Monday, December 31, 2007

The end of another year and yesterday's Voice of Christmas

There is so much stuff I want to write about in today's blog, but I'm going to save it for another time....a wrap-up of our Christmas "vacation" (I never got as sick as the rest of my fam, but I definitely wasn't well towards the end...and poor Susi and a triple bout with that tummy monster!), the hilarious conversation between Luke and Susanna yesterday afternoon about the Christmas story, more Watkins news, etc., but that can wait a few days.

Yesterday's Voice of Christmas at church was one of the Magi. Ron Whiddon did a superb job telling of "his" travels and dispelling many of the myths (not being at the manger). I'm not sure what last Sunday's was about, since we were gone, but I'm guessing it was probably Joseph, since "Zecchariah," "Elisabeth," and "Mary" all had their turn. I was told that the shepherds added their voice at the Christmas Eve services. Although some may not agree, I've really enjoyed the dramatic edge to "hearing" the "first hand" experiences of some of the people involved in the Christmas story. Of course, it is nothing compared to what really happened over 2000 years ago.

Today is the end of yet another year. Since Tony and I have been married, each year that has passed seemed to bring so much new life to our extended families -- babies being born, weddings happening, eleven in our immediate families, even more if you include our cousins -- with an occasional time to say goodbye to a loved one as they went home to be with Jesus. A cousin, an aunt, the toddler-child of some friends.

This year, however, was different. There was only one birth that I'm aware of in our extended families. I was struck at how much "loss" there was. It seems so many of the Christmas letters and notes we received mentioned how one or more loved ones of all ages passed away during 2007. Friends losing parents, siblings, children sometimes to age, sometimes to disease, sometimes to an unbelievable event such as my former boss' teenage son collapsing and dying of heat stroke. They are missed in ways that cannot be explained; there is sorrow knowing they aren't here any more, but wow! They got to spend Christmas WITH the Christ-Child this year! Seeing Him not as that tiny little Baby, but as their personal Savior, their co-heir to God! The eyes filled with love, the scarred hands, feet, and side, the wonderful Lamb that was slain so that we -- I! -- could spend eternity with Triune God!

It doesn't take away the emptiness of not having these dear loved ones nearby, but it does help me rejoice in knowing they are no longer suffering from illness, missing other loved ones that had gone on before. They are no longer here in this fallen world; they are singing praises to Almighty God, circling His throne, and rejoicing as more and more sinners claim the shed blood of Jesus, as more and more believers join them as earthly bodies give way to inevitable death. One day, I'll be with them. I pray that you will, too.

I miss my grandparents; I miss the faces that are no longer worshipping at our church here in Park Rapids; I know many of you ache for loved ones that you can no longer talk to whenever you want to...and I pray that you will be comforted through your loss.

This year also brought continued change with the farm and market -- the responsibilities Tony and I have continue to grow as his parents are turning more and more things over completely to us. It is overwhelming at times, especially as we are raising two young and ACTIVE children during this time, but God gives us the strength and patience needed to get through each day...often only enough, other times even more.

Luke and Susanna continue to cause us both to laugh and me to scream at times, but it is overall such a delight to see them experience so many things first hand. I love especially just listening to their conversations or hearing them break into song. Yesterday they serenaded a full-house at West 40 (local restaurant) with "I'm so happy, so very happy! I have the love of Jesus in my heart!"

My love for my husband continues to grow -- his patience with me and the children amazes me. His love for us, the way he cares for each of us, the times he surprises me with cleaning the kitchen, the countless diapers he changes for Susanna (even the stinky ones!), running around chasing after Luke to help get rid of Luke's ever increasing energy -- even when he's so tired. The things he does to take care of our family. He's the second greatest gift God has given me!

Tonight (he doesn't know this yet), we're going to TRY and get the kids to bed early and have a mini-feast of fondue (beef & chicken, cheese & veggies, and CHOCOLATE with fruit), crab salad, and bubbly. Don't try to call. We won't answer the phone. Hopefully he'll stay awake past 10:00.... (we were up late last night watching "Amazing Grace"). If not, more chocolate for me, yippee!

Thank You, God, for another year of memories. Thank You for the hope of a future yet to come. Thank You for sending Christ. Thank You for a time to reflect on the past.

