird ... and driving days are looming fast.

 I have thought myself pretty darn smart thus far to have allowed her friend's mothers to pay for her cell phone plan :)  But it was time.

Still ... it's all she's wanted and all she asked for and every time I countered with a, "Honey, it's not gonna happen.  I don't want to see you disappointed on Christmas morning yet again, so what would you really like?"

And then I wrapped everything in cell phone sized boxes and put the phone in a giant box full of heavy magazines.

She eagerly opened every one of those little presents first .. a scarf, some gum, earphones.  And I watched her try not to let her face fall with each.  

By the end, we had to nudge her toward the big box and just KNOWING it wasn't what she hoped it could possibly be, she put on her bravest smile and opened her last gift.

It was priceless.

And now, I'm funny and smart.

And here's what the rest of our day looked like.  Talking to grandparents. Back in our pj's.  Eliza into new one's she'll never remove ... ever.  Celia texting the entire high school to tell them of her new phone.  Games and reading and playing and eating and a little target shooting from the front porch, of which I have no pics.

And no, ... Janie does not wear glasses.  Santa just brings her a fake, glassless pair every year and we have to endure her wearing them every day until they break.  I guess one year he just knew how badly she wanted glasses and brought her pseudo ones.  Somehow their private little tradition stuck.

And we've been in a Christmas coma ever since.  Haven't you?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

And to all a good night

Blogging? .... it's kind of fallen to the wayside these last couple of weeks.

Wheezing, coughing, sniffles, and my personal favorite ... the gift of a sinus infection all mine to enjoy with a little nausea thrown in on top.  I've heard of, read of, know of so many folks trying to enjoy the season around family illness fun. It certainly prioritizes you really fast.

The Christmas buckets sat in the hall for a week before I put what I deemed unnecessary, back down in the basement.  I bought teacher gifts rather than made them **gasp**, how the mighty have fallen.  I cut back ... way back ... shopped online when I could, pushed the rest off until last minute.

Which, by the way, is the way to go when you have teenagers who run out with friends and buy for themselves what you just bought for them and then your stuck with the returns ... just sayin'.

But ... if I could pick a Christmas theme to wrap up all my inadequacies in, it would be one line from an old favorite:

"It came without ribbons.  It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes, or bags."
The Grinch, by Dr. Seuss 

Either way, Christmas will come. No, our family isn't going without this year.  But, cutting back the fluff has kept us a little more grounded and a lot more stress free ... sickish, but stress free.

I'm grateful for simplicity.  Some of the simplest memories have been the best this year.

I'm grateful for Christmas on a Sunday.  I love that.  The focus tomorrow morning really will be more on getting ready, out the door and on time to church then what is or is not done and under the tree.  The excitement will still be there, I'm certain, but I love that the real meaning will be front and foremost in our day.

And this season, I've been more than a little grateful for those who have hosted parties, gathered friends, and invited our family in our well-est moments, to share in the Christmas spirit of just being together and having a good time.

Where I was lacking, you made all the difference.

Here are a few of our funnest memories:

School Christmas concert.  Usually I dread these as one more thing to do at Christmas, but I was at the height of needing to let my children sit and be entertained by someone other than me.  It was a perfect remedy.

Newel spent a week working in the Netherlands.  Following his trip, a package arrived from a sweet colleague friend, full of St. Nicholas celebration paraphernalia from that country.  It was so entertaining to learn that children over in the Netherlands put their shoes out in the hopes of a gift from St. Nicholas who is decidedly NOT our version of Santa Claus, but rather the former Bishop of Turkey.  BUT, if he and his followers, not elves but rather the Spanish Moores, determine that you've been naughty this year, they kick you in your sleep and throw you into a sack to be sold into slavery instead.

We determined that American children are weak.

Gingerbread house making and soup party at our dear friend's house.  Could not have asked for a better way to celebrate great friendships.

First morning of winter break, celebrated by snowman pancakes.

A boy who found a simple recipe for pretzel making and thought they'd be just the thing to help us all feel better.  They were, and Christmas miracle of miracles ... he cleaned the kitchen.

Siblings home to play fun invented games like, feeding lions treats (hershey kisses) in cages.

And not to be forgotten, a traditional Christmas slumber party under the tree.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!  May you enjoy the simplest things in your life as we celebrate the birth of Christ who came to take all our inadequacies and make us better than we are.

Monday, December 12, 2011

One small step for man

You know how you'd like to sleep in on a Saturday but your brain is stuck on a self timer of school schedule?

Newel and I dutifully opened our eyes at 5:30 a.m and though I yearned to go back to sleep, he had the insight to yank kids from their beds and haul us all up the hill to watch a lunar eclipse.

And half an hour later, when their sleepy brains caught up with their bodies, we all agreed it was one of the coolest things we'd ever remember — even the teenagers.

We're easily entertained.

And though some of us may never have fully grasped the science behind a lunar eclipse, we did determine a few things.

1)  The moon is not made of cheese.

2)  The earth does in fact revolve around the sun.

3)  The world is not flat.

4)  And, We are on planet earth.

Thanks, Galileo, for not allowing me to sleep through moments I'd forever miss. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Staring down a smoking barrel called Christmas

I've not been feeling 100% lately.

And not feeling well makes all the Christmas stuff piled out in the hall feel like a daunting task.  The tree beggars started in and I gave the green light.  Just do it, says I.

And I turned over the reigns and relinquishing the box of "proper" ornaments inherited from my mother-in-law at our first Christmas as a married couple, accompanied by the bin of what we'd call "other stuff".

And I sat in the chair with Bing Crosby singing in my ear whilst issuing gentle reminders to avoid "front loading" the tree.

There was so much fun to be had in the non-micromanagement of a sub par mom.

Later, in the silent darkness of quieted children tucked into bed, I stopped by the tree to unplug the lights and paused for a moment to admire the handiwork.

I noticed the proper ornaments all placed at the back to counterbalance the weighty spread of memories from the "other stuff" bin thickly covering the tree's front side display.  Heavily laden by hand prints and school picture ornaments, baked dough and Scotch taped crafts, each one with a story and a "Remember when ...".  The tree looked less than perfect and yet perfectly perfect all in one go.

And it hit me ... all that other stuff waiting ... in boxes to go up and on my to-do list to go down ... not one bit of it is as important as I seem to think it is.  Apparently, what's most important is on the front of our tree.  And this year, that's all right by me.