Scene: Kitchen. Last Night. Three kids in bed, two teenagers away, four candles flickering, two adults awake, one wine bottle open.
(Also, this is not going where you think it's going. Geezus, what kind of blog do you think this is?)
Me: (recalled memory, recalled memory, recalled memory)... It's December. I'm doing that thing I do--playing the movie reel of our life from this year, and I'm feeling nostalgic. It's got to be annoying after a while. Am I annoying you?
Brett: You're predictable. You don't disappoint. You do this every year.
Me: I know. But seriously. I can't control it. I have to do the annual wrap up. C'mon. It was a good year. I mean, we had a son.
Brett: This is true.
Me: We're going to have fun the next couple of weeks. How cool is December?
Brett: Want to watch a movie?
Okay. Enjoying the Small Things. December style.
Picking up my camera and finding pictures my friends took without me knowing.
Walk Practice with Dad
The little morning gig they have going on.
Suspenders. Screw the caveman who invented the wheel. I want to know WHO INVENTED SUSPENDERS? Because I want to kiss them.
Canadian Pine Trees.
For sale in a big white tent off of Naples Blvd.
We go to buy wreaths to smell up our house, but we stay to wander through the tree aisles and pretend the tent is really a big open sky.
And...with no further ado.
The park slide that is greased with Crisco.
It has to be. I mean, she FLIES.
...and lands with a thump which, for one millisecond makes me a little nervous, but follows with crazy laughter and "Again! Again!"
...and this week, I've had three conversations with my six-year-old that made me feel like I was talking to a teenager. Three beautiful conversations about some pretty adult stuff. And I feel like we're growing. Moving on to new stages. And instead of hanging on for dear life to what I don't want to go away, I am absolutely loving this new territory. There's a girrrl in ze castle!
What are you enjoying?
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Scene: Kitchen. Last Night. Three kids in bed, two teenagers away, four candles flickering, two adults awake, one wine bottle open.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Pour your coffee. Put some Christmas tunes on. Get a cozy sweater. Go ahead, I won't start this post until you come back.
I like to start my posts as if we're already in the middle of a conversation. I pretend that we're the oldest and dearest friends -- as opposed to what we actually are, people who don't know each other.
Wait. Kathleen Kelly already said that. Nevermind.
I was so busy making reindeer collars, arranging fake snow blankets into mini sledding hills and practicing forging Santa's name (no "e" in Claus! no "e" in Claus!) on Friday that I never posted Friday faves. I'll throw it in some time this week.
On to the North Pole Party. You guys. It was magical. It had less to do with the details of the party and so much more to do with these precious kids. To see the world through their eyes and to remember what it felt like to be that awake and delighted with cookies and lights and friends and an unbridled imagination. Okay, I'm still delighted with cookies and lights and friends but sometimes I'd like my unbridled imagination back.
Lainey was a little nervous about going to school this morning because of some current county wide testing going on. We talked among other things about how life isn't always exactly what you want it to be--sometimes you have to go along with the system, and taking tests is part of it. Not fun, I know. But because I know that life is made up of a lot of challenges and "testing", perhaps I love even more these opportunities to cushion the hard days, the tests, the real life system with storybook and magic. To teach my kids to create it. They're going to need it. And indeed we can have both.
So Friday night was just that. Storybook and magic. On a little street in the middle of Naples, Florida, we created the North Pole.
A Night at the North Pole:
Santa called in (coughMYBROTHERcough). That guy is hard to track down this time of year, but I've got connections--namely, an elf named Bubby (I forgot to cover the contacts ID on my phone as I held it up for all the kids to see) who weaseled his way into the Toy Factory. With his hearty HOHOHO (seriously, it was amazing), Santa talked to the kids about his reindeer and his toy making and answered questions. I loved their questions. What does your Christmas tree look like? What's your favorite Christmas carol? Do you know my elf, Snowflake? Was I good?
And this face of Lainey's while listening? I will never forget it. I can't even look at it without tearing up.
Lainey's little friend Mihiri wanted to ask a question but froze when it was her turn. We fed her a question and she giggled through the entire thing. Like I said, magic.
It was a great year for Nella. While last year she stayed pretty close to me, this year she wandered through the crowd eager to participate, found friends to help her make reindeer food and snuck off to the cookie table when we weren't looking.
