Friday, December 21, 2012

The Most Wonderful Night of the Year

I am not a Christmas enthusiast. I know. I like to craft. I like to decorate. I like to take pictures of things. Lots of pictures. I love food - specifically homemade, unprocessed food. And I love me some Jesus. These things all seem like they would add up to an It's-A-Wonderful-Life-watching, Christmas-caroling, candy-cane-eating, red-and-green-adorned, full-of-good-Head-Cheerleader (or if not the Head Cheerleader, at least someone on the squad of Good Cheer). 

As it turns out, I am more likely to be found drinking a glass of wine with Scrooge and the Grinch than sharing a cup of eggnog with Buddy the Elf admiring Charlie Brown's Christmas tree.

But after J and my's first married Christmas passed with nary a garland or ornament in sight, J put in a request that we at least decorate the apartment for Christmas, at least with a tree. And in that conversation it was generally noted that, because I am married to a Christmas lover, I needed to at least try to like Christmas a little - and maybe stop declaring that I hated it.

 And so began my conversion.

Almost 8 years into our marriage, I am now a Christmas liker. I like Christmas. For real. This year, I have spent some time thinking about what I do and do not like about our cultural Christmas.

I say cultural because spiritually, yaaaaaay Christmas. Spiritually, I love celebrating Emmanuel, God With Us. I love marveling over the mystery and wonder of the whole of God in a helpless, newborn infant, and to imagine Jesus at SS and BB's ages, to imagine Mary rocking and nursing and diapering her son, her savior. I love Mary's willingness, and Joseph's trust, and both of their ability to buck social stigma and have faith instead. I could go on and on, but the point is: spiritually, yes Christmas.

But socially, culturally - it can be hard to tune in to the spiritual. That's part of what I don't like. I could go on here, but I don't want to fixate on what I don't like. I want to enjoy what I discovered I do like.

I like Christmas decorations, indoors and outdoors. Christmas lights and Christmas trees. Cute little Christmas sayings on felt banners or chalkboards or other crafty things posted on Pinterest. Cute cute.

I like Christmas cards. I love the memories of my mom writing Christmas cards when I was growing up. I'm nostalgic for the days when Christmas cards used to be the way that once a year you reconnected and caught up with loved ones - Christmas cards seemed so much more meaningful then. In this age with facebook and email, that concept has become somewhat obsolete, but I still like the photos and creativity that go into Christmas cards. (Although recently I made a joke about just asking people to mail me a dollar, the cost of a card, instead of their Christmas card, and then realized that was the Scroogiest thing I've ever said. Just joking around people. I like Christmas now, remember?)

I like Christmas music. Usually I don't start listening until the week of Christmas and then it's over and I feel like I totally missed out, but this year I was very intentional about having Christmas music playing all December, both at home (thank you Pandora) and in the car. Christmas music definitely makes me feel much more Christmassy. This is significant because another part of what I don't like about Christmas is that I feel like I am supposed to feel  "Christmassy" but I don't, which leads to a cycle of (totally self-inflicted) pressure and  subsequent rebellion or depression. I know, my brain is an unnecessarily complicated place. (Sidebar - I had a counselor tell me that she didn't think a different counselor in her office would be able to understand the intricacies of some of my thought processes about some issues I was dealing with. A counselor, you guys, a trained professional in thoughts and emotions, wouldn't be able to follow my crazy. I will never stop thinking that's funny. Anyway, what? Christmas music?) Yaaaay Christmas music.

I like certain traditions, but not others. And that's okay. I can just do the ones I like, like picking a yearly ornament and driving through our neighborhood to look at Christmas lights.

One of the ones it turns out I really like is putting up the Christmas ornaments on the Christmas tree. This year J and I set aside a special night for this, after we had already erected our trees. We played Christmas music and made (homemade) hot cocoa and then together as a family we trimmed our tree, and it was The Most Wonderful Night of the Year - maybe even My Life.

