Friday, December 28, 2012

Before I Pack Them Up

 I'm waiting for confirmation that both boys are napping so I can join them in blissful oblivion. In the meantime, I thought I'd share with you my favourite room of Christmas decorations. I try to put a little Christmas in every room, but decorating is not my forte, and it was even worse than usual this year with my two terrors trying to destroy everything in sight (you should see the Christmas tree--never mind, you don't want to, it would scar you for life).

Anyway, perhaps ironically, my favourite room of decorations belonged to the boys. Maybe since it was their room, they wanted to keep it looking pretty. Ha ha. Yeah right. Maybe it was just that since I was decorating their room I was smart enough to keep it out of arms reach unlike the rest of the house. Point being, the Boys' Room: the Christmas Version.

This is probably the reason their room was so awesome. The Man's super cool mom made us this advent calendar two years ago. This is the first year we have successfully done every day of advent, and it was awesome! And yes, Joseph's head is upside down. I'll give you one guess as to who got to stick the little felt ornaments on every night.

X-mas in the original sense, but really because there wasn't enough space to write "Christmas".

I cannot tell you how many times those twinkle lights got pulled down, but they were totally worth it.

All our Christmas cards went up in the boys' room this year, on the bulletin board and on the clothesline. Plus, we hung the extra stockings in here just for fun. (The elephants on the mobile have little ornaments hanging from their trunks).

There's your better view of the clothesline, complete with some original artwork from Littles and the obligatory train picture done by Aki.

Okay, this is NOT in the boys' room, but I'm including it anyway for personal reasons. This year I made the mistake of putting this lovely brass manger scene on our dresser. Unfortunately, every time we opened a dresser drawer, the figures shifted, so that the camel was heading the wrong way or Mary was leaning down to tie the shepherd's shoes and saying "Next time double knot them!" Then, to make things even better, the cat entertained himself every night by knocking over at least one of the wise men so that they were worshiping Jesus face down to the ground. Anyway, lesson learned. But I'm sure there's some deep significance here about how little disturbances can shake us off course and big disturbances can knock us over while Jesus remains steady--but I still think that's cheating. That brass manger is pretty solid.

Anyway, I'm posting this now so that after nap time (if nap time ever happens) I can pack up the Christmas decorations and stop growling at the boys to get out of the Christmas tree. Everything's a growl right now, a froggy growl. I guess I should glue together the 2 broken ornaments before I do that though...or just leave them for next year. It's not like Santa's going to be using his arm while he's in storage, right?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Christmas Pictoral Explosion

Christmas came early for us with a visit from my parents and sister. Littles and Tiny had more than a little fun, and I actually managed to snag some pictures for you. Pat me on the back: I deserve it.

My sister downloaded a Thomas the Train game on her iPad. We could not tear Littles away.

This is Tiny's new face whenever anyone takes a picture. Not the first face where he's getting kissed, but the second face where his eyes are all squished up. Luckily for me, Littles has noticed that everyone laughs at Tiny when he does this, so Littles is doing it too. Lovely.

We have fun together.

Little Man had been asking to make cookie trees with Neni all year. I'm giving myself a check-mark for 2012. Even though all I did was eat the cookies.

Isn't he festive with his red bow? At least he was until he chewed his way out of it. Trigs has no sense of style.

The Man took Littles out to play in the snow before Christmas dinner. They had more than a little fun out there, although Little Man didn't know quite what to do when his dad picked him up and dropped him into the big snow drift. Tiny and I had braved the weather with them earlier in the day so this time we stayed inside the kitchen and took pictures through the window.

See? This is us. Nice and warm.

The boys had fun playing with my Christmas hats this morning. Admittedly, there's not much else to do since I am sick and voiceless, and I can't just throw them in the stroller for a long walk as the streets are still covered in ice and snow. We've been watching a lot of Veggie Tales...and eating a lot of those sugar cookies...and hoping against hope that January gives us a turn for the better health-wise.

My favourite picture from Christmas. Too bad their mama couldn't give them a good face!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Presence not Perfection

My parents prayed for our family before they left to head back to Tennessee. This is not unusual in our family. We are not usual as a family, I should add. One line stuck out to me though, and I have been mulling it over in my head since then. My dad prayed that when people come into our home that they would sense, not perfection, but Christ's presence.

May I put this in context for you?