Our elf made his annual appearance again on our scavenger hunt, and I overheard a few older kids hypothesizing an explanation of his appearance. The window may slowly be closing for some of these kids and these imaginative stories, but new windows open. And if all goes well, we'll teach them they can have both. Grow older, get smarter but never lose your sense of wonder and your ability to create a little bit of magic among the testing days.
There will be leftover snowman cookies for an after school treat today. And a reminder that on testing days, you simply do your best and know that how well you test has NOTHING to do with how much you are loved and the most important thing you have to offer the world...give it your imagination, your curiosity, your heart.
For past North Pole Parties, see NPP 2011 and NPP 2012.
And if you'd like to recreate the Reindeer Food Bar with your own kids (invite friends, get your grandkids together), I have a full D.I.Y. tutorial over at BabyZone this week (with a new free printable for all the reindeer food labels).
Last matters of business, promise:
* Thank you for all of your #BeYourTee orders! This is the last day you can get your Be the Change shirts--help us reach our goal of 1,000 shirts! Youth and Adult sizes and many styles available HERE, and $5 of the sale of every shirt goes directly to the National Down Syndrome Society.
* And an essay on savoring "the last baby" over at All Parenting this week. I went there this morning--"this is the last "first Christmas" we're going to enjoy." (cheek smack, cheek smack...pull it together, Kelle!) We're good now.
Merry merry, friends.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Before tonight's post, some housekeeping:
I loved reading through the best holiday gift memories on the last post--so many I made note of and some incredibly meaningful ideas in there. Thank you for sharing.
The #ShareTheWow Maui Jim sunnies winner (generated by random.org) is comment #411, Julie Cosgrove: When I was 7 and my sister was 9, I vividly remember walking down the red carpeted stairs into our basement on Christmas morning. As we rounded the corner, we saw them. Two used wooden school desks with the desk tops that you could put up (and hold up with a ruler!). The pure joy of that moment will never be forgotten...
Congrats Julie, please e-mail your contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line "Maui Jim Giveaway" and you'll be rocking some new sunnies soon.
On to the post. Brace yourselves. We're talking Jesus tonight.
We're four days into our advent calendar, twenty-one days away from Christmas, four Hallmark holiday movies into our nightly to-do list, and amid everything I love about this season--the family time, the giving, the wonder, the love--I can't help but grapple with what I want to teach my kids about the historical and Biblical story behind Christmas.
It's not that they don't already know about the story of Jesus' birth. It's beautiful history, a story of love, and I want my kids to understand the meaning behind the holidays they celebrate. Even if they are born from just that--a story.
We've visited a live nativity in past years. We used to have our own children's nativity set, but the kids kept running off with Joseph. And then a wise man was missing, next a sheep, and when Baby Jesus finally went M.I.A and all that was left was a stable, two wise men and a goat, I put the last pieces in the Goodwill pile.
I know Luke 2. When I hear it read, I whisper along in certain parts because I have a lot of it memorized. I am fascinated and inspired by the life of Jesus. I've read the Bible--so many hours of reading the Bible, it probably tallies up to a surprising portion of my life. And the ultimate lessons of character that the story of Jesus' life leaves us with--I want my children to know that. To know love and compassion and wisdom and selflessness.
But when I read the Christmas story to my kids and it talks about God sending his son to the earth, sometimes I get uncomfortable. Past Religion Flare-ups...PRF. I love the real story of Jesus as a man, I connect with Mary in a way that any mother who desperately loves her child can, I understand the inspiration behind the deep love of a God who'd send his only son to Earth for us. But my faith is not centered around Jesus, and I don't feel comfortable with the idea that our salvation hinges on believing that he was the son of God. That all those people who don't believe that are wrong. I think faith is bigger than that.
My brother and I talk faith almost every week. They are some of my favorite conversations, often lasting over an hour and including excited ramblings and passionate speeches. Today, after reading several passages from "Jesus: Who Do You Say I Am?," a Life magazine issue currently on stands, I asked him, "Why is it that I have an easier time telling my kids that Santa is real--something I know to be a made-up story--than to tell them that Jesus was anything more than an incredible, inspiring man who impacted our society and showed us God's love?"
And I think it's because Santa is a temporary legend, one that begins with wonder and imagination but fizzles, still leaving sweet memories of wonder and imagination. The idea of him feels harmless. I never expect my kids to believe in him past a certain age anyway. Jesus though--with regards to his death and salvation, etc. feels more permanent and complicated--a story that, based on my past, begins with a miraculous event and leaves memories of--well, confusion. With my kids, I'm not ready to go beyond who he was as a man, his message and the incredible love his story gives us.
