So when I was hospitalized with pneumonia that Christmas, I wasn't expecting him to find me. But sometime in the middle of the night, I awoke to Santa and someone else next to my bed. I closed my eyes as quick as I could because I knew that Santa wouldn't leave you anything if you saw him.
When morning broke, there on the little table next to the bed was a stack of gifts that I knew wasn't from my family; they hadn't been to the hospital yet. (Somewhere I still have the heart-shaped tiger-eye necklace that was with those gifts.) For most of the rest of that day, I was happy to entertain the idea that maybe Santa really was real.
My family came to visit. I think I liked the attention from everyone and I definitely liked getting more (and better) presents than ever before.
Later, alone in my room again, I saw a nurse open the closet across the hall from my room. The closet held all kinds of toys, including a doll just like the one at my bedside that morning. I realized that Santa hadn't brought my gifts; they came from that closet.
I was a little sad to have my illusion evaporate, but it didn't ruin my life or make me question all the adults who went to such lengths to perpetrate the fairy tale upon innocent, trusting minds.
So when it comes to my own children, I'm ambivalent about the white-haired guy. We do a lot to make sure the kids understand what Christmas is really about. We've never told them about Santa, but culturally it's out there, so they can't really miss it.
Along with our Nativity focused stories, I have read them a book about Saint Nicolaus so they understand that even Santa gave gifts because he loved Jesus.
I don't want to be the mom with "those kids" who ruin holidays for their friends, so I haven't made a big deal about Santa being a story, but my replies to their questions and conversations tend to be very neutral.
Santa's never been to our house. Bug is nearly seven, but he's never been a fan. Boo is recently 4; when he saw Santa's House was opening the day after Thanksgiving, he put in his request for a visit. That was a first.
So this year, for the first time, "Santa" will be making an appearance at our house. The gifts the boys asked him for will be beneath the tree on Christmas morning. I won't say they're from Santa, but I'll let them believe for now if they want to. Their "Santa gift" will be topped with a Christmas ornament that shows Santa kneeling before Christ. One comes with this poem. (Scroll down to read poem.)
It's hard sometimes, finding a balance between telling our children the truth and letting them enjoy the fleeting days of childhood magic.
But I don't believe my faith was harmed any by those young days of tooth fairies and Easter bunnies (my grandfather faithfully nibbled on the carrots we left out) and Santa.
And this year, I'm going to let their imaginations ponder the possibilities while I present the Nativity and the wonder that it brings.
What do you do with Santa? I'd love to hear.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
"I'm sure we will," I replied, still trying to keep the mystery. "Why do you ask?"
"Dad doesn't have a job yet." His answer alternately surprises me and makes me sad.
I assured him we'll have a nice Christmas; and we will. Most of their Christmas was taken care of months ago. New budget constraints mostly mean no last-minute excess, and that's not a bad thing by any means.
What's not such a good thing is that my six year old is even concerned about such matters. I think we've been pretty careful not to give the boys cause to worry about things.
We don't focus on what we don't have or can't do, and we don't have worrisome conversations in front of them. We don't really have worrisome conversations at all. We do trust in the Lord's provision and we're taking this transition one day at a time as we seek what He has next for us.
But contrary to what we so often hear about kids being 'resilient' and adaptable, I think kids observe more and internalize more and are shaped more by their childhood experiences than we give them credit for.
I know I was more aware of my own parents marital issues--both before and after their divorce--than they thought I was. And moving and changing schools and having an absent father and a difficult step-parent situation all impacted and changed me in ways that affect me still.
Life is hard. It's messy and imperfect and certainly not always fun or comfortable. And while part of me would love to give my kids an idyllic childhood with nothing but happy times and warm memories, I know that's not possible.
So I guess the most I can hope to do is reassure them that God loves us and takes care of us and things will be good, even if we can't always see what's ahead.
PS--I'm blogging at Exemplify Online today. We'd love if you'd drop by and get a new view of how important certain Christmas ornaments can be.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
I've been trying to read a storybook that's relevant to the part of the Nativity story we're talking about. It's not easy; there are lots of books about the animals at the manger, but not so many about some of the key figures like Elizabeth or Joseph.