May each of you have a glorious and blessed new year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Another one succumbs....

Well, today we added Susanna to the list of sickies in our family. Thankfully, Luke seems fully recovered and is back to his non-stop all-boy action. He continues to make me tired just looking at him...but I'm thankful for him!

During a late lunch, Susanna had her tummy troubles. I'd suspected she wasn't feeling well as she was terribly whiny this morning and felt quite warm. She also wanted only to be held. However, once everything was done and she took a nap, she seemed to be her happy cheerful self again. We limited her supper, though, although she did put away quite a bit of Watkins chicken broth with brown rice!

As for me, my tummy was a bit grumbly the past few days, but I, too, seem to be on the mend as does Tony, thank God!

Other than that, we had a wonderful "Jesus' birthday." Luke and Susanna came in our room today, and after being reminded that it was Jesus' birthday, they sang then Luke left the room to go and talk with Jesus. He told us last night he couldn't wait for Jesus' birthday because Jesus was going to come and they could talk together! Well, after a few minutes of us hearing him chattering away in the next room, he came to inform us that "I talked to Jesus and He told me thank you. And He is 6." Okay.

His prayer last night was equally precious as he prayed and thanked God for the day, then asked for another Buzz Lightyear for Grandma's house because he needs one more there (there are already 3 or 4), so please poke a finger through heaven and send down another Buzz Lightyear. And thank you!

It was a fun time visiting and playing with "the Ohio cousins" today while I caught up some with my brother and sister-in-law. We missed having my youngest brother with us, though. Ron and Tammy invited a friend of theirs from church, Ron Jon (not sure of exact spelling) who moved here from Bangladesh 17 years ago. He was raised in a Buddhist family and became curious upon meeting Christians at the university he attended here...and soon had a hunger only Christ could satisfy. A wonderful Christian man. It was a pleasure having him join our family today. A friend of my parents' also stopped by this evening, a man from their church who is also a new Christian.

We had a wonderful time caroling at a local nursing home today. I don't know who enjoyed it or the residents or the employees! They especially loved the children, hearing them sing. I was impressed that even my shy Susi who was under the weather made it a point of telling everyone she saw "Merry Christmas!"

We hope and pray yours was, too.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Travel Trials and Joys

Merry Christmas from Ohio! We decided shortly after Thanksgiving to travel to Ohio for Christmas this year. It wasn't an easy's hard traveling 1000 miles each way with a 2- and a 3-year old, but my last living grandparent was recently diagnosed with throat cancer at age 92, and Grandma decided that, given her age and knowing where she was going after death, she didn't want to have any treatment. So, we decided to make the trek southeast and spend Christmas with my side of the family this year.

Given gas prices and some vehicle problems, we decided to drive my Saturn, a small 4-door sedan (did I mention it was small??). Oh, it's amazing what all we fit in to that car, even before we squeezed ourselves inside! I have a couple photos of how crowded the back seat was with the kids! And poor Tony with his long legs! But praise God the kids traveled well, keeping busy with all the fun things packed into their back packs....stickers, coloring books, snacks, and more! There were many times I wasn't even sure if they were in the car!

Friday night, we stopped at a "resident hotel" in Elgin, IL. It gave us a chance to get out, relax, not deal with Friday night/holiday weekend rush hour thru Chicago! Plus, my brother Tim comped us the room with his hotel points, so that was an added blessing. We settled in, ate supper, then the kids started running around releasing all the pent up energy they had. At one point, Luke jumped on an unsuspecting Tony, causing Tony to rear back and Luke to go tumbling off his back. On the way down, his head was bonked, resulting in tears and a HUGE egg on the back of his head. We kept an eye on him, but within a few minutes he was running around like the point where we had a call from the hotel manager...the folks in the room below us were complaining about the thumps! By then, it was time to settle down for the night, so we pulled out the sofa, got the kids settled down, and they were out in no time. Tony and I joined them in dreamland from the other room shortly after.