The thing is, God feels like faith to me. I've finally embraced God in this incredibly huge and wonderful way, and I understand the mystery, the beauty, the grace, the love, the purpose and yes even the unanswered questions of God in my life in a way that I feel comfortable living and passing on to my children. I understand that He is many things to different people. But Jesus as the only way to salvation, as the one truth of the many beautiful beliefs and stories out there, as the thing you MUST believe or be eternally sentenced--well that feels like religion, and I choose faith over religion.
Religion made an impact in my life that left a meteor-shaped hole. I've come to love the scar and the room it's made for love, but it's been years of patching things up. Having had that impact, I take what I teach my children about their souls and their eternity so incredibly serious. I just want them to know faith in a loving, inclusive, free-to-think-otherwise way. Limitless.
One of my favorite Jesus sentiments I read in this "Jesus" Life magazine issue today was surprisingly from Moby. As in techno Bodyrock Moby. "I find Jesus through prayer," he said. "I try to read the Bible everyday...The notion of Christ as my savior is not something I focus on. I would say that He is. Who knows what happens when we die? I have no idea...I almost wish that life eternal wasn't part of the issue, because I sometimes feel that it's like dealing with an adolescent--I'll let you borrow the car if you clean the garage. I'd rather just clean the garage and not get into this system of doing things for rewards. I have an understanding of the universe as an unknowable but fascinating and wonderful place. I see human beings as part of that universe."
And I totally get that.
So, we're here. Digging into an unknowable but fascinating and wonderful place. It's the fourth day of the advent. We're talking about Santa and playing along in the imaginative story we enjoyed when we were kids. And yet of course I know that it's just a tiny part of what I want this holiday to mean to my children. More important, we are creating traditions that celebrate love and family and hope and togetherness and giving and peace. Some might call that Jesus.
I'm really trying to read the Christmas story with more of an open mind and an imagination. To put my reservations and doubts aside and find the most purposeful way to pull the love from such a beautiful story and transform it in a way that feels good to give my children. I don't have to agree with everything in the Bible for the story of Jesus' birth to be meaningful.
And this just in: I bought a new nativity set today. With the sweetest little Baby Jesus you ever did see.
Monday, December 2, 2013
Thank you Maui Jim for sponsoring this post and generous giveaway.
Alright it's officially December. Merry up. Practice your holiday herkies.
After the kids endured a little 24-hour bug on Friday, we were happy to get out this weekend for some sunshine. And with all these other cyber deals going on right now, the sun delivered as well. Buy one sunny afternoon, get a rainbow FREE!
Our air conditioning has been turned off for several days now, and we're enjoying open doors and windows and Florida's best showing off months. As much as I love huddling in for December and comfy nights indoors, you can't help but want to stretch out and explore this time of year too. The weather promises to make explorations all the more pleasant. So we have a few local adventures on our December list sandwiched in between those movie nights.
My dad and Gary watched the kids for a little bit this weekend while Brett and I snuck out for a walk on the beach and a bite to eat. It's easy to fall out of the habit of dates with just the two of us, but it was good to be reminded how nice that feels. No crayons at our table or asking the waitress for another pack of oyster crackers. Just us, kicking our feet at the bar, talking about favorite memories and future plans.
We finished our weekend with the first strand of outdoor lights. Brett has yet to go full Clark Griswold on us yet, but there's a giant stack of light boxes in the garage that says it's coming.
And some December cheer for you...
Maui Jim is giving one of our readers a free pair of sunnies this holiday. Their #ShareTheWow campaign highlights Maui Jim sunglasses as the perfect "Wow" gift, highlighting their mission not just to create sunglasses but to create the "Wow"--a brighter, beautiful, more vibrant experience. Every detail of their sunglasses is inspired by the desire to see more, and their patented lens technology brings out the world's true colors (blue skies!) while combating intense glare (great for water sports and skiing) and harmful UV rays.
(my sunglass style: Matte Tortoise Kalohe--love them!)
For more info on the gift of Maui Jim, check out their Share the Wow campaign.
One reader will receive one pair of Maui Jim sunglasses, any style...
Just share one of the best holiday gifts you've ever received (or given) in the comments. Comment section will be closed at 9 p.m. EST, Tuesday December 3, and winner will be announced in Wednesday's post.
Thank you to Maui Jim for offering this giveaway, and thank you readers for supporting the sponsors that support this blog and our family.