Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Weary World Rejoices

Several years ago a friend and I were two among many attendees at an appreciation dinner in mid-December. It was a lovely catered affair, a generous thanks for services offered.

My friend leaned over and uttered the words many of us felt: Can't you appreciate me in March?

This is indeed the most wonderful time of the year; it is without question the busiest time of the year. As I mentioned earlier, in a span of eight days we had eight events to attend. One day included a triple header -- a breakfast and two pageants with a three hour drive to the airport thrown in for good measure.

(Mind that whining, now! I learned my lesson this year. The morning of the triple header dawned, and John was running a fever. Sometimes the only thing more overwhelming than an over-the-top busy day is the challenge of cancelling the whole lot of it and caring for a sick one.)

As I sat at one of the eight events -- really, one of the nicest of the eight -- I sang Christmas carols and listened to the lyrics with fresh ears. As we launched into O Holy Night, I was particlularly struck by the line The Weary World Rejoices.

This was a gathering of about twenty women I dearly love. I very much look forward to this party. But -- lawdy, lawdy -- just getting there about killed me. I struck out on childcare for John and Ainsley, so I sent them to their pre-school instead -- to the tune of $40.00 out of pocket and roughly sixty minutes of driving. Ouch! Then my outfit didn't work. Then I ironed my hair into submission only to step out into a slight drizzle and see my ironing undone in a jiffy.

On top of that, we were supposed to arrive with prepared cookie dough so that we could all bake cookies together. Easy enough, right? I was missing one ingredient, so I dashed to a neighbor's to scrounge. The recipe called for butter; I substituted margarine. I didn't have raspberry preserves; strawberry would have to do. I mixed it all together and, wow, that lump of dough looked like it would produce about eight cookies.

I arrived almost on time. Hair? Frizzy. Outfit? Dull. Cookie dough? Slouching toward inadequate.

We began sining carols, and I hit the line: The weary world rejoices.

And I reflected on how the world has always been weary, most ages far, far wearier than our own. I thought of Mary -- pregnant and travelling and weary. I thought of Joseph -- burdened and worried and weary. I thought of the wise men -- weary, too.

A while back I read a post about the day after the celebration being the real celebration. The pressure's off. The deadlines have been met or missed. We stay in our jammies all day. We pull out the leftovers. We don't worry about the tablecloth or the candles. Heck, we might just eat straight from the serving dish.

The weary world rejoices.

At our house, this includes lots of hot chocolate.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Brief Exchanges That Leave Me Nervous

Me: What are you doing?

Ainsley: It's gwitter!

Me: What are you doing?

John: Nothing ...

Me: What are you doing?

Ainsley: I just cweaning up.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Warm and Smushy

John: I got a donut for Ainsey and one for me, too. They're in my pocket.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Day in the Life

John comes running to tell me he stayed in his bed all night
... and I find a wet pile of jammies and undies on his floor.

We all head to confession and manage to arrive five minutes early
... and the line is so long we turn around and go home.

We manage to produce a great Christmas photo this year
... and I still spend hours wrestling with Christmas card software.

I decide to make cookies to ease a little stress
... and we're out of eggs.

We borrow two from our ever-so-generous neighbor
... and Ainsley drops one on the floor.

So we borrow a third egg
... and I sit here consuming vast amounts of batter.

Ainsley wakes up from her nap a touch out of it
... and wants nothing more than to
rest her head in my lap.

She goes from out of it to green
... and vomits all over me and the study.

She gets a clean shirt
... and then says, "I didnt mean to do that to you pants. But it's okay."

John brings in something of Kolbe's
... and says, "I swung it around and around and broke it to pieces."

Ainsley comes in the room looking a little less wan
... and tells me, "I want a candy cane."

Life ... sometimes sticky, occasionally smelly, somewhat unpredictable, teaming with brightness.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sorry - We're Fresh Out

Boy Wonder: We're supposed to wear Christmasy clothes. Do we have any antlers?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Some of the Worst, Some of the Best

Maybe I wrote this last year. Or maybe I just thought about it. I love Christmas music, except for the songs I loathe.

Among the worst:

1. Last Christmas I gave You My Heart - I am sad to report that at least two new versions of this tired and ultra-schmaltzy tune have hit the air waves this year. As if the over-played original weren't painful enough! My teenage son came home from school mocking this song. Gosh, I'm proud of that boy! Just one more heartening example of how his school passes on transcendent values.

2. Christmas Shoes - So I made it to the third Sunday of Lent without hearing this one that is, without question, right off the schmaltz-o-meter. Pretty sure this is the reason the schmaltz-o-meter was invented. Doink!

3. Santa Baby - No need to elaborate.

4. Elvis' Blue Christmas - Ditto.

5. Unnamed Song -- This ghastly number starts out "Where are you Christmas? Why can't I find you?"  I don't know the title because, in truth, I have never gone beyond the opening line. Where's that seek button? Or that left-over air sickness bag?