Mothers have extra-sensitive hearing and a sixth sense when something is wrong. At about 2:45 a.m. I heard a noise that no mother wants to hear, especially in the middle of the night hundreds of miles from home. Rushing in to the other room, Luke was sitting up in bed in the middle of his second heave. Poor little guy. Tony came to help and took him to the bathroom to get him washed up and changed while I put Susanna in our room and started taking off the sheets, checking stuffed animals (only Susanna's baby got splattered, and only a wee bit, thank God!). During this time, we were again checking Luke's pupils, asking him questions to see if he was addled, checking his walk, reflexes, etc. Was this a result of finding all the snacks in his back pack and downing half of them when Mama was unaware? The bump on the head? Did another child go to AWANA Wednesday night with the flu and infect a bunch of unsuspecting children? Was he developing travel sickness? A combination of the above? Thankfully, our insurance company has a 24-hour on-call nurse, so I called to see if we should get Luke checked out. Sure enough, she thought we should, so Luke and I started on our next adventure. Thankfully again, the hospital was only 5 minutes away.

We got to the ER and they said it would be just a matter of minutes....however, as they were taking our info, an ambulance came in, so our wait was longer. About 90 minutes later, we finally went back to a very kid-friendly room where he was checked out again with a recommendation of a CT scan. That took another long wait as yet another emergency came in with a very bad head trauma. Thankfully, again!, it came back clear, but he was diagnosed with a mild concussion. He had several bouts of heaves, and they gave him some medication to deal with the nausea and relax the stomach muscles. We ended up filling the prescription they sent with us after getting to Ohio and having him get sick again.

Luke loved the doctor. He was a younger African American man with little braids all over his head. Luke thought that was hilarious! The second time he came in, to tell us the result of the CT scan, he asked Luke if he wanted to touch his hair. Amidst giggles, Luke said yes...then started laughing even more while telling him his hair was very "fuzzy."

We did arrive at Papa and Grandma's house in time for supper Saturday night, and I am again thankful that the kids travelled so well! Susi was fussy about the last 30 minutes, but she assured me she did NOT want us to turn around and go home!

We enjoyed a fun afternoon and evening yesterday with my brother's family (wife and seven children), opening gifts, feasting on steak and potatoes and countless Christmas cookies, and just watching the kids go wild. However, illness struck again...

Climbing into bed after getting everyone settled for the night, I noticed Tony was moaning. He had chills and a fever, aches and a very yucky tummy. (Luke didn't have a fever, chills, or aches.) After tending to him, I settled down with the kids on the floor of their room. Today Tony stayed "home" in bed while the rest of us went to visit my grandma with some additional visitors joining us (cousin Martha and her gang, Uncle Ralph, Aunt Carole, Aunt Sarika, and Uncle Neil). By the time we got back to my parents', Tony was among the living again although he is not quite 100%.

All in all, we've been enjoying ourselves, and we have many unforgettable memories of our 2007 trip before it's even over! Please pray that Tony and Luke continue to be completely healed and Susanna and I don't have a turn in this episode of events!

Tomorrow will be a quiet Christmas day as Ron's family again joins us, along with two family friends (quiet? 9 kids?). We'll be caroling at a local nursing home and enjoying a ham dinner. Wednesday will see us at my uncle's home in Akron with my dad's side of the family (guaranteed it will NOT be quiet!), and Thursday I'm having a Watkins party before we head back to Park Rapids with another stop in Elgin (I hope the hotel welcomes us back!).

I trust and pray each of you have a wonderful Christmas day! Please jot a comment and tell me how you celebrated Jesus' birthday!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Smart Kid!

Okay, I'm partial, I'm the Mama, but still, I have one smart kid! Last night on the way to AWANA, Luke (as usual) was telling me how much he loves me. (awwww, doesn't that sound sweet and sappy? It gets even more so....)

We usually banter back and forth "I love you more." "No, I love YOU more!" and so on. Well, before we could even start that last night, Luke told me, "I love you, Mama. I love you even more. I love you the mostest!" Thinking I'd try and get thru to him that you cannot surpass the love of someone who carried you for nine months while you played hockey, basketball, football, and practiced gymnastics, then puts up with all kinds of stuff 24-hours a day all without complaining (okay, SOMETIMES without complaining!), I asked him, "Luke, who cooks your food?" "Daddies and mamas." "Luke, who makes sure you have clean clothes?" "Daddies and mamas." "And who gives you hugs and kisses whenever you're scared?" "Daddies and mamas." "Okay, Luke, who do you think loves you the most?"

