Monday, December 29, 2014

Nostalgic and Real Christmas

Christmas is such a lovely time of year. There are so many opportunities for special occasions of good cheer, and we have tried to take advantage of that as a family.

It all starts with a lovely family Thanksgiving. Molly Mae wanted a carrot cake this year and so she helped make it.

This Fall meal is my favorite setting.

 I tease my Mother about using silver entirely too often, but I did ask her to bring up my grandmother silver for this meal. Isn't it beautiful?

The Carrot Cake was delicious even though I'm not sure Molly even had a full slice.
After my parents left, we kicked off the Christmas season with my taking Anna Cate & Molly to see the Christian Youth Theater's production of "A Christmas Carol." The days that followed leading up until Christmas were full of other celebrations of the yule tide -- parties, parades, ginger bread house decorating, an outing to see The Nutcracker, a children's Christmas performance at church. It is a lot of wonderful Christmassy things.   
We squeezed in a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. 
We try so hard to fill these girls with memories of this season and joy for the holidays. I also slipped off to go see Messiah by myself one Sunday evening. 

They both still believe in the magic of Christmas and I try to preserve and take advantage of each time to celebrate it.

And these are things that I hope they will remember. The words of Dickens, the prancing of Tchaikovsky, and melodies of Handel are what I  believe to be the essence of life. but in the midst of all these happenings, we still are working and then the girls got sick. Since November 20, we visited a doctor for Anna Cate at least 4 times -- she had two bouts of strep, a virus and pneumonia. Molly had strep and pink eye. Anna Cate tried out and did not make a play.  They still have extra curricular activities on top of my trying to create Christmas magic and last week, I snapped.  I guess I could leave my blog at the stories of the good times, but I cling to the real as fiercely as I love the sentiments of the season.

In the midst of all of this "good cheer" I felt empty and burned out. I said things I shouldn't have said, yelled at BJ and the girls, and basically lost my marbles.  It was all just too much for me.  Combining all the good stuff in our life with all the necessary stuff and the illnesses left me wiped  out. And in truth, it carved into my time for myself to work out. 

My need for a few hours hours a week to myself to sweat is both a blessing and a curse for our family--it keeps me healthy, but missing it makes me grumpy. Going without those endoprhins and the self-esteem booster leaves the ugliest emotional toxins possible trapped inside me and unfortunately they were released on my family. I felt like Anna Cate wasn't acting grateful for a Christmas gift, like BJ didn't appreciate my efforts to enjoy life and get gifts to all the teachers, and well, Molly wakes us up every night. 

I'm not proud of it but I bet I'm not alone, and the more I thought about it, I took some solace in this little nativity set.  
I realize that just like our images of the nativity we put out as Christmas decor, the scenes of the seasons  involve many stories.  So too will my children's treasure bank of memories hold many stories, even if they aren't all rosy. 

In the story from Luke, there is mention of shepherds. Yet in the story from Matthew, there are no shepherds and we read about a bright star and the magi, the wise kings. In another source, the gospel of James focuses more on Mary and her childhood. While there is no mention of the shepherds with the kings in biblical accounts, every nativity set we put the shepherds, a star, the angels and the kings together.  These images in the stories work together to make the nativity.   
It's all a part of Christmas --the shepherds and the wise men. The hustle and the stress; the overwhelming to-do lists with the abundance of culture.  The illnesses of my children come along with this amazing opportunity to care for them.  The trials and the joy make up this journey. 

Whatever we believe about the divinity of Jesus, I can't deny the fact that for over a thousand years, millions of people have looked to celebrate his birth because his life and legacy were so meaningful.  For those of us who do believe there was divinity in his spirit, I still take solace in the fact that what we celebrate in this Holy Season is humanity, a birth story. So I am reminded to be ok with both the divinity of the season in all the good stuff and the humanity of it in my own shortcomings. For if it weren't for my shortcomings, I wouldn't need something larger than myself to celebrate. 

I think I've picked up my marbles and been able to regroup. We celebrated as a family before making the trip to Tennessee. We have much to celebrate and many memories to make. And if those crazy mom memories last in their head, hopefully they will remember happy scenes as well. 

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”  ― Charles DickensA Christmas Carol

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Simple & Complicated Question from Molly Mae

¨Everything is both simpler than we can imagine, and more complicated than we can conceive"-- Goethe

A few weeks ago,  in the car, the girls and I were enjoying the Wicked soundtrack. They like this  and that song and I love αΊ—he song ¨For Good.¨ 

I've hear it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are led to those 
who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you.

The lyrics and the way Idinda Menzel and Kristin Chenowith sing it bring me chills every time!
We actually were listening to it on our way to a Wizard of Oz themed birthday party.

  As I'm zoning out to the words, Molly said, "do you have to sing pretty?" When asking her what she meant, she explained, "my teachers in church try to sing pretty but it just isn't like this; do you have to sing pretty?"  I thought it was so deep.

