This is a simple story of a simple family trying to slow down this crazy life and enjoy the "moments"...

Monday, December 12, 2011

You Better Not Pout....

A few years ago I found a set of "Christmas Classics" DVD's.
In it were movies from way back when I was a kid a few years ago like:

Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Little Drummer Boy

You know....all those kind of cheesy not really animated but weird puppet-esque characters? 

Where....if you remember....somebody always breaks into song and then strange psychedelic hand drawn cartoons float across the screen?

(Please....for the love of Pete....tell me that I'm not the only one who grew up LOVING these movies and scouring the TV Guide until we found the "specials" then staying up late to watch them????)

Anyway, out of the 5 boxes of Christmas things I dragged out of the warehouse these DVD's made it to our new home.

So last night after the kids and I ate dinner (RH went to bed early with a hunting head cold) I told them that I had a SPECIAL surprise in store.

I turned on the fire and made some hot chocolate (and Earl Gray Latte's for myself and my 11 year old (who is actually a 59 year old stuck in an 11 year old body)) and popped in Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

At first the kids looked at me with raised eyebrows as the animated Fred Astaire dude started singing and waltzing with bunnies.

But.....they got into it.

Seriously.  They were giggling and Ethan even asked why the Winter Warlock was so darn mean.

And all four us...with the two dogs...sat cuddled on our built in carpeted couch.

I had one arm around Ethan and one around Carolyn with a big blanket over us.
Rigby (the wolfhound) had her head in Ethan's lap, and Bennett (who is too cool to sit next to me but not yet too cool to watch Christmas specials with me thank God) laid his head on Rigby's back while Jake (the lab) had his head on Bennett's legs.

Good thing the sunken couch is in a 'C' shape.

It was dark and the fire was flickering and the only other lights came from the TV and the Christmas tree.

Then on the screen Kris Kringle announced his decision to deliver gifts on Christmas Eve because that was the day of the year that love came to earth as a little baby in Bethlehem.

"He means Jesus," Carolyn informed me without taking her eyes from the moving puppets.

And as I looked at her,
and Ethan....
and Bennett...
and even the dogs...

I quietly lost it.

I'm talking 
lips quivering
tears flowing
trying not to move
thankful kids are immersed in movie
lost it.

I was SO
overwhelmed by gratefulness.

Yes....I was grateful for a Christmas-y night in our home...complete with fire, cocoa, tree and Santa movie.

Yes...I was grateful that my 5 year old recognized that Jesus is the biggest gift we've ever gotten.

Yes...I was grateful for all of those things....TRULY.

But honestly (and have I ever been anything else!??!?)?

My mind went to how easily our little gathering could have been changed that night back in May.

How we could have been missing one (or more) of those kids.
How those kids might have been missing me.
How even the dog could have not been here.

So I I obsessed with the stupid tornado?

I don't think so.

I function reasonably well......or at least fake functioning reasonably well.

I don't bring it up in conversations every day.

( does feature in all of my blog posts but anyone who doesn't want to "hear" that kind of talk can simply and effectively click their way to happy-land!)

I don't ask for privileges or concessions because I am a "victim".

I get myself and family around to planned events....sometimes I even take charge of these events!...and usually everyone even has on clean underwear.

But the thoughts (or memories) are always there.
Hiding behind a corner.
Barely beneath the surface.
Lurking quietly in the background.
Ready to surprise you without warning.

--Sometimes all it takes is a drive across town when you have to see the huge pieces of metal still wrapped around bark-less trees.
--Sometimes it's reaching for your huge container of chili powder that you KNOW you have only to remember that you don't have the stupid chili powder anymore.
--Sometimes it's receiving a Christmas letter from a relative who devotes a portion of it to the Joplin tornado.
--Sometimes it's an innocent question from your kids about "Why don't we have the Christmas mugs out this year" and you have to answer them that you don't know whether or not you still have the mugs because they MIGHT be crammed in the bottom of the warehouse or they MIGHT be broken in the warehouse or they MIGHT be in a neighboring town.
--Sometimes it's watching your daughter and niece play "Tornado" and run for cover under the chairs.
--Sometimes it's.....well....for no reason at all.

And then....well, I'm taken aback by the sudden rush of emotions that come to me.
Sometimes fear.
Sometimes anger.
Sometimes (ok...lots of time) confusion.
Sometimes gratefulness.