Without missing a beat, "God!"

Well, I was going to try and write about our Christmas program Sunday night but haven't had time. Maybe tonight. Maybe not.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Voices of Christmas

Yesterday's featured "Voice of Christmas" was none other than Elisabeth, mother of John. What a wonderful reminder of continuing to have faith when everything seems so hopeless!

We also had our tiny tot and "big kids" Christmas programs last night. They went wonderful. Well...except you know how there is always one kid that stands out during the singing? Well, this one kid decided to sing every note LOUD and staccato. Yeah. That kid was mine. Too bad our video battery died right when Tony started taping the tiny tots! I'm trying to find someone else who taped so I can get it before we leave for Ohio.....and there was also one kid who didn't want to be up there, stayed for part of the time, ran to her father, went back up, then ran into her Sunday School teacher's arms for the rest of the program. You guessed it. Also my child. But they said their parts and sang their songs again when we got home!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I love this time of year. I think I wrote about that a few blogs ago, but it's just a fun time for me. It is just as busy for me, perhaps even busier, than during the summer, but in a much different way. Summertime brings nonstop action, between all the "regular" mom and housewife things (does laundry EVER get caught up??? I'm in the middle of seven loads right now as I type...), and all the things that come with the market and the farm -- scheduling, ordering, working, filling in for employees that can't come in at the last minute (unless I'm already working), paying farm bills, doing paychecks, keeping up with monthly tax reporting, totaling out the day's receipts and getting deposits ready between 3-5 times a week, etc.

However, once the Market is closed, my busy-ness (did I spell that right? I'd think grammatically it should be "business," but then that would be a completely different word....) shifts. During the summer, there is no time to keep up with recording checks for our personal or for the farm account, no time for reconciling accounts, etc. I start concentrating on the paperwork side of things -- updating inventory totals, doing more Quicken and Quickbook entering than I ever cared to do, and trying to reconcile everything, make sure it's all catagorized right, tweak our budgets, frantically going through piled up "don't have to deal with this now" paperwork to make sure there isn't anything in there that really should have been dealt with weeks (months?) before. Okay, so I don't really enjoy this part of the busy-ness either, but it is fun to see the bottom line. Did we stay on budget? Did we actually make a profit the past year? Okay, maybe "fun" is the wrong word to use ... the "bottom line" usually isn't something I really want to see.

But something else starts for me first in September and then in October, usually snowballing right after Thanksgiving, and then letting up somewhere mid-to-late December. AWANA starts the Wednesday after school resumes. I'm currently the overall club secretary, something I started transitioning to last year, and it gets crazy at times, but I love that I can work with not only the (usually) adorable children, but also the dozens of AWANA volunteers and the parents of the clubbers. I'll write more about AWANA another posti is already getting long!

The first Sunday in October is the start of our Christmas program practice for the first thru sixth graders. This is my fifth program I directed at Faith Baptist, and I continue to be honored to lead it but even more importantly blessed by working with the 25-50 children that are a part of the program (and the 3-4 adults that help). The first year, we had less than 30 children in the program, but these past couple years, the numbers have been pretty close to four dozen kids. It's a far cry from the 6-12 kids that comprised the Christmas programs I've directed in the six or seven years before moving to Minnesota (although looking back, I'm amazed at how versital those 6-12 kids were, singing songs and solos and doing multiple parts). The end result is always the same -- a show of our glory to God, our thanksgiving to Him for giving us His Son, a celebration of the birth of the most wonderful Gift of all! More about this year's Christmas program another time....(for those of you locally, it will be Sunday, December 16, starting with piano recitals at 5:30 p.m., at Faith Baptist...hope to see you there!).