I think it such a great question to which I really don't the answer. I do think there is value in doing something well and I also think there is value in doing something, period.  . . ..which leads us to the balance we struggle to strike in the holiday season. I don't know the answer to that either, but I do know that we can appreciate both the beautiful singing, the songs and those who just sing. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

All Saints

As I sit here writing, November is almost half way over and, as I've said before here, I feel like Fall is the shortest and most beautiful season. In October, with days in the 80s I still cut fresh hydrangeas yet soon our home will match all the stores, in full swing of the Christmas chaos joy. But before that, we are diving in to Fall.
This season always seems so fleeting to me.  Tonight, I look on my mantle with decorations of Molly's art, I think about how much I love this season of the year a little as a metaphor for this season my life, also fleeting. 

 Fall is busy yet we find some semblance of peace in the routines we've established and squeeze in the traditions and activities.

The first Sunday of November is what this Methodist girl calls "All Saints Day." Baptists don't really call it that, but in between helping Anna Cate do her kiddo program during the service on that first Sunday in November, I noticed there was a time in the service for loved ones to be mentioned aloud.  BJ said someone mentioned his mother's name when I nudged him to say her name aloud. 

I said names in my heart on this holy day,  thinking about those departed on whom I reflect on "All Saints Days" as saints to me.  I thought of my dear Granny. 

In fleeting moments of clarity and peace with the present, I realize I am living the life I treasure about these loved ones who have gone before -- celebrating holidays, creating traditions and finding spaces of joy in the midst of the chaos.  Will my name be mentioned in the hearts of my children and grandchildren? I can assume based on the relationship, not necessarily by my actions, the answer is yes.

  While I'm certainly not a saint, I like to think the life I'm leading is holy because of these experiences I'm sharing with family and  friends. 

The Pumpkin patch:

Anna Cate (and her best friend Leana) wrapped up their first year playing softball. It was a wonderful experience and they had great coaches. 
Nana came for a visit and we enjoyed having her for a game. 

Anna Cate and I got away one Sunday afternoon for a run in my favorite place -- the Chancellorsville battlefield.  She rode her bike as I ran.  As we were "working out"  (doing air squats), we saw a couple coming to the far-off field for pictures, and I thought I'd take a cue and catch the same sunlight a professional used. 
Who needs fancy outfits? I was happy.  The picture above shows this gorgeous dark streak Anna Cate has in her hair. I honestly had never noticed it until a hair stylist pointed it out to me as a birth mark. I think it makes Anna Cate feel special. 

She is such a precious child with a dear heart that I often forget to focus on her beauty. Molly is precious, too, in her own way.  (After I typed that, she came and cuddled up next to me on the couch; I'm a sucker for cuddles)
We celebrated Halloween with the Pences. Molly's costume was centered around Luke's -- he was a bandit and she was a sherriff.
Libby was the most precious Dorothy ever to walk, and I think the whole crew should have been characters from OZ. I tried to talk Anna Cate into being Galinda, but she said, "I'm not that snooty," since I've showed her youtube clips of Wicked. She chose a mummy instead. 

The very next morning, we headed out to a day at Historic Montpelier for the  horse races with some friends. 

It is BJ's favorite day of the year and he pretty much does everything but send out the invites. 

Last weekend, Anna Cate had her first "year round" swim meet and we are so thankful she is having a good experience as well as finding success in the sport. 

Anna Cate's activities absorb a lot of our free time, and often I try to arrange for Molly to have other things to do.  One night this Fall, she spent the evening with her dear Baba.

 But when she does come along, I love watching how Molly makes friends with other children. During the swim meet, these kids built a little fort for crafts and games under the bleachers.

Molly is the youngest of this little crew and they are so sweet to her! I was so touched that Molly found a way to crawl out to cheer during her sissy's races. 

Tonight, the girls and I dipped into the Christmas season a bit as we shopped for shoe-box donations to children in war-torn countries.  While we've done these type things with Molly before, tonight was the first night I think she really "got it." She enthusiastically picked out gifts for an unknown girl, and never asked for something for herself. 
 She carefully crafted a note, asking us how to spell "I hope you enjoy these Christmas presents." She asked us how to spell "from." I think she understands how important it is to give -- to be on the other side of from. 

On the outside of the box, she drew a picture of a little girl and wrote, "I love you," and showed it to me saying, "look how sweet I am, Mommy."  It was really special and she knew how proud of her I was. I told her how we have done things like this before, but this is the first time I can see her giving heart. (When we visited a local church to help give supplies after Sandy two years ago, I remember her saying, "I don't want to give this to Jersey!!!")
These are the moment we will remember, the experiences of ordinary saints.  May I metaphorically say their names aloud in their presence now.  

As I remember those saints of my past, may I honor this circle of life by appreciating who I'm sharing my journey with now. 

All Saints’ Day 
 Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee.
~From the Common Book of Prayer