Sunday, December 25, 2011

Santa in the Mirror.

Dear sweet complicated Isabella,

Santa is make believe.
You are right, he is not the nice man in the mall. He is not those look a like's you see in the movies you love so much. He is not at the north pole either.

I have always told you so but also probably I have confused you by allowing you to believe if you wanted, only telling you the truth when you asked directly. I just tried to treat it like anything else you asked about.  We've watch Santa movies and things, but even when you were very small you would ask if Santa was make believe and I would tell you yes.

Why? There were more than a few people to my surprise who were a bit put off by it.... so why did I?
Not because I wanted to steal away something fun or magical.
Not because I didn't enjoy the stories when I was young.

It's because I want you to believe in a thing much more important... just as hard to believe in some ways but much more amazing. When I told you about Jesus being born, both God and man in a manger two thousand years ago I wanted you to see my sincerity.... not just wonder if it was another fancy story created to make you "behave". I didn't want the nativity story to have to compete with the Santa magic because lets face it, at first glanced one is a bit more sparkly than the other.

So far the Santa thing has seemed to be no big thing to you, but this year you became a little more perplexed and honestly annoyed by the whole thing. WHY do people pretend something like this? Why do grown ups tease? Why do they insist in the existence of a person and magic that you know could not be? I think you began to believe you were smarter than many adults around you....

you said, "why on earth would Santa come HERE?".... good point, we WERE at the mall.
you said, "there are lots of malls too.".... very good point.
you said, "And I just KNOW it isn't true Mom... I am FIVE and I am really very smart." well then.


My sweet little five year old... these questions had you nearly irate and the mall the other night.
So here is what I told you....

You right that Santa Claus is not what most people would say.... but you are wrong to say that he does not exist, He did and he does. He was a man inspired by the spirit of giving.... by the gift given to him by Jesus. The gift of eternal life. 
So he still lives in that way... because of what he inspired us to do. Even though the real man we called St. Nicholas went to Heaven a long long time ago we can be Santa Claus to each other now if we choose to give selflessly just as he did. We can let the joy of God's gift fill us up and allow us to learn that it really is more blessed to give than to receive. Give of your time to help others, give a gift, give someone a smile or a hug or your prayers... You now know a very grown up secret, you yourself can be Santa to anyone who needs you. 

But why do so many people want you to believe in Santa Claus? Well because it is a story of hope and possibility to a world that doesn't always see the hope God has for us. The world is sometimes a scary and bad place. One night a year people believe even just a little that maybe this will be the year that they get everything they have always wanted... but what they want isn't what they need. Sadly they are not seeing that every hope has been full filled, and every fear laid aside, by simply choosing for your perfect gift that little baby in the manger.

I am sure you will have many more questions and conversations like this next year but you seemed satisfied for now. Funnily enough you still went up and talked to Santa at the mall, which is fine by me, make believe always has a place in our home.... and we both know you were just there to get that candy cane.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mishaps and Memories

These pictures are from about two weeks ago when we decorated our tree... 
that is how behind I am. 

The boys have since had haircuts.... they look so much older with short hair.
It makes me weepy.


I always get a little crraaazzzyyy in the last few days before Christmas. 
I always feel the pressure to make it more, better... more sparkly. 

Please tell me I am not alone?

But I notice if I am not careful all my efforts can have the opposite effect. 

I get stressed about getting the last few gifts and wrapping them BEFORE Christmas eve.
 I decide that catching up the laundry before the weekend...
and making sure the camera is charged.... 
and baking the cookies we all want... 
and having poppyseed cake for breakfast on the big day.... 
and getting the house spotless will help all of us to relax over the holiday... 
 in a cruel twist of fate this causes nothing but more stress for us all.



So last night as I switched the seventh load of laundry I took a minute to think. 
I wrapped a warm towel around my head... because when I was a kid my Mom used to wrap us in warm towels strait out of the dryer while she folded the laundry...
and I find it INTENSELY comforting to this day.
 
What made Christmas special when I was a kid?
Quickly and easily I said... presents! 
True... they were awesome.
Family... time with my cousins to play. 
Yummy food.
Cookies.
The candle light Christmas eve service. 
The magic of the story... of God coming as a child, just like me... so close, so real.


Then I thought about all the Christmas's that stood out in my memory and why.
You know what they are?
The ones that went wrong.


Like the Christmas I was in high school and we couldn't get out to get our tree the night we had planned because it was snowing too much. We decided to walk the short distance to a nearby lot instead of the tree farm.

The streets had yet to be plowed and it was dark and snowing, we dragged the tree home down the middle of the road as Dad complained about the crazy price. I loved that walk. I loved that night.


There was the Christmas we spent in the nursing home with my Grandma because she was still recovering from surgery. I was maybe in fifth grade. It was the first year of my life we ever missed being at her house on Christmas.
But I learned a lot that year.
I learned that not everyone has someone to come see them. 
Not everyone has five kids and four grandkids who are willing to spend hours in a nursing home on Christmas. I was kind of baffled that anyone had to spend Christmas alone.

I learned quickly that I think that is just plain wrong.
And I promised myself I wouldn't let it be my parents who were shamefully alone on Christmas. 
So what if your not comfortable in a shabby nursing home... God was born in a barn people.


Lastly there was the Christmas eve right after I had gotten my first car. A tiny little Geo Storm.
My parents let my sister and I drive the thirty minutes to my Aunts house... Lord only knows why because the snow was pretty bad that night. By the time we got home I was a ball of nerves from sliding all over the place all the way home.