One of the things I love doing for the Christmas program kids, for my husband and kids, for my brothers and parents and in-laws, for a few close friends, and for me, is baking dozens and dozens, okay, hundreds of Christmas cookies. Literally. Each child gets a bag of assorted cookies from me as a thanks for doing their best, and I try to get cookies to most family members. Spritz, snickerdoodles, thumbprints, decorated sugar cookies, pastel wafers, candy cane cookies, Russian teacakes, pecan tarts, bon bon cookies, peppermint wafers, gingerbread teddy bears, cardamon cookies, and I don't even remember what else. All I know is I have a blast doing it, even though it takes up so much time. But I go crazy in the kitchen baking cookies for about three weeks of each year and have so much joy giving away most everything made! This year, I've had a few little helpers...(don't worry, I make sure their hands are washed each time they drift to their mouth and/or nose....)

Then comes wrapping Christmas presents -- again, I love to give things and have so much fun throughout the year picking things up on sale that I know someone else will really enjoy (although I'm trying to stay much closer to the budget...but I did make Tony do a "gifts given" catagory in our budget this year!).

There is time spent helping my kids learn their (short) lines for the Tiny Tot Christmas program, going over the two songs they sing, but it is such a joy to see and hear them! Practice yesterday was so fun. Susanna was fine until she'd see me then she'd start crying (it took me back to her infant days) -- but she never did say her line or sing with the other kids. Luke, on the other hand, rattled off his line, and during the singing he was that one child who sings louder than anyone...but thankfully on key and with all the right words! Right now, while Susanna is napping, Luke is serenading her with Christmas carols (even though he is supposed to be napping, too!). They ask all the time for Christmas music at nap time and bed time.

It's also busy (and hard!) picking out gifts for each of the children in the Christmas program. I have a budget of $1 per child, and it's hard picking out things they'll enjoy that won't break before they get home -- once that order comes in, then it's sorting things out, packing them up for each child, and getting cookies sorted for each one, too.

There is the time spent on putting up the Christmas trees and decorating them. But those sparkly lights are so beautiful!

Last night, my husband and I had a date night, first time in a long time. After a good supper at an authentic German restaurant in down town Park Rapids, we went to one of the local churches that was hosting the annual Park Rapids Classic Chorale Christmas presentation. This is an amazingly gifted group of men and ladies in the region, about 50 or so, led by an outstanding conductor/composer. They sang more than a dozen Christmas songs...almost all "religious" Christmas, well, except for this odd song called "Little Tree." The program featured several traditional Christmas carols as well as some of the newer Christmas songs like "Mary, Did You Know" by Mark Lowry and "Welcome to our World" by Chris Rice. As with every year, they also sang a beautiful rendition of Handel's "Messiah" and ended with a rousing version of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas." This group of singers is incredible. They perform locally twice a year, and in 2005 they had a concert tour of Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. This coming May, they'll be doing a concert tour in Italy, including performances in Florence, St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, and St. Peter's Basilica in Rome! Who knew so many talented voices lived in this area? (My father-in-law used to be part of the chorale but enjoys just listening now.) And while Erich Knapp is a fine conductor, he did give all credit for everything coming together so well to Faith Baptist's own organist, Jane Wolff! (she's the pianist and trianglist, or whatever the person who plays the triangle is called.)

I've still not even started on our Christmas letter. Isn't it funny how when you're younger, you don't really appreciate Christmas letters sent from others, but as you (and your relatives and friends) get older, you can't wait to get their Christmas letters and see what all has happened in the past year? At least, that's the way it is for Tony and me. It's incredible seeing all these loved ones who I remember as children who now have children of their own. We love getting photos with the Christmas cards and/or letters, and we tape all the photos up on our main door downstairs. They stay up year round so we can be reminded "face to face" of our loved ones. It's sad having to take them down each year...but it's also exciting to see the photos being replaced with the same faces...a year older.
Even more, I love spending time with family....whether it is my own husband and children, family on my side, or my in-laws (depending on where we spend Christmas). To enjoy the time with them during such a special time of year is something I really cherish. Last year, Tony's sister Carla and her family were able to come home from Uganda for Christmas. Dwight was also here from Guatemala, and all of Paul's family was able to be here, too, including his son Andrew who will be spending his Christmas in Iraq this year. This year, we'll be traveling to Ohio, something we hadn't really planned to do, to spend time around Christmas with some of my family, and especially with my last remaining Grandma who was recently diagnosed with throat cancer. I can't wait to see her again, and I also can't wait to have another holiday get-together with several of my California relatives who moved to Ohio within the past year or more! Ah, that promises to be a fun and lively time! I also hope to be able to spend time with relatives on my mom's side of the family, especially the cousins I spent so much time with growing up.