December has turned into the month of sick (I told you this already), which has necessitated missing the last three weeks of church. This has been discouraging in more than a few ways. Neither the Man nor I are legalistic about making it to church on Sunday morning. We go because we want to worship Christ in the company of others who love Him; we go for the encouragement of being with other believers; we go because we want to learn more about Him from others who perhaps have a little more time during the week to study and pray and then pass on what they've learned. We don't go because we have to. During December, though, I also go because I love the Advent season.  It's been disappointing to miss the lighting of every single candle on the Advent wreath this year, even the candle that our family had been asked to light. I'm holding out hope that the boys are going to pull through so we can at least make the Christmas Eve service, but at this point there's a better chance that we're going to have a white Christmas--and we live in Oklahoma.

All this to say that while I am walking in gratitude and we are making some wonderful Christmas memories together as a family, it has been hard to realize Christ's presence in my life the last few weeks. Getting barfed on twice yesterday did not help. The perfectionist in me is cringing even being in our house these days: I haven't been able to clean like I normally do (between guests and sick boys), the bottom two feet of our tree look like they have been attacked by hungry wolves, my running routine has been sabotaged, my Bible study has gone out the get the point. It is a daily surrender to let go of my own agenda and just be with my sons, just be with my husband, just be with Jesus. And if I let go of my own desires for perfection (and also let go of my frantic attempts to avoid my imperfection), I think I might find the presence of God in my household already...

...cuddled beneath my chin, coughing in my lap...
...setting up train tracks for his son and making cocoa in the kitchen for his wife...
...hugging the dog and sharing flashlights with his little brother...

Maybe if I stopped regretting not seeing the Christ I want to see, I might see the Christ who is already there, waiting for me, in my imperfections, in my need.

It's easy to get caught up in how we want Christmas to be, really how we just, in general, want life to be. We draw out our plans, we make our schedules, we write our lists, and suddenly we aren't just doing this to our own lives, but we're doing it to Jesus. We are etching an image of Him that may or may not be true. And that's why I think he allows the unexpected in our lives, whether that is the month of sick or the grief of goodbye. It's not that He delights in our struggle but that He longs for us to know the real Him, and sometimes we get too caught up in what we think is reality, even good realities like Christmas, and forget to know Him--His reality--His truth--His presence.

This is what I'm learning this month. This and what the reality of His presence is reminding me of: that the joy of His birth always and only leads to the terrible grace of the Cross. I hope that years from now when my boys look back they would know that--more than the scraggly Christmas tree or the crumbled sugar cookies, more than the dog-accompanied car ride to see Christmas lights and the neatly wrapped presents, more than the stocking stuffers and the Christmas movies--that they would know that because He came we have life and that because He died, today is not just any other day, but one of joy in His presence.

Kate Seredy and Real Men

A few weeks ago I started out the Christmas season by rereading one of my favourite Christmassy children's novels, A Murder for Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner (yay for mittens and a girl named Pup!). Today it was time for another: Kate Seredy's The Good Master. If you've read it already and don't understand why this is a Christmas book, you've obviously forgotten that the last two chapters are all about Christmas--Hungarian Christmas complete with Mikulas. It helped get me in the Christmas spirit just a little bit more (and then we took the boys and the dog to see Christmas lights which completed the job).

Anyway, as I was reading it I got all excited about sharing it with the boys when they get older. They have such a great role model in their dad already (and their grandfathers and uncles, for that matter), but fictional male role models are so important, and Marton Nagy is one of the best. He teaches true leadership, discipline, laughter, and, above all, gentle grace--this is what it means to be a real man. I hope my boys pay attention and learn this early on, avoiding the cultural traps that have led to a generation of more than a few weak, spineless men who think that to be strong they have to be bullies and to be respected they have to be louder than everyone else. I'm so glad that Littles and Tiny will grow up surrounded by men who can both teach and model true manliness, and I plan to ply them with good books to reinforce the lesson. The Good Master is one of them, closely followed by its sequel The Singing Tree. If you have boys, are a boy, or are married to a man who used to be a boy, Kate Seredy is always worth a read.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Smoothies and Sugar Cookies

Last night, I let Littles have a smoothie and sugar cookies for dinner.

Today I spent at least an hour on the bathroom floor with both boys, playing with their Christmas flashlights while steam rolled thickly from the shower.

This may or may not be indicative of how I have spent and will continue to spend most of December.

Two weekends ago, Tiny got a virus. Then last weekend, Littles got croup (complete with a panicked E.R. visit--never a dull moment). And now it seems that Tiny is trying desperately to get croup from Littles. I told him that I would not allow it and he'd better get himself in line or be court-martialed. Unfortunately, as always, he is displaying a mind of his own and an impossibly strong will. Basically what this means is that there is a chorus of hearty coughing echoing out of the nursery at all times. It's lovely.