We put up our ornaments Team P style (which is now Team Barking Baby style too) which means that we lay out all the (unbreakable) ornaments and then everyone takes a turn and picks an ornament and then hangs that ornament anywhere he or she wants on the tree and no one can move or criticize where the ornament is placed. Everyone takes turns choosing and hanging their ornaments until all of the ornaments are up. With a 3-year-old, you can probably guess that there was a liberal interpretation of "taking turns". But BB was so happy with his hot cocoa and the Christmas tree and lights and our family being "all together" (BB takes attendance every morning, and every morning asks what day we will be "all together" again) , that he was a sheer delight. And SS played with some stray decorative jingle bells the entire night. I don't know what exactly made it so idyllic, but it was a magic evening, merry and bright.

At the start of the night, with the boys in holiday pajamas

Drinking our hot cocoa

Jingling those bells

BB carefully selecting the first ornament to hang on the tree

Or so I thought, until I turned around and saw that BB had already put up two other ornaments on the sly! He started without us! And here I was, carefully photo-documenting what I thought was the first ornament selected. 

BB "trying on" one of his First Christmas ornaments, a tiny pair of ceramic shoes that he shoved his big toes into

Busy baby, jingling all the way to bedtime

 And then it came time for the grand finale - placing the star (or in our case, the large beaded snowflake) on top of the Christmas tree. I put the camera on the tripod and set the timer, planning to get some candid shots of the family togetherness.

I like this cute one of SS peeking at us from the bottom of the frame.

J took a few minutes to figure out how to best attach the "star" to our new tree, giving me a chance to reset the timer for more candid photos. And then the next thing I know, out of the corner of my eye, I see a little man striking a pose at the camera. 

And not just any pose, but one with some ATTITUDE. 

This was all him you guys. I can't handle the hilarity. I love this child.

Once the star was in place, J lifted BB up to tap the star three times (J made that up so that BB could be a part of the star placement too. Yes, J is the best dad ever.)

My favorite thing to do this month has been to lounge on the chaise, play Christmas music, and intermittently read a book and gaze at the Christmas tree. I told J one night, "This is the most Christmassy I think I've ever felt in my entire life," and he responded, "Well keep doing that then!"

Color me converted. I like Christmas.

This Christmas will be extra-special, since Auntie Seen and Uncle Matt and B and Tada are home from Boston and we can all celebrate together, both the holiday and B's homecoming. No Scrooges or Grinches allowed. So I will be on my best behavior, eggnog in hand, carol in heart, in full on converted Chirstmas-liker mode.

With nieces and boys like these, what's not to like? 


Happy 6th Angelina Ballerina Birthday Tada!!!!!

To Remember

The tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut on last Friday morning has caused most moms I know to hug their babies tight these past few days as we weep and mourn for the mothers who no longer can. 

While sorting through the senselessness and grief, I have been compelled to celebrate my own children - to delight in their life, to be present for and fully absorb the everyday joy weaving through the mundane, the meal preparation and dressing and teeth brushing and diaper changing that those mothers will never sneak a tickle or quick kiss into again. 

An unthinkable loss. 

And so I will treasure.

And so I will remember.

This past Sunday at church our kiddos sang a song and BB was right up front. We have been attending our new Saturday night service, and with a hectic December, have missed quite a few advent services. But we practiced singing the song at home with BB, and Sunday morning he held his sign and quietly sang the chorus and even smiled now and then.


To me, it was a most appropriate Sunday to be celebrating our precious little ones  - I hope that in a tiny, abstract way, by celebrating and enjoying these fragile lives, I honor those precious children who were stolen in the horror of Friday morning and are now at the throne of the King.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Summer Shout-Out: Itty Bitty Sports

How about a random summer post as the winter chill begins to set in?

BB played soccer and t-ball and basketball in an Itty Bitty Sports program this summer, a birthday gift from Nacky and Papa. Watching children aged 3-5-year-olds play Red Light, Green Light, Freeze Tag, and burst into tears when the ball gets stolen away was an entertaining, albeit sweaty, way to spend Saturday mornings in June and July.