Yesterday I found a great book that fills some of those gaps. The Nativity Story by Geraldine McCaughrean has 10 short stories and includes Zechariah, Elizabeth, John, Joseph and others. It's the perfect addition to a collection of Christmas story books.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Thought I'd share this version of tomorrow's song, O Little Town of Bethlehem. YouTube has been a great way to share some of these traditional carols with the boys.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
I'm brining a turkey for the first time this year. Alton Brown has long declared that it's the best--no, the only--way to get a really moist, flavorful turkey.
Salt is a flavor enhancer. Especially this time of year, this is probably the first use for salt that comes to mind. Salt, as a substance, doesn't actually do anything to the flavor of the food itself. The perception of "enhanced" flavor is a result of how it affects the tongue. The simple explanation is that it takes the senses of smell and taste to actually taste the flavor of foods (I'm sure you knew that). But did you know that when a salted food hits the tongue, it "wakes up" those taste buds and the brain then triggers the nose to start to work, which allows the flavor of the food to be sensed. The food has the same flavor whether it's salted or not, but the ability to distinguish the flavor is dependent upon salt.
Salt is necessary for life. Salt is a mineral and the only non-biological food that humans eat routinely. Salt is required in the nutritional and bodily processes of all animals, including humans. It is present in all our body tissues and fluids. Without salt these systems would eventually shut down, resulting in death. Here too, scripture offers a parallel:
10-20 drops fragrance oil or essential oil
Makes six to eight uses.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
"Did you see that?" I asked my husband. "Did you see the tight lips when she said that? I get so tired of the barbed comments all the time."
We'd been married several years but Hubs still didn't understand why family gatherings that should have been fun and festive always deteriorated into uptight and uncomfortable. My family wasn't the type to have obvious arguments. We excelled in subtle disapproval that, despite the fact I was well into my 30's, took me right back to childhood. And not in a good way.
For all the build up, I think many of our family holidays are like that. We go into the season with this expectation of smiling, appreciative faces around the table. Voices of gratitude and support sharing in meaningful conversation and hours of family fun, just enjoying one anothers company.
All too often though, the pressures of the preparations make us snappy, the troubles of travel make us tired and the unfortunate reality of the whole thing can be a big let down.
I posted one perspective of having a flawed family at Exemplify last week. I know that even if we learn to be thankful for the family we've been given, it can still be a trial to spend these moments of high expectation with them.
Here are a couple of tips that might help if your holidays are sometimes less than joyous gatherings:
- Resolve not to take the bait. My family made snide comments so subtle that casual observers would miss the dig entirely. I finally decided not only not to respond in kind, but not to react in the first place. The remark would fall on the floor and the conversation could carry on in a new direction.
- Rather than dreading the inevitable uncomfortableness, look for ways that you can bring new light into the situation. Find ways to serve from the heart--whether you are hostess or guest--busy yourself by making it a good experience for someone else. Play with children, get seconds or refills for others, find little things that will occupy you and remove you from the worst of it.
- Pray for the people who bring the most drama with them. The act of praying for someone--even someone who stresses us out or causes us grief softens our heart toward them. Your prayers might not change the situation, but they may change you.
I'll spend the rest of the day in preparation for our holiday with family. I'll be praying for you as you anticipate your own celebration of God's goodness to us.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Never left out: "...In the blogosphere we find ourselves competing for attention from people who have captured our fancy. We feel left out when they don't respond to the comments we leave them or when they don't visit us in return. When I start to feel that way, I try to remind myself of the reason I started blogging to begin with..."
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I know. I'm hardly in the Thanksgiving mindset yet and that's next week!
I'm not feeling particularly festive at the moment. Uncertainty does that to me.
I don't want to hear Christmas carols yet. It's a reminder that the year is nearly over and there's so much I planned but haven't accomplished.
I don't want to see Christmas decorations because I don't know whether I'll be unpacking ours to 'deck the halls,' or if I'll be packing them and everything else we own to move to who-knows-where.
And I don't really like the way Thanksgiving gets lost in between Halloween and Christmas and has been reduced to a day of 'carb loading' so people can get up (or stay up) in the middle of the night to begin a marathon day of shopping.