But my family came to visit, and that really was lovely, not sarcastic lovely, even though I'm pretty sure my sister fed Littles sugar cookies for breakfast (as if he hadn't had enough the night before). They left this morning so there will be no one to tell us if, in our exhaustion, the Man and I sleep through the crying, coughing baby's midnight wake ups. Evidently that happened last night. One day I will forgive myself. I'm not there yet.

The funny thing is that as much as it should've been That Day--the cat barfed on my favourite biscuit recipe, Littles dumped the humidifier on the Man's computer, cleaning the house was like carrying water in a sieve, we had an unplanned for hospital run, I lost one of Littles' favourite socks, I let the neighbor's dog escape, etc., etc., etc.--it was a really fun day.

Even with Littles putting his arm around Trig-Dog and saying with woeful eyes, "Trigger misses Aki and Neni and Auntie Aman."

Even with him telling me he likes Thomas more than Mommy.

Even with barely there naps.

I have no explanation for this--because goodbyes, second place, and naplessness (especially naplessness) make me cranky, crazy, and crappy--no explanation other than grace. I was surprised by His goodness, whether in new play-dough cutters or the sharing of fried okra, matching Eric Carle t-shirts or Christmas cards from old friends, folded and put away laundry or my husband showing up unexpectedly and helping me get both boys and a big box in the car (just because).


For That Day and for every day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tangential Revenge

I have a cricked neck. I mean, I have a crook in my neck--aaaaah! It's a crick in my neck! Now even that sounds wrong!

It's been a long day...

But the Man is still at work, I'm trying desperately not to watch JAG without him, and I must do something that doesn't require me to move my head (all my other plans today did not coincide with that desire--picking up dog poop, anyone?). So here you go.

A few of my new favourites:

  • This morning I put "salad" in our smoothie. I like green. That is all.
  • Spaghetti squash is evil. That also is all. No wait, it's not all. You should be glad that I'm typing this post with both hands still attached. Said squash was out to get me. It kept trying to use my knife against me and then it attempted to drown me in boiling water. So I ate it in revenge.
  • Littles entertained himself this morning by pretending to be at church and reading out of my Indonesian Bible. From the kitchen, I hear him pronouncing to Tiny: "Jesus is born! Go to Ninevah and see a giraffe with a long neck!" 
  • Flute practice provides never a dull moment around here. Littles likes to shove things up my flute while I'm playing (funny, his aunt used to do that too..). Tiny likes to accompany me exuberantly on the piano. I'm forced to stop mid-phrase to break up whatever mayhem is occurring. They both like to mimic my high notes by producing tin whistle squeals that make Trig-dog run around the house howling in pain. You get the picture. Today, flute practice was completely sabotaged by Tiny wanting dinner. Then he proceeded to sabotage dinner by wanting a bath. Fine: I retaliated by sabotaging his bath by finishing my practice with flute music propped up on the sink. Revenge is mine, sayeth the Mommy. (I promise I'm not usually this vengeful.)
  • Last week my wonderful friends threw me a surprise birthday party in my own home. Not only did I not have to shove both kids into their car seats and get them buckled in while freezing and getting laughed at by people who don't have kids in bulky jackets, but I didn't even have to put on shoes to go to my own party! It was fantastic! Next year, I'll tell them to come over even earlier and provide me breakfast in bed.
  • This year for Christmas, we decided to do one family present and then stocking stuffers. We bought ourselves a fire pit, and we are already enjoying it together (in spite of the nonstop Oklahoma wind). The only down side to this is that when I take the boys out to the yard with me so I can pick up the aforementioned dog poop, Tiny finds the lighter the Man left out and walks proudly around the yard trying to light the dog on fire. If only...
  • I spent the morning going through baby clothes so I can pass them on to my new nephew who should arrive sans wardrobe sometime next spring. Baby clothes are tiny. Tiny is no longer tiny. When did this happen?
Supposedly the Man is almost home. He had to stop for AA batteries for the video camera at the front gate. Out of the goodness of my heart, I gave him the last two we possess this morning. Does anyone else have trouble keeping batteries in their home? Every time I turn around, one of the "men" is asking me for some. I wouldn't be surprised if Tiny's next word was "battery". Whatever happened to just reading books? They don't require batteries! (Incidentally, Jan Brett--it's so his week in our home. Who's That Knocking On Christmas Eve, anyone?) That was a tangent. The point is that when he does get home (after restocking on what is apparently an essential for our family), I will bribe him with food so that I can sit on the couch and do nothing for the rest of the night. By "do nothing" I mean "watch Harm and Mac save the day". I have a problem... 

And he's home! My life just got fifty million times better! This is no exaggeration...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mersmas Eve

I went running this morning with my moon shadow.