Tunes we like:

1. The Little Drummer Boy - Strictly speaking, this, too, musters some serious schmaltz, but I just like it. David Bowie and Bing? Love it. Bob Seeger? I like this one, too. An added plus? He's a Detroiter.

2. Carol of the Bells - From Transsiberian Orchestra to Kenny Rogers, this is a fav.

3. O Holy Night -  Love Celion Dion. Josh Groban? More than I can take.

4. Anything sung by The Carpenters, Frank Sinatra, or Andy Williams - Yes, some undeniable schmaltz.The Carpenters scream 1970s, but I came of age listening to their eight-track recordings. The others were childhood staples and bring back happy memories of sitting near our fireplace and watching the snow fall.

5. The Messiah - I never get tired of this.

6. Christmas Canon- Makes me want to take up piano or violin.

7. The Grinch - This one hearkens back to Christmas 1986 when I was attending my Officers' Basic Course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. What can I say about Arrrrmy training? Hour after hour of some of the most painfully boring lectures ever endured. My caffeine addiction dates back to afternoons attempting to avoid nodding off as field grade officers droned on about who knows what.

The little bit of levity was Captain Al Rommel (I'm not making this up. I trained with a Rommel and a Patton). If a lecture proved particularly heinous, Al would lean over and whisper, "stink, Stank, STUNK!"

7. Anything my kids play - Tim and Kolbe have brought the gift of music into our home, and I love it.

Googling Worst Christmas Songs Ever will produce a list far more colorful than mine. Did John Denver really sing, "Daddy, Don't Get Drunk This Christmas"? That even tops "Christmas Shoes."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Good Times at Wal-mart

Good times at Wal-mart? Too much egg nog, you're thinking. But aactually, it's true. I pulled off an epic trip to the big box, and here are the highlights:

1. I've got Dave on the cell as I hunt down an elusive item. When he suggests I ask for help, I all but guffaw. A salesperson at Wal-Mart? Really?

The scoff is no sooner out of my mouth when a man with a name tag on his polo shirt and a smile on his face asks if I need assistance. He actually locates two of the items I'm looking for.

Will wonders never cease?

2. I get to the baby aisle and start checking out the portable potty seats, obsessed as I am with all things related to toilet training. When Ainsley summed up the state of potty affairs by saying, "It's just not working," I'm not sure she wasn't referring to the fact that our current potty seat gets a tad wobbly.We've got enough challenges without Ainsley worrying that she's listing to starboard every time she sits down.

So I find a princess potty seat. The box reads -- and I'm not making this up -- Just give me a try!

Just give me a try?

I laugh out loud. I stand there by myself splitting a gut in the potty chair aisle.

If the fine folks in product design had any clue about the week we've had, no way -- noooooo way! --would they suggest writing Just give a me a try! on the box. And the fine folks at Wal-mart? They should be happy I left Ainsley at home sleeping because, trust me, she would have taken them up on their offer.

3. So then I'm checking out and purchasing not one, but two bottles of Pinot Grigio to drink in my red, plastic, gun-shaped cup. The cashier asks for i.d..

She checks the date and says, "There's no way you're that old!"

Goodness, I just want to kiss the woman!

Good times at Wal-mart!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Let's Make a Deal

So Ainsley offered me a deal the other day: If I bought her Dora panties, she'd potty train. To make a long story short, I've kept my end of the bargain.

It's been yet another damp and noxious day in my house. Ainsey has an accident, and then yells with great indignation, "I have to go potty!" Cause, don't you know, I'm holding her back!

Today -- after multiple accidents and amid a mounting pile of laundry -- I deposited her on the potty. She looked at me and said, "It's just not working." On that point, sweet pumpkin, we are in full agreement.

In my Army days, I learned that U.S. troops don't retreat; we conduct retrograde operations (a.k.a. retreat). So do we forge ahead or do we conduct retrograde operations? Did I mention it's nearing Christmas? Do I consider that we have Christmas festivities Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and two next Thursday?

(We get Wednesday off for good behavior).

 To these various gatherings, I am expected to arrive bearing several gifts, canned goods, M & M's, cookie batter, already baked cookies, hot chocolate, and four well-scrubbed children decked out in festive attire.

And a potty-training two-year-old?

Time for some egg nog, I think.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Nativity

I just gleaned some useful Christmas advice over at Faith and Family Live!. Commenter StephC was responding to a mother who is where most of us have been at one time or another: overwhelmed. Tired, out of steam, even a tad hopeless -- and riding the Polar Express full speed into That Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Steph's advice? Keep your eyes on your own nativity.

I have a dear neighbor right across the street who wakes up the morning after Thanksgiving, gathers a few capable sons, and proceeds to put up every last Christmas decoration. It's pretty; it's tasteful; most impressive of all, it's done -- all before I'm finished de-boning the turkey. Yes, I peer through my front window and see my friend moving with great purpose while I shuffle around in my slippers and nurse my second cup of coffee.