So no one would be more surprised than I when I visited the Christian bookstore, shopping for writing inspiration, and I didn't get past the children's Christmas book display.
As part of our Advent Nativitree tradition, I like to have a Christmas book to read to the boys each night. I'm trying to build a collection of books so I have one that corresponds to each aspect of our custom. So I had fun choosing some new books to fill some of the gaps (and right now some of last years books are still on clearance!).
I got excited thinking about adding to the experience this year now that Bug is old enough to read the scripture each night.
And I realized that I don't have embrace the commercial aspects of the season to have a heart that's ready to be filled with the anticipation of celebrating the coming of our Savior. In fact, maybe one is easier without the other.
So, ready or not, Merry Christmas! From my heart to yours.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Monday, November 02, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Bug was on his way out the door to school this morning when he turned around, with all the seriousness a first-grader can muster.
"Happy Birthday," he said.
I blinked in surprise in response.
Then he dropped his chin, peered up from under his lashes while the left corner of his mouth crept up into his characteristic crooked grin.
"Just kidding!" and he skipped off to the car.
I love seeing his sense of humor develop--and knowing that he's aware that my birthday is actually tomorrow!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
My physical eyesight is ok (as much as it can be 'for my age'), but we're walking through one of those valleys (or, as Holley Gerth described today, an alley) that is rather narrow and kind of dark and next to impossible to see where the next footstep will fall. I can empathize with my dad's circumstances from a spiritual perspective. I blogged about it today at 5 Minutes for Faith. Would love it if you'd hop over and check it out.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
In the great amusement park of life, are you on the predictable ups and downs of a merry-go-round, or are you spinning like a tilt-a-whirl? Is your life a casual cruise around "It's a Small World," or, like mine, is it full of slow climbs, rapid drops and whiplash-inducing twists and turns of "Thunder Mountain?"
I have to say there's been a lot of that lately (and the older I get the less I like roller coasters!) But even when the floor drops out of my "Haunted Mansion," there are still moments of joy. And when life gets busy or difficult I don't notice them as much as I should.
I learned this about myself a few years ago when I was going through a rough patch. I decided to keep track of ways that I saw God's presence in my life. I wanted to be more mindful of Him on a day to day basis, even when I wasn't 'feeling it.' So I started to write down my observations every day. Eventually, I didn't have to sit and reflect to find proof of God in my life, I caught the moments as they happened.
If you follow my posting schedule at all lately, you'll probably be able to tell when I get overwhelmed or overscheduled and can't give my blog (or lots of other things) the attention I'd like to. The trials of the day consume my time and energy and I don't have enough left for the things I want to give it to. So, I'll keep going with my devotional/refreshmoments posts as I can, but I'm going to start something new.
I am going to try to do a "Today's Joy Moment" post. I won't commit to doing it every day, but I'll make a good effort.
All, courtesy 'primordial ooze.'
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
(Warning--alliteration alert ahead. Sorry, I just couldn't help myself. It wasn't intentional, but the following post is fairly dripping with it!)
One of the highlights of our trip to the NW was a quintessential small-town evening at a farm on Sauvie Island.
I have always LOVED raspberries. I think heaven will be filled with delights we can't begin to imagine, but I think raspberries will be on the menu too.
One of the things that puts them in my 'semi-precious berry' category is the effort it takes to collect them. They're small and delicate, requiring a gentle touch when plucking from the vine.
As we toured the sleeper and dining cars, Bug rushed ahead and we got separated as another family climbed in behind him. Boo was chomping at the bit to catch up, but I was trying to get him to stay with me. Have you seen the narrow aisles on a train? The group ahead of us was an elderly couple and their adult son--who walked with a limp.
I dreaded the outcome of Boo crashing through the train, knocking his good leg from under him and setting the older folks a-wobbling.
"Your children are beautiful," said the man as he tried to inconspicuously grasp the seat to keep from being toppled by my tots.
"Sometimes I wish their attitudes matched their appearance," I replied with a sigh.
He watched them dart around, "They made my day," he smiled.
