Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Given the choice, I'd take the seasick crocodile

^Dr. Seuss, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"

I have always loved the Christmas season. I remember from a very young age sitting in the floor with my mom as she pulled out our treasures. There was the little manger scene with the tiny baby Jesus. My ornament from my first Christmas, with a tiny little baby and my birthday engraved. We have a Rudolph that has to be assembled every year, and has stood guard by the tree holding a variety of treasures: bows, pinecones, and one special year a puppy. I never got tired of laying on the floor under the tree and watching the lights twinkle. That was one place where magic could be seen.

Growing up in a small-town, country church I played every part in the Nativity. From a sheep to Mary holding my favorite baby doll, and Angel and caroler, I did the part. The songs of Christmas are my favorites, and the only thing I can still play on the piano after 6 long years of lessons (sorry, Mom.) Nothing feels more spiritual to me than a Christmas Eve candle-lit service with my family in our church home. I get goosebumps thinking about it.

I moved into my own first home the year Parker was a baby. I was a Martha Stewart wannabe (pre-prison) that kept Hobby Lobby in business. I collected village scenes, made snowflake curtains for all of my windows, had linens for the beds and throw pillows for the living room. Christmas music played around the clock. There was always (at least the smell of) cookies baking and cider warming. My home was especially home-y at the Christmas season.

Traditions became especially important for us to establish for our son. A schedule for when the decorations could go up and when they had to come down. We had rules for putting the star on the tree. Routines for opening an advent each day. Readings that were planned and purposeful. And my favorite, exchanging one special ornament on Christmas Eve, a way to forever document an important time or experience of the year past. These traditions were important to me. I wanted my children to grow up and know that when they came home, it would FEEL like Christmas. I wanted something to pass on to them in their homes so that there would always be a connection between how the season felt when they were growing up, and to have their fond memories etched so deeply they would recreate them for posterity.

Since then, my home has changed. My family has changed. God has blessed us in so many ways. and in all of these changes, I lost my Christmas spirit.

I have thrown myself into chairing our county Angel Tree project for the last 3 years. Because I have been so busy bringing Christmas to other children, I told myself my kids would learn about giving. We didn't have time for all of our to-do.

And my kids are little. I mean, I have all of those extra-special ornaments, why would I put them out for the kids to break?

And because we are hunting and camping and traveling through the time when I would normally take my stuff out. And because work is busy. And because I am in school. And because I have to finish laundry. And...

So last year I took Parker and Kaden to Wal-Mart and let them buy one of those pre-lit trees and pick their own ornaments. We didn't pull out our snow globe collection or our stockings. They were happy to decorate and proud of their creation.

Today I was at my Mom's house, and she pulled out a pink tree that she had bought for Maddie's room. I was putting it into the van and jokingly asked her if I could just put it up and call my Christmas decorating done. She didn't crack a smile and Parker informed me we could not have just a pink tree. I think it was then that maximum Bah-humbug guilt set in.

I am looking. I am desperate to find that will to put those special touches back into the holidays for my kids. We have been so diligent in talking about the season as the celebration of the birth of our Savior. I just haven't shown them the magic in celebration.

So I am going to get out my tree and special ornaments. And we will hang stockings and watch the snow fall on the manger. And we will cuddle on the floor with hot chocolate and watch the lights twinkle. Because that is what we do in my family. It is what I want my kids to remember. And it is what I know I will love again as soon as we do it and I see the sparkle in their eyes.

I am looking for my twinkle. Because I want to see them sparkle.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Doing As I'm Told...

So for two mornings this week my kids have gotten out of their beds with giggles in their voices, put on their clothes with much-appreciated little instruction, and beat me to the car. This is quite an accomplishment as I have been known to leave them at home for lack of all of the above.

This morning was extremely flawless. Before I realized it we had dropped Maddie off at the daycare, and were pulling up into the school parking lot. The empty school parking lot. Because we were there before the doors were unlocked.

With this extra time to kill, the boys and I headed for Sonic for 2 corndogs (a breakfast food?) and a large diet Coke with cherry. On the way we started talking about why we were afforded this priviledge on a random Thursday morning.

"Well, guys, when you do things that you are supposed to, then mornings go easier. Everyone is in a better mood, there are no tears, we get where we are supposed to be in time. And when all of those things come together, then we have time for better-than-normal treats. We get something special."

As I was I was spouting these words of wisdom, I started to think about how God must regard His children in these same ways. We know what we are to do. We are supposed to do it with kind hearts and words. But often we get in the ways of ourselves, making our paths harder and less enjoyable. And for what reason? Not because we feel better in the end. And not because the outcomes are better.

I don't understand why my kids make things harder on themselves. I don't know why they argue and hurt each other over things they really don't care about. I don't understand why I have to tell them the same things over and over again, just to be frustrated that they aren't listening or obeying. I'll never get why they would rebel intentionally to not receive a reward that is so freely given. I don't know why I haven't thought about seeing these things in me doesn't hurt and confuse my Father like it does me as a mother.