I like that last one a LOT more than the others.

I went to an amazing Christmas party last week.
There must have been close to 75 people there, and the food was wonderful, the decorations were amazing, the music was beautiful and the night was all kinds of festive. the end of the evening...every group I spoke with was immersed in "Where were you/what were you doing/what is your story" conversations about May 22nd.


So....maybe it's not just me?

I've had several people tell me that this blog speaks to them because they sometimes feel similar things to what I've expressed.

So let me express THIS.....

That is so wonderful to hear.

That is so comforting.

It really makes me feel less-crazy.

I have been praying that I will only write the things that God wants me to write....and the fact that I'm being given the reassurance by friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers that I am not alone in some of these things is a blessing beyond words.

So to those of you who have taken the time to tell me that?

Thank you.

It truly means more to me than you can imagine.

And if I only had my Christmas mugs....I would ask you to come have some Christmas cheer with me.

Maybe next year?

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Normal Rockwell Christmas...

It's as done as it's going to get.
Christmas decorating, that is.

Now I'll be the first to tell you that I LOVE this season.

I love the decorating...
I love the baking...
I love trying to find just the right gift to make someone smile...
I love Christmas music...
I love the Salvation Army bell ringers...
I love the overwhelming joy that comes to me when I realize that most of the world is celebrating (whether they want to admit it or not!) the fact that God poured Himself into a human and came down to this uncomfortable-cold-hard-scary world just because He loves us.

So....I love this season.

And even though I have no doubt what Christmas is really all about...I also love making my home sparkly and festive.

The biggest part of that is our tree.

We are blessed to not have allergies in this family, so we've always gotten a (sorry to the environmentalist in my friend group!!) live tree.

(I don't go so far as to travel to somewhere cold and snowy and physically cut down a tree...but I do travel to Albert's on 7th Street and point to one myself.  And it's sometimes cold at Albert's.)

In our old world home once we got the 12-14 foot tree set up I would let it stand for a day or two to let the branches settle.

Then I would take 1-2 days to get the lights perfectly wrapped around each branch....sometimes using close to 34 billion thousand lights on the tree.

No one was allowed to help me with the was MY thing.

Then one evening we'd put on Christmas carols and the kids and I would put the ornaments on while RH slept on the couch in front of the tree supervised.

I'd lay out all of the ornaments that THEY were allowed to put on....and then make a pile of "Mom hang-able only" ones for myself to deal with.

These included the very breakable and/or precious ones such as;  first Christmas lenox ones,  ones I made in kindergarten, bulbs from my parents' first tree, etc.

Of course we'd talk about the different ornaments and the memories and traditions surrounding them...and the kids and I all loved that.

And here's the true confession time:  after they went to bed, I'd quietly get the ladder back out and rearrange the tree to MY liking.
I'd move ornaments from the HUGE grouping that always appeared right at the kids' arm levels and strategically place them where I wanted them to be.

IF any of them noticed the next day that their arrangements had been relocated, I'd flat out lie explain that some of the ornaments had "fallen off" and I simply put them back on.

I and the Grinch are pretty tight.

Anyway....that system had worked pretty well for the last 11 years of mom-hood.

So......this year has been a little different.

I love understatements.

Anyway...this year the kids and I did go to Albert's and pick a tree. our current 70's home we have super-high ceilings, so we picked a gi-normous tree that really was not in our budget.

(((But by geeze....THIS Christmas is going to OOOOZE Christmas and be as OVER THE TOP as we can make it because ALL of this festivity is going to completely cover the fact that our family (and hence our household) are NOT in the right home this year.)))

And the very next day, instead of waiting for "branch-settlement",  I put lights on.

And I only used about 1/2 of the lights in the box because I--for some weird reason--didn't want to put forth all of the effort it would take to put all of those lights on.

Strange....but time-saving I guess.

Then that very same evening I put on the carols and we opened up the ornament boxes I had retrieved from our warehouse that morning.

The first box had definitely taken in some water PT....and maybe even had some heat damage at some point.

All of the ornaments (and weirdly enough...there were quite a few of these) that the kids had made with peppermint candies on them had completely melted and formed a minty hardened glopulous mess all over the ornaments below them.

(Gross....but it smelled good.)

About half of the plain colored glass bulbs were broken, and the others had this weird spotty crackle on them.

