Highlights from Christmas 2011

Without question, the most important part of Christmas is the reason we have Christmas at all.  It's a celebration of the birth of Jesus.  What this celebration affords is nothing short of an annual miracle. It's not Christmas morning that makes Christmas magical.  I love Christmas morning, but it's all of the other things the season affords that make it truly special.  Time with family.  Special events.  A spirit of giving.  Extra smiles.

The Little Moments
  • Sarah's blatant refusal to sit on Santa's lap with accompanying frown.
My mother-in-law aptly commented that it looked like she was about to kick him in the shins.  Wouldn't surprise me a bit.
  • As I sat in the breakfast area of my mother-in-law's house, I overheard her say from the kitchen, "The nut cake fell."  She says this all the time so I scoffed at her "fallen" cake and assured her it would be fine.  Then I looked at it....
 That was no exaggeration.  We laughed and laughed about this.  It was a great way to end a very emotionally draining day.
  • Sarah happily digging into a present in which paper Christmas napkins had been subbed for tissue paper, pulling out the napkin and enthusiastically proclaiming, "I got a towel!" as if that's the thing she wanted the most in the world.  And to think, we could have just gotten her some household paper products for Christmas...
  • While the boys went outside to shoot their new official Red Ryder carbine action bb gun, I watched Abby play a round of catch with a giant Tinkerbell ball with her 84-year-old great-Grandmom & Aunt Janet.  (And why I didn't get a picture of that, I will never know.)
  • Watching Sarah "wink" at Uncle Jon across the dinner table.  We're not exactly sure what she was actually doing, but it was definitely really, really hard blinking.
  • Experiencing cold weather in Williamsburg, Virginia with the kids.  Abby declared, "It feels like winter!"  And Ben, with amazement noticed, "It's SO cold, you can see your breath!"  (We don't get too much winter cold in central Georgia.)
  • At the tail end of our whirlwind tour of the east coast, we found ourselves at Grandmom and Grandpop's house nearing midnight a few days after Christmas.  After the initial excitement wore off, and the kids finally settled down in their beds, around 3am I heard Sarah spinning in disoriented circles in the kitchen crying desperately, "I need Daddy!"  It was sweet.  Kind of. 
  • Seeing my three babies playing in Net Net's front yard with grass-stained knees, chalked-up sleeves, and indulging in bowls of ice cream with unlimited refills.
  • Sleeping in until 9:00am.  (woot woot)
  • The adventures in family picture-taking with two year olds:
(That's Grammie bribing lil' Landon with sweet tea to no avail while the rest of the cousins looked on with curiosity.)
That's Ben being charged, yet again, with subduing the most challenging subject, in this case, Jared.  His method of choice?  The headlock.
After Grandmom insisted on a photo by the tree with all the grandkids, Sarah laid there like a slug.  It was her only defense.
  • Abby's personal serenade at Busch Gardens by two handsome Festhaus crooners after which she was so shocked/startled/embarrassed that she fell out of her chair...typical.
  • Watching Abby fall out of the chair (again) at Grandmom's house using a poinsettia to break her fall.  It was so comical, I couldn't even be upset.  She grabbed the top of a the plant and slid down the thing stripping it of practically every branch.  These types of things can only be captured in one's memory.
  • Witnessing some seriously enthusiastic reindeer feeding.  In Sarah's case, if the reindeer wanted to actually eat some of the food, they'd need to come inside and pick it out of her hair. 

  • Disappearing around the pond with the new Gator in near-freezing temperatures, a slight drizzle, and nothing but matching jammies on their bodies.
"So long!!!"

"Hey!  Get back here...we haven't opened presents yet!"

While there's plenty of time to reflect on 2011, and I suspect I'll do that another day, if there's one thing I will always treasure about this Christmas season, it's that I valued my time spent with precious family.  We never do know when that might be taken away from us.  Sam's sweet 27-year-old cousin was taken Home a few days before Christmas, and while I'm sure everyone would rather have Adam here with us now, and even though he's happy and whole in Heaven, if there's one thing his death reminded me of, it's that we are not guaranteed another day.  I hope I continue to remember this.  And I hope you will too.

Hope you all had a fabulous Christmas and wishing you the most blessed 2012!


How to know you're a mom: Christmas Edition

You are considering leaving the nativity scene out all year.  It would serve as a great reminder, of course, but it's also your two year old's new favorite toy.

The fact that your eight year old son said to you, "I had to borrow your Bible because I can't find mine.  I got to Genesis chapter 8." was not prompted or out of compulsion, but simply because he wants to read through the Bible means more than words can express.