(Sidebar: Since before we even had kids, I have been looking forward to my kids playing sports and attending games and practices, so it was very surreal and fulfilling to actually be at that stage of life.)

(As it turned out, BB's "Coach" was someone we know from church!)

This was, by far, BB's favorite part of Itty Bitty Sports. At the end of every practice, the kids all put their hands in the middle and shouted "Itty Bitties!" and it brought BB boundless joy. There were many, many "Itty Bitties!" cheers in our house this summer.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Thirteen Point One

 I am currently spread out on our chaise lounge, watching Elf with BB while SS naps and J makes dinner, wondering if I will be able to walk tomorrow, because this morning I accomplished a personal goal that I mentioned way back in this post - I ran a half marathon. Thirteen point one miles.

I trained for and ran the half marathon with my friend Ashley, and there's no way I could've done it without her company and accountability and stories. 

Of course we made matching shirts to run in. Here's our 4:40 am photoshoot:

The backs of our shirts were personalized with KickAsh and Run Like A Mother

The race was so much tougher than I expected - between the tossing and turning and dreams of missing the race, the 2 am snack, the 4:10 am wake up, riding a bus and then standing around in the pitch black before the sun finally came up, some lady business to contend with, having food in my belly when I normally like to run on empty, and the mostly downhill course with a couple of (killer) inclines in the last couple miles, the race was all so different from my usual running conditions. Ashley and I had trained well and I felt confident that we were ready to run this 13.1 miles, so I did not expect this race to be as challenging as it was. 

The first 6 miles really flew by, and we crossed the 6 mile clock at 1:06 (although we knew our chip time was a little faster, plus I had needed to stop and pee once (another thing I never do in a training run)). Then at mile 7 we saw our cheering squad - J, BB, and SS were there and J surprised me by wearing homemade cheering t-shirts, and our wonderful friends M & B and L were all there supporting us as well. B was unable to run this half marathon with us, but she is a super-runner and we had been running together on Sunday mornings all Fall. I loved seeing my boys and my BFF out there just for us. The miles continued to pass - we saw our cheering squad again around mile 10 - it was so great to have their encouragement, both the cheers on the sidelines, and the honks and cheers when they drove past us to meet us at the next point!

BB in his running pose on the sidelines

When we hit mile 11, it got real. The exhaustion, I mean. By 11.5, we were turning onto a side street and approaching some incline - I was wishing I could move faster, but just. couldn't. do it. Ashley and I, two extroverts, were silent at this point. Once we hit the inclines, Ashley was a machine and maintained her pace - I, on the other hand, slowed considerably but kept. on. running. When we would hit flat road, I picked up my pace to catch back up to Ashley. The final incline was about a half mile out from the finish line - Ashley continued her pace and I fell behind. Once I hit flat road I pushed it to finish - I saw our friends cheering at the final bend, rounded the turn as fast I could go after 13 miles, and saw our time up on the clock. 

I had been sure that after how tough the race was, and especially the last couple miles when I felt like I was crawling, that I would be scraping by to slide in under 2:30.  Our goals were as follows: Goal #1 - Finish the half marathon.  Goal #2 - Finish under 2:30.   And finally Goal #3, our oh-my-gosh-can-we-actually-do-this? goal - Finish in 2:15.

So when I saw 2:17 up on the clock, I burst into a smile, and heard Ashley's name and then my name called out over the intercom as we crossed the finish line. 

My official chip time was 2:16:24, at 10:25 pace. I am THRILLED!!!

Approaching the finish line

The Finish line! Finally!

              Ashley and I, officially part of the 13.1 club.       My fam, with J and the boys in the awesome 
                                                              shirts J surprised me with!!

BFFs and family out to support me - so thankful for all of their love!

Auntie Seen getting in on the running action

Oh and look how cute my little men were playing on the slides. SS loves the slide just like BB.

And now it's romantic movie time with my man. If I can stay awake, that is. My calves are broken.