I could engage in a lot of comparisons, but I'd much rather take Steph's advice: Keep your eyes on your own nativity. Or lack thereof. Because that nativity of ours? The day after Thanksgiving, believe me, it was still sitting in the attic.

No matter what our spiritual disposition, it is an undeniable fact that Advent and Christmas bring a degree of busyness and stress. For the record, I had my first moment of pre-Christmas panic this very morning. You know, a moment of Oh My Goodness I've Barely Made a Dent in My Shopping, and I Just Bought Advent Candles Yesterday. This was quickly followed by a major reality check, a trip to confession on unrelated issues, and a lengthy venture into the attic. The nativity is now down!

This was just the first of many forays into that vast repository of stuff we call the attic. Our attic. Our attic is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it's the only generous storage space in this house built in the 50s for people who must have had two kids and maybe three complete outfits of clothing. The closets are minuscule. But the attic? It's large.

Some years I take down Christmas with the same care that I put it up. I label boxes; I discard broken and unused decorations; I do a little organizing as I go. Other years, I pull down the attic stairs, do the heave ho, and slam.

Last year must have been just such a year. Why, you ask? I had no excuses whatsoever. Four of the last five Christmas seasons have found me early pregnant or nursing a newborn. Great excuses to pare back, keep it simple, even be a bit slovenly with the take down. The year I was expecting John, I crawled through the entire season  with one eye on the clock wondering when I could finagle my next nap and one eye on the bathroom door wondering how soon I'd be hurtling myself through it. Ugh! Worth every last ounce of suffering, but ugh! Somehow we managed the trek to Michigan for the holidays that year. I think my logic went something like this: I can remain in the fetal position here in Georgia and do all the shopping and cooking by myself, or I can manage to haul our sorry selves to Detroit, assume the fetal position there, and let my mother-in-law and sisters wait on me hand and foot. No brainer!

I remember the trip home was heinous with a capital H. I was throwing up before we left my sister's house. I was throwing up as we crossed the border into Ohio. We had a portable DVD player that I was known for employing with great moderation and discernment. On that trip I said, "Have at it, boys! I'll see you in Augusta!"

It was the quietest fifteen hour drive we've ever had.

God willing we will all celebrate many, many Christmases. Some years find us in fine form, ready to enter the season of preparation, and excited to celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas day. Other years find us (okay, me) scrounging for Advent candles on December 23rd and happy to come up with three burgundies and a red when purple and pink prove to be somewhat elusive. True story. While three burgundies and a red might make fine choices when buying wine, they're just a touch out of the liturgical norm when preparing for Christmas.

Oh well. Keep your eyes on your own nativity!

My dear friend went to confession one Advent. She lamented to the priest how far short she felt she was falling in pulling together a holy season of preparation. This priest is a good man, a holy man, a man who loves liturgy and the church seasons. You know what he told her? Relax and enjoy your family.

Nearly every magazine in circulation is now featuring a story on dealing with stress this holiday season. They'll print to do lists and last minute buying guides and handy calendars you can post on the fridge.To be sure, celebrations -- all of them -- require work. But Father Brett had it right -- it's also about simply enjoying your family.

For us that means lots of egg nog -- Tim's favorite drink. It means multiple viewings of Elf and The Santa Clause -- liturgically bankrupt and really very funny. It means boiled peanuts and chocolate peanut butter cheesecake and potato soup.

It means pulling out the Advent candles, even if a few days late. It means writing out cards to people I look forward to hearing from once a year. It means fun and busyness and a gentle tug back to the true meaning behind all this hurly burly.

And this year -- to increase our joy and to minimize my stress -- it means taking Steph's wise counsel and keeping my eyes on my own nativity.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Seven Quick Takes

1. It's bad enough that I'm sipping pinot grigio from a red, plastic cup shaped like a gun.

2. I glance into my vino and discover Darth Vader floating in it.

Oops! That's not Darth Vader. That's Ainsley sideways.

 That's Vader in vino.

3. Kolbe brings home a book he has written. I can't decipher the title. "It's written in shark," he informs me.

4. Ainsley removes her diaper because, well, who wants to sit in that mess? I go dashing off to get the wipes. When I return she tells me, "I cleaned my bottom with Timmy's shirt." Mission accomplished! I guess.

5. We're leaving the doctor's office this morning. Ainsley throws her hands up in the air and says, rather loudly, "Where are my panties?" I'm pretty sure Tim was fervently wishing Catholics believed in the rapture and that it had occurred at exactly that moment.

6. Dave and John made a run to their favorite hard work store - Mistah Harbor Fweight. John came home with -- are you ready for this? -- a snow shovel. Dave must have seen it and been overwhelmed with nostalgia.

7. As I was buckling John's car seat the other day, he put his hands on my face and said, "Mama, I love your fullness." My fullness? I wondered what he meant. "Of your heart," he explained.

He flat slays me, that boy.

Jen at Conversion Diary rounds up Seven Quick Takes every Friday. Some of us can't get to it until Monday.  Pop over to visit.