Your favorite outfit (which is, coincidentally, one of the only ones that fits well) right now is a lime green t-shirt and red yoga pants.  You justify wearing it everywhere by saying it's your Christmas outfit.  Red and green, right?

Every time you look at the Christmas tree, you are reminded that the kids decorated it 95% of the way without help.  You notice because of the solitary branches containing a dozen unique ornaments clinging on for dear life.  And the major victory is that you left them that way.  That is part of the fun of decorating a tree at Christmas.

The highlight of Christmas 2011 might indeed be watching your sweater-clad eight year old as he stood up in front of a classroom full of young married families in Sunday School and read the Christmas story to a rug-full of children.  He's just a little old man in a bigger-than-eight-year-old body.

During your most recent trip to Callaway Garden's Fantasy in Lights as you sat on the beach and watched the light shows of both the actual Christmas story and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, your ornery two year old loudly declared, "I don't like baby Jesus.  I don't like Santa."  So, Daddy asked, "Who do you like?"  Without a moment's hesitation, she replied, "I like Big Bird."

You have no interest in correcting the inventive lyrics of your girls as they belt out, at the top of their lungs, without inhibition [non]traditional Christmas tunes:
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle All the Way, How much fun in history to ride on open sleigh, Hey!

Frosty the snowman had a very happy soul and two eyes made out of snow and 4-top button nose!  Frosty the snowman had a very happy soul.  The children know he came to life one day!

Frosty the Snowman was a very happy snow!
While your two year old "napped", your five year old helped you decorate sugar cookies.  Long story short, in the time it took you to answer one phone call your entire supply of sprinkles was depleted.  

You attended your kids' Christmas parties wearing flip-flops...because you could.  And you were really bummed about that.  Christmas just ain't Christmas without...temperatures less than 50.  (Shoot, I'd take less than 70.)

This year's Christmas-picture-taking session went better than year's past and provided the most fantastic outtakes shots.  Though you dread the act of doing it every single year, you never regret the process when all is said and done.

There's the one where the photographer's helper (Daddy) tries to capture the subjects' attention by chucking pinecones at them:


The one where the photographers helper made "tooting" noises much to the chagrin of the man meditating quietly by the pond, but to the riotous delight of three camera subjects: 9125

The one where they all forgot to drink their V8 (remember those commercials?):

The one where the youngest child is clearly put out about something:

The contender for awkward family photo during which your two year old bounces on your five and eight year old like a bucking bronco:

At least there are always a few that are just awesome.  Those can be my Christmas present to you, dear blog followers.  And since it's not Christmas yet...you'll just have to wait.


45 and counting...

So December is no NaBloPoMo for me.  It's not that I've been overwhelmed.  It's just that I've been enjoying December to the fullest - or at least trying to.  Full disclosure requires that I inform you that I've been excessively weepy as I enter the third trimester this pregnancy go-round.  Hormones and all of that. 

I counteract the hormones by staying comfortable and trying to stay distracted.  Comforts involve drinking decaf hot tea with honey, wearing my red maternity yoga pants for days in a row (taking them off only to wash them), and taking rests on the floor because somehow my back feels better down there than even in my big comfy green chair.  Distractions involve things like cookie baking, advent activity doing, and remembering, in the back of my mind, that little 101 List.

Back on December 5th, the family and I took a trip halfway across the state of Georgia to Callaway Gardens where we, for the 3rd year in a row, ventured to their display known as the Fantasy of Lights.  In year's past, it was freezing.  That's all part of the experience.  You load up your bundled family in a row of the Jolly Trolley where you drive through a display of animated lights set to music.

Well, gee, when I put it that way it doesn't exactly sound quite so magical.  Just take my word for it.  It's awesome. 

Sam and I must really think so especially based on the fact that for the past two years little Sarah was hysterical unless I nursed her.  So that I did.  This year, there was no nursing.  In fact, this year it was warm, not crowded, and we had three children completely captivated by the attraction.  It completely "erased" (if you will) any trauma from past years. 

The night wasn't perfect, however.  Not only did I forget the camera and the DVD of Christmas movies we had planned to watch in the van, but we forgot these....

Those would be the tickets.  We remembered them about an hour into the drive.  (Luckily it wasn't a problem.  They reprinted them for us.)

After I was bummed about the camera, I realized that I didn't take any pictures in previous years either, short of these last year...