He departed, pausing to thank the docent for his hospitality (as he had all the others as well) while I tried to keep them from crashing into the tables of rare railway china. But his comment stayed with me. Honestly, I think he was far too kind under the circumstances. But in an otherwise exasperating day, his remarks were a bright spot nonetheless.
I posted at 5 Minutes for Faith recently and shared another experience where someone expressed a kind thought that was the exact opposite of how I was feeling at the moment. Both of these experiences have me thinking...there are so many times when I think something positive or complimentary about someone but I keep it to myself.
I don't know why, exactly.
Maybe a bit of residual fear of talking to strangers. Maybe reluctance to get caught up in a greater conversation when I really only want to comment and run.
Seeing our train friends' kind smile and his expressed delight in my children when they were anything BUT delightful at the moment helped relieve some of the tension I was feeling. Which led to a better day for all of us.
I'm sure he's gone on and doesn't remember the moment at all. Maybe he's the kind of guy who says so many kind things to so many people that he wouldn't remember our incident from all the others.
But I do.
And the next time something kind occurs to me, I hope I can overcome my shyness or insecurity and just say it. It's a really small way to 'pay it forward.'
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
This one is a lot more fun though. My sweet friend Julie Carobini writes wonderfully 'beachy' books. (I am completely envious that she gets to hang out in some of my favorite coastal towns soaking in the atmosphere as 'research.')
In honor of her latest release, her publisher, B&H, is having a contest. The prize is two Adirondack chairs similar to the ones on the cover of Julie's book "Sweet Waters." All you have to do is take a photo of where you'd put the chairs, and email it to B&H. You can find all the details here.
And here's the fun part (for me). I get to help judge the contest! It's not about right and wrong, and won't do anything about that sense of justice, but hey! I do love being asked for my opinion, so it still scratches an itch for me!
So snap away and send in a photo. You might not live near the beach, but maybe you can sit in one of these cool chairs, read one of Julie's books and imagine yourself there on the sand, the waves lapping at your feet. Ahhh...what a great way to end the summer!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
I'm posting today at 5 Minutes for Faith. I'd love if you'd stop by and let me know if you get enough 'natural light' in your spiritual life, or do you settle for 'artificial illumination?'
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Thursday, August 06, 2009
A warm welcome to Exemplify Online readers! I'd love to know if you stopped by from the magazine.
And to my faithful friends and followers, I'm back from various trips that kept me offline. I'll be doing a much better job keeping up with things around here--there'll be more kids' devotions and recipes, book reviews, and a modified Ruby Tuesdays will return in September. I look forward to reconnecting with you here and at your place(s). I've missed you!
Monday, August 03, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
And no, it wasn't even directed at my kids. Another parent pushed probably my most sensitive button today. The "Your kid's a monster and mine is perfect," button.
See, I KNOW my kids are not perfect. And while I do try diligently to get them to behave as closely to that ideal as I can, I am completely aware of their flawed, human nature. (How could I not be when I am so acutely aware of mine and I know that in large part they are little replicas of me?)
But what I also know is that other kids are NOT perfect either. And I know that in a dispute between a 3 year old (mine) and a 6 year old (not mine) there are certainly two perspectives and two accounts and the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
Also keeping in mind that I was watching said altercation and I did see mine (not perfect) jump over [not mine]. What I did NOT see was Mine hitting [not mine].
When I saw Mine jump over [not mine] I went to the play structure to instruct Mine to stop jumping as there were now too many kids to do that safely.
Mommy Meltdown began when parent of [not mine] came to tell me Mine hit [not mine] (which I did not see,) and that Mine "needed to come down for a time out." When I responded that I was watching and didn't see Mine hit [not mine] I got a patronizing, "Mine doesn't lie." When I further responded that I was watching and didn't see the 3 year old hit the 6 year old, but that, "I'm handling it," Mr. Smug only got more patronizing.
Now see, when my kids do something that I didn't witness, I don't typically take a third-hand testimony (otherwise known as 'hearsay') of what happened over 1) my own personal witness of the situation and 2) my own child's testimony of the situation. And I NEVER let the hearsay party dictate the where, when and how of any discipline that the situation may require.