(Interesting look....maybe a new trend?)

Some of the plush homemade ones had water stains but no mold....
Some of the photos in the "made at a class party" ones were water damaged and ruined....
But all in all most of them were ok.

Compared to many of my friends who never even found ONE of their ornaments....we were pretty darn lucky.

So I began separating them out into "kid-hangable" and "mom-hangable" piles.

After a while Ethan noticed that there was a forbidden zone....and of course immediately began trying to invade the borders.

"Why can't we hang those?  Why can only you?  That's really not fair.  Why?"

And I used my standard super-ultra-perfect-nice-mom response:

"Because I'm the mom...I'm the boss...and that's the way I want it."

Nice, I know.
Like I said....the Grinch is my bud.

But then I had one of those moments.
An epiphany, I believe it's called.

Just like I really didn't care how many lights made it onto my tree this year....
I didn't really care about those ornaments.

Now listen:
I do love love love the memories that old family ornaments invoke.
I love having a tree full of stories and symbols and remembrances.
I am so very grateful that my family ornaments made it out of the tornado relatively unscathed.

I feel so bad for my girlfriends that don't have those sweet little thumbprints and pictures and smooshed up peppermint/glitter masterpieces that their kids created....and I REALLY don't want to downplay the fact that I know how very blessed I am to still have mine.

I also realize that I might very well feel differently if I no longer had my family ornaments.

But truth?

At that moment (and right now!)....the ornaments themselves meant very very little to me.

So I said to my surprised children:

"Actually.....go for it.  Hang anything you want.  Have at it."

Once they picked their jaws up from the floor they WENT FOR IT.

Of course within 1.2 minutes there was an accident.

A personalized collectible "First Christmas" bear in a high chair shattered into 17 pieces.

Ethan looked at me in horror and began crying, "I am so sorry!  I didn't mean to!  That was my special ornament and I broke it!!!!!!!"

And I just looked at him, smiled, and said with the utmost honesty:
"Ethan....It simply does NOT matter.  It's nothing but glass.  Who cares?"

And he stopped crying.
And stared at me.
They all did.
And I smiled at them all, and told them to keep on decorating.

At the end of the night we had a very full tree.
Most of the ornaments were....and still are, I'm happy to say....concentrated in a band that ranges in height from Carolyn's reach to Bennett's reach.

It sort of looks like the tree has a belt actually.

And maybe 10 or 11 ornaments got broken during the decorating process.
Some of these were special.
Some weren't.
One I broke myself.

But....really....who cares?

I have three amazing kids around my tree.
I have a husband sleeping soundly next to the tree.
I have a roof over all of our heads and a basement under all of our feet.

And that's really all I need to make this crazy 'ol house look pretty darn festive.

Although the disco ball reflecting the Christmas lights helps, too.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Good Morning...

This morning as I opened my bible to spend some time with God I felt a bump.

This has happened before.....
lots in fact as I cleaned out random debris from its' pages...
but I haven't found much junk in there lately.

Anyway, I found a leaf.

Part of a leaf, to be exact.

Dry, brittle, still green....with a chunk of white insulation wrapped around it.

And guess where it was?


Now I am CERTAIN I have found tornado puke here before.

A huge chunk of glass, in fact.

And I am CERTAIN I cleaned out this page.....
I even have photographic proof of it (in earlier blogs!!) so I know it's happened.'s another large directive bump.

Guess God thought I should revisit these Psalms?

So I did.

Man...I love Him.

Psalm 46 is amazing....but it's not the only one that spoke to me this morning.

Above it, in the end of Psalm 45 it says:

"Listen, O daughter.
Consider and incline your ear;
Forget your own people also and your father's house;
So the King will greatly desire your beauty;
Because He is your Lord, worship Him.....
....The royal daughter is all glorious within the palace;
Her clothing is woven with gold."

Psalm 45: 10-13

Know what God let me know today?

(and a side note often does the bible specifically address DAUGHTERS?  Lots of "to my sons..." which I realize means all children of God....but it is awfully nice to find a "daughter" too!)

I am beautiful to Him.
He wants me close to Him.
He has given me a place in His palace.
He really really really loves me. Psalm 46 I get the reminder that

"God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble."

Psalm 46:1

GOOD morning.
GOOD GOOD morning.

Thanks, God.