Look at those cheeks and that gaping Samuel mouth.  CUTE!

No matter, I guess.  I've got pictures right up here (as I tap my overgrown noggin').  

The point of this post?  To let you know that the list item called, "Make Callaway Gardens an annual Christmas tradition" has been completed.  

Grand total:  45 out of 101

Slow and steady wins the race?

Commitment: It's not a 4-letter word.

There's not a whole lot of sticktoitiveness in my generation.  I'm not going to lie.  We're fickle.

We don't like the degree we graduated from college with so we bounce from career to career without an ounce of loyalty to the employers who took a risk on hiring us.  Turns out, they probably shouldn't have.  

We don't feel like doing something we committed to, so we make up a lie, feign illness, simply don't bother to show up.  Maybe there's a twinge of guilt, but more likely there's the feeling of "everyone does it" to rebuff that.

We back out of our friendships and even our marriages in pursuit of self.  We forget that no one is perfect, yet we demand it from others and expect forgiveness when we ourselves fall short.  We leave the escape hatch open at all times.

We make demands, cry out against countless injustices, preach from our pulpits (and blog posts) but we sit on our duff and complain when nothing changes. 

We say one thing, and we do another. 

We think one thing, and we say another.

Catch the drift?

If only there were some place we could look to for guidance on how to act.  Some sort of infallible resource that would teach us right from wrong on these matters.

Oh wait...
It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it. ~Ecclesiastes 5:5
That verse really stuck out to me when I was reading the Bible through this year.  There are a couple few a lot of important lessons that I think have been completely lost on my peers (myself included).  Maybe it's just simple courtesy, etiquette, common decency, but we're lacking it.  I don't claim to be perfect.  I don't claim to be high and mighty.  I know that I am dead-wrong, off-base, and completely fallible on a daily basis.  The good news it that I don't have to count on myself to get it right.  I just have to believe that Jesus already did it.  It's done.  He took care of it.  For all of us, forever.  But that doesn't mean I shouldn't strive to do the right thing.  Even if it's as simple as following through on a commitment.  If people can't trust our word, what can they trust?

In the matter of making commitments, the Bible is clear.  If you can't or don't intend to follow through, don't even say it out loud.  Don't make a promise you can't keep.  It's that simple. 
Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. ~ Matthew 5:37
This passage is referenced a lot in Christian parenting how-to books.  But I think it's applicable on the point of commitments as well, if only for the fact that in a Suess-like way, it simply says- say what you mean and mean what you say - concisely.    

That's easy enough, right?

At least, it sure should be.  I guess I'll make it start with me.


Here we come an'adventing...

70. Make an advent calendar at Christmas. (3/3)

It is finished.

I feel a bit like I cheated this year, but that's all my mother-in-law's fault.  She gave me a beautiful wooden advent calendar last year for Christmas.  Honestly, I couldn't wait to use it.  Besides, my homemade goodies were a labor of love - and more of labor than of love.  After all, I consider myself to be less than craftsy.

So technically Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas.  But, in our house, and for the past three Christmases, we have done the December 1st-25th thing.

The first year I made a paper house with windows and doors cut out from magazines.

The second year I crafted tiny envelopes and hung them from a string.

This year, I used the one that was given to me, but it still involved a little work...

If you didn't read the Mom Things in my last post, you might have missed that Sarah ripped off one of the doorknobs before I even stuffed the activities inside.  It got sucked up into the vacuum so I had to dig through a mess of undesirable, unmentionable things that collectively resembled owl pellets.  Not pretty.  But I found it!  So it was worth it...I guess...

Then came the activity-stuffing.  To name a few:

~Donate a gift from the Samaritan's Purse Christmas catalog  (They chose to provide meals for a week, a blanket, and money towards helping to send a missionary doctor where needed.  It was so awesome - especially hearing them wish we could do so much more.)
~Read Luke 2 - The Birth of Jesus
~Buy gifts at the school Holiday Store
~Make cinnamon ornaments

That was today's -

It's a somewhat retro craft.  After all, I'm no pinterest guru.  In fact, I don't really even know how to navigate the beast.  But it's basically equal parts cinnamon & applesauce plus a little bit of glue...to help them dry faster.  They smell amazing.

So much so, I guess, that two little girls found them irresistible.  They just had  to taste them.  Check out the perfect bite mark I discovered on this Christmas tree. 

Good thing Elmer's is non-toxic.

Tomorrow's activity promises to help us complete another list item.

But I'll talk about that after it happens.  In the meantime, #70, you have been checked!

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