But, when I couldn't get Mine's attention enough to communicate clearly, I told both of Mine to come down; that we were going to leave. When I asked if Mine hit [not mine] he told me no, and that [not mine] had stepped on him.
Now, I am working to get him to understand that it doesn't matter what someone else does and whether it was on purpose or not, you don't put your hands on someone else--even as a matter of protecting yourself (under those kinds of playground collision incidents. We'll get into the defending yourself against bullies and such when he's old enough to under the difference between accidental and intent to harm, etc).
I should have stopped there and left, but my 'overdeveloped sense of justice' couldn't leave well enough alone and I decided to tell [not mine's] dad that before he leaps to conclusions and tells other people how to handle things, it might be good to get some context. (As in, my 3 year old was responding to being stepped on by the 6 year old which got left out of [not mine's] version of the story.)
More patronizing; new claims of witnessing the situation; more insinuations that [not mine] and siblings are above reproach, mine are out of control monsters and I suck as a mom. At least that's how it felt.
So, my apologies to:
- [not mine's] dad for my parting shot about your kids being perfect and my kids being monsters and that's why we're leaving. And my further apologies (after your smug nod) for my final remark that "it must be nice to have such perfect children; I hope they stay that way." My actual hope is that you see your children for the flawed human beings they are so that they don't grow up with an unfortunate sense of entitlement.
- My kids. I DON'T think you're 'monsters' and today, I don't even think you did anything especially wrong. I am sorry [not mine's] dad pushed my buttons and turned me into the Mommy-monster.
- Parents I encounter in the future who may take it upon themselves to tell me when and how to discipline my kids for an incident that you didn't see. I am all for being told about something that I didn't see, but if I am already handling a situation, giving me additional information might be helpful; bossing me around will not be.
- Hubs--just in case [not mine's] dad is someone you cross paths with in a work context or something; I don't think I gave Mr. Smug the best impression.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Please join me at 5 Minutes for Faith to read about why we shouldn't outgrow 'lap time.'
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
But the train tracks, the two (completely opposite) bike shops right next to each other, even the great little Starbucks tucked back off the road were not expected. They're all on a road that I've been on before. I haven't lived in that area for years, but I used to work less than a mile from that spot. But I didn't know any of those things were there.
Even so, we didn't intend to be there. We only stopped because Boo was falling asleep and we were trying to postpone that in hopes of salvaging some sort of civilized bedtime.
So we took the first exit off the freeway and stopped at the first place that looked like we could entertain the troops long enough to get them to stay awake for the rest of the trip.
And that's where we found all those other delightful surprises. I've been on plenty of trips like that in the past, and I love finding something I didn't expect to find because I've landed someplace I didn't expect to land. Some family members are a little harder to convince though.
I'm all about the journey. Yes, it's good to get where we're going, but sometimes a detour can be filled with delights that more than makes up for the annoyance of getting 'off track.'
Are you all about the destination? Do you prefer to stick to the designated path, aiming to get where you're going, no matter what interesting things can be found along the way? Do you take the time to look out the windows and notice the scenery?
Summer days can be the perfect time to make a plan and then get off the path and see what surprises you may have otherwise missed.
Have you had any memorable detours? Have you set off on a path not knowing where it would take you in the end? What was the best surprise you've found in a place you didn't expect to be?
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
My six year old was born to run. Since he was a toddler, I've loved to see him break into a sprint (which is nearly any time there's a distance to cover of more than 10 feet). In his mind, he's usually imagining himself as a train of some sort, but I see a future track star.
Please check out 5 Minutes for Faith for the rest of this post.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
I realized that H had hit on something that many of us--years older--don't always realize. Instead of sitting and fretting over her situation, she got busy doing something. Her act of helping me made her feel useful and less lonely.
- If we're lonely, we can be a friend to someone.
- If we feel unimportant, we can make someone else feel special.
- If we feel out of place, we can find a way to serve.
- If we're sad, we can cheer someone up.
When we take our eyes off our own situation, we often lose sight of what was troubling us in the first place.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tracks for the train lover
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Stop by 5 Minutes for Faith to read the rest of the story.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009