I think during November and most of December I get to bed even later than during the summer, just trying to get everything done, but in all honesty, there isn't anything I'd want to cut back on or cut out. I love and enjoy so much all the many different things that "must" be done before Christmas (and the Christmas program) arrives.

We don't open presents on Christmas -- instead, taking a wonderful idea from my sister-in-law, we have a birthday party for Jesus and concentrate on celebrating Him, complete with birthday cake and all. Last year was the first year my kids started helping "decorate" the cake (or, in last year's case, star-shaped cupcakes with the help of their cousins). This year, we'll be spending a few hours at a nursing home in Ohio bringing Christmas to the residents there as we sing and tell about Christ's birth.

But you know what else? Even though you may be wondering, my focus really is on glorifying God throughout all this (well, except maybe struggling through all the financial stuff). There is so much that leads up to Christmas each year....but there was only one event throughout history that really lead up to Christmas. The announcement to a young virgin that she was choosen to be the mother to a tiny Baby Who would one day save the world. The uncomfortable journey of a very pregnant young lady on a donkey, of all things!, to a city far from home where her Child would be born not in a nice warm comfortable hospital but in a smelly stable, laid in a manger filled with hay. The angels glorifying God, announcing that precious birth, scaring those shepherds probably close to death, but can you even begin to imagine it? Wow! I cannot wait to hear that angel chorus, with me singing right along, GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST!

And imagine...all my preparations to make each Christmas so special to those around me is nothing compared to the preparations Jesus is making for me up in heaven. The birthday celebration that is so exciting to prepare for down here on earth is nothing compared to the celebration we'll have one day in the presence of Christ and the Father.

Now...back to the many things I should be getting done (like that Christmas letter....and more Christmas cookies....) while I listen to Christmas songs, yippee!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cute and Funny Things My Kids Say and Do

Every mom (and most dads) can tell you funny things about their are some of mine.

Sunday, as Tony was combing Luke's hair in to some semblance of order (which was totally destroyed after removing his hat at church), I was brushing Susanna's. They looked at each other, smiled, and Luke asked Susi, "Where have you been all of my life?"

This morning as the kids stumbled downstairs and climbed into bed, Luke snuggled himself down and said, "This is the life. I love this world!"

And some of the things that crack me up the most....."Susanna, did you hit Luke (or touch ___ fill in the blank with anything she isn't supposed to play with)?" "Um, actually, oh, yeah!" "Luke, did you pick up your toys yet?" "Mama, you are so lovely. You are so beautiful. You are the most wonderful Mama in the world! I love you so much!" "Great, Luke, I love you, too. Now pick up your toys."

Going to and coming home from AWANA are some of my favorite times. Luke loves AWANA and chatters nonstop, usually about how very excited he is, about how he wants to be a Cubbie leader when he grows up, about how Crystal is always sad at AWANA (unless she isn't there) and about anything else he deems important and newsworthy. One the way home, he tells me all about what he learned, what games he played, and how much he loves his Cubbie leaders ("especially the one in the yellow shirt because when everyone gets noisy, she starts counting and when she counts that means BE QUIET!"). He also tells me over and over again how wonderful I am, how lovely I am, how beautiful I am, and how I am his very best friend, along with Daddy and Susanna and Ruby and Laura and Tyler and Clinton and Uncle Mark and......of course, I like the stuff he says about me best.

Luke also has this habit of just staring at me or Tony for the longest time, often without blinking, before giving us a huge smile and saying "I love you so much!" It makes me wonder what is going on in that brain....(well, I often wonder what is going on in that brain!).