But as much as I hated that snow while I was driving in it I still remember getting out of the car and seeing that beautiful whisper soft glittery kind of snow falling in a thick blanket on our house and thinking that even my cynical 17 year old self might be able to believe in miracles and silly Bible stories on a night like that. 

My parents pulled in shortly after that and my Mom told us about a Christmas with her Dad, who had died when she was very young, and about a snowstorm on Christmas eve much like that one. We stood in the driveway a long time and just talked... listened, learned. Regained a little of the Christmas magic that slips away in those tough teenage years. 



I realized in the basement with a towel wrapped around my head that I cannot make Christmas special for my kids.

I can add to it. I can garnish it with gifts and decorations.
But the real sweet stuff will come by accident. Often disguised as a hitch in the usual plans.


Each year we build on the memories, we retell the stories of the ornaments and where they come from as we hang them on the branches. 

Some of them sparkled in the eyes of our Grandparents when they were still little and waiting on Santa... some are brand new like the baby's first Christmas they celebrate.


It doesn't matter if I give them the Barbie camper or the light sabers.
It doesn't matter if they match and smile in the photos.
It doesn't matter if the cookies burn and I stand in the kitchen with a towel wrapped around my head all day.

It's nice to have the gifts, the traditions, but its not what they will remember.
Something tells me the things that they do remember will surprise me when we learn about it one day.
Although I am sure if I do the towel thing in the kitchen that will make the list.... in the end the unexpected things are always the most memorable.


Like how no one expected to find God in a manger, a helpless baby.
They were looking for a mighty King in a palace.
Just like we are looking for the sparkle and shine while missing the moments right in front of us.


 The most important memory of mankind, the one that is two thousand years old.
The God who came to save. 

"This is a story of impossible things, 
of a baby and angels, of shepherds and kings.

And though it took place long ago, far away, 
it's just as true now that love finds a way."
~Suzzane Berry

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Four

Dear Tommy, 
                      Today was your fourth birthday. I must say it was not what I had pictured. You were all partied out from yesterday's festivities.... that is a nice way of saying you were a little more than a little emotional all day today. And what should I do? It was your birthday so I let you get away with a lot. By my standard's that is. I am sure you didn't much notice the difference.
                     
                      I had planned to take you shopping all by yourself but you opted to stay at Nana's house. I even tried to bribe you with the dollar store and playing angry birds on my phone. Nothing doing. Even at barely four you know that Nana spoils better than Mommy ever could. 
                    
                      Oh well, I got some Christmas gifts exchanged and thought about you as I shopped... I caught myself humming "Happy Birthday to You" in the produce section. I got you a mini cake for after dinner. I was going to get cupcakes but there was one little spideman cake sitting on the shelf that was just screaming Tommy at me... I thought it would be fun to blow out the candles one more time together after dinner with Daddy. Guess what? One more hitch in my plan. Daddy didn't get home till a half hour past bedtime. So we put Daniel and Vivian to bed early and waited up for him. It was well worth it and you are, as I type this, tucked in you bed with the little magnetic super hero cake topper. 
                      As I sit and go over the day in my head I do remember a beautiful silver lining and as usual it was nothing I planned or orchestrated. I was letting you be  a little selfish with your new toys today giving you first dibs on what you wanted just for today. You had been playing with your remote controlled car for awhile and you knew Bella and Daniel wanted it. You came to me and asked me if you could get more cars for your Christmas gifts. I was confused and asked why and you said so you would have some more to share with Bella and Daniel. You weren't ready to share yet, but you wanted to somehow make everyone happy... it's such a wonderful feeling to see you loving your brother and sisters.... even if the concept of self sacrifice wasn't there just yet.

                    
     I feel like you grew up so much this year. 
You became a big brother again.
You learned to write your name.


 
You became an ipad addict. You love tofu best I think.

You proved to be the best babysitter in the house. The only one patient enough to hold her through a whole bottle. I should have known, you have always been my cuddler. 




You are still to shy to pray at dinner time.





You finally decided you like to color and paint. 
Your favorite color switched from blue to black this year.
Black reminds you of your Dad. He always wears a black shirt.



You love your "workin boots", just like his also.


You are the pickiest eater ever... payback from my Mother I am sure.


You are so very handsome. I am afraid for your teenage years.
There are already two girls your age who are in love with you.
One even has declared she will marry you.


As much as you love your brother and sister I am sure you could play alone for hours.
I've just never really had the chance to test the theory.




You went fishing with your Dad and little brother for the first time, 
and certainly not the last. You are kind of a natural... you had to show me how to cast.




You fell in love with the ocean this summer. It's an expensive love affair little boy.
But I will do my best to fill your summers and your memories with sun and sand.








More than any of the other kids you love to ride your bike in circles on the patio for hours. 
You go so fast you sometimes end up on one wheel around the bends.

Your doing that in life too. Growing so fast its scares me.
Last night you had a nightmare and I laid in your bed with you for awhile trying to imagine that four short years ago I had yet to even see your little face. The one I now know better than my own. 
I held your hand in mine and remembered doing that in our hospital bed.
I tried to tell myself that it wasn't so much bigger.
I cried a little and I remember now thinking my Mom was weird when she cried over us growing up.
Now here I am. 
I am sad to see you get bigger, but so excited to see what the years ahead hold.
If so much joy and laughter could be ours in just these four short years I can't imagine how our hearts will be able to hold all that we will have in this life together.

Happiest of happy Birthday's baby, 

Love, Mom.


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