I had seriously considered just staying in bed, but I'm so glad I didn't. It started off my day right. I had to close out 25 well, maybe not excitingly, but well. So the house is clean, the Christmas presents wrapped, most of the Christmas cards addressed, the boys bathed and in bed... and I celebrated at the end of it all with Little Women, biscotti, and coffee. The Man is at work helping out at the front gate and having loads of fun with it, I'd guess. He made sure to scrutinize my I.D. card when I came on base earlier. One can never be too careful.

The truth is that I've been wanting to blog all week, but Monday and Tuesday were Mayhem. And Wednesday was recovery and rest day. And now today I'm thinking about a few different things:

  • I've been entertaining myself this week by giving orders to Little Man to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas". Try it. You'll like it. Plus then you don't have to remember the real words. Which one was the drummers drumming?
  • Boys tell it like it is. When they introduce you to their stuffed animal lions they make sure to warn you not to get bitten and then they show you where the pee hole and poop hole are. Also, when you try to figure out why their little brother is sobbing desperately, they inform you calmly that they "ate Tiny's fingers."
  • Littles sings his own version of "I Love You a Bushel and a Peck". In his, it's: "I love you a bushel of crap." I refuse to take any credit for this whatsoever.
  • Foosball does wonders when it comes to teaching three boys their lines for the Christmas play.
  • I didn't want to jinx this, but Tiny has been fairly regularly sleeping through the night since I switched him to his fleece Christmas footie pajamas. He will wear those for the rest of his life now. Even when it's the middle of summer and his toes have popped through the footie part. This also forces me to keep up with laundry as there are only three sets of pajamas, and the idea of a night without them brings me to tears of terror.
  • I checked the weather this morning before leaving on my run and duly noted that it was cold enough to send a sane person to the gym, so I grabbed a pair of gloves on my way out. I wiggled my fingers into them as I walked down the driveway only to realize I'd grabbed Josh's gloves, not mine. The fingers flapped while I ran. 
  • We spend almost every afternoon at the playground. At first I thought this was because I am an awesome mom who wants to provide fresh air, exercise, and happiness for my children. Then, I thought it was because Littles is extremely persistent in asking and I am a pushover. Finally, I figured out that it's because if we're at the playground, the boys can't destroy anything around the house. So far we're at three broken ornaments, and I have no clue how it hasn't been more. In their defense, I just about shattered African baby Jesus this morning while I was dusting. It was a close call. 
On that note, I need to go to sleep so I can get my beauty rest before my big date with the boys tomorrow night. The plan is to take me some place snazzy that still has high chairs...and is in town. It could happen?

Saturday, December 1, 2012


That's the star rising in the east of our TV--or just my camera flash.
Also, don't mock our lack of a tree skirt. Trigs ate ours last year.
In our family, the month of December has become lovingly known as Mersmas. My birthday is at the beginning of the month, my favourite holiday at the middle-end, and my anniversary on the very last day. It's not about presents or having the month be all about me, it's about enjoying the wonderful blessings that have been given--friends and family (as birthday and Christmas and anniversary cards sprinkle their way through the days), favourite things (twinkle lights and Christmas music), warm memories (watching White Christmas with the Man and explaining manger scenes to Littles).

But the truth is that on the first day of Mersmas, there was a broken Christmas ornament by 8 a.m., family breakfast unexpectedly delayed, more fussy teething, inevitable whining, sore muscles, lost tempers, and general mayhem--just like almost every other day--because I am a sinner and I live in a family of sinners and there is no such thing as a picture perfect, idyllic anything in life. Which is wonderful.

It's wonderful because it's in the mess that we meet Jesus. It's in the mistakes. It's in the mayhem.

That's what Mersmas is about for me. Not this massive celebration of who I am, but about who I want to be in Him and, perhaps, who He is in spite of me.

When I first started this post, I had more than a few other thoughts in mind, but I think that'll do for now. I have 24 more days to talk about Christmas, and six more after that to prep for the New Year, and, unfortunately, a lifetime to talk about myself, which is what blogging is all about, right?

I do, however, want to take a moment to shout out to the Man, who not only conveniently sent me to the commissary at the exact moment when I was going to lose it with Tiny, not only bathed both boys while I was gone, not only took Littles out on a father-son date this afternoon, but also makes a mean Hungarian stew. And looks good doing it. Sure, he may call himself a Scrooge for not wanting to hang Christmas lights on the outside of the house and for being burnt out on Christmas music mere hours into the season, but he makes my heart grow three sizes each day (how do you like those mixed literary references, eh?). He's one of my favourite parts of Mersmas, and it doesn't hurt that he bought me an evergreen candle today to make up for our fake tree. That's real love, people. Real. Love.