Saturday evening during supper, we decided to watch Wheel of Fortune which comes on at 6:30 here (remember, our prime time starts at 7:00!). However, instead of Pat and Vanna coming on, we instead saw two very old singing sensations from the 50s or 60s or some time before I was even born. Infommercial for TimeLife's "Romantic Songs Through the Ages." Well, partially because we were both too lazy to get up and turn off the tv and partially because it was actually pretty interesting, we left the infommercial on and listened to a half hour plug of romantic songs from the 30s through the 70s. There are so many comments I can make here, but this blog is about "cute and funny things my kids say and do." They were intrigued. They were enthralled. They were mesmerized by the one line music samples of the Romantic Songs Through the Ages. I laughed, asking Susanna if she liked the music. "It is BEAUTIFUL, Mama!" "Yes," chimed in Luke, "it is beautiful!" Well, as you can tell from the above paragraphs, he often tells me I'm beautiful, so I decided to have a little fun with him. "As beautiful as me, Luke?" "Oh, yes!" was the shocking answer! But...after a few seconds he looked at me, smiled and said, "But you are more lovelier, Mama, much more lovelier." Honestly, we've never been to Ireland, let alone near the Blarney Stone.... He did get two helpings of chocolate pudding that night.

It's late. I'm tired. And there's a whole new day of cute and funny things my kids will say and do tomorrow.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Voices of Christmas

Yesterday at church, we had our third "Voice of Christmas" -- Mary. Audra Hill, a stay-at-home mom who also home schools and is even busier than me with outside activities, played the part of Mary to the hilt. From the moment she walked out carrying a woven basket, dressed in blue with a white head scarf, Susanna sat up taking notice. "Mama, is that MARY? I want to go see Baby Jesus!" During the ten or so minute recitation, Susanna sat enthralled, nothing breaking her attention (except for the oft repeated comment or demand, depending on her tone of voice, "I want to go see Baby Jesus!"). Even Luke managed to sit still the entire time, listening to Mary tell of the angel's visit, her humble unbelief at being chosen (me, a lowely Nazarine!) to be the mother of the promised Messiah, and what it meant to her life afterwards. Pastor Marty again followed it up with a wonderful sermon on Mary and how it changed her life forever. I really wish you could each hear this fantastic Christmas series, both the "Voices of Christmas" and the message that follows each one. I can't even begin to describe what an impact they are having. It makes me eagerly anticipate who will be "featured" next week....although we will miss the one on the Sunday before Christmas (we're going to Ohio!).

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Through the eyes of a child (or two)

I love Christmas and just about everything about it. Not just the reason we have Christmas, celebrating the birth of the Christ-Child, but lights, music, trees, giving presents, tv specials, you name it! I even love the look of all that snow on the pine trees outside (although I much prefer to be in doors enjoying the view with a cup of hot cocoa, preferably made with Ghiradelli's dark chocolate mix). When I lived in South Florida and Southern California, I didn't miss living in the cold, snowy weather at all, but something wasn't quite right about see Santa images on water skis, laying on the beach, etc., or seeing all the beautiful Christmas decorations, the nativity scenes, the trees, without snow around...although, if you do go back in history, it is commonly believed that Christ was not born in the winter and that Christmas was put on the Christian calendar to coincide with a pagen holiday, but it isn't my intention to get into the whole history of why Christmas is December 25.....regardless, I am thankful that there is a day set aside to celebrate Jesus' birthday, no matter how commercialized it has become.


"Christmas" started for us this year the week of Thanksgiving. I had Tony drag down the big tree one day before he left to work on the farm, and the kids and I worked on bringing down the many decorations. Now, you have to understand that I am pretty picky about making sure the lights are spread as evenly around the tree as possible (well, not so much in the back where people can't see them), that the bulbs are scattered in a balanced way throughout the tree, that tinsel is strung "just right," and the many ornaments that continue to grow in number each year are put so they can catch the Christmas tree lights and glitter and gleam and shine!

Well, this year I had "helpers." They were good and patient about allowing me to put up the lights all by myself, but the moment I started on the Christmas bulbs, there were two sets of little hands eager to do whatever I'd let them...and even more, if they could get away with it. After the fifth or sixth bulb went up, neither were content any more to just hand me the bulbs (and it was working so well!), they had to put them up by themselves. They were again patient as I hung the tinsel...but then the ornaments came out of their boxes. And the hands once again were out-stretched. Suffice it to say, on our big Christmas tree, there are bulbs hanging in groups of two and three (all very low, of course!), Christmas ornaments hanging dripping off the lower branches (although the more delicate and treasured ones are hung quite high out of reach of little fingers), and...truthfully, it is a beautiful tree.

Since our big tree is upstairs, and we tend to do most of our "living" downstairs in the winter (heating bills and all, given our huge living room and no door to close it off), we have a smaller tree downstairs. This tree tends to be a more fun tree with more of the kid-style ornaments...we have a nativity scene comprising of about eight different ornaments, some Dr. Seuss and Fisher-Price ornaments hanging along side the shepherds and wise men, and the ornaments the kids get each year (an inexpensive ornament of something that reminds me of their personality at the time and a Hallmark collectable ornament, too). There is also a huge, glittery cow ornament compliments of my sister-in-law from a few years back (five points for anyone who can guess which sister-in-law!). This is the tree where we hang candy canes and all kinds of other things that collect at Christmas time...pretty bows and ribbons, package decorations, you name it. Well, needless to say, the kids love both trees.

The day after the first tree went up, we heard the kids when they woke up that morning...."Susanna, let's go see if Christmas is still here." "Okay, Luke, let's go." "Look, look, Christmas IS still here!" Okay, we have been reviewing that Christmas is Jesus' birthday, and that we are just making things pretty with decorations to celebrate His birthday... But it's still a delight looking at their faces, seeing their fingers reach out to touch and play with ornaments, the joy and happiness reflected on their faces each time the trees are lit up.

The other night, we watched Rudolf on TV. Well, Tony and the kids did....I slipped upstairs to do some computer work while the kids were occupied elsewhere. I came down half-way through and went into the kitchen only to have Luke come running after me..."Mama, Mama, turn it off! It's scary!" Yep, one of the scenes with the abominable snowman. So as I went in to turn off the TV, he started screaming, "No, no, leave it on!" Yeah, that bad scary guy was gone. A few minutes later, though.... We did make it through the whole show, although I really wish I'd been video taping Susanna's face with her many expressions. The abominable snowman would come on and she'd grimace and snuggle in tighter to Daddy's lap; she'd laugh at some of Rudolf's antics, and towards the end when Yukon Jack fell over the large cliff, tears rolled down her face and she was heart-broken. Of course, within a few minutes, smiles and laughter mingled with the tears and she giggled with happiness when he once again appeared. And when Santa stopped at the Island for Misfit Toys to pick up all the rejected toys, she was delighted.

We have an advent calendar (shoot, we forgot to do it yesterday!) that has little doors to open each day, adding different characters and animals to a manger scene. The kids love day one opens a door while the other pulls out the surprise, the next day it's reversed. Today they'll each get to open a door and pull out the surprise....

Christmas music plays during the day and in the kids' room as they fall asleep. Susanna's favorite song is "Jingling bells, jingling bells, jingling bells" which she'll repeat over and over and over. They both love the two songs they'll be singing in the tiny tot Christmas program on December 16, and they both have their lines down quite well...although Susanna still slips and says "We are the shepherds that watched him sleep" rather than "we are the sheep...." After all, who wants to be a sheep when you can be a shepherd? Luke knows his and rattles it off without hesitation "We are the angels that came in great light and brought the good news to the shepherds that night!"

Susanna has started to play again with a stuffed baby doll she received when she was about six months old. She didn't really have a lot of use for it until now, but "Mama's Little Darling," complete with pink dress and blonde hair tied up in a ribbon, is her own "Baby Jesus" and needs to be within eye sight most of the day. Sing "Away in a Manger" and she'll quickly get Baby Jesus to lay on your lap or in your arms.

As much as I love Christmas and all the things that come with celebrating Christ's birth, there is nothing more special that seeing Christmas through the eyes of my little ones. It is refreshing, delightful, and makes me love celebrating Jesus' birthday even more!

Have a wonderful time in this Advent Season. In all the hustle and bustle, don't forget what it's all about.

P.S. Those perfectly stringed lights on both the upstairs and downstairs tree? Well, the first string on both trees died within a week of being put up! How in the world do you replace a string of lights when everything is decorated already? And how can you put a new string up without taking everything down????? Thanks, God, for reminding me that it isn't about how perfect the decorations are!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

In case you were wondering....

Today's "Voice of Christmas" at Faith Baptist was Zechariah. Dave Overly did a great job as "Zechariah." Eagerly anticipating the next voice......